Stellar Warrior – 1986

The below is written mostly from memory.  You corrections, comments, and conflicting memories are welcome!  If you played Stellar Warrior, say hi!

I’ve been meaning to finish this for a while.  I’ll use Zubon’s Challenge as an excuse.

But this really isn’t a review.  It is just a fading memory.

Now, into space!

—-

It is late.  Very late.

Late as in “I got off of work at midnight and I have to be in class at 9:30am, but I’ll just log on for a little while.”

But isn’t that always when good gaming happens?

I am staring at an Apple /// monitor sitting atop my Apple //e computer.  Little green lights glow from the computer and the Apple 1200 bps modem (formerly Potshot‘s) sitting next to it.  The monitor itself can show 24 rows of text, each 80 columns in length.  Currently, most of the screen is empty.  A cursor blinks in the lower left hand corner next to the prompt.

I type in short commands.

NAV C

As I type in commands at the bottom and hit return, earlier commands and responses disappear off the top of the screen, never to be seen again.  There is no scroll back.

I am flying a battleship in enemy territory.  I am playing Stellar Warrior.  My ship number is 8891.

I have been rolling up that rarest of rare treats, a single battleship province.  All by myself, of course.

Then I notice that the player count has gone up from 1 to 2.  I do a “who” list.  It isn’t anybody on my alliance.  I’m on the B alliance, in the far corner of D territory, and this guy is a D.

I pop out of the star system I have just turned to my alliance and hit the number 1 macro key.

It types out a rapid command followed by a return.

SEA 300

Search scan, range three hundred light years.

Nothing visible.

There are 12 key star systems in this province.  If I turn 8 of them to my side, the province will change over from the D to the B alliance.

I have already turned 6 of those systems and now the province is in dispute.  That means it shows up as a big question mark in the middle of D territory.

The map of the play galaxy looks like this:

CAAAAA  BBBBBB
AAAAAA  BBBBBB
AAAAAA  BBBBBB
AAAAAB  BBBBBB
AAAAAA  BBBBBB

CCCCCC  DBDDDD
CCCCCC  DDDDDD
CCCCCC  DDDDDD
CCCCCC  DDDDDD
CCCCCC  DDDDDD
CCCCCC  DDDD?D

(I cannot remember the dimensions of the territories now, but 6×6 looks right.)

Both the C and the B alliances have been working to take some provinces, the main way you, your squadron, and you alliance earn points to win the four week long game.  You can see where I am.  It is the question mark, the system in dispute.

The galaxy itself persists, like current day MMOs.  If you log off, other people can undo your work.  This game is only a few days into the full four weeks, but some early scouting found that coveted single battleship province.  Now I can sneak in late on a weeknight and take it.

Of course, somebody else may take it back, but then I’ll happily retake it.

SEA 300

Still nothing.

NAV 320

My battleship moves off toward the next system on the list, star system 320.  Maybe the guy who just logged on will wait until I take the province, then just take it back when I log off.  And I’ll need to log off because it is late.

SEA 300

I keep hitting that macro over and over again.  He may not be close enough to see yet.  Or he may be in a destroyer, the stealthiest of the five craft you can fly in this game (scout, destroyer, cruiser, battlecruiser, and battleship), and only visible on scanners within 60 light years.

I arrive at my next target system.  The planet I am going to take will start broadcasting my presence on channel 400 any second now.  Time to get in there and take it.

NAV B

I move to the planet and start the process of wearing it down.

ATT

Short for Attack, that is it.  I will keep typing that command until the planet falls.  Or until my ship gets blown up.  The planet shoots back as I attack.

ATT

And then there is that other player.

ATT

If he drops into the system in a cruiser, a ship meant for in system laser battles, he can probably stop me from taking this planet.

ATT

He hasn’t popped in yet.  Maybe he’ll wait and just retake the province.

ATT

Finally the planet succumbs.  My ship is damaged.  I can refresh the shields at my newly captured base, but I won’t be able to do repairs or get a fresh ship for a while.  I start out towards the edge of the star system.

IMP 100,100

I need to get far enough from the star to warp into hyperspace.  As I get far enough out, I quickly edit then hit my “peek” macro.

WARP 0,0
SEA 300
NAV 320

My ship pops into hyperspace, but remains stationary.  I scan, then dive back into the system.  GEnie is wonderfully responsive to commands, and this takes a fraction of a second.

Nothing on scan.  Just the nearby star systems.  I head for the last system I need.

NAV 1008,20

My battleship will only safely fly at warp 8.  I can push beyond that, but then heat starts to build up and if the drive gets to 3500 degrees Celsius, it will go boom.  I can help cool it down by dumping fuel, but I won’t need to do that.  The system I am going to is only a few light years away and I will barely get to warp 10 in that space.  No heat worries.

Then as I start closing on the system, frantic lines of text begin to scroll across my screen.  Torpedo hits from the other player, bearing 0, which means he is straight ahead of me.  He has popped out of the system I am heading towards.  His position means it is easy for me to fire back.  I hit another preset macro over and over.  Each time it types:

LOA 1
TOR 1

Load torpedo tube one, fire torpedo tube one.  Again, GEnie processes this as fast as the macro can go.  But GEnie’s responsiveness is working against me this time.  His hits are coming in fast.

If he is in a destroyer, I might be able to kill him first, or at least drive him back into the system.  If he is in something bigger, he already has too many hits on me.

I score hits, but his fire comes in too rapidly for me to survive.  My ship explodes and I am dumped out to the game menu.

He was in a battlecruiser.

I load back up in a scout ship because I am way back in B territory.  I fly back towards the base system I captured earlier.  I can hear on channel 200 that he is taking back the system I just took.  I fly flat out, dumping fuel.  I get to the system and switch to a destroyer.

I move to a system close to where he is and begin pop scans, aligned to the system he is in, waiting for him to show up.

We end up stalking each other for another hour.  Eventually I grow too tired to continue.  4am?  Again?

I fly to the weakest base in the province that I own and change to a battleship.  I know that when I log back in, the base will no longer belong to me, but I will be able to retake it quickly.  I say farewell on channel 1 and log off.

Stellar Warrior.

A company called Kesmai built a game for CompuServe called MegaWars III.  An incredible and addictive game that ran for many, many years, it became a legend with some.

When GEnie came onto the scene in 1985, they wanted a game like that as well.  Not the same game, but one like it.  So Kesmai made Stellar Warrior, which was similar to MegaWars III in many ways, but very different in certain key aspects.

Rather than colonizing, growing, and defending six planets of your own, you belonged to an alliance of many planets.  Ships cost nothing and could be swapped out for different classes, which were all preset.  Your objective was to take war to the opposing alliances by taking their bases and their provinces.

It could be a very intense and very light game to play.  It did not have the compulsion factor of MegaWars III or GEnie’s clone Stellar Emperor, but it could be a lot more fun.  With the resources of an alliance at your disposal, you could concentrate on combat and tactics.    The game was about battling the people who were there rather than defending your planets against the people who would be there when you logged off.

I am sorry I missed the game at its peak.  When I started playing Stellar Emperor in 1986, during the 4th campaign, most people had moved to that game and Stellar Warrior was pretty quiet most nights.  While Stellar Emperor might have 100 people on for the start of a campaign, and rarely ever less than 20 on any given evening, getting a dozen people into Stellar Warrior was something of a rare event.

Still, it did happen now and again.  If your team got shut down in Stellar Emperor and all its planets taken, we would spend some time in Stellar Warrior, where the action was intense and the losses were always made good.  At least until the next Stellar Emperor campaign started.

PvP… heck, RvR… in 1986, online and in just 24 rows and 80 columns of text.  Those were the days.

A special thanks goes out to Spectrum and the team at MegaWarsIII.com.  I had to use their .pdf of the original MegaWars III manual from CompuServe to remember some of those commands from so long ago.

13 thoughts on “Stellar Warrior – 1986

  1. tenfoldhate

    I must’ve missed Stellar Warrior. I played some incarnation of Gemstone on GEnie and that was my first MUD/MMOish experience. If I remember correctly, GEnie charged by the minute if my memory serves me correctly

    I remember very little of Gemstone itself, only getting in deep trouble with my parents (I was 12 or 13 at the time) when the $300 GEnie bill arrived–which in ’87-88 was no small chunk of change.

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  2. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @Van Hemlock – You have to get up pretty early in the morning to out do me. Well, technically, where you live, you can sleep until mid-morning, have a leisurely breakfast, read the paper, get cleaned up, out do me, and still be free for lunch, but that’s what planetary rotation will do for you if you’re in the right position.

    @TFH – Actually, if I recall right, GEnie billed in six second increments, which they used as a competitive bullet against CompuServe, which billed by the minute, so you might pay for an extra 59 seconds if you logged off at the wrong moment. Oh no!

    But GEnie was charging $5 an hour and then, against the reality of the market and Moore’s Law, raised the price to $6 an hour. It was thinking like that which made GEnie a name that few now remember.

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  3. Spectrum

    I agree MegaWarsIII and SE are of the tarbabies of gaming.

    Today’s games do not match the intensity or money spent to win.

    Always afraid your planets will be gone by morning, always looking for the spy who will give your planet locations and defenses to the other team and hoping that none of the other players can hear the planet screaming as you attack.

    I had a $3,000 war and I have been told by one player he had a $35,000 MONTH! He made lots of money in his business but still.

    Im heading to bed after a long weekend of programming the recreation.

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  4. Caliban

    I know exactly what you’re talking about. I had a blast with that game. One of my fondest memories was one where I was a destroyer poking in and out of systems, as a skirmisher during fleet ops.

    When I was in hot combat against a foe, my favorite tactic was to identify a system behind the enemy, shoot a probe at the system, then fire the 2 photon torpedo’s you could only fire at the same time at him. All three would show up as the same type of target, and since he could also only fire 2 torpedo’s to destroy mine, he would have to choose which ones to take out. Many a time I would get called a cheater, since they couldn’t see how I was shooting 3 ‘torps’ at them at a time.

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  5. Christopher G. Valla

    hey, really brings back memories… I played Steller Warrior I was the original Wolverine in those famous ’86 and ’87 years, or i was Logan, anyhow it was before the huge wolverie comic explosion…
    On Steller Emperor I was Hobgoblin and I believe my ship # was 2611…
    My college roommate was Kingpin and another good friend was Starjammers

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  6. Joe - "Arachnid"

    I remember Hobgoblin! I flew in SW with my MW3 handle: Arachnid. In one of the last beta wars I captured all four Imps

    Hope all you guys will come join us at http://www.megawarsiii.com I believe they offer a 3D space game there also, probably similar to SW along with a recreation of MegaWars III (also similar to SE) which is all text but has a great GUI with greasemonkey add on’s which work great. It is still being worked on but is very playable already. I will probably only be found in the “Iron Instances” which are 1 ship per player, but there are other versions (Instances) that allow multiple ships to fly and auto scouting etc.

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  7. Bill Patterson

    Stellar Warrior was the best gaming experience of my life. Stellar Emperor “meh”. Never liked it. I loved how it could take 6 players to bring down the defenses of a planet. I loved the strategy of taking a planet, making a base (or was it a shipyard?), making that your home so if you died, you’d come back close to the action, then then driving even deeper into enemy territory and take the next planet. The tension of pushing a scout as hard as you could to get across the Universe and join the attack was a real rush. I had several $100+ GEnie bills which eventually ended my play time. I didn’t make all that much money at the time.

    So where can we play something like Stellar Warrior now? I search every couple of years for a comparable gaming experience (how I ended up here). Netrek is close but it’s to small and simple. I played Eve, but I got a day job and I didn’t like how it took 3 days to learn a skill or something. Seemed nice, just couldn’t dedicate THAT much time to a game.

    Conquest: http://www.radscan.com/conquest.html#CONQUEST is somewhat close. But it’s more like Netrek really. I actually tracked down a running DECWar once. But with no other players it wasn’t any fun.

    Any ideas?

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  8. Bill Patterson

    Found it. It’s called “Sword Of The Stars”. Though not first person, you command fleets, but it’s in your face space combat. Still learning but it’s extremely good.

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  9. T.J. Earle

    I found Stellar Warrior in late 1987,early1988, and loved it. Spent a small fortune in connection fees to GE, just playing Stellar Warrior. Still remember friends and adversaries.My friend Doc, Deaths Head and the Scavengers, Conan and the Barbarians…me? I was China Clipper, 6893.

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