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Old 05-10-2019, 04:03 PM   #1
Shrouded
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Star Conquest, the 2018 Saga

Posting in multiple parts, because it's so long. What can I say? I love to write.

In the summer of 2011, I was introduced to Squidsoft Entertainment's Star Conquest, a space-themed moo that promised respite from the repeated slaughtering of animals for XP and aimless wandering that had become the norm for me on other games. It delivered.

Background

You will not start in a newbie area here, nor will you be talked through equipping your shortsword and going out to kill your first rabbit. The galaxy is fresh from an alien invasion it managed to escape by the skin of its teeth, and you are a cadet newly graduated from your alliance's flight school. Alliances are political governments arranged throughout the game universe, and are as follows:

The League of Old Earth Democracies (The League)
Old Earth is our earth, but a thousand years in the future. In the Star Conquest universe, that means the entire planet, in the wake of the invasion, became one huge European-style socialist government.

The Alliance of Extrasolar Unions
A handful of explorers who went out into space once upon a time and began carving their own niche and government. A pretty obvious in-universe parallel to the USA, complete with the remnence of bad blood between them and The League--apparently The League tried to govern them at some point and got their collective nose bloodied.

The Federation of Fringe Worlds (The Fringe)
A slightly grittier place and power structure, characterized by poverty, crime and some of the more combat-oriented ships. Seems to be based on South America, with its Spanish names, and less pretty but more boomboom aesthetics.

The Mutuality
No real government or structure, just a bunch of rogue pilots being roguy and hating all things authoritative.

Part I. - The Beginning

I found cadethood to be a solitary, sometimes lonely existance. In lieu of levels and experience, Star Conquest has a points system, referred to in-character as license points. The more points you earn, the more equipment and game features you gain access to. As a cadet you are capped at 30 points, which can pour right in if you're enjoying yourself. Some of the activities to gain points and money are pretty engaging, some of them are a bit on the grindy side, but pretty much all of them you're doing by yourself.

Attempts were made to bypass this. My cadet chatted up a nice gal in the local pilot lounge and scored an invite onto her ship. Hilarity ensued when she asked me to wait in the control room while she got into something more comfortable, then slunk out and back in wearing some clothing that was decidedly non-efficient for piloting a spacecraft. She poured wine and purred about how comfortable the sofa was (yes, there was a sofa in her ship's control room), while I scowled and tried fruitlessly to launch the ship into space. Unfortunately, the ship in question was owned by a pilot with many more license points than I had at the time, and thus I couldn't control it. Said pilot put on a robe and explained this, and then promptly kicked me off said ship.

Part II. - The Next Step

Once your point cap is reached, there is quite literally nothing to do but sit around and emote at your fellow pilots, all of whom have better things to do than sit and sip coffee with a cadet. Tough to blame them, really. I probably wouldn't slum it with some undergrad if there were millions to make and stars to conquer elsewhere. Would you?

To no longer be a cadet, you have to write a character profile, going over your character's history and personality. Pretty standard for a lot of RP enforced MUDs. I like writing a fair bit, so this never tripped me up much, but I've heard stories from other players of hosts rejecting profiles multiple times with little explanation. As there is no way anyone but game admins will ever read character histories, being as selective about what will and will not unlock the game to you as has been suggested seems unnecessary. Further complicating the process of graduating from cadet into full pilot is the addition of concepts on top of profiles, which we'll get into a little later.

Part III. - Piloting and Gameplay

Escaping cadethood is good times. You are able to team upwith players more and join in on more of the game's group-oriented features. For example, it takes an entire crew to run certain ships on combat missions. The gunboat requires a pilot to move the ship, an engineer to keep it together, and three gunners to blast enemy ships and give enemy ship engineers something to do. They only get bigger from there. It is also possible to join ground squads of pilots in different brands of specialized power armor called battlesuits, and move around zones blasting baddies apart.

For the solo fliers, it's possible to just drift around space collecting salvage and selling it. Or firing off low difficulty beacons to call in low level enemies so you can blow them up yourself. There's more, but you can try it out yourself if you're curious.

Speaking of curious, the game offers quite a lot of support for ... shall we say, one on one RP. I know that most RP games with adult characters will carry a certain adult element--it can be an important part of character development, or sometimes people are just in the mood to get their jollies off. No judgement. But yo, they coded in handcuffs and writing crops. And plugs, and clamps, and hoods, and blindfolds, and gags, all of them functioning. Some work definitely went into these props.

Part IV. - Host/Staff Involvement

The game hosts get involved, which is almost always a plus. Primarily what they do is write up fun little in-universe tabloid headlines and news articles to flash across the screens of news devices every character comes equipped with. "Aroo brand of spacedog food company donates money to veterinary clinics across Noogabooga System", or "Nigel Pinkleton Loosebritches III of Wobblety Bobblety street defends his title in upcoming tea-drinking extravaganza!" Stuff like that, to add a titter and make the world feel a little more organic and living. I've heard they run plots and involve characters as well, but I've only ever seen that happen once excluding single night holiday events. Halloween parties and so forth. Which are fine, but they aren't character driven plots.

Part V. The Beginning of the End

In early summer of last year, a handful of friends and I found ourselves bored and in need of something to do. They were all League of Legendsed out and I had beaten Mortal Kombats 9 and X for probably the thousandth time. I had taken a break from Star Conquest the way you do over the years with games, but remembered positive experiences with it, chief among them just how awesome it is to wreck pirates and aliens in a fully manned ship. So I pitched the idea and it stuck. Six of us rolled in, most of us choosing AEU as a faction because lasers and Spacemurika. We all received alerts that we would be given certain bonuses because the AEU was at that time very low on players. We would soon find out there was a very good reason for that.

With our enthusiasm and pooled efforts, we made short work of the cadet alotted 30 points. We then found ourselves facing the profile monster, which has feasted on many a player before us. When I went to submit mine, however, I was given a concept prompt. Basically, before you can even submit your background and history, you now first have to boil it down into a single line. This tells hosts if they should even let you write your profile or not. Luckily for me, I got through. My concept was approved, and my profile after that. I was a pilot! I say luckily, because while six of us applied, three of us made it through on the first try, two of us needed to resubmit anywhere from two to five times, and the last never made it past concept. I attribute it to luck because all six of us were veteran MUDers by that point, and you don't RP as long as we all have without becoming at least semidecent as a writer.

I don't want to speak too much on someone else's experience, but it's worth noting that for the rest of this tale, our sixth friend submitted concept after concept after concept. Rejection notes ranged in helpfulness and specificity from "too generic" to "Is this really the best you can do?" Finally, the hosts told her something to the effect of "Take a week or two, roleplay and think about it a little more". That's about the time she made her exit, and no one this side of the staff veil blamed her.

Continued in the comments.
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Old 05-10-2019, 04:07 PM   #2
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Re: Star Conquest, the 2018 Saga

Part VI. - Space Trump

You read that right. Donald You're Fired Trump. Only in space. This would be the first and only time I saw hosts run a plot. Actually, it seemed like I had gotten there after it was all well underway.

As I was zipping around the galaxy in my corvette Little Red (hahaha get it?), a transmition came over the general channel, something very long and selfcongratulatory about how the speaker did not support bigotry, nationalism or hate in any form whatsoever, and that she disavows everyone in the AEU who does. My first thought was "Wow, the chubby girl from my Poli/Sci class plays SC?" Then I gently kicked myself under the desk for being unkind and asked in character, "Like, whatcha talkin' 'bout, chick?" This prompted a flood of replies from seemingly everyone in comms range, explaining that as a citizen of the AEU, I had Eric Best, an incredibly hateful and bigoted president to answer for. "He wants to kick all the unregistered pilots out of AEU space! He wants to make the AEU great again," and so on. There was a lot, and all of it had all non-AEU characters in a selfrighteous tizzy. And as an AEU pilot, if I didn't transmit something long and virtuous about how much I hated Eric Best, well then I was just as bad as he was, damn it! A few minutes looking over my news device confirmed this. Pretend dogfood commercials, gossip headlines about fictional celebrities, advertisements about NPC companies and new products had taken a back seat to moment-by-moment coverage of just how horrible President Best was. The AEU's president sucked, and thus the AEU sucked, and thus my friends and I made up the vast majority of the then active AEU. All save for the girl who was fast and loud about distancing herself from everything AEU until the president stopped doing his thing.

Part VII. - Starlol and Spacekek

You know how you totally log on science fiction games to argue politics instead of zooming through the void, flirting with cute spacer chicks and blasting holes in aliens? Me neither, but apparently that's what the SC hosts had in mind for me. There was absolutely nothing you could do as an AEU pilot to not be part of the fray, short of turning off your comms unit, ignoring any and all forms of contact and just flying around in space salvaging and doing asteroid belts and wearing panties on your head, and whatever else people do when they're alone. The thing is, I don't go on a MUD or MOO for a single player experience. I have single player games for that. So instead of hiding, or self-flagellating for the acceptance of the other factions and the host-driven media, I got my patriotic unioners together and we set about giving the game the villain element it so desperately railed against.

Honestly, it was probably the most fun I had that entire time. We argued, "If the unreg pilots want the rights and protections of AEU citizens, maybe they should just become AEU citizens!" I gleefully called out over comms, "We are gonna project a great forcefield! It will be an incredible field, and we're gonna make the unregs pay for it!"

"Project the field! Project the field!" my cohorts chanted in support of me and our president, who we had decided didn't hate unregs necessarily, he was just looking out for us. AEU first!

Predictably, the few AEU who were not onboard with this gaped in horror and scurged until they bled, while characters in other alliances seemed confused at what to do now that they weren't just arguing against an NPC who never responded to them. Debates usually ended with laughter and pro-AEU slogans on our end, and either namecalling or comparing Eric Best to the Outsiders (which I think is supposed to be the SC equivalent of Nazis) on theirs. We even got a shoutout from President Best on the news. "The Elite of Pilotdom", he had called us.

It was awesome! We had taken a pervasive, one-sided metaplot, and turned our faction from scapegoat and whipping post to actual player for the first time in what was apparently a long time, given how dead the AEU was when we had initially arrived.

Part VIII. - TRIGGERED

This was not to be. A group of new and active players scoring points for a figure modeled after Trump could not stand--the hosts would not allow it. Sure the player base was more vibrant and engaged than it had been in a long time, but that was taking away from the main message: ERIC BEST IS TRUMP, TRUMP IS BAD. To show just how bad Best was, one of the AEU's planets, Hyperion, took to the airwaves with just how bad life under him was. They were all over the news, burning union flags, starting a separatist movement and protesting. In response to these NPC protests, NPC officers of course brutalized them, and Eric Best of course said that was the right thing to do, which in turn was of course the fault of everyone playing AEU at the time. As my crew and I had decided to own it, we told the detractors where they could stick it, that the protesters were probably violent and disorderly as their real-life counterparts tend to be. This, of course, was disproven when hosts decided to make it explicitly clear that the protests were completely peaceful and lawful, and that the officers were murderous minions of Best. "Explain that!" demanded the staff-vindicated entire rest of the game.

Instead, we found that we too could serve the AEU and ourselves go to Hyperion in our battlesuits to subdue protesters, which we gleefully laughed about and then did. By the way, the protesters? Anything but pieceful. They threw rocks and stuff at us in our battlesuits, which only do 2 or 3 damage. Doesn't sound like a big deal, but when you got 6 or 7 of them all laying into you at once the story changes. Thus, they died. BZAP, laser, no more rock-throwing protesters. (Is it a bzap? Maybe more of a pew pew!)

Part IX. Take that, players! - Star Conquest Staff, 2018

This was what the hosts had been waiting for: irrefutable, unquestionable proof that the characters in support of Eric Best were bad people. Say what you want about that tripe we were spewing before about galactic sovereignty, all of it was to cover up the fact that we were killers, never mind that there is not a single nonlethal option programmed into the battlesuits, or if there is, we a group comprised of five new players and a casual on and off player were unaware of it. And there was no one to tell us about it, because literally (and I use that word in the classical sense, not the contemporary one) no one would have anything to do with us outside very visceral conflict RP that blurred the lines between IC and OOC.

We couldn't play solo under threat of older players with far better equipment blasting us out of the sky in the name of space tolerance or something. As we all lived in different timezones and had different work schedules, we were unfortunately not able to play all together as much as we liked, but all together was the only way any of us could deride any enjoyment from this game. Staff continued to grind their political axe against us with ridiculous endorsements from Best and what they probably viewed as measured and rational rebukes from every other NPC presence they could animate. Hell, there were even shops that wouldn't sell us ship components and other upgrade equipment because of what Best said about X NPC group or faction. We were mechanically pinned and universally alienated.

I watched one friend mocked as he fired off a beacon in hopes of summoning some low difficulty enemies to kill, only to be arrested by NPC spacepolice and thrown indefinitely into spacejail. Apparently you're not supposed to fire beacons near the Nagabokidugurani Fruganfragenwhateverwhatever Cluster, or something? I don't know. It wasn't written in any helpfiles, and when first he, then we all asked for clerification IC, we were basically told, "Shoulda known better you stupid spacenazis!" Asking for OOC clerification over the newbie channel was answered only with choruses of "You punks stay IC!" He quit.

Shortly after him, a different friend for exactly zero reason anybody can think of to this day, got Sausage Lover tacked onto the front of his name. So every time he spoke or asked a question on IC or OOC channels, he was Sausage Lover Jeramiah instead of just Jeramiah (hope you don't mind me putting your real pretend name, bro). It had to be done by hosts, players do not possess the power to change each other in that fashion. He quit too.

Around the same time is when staff told my friend I mentioned earlier to stop submitting concepts and instead sit around emoting for a week or two. That was the third one out.

By this point, it had become pretty clear that this game was not for us. Swanky mechanics not withstanding, it was a sparsely populated wasteland (25/30 players on at peak times of day, counting the six of us) with authoritarian bullies at the top, and an outrage mob beneath them ready to punish all wrongthink in double-plus good fashion. Rather than bother with it, the rest of us made our exits as well.

Part X. - Tender Farewells and Exit report

I think I stubbornly held on the longest, because I really did have fun before. But how often does that turn out well? The game I had previously enjoyed so much had a message, and they were gonna drill that message home, and then hammer it home, and then screw it home, and use any other tool they could find to bring it home. I was frustrated at the fact, and embarrassed that I had brought five friends to such a clownshow. Venting this frustration in an admittedly childish way, I slumped exhaustedly in my captain's chair and said to the empty control room something along the lines of, "This game is SJW trash." I then logged out.

To quote another review, "If you're looking for a mechanically sound game where you get to fly in space and aren't big on a good story. I would FULLY recommend this game to you." Beyond that, I'd give it a pass.
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Old 05-10-2019, 04:09 PM   #3
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Re: Star Conquest, the 2018 Saga

Epilogue

Recently while browsing /r/mud on Reddit, I came upon a post by someone who enjoyed the game enough to make a song about it. Decent track too, but I had to ask about the current state of the game. A reddit user answered, "The Eric Best plot is over. I also think it was pretty bad, not just because it seemed low-effort, but because it was a missed opportunity. Letting a group of players be the villain could be interesting and even fun, but I think it would only really work if the villain's ideology is nuanced in some way with good and bad, as opposed to just Donald Trump being racist and incompetent among the stars. I think you're right that they probably thought it was necessary to shock us with how much they disapprove of Trump. It also decimated the AEU player base."

We're a year on now. I figured I would see for myself if Star Conquest had returned to its previous form. If so then awesome. Weird thing happened when I tried to connect, though. It said I was IP banned. "If you think this was a mistake, contact the administration at" blablabla. So I did. This is the exchange that took place.

Me: Hi squiddies and softies. Took a bit of a break from Star Conquest. thought I'd pop back in and see what was going on. But I'm banned. Anything I can do to remedy this?
Hosts: Not at this time, but thank you for your interest.
Me: There's nothing I can do to be not banned? That doesn't seem right. I'm unaware of doing anything wrong. Didn't break any rules or fight with hosts or anything. just stopped playing for a while and now can't get back on. What's up?
Hosts: Your parting words last time were that we were 'SJW trash.' In light of that, we feel you may enjoy Miriani more. You can find it at toastsoft.net

Hahah, I did say that. They're not wrong. Apparently I was though, as is evidenced beyond a shadow of a doubt by this perfectly reasonable and proportionate reaction to what I said off public channels in an empty room a year ago.

Take Care, Squidsoft
Todd Fielding, AEU Patriots' Party

Quoted sources:
https://old.reddit.com/r/MUD/comment...star_conquest/
http://www.topmudsites.com/forums/showthread.php?t=7755
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Old 05-10-2019, 08:16 PM   #4
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Re: Star Conquest, the 2018 Saga

A good review broski. It's been a wild year for me. So, unfortunately, I can only really remember the bad. I am pretty confident the only thing you go wrong was the order we left. I think most stopped when our person who didn't get out of cadet status was reduced to tears in frustration. The rest of us ended up leaving after a very long session of trying to probe the games help files after the guy who launched the probe got arrested and we couldn't figure out where it was listed.

Still though, Star Conquest could be a great game. It's unfortunate that a lot of the progress of their story that happened when we were there was made from poor documentation and newbie error with nobody really around to give us much of a hand since after a year of constant bashing from the faction it was pretty much dead except those people that were outta the main grid and that lady who would just rail on us about how evil best was for hours on end.

Last edited by Imnotaquadman : 05-10-2019 at 10:04 PM.
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Old 05-19-2019, 08:36 AM   #5
Shrouded
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Thumbs down Re: Star Conquest, the 2018 Saga

I may not have gotten the order of departure exactly right, but I know that most of us had our individual reasons for leaving. Sausage Lover, Space Trump, denied concepts, and those of us who didn't took the reasons of the others as reason enough to blow that pop stand.
In the spirit of full disclosure, Lindsey, a big name among the SC hosts responded to a Reddit threat where I linked this review, attempting to explain the game's side of what took place. To me it just sounded like they felt the blame rested squarely on we the players, but I've linked it below so anyone who cares can draw their own conclusions. After the conversation, nothing has changed. Including my recommendation to skip this one. More reviews are coming in the future.

https://www.reddit.com/r/MUD/comment...the_2018_saga/
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