Say you need to relate Trek, a VAX mainframe, and one of the earliest networked multiplayer games ever...

The VAX/VMS is an interesting and special piece of hardware. Relevant to our topic, it had shared memory segments. This one feature made unique multiplayer games possible.

Conquest is the fusion of Trek lore, VAX hardware and a realtime network multiplayer game. Read the full article for details and screenshots.

Terminal Intro

_-=* Cataboligne

Conquest, created in 1982, was based on an earlier game called Empire.

Conquest was originally played on a VT101 or its descendents connected to a VAX. Playing a realtime network multiplayer game on a text terminal at 9600 baud could be an exersize in serious frustration.

The simplicty of the game was inverse to how much fun it was to play. Conquest was an addiction that betrayed grades (in the collegiate setting), ended and formed friendships, and frustrated significant others.

Setup is thus:
A universe of 2 dimensional coordinates existed in shared memory on a VAX.
When a player connected to the game with a client exec, a driver exec moved a set of planets in thier orbits, moved ships according to nav rules and instructions, controled planet populations, and managed the doomsday machine.

Galaxy Map

Four Trek races (Humans, Klingons, Romulans and Orions) start with 1 home system with a class M planet and 2 class D planets orbiting a home sun and populated with team armies. The team planets had an orbit 120 deg. apart from each other. The four home systems were laid out in a box around the center - clockwise from top left: Klingon, Orion, Federation, Romulan.

5 more planets orbited a center of the universe sun. Along the sides of the box inline with the team suns were 4 binary planet systems, one class M and one class D in a small orbiting around a center point. Between the team systems and the center system was a fast moving planet. Beyond the team systems was a fast orbiting sun with a class M and class D planet. All non team planets had independent armies that went to war with individual ships when attacked.

A negative energy barrier existed a certain distance from the center sun in a square. You could fly through it with 100 shields & 100 hull at max warp. Though unless a conqoper put planets beyond it there would be no strategic advantage to passing it. Earth also had Luna as a moon - of no strategic importance.

Ships and abilities were based on Trek: All ships had -

Integrity / Power:
hull strength................(100 units - self repairing)
shields........................(100 units max - self replenishing)
energy........................(999 units max - self replenishing)
engines.......................(warp 8 - warp 10)
engine overheat............(shuts down engines when = 100)
power allocation...........(30% - 70% weapons to engines)

phasers.......................(limited by heat)
photon torpedoes.........(9 max)
torpedo detonator.........(limited range for enemy torps)
weapon overheat..........(shuts down weapons when = 100)

Auxilary systems:
tractor beams...............(limited range)
cloaking device.............(limited by fuel)
army transport..............(8 - 10 armies)
self destruct.................(15 sec timer)

o- When hull damage exceeded 100, your ship explodes - hull damage is self repairing
o- Repairs go faster in "Repair" mode and even faster when orbiting a team / friendly planet. Shields are always down in repair mode.
o- Max warp - cruisers can only go warp 8, destroyers can go warp 9 and scouts can go warp 10.
o- Warp speed is limited by hull damage - the more damage the slower you go. Above 50 damage warp is limited at or below 5.
o- Energy replenishes faster when orbiting a friendly planet and shields replenished faster when down.
o- Energy allocation detailed whether weapons or engines operated better - from 30% to 70% and inverting between the two - if weapons were 70%, engines were 30% and vice versa.
o- The more you do the more fuel you used. So going max warp, carrying max armies, with the cloak on uses fuel in a hurry.
o- Phasers were limited range beam weapons, capable of great damage at point blank range.
o- Photon torpedoes traveled from warp 10 - warp 14, and once all 9 were fired you had to wait until they detonated.
o- Explosions - photon damage was based on distance to target. Dying ship explosions also did distance damage.
o- Detonators - you can detonate your own photons any time, and detonate incoming enemy torps within a certain range.
o- Scouts carry 8 armies, Destroyers carry 9 and Cruisers carry 11. For every kill you could carry 2 armies, so to carry the max you needed at least 4 - 6 kills.
o- Kills come from bombing armies and blowing up ships, where 1 ship = 1 kill and armies provided a precentage.
o- The original cloak was useless - it only worked if you orbited a friendly class M planet. The cloak can now be effective if you remain motionless.
o- The tractor beam was also of limited strategic use.
o- Self destruct is the only method of stopping the Doomsday machine.

In original VAX conquest Federation and Klingon ships were always destroyers, Romulans ships were cruisers and Orions were scouts. In the updated conquest a new user gets the default race type, but once you have 1 kill you can orbit a team planet and "refit" to any ship type.

In general destroyers were the same middle of the road ships. Scouts had better engines and weaker weapons - making original Orions hit and run type attackers in general. Cruisers were opposite with weaker engines and stronger weapons - original Romulans in general bullied into a battle and tried to smash enemies with thier photons, as they could hardly chase other team ships.

The goal was simple: one team had to populate all the central and team planets (25 planets total, 22 to take from init) with thier armies - a conquer. This was done by bombing armies while orbiting the planet till only 3 were left (you couldnt get those 3, they hid.) Then you had to beam down your team armies to take over.

There were 3 major obstacles between a player and this goal.
1. other players. to attack another team you had to be at war. once at war weapons do damage and armies attack orbiting ships. after you bomb armies or kill a ship you cant turn off the war setting.
2. robot ships. if you attack a teams home system and no players for that team are present a robot ship is created on autopilot. Federation - M-5, Romulan - Colossus, Klingon - Gaurdian, Orion - HAL9000. These robots can be very challenging especially one on one.
3. doomsday machine. this nasty monster can randomly pop up. it doesnt smash planets, but it does bomb the armies, eventually leaving the planet a radioactive mess that is not habitable for some time. a conquer can not occur until all 25 capture planets are habitable. it can only be killed by a self destructing ship within a small distance of its maw. this is very challenging to do and not worth it stat wise.

There were a few minor annoyances as well:
o- genocide. if your armies existed nowhere, you had to go to your home planet and bomb the conquering armies down to 3. then wait for a coup timer to expire - at which time you could attemp a coup. if successful you got some armies for your team, and it wasnt a lot. if not successful the timer reset. in the original code a coup was hard to get. even worse if the team that had your home had no ships you could end up fighting a robot in your home system!
o- overpopulation - once above a certain number a planets armies would die off, down to a much smaller percentage. this was great for taking planets, but sucked when your team suddenly has 2 planets with 200 armes go to 15 armies.
o- large army count - the more armies on a planet the more damage they do to an attacking ship. when independent and team armies get above 100 they can really damage a bombing ship. if you were carefull this was only a problem when enemy ships were nearby to attack.
o- flying into a sun. suns did damage by army count! (even though armies didnt live on them...) if you flew through or near a sun you could lose a ship.
o- running out of fuel. nothing is more frustrating than running out of fuel in combat. it could be difficult to break off and fly to a class M planet. even worse when you had no friendly class M planets...

The current net enabled version of conquest is available here: You may have to compile this yourself.

Screens - xterm simulation of VT101 view:

Simulated VT100 conquest

Color xterm view:

Xterm view

Original GL client view:

First GL client view

Improved GL client view:

team specific gl client view - killer eh?