2.1 Connecting To A Server
If you run netrek without any arguments it will just complain at you. It needs to know which server to connect to. To tell it, use the "-h" command line option:
netrek -h thiserver.foobar.somewhere.edu
This tells netrek to join the game in progress on that server. (You can specify the port number, if it's not the standard 2592, with the -p option, should you need to.)
The better way to go about this, however, is to use the metaserver. The metaserver is a central computer, currently metaserver.ecst.csuchico.edu, which keeps track of currently running games on all servers. Type
telnet metaserver.ecst.csuchico.edu 3523
to get details about the different ports. In addition, Most clients can be run with the -m option, which will cause the client to connect to the metaserver and display a window with the names and status of servers with active games, and allow you to select which to join. If you are playing netrek for the first time, it is strongly recommended that you start the client with "netrek -m".
Netrek will then attempt to connect to the specified server. After connection, there will be a pause, especially if running over the modem, as the MOTD ("message of the day") is received from the server. This can take up to 30 seconds with a long MOTD over a modem, even longer if the MOTD contains bitmaps and you load them. When the MOTD has finished loading, the main Netrek window will be displayed.
Everyone who plays netrek has one or more "characters". People play under handles. The point of this -- besides fun -- is to allow to server to track each person's statistics from game to game. Thus you can have ratings, be promoted in rank, etc.
When you connect to a server, therefore, you must login. If you don't wish to use a permanent handle, login as "guest". It is a good idea to be a guest during at least your first few hours playing. Otherwise, think of a name and type it in. You will then be asked for a password. This prevents other people from logging in as you and messing up your stats. Think of one and remember it! You will need it to log in later.
Important note: put the mouse in the tactical (left) window as you type your name and password or you won't be able to enter anything!
2.3 The MOTD, Teams, And Ships
With the mouse in the MOTD window, press "f" and "b" to move forward and backwards through it. Whenever you are at the MOTD you can also press Shift-R (capital R) should you wish to reset your stats. Do read the MOTD: it will tell you important server-specific information.
The other defining thing about this screen are the team selection windows. The large numbers indicate how many people are playing on each team. Often you will not be able to pick an arbitrary team but will be restricted to some subset. This ensures that the teams are (more or less) balanced in size.
Click on the team with the next to largest number of players you will be assigned a cruiser for that team. (The numbers will fluctuate as ships are killed and are resurrected.) Or, with the mouse in the appropriate window, press a key to select a ship type and start as that type. The keys you may press are:
S - Scouts(SC): These are fast fragile little things. Good if you want to fly around the galaxy at high speed and get shot down by the first big ship that gets near. They are very good for harassing, and bombing if there are many undefended planets with very few armies on them. They are difficult to use to fight, especially for the inexperienced.
Cruising speed: 8 Combat speed: 6 Max. armies: 2
D - Destroyers(DD): These are similar to scouts but they are a little more tough and they have slightly more powerful weapons. The destroyer is sometimes erroneously referred to as "halfway between the scout and the cruiser." If this were so, it would have more powerful phasers and be able to go an extra half warp faster. For the unskilled player, they live up to their nickname of "Ship of Lose." The destroyer is really a specialty ship, primarily used for taking planets by those who know what they're doing.
Cruising speed: 7 Combat speed: 5 Max. armies: 5
C - Cruiser(CA): An all-purpose ship, and the default if you don't select another.
Cruising speed: 6 Combat Speed: 4 Max. armies: 10
B - Battleship(BB): This ship is slow to accelerate and hard to maneuver. However, it has the most firepower of any normal ship. It is also very tough. Since it can take a fair amount of damage while still dishing out a lot, it is very effective for offensive players--but watch your fuel, this ship uses a lot of it. The BB or the CA is recommended for inexperienced players, since it's harder to die in them. Since dodging is tough for the BB, heavy use of tractoring, pressoring, and detting is important. See the dogfighting section.
Cruising speed: 4 Combat speed: 3 Max. armies: 6
A - Assault Ships(AS): These ships are primarily useful in bombing and capturing planets (something that beginners should do after mastering the basics). One of their unique features is that they may carry 3 armies per kill their captain has. Another is that they are guaranteed to bomb at least two armies at once. Also, they are very tough to kill because they can take so much hull damage. This is important when taking planets, because they can keep dropping while detting. Other ships don't have the hull to det without putting up their shields (and you can't drop armies with shields up). They can also cloak cheaply to sneak in and attack planets.
Cruising speed: 8 Combat speed: 4 Max. armies: 20
O (for "outpost") - Starbase(SB): These are very powerful and hard to destroy. New players cannot play these (a rank of Commander is required). Because they are so powerful, new players should probably avoid getting in fights with one; it takes several players working together to destroy one. If you see a hostile base, you're best off running away from it.
Cruising speed: 2 Combat speed: 2 Max. armies: 25
2.4 The Game Screen
When you first enter the game, you will see two main windows and several smaller ones. The large window on the left is the local or tactical window, where you will do most of your playing. It shows your ship and the immediate area around it. The window on the right is the map window, which shows the entire galaxy.
Each planet has a long name which appears on the local window, and a three letter abbreviation which appears on the map. The color of the planet indicates its owner, which can be one of four team colors or gray for neutral. Some of the planets will also have symbols on them. A person symbol means there are more than 4 armies on that planet (and hence it can be bombed if its an enemy planet or beamed up from if it's a friendly planet). A wrench symbol means that the planet is a repair planet; while in orbit around this planet you will repair damage much faster that usual. A gas can (looks like a sort of little box) means that the planet in question is a fuel planet, and you can refuel on that planet. This is important, because although you regenerate fuel automatically if you are not constantly using it, a fuel planet will fill you up much faster.
Below the tactical display are two little windows. The topmost of these is the warning window. Important messages will appear here. Below this is the message-send window where you can compose one-line messages to send to your teammates.
Below the map window are three scrolling lists. These are, by default, the All window, the Team window, and the Individual window (the "your" window). These show, as you might have guessed, messages to everybody, messages to just your team and messages to just you in them. Read messages! This is important.
2.5 Essential Commands
With this in mind, the following is a rip-off with minor changes of the classic "opening screen" documentation, which is part of the MOTD of many servers. It will tell you the basic commands and should be enough to get you started playing. Thanks to Eric Mehlhaff (mehlhaff@ocf.Berkeley.EDU) for writing it.
Left - Fire Photon Torpedoes toward Mouse Cursor
Shift+Left or Middle - Fire Phaser toward Mouse Cursor
Right - Change course toward Mouse Cursor
Other Important Commands:
0-9 Set Warp Speed 0-9
) Set speed to warp 10
! Set speed to warp 11
@ Set speed to warp 12
% Set speed as fast as you can go!
c Cloak/Uncloak Ship. While cloaked your ship will not show up on other players' tactical displays. It will show up as a ?? on the Galactic display.
l Lock onto object. Sets your course to that object. If it's a
planet or a Base, you automatically dock there once you arrive.
t Fire torpedo
p Fire phasers
T Tractor Beam. Pulls target toward you but uses a lot of fuel.
Useful to make sure ships that run away get killed.
y Pressor Beam. Just like Tractor, but it pushes target away.
Useful in keeping those over-agressive warships away from you.
s,u Raise/lower shields. Your shields consume fuel. Also, your ship
will only repair internal damage while shields are down. But you are
much more vulnerable when your shields are down.
L Bring up the Player List Window. So you can see the names behind
the player numbers, as well as their stats.
i,I Get information on the player or planet nearest your mouse cursor.
Lower and uppercase report different things, try both.
q Quit game quickly
Q Quit game, but read the MOTD first
h Bring up help window
Lots of commands, huh? And those are just the more common ones! Notice how difficult it is to reach a lot of these keys, such as orbit, lock onto, tractor, pressor, etc. Most people use a keymap to make it easier to reach the important stuff; see the section on .netrekrc's for details.
How to send Messages:
Press 'm' or put your mouse cursor in the outgoing message window. It is the lower of the two thin one-line windows just below the galactic or tactical window (depending on which client you are using). Type the letter for who you want to send to:
0-9, a-j Message is sent to player of that number/letter
t Send to your own team
A Send to All (Everyone!)
F Send to Federation
K Send to Klingons
R Send to Romulans
O Send to Orions
Use the Esc key to cancel a message before sending it.
Tournament mode starts you when have 4 vs. 4 and the teams are not diagonally opposite (e.g. Fed vs. Kli is no good). You can get DI (damage inflicted) only during tournament mode, and more DI leads to promotions. DI is a composite score based on total planets taken, armies bombed, and ships killed. During Tournament mode ('Tmode' -- look for the little 't' among the flags, which are on the upper-left of the "dashboard" directly below the tactical window) you receive no DI for attacking non-warring races, i.e. those races not represented by a team of 4 or more.
Your rating will be updated only during Tmode. Ratings are derived from your planet bombing, killing (offense) and getting killed (defense) rates, normalized with respect to the average of all players. That is, a rating of 1.00 means you have exactly the average of all the current players.
To get plasma torpedoes, get 2 kills, and refit to [DD/CA/BB]. These home in on a target but can be shot down with phasers.
When you first enter the Game, you may need to press hit the keys 'B' and 'V' twice each. This makes the planets resources show up on the tactical and Galactic Maps. If you are experiencing a lot of 'blink' (uneven screen updates), try setting your updates/second to a lower value. Do this in the options window ('O' - that's capital oh -- to bring it up).
Click the mouse button on the updates number until you get the number you want. Lower updates tend to produce less blink, although they make netrek less playable when the network is working normally.
Declare peace with everyone (except perhaps the current enemy race). This way you won't be attacked by neutral planets and robots! Set "stay peaceful when reborn" (in the options window again). This way you won't have to redo your war settings every time you get shot down.
Hints for Beginners:
Watch your fuel. When you run out, your weapons won't fire, you can't go very fast to run away, and you'll be helpless. If you run out of fuel, go orbit a friendly or neutral fuel planet. Avoid chasing ships, unless you know they are badly damaged or out of fuel. It's very hard for you to dodge their fire, and very easy for them to dodge yours. On the other hand, if you can get someone to chase you, waste them!
Learn who your enemies are. If you shoot at friendly ships, not only do you waste fuel, but you show everyone that you are a beginner. And many players will specifically go for beginners just for the easy kill. Change speeds a lot. It is often useful to use high speed to get into the action quickly. But at high speeds you will have a hard time dodging enemy torpedoes.
If you're not in combat, fly around with your shields down. This enables you to repair a little damage, and you use less fuel that way. But beware, you are very vulnerable if you are surprised.
Each additional warp halves your turning speed. Slow down to turn.
Watch your galactic map to get the "big picture." Pay attention to cloakers. Enemy ships near you will cause you to go to yellow or red alert. This can be used to tell if the cloaker by you is an enemy or not.
Torpedoes you det won't hurt your teammates.
Bomb enemy planets with armies on them.
Strategy and the grand Scheme of things:
There's more to Netrek than just ships flying around and blowing each other away. The actual goal of the game is to conquer the galaxy. As a shorter term goal, a team must conquer the planets of the other team. This genocides the team, and all its players are forced to quit or change to a new team. (Note that most if not all current servers restart the galaxy after one genocide.)
How to Conquer Planets:
You conquer planets by first bombing the armies on enemy planets down to less than four. Below 4 you cannot bomb them. (Neither can the other team pick up from them, however.) Here is one time where the AS is useful: the AS always bombs at least two, so if the planet is at 5 and you bomb it with an AS, it will always go to three or less! If the planet is at 6, however, you should first bomb it down to 5 with a normal ship and then have the AS bomb.
Then you need to get some kills -- you can only carry armies if you have killed with your current ship -- and beam up some armies from one of their own planets with the 'z' key (you can only beam up armies if the planet has more than four armies, so you have to keep your enemies from bombing your planets!). Once you have armies, orbit the enemy's planet and beam them down with the 'x' key. Each of your armies destroys one of the enemy's armies, so you will need more armies to capture a planet than the planet currently has. Usually, as a rule of thumb, it takes 5 armies to capture a planet, unless of course, it has fewer armies than that on it.
Some planets are more important to capture, too. Fuel planets are good planets to capture, because capturing them prevents the enemy from refueling on them. Similarly, repair planets (look for the little wrench symbol on the planet) repair ships orbiting them much faster than normal. Agricultural or "agri" planets -- press 'i' on the planet or bring up the planet window with 'P' -- are most valuable because they generate armies quickly.
Standard Netrek games usually follow a pattern:
The game starts:
The teams have all their planets and usually about 30 armies per planet. So, the object in this stage is to bomb out as many of the enemies' armies as possible, while preventing them from bombing out your own.
The planet capturing stage:
Most of the armies are bombed away, so the players concentrate on capturing the enemy planets. It's kind of pointless to try to capture enemy planets while they still have a lot of armies, so this is why players don't try to capture planets until this stage. If the enemy has lots of armies, it is very easy for them to simply recapture their planets.
The Desperate wait for armies:
The players have used up most of their armies trying to take planets, so they are waiting for more to grow on their own planets so they can take the enemies'. What few they do get often end up dying, as the ship that was carrying them is hunted down by hordes of enemy ships.
The Last Planet Defense:
One of the teams has lost several of its planets. It only has a few of the ones near its homeworld. They don't have many armies to recapture their worlds because they don't have many worlds to grow them. But their worlds are well defended because they come back real close to them when they die.
This stage can last for hours if the winning team isn't aggressive or well-enough organized to take those last few worlds.
2.6 How Not To Be Obviously A Twink
A "twink" (see section 5.2) is someone who is a netrek loser. Netrek, because it is a multi-player game, has an etiquette. Specifically, stupidity and laziness are not tolerated. Below are some comments on how not to get labeled a as a twink, which is not only embarrassing, but dangerous as players may kill you whenever they need an easy kill (so that they can carry armies and hence take planets.)
- does not read messages. Netrek is a team game. Be part of the team.
- picks up armies, flies in without escort, and gets killed while carrying. Don't die with armies on board if you can avoid it. There is a fine line between not dying needlessly and cowardly running. I really can't give a good rule of thumb for this, except that if your escorts are between you and the enemies go for it. Your escorts will keep them away long enough to take. Nothing is more annoying than someone who won't take unless the planet is TOTALLY clear, no matter how in control his team is.
- does not listen to his teammates. Help your team! People more experienced then you will try to direct actions and strategy. If you have a better idea, say so, but don't just ignore the requests of your teammates. Unfortunately, many players are impatient with newbies (I'm one of them ;-), and will not do more than curse at you for your mistakes. If you want to get more out of them than curses, don't argue with them. They will only get angrier because a "clueless newbie" presumes to correct them! Apologize, even if it wasn't your fault, and ask what you did wrong. This makes them feel stupid. Complimenting them doesn't hurt either. Of course, here I'm assuming that the arrogant player actually knows what he's doing and isn't just a jerk. There are a few clueless jerks around, too.
- calls for help continuously, whenever there's someone chasing him. Learn how to defend yourself. If you can't, don't, for example, fly deep into enemy territory by yourself and then expect your friends to come to the rescue as soon as someone starts grinding you down. For one thing, ships do not move all that fast and so by the time they arrive you will probably be dead. For another thing, there are better things to do than waste time saving someone who will just get a new ship a few seconds later anyway, unless you are of some special value to the team, e.g. carrying armies, are the only player with kills, etc. This does not mean, don't call for help when defending a planet or taking, for example. But if you are about to get killed and you're not doing anything special, sorry.
- does things or takes resources better done or used by others. Examples of this are bombing a planet when there is a friendly assault ship right there that could do it, or taking armies before a more skilled or better equipped (e.g. you're in a scout and he's not) player who wants them can beam them up.
- explodes near his teammates and kills them. Explosions do considerable damage. This fact can be used to your advantage, for examplewhen ogging (killing with a suicide attack) someone. But don't explode over or near friendly ships. For example, if your are protecting someone, as in escorting for planet takes, stay a little bit away from the planet so that if/when you get toasted, you don't kill them too.
- pesters others for help instead of reading the manual or figuring it out online. This last point is extremely important! Read this document thoroughly, and investigate the FAQ, various WWW sites, and the Netrek archives (see section 6.1) thoroughly before pestering other players for help with simple things. Note that this does not mean don't ask questions: on the contrary, many players are more than happy to explain things to beginners. But don't ask without trying hard by yourself. Things like "how do you play this game?" or asking "how do I raise my shields" eight times in the middle of a game (when you can always press 'h' and find out) are not appreciated by most players.
- plays for himself. Play for your _team_. There's a lot of otherwise good players who only want to increase their stats by planet scumming. Space control. Escort. Scout bomb. I can't emphasise this last enough; there are few players that I am more happy to have on my team than one who will join the game, see that their team needs a bomber, and then goes bombing.