Netrek FAQ list
Last-Updated: 25 Jan 1999
Changes: 1/25 Changed INL info.
1/17 Added Netrek 1999 info, changed question on platforms, added comment about getting permission before running servers.
12/8 Changed ENLC address, INL info.
Table of Contents
What is Netrek?
It sounds interesting; how do I get started?
What's the difference between Xtrek and Netrek?
I've seen a game called Nettrek for the Macintosh; is that the same thing as Netrek?
What platforms are supported?
I'm playing on my Mac/IBM PC/Amiga, but I can't seem to fit all the windows on the screen. Is there a version that will run in 640x480?
I would like to start a new server; what kind of hardware will I need?
I'm trying to start a new server, and I'm having problems. Where can I get help?
How do I get people to play my server?
I compiled the client source, but every time I try to connect to a server it kicks me out or tells me to get a 'blessed' binary. What gives?
The game runs fine, but when the Netrek window comes up, I can't type anything into it. How can I fix this?
OK, the game runs fine and I found a server and logged in, but there doesn't seem to be anyone else around. How can I find a game with people in it?
OK, now I'm in a game with other people. What do I do?
When I'm playing the game, people keep sending messages to me. How can I talk back to them?
I would like to change what some of the keys do; for example, I'd like 't' instead of 'T' to activate my tractor beam. Is there a way to change this?
How does the rating/promotion system work?
I keep dying. How can I get better at the game?
What is 't-mode'?
What does DI stand for, anyway?
What is UDP?
Some of the servers and clients are called 'RSA'; what does that mean?
What is the INL (International Netrek League)?
What is the INHL (International Netrek Hockey League)?
What is the PNL (Paradise Netrek League)?
What is the ENL (European Netrek League)?
What is the Draft League?
Pickup games are full of twinks. How can I find games with clued teams?
I have some ideas and/or bug fixes for the INL Server; where should I send them?
I'm looking at stats from a clue/INL game; what do all the abbreviations mean?
How can I record and view recordings of netrek games?
Where can I get the most recent copy of this FAQ list?
My GPA has fallen 25% since I started playing Netrek last semester. How do you find time to do your homework and still make Admiral?
1. What is Netrek?
The short version: Netrek is a 16-player two-dimensional graphical real-time battle simulation with a Star Trek theme. A game is divided into two teams of 8 players (or fewer), who dogfight each other and attempt to conquer each other's planets.
The long version: Netrek is the probably the first video game which can accurately be described as a "sport." It has more in common with basketball than with arcade games or Quake. Its vast and expanding array of tactics and strategies allows for many different play styles; the best players are the ones who think fastest, not necessarily the ones who twitch most effectively. It can be enjoyed as a twitch game, since the dogfighting system is extremely robust, but the things that really set Netrek apart from other video games are the team and strategic aspects. Team play is dynamic and varied, with roles constantly changing as the game state changes. Strategic play is explored in organized league games; after 6+ years of league play, strategies are still being invented and refined.
The game itself has existed for over 10 years, and has a solid playerbase, including some people who have been playing for nearly as long as the game has existed.
All netrek clients and servers are completely free of charge, although there are several people working on commercial netrek variants or derivatives.
2. It sounds interesting; how do I get started?
First, you need to get a client binary for your machine; read the Netrek FTP List to find an FTP site. The client should run on anything that runs X Windows, although the slower your machine is, the harder it's going to be to play. Slow networks are even harder to play with.
If you don't know how to use FTP, ask your local guru about it.
If you don't have access to FTP, you can use the mail server at decwrl.dec.com. Mail email@example.com with 'help' in the body (nothing else) and you'll get an automatic reply with instructions.
If the filename ends in .Z, you need to uncompress it with 'uncompress'. If it ends in .gz, you need to uncompress it with 'gunzip'.
Once you have the binary, rename it to something logical like 'netrek' and run it with 'netrek -m'. This will contact the Metaserver to find a list of currently active games. Click on the game you want to join; it might be a good idea to join an empty server to get used to the controls before you get in a game with actual people. On most servers, "*" will send in a practice robot if there is no one else in the game; you can use the practice robot to practice aiming and dodging.
If you get a 'netrek: Permission denied' message, try 'chmod 755 netrek'. After the game is over, try 'man chmod.'
3. What's the difference between Xtrek and Netrek?
Xtrek is a precursor to Netrek. It has many of the same elements, but it doesn't work as well because it isn't set up as a client-server combination.
Netrek is often called Xtrek. This causes much confusion. This newsgroup really is dedicated to Netrek, but feel free to talk about Xtrek if you want; many people here have played both.
4. I've seen a game called Nettrek for the Macintosh; is that the same thing as Netrek?
No. Nettrek is in the same family as Netrek (it's unclear which was created first), but it's not the same game. It runs over AppleTalk and doesn't have a whole lot of complexity. If you're interested in it, the original version can be found in most net archive sites that support Mac games. The most recent version is a commercial program called "Nettrek 3.0 - The Real Version," and is published by Premiere Technology, Inc.
5. What platforms are supported?
http://www.best.com/~doosh/netrek/netrekFTP.html and search for your platform name.
Netrek was originally developed on Unix, and usable compiled binaries are available for all major Unix-based OS'es. If you have a strange OS, you may need to compile the freely-available source code.
There are now two different clients available for Windows machines. The older, less flashy but more mature one is Cow 2.2. The newer, prettier but less mature one is Netrek 1999.
There is a playable client for PowerMacs running MacOS only; it's very raw, but the game play is crisp, although having one button sucks.
If you are running Linux on your Mac, there are several clients that should work.
If you are running Linux or FreeBSD on your IBM PC, there are several clients available.
There is a playable client for the Amiga that runs over AmiTCP, either SLIP/PPP or direct connection.
To find any of these clients, go to the Netrek FTP list at
6. I'm playing on my Mac/IBM PC/Amiga, but I can't seem to fit all the windows on the screen. Is there a version that will run at 640x480?
Not really. To be comfortable, you need 1024x768. The COW client has a compile-time option to run in an 800x600 mode, but it cuts down the amount of game space you can see on your tactical map. It would theoretically be possible to play at 640x480, but you'd have to chop things off pretty severely. Bottom line: get a better monitor.
7. I would like to start a new server; what kind of hardware will I need?
The server should run on anything that has Sys V shared memory and a good amount of CPU power. Good net connections are essential if you want lots of players.
Read the Netrek FTP list to find out where you can get the server source.
Please get the permission of your sysadmins before setting up a server. There is one ex-server-admin who is currently being criminally prosecuted for running a netrek server on a government machine. No joke.
8. I'm trying to start a new server, and I'm having problems. Where can I get help?
There are a bunch of somewhat dated server secrets here. You can also try posting to the newsgroup. There's now a mailing list for server code maintainers, firstname.lastname@example.org.
9. How do I get people to play my server?
Generally, people call up the Metaserver and try to get into a game that already has people in it. If your school has a bunch of people who play netrek, encourage them to use your server and people from other places will begin to. If you don't have a local netrek population, log on to the machine yourself and fight Hosers.
The other option is to modify the server enough that people are interested in it for the novelty. Several of the more popular servers have been created this way (Sturgeon and Paradise come to mind). Keep in mind, if you do this, that you will attract weenies more than serious players.
To get your server listed on the Metaserver, mail email@example.com .
10. I compiled the client source, but every time I try to connect to a server it kicks me out or tells me to get a 'blessed' binary. What gives?
It's possible to modify the client source to do lots of tedious tasks (like aiming, dodging, that sort of thing) for you. Since this gives you a big advantage over a mere human, netrek has a way of knowing whether you have a client that was compiled by the netrek Gods or by you. If you compiled it, netrek will assume it's a cyborg, and will kick you out if it's not cyborg hours.
There are several different messages you can get when your binary isn't what the server is expecting:
"User binary failed to verify."
The server is expecting a standard blessed client; read the Netrek FTP List to find out where you can get one.
"No customized binaries. Please use a blessed one."
You have an RSA client, but the key for your client isn't on the list. Mail the server god if you think your key should be included.
"You need a spiffy new RSA client for this server!"
You have a standard blessed client (or an unblessed client) but the server accepts only RSA clients; read the Netrek FTP List to find out where you can get one.
If you are interested in playing a cyborg, get the source from one of the FTP sites and start hacking. It's probably not a good idea for new players to use cyborgs; cyborg players get called lots of nasty names, and they tend not to learn how to play the game (since their client is doing most of the work).
11. The game runs fine, but when the Netrek window comes up, I can't type anything into it. How can I fix this?
This is a problem under a few window managers (OpenWindows and ovlwm, for example); it's netrek's fault, but you can fix it by adding the line ".FocusLenience: True" to your .Xdefaults file. Log out and log back in and it should work. Also, sometimes moving the mouse cursor out of the netrek window and back in will fix it.
12. OK, the game runs fine and I found a server and logged in, but there doesn't seem to be anyone else around. How can I find a game with people in it?
Andy McFadden has written a nice little utility called Metaserver II (based on METASERVER, written by ERic Mehlhaff) that will tell you where there are active games. telnet metaserver.us.netrek.org 3520 lists all known servers and current number of players. You can also try telnet metaserver.netrek.org 3521, 3522, 3523, or 3524 for more information.
There is now a WWW-based version of the Metaserver at http://metaserver.netrek.org:1080
Most modern clients recognize a -m option; if you start the client with "netrek -m", it will contact the Metaserver and put up a list of currently active games.
The metaserver location has recently (August 1998) changed, due to unreliability of the previous machine. The new location is metaserver.us.netrek.org (the previous was metaserver.ecst.csuchico.edu). Most clients still default to the old metaserver; if you get an error trying to connect, try adding the following lines to your .xtrekrc:
There is also a backup metaserver at metaserver2.us.netrek.org.
13. OK, now I'm in a game with other people. What do I do?
The first thing you should do is bring up your message window (by hitting '?') and your player list (by hitting 'L'). Most clients will now do this by default. On some servers, you will be asked to respond to a question to be sure you're reading messages; if you don't respond within a certain amount of time, you will be automatically kicked out of the game.
Pressing a number key chooses your warp speed. The left mouse button fires torpedos at your cursor, the middle mouse button fires phasers at your cursor, and the right mouse button turns your ship towards your cursor. Hitting 'h' will bring up a help window with a list of basic commands.
There's a pretty good tutorial for new players at the Netrek Home Page.
14. When I'm playing the game, people keep sending messages to me. How can I talk back to them?
On the bottom right-hand side of your main window you'll see two long boxes. The top one is where messages like "Not enough fuel for phaser" come up just before you die. The bottom one is the one you use to talk to people. Move your cursor down there and type a character to choose who to send the message to: 'A' for ALL, the capitalized team letter for the team (i.e., 'F' for Federation), or the player number for a message to a single player (i.e., 'c' to send to Rc). Type your message and hit enter when you're done. Don't do this in combat.
On most new clients you can also begin a message by tying the "M" key. Exactly what this does depends on which client you're using; it will either move your cursor down to the message window, or just change your cursor into a text insertion bar. Either way, hitting "return" should end the message and bring you back to normal game play.
15. I would like to change what some of the keys do; for example, I'd like 't' instead of 'T' to activate my tractor beam. Is there a way to do this?
There are two ways: first, do a shift-O. This brings up the options window. Near the bottom (or elsewhere, depending on your client) there is a box for 'New keymap entries'. Move your cursor to this box and type your new keymap entries. The format is , so 'tT' will remap tractor beam to 't'.
Netrek also recognizes a .xtrekrc file; a 'keymap:' line in there will allow you to map as many as you want. Format is the same as above.
If you forget where you mapped a key, remapping it to itself ('ee', for example) will reset that keymap. On some clients, the "h" help window will display not only the defaults, but also your keymappings.
16 How does the rating/promotion system work?
Do a shift-I on yourself; you'll see four ratings there, one for planets, one for bombing, one for offense, and one for defense. The planet, bombing, and offense ratings are measured in DI/hour; for each planet you take, army you bomb, and player you kill you get a certain amount of DI (which varies depending on the server)--the average amount per hour is your rating. Your rating is equal to (your DI/your hours)/ (total DI/total hours); therefore, if you have a bombing rating of 2.0, you bomb twice as many armies as the average person on the server. This is true for all ratings. All ratings are updated only in t-mode.
Now do a shift-U. Listed there are the thresholds for each rank. Your overall rating is your planets+bombing+offense. To make a rank, you need to have the DI required for that rank, and your ratings need to be above the rating required for that rank (i.e., to make Admiral, you need 320 DI and your ratings need to be above 8.0). You can also make a ranking by having ratings good enough for a level and twice the DI you would need for the next level (So you can make Admiral with ratings of 7.0 and 640 DI). This equation is recursive, so you can also make it with 6.0 ratings and 1280 DI (which would take about 200 hours), or 5.0 ratings and 2560 DI (which would take 500). On some servers the equation is recursive only once, so you can't make ranks on 8xDI.
On some servers, your defense also needs to be above .8 to advance past Lt. Commander.
Note that suggestions on how to improve the rating system occur about twice a week in rec.games.netrek, and the general consensus is that it isn't worth the hassle.
17. I keep dying. How can I get better at the game?
The best way is probably to talk with someone who knows how to play. There is also an archive of hints and suggestions on how to play better; go to the Netrek Home Page to check it out.
18. What is 't-mode'?
T-mode is short for 'tournament mode.' To keep some integrity in the database, ratings are calculated only when there are a certain number of people in the game (actually, when there are a certain number of people on two separate teams. On many servers, you need 4 players on 2 different teams; 4 teams of 2 players won't do it). When the game goes into t-mode, there will be a 't' flag in your list of flags, and there will be a message like "Dan Quayle declares self as Galactic Emperor and chaos breaks out!" When the game drops out of t-mode (because someone quit), the 't' flag will disappear and there'll be a "Dan Quayle is locked up and order returns to the galaxy" message.
It's generally considered rude to bomb or take planets out of t-mode. Some servers punish people for trying.
19. What does DI stand for, anyway?
Destruction Inflicted. It's worth noting that, unlike most games, netrek rewards people who inflict more destruction, not people who survive longer. You actually get stronger when you die, and you usually get more DI. You also tend to win more.
20. What is UDP?
UDP is a network protocol that is much more lenient than TCP (which is what netrek originally used). If you don't have a local server, using a UDP client on a UDP server could reduce your lag considerably. All mainstream clients now support UDP. Many thanks to Andy McFadden, Netrek Guru, for implementing the UDP stuff.
21. Some of the servers and clients are called 'RSA'; what does that mean?
RSA is a way for servers to make sure that players are not using cyborg clients. The RSA package generates a header file containing a public and a private encryption key. These keys are compiled into the client; the private key encrypts the data and the public key decrypts it. The main advantage of RSA over the old reserved.c method is that the server gods need know only the public key; the RSA package can be kept in a few select hands. Also, if someone breaks the protection on a certain private key, that key can be turned off by the server god, and that specific client will no longer work.
22. What is the INL (International Netrek League)?
The INL is the International Netrek League, a collection of teams from around the world who periodically beat up on each other. The spring league is now accepting team rosters; see the How To Join page to find a team or submit your rosters.
All INL administrative stuff is available from the INL homepage. You can get game statistics and schedules at the INL Statboy Home Page. Mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about the INL.
23. What is the INHL (International Netrek Hockey League)?
The INHL is a league for Netrek Hockey teams. Netrek Hockey is a variant of netrek where ships use tractor and pressor beams to move a "puck" around. The INHL home page is at http://wolfeandlois.org/~wolfe/hockey/ . The league is run by the INHL council, who can be reached at email@example.com. The hockey home page is at http://www.panix.com/~jasonlee/netrek/ .
24. What is the PNL (Paradise Netrek League)?
The PNL is a league for Paradise Netrek teams. Paradise Netrek is a variant of netrek with many new ship types, a larger galaxy, and other modifications. The PNL home page is here. The league is run by the Paradise League Council, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
25. What is the ENL (European Netrek League)?
The ENL is a league for Netrek teams based in Europe. The ENL home page is at http://enl.netrek.org/ The league is run by the ENL Council, who can be reached at email@example.com
26. What is the Draft League?
The Draft League is an occasional league organized by various people. The teams are all chosen in a single draft at the beginning of the season; the idea is that this will create balanced games, and teams where top players can help out newbies.
There is currently a league open for signups, to join, send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Include the following information in your mail:
How often you think you can make it to games:
One or more netrek characters that you think identify you:
Indicate if you wish to captain:
Option: a short description of your netrek experience, (information that you would want captains to see before they make their draft decisions)
Signups are open until Monday, May 4th.
27. Pickup games are full of twinks. How can I find games with clued teams?
WARNING: These mailing lists are available so that clued players can get together for high-quality games. If you are not yet a clued player, you will probably be yelled at if you show up for a clue-pickup game. If you aren't sure whether you qualify as "clue" or not, you don't.
The clue-pickup mailing list is for organizing INL-style clue games. You can join by mailing email@example.com with the words "SUBSCRIBE clue-pickup" in the body of your message. The list address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Netrek Game Board is a WWW-based list of upcoming games.
The euroclue mailing list is for organizing INL-style clue games for European players. You can get information about the list, including how to subscribe, at http://enl.netrek.org/euroclue.html .
The Hockey mailing list is for organizing hockey games, as well as discussing hockey strategy and changes to the game/league structure. You can subscribe by mailing email@example.com with "subscribe hockey" in the body of the message. The list address is firstname.lastname@example.org . Upcoming clue games are also posted on the Netrek Hockey Home Page ( http://www.panix.com/~jasonlee/netrek/ ).
28. I have some ideas and/or bug fixes for the INL server; where should I send them?
29. I'm looking at stats from a clue/INL game; what do all the abbreviations mean?
The INL server records many statistics. A typical example looks like this:
Planets Armies Kills Deaths
----------- ------------------- --- ---Good-----Bad -------
Name team min tpt tpd tpb tab tac pad fao eao tof eck pck tek fck def acc
Mojo Riser F5 87 17 14 0 0 64 92 0 8 116 2 7 80 0 72 5
The player's name.
The player's team and player number.
Number of minutes the player was in the game.
Total planets taken.
Total planets destroyed (neutralized).
Total planets bombed.
Total armies bombed.
Total armies carried.
Percentage of armies dropped. In this case I carried 64 armies, dropped 59 of those (92%, on enemy planets or friendly planets needing reinforcement), and was ogged with 5 (ow).
Friendly armies ogged (blew up on the carrier AGAIN?).
Enemy armies ogged (DOOSH!).
True offense; a measure of how far away from the enemy homeworld you were, compared to other team members. Lower is closer.
Enemy carriers killed (see eao).
Potential carriers killed (people with kills, but no armies).
Total enemies killed.
Friendly carriers killed (see fao).
Deaths by enemy fire.
Actual carriers created; people who got their first kill from me and picked up armies, or who got their second kill from me and picked up 3 or more armies.
30. How can I record and view recordings of netrek games?
The best way to view and record games is with the BRMH client, version 2.3 or higher. Detailed information is available in the netrek recording FAQ, maintained by Terence Chay
31. Where can I get the most recent copy of this FAQ list?
32. My GPA has fallen 25% since I started playing Netrek last semester. How do you find time to do your homework and still make Admiral?
Sorry, nobody's found an answer to this one yet. Just remember that (GPA+kill ratio) is constant.