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The Corporation - By Roberts











[ed.  Comments by Traitor look like this]

Evolution of a Tradewars player

My impression of TW2002 has evolved over the years (yes, I do mean years - I started playing in the late 80's).  When I first started playing the game, I played a solo Blue and most of the people I played against also played solo games.  Unless you are being brought into the game by a friend (who is generally looking for a trustworthy corp-mate, or corpie as we now call them), playing a solo game (i.e. not running with a corp) is pretty much the norm for new players.  I firmly believe that every player should go through a solo phase - you will never really understand the economics behind the game until you watch yourself burn through every credit you have made over the past week in a very short period of combat. 

After a game or two, the disparity between solo players and corp players becomes pretty obvious.  It's a sad but undeniable fact that in a game where there are even mediocre corps active, solo players will eventually get stomped.  So, most people who enjoy the game and are serious about the winning start looking to either be either get picked up by an established corp, or for some other solo to team up with.  Most, hopefully, avoid my fate - I picked up my very first corpie (whose name I have long since forgotten) in the middle of a rough game, he turned around and killed me, taking all the planets I had developed.  (On a brighter note, the players I had been fighting against were so incensed by what he did that they gave me one of their sectors to get me back on my feet and helped me in my war against my former corpie). 

Anyway, when players first start experimenting with playing in corporations, you generally see 4 or 5 solo players form up under a single corp name and start playing...well, solo.  In other words, the individual players will generally not change their individual play style very much, they will just pool all their resources.  An important thing to remember, however, is that a corporation lives by combining the strengths of all of it's members, and dies by the weakness of any single player.  You can have a corp that is kicking serious booty, but if one of the members brings a limpet home, that corp is going to get trashed.   If a player constantly is pulling all the figs off of the planets to go out hunting, your corp is going to go down in flames when your planets get found.  Players that don't run their turns, or run them badly are not assets, they are liabilities.  Pick and choose your corpies carefully! 

If the players are lucky enough to have a bright CEO, or if they play long enough to start discovering successful strategies, the individual players will start capitalizing on their individual strengths and contributing those strengths to the Corp they are playing in.  In other words, they will start to specialize.  

Player specialization is the foundation of a successful corporation, and generally can be described as Combat and/or Support skills.  Combat covers PvP (Player vs. Player), PvA (Player vs. Alien), Defense (Limpet/Armid Mine Distribution, Fighter Clouds, Sector Defense, Q-Cannon stepping, Planet Mixes, etc), Invasion (Mine Disruption, Fig killers, Q-cannon suppression, mothing, planet ping-pong) and Guerrilla (or how to make losing as painful as possible for the winners).  Support covers Information Gathering (mapping, port loss tracking, resource tracking, enemy resource development [planets/cits/figs/probable cash flow] and PC hunter), Resource Acquisition (collie runner, furber, SST/SDT/RT, PT, MR and mini-MR), Sector Development (port building, port improvement, planet placement) and Planet Maintenance (citadel development).  I will not be elaborating on all of these specific tactics in this white paper, I merely identify them as skills that a successful corporation needs to have, in order to consistently win.

Blue v Red

Play style is critical - and none more so than deciding which side of Alignment 0 you are going to play.  Generally speaking, Reds (players with a negative alignment) are able to make more money per turn (figure a good red is able to make at least 12,000 per turn), but Blues (players with a positive alignment) have better ships and more freedom of action. Here are some numbers to consider. 

Income Strategy Blue/Red/Both Daily Income (assumes 1000 turn game)
Port Pair Trading/Merf Both 600k - 1.2M
Port Pair Trading/ISS Blue 1M - 2M
SST/Colt/Solo Red 3M - 6M
SST/Colt/Furbed Red/Blue 8M - 10M
SDT/Colt/Solo Red 3M - 9M
SDT/Colt/Furbed Red/Blue 10M - 15M
Planet Trade/Colt Both 12M - 15M
MR/Colt Both 12M - 20+M

As you see, a Red player can make significantly more money in any single day than a Blue player can (and a Red/Blue team can make the most of all!).  It comes at a cost, however.  A Blue player (until he is over 1000 exp) is safe in Fed-Space, whereas a Red player is never, ever safe (except when cloaked in Fed-Space, and even then is vulnerable to a dog-pile).  Blue players have access to better combat ships, have freer access to the StarDock, etc?  Some games have modified ships to give Red players more of a chance - but this, IMHO, has to be done carefully or it tips the balance more in the favor of the Red player, at the expense of the blue.

Corporate Identity

Once the game has begun, the players need to decide how they are going to approach the game.  In forming the corporation, the CEO or players as a whole need to decide how the game is going to be played - fundamentally there are three basic corporate strategies: straight corps, mega-corps and mixed-corps.  Straight corps are single corps that are completely comprised of either Red or Blue players.  Mega-corps are a single group of players that have formed two corporations that will work closely together, usually one Red and one Blue corp.  Mixed-corps are a group of players that have formed a single corporation comprised of both Red and Blue players.  There are several good write ups on the tactics for straight and mega-corps, I will not be dwelling on them, rather I will concentrate on the mixed-corp, which is the play style we use. 

I can remember when, as the mixed corp tactic was being developed, that there are many players and Sysops who frowned on them (I was one of 'em). It was felt that the tactic did not fit within the 'spirit' of the game.  We experimented with several different corporate forms before settling on the mixed-corp format.  Why you ask?  Well, ultimately we use it because 1) it is legal and 2) it is the single most powerful corporate structure in the game.  It does have a downside tho', it the most difficult to manage.  In order to be effective, you must have disciplined players, both Red and Blue. 

The advantages of the mixed-corp are that you combine the earning potential of the Red player with the support and access to the full range of ships for the Blue player.   Your Blue players will almost always be 'FedSafe' (less than 1000 exp) and thus able to loiter safely in FedSpace (the sector containing the StarDock Alpha, the sector containing Terra and the sectors immediately surrounding Terra, but *not* the sectors containing Rylos or Alpha Centauri).  This enables the Blue player(s) to be able to support the Red player(s) by delivering furbs for the Colts and service the personal ships for the Reds (i.e. replenish the cloaking devices, etc) as well as make collie runs on Terra, or just sit at the StarDock as an intimidating figure (an ISS with 50k figs tends to do that) without running the risk of being podded. 

The downside is that your Blues will never finish at the top of the scoreboard, due to the daily experience hit they will take as punishment for having Reds in the same corp (based on alignment).  Additionally, your Blues have to be willing to CBY (self-destruct) if their own alignment goes much above 2,500 in order to prevent delivering crippling experience hits to the Red players.  [ed. There are ways around the CBY for death limited games.  But for non-death limited games, CBY is the cheap way to go. -TFor the Red players, they need to give up  a lot of their game play (i.e. doing anything but making money for the corp) and watch as the Blues go about spending everything they make!  :)  This is especially true in the early phases of the game, less so in the latter. 

The Red Game

Player discipline is critical - if your corpies don't play their assigned roles, then your corporation is in trouble.  The Cabal, for example, has a very structured format for our early game phases.  We have found, through bitter experience, that the balance of Reds to Blues has to be at least equal, usually we play with more Blues than Reds.  Our Blue players cover Furbing, Mapping, Sector Development and Planet Maintenance and Hunting, in that order of precedence.  Our Red players are strictly moneymakers - although they may on occasion do some hunting, or be called in for specific kills once a target has been located. 

On the whole, however, Cabal Reds move themselves as little as possible, (i.e. lose as few turns as possible on movement) relying on the Blues for tow transport.  The designated Furber is responsible for setting up the SDT area, towing the Red player between the various sectors after busts, as well as towing the Red back to Fedspace after the SDT is done - generally one Blue player can furb for two Reds.  The Reds log on, run their turns and then log off - it's a good day when the only sign our Reds have played their turns are the entries in the logs about the furbs they blow up. 

If the Red player is unable to get in during the time when the Blues are available (either due to a schedule conflict or because the board is very active and the risk of running SDT is too high), then the furber is responsible for acquiring furbs in advance.  If we have a planet, or planets, with a transporter (and we start developing transporters as soon as we get Lvl 1 cits) we will drop those furbs in that sectors.  This allows a Red player running solo to furb himself using only three turns (one to xport to the nearest furb, one to transport back to the sector where the Colt is located, and one to xport back into the Colt).  He can then blow the furb and move to the next SDT area (which is the *big* cost of running solo).  If no planet transporters are available, then have your Blue leave a Merf at the StarDock.  When you bust, you xport to the Merf, dock at the StarDock and buy a replacement Merf, fill out the holds for the Merf you are in, then make the run out to the SDT area (I usually also buy 100 or 200 figs, just to ensure I won't get blown up by stray figs, NavHazz's or the like - I drop them in the SDT sector to be picked up by the blues).  This is more turn intensive, but it is *very* fast in the area that is most critical - your time in FedSpace!  Again, the key thing for the Reds is to minimize your time in the game, Reds are *the* high profile target for us - since they are the ones who bring in 80% of the resources the Blues will desperately be needing.

When your turns are done, have your furber tow you to Fedspace, drop the credits on you and cloak.  You now serve as the 'bank' for your corpies (and keep the blues from gaining annoying amounts of alignment when they log on with lots of money!)  When cloaking in FedSpace remember to keep *fewer* than 100 figs or you will be towed.  You should also keep *over* 1000 shields on you, otherwise you are vulnerable to 100% NavHazzes.  Always let your corpies know where you are cloaked, so they can watch over you as you slumber.

Once secure citadels have been developed, the Reds can start logging on and take part in the 'social' aspect of the game.  Before then, however, they are too vulnerable - and we are firm believers in the 15,000 credit per turn philosophy (i.e., every turn a red spends that is not running their SDT costs the corp 15,000 credits - if you don't believe me, run and SDT for a full 1000 turn game, and then divide what you made by 1000.)  We laugh when we log in and see other Red players hunting down our figs - even if they find our planets.  Why?  Say someone kills 50 of our figs in his Corporate Flagship.  At the very least, he has traveled 50 sectors in the CF at a movement of 3 (50 x 3 = 150) at 15,000 credits per turn (150 x 15,000 = 2,750,000).  We may have lost 50 figs, but we cost them at least 2.75M in lost income!

If you can't do that math, you are going to lose the game.  Every time.

The Blue Game

In order to play the game effectively, you are going to have to gather intelligence.  In order to win, you are going to have to deny that same intelligence to your opponents.  This is a key area of the game, and it is handled by your Blues.

One of the first big expenses that your corp faces is getting a full map of the game.  This ranges from merely expensive, in a 5000 sector game, to downright daunting, in a 20,000 sector game.  However, much of the information that is critical to success, depends on this base.  The Cabal designates a single person  to be the 'mapper', and that person has priority access to all the money the Reds make, after our basic roles have been established (i.e. getting the reds outfitted and started).  The mapper's goal is to get a 100% map, usually using e-probes, as quickly as possible.  Simultaneously, the remainder of our Blues, in addition to their other duties, are tasked with dispersing a fighter cloud (dropping figs all over hell and gone), in order to deny our opponents the same information.

The full mapping of the game area gives several distinct advantages over merely running against a ZTM.  First, you will receive full port data when the mapper pulls CIMs - this will enable you to track port losses (which can be critical, especially in the endgame).  By port loss tracking, I refer to ports where someone had either 1) destroyed the port (which shows up in the logs) or 2) dropped a fig there.  There are a number of game tactics revolving around this information which are beyond the scope of this paper. 

Once the Blues have developed the full map, they should regularly re-probe the map, especially firing probes down the dead-ends and tunnels  to see if anyone has started developing sectors.  A major part of Cabal strategy is to deny our opponents the opportunity to develop citadels.

We also gather a variety of other data, such as making copies the daily log, tracking all players experience & alignment on a daily bases, get the fighter counts for the game, tracking planet reports and citadel counts.  Much of the data only will only give you approximations, but from those approximations you can get an overall picture of how you are doing in the game.  For instance, if you want to compare your cash flow, for example, against an opposing corporation you can take a look at the daily logs and the player standings.  Assuming that you do not see log entries regarding kills or planet busting being generated by the Red players, you can figure that either port trading or SST/SDT/RT strategies are generating their experience & alignment.  If their experience is going up, but their alignment is not changing very much, then they are port trading.  If their experience is fluctuating and their alignment is dropping fast, then they are performing any of several steal strategies.  By comparing this information against that of your own Red players, you can draw comparisons for cash flow.  You can also check player activity (who has and has not logged on and played their turns), even if they performed no actions that would be reflected in the game log or your corporations fighter/mine reporting.

Sector Development

One of the critical areas of the game is sector development.  Since almost everyone runs ZTMs (zero turn mapping) these days, finding and developing the single five-deep pocket in the game is virtual suicide.  While I suggest that you  actively hunt down and identify these for the later part of the game, in the early phases I'd recommend looking for the one-deeps or, if there are a lot of them, two deeps.  I have also been known to look for the 3-5 sector long tunnels, since they can be blocked off at either end and are relatively hard to find - especially once the fighter clouds have been set.

These are the seed sectors - until the citadels develops you shouldn't put very much effort into defending these sectors, rather you should keep starting new ones.  Since the big money depends on developing mobile planets, keeping the planets rolling (i.e. citadels developing constantly) is critical.  Again, there are a number of very good papers on Planet/Citadel Mixes, so I will not essay very deep into the topic, other than to say for our initial sectors, we prefer a LLH or even a LLHHO mix. 

I like to see planet transporters placed on the 1st planet in a given sector as soon as it develops a citadel, they aren't cheap, but they make the planet development for the entire sector much easier and more turn efficient.  (An ISS making Collie runs on it's own uses 10 turns per cycle, but only 6 turns per cycle using a Planetary Transporter)  It does use lots of Fuel Ore from the planet, but until the Q-cannons are developed, you have no other use for that fuel and once the Q-cannons are developed, you should have the population to offset that fuel use.

Keep the populations of the sector low until level 2 citadels arrive - this is the point at which planets become defendable, barely.  This is an important point to realize - if you defend a sector prior to this point, you may lose more than you can afford to, once the planets get to Lvl 2 they will cost more to take than it costs you to defend.  The corollary to this, of course, is that once the planet has been take (or if you are invading), it costs you more to take the planet, than it costs them to defend. 

Level 3 cits are when you should shift seriously into sector defense.  Generally we will get two Q-cannons online fairly close to each other, and we use a strategy we call 'stepping' the cannons.  The first cannon to fire is intended to 'screen' out the smaller ships - it is intentionally set low, with the next cannon to come online set to do more and more damage.  This tactic is intended to conserve the firepower of the sector cannons as much as possible and deny the enemy the opportunity to 'moth' the cannons on the cheap.  This is generally the point where we stop keeping the Colts at the StarDock and look at keeping them over the planets.  If we have developed a sector that sells Fuel Ore, our Blues will probably be fueling the planets to Q-cannon enabled planets to Max.

Once a corp has a sector developed to the point where mobile planets are developed, they have a choice to make.  The corp can hold that sector (which may be advisable, especially if it has not been located) and finish developing the rest of the planets; or they can start removing the assets to another, preferably more defendable sector and begin building there.  This is the point of the game where taking possession of the  three and four deep pockets makes sense.  Drop Lvl 4 and 5 planets on the doorstep and start doing intensive development in the back sectors.  All the while, continuing to pull out the developing planets from the 'seed' sectors.

This is also the point where everyone begins using the planets for PT, MRs and mini-MRs.  Up to this point, Sector Development should have been primarily focused on the seed sectors and the SDT areas.  Now both Blues and Reds shift to using the planets as the primary trading platforms, and start pushing up the resource levels available in the starports.  You will need to be able to sell off massive amounts of Organics and Equipment, as well as keep the mobile planets fueled.  Keeping figs under the ports will block most CIM scans, so usually this won't be very apparent to your opponents.   You should start seeing lots of ports with 5k+ resource levels (and I'd recommend pushing that up to 10k as you can) in Fuel Ore (selling), Organics (buying) and EQ (selling and buying).

There are also numerous combat tactics involving mobile planets that I will not go into. 

Game Play and Sportsmanship

One of the things that can make, or break, the reputation of a corporation as a whole, is the game play of the individual members.  Anyone can lose his or her temper in the course of the game, in fact, we kind of expect it.  It's not a pleasant thing to log into the game and find your opponents stomping their way through your back sectors, so things said in the heat of the moment are generally not held against you long term (unless you get real creative!)

But day-to-day actions are taken into consideration.  Remember, it's just a game and that we are all here to have fun - personal attacks on Fedcom or via ship/planet names aren't part of it.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the TW2002 community really isn't that large - and the people you play against today are the people you may want to corp with tomorrow.  Of the entire membership of The Cabal, only Roberts, Traitor and Pretender knew each other personally when we started.  Everyone else who have joined the Cabal are people we originally played against.  In fact, Morpheous was a member of the corp that handed each of us our heads in our most embarrassing defeat ever!

In short, what comes around goes around.

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