The more of it I play, the more SFC2 entrenches itself in my mind as "the game that almost was." This label applies to lots of games, far more than the "games that are actually good," yet still sadly far less than "games that just suck." The reason for this is the horribly unfinished state of the Dynaverse 2 server kit. That, of course, and players, but since players ruin almost all games on the face of the planet, this goes without saying.

SINGLE-PLAYER MULTIPLAYER

Dynaverse 2 attempts to allow players to have an impact on the course of their game and their campaign by taking control of sectors. Taking more sectors is rewarded by prestige, allowing players to buy ships that are better at taking hexes, and an increase to the empire’s economy, allowing players of that empire to get those ships from the yard more often. The problem is that both of these rewards (prestige + economy) are best gained through flying single-player missions. Worse, the most efficient missions for prestige are mindlessly easy ones like Scout and Data Recovery, but as I have to believe there is a way to change the rewards for these missions, this is a secondary point. The real issue is that Dynaverse II is a multiplayer game setting where players are richly rewarded for NOT playing with other humans.

It works like this: say you have a front between two empires, Federation and Klingon. The Blue Plague is in full effect, and the Feds have say 8 sucky players on that front, while the Klingons have 3 good players. The disparity in skill does not matter. If the Feds are well-organized, or just lucky, 3 of the sucky Fed players will get into drafts with the Klingons, playing long missions against them, while the other 5 sucky Fed players do endless Data Recovery missions on the border hexes. The Klingons eventually beat the snot out of the sucky Feds, with 1 or 2 of the missions crashing to desktop or otherwise being rendered fruitless, and come out of the mission to find their borders weakened. They end up drafting more sucky Feds, allowing the other sucky Feds to run more easy AI missions. The situation for the Klingons is hopeless.

If you want to know just how sucky the average Fed is, consider that yesterday I was trying like hell to get to the Klingon front, but every time I managed to move a hex I would be drafted by the same Fed over and over. He was staying in the interior, in a DER (the downgraded upgrade to the DE), running nothing but Ambush the Enemy. Small wonder the Feds can’t expand.

Still, the only thing that determines how a given race does in the Dynaverse is total man-hours invested into the server. As long as you spend enough hours of your life playing on a particular server, you WILL get more prestige, you WILL gain more ground for your race, and you WILL be able to go snag that battleship at the spacedock to compensate for your lackluster playing ability. These goals will be met much more quickly if you concentrate solely on single-player missions like Data Recovery. At the same time, your race creeps across space, choking out the expansion potential of your competition, and bringing you into conflict with them. Fortunately, you have more people playing single player missions than they do, and before long you are Data Recoverying them to death in your win-o-matic super battleships. It seems more devastating to grab information off of listening posts than, you know, blowing up their ships and whatnot.

People complain about the Blue Plague of Fed players, and they have reason to, but when you are losing a war because of overwhelming numbers, it’s not really the fault of the newbies. The fault is yours, for playing an online single-player game and expecting some sort of fairness.

THE GRANDFATHER CLAUSE OF STUPIDITY AS APPLIED TO STARFLEET COMMAND

The BPV formula for Starfleet Battles is almost the same as that used in Starfleet Command 2, and it is horribly flawed. The basic problem with the BPV formula is that it simply adds up the value of all the weapons on the ship and presents the total as the BPV of the ship, with no consideration for how those systems interact, or how differing numbers of systems changes the way in which they are used.

The effects of increasing numbers of a weapon system are roughly the same as the effects of increasing numbers of troops in Starcraft: more is exponentially better. Nobody wants to fly the Federation Drone Frigate, because 2 drone racks are useless. The NCD is better, since 6 drone racks are considerably better. The Mirak tool around in fleets of 3 MDC+’s because 21 drone racks are astoundingly good. Likewise, 2 photon torpedoes are not so hot, 4 photon torpedoes are useful, and 6 are fantastic (if you can use them). The BPV effects of these systems do not reflect this at all.

A classic example of this is the Fed Galactic Survey Cruiser. The GSC is generalized to the point of castration. Not enough photons to punch a shield reliably, not enough missiles to overwhelm missile defenses, not enough phaser 1′s to fight at anything over overrun range. The GSC has 2 fighters as well, adding more insult to injury. What does the GSC have in abundance? Transporters. Too bad it doesn’t have a commando ship’s marine complement to exploit them. Ultimately, the GSC has just enough of everything to be almost but not quite useful, yet the price tag on it (149 BPV + cost of 2 useless fighters) is high because of its myriad systems.

Now look at the Mirak drone variants, especially the small hulls. The Drone Frigate has six drone racks. That’s huge. That’s as many drone racks as any Fed or Klingon drone specialty ship is ever likely to see, and they’re on a cheap frigate hull. Its power of 15 might seem lousy, but consider the fact that drones, even 6 of them, don’t use power. Why is the DF so cheap? Because according to the formula, six racks are six times as expensive as one rack, despite the fact that six racks are about 20 times as useful as one. At a BPV of 74, it’s arguably a better ship than the F-GSC at less than half the price.

This flat BPV formula leads to massive imbalance between ship types, to the point that all players will fly only specific ships within a hull class depending on the year. For the Fed, everyone will fly either the starting FF, maybe an underpowered crappy CA type, or for the experimental the large Q ship, until the NCL appears. The NCL and its variants (NCL+, NCD, NCD+, CLC) become the standard until people feel like branching out into the CVA/CVA+, and maybe the DNH. (If you’re playing on an IPlay server, you bypass all of this and get 3 battleships after playing for about 4 hours.) Klingons tend to hang out in the D7C until the dreadnoughts and the B10 arrive. Many Mirak just fly their fleets of 3 MDC+’s around in a fit of hitting the portable scatterpack button. By the time Lyrans get anything good, they’re probably dead anyway. What you wind up with is empires full of captains all flying about 3 different ship models. I suppose the AI gets shafted into flying all the mothballed early dreadnoughts and scout vessels.

In SFB, this is not a problem, as most of your scenarios are prescripted for specific ship types, so if someone has a particularly crunchy ship, his mission is going to be rough, and in a general war campaign, you have to use certain ships. SFC’s ship imbalance becomes magnified by the rule of all peristent online games that states "if the players want something, no matter how rare, they will all eventually have it."

The only possible solution to this problem is to change the way ship economy works. The way it’s designed is that your empire’s economy must meet a certain threshold in order for a specific ship to have a chance of showing up at all, and the percentage of this happening depends on how strong your economy is. Ideally, though, an empire has a certain percentage of ships in its fleet of each type, and once players grab all the C8′s, there are no more until somebody loses one. There are a lot of exploitable flaws with this system, of course, and one would surmise that you’d have to first fix all the other glaring, improbable flaws with the Dynaverse 2 system before addressing ship availability, but it’s nice to think about and keep in mind for when somebody designs a galactic war model that doesn’t suck.

THANK GOD CHAT IS WORKING

Chay Maeryn of the 1AF once stated publically in the apparently CodeRedded Taldren forums that he would no longer participate in flamewars and accusations and such, as he no longer wished to "fragment the community." I disagree. I think this community should be pulverized into unrecognizable bits of rubble, burned to the ground, and the earth salted so nothing could ever grow there again.

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