Trade Wars 2002, image courtesy PC World

Last month I discussed the possibility of helping people return to the nostalgic days of ferrying commodities from one planet to another in the darkness of space while shooting lasers at one another. The major problem with running pure Trade Wars is lack of a static IP, the necessity of having a box in my apartment running constantly to satisfy everybody’s need, and other potential setup issues. I searched the Intertubes for a friendlier solution, something that could run in this webspace and take advantage of the fine PhP/MySQL setup used by this very blog, and I came across a little something called Alien Assault Traders.

For the last month, I’ve been playing the ‘Main Game’ on their site, and so far it’s delivered everything one could ask for. Let me cover some of the things familiar to old hands at Trade Wars, some of the new stuff that’s fascinating to me, and things I haven’t even been able to touch yet that others might have an interest in.

Buy Low, Sell High, Avoid The Mines

The trading component of Alien Assault Traders has a couple of advantages over its BBS-based counterpart. For one, it’s a GUI. Every port in which you arrive as you warp from one system to the next has a friendly interface that tells you what they have to sell and what they’re willing to buy. When you find a lucrative trade route, you can program it into your main menu control panel thing and repeat it as many times as you have turns and make yourself a pile of credits. You’ll need them if you plan on establishing and expanding your territory. How do you do this? Genesis devices.

Genesis? What’s That?

Genesis devices in AATraders come in two flavors: regular, and Sector. Standard-issue Genesis devices create planets. Stable ones, too, without any worry of resurrected Vulcans or pesky Klingons. Once you have a planet, you can establish a base on it, give it some defenses both in the system and on the ground, and generate resources that you can trade. I haven’t really spent much time on that last bit, as I found a really nice pipeline trading entertainment software and communication satellites between two stations, but I know it’s possible and I understand its appeal.

Sector Genesis devices create entire new sectors. This opens up a whole new aspect of the game. You can, with enough time and resources, branch off from the established galaxy with a cluster of systems entirely under your control, with a single point of access that you can carefully hide from the other players. Every planet in a sector created using a Sector Genesis device, sectors called “SGs”, works just as well as planets created or conquered in the main galaxy. You’d best defend that point of entry, though, because someone is probably going to find it, and if they’re an aggressive player, things are likely to start blowing up but good.

Burnin’ Lootin’, Bombin’ Shootin’!

I’m using Warcraft 3’s Mortar Team derivation of Bad News’ “Warriors of Ghengis Khan” because that kinda describes the process of blasting other people’s planets, though in a slightly different order. Shoot down any fighters in the system, burn through the minefields, bomb the base into submission and loot the place. Now this happens in a series of text screens with the occasional image, so the feeling of Trade Wars is preserved there. Unless you want to do a ton of math, though, it can be difficult to gauge just how effective your assault is going to be. Just don’t forget that you can pick up probes to scout ahead for you. I forgot about that, and it’s cost me trillions of credits. Ugh.

I haven’t really done any ship-to-ship combat yet, so I can’t comment on it. But I suspect it’s similar to the planetary combat.

If this sounds like it might sate your desire for old-fashioned Trade Wars action, I recommend clicking the link below and reading more about Alien Assault Traders. If you try out the main game to be sure, I’m operating under the name Joseph Frimantle. Try not to be too cruel.

Alien Assault Traders