|FED'S FIRST YEAR|
Explanatory note: Federation first started on a computer network in the UK called Compunet, which was a graphic system for Commodore 64 computers. This article was written after the game had been running for one year, and looks back over the highlights of that first year.
Many of the names mentioned will mean absolutely nothing to current players, but some of the characters are still around under different names. Hazed was an ordinary player back then, going under the name Pugwash, and calling herself The Sexiest Fedder. She had already started her career as the Fed journalist, writing a regular semi-official news bulletin called Line Noise.
Pegasus was a player too, but after a long and notorious career as the meanest son-of-a-female-dog in the entire Galaxy he died and came back as Cryptosporidium - yes, our very own Fed programmer. Meanwhile such was his influence on the game that he was immortalized as the homicidal mobile you all know and hate.
The creator and, at that time, programmer of Federation, Alan Lenton, went under the name Bella, aka Our Illustrious Leader - a green-skinned woman from the planet Rigel with a rather large posterior, about which numerous jokes were made. He was also known as YETI.
The Conclave was the six richest players in the game.
Fedders Anon was the message and file area for Fed.
So, that's enough of the explantion. This is the original article, written by Pugwash, and edited by Hazed only for typos and the occasional TOSable term!
When Compunet switched to their new computer in July 1987, they promised us not only the return of MUD, but a new multi user game - Federation II. Well, we never did get MUD back (thanks to British Telecom) but we did get Fed.
It's been running for over a year now, so I thought I would take a look back at the momentous events of its first twelve months. This is a highly personal account, based on my somewhat selective memory and on events I reported in Line Noise, so I have probably missed out lots of things that you consider important - in which case, feel free to upload them!
Fed's first incarnation was a single player demo, running on a bulletin board. It was merely a taster of the full blown game, but proved quite popular. Then at the Adventure 87 Convention, we saw the game in its multi-user form for the first time.
Compunet promised us that it would be running by Christmas. It wasn't. They promised it would be up by New Year. It still wasn't. They promised it would be with us on 5 January - or, as Jane said, YETI's hide would be nailed to the office wall. Many people skived off school, and rushed home from work early to log on dead on six o'clock - only to be disappointed. It STILL wasn't there!
Finally, on 10 January 1988, Fed opened for business.
The first version was very bug ridden (sorry - feature ridden!); in particular, mistakes in the movement tables meant that mapping was quite an experience. Eager explorers were apt to suddenly find themselves on another planet, without their ship - or in someone else's ship - or trapped in a location that they couldn't get out of.
Slowly people started to get the idea of how to play the game. At this point, the only way to make groats (or Galactic Credits as they were called then) was by doing jobs - objects were dotted here and there, but you couldn't pick them up or examine them.
It didn't take the players long to start moaning. Jobs just didn't pay enough! At the rate they were going, they said, it would take more than a year to make Captain.
To cater for this, Our Illustrious Leader introduced a few - very few - jobs which paid over 1K. Kirk was the first to <AC> one of these, and he was so shocked at the amount that he flew into the sun!
Flying into the sun was a favorite pastime of early Fedders, as they struggled to make sense of navigation. Blundering into Transuranics seemed quite popular too, as did the Pit and the Altar in the Martian Ruins. But the location which has killed more Fedders than all the others put together is the north door in the Transit Centre - the one marked 'Keep Out'. EVERYONE, it seems, decided to ignore that sign and got buried under a pile of discarded parity bits.
After Fed had been going a few weeks, some of the movement bugs had been ironed out so it was possible to map most of the planets - although you couldn't buy a torch, so the Martian Ruins and the Mercury Caves remained a mystery! The most closely guarded secret was the location of the Insurance Office.
Jobs were changed again to make them a little more profitable, and players started to cooperate by sharing jobs when there were just two or three logged on.
The first Top Six Players was published. I don't remember everyone who was in it, but Linebacker was first (where he stayed throughout most of his days in Fed) and Pugwash and Zugger were also placed.
Fed's first promotions came in March. Linebacker made Captain, closely followed by Pugwash. This set the pattern for many months, with Liney being first at everything, and Pugs desperately trying to keep up!
Chez Diesel opened its doors to the public, and quickly became the Social Center of the Solar System that it is today. In those days, however, it was extremely difficult to get players to leave their ships - and even when chatting in CDs they were likely to suddenly rush off to do a job. This was the time when the phrase 'Just one more job, then I'll quit' became a cliche.
The frantic job chasing was eased when we could, at last, pick up the objects and give them to mobiles. There was a lot of head scratching as Fedders tried to work out which object went to who, and comm units crackled with comments like 'I'll tell you who to give the Klystron to, if you tell me who gets the Sargeur!' This was a time when whoever managed to log on first when the game was rebooted, got the goodies! Unfortunately, several people discovered that dropping the TDX wasn't a good idea.
Mobiles also became truly mobile - some of them extremely so! 'Anyone seen Krystal?' became another cliche.
Buying clothes was introduced - but if you got the syntax wrong, you ended up dressed as a Market!! You also couldn't include any of Fed's 'reserved verbs' in your description. Kirk became famous for wandering around wearing a typo - he meant to wear 'a blue shirt' but missed out the 'r' (he blamed it on a bad line...)
Player interaction became more sophisticated with the <LAUGH>, <SMILE>, <SNIGGER> and <SPIT> commands - and for the less couth, <FART>. Pegasus was the first to discover that by using his ingenuity (and some rather peculiar sentence structure) very complex actions could be portrayed. We all knew it would be easier with an <ACT> command - but Our Illustrious Leader refused to implement one.
We could also eat edible objects, and buy food and drink from bars. Because Fedders are so friendly, they demanded a <BUY ROUND> command but were told they would have to wait. To substitute for this serious lack, they would give each other 5 groats to buy a drink.
Our Illustrious Leader grumbled that of all the innovations that could be introduced - more locations, puzzles, fighting - what people really wanted was to be able to buy each other drinks. But Fed was turning into a far more sociable game than any other MUGs.
In these days, new versions of the game went up every Sunday, so it was often the busiest day of the week with everyone trying out the new features - or in this case, I do mean bugs! One particular bug in the way objects were handled took six weeks to fix. Meanwhile, we got the 'new' version for a few hours each Sunday as Our Illustrious Leader tried to track down the problem.
To aid the vermin hunt she made the objects recycle incredibly fast, and told us all to just keep doing objects. Fortunes were made on those Sunday afternoons. (Well, they seemed like fortunes... but everyone was a Poor Person then.)
Liney and Pugs were the first to sell their ships and buy vessels with 300 ton cargo holds, and to cater for them Our Illustrious Leader put higher tonnages and payments on the jobs. This meant that Commanders, with basic 'B' or 'C' hulls, could do fewer jobs, so it lead to more whingeing.
Outside the game itself, Fedders Anon was flourishing. The main uploader was Linebacker with a huge area called The Consortium, containing maps, hints, tips, and a regular news service detailing all the new features of the game.
There were also many lively debates about what people wanted to see in the game. One thing people wanted was to be able to get married - although with only three female personas, two of whom declared their intention to remain single, this idea soon died a death.
Another popular request was to form Unions, but quite what these Unions were supposed to do was never clear. The idea was superseded later by various organisations - The Consortium, Snoopy's ridiculous Alliance, the mythical Cartel and B&Z Loans, who caused a lot of controversy by bumping people up the ranks.
Metaxa got bored with all the manky grey spaceships sitting around, so organized a Painting Party, where rich players gave Poor People the groats to spruce up their ships.
Promotions to Adventurer - and Our Illustrious Leader decided to differentiate between sexes. Pugwash was not happy to be known as Adventuress, so it was changed to Adventureuse, giving rise to ribald comments about executive relief (no, I don't understand it either!).
Rich players soon found they could bump their friends up to Adventurer with loans since the requirement was purely monetary. Our Illustrious Leader introduced the Trader Rating so that they would have to work for their rank.
Linebacker stopped uploading in his huge Consortium directory, and it started to die. It was replaced by Line Noise, giving detailed news of the game and its players, and Spynet Review, for newsflashes.
And another new rank - Trader. People were amazed at just how much money they could make trading, particularly when they exploited a loophole that allowed them to make 2 megagroats an hour by trading in just one commodity. Pegasus coined the phrase 'Poor People' to mean anyone with less groats than him.
Trader was the first rank that had a puzzle to solve. You had to find the Grand Master who would confirm your new rank, which meant searching every single location until you found him. Those who hadn't mapped properly soon had trouble - Omi got stuck in the maze on his hunt, and no-one would help him out. And the power of Pegasus' suggestion made Hawk fall down a pit when he was trying to find the GM.
The huge ships that new Traders bought messed up the jobs - again! Bella had to change the way jobs were calculated once more, this time discounting the size of Traders ships. But finally it seemed to work.
Traders started employing Poor People as 'runners' to feed them trading prices. This practice only lasted as long as it took people to find out how the exchanges worked - or to find out about the loophole.
There was much speculation how Linebacker made so much money - and a huge storm when Line Noise accused him of cheating, which threatened to ruin the 'friendly' atmosphere of the game. Toranaga jumped to Linebacker's defence, Linebacker threatened to leave the net, and Line Noise retracted. (But I still think he did cheat!)
Our Illustrious Leader said that ship fighting would be introduced in two weeks, but in anticipation, inventive players took to assassinating obnoxious GroundHogs and Commanders - favoured method was the Tdx, followed closely by luring them into a death location.
Pegasus and Pugwash became particularly adept at fooling inexperienced players into doing something fatal. Everyone's favourite target was Wiz, who was possibly the most Obnoxious GroundHog ever, earning a reward of over 10K - but we must admire his persistence! He had to be slaughtered many times before he finally gave up.
There was a spate of GroundHogs logging on and putting rewards on people - presumably in revenge for being assassinated - and there was nothing Rich People could do to stop them. Our Illustrious Leader stepped in and made it impossible for players to place rewards until they had bought a ship.
Bella got sick of refusing to re-instate people's personas when they did something daft, and formed The Conclave, so THEY could refuse instead! The Conclave soon became famous for never agreeing to reinstate anyone, no matter how good their reason was.
Pegasus and Pugwash started their short lived Clogdroppers Awards, awarding prizes for stupidity. Among the winners were Anthony, who had his arm chewed off by the Zlitherworm, and Zugger, who mistyped 'Sell Gas Chips' and found himself stranded on Mercury without transport.
Samantha zoomed to Trader after playing only a month, shattering all previous records. We were all very impressed and ready to lend her a hand, but she soon started making enemies by her refusal to socialize, to help new players, or to talk to anyone.
We were promised ship fighting in two weeks, and Jarrow Shipbuilders increased their prices drastically. Ships started to wear out and had to be regularly repaired, eating a large hole in Traders' profits.
B&Z Loans' operation was hit by the introduction of a 5% Capital Transfer Tax, but they just put their interest rates up to compensate. Then they made a shock announcement - they were closing down their business! Poor People had to rely on the generosity of individuals for help up the ranks.
At last, we were given the <ACT> command. This was soon followed by a fine for over-acting.
Rich People could buy a new toy with their vast fortunes - spybeams. No player was safe from being snooped on by those above. Bumbling GroundHogs in particular provided hours of mirth for jaded Traders.
Pegasus provided us with a new Fed terminal, Pegterm - and a super duper version, Pegterm+, which enabled people to fly into the sun at the touch of a key. And The Idiot's Guide appeared online, courtesy of Pugwash and Pegasus, to universal acclaim.
Pegasus sparked off another debate when a chap whose Cnet ID was PEGASUS whinged about his name being stolen. All Fedders agreed that our Pegasus was the REAL Pegasus!
Yet another new rank - Merchant. The requirements were to increase your stats to 200, an investment of 40 megagroats. Once again, Linebacker was the first to gain the necessary requirements, but he was galled to find that Our Illustrious Leader hadn't yet written the code that promoted him.
The frantic buying of stats made networth a poor indication of people's progress in the game, so Bella included them in the calculation (at half their value) which made a great difference to The Conclave.
The first Fed Meet was a roaring success, as 20 Fedders descended on an unsuspecting Pizza restaurant in London. It was fascinating - and surprising - to see the faces behind the personas.
We were promised faithfully that fighting would be implemented in two weeks.
Bella attempted to close the trading loophole by making exchanges buy at 10 groats a ton once they were flooded. It didn't stop the loophole - but it made 'legit' trading a lot harder.
Tragedy entered the game when Pugwash very foolishly neglected to reinsure herself and died dead-dead. To the relief of many, she returned and shattered all previous records by making Merchant in nine days! She is now paranoid about checking that she is insured before moving from the safety of Chez Diesel.
Fighting was definitely scheduled for two weeks, and Line Noise went into great detail about the complex commands involved in grabbing a ship with your tractor beam, fleeing, etc, and briefly covered taking pot shots at passing targets.
Fed suffered a series of crashes which turned out to be caused by Commander Burt buying a ship with zero cargo space. I'm not sure how he thought he would be able to do any jobs...
Tightbeam messages developed a very embarrassing bug which meant that if you were gossiping about someone, the message went to them instead - there were lots of red faces! Bella finally fixed this (much to everyone's relief) but messed up spying on people so you couldn't see anything that other people said to them.
The old Fedders Anon area was scrapped, replaced by several directories for news, art and music, and players directories.
Assassination reached new heights when Pugwash killed Druid dead-dead using a combination of deviousness and charm (the little toad certainly deserved it) and almost polished Maniac off for good too.
At last! Fighting was introduced - but only pot shots, and only with missiles. We were told we would have to wait two weeks for full blown ship to ship combat. Siko was the first casualty of war and discovered he quite liked being blown up, so offered himself as 'Rent a Target' - until he saw how his insurance premiums were zooming up! He later proved to be extremely inept at plotting and scheming when he tried to kill Gizmo, and failed, but incurred the wrath of The Alliance, the mythical Cartel, and independent players.
Trigger-happy Fedders discovered that catching someone in the Interplanetary Wastes was not easy, and comm units echoed with the cry 'Chase me, chase me!' Pegasus and Snoopy spent an evening trying to catch each other. Snoopy died twice, and Pegasus emerged almost unscathed, but between them they expended several megagroats on missiles and repairs.
The use of other weapons was introduced, and once again nervous Commanders found it safer to remain planet bound as blood-thirsty players practiced with Lasers and Guns. Pegasus notched up 13 kills in one weekend, living up to his reputation of Meanest Son of a Bitch in the Entire Galaxy. Pugwash also developed a taste for blood, and even had a go at Bella!
Our Illustrious Leader decided that people were having so much fun with pot shotting that she wouldn't bother to introduce the original plans for 'full blown' fighting. Thus tractor beams were rendered totally useless.
Omi and Zugger became bitter enemies over an outstanding debt and scheduled a fight, which turned out to be a great anti-climax as neither of them showed any subtlety in their violence. Pegasus joined in, attempting to pass on a few tips on the correct way to fight, and poor Zugger got killed several times.
Snoopy set up his cash machine and called it The Alliance. Fedders flocked to join an organization which would give them money, until Pegasus declared war and the cowards started resigning in droves. The organization ended with a whimper when hardly anyone bothered to attend their annual general meeting - and with a bang as Pegasus finally blew Snoopy out of the sky, something he had been itching to do for a long time.
Linebacker, Toranaga and Samantha, all Conclave members, stopped playing the game, but such was the extent of their wealth that Samantha is STILL in the Conclave, despite an absence of many months. Their sudden disappearance made appealing to The Conclave almost impossible, but since the first motto of The Conclave had always been 'We uphold nothing!' it made no practical difference.
Trading prices started to fluctuate wildly - sometimes much too far, with exchanges charging you when you sold them goods and giving you groats when you bought. One evening Venus was giving money away, and Earth paying over 2K a ton so Traders made a nice little profit before Bella fixed this bug.
Merchants were able to access the SpyNet Wire Service and check prices from any location, which helped them make even more groats. Bella finally fixed the Trading loophole, and all those who had been carting holdfulls of droids backwards and forwards had to learn how to trade properly! To aid in this endeavour, Pegasus started uploading lessons on how to trade, but due to someone uploading crap in the directory they never went further than Lesson 2.
The Journeyperson puzzle went in, and Merchants' insurance premiums rocketed as they tried to figure out how to restart the Martian power system without blowing up the ruins. Xaviour developed a reputation for dropping vital objects down the pit, logging off at the wrong moment, and doing everything he could to obstruct would be JPs. He swore he didn't do it on purpose... It became quite hard to find Poor People to help with the puzzle, as one by one they got blown up by bungling Merchants.
Pegasus hardly let anyone else get a look in at trying to solve the problem, since he managed to grab all the necessary objects first every night, and once he had turned the ruins into a large smoking crater nobody could get into them - or could they?
Desperate to blow the ruins up himself, Hawk masterminded an incredibly complex operation to get the necessary people and objects inside the smoldering ruins. It must have taken hours to plan, and was very clever - but he still got the puzzle wrong! He did succeed a few days later, and was the first to solve the fiendish puzzle. Unfortunately a bug prevented him from being credited with the rank and Pegasus became the first JP, in name if not in spirit.
The November Commodore Show saw yet another Fed Meet, together with the printed version of the Idiot's Guide. A review copy was on show and orders were taken, but it took another two months for the final version to roll off the presses.
Zugger and Magius started yet another Fed directory - The Weekly Fedder, which attempted to be Fed's answer to The Sun Newspaper. It succeeded admirably, printing scandal and expose about everyone. Not even Bella was safe from their lies!
Pizzas went on sale in Chez Diesel (and in other bars as well, but not of the same high quality.)
Journeypeople were able to offer jobs to Poor People, but they soon found that it was far more profitable to cart the goods round themselves - particularly since on promotion, their cargobays miraculously doubled in size. However, paying Poor People to deliver goods was a good way of cultivating supporters.
Omi actually did something clever when he found a bug in offering jobs which meant that JPs could make vast amounts of money for doing very little. Bella tried to fix it, and succeeded in making JPs LOSE vast amounts of money! Omi got into debt several times and had to be bailed out by friends, but didn't know when to stop and ended up 24 million in the red - an all time record!
The Western part of Nisrick mines was finally opened to exploration, and the puzzle you had to solve to open the security door gave Poor People a chance to experiment with a spybeam. This new area also gave the first clues to the GM puzzle.
The Pirate Asteroid was made accessible to those who had the stats to get onto it, and insurance premiums shot up even further as people discovered all the dangerous locations - and then found they had to die in order to get off it again! Hawk was particularly annoyed to discover that the Whoooosh didn't work on the Asteroid.
Pegasus made the shock announcement that he was giving up playing Fed, and set the date of his death for Fed's First Birthday Fed Meet. We all looked forward to peering over his shoulder as he went out in a blaze of glory, but he fooled us all by departing quietly on his own - and we still don't know how he did it.
And finally, the Birthday Meet was a huge success, with the usual over eating, drunkenness, and assaulting Omi.
So that is the first year of Fed. It is a sobering thought that the highest players are only half way up the ranks! The next stages of the game will be very different as Explorers write their own planets and attempt to run the planetary economies, and then move onto the political levels of the game.
In the immediate future, we all await the GM puzzle which will be even more fiendish than the JP problem. Our Illustrious Leader promises that it will be ready in... two weeks!