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Ships I've been playing with (in both senses of the word)...

Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2006 4:52 pm
by dpm_dpmartin
Here are a few ships that I've found very useful... well, some of them, sometimes... maybe... a little bit useful... once in a blue moon... they're medium cost so you can play with some from the beginning. If you want to download any of them, then click on the name in bold and, hey presto, you can play with fire too.

Of course, the point of many of them is not to display my capabilities at putting together varying sized triangles of different colours (I'm no good at that), but to try out the extremes of turn, steath, radar and missile tubes. After all, what's it all about if not going to the extreme?

Rather philosophical maybe... but that's how getting trounced at Critical Mass makes me feel... as well as angry... and disappointed, frustrated, suicidal... and, well, generally abused.

You will get the idea that I prefer Daycorns to most missiles... I'm a kind of fire and forget Commander. Anyway, without further ado...

Starter Craft
Turns on a sixpence but slow to get going sometimes. Three shots do OK with Daycorns.


Starter Craft II
With version II of Starter Craft, we get some more thrust and a bit of stealth to boot. Good wingman even on later missions.


Starter Craft III
Version III provides more shields and a couple of repair bots, you will take damage in this ship, accept it and prepare for it.


Starter Craft IV
You get Plectrons in version IV, to aid in those messy situations when you're face to face with hell.


Starter Craft VII
Starter Craft is all about steady improvement while keeping the familar. At version VII, the Starter Craft is 'fully loaded' - impressive ship at this level. Four missile tubes to give 'em what for. Can also take a beating itself, if it's in the mood!


The overall design decision behind this ship is to hide and fire, hide and fire, get the idea? I like Beefy, I like to upgrade him as with the Starter Craft, loads of shields, four missile tubes and a mixture of Daycorns and Yataris for taking out the fast, and the feeble.


Durus Particeps
Tough and resilient little bleeder - often a good wingman. Often not.


Durus Erasum
He sees, he bombs - you might need to lead him to the target though. He's a little toughie and often hangs around until the end of the mission.


You spin me right round, baby, right round - like a record player. Baby!


If you complain once more, you'll meet an army of me...


Optimus Vigilo
Watches all that moves, it searches - from all angles - then you destroy. Big turn, OK thrust. A bit of a dirty sniper, long-distance assassin.


Furtim Eximius
He hides, then he shoots - he fires and he forgets... he holds no grudges.


Barrage - Class A
Barrage likes to fire and move on, assuming the target is wiped out with his first bit of tender attention.


Barrage - Class H
Yup, it's Barrage - Class A, but more fully-loaded... and protected for when things go wrong and that Dreadnought is looking straight down the barrel at your nose. He's got turn, he's got stealth, he's got eyesight, he's got missiles, he's got protection and he still only costs a measly 200 Credits. Yes, Barrage - Class H was designed to a budget.


Infecundus ably demonstrates that the best defence is nearly always a good offence. Salvo fire extreme!


And, that's all she wrote!

Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2006 6:14 pm
by BoxZone_Author
Some of those ships have more than 8 components on a side and the last one has launchers on the rear. Erm ... these are things you can't do.

Bien sur...

Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2006 6:36 pm
by dpm_dpmartin
You are partially correct... if you change "can't" for "shouldn't" I guess. Download the .shp files and you will see that you "can" indeed design ships that way. You can also have engines on the front if you really want to... tho' it doesn't appear to be helpful in any way shape or form.

As I did point out, I was 'testing' the extremes of certain assets on the ships. Limitations like 8 items per side are seemingly not enforced in the game logic - in fact it happily accepts them as the items still cost Credits and still affect Thrust and Turn. The game will load up a properly formatted .shp file with any assets placed, well - as you can see, anywhere. It is only the Ship Designer that tries to enforce design points like only 8 assets per side and no missile tubes / launchers on the rear.

So, go give 'em hell with an Infecundus or two in your squadron - nice price, nice price - one thing is for certain, you'll never be waiting for your missile tubes to get re-filled again.

Launchers on the rear... it's a good place for them I think. They like it there.

Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2006 8:02 pm
by sid6.7
hmmm very interesting indeed....

one wonders HOW.....

I guess it can't really be any kind of secret...

Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2006 9:23 pm
by dpm_dpmartin
I just had a bit of curiousity and thought I'd delve inside the file structure. I would point out that it's nothing too difficult or onerous if you're au fait with hexadecimal. Some people who class themselves as users rather than developers might think it sounds scary, but it's really nothing to be wary of... and I'd be positive other people have played around in this manner too. After playing Critical Mass for many hours, the thing that I became really frustrated with was being limited to only four launchers and having to wait for the reload cycle after firing a salvo. That's what drove me to dig around a little bit.

Well, that and the fact that I also like a lot of Turn and to be able to see what's at my sides as well... 8 slots down the sides didn't seem enough.

So, in hex, the following values appear to be valid: 0x1 = Engine, 0x2 = Shield, 0x3 = Launcher, 0x4 = Radar, 0x6 = Command Module, 0x8 = Cargo, 0x9 = Passenger, 0xA = Double Shield, 0xC = Repair Bot, 0xD = Stealth.

0x5, 0xB and 0xF are all kinda strange, as they seem to represent nothing, but all cost 1 Credit. I wonder if Sean or anyone else could provide a hint as to what they represent? I don't profess to know everything or anything - far from it in fact. 0x7 also is kinda strange - as it's an empty missile launcher. Putting 0x10 in any asset location causes all assets for that ship to be erased.

So, what parts of the .shp file do you need to change to enhance your assets? Well, that just another simple hex offset into the .shp file. There are at least 12 assets per side that you can put onto your ships. I say "at least" as I know that it's more (I've had 16 assets down the right-hand side)... it also gets quite hard to see what's on your ship in the Ship Designer at that point. If anyone is really interested I'm sure they'll figure it out or ask me for more details.

Anyway, the front starts at offset 0xD90 and the next location is 0xD94... continuing until you get to 0xDBC. All the other sides do just the same... this is not really code, but it makes it stand out nicely...

Code: Select all

F = 0xD90, 0xD94, 0xD98, 0xD9C, 0xDA0, 0xDA4, 0xDA8, 0xDAC, 0xDB0, 0xDB4, 0xDB8, 0xDBC.

L = 0xDF0, 0xDFA, 0xDF8, 0xDFC, 0xE00, 0xE04, 0xE08, 0xE0C, 0xE10, 0xE14, 0xE18, 0xE1C.

R = 0xE50, 0xE54, 0xE58, 0xE5C, 0xE60, 0xE64, 0xE68, 0xE6C, 0xE70, 0xE74, 0xE78, 0xE7C.

B = 0xEB0, 0xEB4, 0xEB8, 0xEBC, 0xEC0, 0xEC4, 0xEC8, 0xECC, 0xED0, 0xED4, 0xED8, 0xEDC.
This works much the same for shields.

To anyone that this might interest, it really is worth pointing out a few things...

1) This is not a cheat as such - you still pay for what you get... the Credit cost of the assets you put on your ship - so, a ship with 8 missile launchers will be pretty costly. This way of creating ships is only to get around the Ship Designer limitations - which, after all, are Sean's choices I guess. And, yes, before anyone asks - a missile launcher on the back does cost you 8 Credits still.

2) Regarding missile launchers... putting more than 4 of them on is the most useful when you want to fire straight away again on your next turn, without having to wait for your missile tubes to refill. My testing has found that having 6 missile launchers is really effective in dog-fighting when you want to have a quick-ish kill - on each turn you fire 3, fire 3, fire 3, fire 3 - and your enemy goes down pretty quickly. You can select, say, 8 or 10 missiles for firing on one turn, but then some will fire on the next turn, and possibly the turn after that - if you'd fired 12 say. This is because each missile takes a certain amount of time to fire, and your turn only lasts for a certain amount of time - it seems that you can fire about 4 or 5 missiles in a single turn.

I like 6 missile launchers, 2 on the front, 2 on the back, 1 on each side - then you have room for radars and engines in the places you really want them to be. I also experimented with a uber-turning ship - the UTurnITurn it is called, it has a Turn of 90... crappy Thrust though, as you might expect. It has 16 engines down each side... you can download it by clicking on the title text... expensive, but a good little dog-fighter - has the potential to dodge most missiles once up to speed and gets 'round the back' better than John Barnes ever did.

The politician of all ships...


Having fun!

As Franz Ferdinand sang: "Take me out!"

Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2006 9:53 pm
by dpm_dpmartin
This one is my current favourite for those "Destroy the wormhole", "Attack Starbase" or "Turret Ring" kind of missions. Fully loaded Missile Boat with really good eyesight - and equipped with enough long-range and slow moving, heavy-hit missiles for those static targets - and enough tubes to ensure they don't get a chance to fire back - get them before they get you!

Missile Boat
Stealth, who needs stealth... if anyone is alive after this boy has been partying, they'll be hypering to their mummy!


I abhor the Merikon.

Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2006 10:49 pm
by BoxZone_Author
Just because you have to pay for the 'extra' components doesn't mean it's still not cheating.

Those players who play within the 8-per-side limitations imposed by Sean will have a harder time than those who use the extra space.

Don't forget it was Sean who imposed the 8 limit (with the ship designer). None of the stock ships exceed it.

I consider it cheating (if anyone plays a more-than-8-a-side ship I will consider the commander ineligible for my high score table). That said I'm already imagining the "Inexcuseabubble" ... :wink:
I'll cheat at a game the odd time, but I'll take a special commander to do it not consider his/her score fair.

I prefer 'testing' and 'investigating' to 'cheating'...

Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2006 11:39 pm
by dpm_dpmartin
Yes, that's a completely fair point of view.

I consider it 'testing'... the situation was that I was coming to the end of my interest in Critical Mass to be honest and I just decided to have a play around purely 'cos I like to dig into things - it's the developer in me I'm afraid. I was very surprised myself at how expandable the ships actually are... once you understand the way the files are formatted, you will see that Sean must've decided each .shp design would have some significant spare space on it - possibly he coded it that way so there was room for future upgrades etc. - as every .shp file is a fixed size (regardless of how many triangles your ship has it seems) and has all the slots for things to go into... by adding 8 missile launchers, or 32 side engines, you are only filling in slots that exist in the file format already.

So, in essence, the slots exist, it is only the Ship Designer program that imposes logic upon you when creating your ships that say - "thou shalt only have 8 assets per side".

Now that I have a few new ships I will be using them to pique my interest in the game for another couple of hundred missions or so - but, after that it will be the long (maybe?) wait until Critical Mass version 5 comes along. The expandability of the .shp file format gives me hope for the future of this game, hopefully our ships in Critical Mass 4 will work in any new version and we might get the chance to really beef them up within the 'rules' of the game. I await eagerly, although I don't know how long it might be.

Another final perspective... there is a view that Critical Mass is more like 'life' as, in the 'game', you get one 'life' and you must use it as best you can... i.e. you can't save your Commanders and re-try a game when you suddenly get shot out of the air by a stupid friendly turret - I'm accepting of that. However, in this 'life' which has other some extra and arbitrary rules imposed upon it - like I can only design ships with 8 slots per side - my ships provide an 'out' for people to take advantage of. So, if the Ryckurn scientists (i.e. you or me!) manage to design a ship hull that can take more than 8 assets per side, well - we're gonna use it to beat the hell out of those damned Merikon... they deserve it after all - and each side takes the advantages it is given in a 'real life' war situation I guess... worries about vagaries like fairness and rules (Geneva Convention aside!) would go out of the window pretty quickly.

Anyway, I'm not here to start a discussion on cheating or not cheating. I merely thought it interesting that the ships could be expanded beyond what the Ship Designer program allows and some people might appreciate that... some others might well reel in horror. I apologise if my post offends anyone or affects anyone's sensibilities... totally not the original intention.

Posted: Sat Jun 24, 2006 12:08 am
by BoxZone_Author

I understand your viewpoint, I've been known to tweak the odd hex file myself and I've written games in the past taking much effort with the player file to ensure people can't hack it (applying the check in the ship designed AND in the game and rejecting bad ships at both points and adding awkward checksums to make hacking about harder).

I would just have liked your post to have stated clearly which ships were "outside the normal confines of the game that most people play to" for novice players (and those of us not taking the time to count the components). However no offence taken.

I would be interested to hear Sean's opinion of "more than 8 components on a side" ships but I suspect he's too wize to express an opinion (and risk alienating 'the other' side).


Ships with more than 8 assets per side are EVIL!

Posted: Sat Jun 24, 2006 12:18 am
by dpm_dpmartin
100% agreed.

The way to enforce this, if there is indeed a desire to enforce it, is to ensure the check for ship validity (as per the stated and open rules of the game) occurs in all the places that it needs to occur.

Otherwise, as opposed to a bug, it's more like an Easter Egg... you play around a bit and you find it and you're like: "Oh, what a nice surprise!"

Bit of an extra potential pain for any developer though, as you rightly point out. And which poor unsuspecting developer would expect that an idiot like me (or anyone else who will hold their hands up to doing this) from 'tinkering' with the files anyway, after all, I was just passing the time, not malicious. Actually, that's why I keep all data files in my SW as simple text, or XML or something like that... I don't pack anything, I don't have encryption or anything - I just try and keep it open, but then, there are many different considerations when writing a game. You don't get medals or kills in HMusicCentre after all.

Posted: Sat Jun 24, 2006 6:54 am
by Fusion_power
People have been hexediting the shp files for several years now. There are a couple of tricks you still haven't found.

The "empty missile launcher" is used during game play as a placeholder to force you to wait a turn before firing again. There is an interesting program bug associated with it. If you have a missile launcher on the front of your ship and that launcher gets blown out, under certain conditions, the mini explosion that replaced the launcher will turn into the empty launcher then flip back to the explosion.

One of the odd hex numbers you mention corresponds to the exploded item such as a missile launcher, shield, etc. I forget which one.

I'm one of those people who plays with ships that can be built by the internal ship designer. I know how to modify the hex files but have not yet found a good reason to play a modified ship.

You might look at the hex code for the missiles while you are at it. There are some intriguing tidbits in their design that might help you figure some things out.


Posted: Sat Jun 24, 2006 10:23 pm
by dpm_dpmartin
Fusion, I'm completely in the dark regarding missiles - but very curious... any hints or tips? What have you managed to achieve/understand yourself in the past - or hear from others?

Appreciate pointers - just for fun, like.

"A Developer is not God and God is not a Developer"

Posted: Sat Jun 24, 2006 10:27 pm
by dpm_dpmartin
Fusion, I'm completely in the dark regarding missiles - but very curious... any hints or tips? What have you managed to achieve/understand yourself in the past - or hear from others?

Appreciate pointers - just for fun, like.

"A Developer is not God and God is not a Developer"

These two help you see in the dark... almost.

Posted: Sun Jun 25, 2006 3:32 pm
by dpm_dpmartin
Eye-Eye Sir and Eye-Eye Siree can both be downloaded by clicking on their names... they are like seeing ships for the blind, they lead the way from a great distance... they're truly excellent resources for finding that elusive Freighter or Coloniser.

Eye-Eye Sir

Eye-Eye Siree

Best thing is that Eye-Eye Sir can be used from the outset - it really cuts down on those long "find the X and destroy it" type missions where you're fumbling around in the dark - somewhat like a first date... 'cept for the destroying part of course.

Enjoy... if you're into this kind of thing, that is...

Toughie... wingman you can depend on in a scuffle...

Posted: Sun Jun 25, 2006 4:05 pm
by dpm_dpmartin
Spike is a right toughie, he prefers to do his fighting in the alleyway behind the local pub. He's often getting cuts and bruises so he makes sure he's got a Robot Repairer ready to get to work on him, doesn't mean he'll leave the battlefield for a breather though - he's confident in his eyesight. He often goes into battles thinking that he won't get hit at all... it hardly ever happens. You can download him by clicking on his name.


Even though you can start with him at the beginning, he's a ship that only a designer could love really.