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VFRHawk

Original Carrier Command

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Just got through a strategy game of the original CC using Dosbox, and I have to say I enjoyed it just as much now as I did 20-odd years ago.

Caught the enemy carrier attacking one of my islands and nailed the b*****d with a load of laser fire from my carrier and then unloaded a pile of missiles from a Walrus as he tried to run for it. Punched the air when he blew up! :j:

Question though, I guess mostly for GadgetMind, but if anyone else knows the answer. The enemy carrier always was able to move far faster than your carrier, and I believe it had a lot less "hitpoints", so it was easier to kill if you did catch it. Has anyone ever tried to mod the game to change that and even the two carriers out? I guess the enemy carriers repair rate would need to be lowered, but I'm thinking it would make a much longer and more strategic game.

Graham

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Question though, I guess mostly for GadgetMind, but if anyone else knows the answer. The enemy carrier always was able to move far faster than your carrier, and I believe it had a lot less "hitpoints", so it was easier to kill if you did catch it. Has anyone ever tried to mod the game to change that and even the two carriers out?

I'd have to read the code to answer this in detail, but it's worth noting that battles where the player is present are conducted in 3D with collision detection and flying objects, whereas not present battles were handled more like dungeons and dragons with "hit points" and the computer equivalent of multi-sided dice.

When the player arrives at an island (during a battle or otherwise), everything gets "unpacked", and an island model etc. is created, then when you leave, it all gets "put away" again and is just a bunch of compact numbers.

A whole load of this stuff, and in particular the enemy carrier's attack strategy (when choosing targets, during "dice" battles and in 3D) changed greatly between the 68k versions and PC version, with the better stuff being back-ported to the Mac 68k version.

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Caught the enemy carrier attacking one of my islands and nailed the b*****d with a load of laser fire from my carrier and then unloaded a pile of missiles from a Walrus as he tried to run for it. Punched the air when he blew up! :j:

My tactic was to load every Manta I had available with missiles and then send them all to an area a good distance behind the enemy carrier, so they already were in a good intercept spot when it starts to retreat. Almost invariably the carrier would retreat towards the direction it came from, assuming its facing towards the island when attacking is an indication of its origin, hence this tactic.

When they are in position, I start to advance the Mantas towards the carrier, one at a time, but so they all were heading towards it. Then I unload all missiles at it till it is destroyed.

I am curious about one other thing. I was playing the game again, in an emulator for Atari ST, a while ago and after a certain point it seemed as if the enemy's attacks stopped altogether.

I'm wondering, Gadgetmind, was it possible to cut off the enemy carrier's supply lines to the point that it got stuck in the middle of the ocean or on a "dry island" with no fuel and no munitions? Or was it a glitch of some sort?

I'm asking since it was part of my strategy, to cut him off while protecting my own islands, but I also had this lingering suspicion that you had programmed the enemy carrier to not run out of stuff.

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I'm wondering, Gadgetmind, was it possible to cut off the enemy carrier's supply lines to the point that it got stuck in the middle of the ocean or on a "dry island" with no fuel and no munitions?

Yes, the supply lines worked for the enemy's islands and carrier in just the same way as for yours. This was the primary strategy element of the game.

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Cool. I was afraid that it had this semi-god mode where it wasn't able to run out of anything. But this totally completes the strategy experience. As a kid I never thought of this, just to capture islands and to kill the enemy carrier if/when I encounter it. Today, especially after playing many strategy games, I implemented said strategy and it worked wonders :)

The game just got more awesome than I have ever viewed it.

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Cool. I was afraid that it had this semi-god mode where it wasn't able to run out of anything.

I'd have to check the code to make sure, but Graeme was a bit of a purist (versus my "bash it until it works" pragmatism!) so I doubt he'd have let it cheat.

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I think it was possible to run the enemy carrier dry because if I remember correctly I used this tactic back then.

That reminds me I had a game where the enemy carrier stopped its progress too. I knew why once I approached an enemy island finding the carrier sitting, unable to move, in the middle of it. :D

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Yup, 1st release on the ST had a variety of bugs, including the enemy carrier driving onto islands. As we'd been grabbing a few hours of sleep under our desks every now and then for several weeks, our coding wasn't quite as precise as it could be.

Rainbird wouldn't let us change the version number when we fixed that one as they didn't want to give people new disks, but we sneakily added an extra space!

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I'm happy to read that it was actually possible to win the good old Carrier Command.

I played it on the Amiga back in 1990 and I had a seriously hard time getting anywhere in the game.

I was only 14 back then... but I'm pretty sure I played it enough to know all controls, the way the weapons worked, etc, in it.

I remember that it was incredibly hard. In strategy mode I would rush towards the first two islands, get them under control.. and then look at the map, only to realise that the AI already owned almost half the map.

At that point I would probably be without fuel... (I remember something about setting up supply routes between the islands)... and unable to do much for a while, until suddenly being hit by the AI ship.

Your posts indicate that one would need to hunt down the AIcarrier directly, and then kill it to win.

Was it even possible to win the game in a more strategic manner? Eg. taking over lots of islands and preparing for a huge fight?

I also remember the game for being difficult in other ways:

The radio range was not long, and Mantas could not stay in the air for very long without extra fuel. I lost loads of them because they would just hang around and do nothing since they were not able to attack on their own.

Also.. controlling 8 vehicles at once + the carrier... That was a huge mess :-)

I felt like there were lots of posibilities but the game was way too difficult to really play around with them.

Perhaps games were just different then... I remember the same problem with the game Armour-Geddon. Planes, tanks, research, lots of weapons... but I never came close to even driving the tank near anything that looked like an enemy.

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In an effort to compensate for the lack of multi-unit control I set up an advanced attack on an enemy carrier or defence island by having 2 or more Mantas approach the target in a single line formation on slowest speed with about 5 second intervals. Then when I deem the time to move in has arrived, I take control of the first Manta and make its run and when it has exhausted its ammo, I set it on autopilot on a preset position near my carrier on maximum speed.

Then I move on to the next Manta and do the same thing until either the mission is accomplished or the Mantas all run out of ammo.

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Hmmm, OK, so the enemy carrier does cheat. It tries really hard to work within its fuel reserves, and always tries to make it to a red island if it can. However, if it's all gone wrong, it limps to the nearest island even if it's out of fuel.

If its engines are also damaged this can be quite a limp as it goes at half the speed that engine state would dictate. The code for the player's carrier is pretty much the same but rather than half speed for no fuel it's zero speed.

What's puzzling, is that my memory was that the enemy carrier's normal top speed was about the same as for the player's carrier, and the x86 code seems to agree. Maybe I need to check the 68k code as it was very different in this area?

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Hmmm, OK, so the enemy carrier does cheat. It tries really hard to work within its fuel reserves, and always tries to make it to a red island if it can. However, if it's all gone wrong, it limps to the nearest island even if it's out of fuel.

If its engines are also damaged this can be quite a limp as it goes at half the speed that engine state would dictate. The code for the player's carrier is pretty much the same but rather than half speed for no fuel it's zero speed.

What's puzzling, is that my memory was that the enemy carrier's normal top speed was about the same as for the player's carrier, and the x86 code seems to agree. Maybe I need to check the 68k code as it was very different in this area?

I think it was, however any pursuit would be near-impossible because you normally encounter the enemy carrier on an island and if you pursue it, it would outrun you easily since your engines work at about 70-80% within the range of an island whereas the enemy carrier doesn't have this drawback.

Although... I distinctly remember the enemy carrier outrunning even a Manta at top speed quite easily, but your carrier only barley accomplishes this feat. I dunno then what to think.

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your engines work at about 70-80% within the range of an island whereas the enemy carrier doesn't have this drawback.

Yup, I found the water depth code for the player and you're probably right that the enemy doesn't have this. Wow, does memory fade, or what!

Although... I distinctly remember the enemy carrier outrunning even a Manta at top speed quite easily, but your carrier only barley accomplishes this feat. I dunno then what to think.

I'm working through the PC code and haven't been deep into the 68000 code as it really wasn't anything like as advanced regards strategy and tactics.

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Was it meant to have the same limitations as our carrier in terms of speed?

We were trying to play as fair as we could, but the enemy carrier strategy/tactics and face-to-face battles were the last thing we did in the 68k versions, and it didn't get as much polish and testing as we wanted. The PC and Mac versions (the latter with code back-ported from x86 to 68k) did benefit from this, and lots more fixes, tweaks, and additions.

I'll try and find time to dig down into the 68k code and see what I see.

BTW, if you want to see what the enemy carrier is up to, if you turn on cheat mode, you can see the enemy carrier on the map and (from memory) zoom to it by holding mouse-right as you click on the centre-on-carrier button.

Edited by gadgetmind

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Cool, what was the cheat for the Atari?

The cheat modes were quite different between the x86 and 68k versions. The 68k used keypad keys but the x86 has an additional options screen in addition to some different cheat keys.

From what I can tell, the 68k versions didn't have the "zoom to enemy" feature, but TBH you're best looking at it on the PC anyway as the tactics were just so much better.

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This would be a wonderful cheat for the remake... er... if you are into cheats. :P

It would be trivial to add this to the 68k versions, but I'd also have to rebuild the assembler from source (yup, we wrote that too!) and get into ST/Amiga emulators.

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Cool, what was the cheat for the Atari?

iirc its menu with messages, pause the game and type with spaces "grow old along with me" ... you should hear a ding and see a message.

I was playing with cheat mode just to get time warp feature (numpad 7), but i don't remember seeing enemy carrier on map ... maybe i just didn't rightclicked home button :)

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I remember playing this game back in my younger days.

Was on my very first computer actually, and this was one of my all time favorites.

I played many hours on this game and have been wishing for a long time for a new game like this to come out.

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iirc its menu with messages, pause the game and type with spaces "grow old along with me" ... you should hear a ding and see a message.

I was playing with cheat mode just to get time warp feature (numpad 7), but i don't remember seeing enemy carrier on map ... maybe i just didn't rightclicked home button :)

How do I iirc? I don't really understand what you said

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How do I iirc? I don't really understand what you said

if i recall correctly :-)

I checked in steem right now - just open carrier window on the left and last window on the right - message log. Pause the game and type "grow old along with me"

There should be new message in log stating that cheat mode is active and the game unpause by itself - screen

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Just a few clarifications on the enemy carrier in the original Carrier Command:

  • It was not possible to starve him to death. It occasionally stopped attacking for good, but this was more due to a software bug (e.g. when it got caught in the middle of an island like the guy above said). I considered this more as annoying than as a great achievement on my side. I play a game for an extended amount of time, get a message that one of my defense islands is being attacked, then get a message that the attack was repulsed, then never hear or see anything of the enemy carrier for the rest of the game so I can simply claim all his islands and win (even though the enemy island adjacent to my attacked one was connected to the enemy supply network so the enemy carrier could simply go back there and refuel). Now what kind of challenge is that? Who wants to win like that?
    Fortunately not many games ended like this, but they could.
  • For some stupid reason, the amount of hitpoints of the enemy carrier strongly depended on his general economic situation. I guess they programmed this nonsense on purpose to make the carrier easier to beat when it had been weakened island-wise, but it makes no sense. I would have understood if it had run out on ammunition or whatever, but it simply had way less hp and exploded upon only a few hits when its island network had been weakened. Other than that, I doubt it had less hp than you own carrier. Also remember that your carrier usually was as good as dead way before it was actually destroyed, because with enough damage to its systems it could no longer really do anything, and with an inoperational self-repair system you were commanding a swimming coffin even if you managed to drive away the enemy carrier. Meanwhile, the enemy carrier never had any problems with damaged systems. As long as it was not destroyed, it was fully operational.
  • I am amused how sophisticated tactics for beating the enemy carrier in direct battle others have come up with here. In reality catching it despite its high speed (also within island vicinity, very unlike your own carrier) was the hard thing. Defeating it was easy. The carrier is usually standing still in front of the island it is attacking. You need to approach it from behind (from the open sea), because that is always the direction it will flee into if damaged beyond a certain threshold. How to destroy it? You need no mantas, no walruses, no sophisticated tactics to achieve that. The enemy carrier has no laser gun. All it employs against you are the hammerhead missiles that your own carrier also has (the ones that are launched using the satellite-like espionage drone). The weakness of these missiles is that their place of impact needs to be programmed as early as the time of launch. The enemy carrier simply shoots them at the current location of your carrier, meaning that it will never ever hit your carrier when you are moving!. So what you do is surprise the enemy carrier when it is attacking one of your islands, approach it from the open sea (effectively sandwiching it between your carrier and your island), wait until it is in range of your laser gun, and, while still approaching it at full close-island-speed, fire your laser deck gun at it as fast as it can (make sure not to fire too early so your gun is cool when you open fire). Your laser gun is very powerful and will destroy the enemy carrier easily. A short time before its destruction it will try to flee, which means it will rush towards you in hopes of reaching the open sea, but die to your laser gun before it passes your carrier.
    During all of this you will see his awe-inspiring Hammerhead missiles approach your carrier, fly over it, and spash into the water behind it, because that is the place he programmed them to when launching them, not factoring in the necessary offset because your ship is moving.
    His Mantas might theoretically be a threat, but they are busy over the attacked island, and you will approach and destroy his carrier so quickly that you win long before his Mantas could do anything serious to your carrier. You should not even need to fire your flares.
    This even works if his carrier is in perfect condition. Destroying it is way too easy. You just approach it with your own carrier in kamikaze-mode, fire your gun for all it is worth, and win.

There are other imbalances in the game. Manta missiles are much too powerful, for instance. You only need these for Manta armament even against ground targets. 7 manta rockets deliver more firepower than a cluster bomb and rockets for the remaining weight capacity, meaning that cluster bombs are utterly useless.

This also goes for other weaponry in the game, like your own hammerhead missiles. They are fun to use, but do not make much sense, because you can conquer any island much faster simply by sending in mantas loaded with rockets. For some reason command centers (CC) grow in strength over the course of the game. Early game one kamikaze manta firing 7 rockets will destroy any CC. Later on you need to send in two of them, but by then you have a supply chain that allows you to replace any number of mantas even if you lose all of them in the process (which you normally should not need to anyway). Getting your carrier close to an island as necessary for hammerheads or your laser gun usually makes no sense. Using walrus virus bombs also costs way more time than it benefits you. You get to the island, you send in the rocket mantas, destroy the CC, send an unarmed walrus with an ACCB of your liking while your carrier is already moving towards the next island (as far as your comm range allows you to), then your walrus drops the ACCB and is then abandoned as your carrier moves on. This is the fastest and most efficient way of taking islands as long as you do not need to refuel.

The game is great and all, but if the concept of patches had existed back then, it would really have needed some patching.

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