And now, as promised, some thoughts on the future desirability of post-limit cloning:
We are all certainly in agreement that, in TimHost 3.20, if this had occurred it would have been a glitch. As this is no longer TimHost, we are permitted to consider whether this ought to exist as a potential feature. We have this right simply because we are no longer bound by the original rules, conditions or balance; moreover, the Tim Continuum is unlikely to strike. (I do miss the Tim Continuum. Lovely pun.)
We now play in an environment where, at least in competitive play, the ship limit is frequently reached before Turn 30. For a player to build a valuable ship, fly it to a neighbor’s border for trade, receive a return, fly the return home and clone the return would take eight or more of those turns. It is a rare game (or race) that can identify the neighbors within a dozen turns, much less set up diplomatic relationships with them outside of pre-game alliances. This permits a likely window of three to eight turns (depending on ship limit) as the total permissible cloning timeframe.
Cloning was permitted in the original game and was frequently performed.
At present, then, we have a situation which makes likely the prospect that (1) only the Evil Empire (with SSD starbase capture), (2) players that snipe enemy homeworlds early, or (3) players with pre-game agreements and fortunate positioning will be able to use this feature with any great likelihood of success before the endgame.
In my analysis, I have determined that the present cloning option will only occur on turns where a substantial number of recycles take place; this is validated by the Host order, but of course it is uncertain. In the present circumstance, it is a highly unlikely outcome even given these conditions; to justify this, I would mention that I’ve had it happen five total times in many hundreds of turns, and that the ships in question had been immobile and set to “cln” for many turns before the actual cloning took place.
There is one more aspect that I’d like to mention: This method sets the game into a state where, at least temporarily, the number of ships is under the Ship Limit and the number of immediately scheduled builds does not fill the quota. This happens because most Priority builds take place at a different time than standard builds. As such, I’d like to suggest that it doesn’t truly violate the Host order or the stated limits but is merely a special case generated by standard conditions. It’s a bit like the thought of the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series – it’s possible but unlikely, which means that if enough seasons go by it must eventually happen. Just… probably not this year.
Hearsay has it that this has been determined to be a bug. The term used to me was “loophole”, which really gives me no ethical direction. I’ve heard that the “loophole” has been “plugged”, but there’s been no formal news release; moreover, people have reported spontaneous cloning events from time to time since this report reached me. I have resolved to test it myself in order to determine the present state of affairs.
Anyway, back to my argument: Since we have (1) a valuable ability that is (2) now practicably denied us in competitive play but that (3) is of sufficient interest to be denied to some races and not others, I would strongly suggest that a (4) difficult, (5) unreliable, (6) prohibitively expensive method to reintroduce this ability ought not be banned but rather documented and the information fully distributed in the How To Play section of the website (or in some other public spot).
I would like to hear other opinions on this subject, particularly from educated, experienced and veteran players. This is a powerful ability and its continued use would likely alter the way this game is played in the future; whether for good or ill is the question now before us. I would especially appreciate the opinion of our esteemed designers, but the debate is all-important; we cannot accept the practicability of the method as tacit approval of its use. Likewise, I feel we ought not ban it simply because it isn’t the way the game was once played.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts.