The Inside Scoop: April Fools

Our last Scoop article shared all the details about Leagues and Championships. Now the Cognitum War is underway, we can turn our attention back to the future. We at Planets Magazine are pleased to bring you an announcement: Nu’s got new features and ships coming your way. Moreover, Planet.nu’s usually inscrutable leader, Joshua, is here to tell us all about it.

NOTE: We’re told the art is preliminary, and it may not come in by release time, so TS has given us a filler picture or two.  Contrary to appearances, no alcohol was used writing this article. -G


(As is always the case with Inside Scoop, the following has been condensed from a lengthy email chain. Just imagine we’re all in a comfy studio with nice cups of tea and an Easter wedge of Mom-Mom Bessie’s Coconut Molasses Pie. – Editor)

TS – Hello, there. I’m Talespin and this is Gnerphk. (Pretend you can see him wave. He’s waving now. Just ignore the scowl; you can’t see it under the beard anyway.) Once again, we’ve tracked down “Big Dreams” Joshua to ask him a few questions about Planets Nu: particularly about a couple of additions we’re told are scheduled to release in the fourth quarter of 2021.  As always, we here at Planets Magazine are honored to be among the first to share the details.

G – Hi, Joshua. We hear you’re excited about some news. I’m told you’ve designed a new ship for the Missing Colonies of Man. Can you share a little bit about that?

Not yet. Hold onto your cap. Haha!  First I want to tell you about a new Native race, and this one is my new personal favourite. You guys are going to love this! We’ve been testing different natives in the Timeline Story Scenarios. We’ve come out with one that people will really enjoy: Funganoids.

Talespin’s rendition of what the Funganoids might look like.

These are a native race whose abilities change according to the planet’s temperature. At high temperatures, these natives will, over time, cause your colonists to lie down and stop working in factories and mines, but the benefit is that your Happiness will drastically shoot up.

G – Uh… “Shoot up”?  What does that mean in game terms.

Half the fun is figuring these things out in-game. We don’t want spoil it.

The Mushroom People don’t populate icy worlds at all, and they grow best in cool, humid environments.  On planets with moderately cold temperatures, these natives merge with your own people. Their growth fuses with the local colonist population and they become one. It’s like reverse Cyborg assimilation. Your clan count decreases and the native population increases. Your citizens won’t really notice because they are too elated to be around the Funganoids, so again Colonist happiness rises even while the population goes down.  Think “yeast”.

TS – I’m guessing this may generate some mixed reception in the Feed. Is there anything else these Shrooms do, or is that all?

No! — Beefer’s a big fan of this next quality. — If you build a starbase over a population of Funganoids, any starship in orbit of that planet will be masked by a hallucinatory haze. Ships belonging to other races will arrive and see only friendly ships. They won’t be able to attack your ships because the Host will portray them as one of their own. They can even submit client side actions for these seemingly new fleet additions, but the actions will not be carried out. Very difficult bit of coding.

TS – …Okay; I’ve got to ask:  Did you get this idea from the newsfeed discussion about the definition of a pothead?

G – Just ignore him; sometimes Talespin’s got no imagination.

TS – Wha…

G – Hush!  Let Joshua speak.  About the new ship, maybe?

Yes!  We are very excited about this! Colonial power has been unbalanced since Standard began, and we’ve been working on a much-needed boost for them. If you recall the Battlestar Galactica series, you’ll remember the Pegasus. This design inspired us to create the new Mercutio Class Battlestar. If any of the eleven classic races can mix torpedoes and fighters, who better than the Colonies?

G – There’s been a lot of debate about the power of this combination in the Horwasp, which is limited to — what is it, four Hives only at any one time?  Do you anticipate any negative reaction to this vessel?

This is a natural progression for the CoM, and it’s something they’ve been lacking for years.

TS – Great! So…the Colonials get another monster, while the Birds get a ship that slowly makes a government nicer. [mutters inaudibly] I see you’ve provided an inspirational image of the Mercutio and the specs, so I suppose we ought to share that with our readers. Here it is:

Mercutio Class Battlestar

  • HULL: Mass 885 Fuel 2100 Cargo 380 Crew 187
  • COST: Hull 1395 MCs Dur 191 Tri 412 Moly 322
  • ARMAMENT: 10 Engines, 6 Beams 10 Bays 4 Launchers
  • ABILITIES: Fleet Hyperspacing, Unique Mission: RAMMING SPEED!

G – Those are some impressive stats; this will be a starbase killer, and can meet a Hive head-on. Low crew count; odd, that.  I’m particularly interested in the new ship abilities, but first, please tell us:  Where did the name come from?

Our initial polling actually indicated “Boaty McBoatface”, and we opted against that.  Instead, we chose the name Mercutio because the original Pegasus on Galactica was a Mercury Class Battlestar. Also, I’m a big fan of Mercutio from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. He was playful, witty, hot-tempered, and ran head-first into conflict. We imagine this new Battlestar will be very similar. He’s a feisty fella.

TS –  And the ship abilities?

The first one is a tribute to the show; it’s the one thing both Pegasus Battlestars did, as you may recall.  The mission is called RAMMING SPEED! Only the Mercutio Battlestar will have this ability, which completely replaces the Kill mission.

G – Actually, in the original series we didn’t see the actual battle, just enough to know it was hopeless.

TS – You really are a complete trivia nerd, aren’t you?

G – I do my humble best.

TS – Ah.  “Humble”.  Well.  So, Joshua, tell us more.

[At this point, the description becomes a bit difficult to follow, presumably because we’re somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert and the Funganoids are starting to take hold.  The following has been drastically simplified, and in some cases translated from what we think is Esperanto. -G
Oh, you’re just sore because of the Documentation thing. -TS
Yes, yes I am. And the cargo thing, and minefields, and… -G

Careful! You’re getting ahead of the article! -TS]

It guarantees that, in any battle where the vessel both loses shields and has hull damage, and survives to close to within 5000 kellicams, it will continue moving until it intersects and destroys the opposing ship. Any surviving fighters will be distributed among surviving nearby friendly ships and starbases immediately after the battle. If the Mercutio rams a much smaller vessel, it may survive, but with significant damage and no fighters; in this case, the ship may spontaneously hyperjump to a random point somewhere on the map.

TS:  Wait — did you say “Hyperjump”?

Yes.  In addition to this cornercase use, the Mercutio is equipped with hyperdrives, and can use the HYP friendly code.  It and any vessel in the same location at that moment will move approximately 350 LY in the chosen direction; unlike normal Hyperspace travel, the end point will be slightly randomized for each ship in the fleet. Fuel will be largely depleted for any vessel other than the Cobol and Aries, each of which will have full tanks at the end of the jump. The intent of this is to restrict the fleet’s movement on the following turn, making it vulnerable while it reassembles.  It’s an extremely powerful move, but it’s designed to be a dangerous one.

TS – This ship is pretty powerful. Gnerphk doesn’t want me saying this, but it’s almost on par with some of the Emperor creations, maybe even greater.

G – Actually, no, that’s also my… I don’t want to say “objection”, but rather my concern.  Emperor ships usually have some sort of major downside, and this doesn’t appear to.

TS – Oh wow!  I didn’t expect to agree on this, since you’re such a big Colonies fan.  Joshua, do you have any concerns about game balance?

Not at all! (You know that big goofy grin J gets when he’s bubbling over with excitement for his next “New Features” announcement? Picture that. We’ve added a visual aid below to help.) And I’ll tell you why:  Sometime, in the far-off near future, we do plan to bring all Emperor starships into the Standard format, and maybe even add some more for the less powerful races. We’re confident it will help us balance out all the unique aspects of the game, and make the eleven Classic races more competitive with the Horwasp and the other Chupanoids we’re contemplating adding over time.

TS – “Other Chupanoids”?  Horwasp in Standard?!  Did you have any details you can give us?

No.

G – Uh… OK, then.  I don’t have anything to add to that.  Talespin?

TS – Fffffff —

G – (hastily) –That’s superb, Joshua! Very exciting. Let’s move on to the next item before Talespin blows a blood vessel. What’s your next big addition to the game?

TS – Oh no. Here comes that grin…

This is 2019 Planets Con. Joshua is about to drop the bomb that Horwasp are “very close to being Standardized.”

I wanted you guys to be the first ones to hear it: We’re releasing the new Forum for beta testing on Monday.

TS – [visibly excited] Really? That’s awesome!

Hah! No, not really. I’m only kidding — someone said something in the Feed and I couldn’t resist. April Fools!

TS – …

In all seriousness, the problem with an old style forum is the storage and data costs, plus paying someone else for a widget that, quite frankly, is fifteen years out of date. There are security issues with images and uploads, and a whole lot of other things. It’s just not worth it. No, there’s not a lot else, just some technical changes.

G – I think you may have just broken Talespin with that. What do you mean, “technical changes”?

Not a whole lot, except the Robots and Crystals are both still considered overpowered against cloaking races, and as a result all minefields — including webs — will see a small but significant reduction in power and damage, and the transit/impact formula will be adjusted. We’re also tweaking the scooping formula, but how much will be something to discover. This should reset the balance slightly in favor of the Birds and Privateer.

G – Wait. The Robots are overpowered? The Crystals?! [expletive removed]

I know there is some disagreement on the issue, but we go on official win/loss statistics, and the numbers just don’t lie. Also, we’ve tweaked the cargo transfer algorithm a little bit; this is a retroactive change that will be added into games individually whenever we get the time to do the alteration. It’s surprisingly time-consuming and needs to be done one game at a time.

G – You… You changed cargo transfer. Again. [starts gibbering unintelligibly]

Gnerphk, there’s some good news for the Documentation too! We are adding a new link system, which allows you to rework the entire thing into more of a Wiki format. You’ll have to change all the links, but the end product will be well worth it.

G – You… I… We…

HA! Gotcha! Be fair; I owed you that after Talespin.

G – [glowers] …Yeah, I guess so. Fair is fair.

Not to worry; you won’t have hours of needless labor ahead of you. We’ll do the links automatically when we open it all up to open editing. Wikis are really the way to go, and crowdsourcing is a proud Planets tradition.

TS – And, uh… that’s all the time we have for today. Joshua, thanks for doing the interview! Before G stabs someone with a fish — again — we’d like to send a shout out to that one reader who is out on a tuna boat in the Pacific. It’s 8 AM tomorrow for him, and he’s due for a break soon. Here’s hoping his sat phone is charged!


(EDITOR’S NOTICE:  No animals were harmed during the production of this article, aside from a slight accidental fatal injury sustained by the volunteer observer sent by the ASPCA in an unrelated incident involving a frozen herring. Which was already deceased at the time.  Condolences to the young gentleman’s widowed mother, who we understand has no other means of support aside from her thriving OnlyFans.  Any complaints about the quality of our article will receive our prompt attention, and should be addressed care of:
Complaints Department, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC 20500.)

So, yes, this whole thing was an April Fools joke.  I'm putting the note both here and in the Feed so there's no doubts about it, and I'm changing the title.

We had been counting on Joshua's assistance; while he didn't actually say any of the things we've attributed to him in this article, he was initially quite excited about the idea and encouraged us to go as far over the top as possible. He was to have posted an Official News link to the post on the Planets Nu website, and we had hoped he'd be the one to do the big reveal instead of me. Joke's on us, I guess.

Having said that, not all of the ideas in here are impossible.

- Funganoid natives are actually a very deadly staple in science fiction novels. Personally, I rather like the idea, and it's gotten some interesting reviews in the Feed.
- Credit to NinjaBunny for the Pegasus idea, which (you'll note) was first used to create the Horwasp Hive -- complete with dispersing its cargo to nearby worlds.
- RAMMING SPEED! is actually a weakness rather than a gift. Nobody picked up on that. The Mercutio is extremely easy to capture in combat; even failing that, if someone should find one alone and vulnerable, arranging its hyperjump to a random map point would be child's play.
- HYPerspace battle fleets are in fact overpowered, though the Cyborg employs them with relative ease. If the rest of the cluster also gained the ability, would it be so bad?
- While Joshua long ago gave us his reasons for eliminating the old-style Forum, I'd observe two things: (1) The present Feed was actually organized into a clumsy Forum style under the Activity link until the last update; nobody used it, and nobody objected when the interface went away. (2) Nothing's stopping the Planets Magazine from hosting a real moderated Forum except the cost.
- I'm morally certain they actually HAVE messed with the cargo transfer code again, though Beefer assures me they haven't touched it. It's a couple hundred lines of barely commented spaghetti criss-crossing the otherwise ordered Host, so who really knows? But it's driving me slightly mad.

It's 4AM here, and I'm suffering from the megrims common to that time of day -- self-doubt, low spirits, and so on. Thus, I'm in no mental state to tell you whether the joke was a success, or if we'll try it again another time. I do know that, while it lasted, I did enjoy it a great deal, and it was extremely fun to write; TS and I spent the best part of a week on it and had a blast.

But some feelings were hurt, and I feel badly about that. Apologies where they're due.

And to the loyal readers -- and especially to that one who sent us a donation just in time to cover the six-month hosting fee -- I'd like to say: Thank you very much. You're the reason we're here.
-Gnerphk

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, and would like to help support the revived Planets Magazine, feel free to let us know. Leave a note in the Comments, drop us a PayPal donation, or click the button below to Buy Us A Coffee. (Until we get the dedicated Mag coffee account up and running — which costs money — please be sure to leave a quick message letting us know the money’s for the Magazine or I may just squander it on ramen noodles, printer ink cartridges, or other luxuries. -G)

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