The Game: You must choose wisely from a field of candidates to captain your merchant battleship (as well as picking the ship, which can be upgraded at any port), and survive a series of trading adventures along a route that runs from Earth’s sun to Alpha Centauri. In the long empty stretches of space between Pluto’s orbit and Alpha Centauri, there are no resupply/repair outposts – and there are plenty of attacking pirates. Sample passing comets to mine a rare element that will improve the aim of your weapons…and watch out for the Borg. Planetside, you can buy and sell your goods, upgrade your ship, recruit additional crew members, or visit the casino in an effort to increase your funds. Your captain ages as the game progresses (long space hauls still take a while in this universe despite warp drive), and will eventually die – so don’t let yourself run out of crewmembers. (Earl Green & Robert Heyman, 1990)
Memories: I recently stumbled across the 5 1/4″ floppy containing Intergalactic Trade: Mark II while doing an entire Saturday of Apple II game screen stills, and I was floored. I had completely forgoten about this game, or how far we’d gotten into the process of programming it in our senior year of high school.
And nowhere in my wildest dreams did I imagine that it was as much fun as it is.
Borrowing its basic structure from Taipan!, Intergalactic Trade: Mark II incorporated Star Trek terminology (warp speed, phasers, etc., as well as one-in-a-million surprise attacks by the Borg), Jump Cut City placenames (which makes sense as we were still enamoured of the idea of producing our own little TV show at that time), very scratchy screen stills from Blake’s 7 for the intro and instruction screens, and even a few elements of Dungeons & Dragons and Ultima IV for good measure. In short, you can easily tell what we were watching and playing at the time we came up with this game.
In a somewhat more modernized setting than Taipan, we reasoned that there would be businesses set up at every port to upgrade shields and weapons. And in an admittedly Star Trek-inspired move, combat situations can be solved by negotiation…every once in a while. Your ability to talk your way out of a fight is influenced heavily by the randomly-generated statistics of your captain character; his age, his status (which can range from “hated” to “unknown” to “legendary”) and his charisma all come into play there. If beaten, an enemy ship’s crew may mutiny and offer your their services (and their captain’s cargo) to stay alive; showing mercy to too few enemies will, in an Ultima-esque fashion, start to erode your captain’s reputation.
In eleven years, I’d completely forgotten that I had worked on this game in my late teens. I actually find it rather addictive now – yes, it is all text and statistics, and there are still some rough edges that I may go back and try to fix up later. Or who knows? I may try to port this into something more modern – perhaps even a simple web-based game. I’m quite happy with Intergalactic Trade: Mark II (though I don’t remember what on earth happened to Mark I).
I went through the BASIC code and found that the casino odds were heavily weighted in favor of the house; not only a realistic touch, but, like Wil Wright and Richard Garriott, I was dead guilty of working my own beliefs and worldview into the game. Gambling was no way to advance yourself in the universe – indeed, spending too much time gambling also cost you points on your reputation.
Wow. My very own Phosphor Dot Fossil. Too darn cool.
This game is still a work in progress and I’m working on making what there is of the game available as a disk image; keep checking back to this page. If there’s enough interest, I may do a limited run of actual floppies with accompanying documentation, though before going there, I’d very much like to finish the game first. – EG