Roguelike Roulette [Spin 1, Slot 3a]: Ascii Sector


Background: black starfield. Headline text: Ascii Sector. Menu text reading vertically down as: new game, load game, movie player, quest maker, options, quit

Ascii Sector is not precisely, I think, a roguelike. Rather it falls into the nebulous category of roguelikelikes, in this case a game presented via ascii graphics and with some randomised elements (I believe), but lacking in permadeath and with less procedural generation than is typical of roguelikes. I think.

Not hugely expert on this game (I played it exactly once, in a previous attempt at roguelike roulette, and haven't looked in on it again until now). Ascii Sector is based on Wing Commander: Privateer, and you play as an inhabitant of the agricultural planet of Basin, who has just saved up to buy a crummy little starship and now hope to travel the stars as a person for hire. Gameplay involves buying things, transporting things, selling things, and fighting things in the name of profit and survival.

(the included manual feels like a fairly lengthy read at ~19 pages, but it felt needful to do so, as I was a bit lost as to how to approach ASCII Sector)

Abstract ascii representation of top-down view of a small town. At right, a road running vertically, with spaceport landing pads on its right side, including the player character's ship. At top of the right hand side is a building labelled 'bar'. Along the left side of the vertical road are buildings labelled, from bottom, 'shipyard' and 'exchange'. Near the top of the screen another road runs horizontally. On the bottom side of the street, to the left, are buildings labelled 'autodoc' and 'equipment'. On the upper side are two buildings with names cut off and a third labelled 'hotel'.

We start out in a spaceport, where I am represented by a blinky green dot in the lower right of the screen, standing beside my dinky starship (the green hash). Pressing 'c' to bring up the Quine (handheld computer) shows we are indeed on Basin, in the Loye System.

Full-screen view of the player's quine, left panel largely blank except the message 'no news items', and a bar at the top idenifying the location of the player as Basin, an agricultural base in the Loye System, Crimson Quadrant. Right side is a menu listing 'save', 'load', 'missions', 'manifest', 'stats', 'sector' and filtering for 'war news', 'trade news' or 'all news'.

If we look at the system map we see we are located at Nav point 7, which is flashing. Meanwhile the sector map shows where Loye is within this region of space (also flashing).

The quine's map screen, showing on the left panel the scattered nav points of the Loye system

Map screen of the quine showing on its left panel the locations of systems in the Crimson Quadrant, with dotted lines depicting routes between them

A quick check of the other screens will show I have no missions, nothing in my manifest, and I've not killed anyone. Plenty of other stat screens away from the default record-of-killing, but the only one that is interesting non-blank is how the faction standings start off.

Missions screen of the quine, text showing only 'no missions'.

Passenger & Cargo Manifest screen of the quine, text reading 'nothing'

The quine's screen showing a list of zero ships destroyed of any faction

Quine screen showing initial faction standings: Pirates and Kilrathi hostile, Confeds and Merchants neutral, Retros hostile, Hunters and Militia neutral

Trade screen gives me info on the top imports and exports of any given port... except it is not very useful yet. For any port I haven't visited, I just get told "No information available. You haven't visited this base yet".

Imports and Exports page for the quine. Basin is selected, its top imports are listed as: Robot Workers, Construction, Food Dispensers, Iron, Tungsten, Home Appliances, Factory Equipment, Games, Computers. Top exports listed as: Grain, Wood, Generic Foods, Textiles, Tobacco, Luxury Foods, Liquor, Pets

Next off, we wander over to the shipyard. Walking into the green spiky thing gets a purchase new ship conversation. First we get to hear about how excellent the one ship on offer is, and then I get to find out that even if I trade in my current vessel I am still 221500 credits short. Not surprising really.

Screen showing only the insides of the shipyard building, the rest of the map screen is obscured. The player stands next to a symbol representing a starship, with an NPC nearby. A dialogue box asks "Enquire about new ship? Yes / No"

Text of the merchant extolling the virtues of eir wares. "Ahhh, the Ulysses-class merchant ship. It's got almost double the cargo hold of the Galaxy-class, so if you're doing a lot of commodity trading, this is your ship. It's also more heavily armored, but not quite as manoeuvrable. But that's nothing a gun on the rear turret won't fix. It does have the slowest afterburner speed of the fighter sized merchant"

Merchant product speechifying concludes: "checked your account and you're 221500 credits short. Come back when you can afford it...""

I think the spiky thing must have been the ship on offer, because the yellow dot in there is named 'Ship Dealer'. Also discover a computer terminal at the upper right of the shipyard that I can log into to buy / sell upgrades and get repairs done.

Right side of screen showing a schematic of the player's ship, left side showing a list of upgrades available for purchase: Dumb-fire missile, Heat-Seeking missile, Friend or Foe Missile, Disabler Missile, Proton Torpedo, EMP Torpedo, Laser, Mass Driver, Meson Blaster

Going to leave those for the time being.

Tried talking to Keegan Jordan (aquamarine dot?), but whoever that is ey isn't interested in talking to me.

Back outside in the town, dialogue box asking if the player wants to talk to Keegan Jordan

Keegan Jordan replies "Go away".

Think I'll roam around until I find a job and call it a session there.

Found a confusing stock listing on a terminal in the Exchange building.

A stock market listing, showing Amount, Local Price and Index Price for the commodities: Grain, Generic Foods, Luxury Foods, Furs, Liquor, Pets, Wood, Gems, and Iron

Visiting the shop led me to realise I have no personal inventory. Could try and buy something, but think I will forgo that or any outfitting of the ship. Would like to try and complete a first mission without spending anything. If that turns out to be not a good idea, then we shall see about next time.

The Merchant's Guild Master saying "Hi, how are you? I'd like to invite you to join our guild. We broker for the most reputable clients. That means we guarantee your work and your compensation. The Merchants' Guild primarily schedules cargo runs. It will only cost you 4000 credits to join our ranks. How about it?" with an option to accept or reject at the bottom of the screen.

I can't afford to join the Merchants' Guild anyway, nor the Mercenaries. So at last we try the bar. Seems like not even everyone who has a job going is willing to let me attempt it.

In the bar, the player character asks "I'm looking for work. You offering any?" Laurie Vincent replies: "The job I'm offering isn't for rookies. Come back when you've made a reputation for yourself."

I even get someone else asking me for work, at a rate steeper than I could possibly afford. That's 4264 credits being asked for 9 hours of work, against the 3500 I have.

George Parker says: "If you're looking for a wingman, you've come to the right place. The name's Parker, George Parker. I'm the pilot of an Orion. It's packing a Meson Blaster. All I'm asking for my services for 9 hours is 4264 credits. Want me as your wingman?

Finally, someone wants to hire me! Bradley Perry wants to hire me for something that sounds kind of shady, actually.

Bradley Perry asks: "Yeah, I have a job for you. I need you to go to Nav 2 in the LV-426 system and send the message 'maintain target surveillance' to the Denim Chill. You've got until 2671.011.22 to do it. The job pays 2307 credits. What do you say, interested?"
Destination: LV-426 system, Nav 2.
Mission: locate vessel Denim Chill, transmit message "maintain target surveillance".
Deadline: 2671.011.22
Pay: 2307 credits.

Seems shady, but I'll take it. It's the only offer I've had, unless I want to make a guess on some commodity trading.

Current time: 2671.011.11:00:21

Looks like I have 11 days to complete this mission. And it shows up on my mission screen too. It should, but that is still neat.

Poking around on the map screen of my quine, looks like LV-426 is a pirate controlled system. Hm.

Bit nervous about this mission. We shall see how it goes next time, on Ascii Sector.

Mission log screen on the quine. Right panel showing we are looking at the mission screen. Left screen showing: Mission 1/1 Deliver a message to the Denim Chill at Nav 2 in the LV-426 system. Automatic payment of 2307 credits when mission is completed. Mission expires on 2671.011.22