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starlanes - the game of starlanes

starlanes [-v|c|m]

Starlanes is a game of interstellar commerce for 1 to 4 players. Players take two-phase turns: the first phase is movement, the second is trading.
The object of the game is to become as wealthy as possible by trading and merging companies whilst out-smarting your friends and enemies.

Print version information
Force the game to play in color mode
Force the game to play in mono mode

Starlanes is written using color ncurses, but will detect a black and white screen and will modify its output accordingly. On Linux, setting TERM=console or TERM=linux either on a virtual console or in a color_xterm window works well.
After the initial player determination screen, you will be presented with the main Starlanes screen. This screen is split into three individual windows: the map window, the company window, and the general info window.
The map window shows the terrain of the universe. The legend is:
* - Star
@ - Black hole
+ - Infant company
. - Empty space
A - Company A (Altair Starways)
The companies are Altair Starways, Beetlejuice Ltd., Capella Freight Co., Denebola Shippers, and Eridani Expediters. On the map, the companies are represented by the first letter of their name.
The company window shows information concerning the currently existing companies, including the company name, its price per share, and the current player's holdings.
The general info window will prompt the user for input if the player is waiting to move or trade, but will also display special announcements as they come up. During a player's turn, that player's name is displayed in the title bar of the window, along with his cash holdings.
Also, mention should be made of two other windows: the player standings window and the company detail window (not to be confused with the company info window.)
The player standings window can be brought up during the player's move by pressing the 's' key. This window shows all the player's names, stock holdings, cash, and total worth, sorted by total worth. It also shows the number of sectors that remain to be filled by companies before the game ends.
The company detail window is invoked with the 'c' key. It shows, for each active company, its name, price per share, size, and total worth (all player's shares * price per share). The company size and total worth are useful in determining the result of a merger (see below.)
If a screen redraw is necessary, pressing '^L' at almost any of the prompts will accomplish that.
Finally, if the players want to quit before the game before is over, press 'q' or '^C' and a quit verification window will pop up. If 'y' is pressed, the final game standings will be displayed, and the program will end.

During the first phase of a player's turn, the computer will prompt for a move from a choice of 5. These moves are chosen randomly (for the most part). Upon making your move, there are several things that might happen. (NOTE: it is important to remember that two objects on the map are adjacent only if they are orthogonally adjacent. Diagonals don't count!)
If you move into a sector that is completely surrounded by empty space (.), that sector will then contain an infant company (+).
If you move next to an existing company (A-E), that company will expand into that sector of the map. If the new extension of the company touches an infant company (+), that infant company will also be assimilated.
Given that you're not moving next to an existing company, if you move next to a star (*) or an infant company (+), a new company will be formed. You, as company founder, will receive 5 shares in the company for free. For calculating how much a company will be worth, see Company Pricing, below.
If you happen to move next to a black hole (@), one of many things could happen, depending on the circumstances. See Black Holes, below.

Determining a company's price per share is fairly simple. Generally speaking, a company is worth $100 for every sector it occupies (as given on the company info window under ``Size''), plus $500 for every sector it occupies which is adjacent to a star (*), minus $500 for every sector it occupies which is adjacent to a black hole (@). If a company's price per share drops to 0 or less, the company vanishes (see Black Holes, below.) Also note that you will not be able to visually estimate a company's price per share if that company has undergone a stock split (see Stock Splits, below.)

Immediately after a player's move, he is awarded a cash bonus equal to 5% of the total worth of his complete holdings. This bonus is awarded even if the game ends directly following the move (see Game's End, below.) This is the cash that the player will then use during the trading phase (see Trading, below.)

If any companies exist after a player moves on the map, that player will be given the chance to buy and sell stock. This is where the game is really played. One must determine which companies are going to earn the highest profits in the next round and invest in those companies more heavily than ones that only have a small chance of turning a profit. (See Strategy, below.) The current player's cash value is printed next to his name in the general info window title.
Use the arrow keys to select a company you wish to trade stock in, then press return. You will be asked for an amount to trade. Enter the number of shares you wish to purchase in this company. (Just press return again or enter ``0'' if you don't really want to trade with this company.) Choose a negative amount if you want to sell shares (at 100% of their value.) At this point, the user can also press the 'm' key to purchase the maximum number of shares possible, or press the 'n' key to sell all of his holdings in this company.
Once the player has completed trading, he can press escape to end his turn, thereby transferring control to the next player.

When a player chooses a sector of the map that would cause two or more companies to touch, a merger occurs.
First, the companies sizes are checked and the company with the larger size absorbs the smaller.
If the companies are the same size, the company with the highest total worth absorbs the smaller. (The user can view company size and company total worth on the company detail window, see above.)
Finally, if both company sizes and total worths match, the companies will merge at random.
If a three or four-way merger occurs, the merges will take place one at a time, in an order that is somewhat clockwise.
After a merger, each player will have half the number of shares of held in the vanquished company added to the number of shares held in the still-existing company. The value of the still-existing company's price per share will increase by the vanquished company's price per share.
Additionally, each player receives a cash bonus equal to
10 * stock price * holdings percentage,
where stock price is the old price per share of the vanquished company and holdings percentage is the percentage of total stock once owned in the vanquished company. For example, imagine that Altair Starways (worth $500 per share) is merged into Denebola Shippers. Also, assume that the player owned 50% of the total shares in Altair Starways. Using the formula, that player would receive a bonus of
10 * $500 * 50% = $2,500.
For more hints on how to deal with mergers, see Strategy, below.

When a company's price per share climbs above $3,000, a stock split occurs. All player holdings in that company are doubled, and the price per share is halved. See Strategy, below, for money making tips during and after stock splits.

Since black holes drain $500 from any company that is in contact with them, it is possible that the company's price per share will drop to 0 or less. If this happens, the entire company is sucked out of space and all player holdings are lost.
If a player attempts to place an infant company (+) near a black hole (@), that infant company will be immediately sucked up, resulting again in an empty sector.
Likewise, if a player attempts to start a new company that would normally be worth $500 or less per share next to a black hole, the sectors that the new company would have occupied all become empty space (.).
For some ways to make black holes work to your advantage, see Strategy, below.

The game ends when 54% of the map is filled with companies (about 70 sectors.) The player who made the final move receives his 5% holdings bonus (see Holding Bonus, above) and the final standings window is displayed. The player with the highest total worth is the winner.

In order to maximize your profits, you must wisely invent your cash. For instance, if a company is near a black hole, it is likely that it will lose $500 per share in the next few rounds. Likewise, if a company is near a star, it might soon have a $500 gain.
Also, the larger the company, the greater that chance that it will be added onto (just because it takes up more room on the map.) If you own 300 shares in a company, and its value goes up by $100 per share, that's a $30,000 increase in your net worth.
Another thing to watch for is when companies are about to merge. Remember that the number of shares you own in the smaller company will be halved before being added to the bigger one when they merge. This can be used to your advantage, especially if the smaller company is worth significantly less than the larger. If the big company is worth $2,000 per share, and the small is worth $200 per share, you can buy 10 times as many shares in the smaller. When the companies merge, the number of shares in the smaller company is halved, but it's still 5 times the amount of stock you could've purchased in the larger company.
Don't forget that when two companies merge, the players receive a cash bonus that depends on the percentage of stock they owned in the smaller company (see Mergers, above.) It is good to try to own a higher percentage than anyone else.
A way to gain profit earning potential is to have a large number of shares in a company when the stock splits two-for-one (see Stock Splits, above.) Even though your initial net worth remains the same after a stock split, you'll now increase your net worth by twice the value you used to whenever the company's price per share rises. Also, if your opponent has 100 shares and you have 150 before the split, that'll change to 200 shares and 300 shares, effectively increasing your lead in shares by 100%.
Black holes weren't present in the original game, but were added to give players who have fallen behind a chance to shaft the leaders. If your opponent owns 100 shares of Altair Starways and you only own 50, you can extend the company against a black hole. Your opponent will lose $50,000 from his net worth, but you'll only lose $25,000.
Finally, a reminder to invest as much money as you possible can each round (unless it's too risky.) The reason for this is the 5% cash bonus all players receive each round based on their holdings (see Holdings Bonus, above.) Your cash earns you no interest.


This version of Starlanes was written and is Copyright (C) by Brian ``Beej'' Hall 1995-1997. The author can be reached at Starlanes comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY. This is free software, and you are welcome to redistribute it under certain conditions; read the file COPYING for details.

I'd like to thank the unnamed authors of the original Starlanes for creating such a thought provoking and fun to play text-based game. I got my first copy on a First Osborne Group (FOG) disk in what must have been 1982 or so, and used to spend endless hours playing against my friends. For us, the game is just as fun as ever. To the original authors, I salute you!

There are no computer controlled players.
Doesn't respond if ^Z is pressed to suspend the game.
If only one person is playing, he or she will frequently make enough money to break the fixed-field-length windows and/or cause the variable that holds player cash to overflow. Try to keep your earnings under $2 billion until I convert these variables to long doubles. :-)
29 March 1996 Starlanes V1.2.2

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