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Extended Features for VPA

Author: C. Graefe

The features documented here originate from an extension to VPA formerly known to only a few people as 'CGExt'. They have been merged with the main source tree under the term 'Extended Features' and will no longer be maintained separately.

Major Features

Quality Assurance
The idea behind the QA-Feature is basically the as the 'actual list' implemented by Andrew Andrienko -- only he was quicker to integrate his version into the main VPA code. Still, there are a few aspects to the QA that the actual list is missing, so I made it into an additional front-end to the actual list.

The QA-Feature was designed to help you organize your work when playing your turn and to prevent you from overlooking any of your units in the process. Basically, all of your ships, planets, and starbases have been extended with a new approval flag which indicates whether you have already given them the commands you want them to perform, i.e. if you approve its current status. When you have entered your commands on an object, just press ctrl-a to approve its status. Approved objects will display a small yellow check mark close to their name when they are selected and also left to their name in the object list. Press ctrl-d to disapprove the selected object again. Objects will be disapproved automatically if they are changed in any way.

(NEW: Auto-disapproving will only occur if the parameter AutoDisapprove is set to Yes in the [Interface] section of your VPA.INI config file. Furthermore, the parameter ShowCheckMark may be used to disable the display of the check marks.)

To help you find the units you haven't handled yet an overview list is provided. Press '#' (hash) to open it on the right hand side. First, all your planets and their starbases (if they've got one) will be displayed, followed by you ships. In addition to it's type, id, and name some auxiliary information on each object will be displayed. Planets are displayed in green, starbases in blue, and ships in turquoise. But any object you have already approved will be displayed in dark gray which makes it easy to find those you still need to have a look at. While you navigate through the list the object currently selected will be centered on the map. Use the following keys to work on the QA-list:

up/down Move the list cursor up or down one object.
page up/down Move the list cursor up or down 14 objects.
home/end Move the list cursor to the beginning or the end of the list.
ctrl-a Approve the item currently selected.
ctrl-d Disapprove the item currently selected.
'/' Toggle the status of the item currently selected.
Esc Close the QA-list.
Enter Close the QA-list and jump to the item currently selected.

The Borgculator
This is a feature I implemented when I was playing the Borg and was continuously forced to decide how to get the max out of my natives before they were all gone. The Borgculator is a prediction and planning tool for planets that has already proven useful to all other races, too.

Select a planet on the map and press ctrl-b to activate the Borgculator screen. At the top of the screen name, id and owner of the planet are displayed. If the planet is unowned set the owning race by pressing 'o' before you continue or the predictions might not be accurate. If you have openend the Borgculator before, the last planet you selected will still be displayed. Press space to import the data from a newly selected planet.

The easiest way to use the Borgculator is to select one of the predefined strategies by pressing 'g'. Currently, there are four such strategies:

* Growth Optimized - This will tax your colonists and natives in intervalls to maximize both income and population growth.

* Constant Tax - This will tax your colonists and natives down to a happiness of 70% and keep it there by imposing a constant tax rate.

* Borg Growth Optimized & Borg Constant Tax - Same as above for your colonists but your natives will be taxed to maximize your income before they are assimilated.

Alternatively, you can develop your own strategy for your planet. Use the following keys to operate on the prediction table.

up Move back one turn.
down Move forward one turn and add data row if necessary.
del Remove last data row.
enhtumadscpx Press one of these keys (You'll find them highlighted in the table header.) to alter one of the values of the data row currently selected.

In addition, you may press alt-c to reset the Borgculator, 'r' to write the current data to a text file, and 'Esc' to exit the Borgculator screen.

Object Notes
Little notes to assist your memory may be associated with ships, planets, and starbases. When you have selected one of these objects, press ctrl-n to display the note on the right hand side. You may use '-' and '+' to switch turns and view older versions of the note if you have changed it at some point. Now press 'e' to edit the note and press 'Esc' when you are done editing. Press 'Esc' again to exit the note-mode or press 'c' to clear the note.

Resource Statistics
This feature was designed to provide an overview of your resources. Press ctrl-F10 on the main screen to enter the resource stats screen. (Please be patient: the statistics are calculated at this point so this might take a while on slower machines.) At the top of the screen a table is displayed showing the total amount of resources you have at your command. The first column shows the amount of each resource that are currently ready, e.g. ships and planets you own and minerals on the surface of your planets or on board of your ships. The second column indicates by how much the resource will increase next turn if this can be determined. The third column shows how many minerals are still under the surface of your planets.

Press the letters highlighted in the table to add the resource to the graph at the bottom of the screen and press it again to remove the resource. Hold down shift or ctrl when pressing the key to add the second or third column of that resource, respectively. Note: You must have data for at least two turns in your VPA database to display the graph.

Press ctrl-F3 to send your stats of the turn currently selected to an ally by planets mail. Press +/- to switch between turns or press cursor left/right to switch between races if you have received data from an ally.

Press Esc to exit the stats screen.

Fleet Report
Press ctrl-F11 on the main screen to enter the fleet report screen. This screen will give you an overview of the number and types of ships you own. In addition to information on engines, beams, and launchers it will also display the amount of AutoScore points a ship or class of ships earns you. Use cursor up/down, page up/down, home, and end to navigate the ship list.

Minor Features

Inter-Planetary Connections
Press shift-l when you are on the main screen to toggle the display of inter-planetary connections. When switched on, all planets that are 84ly or less apart (i.e. planets that can be reached in one turn using transwarp) will be connected with slim gray lines. While this might look confusing at first to those already accustomed to VPA, give it a chance -- I'm sure you won't want to miss it once you have gotten used to it. Some of the advantages:

- At one short glance you can see which routes you may travel without beeing seen.

- Get an overview of the "natural borders" of your territory. This will help you to predict the direction of potential attacks and to protect your borders.

- The connections make it easier to orientate yourself in the Echocluster, esp. if you're new to VGAP.

- Communication about areas of the Echocluster will also be easier -- at least to my experience. My ally and I have invented names for all those constellations that appear when this feature is turned on. Our discussions on strategies now involve sentences like "By turn 40 we should have conquered most of the Stag so that we can move on to attack the Hummingbird from the east." (If you like, try to find these constellations on the standard Echocluster map: The Stag, The Humminbird, The Diver, The Caterpillar, Jumping Jack, The Peacock :-)

The distance of 84ly mentioned above is the default value. It may be changed in VPA.INI using the ConnectionDist parameter in the [Interface] section if you need that (maybe for a shareware game?). In addition, you can draw temporary connections by pressing ctrl-l on the main screen.

Ion Storm Waypoint Prediction
This feature will help you to navigate your ships through class 4 and 5 ion storms that will drag your ships along. Note: Movement of ion storms is not entirely predictable. So I should say this feature mearly helps you to guess where to move your ships.

If one of your ships is under the influence of a dragging ion storm, press space and move the cursor to the location you want to go (or where you want to stay). Now press alt-i: The cursor will be moved to the location you should send your ship to so that you'll have a chance to end up where you wanted to go in the first place. However, as stated above this is not guaranteed. An arc of dots on the map indicates all the coordinates that your ship might be dragged to.

Population Growth Prediction
When you have selected one of your planets, the predicted colonist population for the next turn is displayed below the current one. The same would be possible for native clans of course, but unfortunately there was no more room for that number.

Even worse, the place for this useful figure was taken by some other data before I could merge my changes with the main VPA code. So, you will have to set the parameter ShowColonistPrediction in the [Interface] section of your VPA.INI to Yes if you prefer to see the popuplation prediction. Or you may press shift-j to toggle the display for the current session.

Disable Map Border
You can now disable the dashed edge markings VPA displays in games with a map that wraps-around. Add the following parameter to the [Interface] section of your VPA.INI if you are irritated by those lines: ShowMapBorder = Off

Data Exchange Subscription
This feature allows you to regularly send the data of certain planets to your allies automatically.

Create a file names VPADXCxy.INI in your game directory where x is the id of your own race (1..B) and y the id of the receiving race (e.g. VPADXC9A.INI if you are the Robot and want data to be sent to the Rebel). Create a section within the file and add object ids to subscribe to:


This will create messages to the receiver (y, see above) containing the data for planets 237, 483, and 102 every time you unpack your new RST file.

Score Prediction
When you are on the build screen of one of your starbases, the potential score value of the ship you are about to build is displayed at the bottom of the hull list. For torpedo ships and fighter carriers the maximum value is displayed in parentheses. The scoring system you would like to use may be configured in the [Interface] section of your VPA.INI by the ScoringMethod parameter. Supported values are currently: AutoScore, PTScore, and None. AutoScore is the default value.

Territory Overview (experimental!)
Press ctrl-e on the main screen to temporarily draw areas of influence on the map.


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