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Frequently asked questions about VGA Planets Assistant

Author: Various

Contents (new or updated topics are marked with an asterisk):

- What is VPA?
- VPA author's mail address and WWW home page
- Running VPA
- Custom game parameters
- VPA keys
- On-line help system
- Setting ship waypoints
- Calculating hyper-jumps
- Entering names/IDs while searching for planet/ship
- Using alternative picture sets
- Using VPA with WinPlan
- Troubles with some videocards
- Ghost enemy ships in PHOST games
- 'Strange PLANETS.EXE' message
- Playing in team games
- Playing on wrapped map
- Playing on custom-sized map
- Playing with dynamic map and Explore Map
- Using planetary gravity
- Custom VPA configurations and new versions of VPA
- Using extended missions
- Using map bookmarks
- Creating custom reports in VPA
- Customizing message templates
- Customizing display colors in VPA
- Using VPA data transmissions
- Using the KeepWayPoints mode
- Dull ship missions
- Dull messages
- How to speed up VPA
- Mouse problems under Windows NT
- Where do I get RTM.EXE?
- What happened to the F8 (search ship) function?
- VPA's Maketurn / Unpack
- VPA on Windows 2000 / XP / Laptop
- How does next turn mineral prediction function work?
- Ship list sorting extra information
- Actual list
- VPA Versions

Q: What is VPA?

A: VGA Planets Assistant (VPA) is an alternative VGA Planets client program for MS-DOS. It was designed 3 years ago and used by the author and hundreds of players in numerous VGAP games. Suggestions from many experienced players were used in the program design. VPA implements a number of unique features that are unlikely to be ever seen in other VGAP utilities.

VPA works with great performance even on a 286 PC under MS-DOS with plain VGA video adapter and doesn't require you to buy an expensive Pentium/SVGA workstation or mess with MS Windows. VPA is an add-on to DOS PLANETS.EXE, though you'll never have to start PLANETS.EXE any more. And I bet you'll never want to... <g>

VPA will keep your PLANETS registration - if you were registered all tech levels and friendly codes will be available to you, if you were using shareware PLANETS.EXE all the limitations will remain. But in any case your play will be amazingly enhanced and simplified.

VPA is not intended to compete with WinPlan, it doesn't have neither the Windows look and feel nor graphics and sounds. The public release of VPA was intentionally delayed for approximately 1 year in order to avoid any harm to WinPlan sales and other Tim Wisseman businesses. However, VPA is compatible with WinPlan data files and can be run under MS Windows.

VPA was initially written and maintained by Alex Ivlev in 1993 to 1996. Versions up to v3.58 were his creation. Since early 2002, VPA development is continued by a group of volunteers. VPA is open source under the Mozilla license. The first release from this group was 3.60.


* VPA author's mail address and WWW home page

Q: How can I reach the author of VPA and download the latest version?

A: The Internet home page of VPA is: http://vpa.sourceforge.net/

The email addresses of the current authors are listed on the Sourceforge project page for VPA

* Running VPA

Q: How do I run VPA?

A: Place VPA files into the same directory as PLANETS.EXE. The standard command line to run VPA is

VPA race_number [game_directory]

For example, if you are playing Feds and your Planets directory is C:\PLANETS and your current game data files were UNPACKed into C:\PLANETS\PLAY_FED (using "UNPACK play_fed" command), then the command line to run VPA is:

VPA 1 play_fed

There also exist several optional command line switches for VPA that can be added at the end of the command line. You can run "VPA /?" to obtain a description of VPA command line parameters.
They are:

/B - runs VPA in batch mode. VPA starts, processes data and then terminates without entering interactive mode

- runs VPA in keyboard-only mode. VPA does not use mouse, even if it is present

- enforces incoming message processing. Usually VPA reads and analyses incoming messages only once per turn. This switch causes VPA to re-read messages

- tells VPA to read the specified race data only. If there are several RST files unpacked into the same directory (as in team games), VPA automatically reads and combines all races' data. This switch disables it

- tells VPA to pause before switching to graphics, so you can read what VPA writes on startup

- allows you to specify player password from the command line instead of typing it on request. You can specify up to 11 different passwords by using additional /PW switches.
Example: /PW:secret /PW:mypassword
/R - runs VPA in read-only mode. No data is changed

- generates a report file "rep" using report form "frm". Maybe very useful together with the /B switch.
Example: /REP:complete.frm,myreport.txt
/S - run VPA in SVGA mode (256 colors). This does not increase the resolution, but it allows you to use higher refresh rates than the standard 60 Hz.

* Custom game parameters

Q: I'm playing in games with custom maps, race names, ship lists, weapon sets, engine types, etc. Do I have to copy VPA together with .DAT-files into a separate directory for each game (like I do with PLANETS.EXE)?

A: No. When using custom map, ship list, race names or other non-standard game parameters, it's not necessary to replace standard data files in your Planets directory with the new ones or to copy all files into a separate directory. Just place custom data files into the current game directory (this directory is specified as the 2nd command line parameter for VPA). VPA first searches for data files in this directory, then in the current directory.

After finishing a game where you were using custom data files (like XYPLAN.DAT, HULLSPEC.DAT, HULLFUNC.DAT, etc.) don't forget to delete these files from the game directory before starting another game in the same directory with different parameters, otherwise you can confuse yourself and VPA about correct game settings. Even better, always create a new directory for a new game.

Q: I'm playing in a game with custom race names (planet names, starmap). What do I do to make VPA work properly with it?

A: As it was stated in the previous answer, you just have to copy some files from your Host to the game directory. For custom race names you need RACE.NM. For planet names - PLANET.NM. For starmap - XYPLAN.DAT.

!!! Attention game masters !!!
If you are hosting a game with custom starmap, and the rules are so, that players should not know the locations of all homeworlds, then be sure to make a copy of the custom XYPLAN.DAT *BEFORE* you run MASTER.EXE and send this file to your players. MASTER.EXE marks initial planets directly in XYPLAN.DAT, and anyone smart enough to read binary data can learn about all homeworlds from that file. *NEVER* give away XYPLAN.DAT from the host directory!!!

* VPA keys

Q: Where can I find a list of all keys used in VPA?

A: See KEYS.DOC for the complete list of all VPA keys.

* On-line help system

Q: How to use VPA on-line help system?

A: You can press F1 key in any screen and VPA will display some helpful information applicable to this screen. There are lots of hot keys used everywhere in VPA, but don't panic. Whenever you press F1, you get a complete list of hot keys specific to the current screen. Also there are some common keys active in most of VPA screens. They are listed in the General Help screen that is available from any other help screen via pressing Spacebar. Most of hot keys are highlighted on the screen with a bright colour (usually White or Yellow). Each help page in VPA contains a list of related help topics at the bottom of the screen. You can press one of highlighted keys to read another help page or Esc to exit the help mode.

* Setting ship waypoints

Q: How do I set ship waypoints?

A: To order your ship to move towards the chosen destination:

(a) enter the ship's control screen (click on it with mouse or choose it from the object list),

(b) enter Distance Mode (press spacebar or click right mouse button),

(c) move mouse pointer to the destination point (you will see a color line following the pointer, also the time/fuel table will appear in the lower-right corner of the screen),

(d) press Ctrl-Enter (or Ctrl-click).
You may wish to adjust the waypoint to the edge of a planetary warp well in order to spare some fuel. To do this, click on the planet during the (c) phase of the above described sequence, then press "G".

For movement over small distances, it might help to zoom into the map (Tab key).

* Calculating hyper-jumps

Q: How do I calculate hyper-jumps in VPA?

A: VPA doesn't have a hyper-jump calculator, because hyper-jumps are very easily planned with VPA circle-drawing feature (F9 key). You can draw a 350 LY radius circle to see all possible destinations.

To plan a two-jump HYP route, just draw 2 circles at the origin and destination points. Any of the 2 intersection points can be used as a waypoint.

If the distance is greater than 700 LY (three-jump route), you can choose any point on the circle around the origin that is within 350 LY from the circle around the destination, set a marker at this point (Ins key) and draw a circle around this point. This will be the 1st waypoint, and any of the 2 new intersection points can be chosen as the 2nd waypoint (set a marker there too).

By pressing Ctrl-H you can instantly draw 3 circles around the current pointer location - 340, 350 and 360 LY in radius.

* Entering names/IDs while searching for planet/ship

Q: What do I type when I press F7 or Shift-F7 to find a planet or ship?

A: You have to enter the name of the planet or ship you want to find. You can type either first few letters of the name required or the ID number.

* Using alternative picture sets

Q: I don't like the original ship pictures supplied with VGA Planets. But there are talks about alternative picture sets. If I download it, can I use it with VPA? And what pictures are the best?

A: Yes, surely. You can use it in 2 different ways:

1) you can overwrite RESOURCE.PLN file in your Planets directory;

2) you can rename it and specify the new name in [System] section of VPA.INI file (that can be created in the current game directory if you want to use that new picture set in this game only).

VPA will use pictures from the new resource file in its combat simulator and construction yard.

The VPA author's choice is ALTPLN by Mike Arrowood. It's a masterpiece!

* Using VPA with WinPlan

Q: Can I use VPA with WinPlan?

A: Yes. As much as it's possible to use DOS-based programs together with Windows-based ones. VPA understands WinPlan data format and can be used to play WinPlan games. VPA also distinguishes between shareware and registered versions of WinPlan and maintains the shareware tech limitations.

However, VPA currently does not support extended features provided by WinPlan (like notepads, multiple waypoints, etc.)

!!! Important !!!
If you are registered WinPlan user, but don't have a registered PLANETS.EXE file, you should unpack your RSTs with WinPlan, not with any DOS unpacker programs. When you unpack your RST with WinPlan for the first time in the game, make a little change (like change an fcode on one planet) before exiting WinPlan. Otherwise VPA might not recognize your registration.

Also, the DOS picture set file (RESOURCE.PLN) must be present in the directory where you start VPA, or path to it must be specified in [System] section of VPA.INI.

VPA can be run in a DOS-box while WinPlan is running. But you can only view the game data in this case. Any changes will be overwritten by WinPlan on exit.

Another important issue is writing player messages in VPA for a WinPlan game. WinPlan has a message size limit of 600 bytes, i.e., it cannot handle messages longer than 600 bytes, that is approximately 14 full lines of text. DOS PLANETS.EXE and VPA can usually handle larger messages. But when VPA detects presence of WinPlan message file (MESS35n.DAT) in the game directory, it limits its messaging capability to 600 bytes for compatibility with WinPlan. In that case you will not always be able to write a message to the bottom of the VPA message window.

Also, the current version of WinPlan (3.52.003 on the moment of VPA 3.51release) can produce some unpredicable and unexplanable changes of message contents. That's why it is recommended that you check your messages written in VPA before packing your TRN in WinPlan. Hopefully, all side effects in WinPlan messaging system will be eliminated by its author sooner or later, therefore, VPA does not perform any special actions to avoid these side effects.

Generally, if you are not using VPA with WinPlan, avoid UNPACKing your RST files into a directory that contains old WinPlan data. This will reduce data processing time and remove software limitations imposed for compatibility with WinPlan.

* Troubles with some videocards

Q: When I leave the construction yard or combat simulator my screen goes black and I can't see anything, although VPA seems to be working and I can blindly press Alt-X to exit...

A: You have a faulty video card that does not correctly switch standard VGA video modes (for instance, some ALI video cards reportedly have this problem). Set BadVideoOrMouse parameter to "Yes" in VPA.INI file ([System] section). This will add some flickering when switching VPA screens, but will hopefully eliminate the problem.

* Ghost enemy ships in PHOST games

Q: I'm playing in a PHOST game and sometimes VPA shows enemy ships that are not actually there.

A: You are/were using PHOST BigTargets feature and unpacked your RST file with VPUNPACK program. VPUNPACK creates a file named TARGETn.EXT in your game directory. When your scanners show more than 50 enemy ships, this file contains information about 'excessive' targets. VPA reads this file.

By some reason you switched back to Tim Wisseman's UNPACK program or WinPlan and unpacked your new RST with it. But the old TARGETn.EXT file is still there and it causes VPA to show the 'ghost' enemy ships. You should delete the TARGETn.DAT file whenever you switch from VPUNPACK to UNPACK. Ghost ships will disappear on the next turn after you delete old TARGETn.EXT file.

* 'Strange PLANETS.EXE' message

Q: VPA doesn't recognize my registered PLANETS.EXE file and displays a message about this file being 'strange'.

A: Starting with version 3.50, VPA actively discourages using of modified or hacked copies of registered PLANETS.EXE file. If your legal registered copy of the game is not recognized by VPA, then try re-installing it from the distributive. If VPA still does not recognize it, then please report this to the author of VPA (not to Tim Wisseman! please don't bother Tim with others' bugs).

* Playing in team games

Q: I'm playing in a team game where I have RSTs of my teammates. Do I have to run VPA for every race to see the whole situation?

A: No! Just unpack all your team RST files into the same directory and run VPA for your race. VPA will automatically read all data for the whole team and combine it into the complete picture. You can also see combat recordings for all races of your team and read all player-to-player messages received by all members of the team. Duplicate messages are eliminated, so if you send a universal message, next turn you will see only 1 copy of if.

VPA message editor also has a special feature for team game players - Team Message. When you select this option from the addressee menu, VPA sends a copy of the message to all players on your team.

If some of your teammates have passwords, you should specify them in the command line using one or more /PW switches (see "Running VPA").

* Playing on wrapped map

Q: I'm playing in a game with an add-on that 'wraps' the map so that ships travelling beyond one edge of the map appear from the opposite edge. Can VPA help me to plan operations spanning across the edge of the map?

A: Yes! VPA supports thoroidal map model, e.g. a square map where ships going beyond the right edge arrive from the left edge, and ships going beyond the top of the map arrive from the bottom. In this case VPA displays the map as an infinite star field, where you can scroll endlessly in any direction only to see the same areas again and again. Objects from the far left side of the map are drawn beyond the wrap line at the right edge and vice versa, and the same for top and bottom. You can see the real picture created by the wrapping, you can measure distances and set ship waypoints.

To let VPA know about the wrapping, you should create a file named MAP.INI in the game directory and type there: "Wrap = Yes".

By default, VPA assumes that the map wraps exactly at its edge (X and Y =1000 and 3000), e.g., a ship going to (950,950) will arrive at (2950,2950). Default size of the map is 2000 LYs (the distance from X=1000 to X=3000). However, the wrap edge is often set by gamemasters not exactly at the edge of the map, but say 50 LYs off the map (e.g., at X and Y = 950 and 3050). In this case you should let VPA know that the actual size of unwrapped map is changed, it is now 2100 (3050 - 950 = 2100). You should add another line to MAP.INI: "Size = 2100"

VPA supports only square wrapped maps. Cirle wrapping is not supported, because it requires some serious trigonometrical calculations that would be very slow (especially on PCs without math co-processor), and, the most important, the author does not see any strategical difference between playing on square or circle wrapped map.

* Playing on custom-sized map

Q: I'm playing in a game with a map larger (smaller) than the default.
Can I see the whole map in VPA?

A: Yes. VPA supports custom-sized maps satisfying the following conditions:

1) the map must be square (horizontal size = vertical size)

2) linear size of the map (from edge to edge) must be 4000 or less

3) point (2000,2000) must be the centre of the map

To let VPA know about the custom map size, you should create a file named MAP.INI in the game directory and type there: "Size = NNNN", where "NNNN" is the actual linear size of the map (from edge to edge).

For example, if the map starts at (800,800) and ends at (3200,3200), then the size is 2400 (3200 - 800 = 2400).

* Playing with dynamic map and Explore Map

Q: I'm playing in a game with the Explore Map add-on, where the map is initially unknown and is actually uncovered as my ships move across the space, that is, the map changes every turn, new planets arrive. Can VPA help me?

A: Yes! VPA provides full support for Explore Map. It automatically reads changing maps from XYPLANn.DAT files and uses them instead of the main XYPLAN.DAT map. Every turn the map is stored in VPA database, so you can later review the game turn by turn and VPA will always show the map exactly as it was on each turn. If you are playing in a team and have other players' RST files unpacked into the same directory (as well as their XYPLANn.DAT files), VPA will read all partial maps and combine them into a single picture.

To let VPA know that you are using Explore Map in your game (e.g., that XYPLANn.DAT files must be used instead of the main XYPLAN.DAT), you should set "Explore = Yes" in the MAP.INI file in your game directory (create this file if it does not exist yet).

To let you see the whole map in PLANETS.EXE, WinPlan or any other VGAP utility, VPA writes the complete map (obtanied by merging all partial maps from XYPLANx.DAt files) to a single XYPLAN.DAT file in the game directory.

Also, if you are using any other add-on that changes the map turn by turn, VPA will provide the same support for it. If all players have the same changing map, you don't have to do anything - VPA will take care of it by itself. If each player has an individual changing map in XYPLANn.DAT (as in Explore Map), just set "Explore = Yes" in MAP.INI.

* Using planetary gravity

Q: Using planetary gravity, my ships can spare fuel and time in movement. However, setting ship waypoints to the edge of planetary gravity well is not easy, and a 1 LY mistake can spoil the whole operation. Can VPA help me?

A: Yes. When you are in the Distance Mode setting waypoint for your ship, you can lock the pointer on a planet (by clicking mouse or pressing Enter key near it) and then press "G". VPA will set the pointer to the edge point of the planet's gravity well closest to the ship. You can then press Ctrl-Enter (or Ctrl-click) to set the ship's waypoint there.

If you are using planetary gravity all the time (as most of experienced players do), you can edit your VPA.INI file and set "AutoUseGravity" option in "Interface" section to "On". When this option is enabled, VPA will automatically adjust ship waypoints for you.

However, sometimes you may still need to set your ship waypoint precisely to a planet. You can do it without turning the AutoUseGravity mode on and off for each such occasion. Select the destination planet on the screen by clicking the mouse on it and then press Esc to de-select it. Now you can set your ship waypoint by pressing Ctrl-Enter or Ctrl-click. Since the planet is not selected, VPA will not adjust the waypoint.

A: In recent versions (VPA 3.61) you can also press Shift-G in large zoom levels. This will show the gravity wells of each planets.

* Custom VPA configurations and new versions of VPA

Q: I edited VPA configuration files to suit my personal taste. But the new version of VPA contains VPA.INI and VPA.MSG in its distributive. I don't want to overwrite my favourite configuration, but I want to see and use new options implemented in the new version...

A: VPA currently does not have a flexible configuration feature (as well as good documentation). You can edit VPA.INI and VPA.MSG files as you wish, but you should be aware not to overwrite your custom settings with the standard files included within VPA distributive. Before installing a new version of VPA, copy your custom VPA.INI and VPA.MSG (if you modified them) to a safe location or rename them. After you installed new VPA, compare the contents of old and new files. You will have to either repeat all the changes you made with the new files, or copy new settings from the new files to the old ones and bring the old files back - whatever is more convenient for you. VPA.INI file is small enough, and you can easily handle it. VPA.MSG is large and complicated, that's why the author does not recommend making any changes to it unless you are absolutely sure (see VPAMSG.DOC). The author apologizes for possible inconvenience.

* Using extended missions

Q: PHOST and some add-ons support extended missions (additional missions with two possible parameters, "Mission-Intercept-Tow" standard). Can I set these missions in VPA?

A: Yes. In order to use extended missions, place the MISSION.INI file to the game directory. This file contains definitions of extended missions available for the game. Game master should provide it to players. VPA will show extended missions and let you set them. Extended missions are available at the bottom of the mission selection menu.

* Using map bookmarks

Q: What are map bookmarks and how do I use them in VPA?

A: When your empire spans across a large map area, you cannot have it all on the same screen with map resolution good enough to see all necessary details. You zoom the map window in to manage one region, then you either scroll or zoom out and then in again to manage another region, etc. VPA provides a feature called "screen bookmarks" or "stored positions" to help you to move across your empire quickly. When you have a good view of one of the regions of your empire, press Shift-Alt-<n>, where <n> is a numeric key ("0".."9") to place a "bookmark" there. VPA will remember coordinates and resolution of the current map window. Then you can move to another map region, but whenever you press Alt-<n> (with the same <n>), VPA will instatly take you to that first region. You can store up to 10 map positions (bookmarks).

* Creating custom reports in VPA

Q: How do I create custom report forms for VPA?

A: See REPORTS.DOC for the description of VPA Report Language (VRL).

* Customizing message templates

Q: How do I customize VPA message templates (VPA.MSG)?

A: See VPAMSG.DOC for the description of VPA.MSG format.

* Customizing display colors in VPA

Q: How do I customize display color in VPA?

A: See COLORS.DOC for the description of VPA color system.

* Using VPA data transmissions

Q: How do I use VPA data transmissions?

A: VPA allows you to send planetary data, minefield scans and map markers to other players. To send data, select the desired object on the map (enter its information screen) and press Shift-F3. You will be prompted to select addressee(s) of the data transmission, then one or more special format messages will be sent to other players of your choice.

However, to protect you from being intentionally misinformed by the enemy, VPA will not accept data transmission messages from other players unless you give VPA a special permission for it. To allow accepting data transmissions from race X, you should edit file named VPADATn.INI in the game directory (n - YOUR race number) and set "AcceptDataX = Yes". "AcceptData0" parameter allows or disallows accepting data from unknown senders (e.g., from rumour messages). After giving VPA new permissions to accept data transfers, re-run VPA one time with the "/m" command line switch to re-process messages.

* Using the KeepWayPoints mode

Q: What does the "KeepWayPoints" option in VPA.INI do?

A: When this option is enabled, at the start of each turn VPA will automatically restore waypoints for your ships that were set on the previous turn, except for ships that ran out of fuel, were towed or chunnelled. This feature uses planetary gravity, so if a ship had its waypoint set to the edge of planetary warp well and warp factor 2 or more, the waypoint will be cleared once the ship reaches the planet (that is very useful in combination with "AutoUseGravity = On").

This mode is very useful for DOS players, because when you set a waypoint farther than 200 LYs away from the ship, Host will trim it (for technical reasons), so you have to re-set the waypoint each next turn, otherwise the ship may not reach its destination. VPA will do this work for you.

Also, this feature can be useful for hyper-ships. Their waypoints and warp settings are cleared by Host after each jump. If KeepWayPoints mode is enabled, VPA will restore their original waypoints and warp.

Warning: If you use other utilities to set ship waypoints while you have "KeepWayPoints = On", you must run VPA after all them, before making your TRN. Otherwise there is no way for VPA to know about the new waypoints, and it may re-set some waypoints next turn to the old locations.

* Dull ship missions

Q: VPA does not allow me to set some missions to some ships. But I need these missions for (...whatever...)!

A: VPA tries to reduce your risk of making mistakes (accidentally setting wrong ship mission), so it removes some missions from ship mission menu. These missions are normally cannot be performed, like Laying Mines with a freighter, or Building Fighters with a torpedo ship. However, if you still need these missions (for instance, you have some add-on that uses them), you can set "DullMissions = On" in VPA.INI to bring them back.

* Dull messages

Q: VPA does not allow me to send messages to some races. Why?

A: Normally, when you send a message to a race that is not played, that message will be never received by the addressee and will only slow down Host processing. That's why the default VPA configuration does not allow sending messages to races with zero score. However, if by some reason you need to send such a message (for example, if you are using some add-on that wipes all scores to hide ship numbers from players), you can set "DullMessages = On" in VPA.INI to do it.

Also, PHOST has an option for blanking scores ("ScoringMethod = None"). If you have PCONFIG.SRC in the game directory (that is highly recommended), VPA will allow sending "dull" messages without changing VPA.INI.

* How to speed up VPA

Q: I have a very slow PC, and VPA is not that fast on it...

A: VPA is notorious for its great speed. However, on old slow PCs it still can take some time. There are some advises how to speed up VPA:

1) Any disk cache can be very helping. VPA reads a lot of data from disk.

2) To speed up map redrawing:

A) it's better to turn off permanent ship tracking (Shift-T), especially if there are any FireCloud Cruisers in sight;

B) planet names (Shift-P) also take some time to write;

C) if you miss planet names, you can set "SmallFont = Off" in VPA.INI, that will speed up planet names writing, although they will be not so nice-looking.

Since VPA is a DPMI application, it will normally use all memory you have in your computer (except for memory configured as EMS), so there's no need to shuffle DOS drivers around to get more "conventional" memory.

* Mouse problems under Windows NT

Q: I'm using VPA under Windows NT. When I select a planet with the mouse, I am unable to move off of the planet. What's the problem?

A: VPA has a feature called "StickyMouse" that prevents low-amplitude random movement of the mouse from actually moving the cursor. It is usually a very helpful feature that increases the convenience of the interface and prevents setting wrong waypoints. But the NT mouse driver works in such a way that all mouse movements are subdivided into 1-pixel parts, so VPA confuses them with random movement caused by desk vibrations, shaky hands, etc. and ignores them. Under Windows NT you should set "StickyMouse = OFF" in VPA.INI.

* Where do I get RTM.EXE?

Q: VPA refuses to run with a message that it can't find "dpmi16bi.ovl" or "rtm.exe".

A: These files are distributed separately, in an archive commonly called "vpasupp.zip" (VPA support files). That archive will also include a nice resource.pln file.

* What happened to the F8 (search ship) function?

Q: The F8 key does not work any longer!

A: The "search ship" function is on Shift-F7 in VPA 3.58c and later.

* VPA's Maketurn / Unpack

Q: I've heard VPA's Unpack and/or Maketurn are notoriously buggy. What gives?

A: It is true that these functions had bugs in the past. For example, Maketurn would cancel all pending build orders in PHost games. We believe to have fixed all pending issues and these functions are now safe.

* VPA on Windows 2000 / XP / Laptop

Q: I have this brand-new Laptop / Windows 2000 / Windows XP and VPA won't run on it. What can I do?

A: Bug Microsoft and/or your graphics card vendor to improve their DOS support.

If that doesn't help, try VPAMM, which is based on a different graphics engine than the "standard" VPA. You can get this program from the VPA website. As of VPA 3.61f, VPAMM is a fully-grown VPA which is exactly identical to normal VPA (although it looks slightly different because it uses different circle algorithms :-)

The best solution of course would be if you find and solve the problem (a magic registry hack?). So far, VPA developers were in the lucky situation that their XP systems do support VPA.

Other things that may help:

- you might have a program "HTPATCH.EXE" running. To remove it, delete the registry key HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run\HTPATCH and reboot. Nobody seems to know what this program *exactly* does. Reportedly it adds hyper-threading support to your graphics driver, and graphics throughput will drop by a few percent when you remove it.

- if you have a really fast computer, try DOSBOX from <http://dosbox.sourceforge.net/>. As of December 2003, it runs VPAMM if you disable DPMI ("set DPMI=no"). DOSBOX emulates a complete PC, so by saying "really fast computer", I mean *really* fast. DOSBOX reduces execution speed by a magnitude of 100 compared to native execution.

- install Linux and use DOSEMU. Disk space is cheap so adding another operating system won't kill you.

* How does next turn mineral prediction function work?

Q: In base construction yard when pressing 'n' key VPA shows minerals and cash that will be aviable next turn. How does it works ?

A: This feature is added to help planning resources moment in your empire. You can check if next turn you will be able to build desire ship. All calculations are made using only ships, planets, bases that player has all information aviable at the moment. This means that only race XX ships read from playerXX.rst will be used. To make VPA uses YY ally ships, the playerYY.rst should be present during unpack. VPA trys as close as possible to simulate Thost or Phost behavior, but cannot simulate random processes (meteors, ion storms, minefield travel) or actions of your enemy.

The following host stages are simulated :

gambling ships
jettison and cargo dump
beam down money ('bdm' or mission=25)
cyborg self repair
planetary production
torpedoes build ('mkt' or mission=20)
ship fighters production
advanced alchemy
base fix, recycle (no ally check)
repair ships using supplies
simple tow resolution
ship movement including hyperjump
supplies production
base free fighters
base 'dmp' FC
base 'Max Defense' mission
colonize (no ally check)
allies (unload for bases)
The following actions are NOT simulated :
beam up minerals
give ship or planet
Fed super refit
overpopulation supply loss

* Ship list sorting extra information

Q: What does mean those color markers left to ship name while changing ship list sort order ?

A: Ship list sort order can be changed using Shift-z key. The sorting order will change in following way : ship ID, ship battle order, ship hull id, tow dependency. Just below ship list markers a letter indicates current sort order. B - battle order, H - ship hull id, T - tow order.

Battle order is computed using rules similar to ones used in Phost. Cloak attack is not used. Ship list markers using battle order sorting are listed below:

  • blue circle ship will fight before planet.
  • green circle ship will fight after planet.
  • yellow circle ship is aggressive (has beams, torpedoes launchers, fighters bays and kill mission or enemy set) but its FC is not set to numerical value.
  • red cross ship has no fuel.
  • brown rhombe ship has beams, torpedoes launchers or fighters bays but kill mission or enemy is not set.
  • white rhombe ship cannot attack (no beams, torps or bays).

    In ship hull id sort order only green square is used to indicate ships with hull of player own design.

    In tow sort order the following markers are used:
  • green square ship that is towing.
  • green cross ship that is being towed.
  • yellow cross ship that is being towed has warp not set to 0.
  • red cross more than one ship is trying to tow this ship

* Actual list

Q: I often forget to give commands to one of my units. Can VPA help me?

A: If you have a large number of objects (ships, planets, bases) to operate, some remain outside of the control because you may forget give order for them. For decrease chance of that collision come in handy to you the actual list. Use ',' and '.' keys instead cursor's keys for selection next or previous objects your own. When orders for current object are complete, press '/' key for exclude object from actual list. If you need to return to this object, use the cursor's keys for selection and '/' key to include them in actual list.

Actual list objects have headings of white color, others - darkgray.

At the beginning of each turn, all objects are on the list. Press '/' to take them off when you're finished with them.

* VPA Versions

Q: What's the difference between VPA and VPAMM (Mixed Mode)?

A: The standard VPA version is a Borland Pascal Protected Mode program. It uses Borland's rtm.exe loader, Borland's BGI graphics library, and Borlands VGA driver or Ulrich von Bassewitz' SVGA driver.

The above software collection is not free of problems. For example, the BGI library has a well-known bug which makes VPA display garbage under Windows 2000.

Stefan Reuther has ported VPA to the runtime environment used in PCC. It uses an internal loader, and its own graphics library. It is called "mixed mode" because, unlike standard VPA, it can fall back to real mode if protected mode is not available (if you do not know what this techno babble means, ignore it - you won't miss it.). This is VPAMM. Since that's quite a big change in the program's environment, this version for a long time beared the label "experimental". A bit more plastic, this operation is as if you replace the engine of your Mercedes (=VPA) car by the one from a BMW (=PCC) car. The car still looks the same, but the gas pedal might feel a bit different (=VPAMM looks a bit different), and if you overlooked something, the gearshift got stuck (=predictions are off).

As of mid-2003, however, we claim VPAMM to be as reliable and accurate as VPA. It looks slightly different (harmless) and might be a bit slower. It sometimes has trouble with the mouse pointer, which is annoying but harmless, too.


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