Date: 1996-07-18
From: John
Subject: Conquest Humiliation

My Dear Mr. Duk:

I've been dabling with Conquest 4.0 again. This time I tried the small map option combined with the dry land option. At level 10 I was dead in about 20 days. At level 9 I lasted about 30 days. The dry terrain (there is still some water, but not nearly as much) radically changes the game and it's going to take some more practice before I can use artillery as effectively as the enemy. The small map size dramatically shortens the game by triggering almost instant combat.

My third attempt, at level 8, was interesting. For awhile I was holding my own but was slowly beat back until I had only one city left. But this city was on a small arctic island in the extreme northwest corner of the world, the ONLY city impossible to reach without building a transport. The enemy was too stupid to build ANY transports, so could not reach me. Although the enemy "AI" is supposed to be better than it was, they still don't know how to use bombers. I had bombers buzzing about me like flies but not one bomb was dropped. (Perhaps the enemy is programmed not to drop a bomb if its own pieces are in the way, and by that point there were so many enemy pieces that no bombs could be dropped.)

This situation created a stalemate. Any piece I built was fired on by at least 10 helicopters and artillery a day. A battleship could last maybe a week under these conditions (taking 10 or 15 helicopters with it). The only other piece that could do any damage was a bomber (as long as I used it immediately), so I built one like clockwork every 30/35/40... days. I paused the game at about day 350 or so. If I continue, the next bomber will be radius 5 and I'll be able to take out an entire peninsula. Might be fun to let it run overnight on autopilot and see if I can create some radius 9 bombers (a radius 10 bomb would take out my own city).

I have two stray Alexander thoughts...

I keep thinking about spies. My latest twist is that spies could attack any enemy piece or city with a fairly high rate of success. If they do succeed, they are actually attached to the enemy piece/city and the spy's owner gets to see anything the enemy could see from that vantage point. Thus, if a spy boards an enemy destroyer, it sails along with it as an invisible stowaway. Not only does the enemy destroyer stay on my rader screen, but I also get to see anything the destroyer sees (so I can let the enemy do my exploring for me). We might also want to consider seeing anything the destroyer has seen in the past as well, so that as soon as my spy boards an enemy destroyer I see a three-square wide path leading all the way back to its original port city.

Of course if my spy penetrates a city I would be privy to the production schedule of that city. (Maybe a superspy would see the production schedule and location of every city on the continent.) Whenever I move my spy to another enemy piece/city I would once again risk destruction since every such move is a form of attack. The opposing player would never be aware of any spy stowaways. But perhaps if I move my spy onto a piece/city which (unbeknownst to me) already holds an ENEMY SPY, my spy would be immediately detected and one (both?) of the two spies would perish.

My second Alexander thought concerns roads. I would still like to have roads, but I'm not convinced that under the pressure of war many players would take the time to build engineers and then send them out on lengthy construction projects. An alternative might be to dispense with engineers and let roads form *automatically*. Perhaps every time a tank moves off of a city or existing road, it leaves one unit of road behind it. In this way, roads would slowly grow in the direction of most common travel. If two cities were 5 units apart, and city A was sending a steady stream of tanks to city B, the first tank would create one unit of road, the second would travel on that one unit and then add a second, the third tank would extend a third unit, etc. After five tanks the road would be complete. The overall effect would be to automatically speed pieces to the front even as the front expands away from early cities.

We might want to extend this idea to the construction of bridges or even tunnels (through mountains). If a player insisted on driving a tank into the ocean or into the side of a mountain, the tank would be destroyed, but one unit of bridge/tunnel would be created. This (rather expensive) process could continue until a complete bridge or tunnel was built. We might also want to make it possible for certain pieces to destroy a section of bridge or tunnel as well.

I still haven't attempted to contact anyone at Delta Tao, but I have done some research via the web. Peter Merrill, the creator of the game, is (or was) an employee of Adobe and worked on version 4.0 on weekends over a period of several years. He is not listed as an employee of Delta Tao, and the delivery date slipped for so long (it was originally promised years ago), that some Delta Tao programmers finally had to finish it up. My impression (just a hunch, actually) is that Delta Tao is wiping its hands of Conquest and will probably focus future innovation on the more popular Spaceward Ho.

After looking through their personal web pages, I have a feeling for who these guys are and how they work. Unfortunately, I can find almost no information on Peter Merrill. The rest seem a pretty low-key and friendly bunch, a bit on the nerdy side. I may try to get ahold of one of them, but even if I do, I'm not sure what to say. Wouldn't it be a hoot if we could actually acquire the rights to Conquest? (Assuming, that is, one of us receives an unexpected influx of cash...)

More than enough for now. Please respond if you get a chance. No tape yet, but I expect it tomorrow.

Yours in haste,