A First Look at Atlantis 2.0 (Chris Conley)

[ This is an article from the Play-By-Electronic-Mail Fanzine, v95n2, which was published on February 13, 1995. ]

Atlantis 2.0 is the latest version of the PBeM game which was created almost two years ago. Geoff Dunbar, the GM of 2.0, has taken up the challenge issued by Russell Wallace to complete the v2.0 code, which dramatically changes the face of the game. I'm running `Rainbow Mayhem Unlimited,' a group of free-lance wizards (well, eventually - see below) who intend to use spellcraft and cunning to shape the face of the world (or at least slaughter some hopeless brutes and mess with a warlord or two). Then again, maybe I'm not...

(Articles about the 2 previous incarnations of Atlantis can be found in PBEM magazine archives, in v93n03, v93n05 and v94n03).

There are a number of changes in this version of Atlantis. Units are now broken down into races: base races, such as wood elves, tribesmen and the like, who can only learn a single skill to a limited level; and "leaders", who can learn multiple skills up to the maximum level. NPC "City Guards" protect players just entering the world of Atlantis, while city markets provide players with an alternative to the almost non-existent inter-player trade in Atlantis 1.0. Winter months can slow down travel, while horses and the reported flying mounts will allow a unit to rapidly traverse the world. The magic system is much more complex, with seven different spell areas (however, there are only twelve total spells at this point, so in-depth Magic research is not advisable at the present. What's an aspiring Warlock to do?).

There are two changes that dominate the game, however: the introduction of faction types, and the changes in taxation rules. While the faction types are, on the surface, very major, it is my opinion that the taxation rules will provide the greatest amount of change. Anyhow...

Unlike in Atlantis 1.0 and 1.1, a single player faction cannot do everything; or, rather, they can't do everything well. Each faction has a specified faction type. The broad types are War, Trade and Magic; players can also select hybrid types, like War/Magic, or even Generic (which is a combination of all three). These types can be changed only once each game year; it seems likely that most players will select a permanent type by the second year of the game.

Each broad type has certain abilities that only it can use. War factions are the only type allowed to tax peasants; only Trade factions can produce goods and build structures or ships; and mages are only allowed to train magic-users. Hybrid factions can overcome the absolute restrictions of the Types, but are highly limited: While war and trade factions can tax and produce, respectively, in up to 100 provinces, War/XXX or Trade/XXX factions can only tax or produce in 5. Magic factions are allowed to train 5 mages, while Magic/XXX factions can train only two. Generic faction are allowed to tax and produce in two provinces each and train a single mage.

In other words, the name of the game is cooperation. A War faction and a Trade faction working together can equal the maximum production of 20 War/Trade hybrid factions. An alliance composed of 1 War, 1 Trade and 3 Magic factions has 15 times the magepower and 50 times the tax/production capacity of a single Generic faction. Friends are everything.

On the individual level, then, this is quite a major change in the game. In fact, it nearly eliminates some options - it really is not possible to carve out one's own empire, unless there's a city out there that sells a lot of swords. However, I don't expect this to really change the overall flow of the game; alliances may need to be composed of unlike parts, but there will still be groups bent on conquest or revenge or "liberte'" or whatever catches their fancy. The problem of coordination will occur, but I don't think that it will be any more important than it would be if all of the factions in the alliance were alike. The possibility of duplicity is certainly stronger - if the War faction switches alliances, a measly little Trade faction is going to be crushed - but this rarely seems to happen in "open-ended" games.

On the other hand, the ability to tax without weapons should result in a major change in game dynamics. Resource control will no longer be critical, resulting in far fewer conflicts at the beginning of the game - if two alliances fight each other, they'll both be swept under the rug by a third who has spent its time expanding and preparing. Eventually, of course, alliances will start to butt heads - that's really what we're here for, after all - but resource control will no longer be the only means of victory. This, at least, seems to be a major change for the better; I'd rather win a war because I had a better strategy than because I happened to pick the right direction in which to explore.

What's the end result? Faction type adds what Russell Wallace might have termed "needless complexity" to the game - it makes things more difficult without really adding or changing anything on the large scale. The tax changes will allow folks to spread out more without immediate conflict (as will the variety of initial cities, which is a very nice addition). The magic system is the great unknown - in fact, since Geoff is soliciting ideas for spells even now, it's likely to remain that way. (Did I mention my suggestion for the "Dr. Pain" spell yet?) All in all, I am not yet sure what's going to happen, which is exactly why I wanted to play in the first place.

If you want to get more information, you can ftp various items from ftp.rahul.net, /pub/atlantis; for more information, or to join the game, write to atlantis@rahul.net.

Come join the merry fray!

Chris Conley <quixote@hing.LCS.MIT.EDU>

(Edited by Greg Lindahl) (lindahl@pbm.com)