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Cosmic Encounter Online: A War of Worlds

By Chris McVeigh
Imagine yourself as the leader of a struggling alien race. The population has exploded across your four home worlds and resources are rapidly depleting. Your cities are becoming overcrowded, and your citizens increasingly lack the provisions required to sustain themselves and their families.
Cosmic players
The interface breathes new life into the classic board game.

MindIt’s time for action. There are at least twelve neighboring planets that can sustain life. Most of them are populated with other alien races, however, and they won’t surrender their world to you without a fight. You’ll need to mobilize your squadron of starships and launch an attack. Victory earns you a colony on a distant planet, where you can harvest precious resources for your home worlds. Defeat, on the other hand, will fracture your fleet and leave your worlds open to invasion. Only strength and strategy can sway the outcome of such cosmic encounters.

interface
Pick a planet and send in your troops!

Cosmic Encounter Online is an addictive strategy game adapted from the board game of the same name (see the history on page 2). You are the leader of an alien race, and your goal is to establish four colonies on the planets of other players. Up to four players can compete against each other for galactic supremacy. A single game takes an average of 30 minutes to complete, making it a great noon-time diversion.

“The Cosmic Encounter Online experience brings a unique form of social gaming to the Internet,” says Peter Olotka, President of Future Pastimes LLC and lead designer of Cosmic Encounter Online. “We can guarantee that you have never played anything like it.”

Cosmic Clashes
sorcererAt the start of each game, players choose an alien race to command. Each race has four home worlds, and each world is defended by four starships. A player then attacks one of the home worlds of another player, in the hopes of establishing a colony. After choosing a planet to attack, the player must choose the number of ships to send into battle (up to four). The defending planet will also choose a number of ships to send into the fray.

At this point, the attacking and defending players may ask the other two players to form an alliance. The other players can then send ships to help one side in the encounter. Alliances add a interesting dimension to the game. Players that choose to side with one another on a continuing basis may become an unstoppable force — but alliances have a way of falling apart when one player becomes much more powerful than his ally.

Both the attacking and defending players then play an encounter pod to complete the battle. Encounter pods are tokens which determine the strength of your attack. Similar to Scrabble tiles, the pods are distributed randomly at the start of the game, and they are replenished once they are all used. The value of the pod is added to the total number of ships, and the player with the greater total wins the round. (Most encounters aren’t wrapped up so neatly, however!)

parked ships
Ships lost in an encounter are sent to a
cosmic graveyard known as the Warp.

Otherworldly Beings
Cosmic Encounter Online features 21 alien races (see the races sidebar on page 2), each of which has a unique power that can change the outcome of battle. Some powers are automatic, while others are optional. Anti-Matter, for example, has the power of negation. This means that the player with the lower total will win the round. Virus, on the other hand, has the power to multiply. In each attack, the number of ships is multiplied by (instead of added to) the value of the encounter pod.

Olotka is upfront about his favorite alien. “I have always liked the Philanthropist,” he says. “It is unassuming and not feared by other aliens. All it does is present the other players with the gift of [encounter] pods.” Of course, this is just a clever way to get rid of low-powered pods so that the Philanthropist can replenish his console of pods much more quickly. “It uses the wheat and gives away the chaff,” chuckles Olotka.
  Cosmic Encounter In the future, Olotka and his team intend to add a number of all-new aliens such as “The Dork,” who has the power to annoy, and “The Toddler,” who has the power of impatience. And over time, they hope to add all 75 aliens now found in the board game.

Going Online
Cosmic Encounter Online has been developed entirely in Macromedia Flash, and it runs flawlessly within Internet Explorer under Mac OS X. There are no special requirements for the game, and no software to install. Simply connect to Cosmic Encounter Online, sign up, and you’re ready to play.

planets
Allies can help turn the tide of battle,
so don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Adapting the game for online play has allowed Olotka to take the game in new directions. Colorful animations draw players into the game, and an interactive chat window allows players to communicate with each other at any time. Olotka also boasts that his team is creating new aliens that can only exist in the digital realm. “The first will be the Ghost, which has the power of invisibility,” he beams. “Only you can see where you are on the game board — you don’t appear to other players.”

Cosmic Encounter Online also features an extensive member ranking system. Players accumulate points each time they play a game. These points are automatically added to monthly, yearly, and lifetime totals, allowing the player to compare his performance with his rivals.

ships
After you annihilate your opponent, you send
in settlers to establish a colony.

Space for Macs
warriorOlotka confesses that he is a huge fan of the Mac OS, and he likens Cosmic Encounter to Apple: “[It] is a one-of-a-kind game,” he muses, “… a game that is founded on breaking the rules, being creative, being social, and above all, thinking in new and different ways.”

In the coming months, Olotka intends to add support for Macintosh Text-to-Speech to Cosmic Encounter Online. This will be a Mac OS-only feature that will provide a distinctive voice for the each alien. Olotka notes that “Voices such as Trinoids and Zarvox are a perfect match for many of our aliens.”

Stellar Beginnings
Cosmic Encounter Online is scheduled to debut in September 2002. A free trial membership allows you to play games using one of six randomly chosen aliens, while a paid membership provides access to all 21 aliens and the extensive member ranking system. So visit Cosmic Encounter Online, sign up for a membership, and launch your attack. Only you can solve the problem of alien overpopulation!

 
Game Hardware

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Space Race
Don’t head out into the vast unknown without boning up on the history, artifact pods, and races of Cosmic Encounter.
alien
History

Artifact pods

Aliens

System requirements