Planets Nu is proud to present - Stellar Cartography, an all new add-on to VGA Planets unlike any add-on which has been seen before. Stellar Cartography is a deeply integrated add-on which brings greater depth to the star map in Planets by adding Star Clusters, Nebulas, Cloudy Ion Storms and Debris Disks (Interstellar asteroid fields) to the map.
The Concept - 3 New Map Elements and Modified Ion Storms
Stellar Cartography is meant to clearly establish the relationship between the Echo cluster starmap and reality. It has never been very clear what was represented on a planets map by each planet. With Stellar Cartography each planet is actually representing a star system with a valuable planet which can be colonized and mined. Travelling at warp speed between these systems you are travelling between the stars to reach each planet. The warp well around these planets represents travel within the solar system which must be done at a much slower rate. Until now the planets, their warp wells, minefields and Ion Storms have been the only terrain elements on a Planets Map. Stellar Cartography introduces 3 major new concepts and updates the Ion Storms.
Between the star systems represented by the planets we now find "Star Clusters" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_cluster
) which are huge collections of densely packed stars which can not be navigated by ships. Star clusters range in size, mass and temperature. The core of a star cluster can not be flown through by a star ship. Any star ship which attempts to fly through it will be destroyed.
In addition a "radiation halo" is emitted from a Star Cluster which can extend for many light years. Ships which fly through radiation halos are subjected to radiation and will lose crew. Some ships have radiation shielding which can protect the crew.
) are interstellar collections of ionized gas covering vast areas with a fog which is difficult to penetrate with conventional sensors. This has the profound effect of hiding ships and planets which are located within the Nebula. Nebulas have varying densities throughout. The higher the density of the Nebula, the lower the visibility within that part of the Nebula. Some Nebulas are so thick planets and ships can only be seen from less than 20 ly away. Making them very hard to discover.
Debris Disks (Interstellar Asteroid Fields)
Some stellar systems which do not have a planet may still be useful and contain minerals which may be mined. These systems have huge Debris Disks (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debris_disk
) which can extend for several light years around the star system. Debris disks are made up of tiny and not-so-tiny particles of dust, debris and asteroids which can be extremely hazardous to ships. Inside some Debris Disks large asteroids, called "Planetoids" can be found which can be mined for minerals. These planetoids do not have atmospheres and can not sustain colonists without supplies but usually have densely packed mineral concentrations.
The primary affect of a Debris Disk is that ships with a hull mass greater than 200kt can not pass through the debris disk without being destroyed. Smaller ships are maneuverable enough to pass through them safely. To help mine the planetoids special starbases called "Mining Stations" can be created which allow some colonists to live safely on or near the planetoid and helps in mining. It is easy to hide among the planetoids in a Debris Disk.
Cloudy Ion Storms
Cloudy Ion Storms are a slight modification on the current Ion Storms in the game. They behave just the same as regular Ion Storms, however, they have an irregular shape and the voltage varies throughout the storm. They are also created less often.
How to get started
The very first "alpha" game of Stellar cartography is now available for joining for Lieutenants or higher. It can be found here: http://vgaplanets.nu/games/21385
In addition, everyone is welcome to try out the Stellar Cartography add-on by playing the "Surrounded" scenario which has now been modified to produce a Stellar Cartography map.
Stellar Cartography will soon be integrated into the private game engine as well so that you can specify the number of Star Clusters, Nebulas and Debris Disks you would like to see on your map.
There are certain to be a few bugs to fix and tweaks required to finalize the development of the add-on. The rules as stated in the documentation are meant to be the rules. If you find a situation in game which deviates from the documentation please report it as a bug.
With Stellar Cartography, chapter 10 of Sun Tzu's Art of War, "Terrain" will become required reading for all planets players.