New Players > VB Tutorials

Part 1: Setting up a New Game

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Steve Walmsley:
This section of the tutorial has been updated for v5.41

Finally, I am going to have a go at creating a tutorial. My style is probably going to be conversational rather than instructional and I will no doubt digress and zip off at tangents but I will do my best to stay focused. These tutorials are several versions out of date (v4.77) but I will try to update them when I can

Firstly, I need to address a couple of system requirements

If you are living in a country which uses the comma (,) for decimal separator, then while playing Aurora you have to switch the Regional Settings of your computer over to US or UK or another country that uses the period (.) as the decimal separator. In XP this is in the Control Panel. Sorry I can't provide country-specific software but this game is a hobby for me not a commercial project.

The minimum resolution required is 1280x1024 for the normal mode or 1280x800 for the reduced height window mode. A higher resolution or multiple monitors will allow you to see more windows at once. If your display doesn´t support this, there are ways around it, provided your video card supports a higher resolution than your monitor/display.

1. Scrolling desktop. A program that extends the desktop beyond your screen can be found at

2. In XP, something similar is already built in but it does carry a warning from Microsoft so you will have to decide if this is worth trying. Go to the screen where you set your resolution. Select the Advanced button and then select the Monitor tab. There is a checkbox which reads "Hide modes that this monitor cannot display". If you uncheck this box, you can set resolution to anything your graphics card can handle. If this resolution is higher than what your monitor can display, whenever your mouse pointer reaches the edge of your screen, the whole screen will scroll in that direction.

Part 1: New Game Creation

When you start Aurora, the first thing you should see is a small window with Game Details in the title bar. Across the bottom are four buttons: New, Save, Delete Game and Select. In a moment we are going to be pressing New but a quick word on Select first. Select will choose the currently selected game and take you to the main menu bar (which is really just a window title bar and a menu in the centre of the screen). If you accidentally press Select and get to this menu bar before setting up a game, you can go back to the Game Details window by pressing Ctrl-I or choosing Game Info from the Game menu.

To start a new game, press the New button on the Game Details window, This will open a much larger window with the title "Create New Game". This may seem a little overwhelming at first but most of the standard options are already selected. I'll run through most of them so you can set up the type of game you want.

Game Name is self-explanatory. Perhaps "My First Game", or maybe "My First Rampage Through the Galaxy", depending on your style. Leave the SpaceMaster Password blank as that is really for refereed multi-player games.

Starting Year: Any number you like. Aurora keeps track of time using years, months, days and seconds. You will start at 00:00 on January 1st of whatever year you select.

Maximum Number of Systems: This isn't really the max number of systems that you can have in your universe as it can be changed at any time during the game. In effect, it is the highest system number that will be generated by the program in a random (not 'Real Stars') universe. Small numbers of systems means more chance of races being close together. So if you want a knife fight in a phone booth you can choose a low number of systems and if you want a slow leisurely build up before the carnage begins you can choose a high number. 1000 is in the middle of the range and is a reasonable number for a starting game.

Local System Generation Chance and Local System Generation Spread determines how much 'clustering' there is in a random game. This is something you don't need to worry about yet so you can skip this paragraph if you like. Still here? Well here we go then. In a 1000 system game, the program will select a number from 1-1000 when generating a new system. If the Local System Generation Chance is 50% then there is a 50% chance that instead the program will pick a number close to that of the current system. Just how close depends on the Local System Generation Spread. If your current system is number 100 and the Local System Generation Spread is 15, then if a local system is selected it will be between 85 and 115. Why does this make a difference? Well, if you pick a system that already exists when entering a jump point, you will create a link to a new system. If every system was generated randomly from 1-1000, the galactic map will probably comprise a large number of independent chains of systems stretching out from your start point. If the number range selected is small then there is a lot more chance of encountering nearby systems so you generate a far more inter-connected universe with a lot of connections between chains and loops of systems.

Construction Cycle Time: You get to build a lot of things in different things in Aurora and the actual construction takes place in what is commonly referred to as the 5-day increment. It would affect performance if Aurora updated construction times in every 5 second increment or sub-pulse so instead the game waits until an number of increments have passed that add up to about five days and then runs all the construction code after the normal movement/detection/combat phases. Because Aurora increments rarely add up to exactly five days between construction cycles, the program uses the actual amount of time that has passed, whether it is 5 days, 12 days or 6 days, 14 hours, 12 minutes and 45 seconds. This means that the amount of 'construction' carried out in each construction cycle may vary a little between cycles. You can choose to change the trigger time for a construction cycle from the standard 400,000 seconds if you want it to happen more or less often but I would suggest leaving it alone until you have a lot more experience with the game. Just for interest, here is a list of some of the things that happen during a construction cycle (jump to the next paragraph when you get bored :).

1) Population Growth takes place
2) Each population is checked to see if sufficient workers exist to man its factories, shipyards, etc, If there are too few then the planet's industry works at a lower capacity
3) Orbital Motion takes place
4) Lifepods are checked to see if they run out of air
5) Comets move
6) Transfers of Foreign Aid take place
7) Wealth is calculated and added to the wealth balance for each Empire
8) Each population calculates its trade goods production and supply and demand are set for civilian trade.
9) Ships are checked for system failures. If failures occur, the affected ships will resolve the problem automatically if they have sufficient maintenance supplies.
10) Maintenance is calculated for ground forces.
11) If some form of disaster scenario is in play, such as the Sun gradually heating up, then planetary environments in the affected system are updated.
12) Mining production for both player-owned and civilian-owned mines and asteroid mining ships. There are eleven different 'minerals' in Aurora and they are required as the raw materials for virtually everything you can build
13) Fuel production for harvesters in orbit of gas giants
14) Terraforming updated
15) Fuel is refined at populations with fuel refineries and sufficient Sorium.
16) Shipyard Activity takes place. This isn't shipbuilding but rather modification of shipyards. Increasing their size, adding new slipways or retooling to build a different ship
17) Ship Construction
18) Training of new Ground Forces
19) Construction of new installations, such as factories, shipyards, research facilities and about two dozen other facilities
20) Ordnance Production (building new missiles, sensor buoys, recon drones, mines, etc)
21) Fighter Production (small spacecraft < 500 tons are built in factories rather than in shipyards)
22) Research
23) Survey of planets by geosurvey satellites. Geosurvey by ships takes place during normal movement
24) Civilian Shipping Lines may build new ships if they have sufficient wealth. Rarely, new Shipping Lines may be formed
25) Civilian Mining Colonies may be setup. You can tax these or buy their minerals.
26) Crew Training takes place
27) Mass Drivers (usually on mining colonies) create new mineral packets and fling them toward their targets (usually populated worlds in the same system). Important safety tip! If you tell one population to send minerals by mass driver to another, make sure the receiving population has a mass driver too to catch it. Otherwise, the planet gets bombarded with unfortunate results for both industry and civilians.
28) Political Status of each planet in your Empire is checked. Those that have been conquered will move through several stages over time before they are eventually fully integrated into your Empire. This can take a number of years, depending on a number of factors including their species characteristics, the strength of the occupation forces and just how much damage you caused capturing the planet in the first place. It's hard to see your occupier in a good light when the planet is still in a nuclear winter and all the cows have two heads.
   'Loyal' populations can suffer from unrest due to a number of factors, including radiation (due to alien bombardment), insufficient military protection, minority status (of their species within the Empire), etc. This can be quelled with sufficient ground forces. Garrison battalions are ideal as they are relatively cheap but effective in this role.
29) Ruin Recovery: Xenology teams try to decipher ancient alien languages and symbology from ruins. Engineer Regiments try to recover alien installations from ruins where the Xeno teams have completed their work.
30) Geology teams search planets for mineral deposits that may have been missed by an orbital survey
31) Espionage Teams try to gain intelligence data from rival Empires.
32) Radiation effects are reduced slightly
33) Ground units recover readiness and morale. Readiness is recovered far more quickly if Replacement Battalions are available.
34) Ground combat units loaded in combat drop modules potentially suffer loss of morale if they are held there too long.
35) Ground Combat (Boarding combat takes place during regular movement/combat phase)
36) Communication attempts with alien Empires. Diplomatic Rating are updated or those Empires with which comms have been established and the status of treaties is reviewed
37) Commanders are checked for health problems and training accidents
38) Commanders potentially gain experience
39) If automated assignments are being used, the program review existing assignments and assigns new officers as appropriate.
40) Warnings are generated for any ships that are low on fuel
41) The Danger Status of systems is gradually reduced over time. This is used by civilian shipping lines to decide whether it is safe to operate in a given system.
42) Industrial Reactivation is checked. Sectors of industry on a particular world (Ordnance Production, Shipyards, etc.) can be shut down in the case on a manpower shortage. Reactivation of a sector takes six months

OK, I did say I might digress :). So back to the New Game window

The Non-player Race Generation Chance is the chance that an alien empire will be created if an eligible world is created during system generation. Eligible worlds are not that common but 30% is probably reasonable for your first game. A world may still be eligible even if it appears to be uninhabitable to your species.

The Non-player Race Population Modifier is a difficulty modifier. The size of a new alien homeworld population is generated on a bell curve with the midpoint being equal to the average player race total population. If you change this value to less than 100 the midpoint of the bell curve will move below the average player race population. If you increase, the midpoint will be higher than the average player race population. This method of alien race generation also means that you can choose any starting population size and the game will scale appropriately

If you really like comets, you can set a minimum number per system. Comets are good in the sense that they usually have accessible mineral deposits, often in the ten of thousands of tons range, but bad in the sense they may disappear into the Oort cloud with your mining colony and come back in a few thousand years :)

The next section is Setting Empire Parameters. Empire Title, Species Name and Homeworld Name are just text entry fields so you can be as imaginative as you like, or just leave the standard 'Terran Federation', 'Human' and 'Earth' entries.

Government Type includes some modifiers for Empire characteristics, such as Xenophobia, Militancy, Determination, etc. and affects the amount of industry and how it is divided at game start. For now, just leave it as a player race.

Main Empire Theme adds flavour to your race. Your starting ranks, random system names and auto-generated names for ship classes will be based on the theme. So for example if you chose United States for the theme, the ranks would be US Naval and Army ranks, the system names would be US cities and the class names would be Essex, Lexington, Spruance, Ticonderoga, etc.. All names can be overridden during the games if you prefer something else and you can change theme mid-game. There are currently over sixty different themes including such varieties as Canadian, Deutschland, Demonic Realm, Ancient Egypt, Knights Templar, Welsh, Barsoom, Swedish, ASEAN, etc.

Commander Theme affects the naming of your Commanders. For the US theme I imported the latest US Census data into the Aurora database. When you generate a Commander it will pick a random first name from 2000 possibles and a random surname from over 50,000. That provides about one hundred million names for the US theme alone. Different name themes will vary in how the names are generated are displayed. For example, the Roman name theme uses praenomen (given name), nomen and cognomen. The German theme will put the occasional 'von' in for flavour, etc. There are currently thirty-four name themes, including Russian, Japanese, Ancient Greek, Polish, Jewish, Arabic, Hobbit, Zulu, Norse, Indian, etc. Any name theme you need should in there somewhere. If you want to see more themes, I am always open to players creating themes and sending them to me for the next version. Let me know if you want more details.

The final part of this section is an option between a Trans-Newtonian Empire and a Conventional Empire. Stick with Trans-Newtonian for now, which is a standard Aurora Empire. A Conventional Empire starts with no space-age tech and you have to pretty much start from scratch, converting your conventional industry and researching all of the normal basic starting tech. This would be frustrating for a new player and this tutorial will assume a standard start.

Next is the Species Tolerance section. Each species in Aurora has environmental tolerances with their midpoint being their homeworld. The habitability of planets will vary considerably depending on the species tolerances so a world that is ideal for humans may be uninhabitable for some other species and vice versa. Even humans can be set with varying tolerances that can affect the difficulty of the game. For now, stay with the default settings.

These default settings mean that an ideal habitable world will have a temperature between 0 and 44C, an oxygen pressure between 0.1 and 0.3 atm, a gravity between 0.3G and 0.7G and a maximum atmospheric pressure of 4.0 atm. In addition to the individual species tolerances, the ideal habitable world will also need to have no dangerous gases such as Chlorine and will need the oxygen to be no more than 30% of the total atmospheric pressure. A planet that doesn't meet those criteria may be uninhabitable (if it falls outside the gravity range) or may require infrastructure to support the population. Note that you can put ground bases, troops, sensors etc. on any world except a gas giant, regardless of the habitability. If you want an actual population though, which you will need to run shipyards, factories, etc,, then the planet has to be habitable or at least have enough infrastructure for the inhabitants.

Next is Starting Population. This lays out the parameters for your initial population on Earth. Somewhere between 500m and 1000m is a good amount for a new player. Lets leave it at 500m for now. The other boxes can be left alone as they are mainly for specialized scenarios. For example, you might set the Wealth Creation Rate and Industrial Percentage fields to be very low (perhaps 15-20%) to simulate a country like China that has a lot of population but a much lower per capita industrial output and per capita income than the USA. In games that feature multiple starting Empires on Earth this can be an important balancing factor for the SpaceMaster.

Moving swiftly on to the Starting System section. Set the number of Sol Jump Points to 6. and leave the other boxes unchecked, This will give us plenty of avenues for exploration

In the Starting Tech system, uncheck the 'Assign starting tech points automatically' box so we can allocate our own tech at the start of the game. If the box is left checked, the game will randomly assign our starting tech points to background technologies. That can be fun if you want to create a more challenging start where you have to cope with whatever tech you are given. As we are learning at the moment, it's much more educational to choose them ourselves :)

Now we move to the second half of the Create New Game window. This is easier to explain as much of the information is already on the screen. Leave the Starting Race as it is so we can start on Earth. The other option is for SpaceMasters who are setting up their own universe and it is a LOT more complex.

Precursors, as the blurb states, are robot ships that guard some of the ruins in the game and small Precursor ships occasionally appear in non-ruin system. Leave this selected as Precursors provide valuable combat experience. Rather than a complete Empire similar to your own (which is what NPRs will be). Precursors are isolated groups of ships left over from an ancient Empire that dominated the galaxy until they were destroyed by the Invaders. All that remains are the few ships that guard the ruins of defeated foes waiting for new instructions that never arrive. Their mission is simply to eliminate all non-Precursor life. They have no real populations, although they may have small listening posts and weapon caches in the system. Although few in number and they don't have any survey ships for exploration, they are likely to be higher tech than your own Empire at game start and any starting NPRs. You will need to overwhelm, outsmart or simply avoid them until you are ready. The Invaders are extremely dangerous and very high tech. For a starting game, its best to disable them so leave that box unchecked. The Star Swarm can be very dangerous but are not on the same level as the Invaders so leave them in.

Leave the number of computer-controlled Empires (NPRs) as 1 and leave the two checkboxes in the section checked. One NPR is plenty for a starting game as new ones will be generated as the game progresses and new systems are found. An NPR is an Empire much like your own. It will be exploring the galaxy, encountering and fighting Precursors, setting up new colonies and improving its industry. When you finally encounter an NPR it may turn out to be friendly, depending on how diplomacy progresses, or it may be an implacable foe. Or it may change from one to the other at some point.

Don't bother with the optional simplifications for now. If you want to run a different style game in the future, you can always experiment with them.

Leave Realistic Commander Promotions on as it is one thing less to worry about and it does provide a good flavour to the Commander system. Turn off the Political Bonuses option as it adds an unnecessary complication at this point.

Leave Inexperienced Fleets on for now. You can turn it off later if you wish but the need to institute fleet training exercises adds a good degree of realism to the game.

Lets play with Real Star systems on as well. That takes care of system naming and it will add some familiarity to the universe. You can leave the Orbital Motion on as well. If you have a modern PC, you can turn on Orbital Motion for Asteroids as well.

Aha - the Moment of Truth! When you are ready click Create Game. This will take a minute or two and there will be a couple of popup messages. When all that is complete you will be back at the Game Details window with your new game selected. Press Enter to select the game and you will be at the main menu bar. Press F3 for the System Map and I will be back for part two of the tutorial after I pick up my wife from work and explain what a busy day I have had :)

If you have any questions on the tutorial, please post them in a separate thread so I can maintain this one just for the tutorial text.


Funny, I have a question about the only tangent in this tutorial (well everything else seem to hold up nicely). Anyway, is the Construction cycle that is described here at length is uptodate or there have been changes, if so what?

Erik L:

--- Quote from: Mor on December 17, 2015, 09:32:31 PM ---Funny, I have a question about the only tangent in this tutorial (well everything else seem to hold up nicely). Anyway, is the Construction cycle that is described here at length is uptodate or there have been changes, if so what?

--- End quote ---

The construction cycle is still 5 days.

How about the at 'length part', the 42 items list of things that happen during that cycle is it uptodate?

Erik L:
Stuff most likely has been added to it. Steve would be the one to provide a definitive answer there.


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