Battlecruiser 3000AD – Preface

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1.1 Notes

This FAQ is written for Battlecruiser 3000AD v2.09. This is the final version of “Battlecruiser 3000AD” (BC3K, sometimes Battlecruiser Legacy), and represents three years worth of patching from the first release. This FAQ does not cover Battlecruiser-anything-else (Millennium, Generations, Online, the other online, 3020AD, Redemption, 3030AD, 3050AD, Battlecruiser Commander, Strike Pak, Skirmish Pak, Battle Zone, Tactical Engagement, Tactical Command, Project ABC, etc – at the time of writing only the first one exists as a stand-alone title – all the others were ideas, working titles, or test code). Earlier versions of Battlecruiser 3000AD are similar to v2.09, but with important differences. Early releases (Take Two’s North America 1996 v1.0 and GameTek’s European 1997 v1.01C4) were regarded by some as unplayable, missed certain features, and were poorly documented. Later releases prior to v2.08 (the early 1998 free v1.01D7C and Interplay’s late 1998 United States re-release v2.0) are playable, but omit a few features. This FAQ does not aim to repeat information given in the documentation accompanying v2.08/9 in the form it is originally given, and does not aim to fill the large gaps in the release documentation. Similarly it does not address questions related to the plethora of bugs and missing features in the earlier versions. Although certain information may be of use to anyone playing an earlier version, I strongly recommend you download current documentation, patches, and/or the entire game, and play with that instead.

BC3K was (is) possibly the most complex thing ever conceived as a computer game. It attempted to create a hybrid of multiple 1980s and 90s space combat/sim/strategy game styles – open-ended Elite, mission/pilot orientated Wing Commander and similar, capital ship-level Privateer, strategic Carrier Command, strategic ground battles, first person shooter, roleplay… That mix of play-styles, learning curve “that makes the North Slope of Everest look like a bunny hill” (Dean Gordon, writing for GamesDomain), and an “un-manual” (Tom Liam McDonald, writing for GameSpot) left many hard-core gamers lost. As Chuck Smith comments: “You might also like playing the ‘game’ within the game: trying to figure out how to play.” It attempted to generate the kind of persistent universe that a decade later is technologically difficult. Much of its alleged underlying technology was questioned by some writers. For example its much-hyped “Neural Net” AI was brought into question by Tom Liam McDonald and Keith Zabalaoui’s article, “The Neural Net that Wasn’t – The Quest for Artifical Intelligence in Battlecruiser 3000 AD” published in Boot magazine, March 1997. While BC3K contains a campaign (storyline/mission) mode, this does not meld seamlessly with the persistent universe in the way most players expect. Global events occur regardless of how the player performs their missions. To quote the v2.0 3rd edition manual: “Nothing you do affects the grand scheme of things nor does the world revolve around your existence.” All these factors were frustrated (something of an understatement) by the fact that upon release the game did not work.

Aside from its initial un-play-ability, the design of BC3K (and more recently the Battlecruiser series as a whole) continues to spark debate. In the eyes of many, there is no game here at all: BC3K is simply a universe simulation devoid of gameplay. Some are critical of how the features are implemented – to quote CNET Gamecenter (upon awarding BC3K the title 2nd Worst Game of All Time in October 2000), “the game itself redefined the term nonintuitive.” Others conclude the game tries to do too much and consequently fails to do any one thing well. And then some players enjoy it.

The topic “BC3K FAQ” has a history all of its own, related to the long-running lack-of-manual-saga. Kyle Reed started writing a BC3K FAQ as early as 1995, but appears to have lost interest upon release, and I have not found any text. Developer Derek Smart issued the first official FAQ in November 1996 (available here, ), although it is primarily a guide to avoiding bugs and missing features. The FAQ evolved into a technical FAQ, with no gameplay content. As far as I am aware, the only ‘fan’ based work is by Nai-Chi Lee ( ) – although that has little to do with the game, see What about the flame war? below.

The manual had a somewhat mythical, highly contentious status for many months following release. 80-85,000 manuals were printed in November 1995 but superseded by an extra year of development. Mark Seremet, then Take 2 president, writes (on AOL): “The game has actually gone through 2 other manual prints. We were unable to complete the product and, thus, the manual fell victim to vaporware.” The second unreleased manual was a “Systems Handbook” printed for the anticipated January 1996 release. Take 2 offered to distribute these in October 1996. DreamsRyou leaked an electronic copy of the manuscript at this time, much to Smart’s displeasure. On the manual Take 2 shipped with the game, Smart writes (usenet, December 1996): “The pamphlet that was out was courtesy of Tom Rigas (Take2 producer). The first time I ever saw the ‘manual’ was THREE weeks after the game shipped.” Mark Seremet had directly contradicted this on AOL forums, sparking a very public breakdown in relations between developer and publisher (see Why so many versions? Did it really take ten years to develop? Tell me some history… below). The (lack of) documentation became a focus for much of the bitter dispute surrounding the release of BC3K.

Smart had requested the help of fans in producing a manual immediately following release (source – AOL postings), but later preferred to write it himself. Take 2 includes a file “walkthru.txt” in some later versions, intended as a quick-start guide. GameTek included a tutorial for the first ACM mission at the start of their manual, which is something that the later Smart manuals avoid. Usenet posts of the time suggest that these were entirely written by GameTek, however much of the other text is shared with the Smart manuals. The later are structured like operating manuals, rather than guides. Smart’s first full (albeit ‘preview’) manual was released with v1.01D7C, late in 1997. The v1.01D7C manual includes a blank page titled “Appendix F Walkthru”, with a small note indicating the page is being worked on. By the time the final series of (complete) manuals appeared, the walkthrough appendix had been dropped. By November 1998 a tutorial was Derek Smart’s “top priority – I have attempted to do one but the game is so deep that a half-assed one won’t do.” At the start of 1999 a short file emerged containing about 30 tips, not structured as a tutorial. The tips file never developed further, and eventually disappeared from the documentation. In January 2000 the planned tutorial for BC3K was finally dropped in favour of a future tutorial for Battlecruiser Millennium. Daniel Moritz part-wrote an in-game training script for BC3K, but it was not completed, and I cannot find a copy of it.

Several internet sites claim to be selling a strategy guide for BC3K called “Battlecruiser 3000AD official GALCOM technical papers”. Ed Dille, the ‘author’, informs me that Prima Publishing cancelled project shortly after BC3K was released, and the book was never published. Dille’s company (Fog Studios) had a promotional relationship with the game’s developer for the two years prior to release.

BC3K is hard to research. A lot has been written about the game, but very little transpires to relate to BC3K v2.09. Usenet archives are full of posts about ‘the game’ (for example, alone has 24,000 threads archived by Dejanews/Google), but to quote Pat Lundrigan (in 1997), “I think I’ve read a couple a hundred posts about BC3K and maybe two were about game play”.

So, why am I writing this? Some have questioned my insanity, but… BC3K is a fascinating bit of software. Intriguing in concept; almost impenetrable in practice. Where most games will occasionally stump players in the minutiae of gameplay, BC3K stumps them at every turn. What little knowledge that does exist is fast disappearing, and very soon BC3K will mean nothing more than its development history, which is close to a legend already. As a set of operating instructions, the final manual is in many ways excellent. But BC3K is still in dire need of a guide to play, to complement those operating instructions. That is primarily what this FAQ aims to provide. It fails, of course. All it does is help expose what lies under that impenetrability. You will still need to try and find a game down there yourself.

1.2 Credits and Legal

This FAQ was written by Tim Howgego (also known as timski), copyright 2002-2006, unless otherwise stated. This FAQ draws on material posted on usenet (primarily and ), the official site , fan sites including several that are no longer online, and many of the gaming sites that have carried editorials on the game over the years – contributors are noted with the relevant text.

You may copy and repost this FAQ, but the content of the document, including the credits, must remain unchanged. Informing the author that you are hosting it is appreciated, but not mandatory. Ensuring you host the most recent version is also appreciated, but not mandatory. Intending hosts should be aware that very little has ever been written about BC3K that didn’t upset someone – this is “a game” like no other. If converting from text to HTML, please note the use of fixed width text in diagrams and greater/less-than characters.

Battlecruiser 3000AD copyright 1989-2000 3000AD, Inc. All rights reserved. 3000AD, Battlecruiser 3000AD, Battlecruiser 3020AD, Battlecruiser Millennium, GALCOM, Galactic Command, Xtreme Carnage, VRnGine, ACM, AILOG, SCI-LINK, game characters and associated logos are the copyright properties of 3000AD, Inc. 3000AD, Battlecruiser 3000AD, GALCOM, Xtreme Carnage and associated logos are the trademark properties of 3000AD, Inc. Other trademarks and copyright are owned by their respective trademark and copyright holders. This is not an official FAQ. It is not endorsed or authorised by the game’s developer or publishers; although Derek did say, “wow, that looks like a lotta work! Good job!” The author is not affiliated to the game’s developer or publishers.

1.3 Version

This is version 1.01.1, 15 December 2006. Altered formatting and updated links. Much like the game, this FAQ will never be truly finished. The tutorial and walkthroughs should be complete. I think the most commonly asked questions are answered, but inevitably a few grey areas remain.

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