Star Trader was written by Dave Kaufman. He published a description of the game in People's Computer Company, volume 2, number 3, January 1974. People's Computer Company sold a paper tape containing the HP BASIC code.
Star Trader was written by Dave Kaufman in the BASIC programming language1 and was published in Volume 2, Number 3 of People's Computer Company's newsletter in January 19742.
A few years later, the game also appeared in What to do after you hit RETURN - A computer games book from People's Computer Company8 published by Hayden Book Company, Inc. of Rochelle Park, New Jersey. It contained a reprint of the Hewlett-Packard 2000F BASIC source code listing for Star Trader . This book can still be found at rare book stores, web sites and on-line auctions.
|Front cover of What to do after you hit RETURN - A computer games book from People's Computer Company|
The ASCII text based Star Trader is one of the the original computer games of interstellar trading. It started the "Space Trader" genre. Star Trader presents the players a map of the galaxy in which the they move about and earn credits by establishing trading routes. Each players seek to gain control of a limited of resources: food, fuel, ore, and technology, and travel through sectors of the galaxy trading them for money or undervalued resources. This game outlined the general details of a sector-based game with ports and a player moving between sectors trading three basic products (Fuel, Organics, Equipment) to earn credits. Detailed and involving, this could keep you occupied for hours.
|Atari BASIC Version - Instructions Part 1||Atari BASIC Version - Instructions Part 2||Atari BASIC Version - Instructions Part 3|
In the early 1970's, Bob Albrecht and Dennis Allison founded the People's Computer Company5, a California not-for-profit corporation that promoted the personal use of computers. PCC published journals (PCC Newspaper, People's Computers, iRecreational Computing, Dr. Dobb's Journal, The Computer Music Journal) and books What To Do After You Hit Return, ran a store-front computer center, and did outreach programs into the community.
The date is January 1, 2070 and interstellar flight has existed for 70 years. There are several star systems that have been colonized. Some are only Frontier systems, other are older and more developed.
Each player is the captain of two interstellar trading ships. You will travel from star system to star system, buying and selling merchandise. If you drive a good bargain you can make large profits.
As time goes on, each star system will slowly grow, and its needs will change. A star system that now is selling much uranium and raw metals cheaply may not have enough for export in a few years.
Your ships can travel about two lightyears in a week and can carry up to 30 tones of cargo. Only Class I and Class II star systems have banks on them. They pay 5% interest and any money you deposit on one planet is available on another - provided there's a local bank.
Interstellar space ships link the small community of newly discovered worlds. You captain two merchant ships with the future of the young, emergent worlds depending upon you and your fellow skippers.
You land and you liftoff, you buy local merchandise and sell what you have on board. You trade with the merchants and haggle over process. Bid too high? Try a little lower. Bid too low? Try again next time!
You buy your raw materials (like Uranium or Metals) on the less developed, newer star systems. With a full ship, you lift off and return to Class I or Class II star systems. There you sell out and load up on goods such as Heavy Equipment, or Medicine. Then out to the periphery for another haul.
But that's not all! As the years progress, the star systems will slowly develop, and those on the brisker trading routes will grow faster.
Just try to get the feel of the game. Find a friend and play for an hour or two. Spend a few days thinking about the game. Now get a few friends and play another short game for an hour or two.
Do you like the game? GREAT! Now read the box called ARE YOU GETTING INTO IT?
I'll make two suggestions:
Don't forget - each time you stop, type SAVE as your next port of call and keep the paper tape.
Here are some ideas for a better game -
You've played a dozen games with many variations. You're probably playing a long-rang game (50 years? 100 years?) with friends once or twice a week. Congratulations!
A few suggestions, some of which you've probably thought of -
Ever notice how the stars are distributed? At the beginning of each game, the Frontier Class (Class IV) stars are on the outskirts, the Developed Class (Class II) near the center, and the Underdeveloped Class (Class III) stars are scattered.
Here's how this is done (If you speak BASIC, look at lines 1900 through 2390 in the TRADER program).
SOL is our sun, and is the only Class I star on the starting map. It's always in the center.
All the other stars are generated randomly. Class IIs appear inside the box (50 lightyears on a side) while Class IVs (the Frontier systems) are generated outside the box. The Class IIIs are sprinkled throughout.
To make the star map more even, as each star is placed, only half the map is considered. The first star appears somewhere in the top half, Y≥0. The next star is placed on the right halfboard (think of it as East of SOL) where X≥0. Then the bottom halfboard, then the left and around again until all stars are placed.
After placing SOL, the program next places two Frontier stars, then one Underdeveloped. After these initial 4, STAR TRADER places a Frontier, an Underdeveloped, a Developed. Then back to Frontier for another cycle until all stars are placed.
Want to generate your own Star Map? Easy - Start with a large, blank Star Map. Now mark down SOL.
Use another sheet of paper to cover all but the top halfmap. Make a random toss (use a thumbtack or a wadded ball of paper) on the halfmap showing; if it lands inside the box, toss again. Mark and name the new star.
Rotate the covering sheet to expose the second halfmap. Toss again for a Frontier star. Mark and name.
Rotate again for each star remaining. Toss each time until the star is legal (on the map, inside/outside the box if Developed/Frontier).
One more thing - the minimum distance between stars is usually 15 light-years. If a new star is closer to any other star, toss again.
When your counter offer to their bid is too far away, the merchants will tell you. THAT'S TOO LOW or WE'LL PASS THIS ONE. But if you're within their Price Window, they will adjust and continue bargaining! Usually, they move a little towards your last offer. Beware - the Price Window gets narrower each round of bidding. If you stick to the same bid, they'll reject it.
The Price Window is widest when the number of units you're bargaining for satisfies the local merchants. If they want 6 units, you'll get your best prices by offering 6 (or more). Unless you want to save some for a later star stop, it's best to buy - or sell - what the merchants ask for.
Each Star System (including SOL) is constantly changing its developmental level. And so the balance of products and needs shifts as well.
Young Star Systems have surpluses of Uranium, Raw Metals and Gems but need alot of Heavy Equipment, Medicine and Computer Software. Cosmopolitan (and Developed) Star Systems are reversed - and this is why they make such good trading partners.
To make your own Econometric Model:
When you find some new Models that work well, let us know!
From the time when computer games where played on dot-matrix printers, here are the HP Standard BASIC versions of the Star Trader Setup Module and the Star Trader Main Module. This version supports dot-martix printers and punch tapes.
Here is the beginning of a port from HP Standard BASIC to Microsoft GW BASIC. Code needs to be cleaned up to fix the smaller real estate size of a computer screen compared to the dot-matrix pritner.