SSI's "Cosmic Balance", released in 1982 for the Atari/Apple II, and later ported over to the C64 (in 1985, I think), was one of my favorite games for the Atari 800. I loved the ability to build one's starship from the ground up and then send it into tactical combat against an enemy. It's been 26 years since "Cosmic Balance" was released, and I still don't think I've seen any game improve on its basic premise. The number of weapons and other variables was huge, the trade-offs between various components forced tough decisions, and the design options were infinite.
I played both CB 1 and 2 for years on my old Atari 800. It is mothballed at my dads place, half a continent away, so these days I get my fix using a (forgive me) Apple ][ emulator. I think I saw a post for an atari one not sure about the coresponding "ROMs" for CB. Some of your following questions I answered at Tomshardware.com
but I dont mind repeating myself.
My Post . . . Pasted
Back in like 1982 or 1983, when I was a geeky high school freshmanhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freshman , my dad (a fellow early PC pioneerhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pioneer ), sent me my first space game for my Apple II+, a humble SSI creation called "Cosmichttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constellation_Observing_System_for_Meteorology%2C_Ionosphere%2C_and_Climate Balance".
This no-frills game started off by allowing you to design a spaceship (or a handful of them, IIRC) an engrossing process involving managing things like several differen types of guns (with different FIRE ARCS!!! a narrower arc took up less structure points but might not be brought to bear enough), armorhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armour and force shields (you could also concentrate these on one part or another of your ship... depending on how you tended to fight), power sources, engines for speed and maneuvering (do you put all the engines in the back for acceleration or more up front where you can turn and maneuver), ECM and ECCM systems, missiles and mines, fighter drones, security systems, marines and etc.
The action was turn based, you gave your orders to move, maneuver and / or fire over the course of a turn, which was broken into something like 16 segments IIRC, then your ships and the enemy ships would move and fight.
At the time I thought it was a pretty cool game, it was quite engrossing and you could enjoy it for hours on end, the AI was fairly good. It was limited and kind of hokey in that the ships looped from one side of the screen to another (no more hokey than a screen with boundaries though) and you were very limited in the number of ships you could use... and the graphics were of course quite limited. Eventually as with all my old Apple PC games, the fragile Disk got too ragged and the game simply wouldn't load any more. All in all impressive, but i thought of it as a taste of the much greater games would exist in the future. Little did I know this would remain the best space game I'd ever played a full 23 years later!!!
My God I played Cosmic Balance I and II for years. I love those two games and . . . I remember most of the details for both quite clearly. I'd be happy to try to answer any questions people may have about them.
Basically just a rip-off of Star Fleet Battles, then.
Well there were some definite similarites, but then how could there not be?
I whole-heartedly agree! The Cosmic Balance was a Great game for the Apple II! Unfortunately, my copy didn't survive either. I would love to get a copy of the Apple or the PC version of this great game!
Mine was on an Atarihttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atari 800, but who's counting.
Hmmm? Play by email? Hmmm?
I have tried most of those suggested here SE, Stars etc.. they don't even come near where Cosmic Balance left off.
But to be fair, Cosmic Balance is a starship battle simulator and nothing else, just build the ships and duel it out.. no economic, no planet to take over, no galaxy to travel to etc.
Go grad a copy of winapple and a copy of the old cosmic balance disk image and relive the experience!!
Yes and No. Cosmic Balance was just a starship combat simulator but Cosmic Balance II was just a strategic level game that allowed an albeit lame interface between the two games (save your game, play Cosmic Balance I, okay who won, continue).
I remember and loved that game but I broke it. I built this ship that had like only 2 hyper long range sniper guns and some god awful number of engines. Because of the "go thru one wall and out the other" effect I didn't have to worry about turning just speed. If the enemy wasn't able to destroy me in the first few turns the very best they could achieve was a standoff, as I zipped by the entire screen once per turn taking long range super sniper shots at their weapon systems.
I wish there were something like it today.
It must've had 2 Disruptors, they are infinite range and are only effected by speed. They hit in speed ranges 0-20 then 80-99. I cant remember for speeds 100-235, but these were artificial speed attained by ( 1 ) computer controlled ships only ( 2 ) cheating.
IIRC the "universe" in CB 1 was either 4096^2 or 8192^2. If you wrapped around the computer ships would turn around. Also when you got to the edges and in particular the corners the ship would, for some reason (on the atari version anyway) not be displayed starting in the middle of the screen; it was weird.
I must say it's nice to have found other enthusiast for the two games
So I'm super-happy to be able to play it again. (Just dug the old Atari 800 out of storage, and found the disks.) I've had a blast the last few evenings, experimenting with various designs: the aircraft carrier which releases swarms of fighters, the ship with all its weapons and shields pointing forward which just rotates to face the enemy, the armored personnel carrier which has just enough weapons to breach an enemy's shield and then beams over huge detachments of marines to take out the other ship, the high-speed ship which evades the enemy and blasts his from afar with disruptors, etc. etc.
I'd love to hear what other kinds of ships people built! If you played this game, what were your favorite design strategies?
The game strongly favors fast ships. I believe the ten turn rule is an artifical kludge they put in the game so that people would make slow ones. I'll try to dig up some old designs.
Also, now that I'm approaching it with an adult's eye, I realize I've got some particular questions about how the game works, things that I never bothered wondering about as a kid:
(1) Disruptors have trouble hitting fast-moving targets. But does anybody know roughly how fast "fast" is here? My impression is that Disruptors have trouble hitting anything with a speed over 15 or so, but I'm not sure.
Disruptors hit in the speed ranges 0 to 20 then again at 80 to 100. Speeds in the 100 to 235, I can't remember, but these speeds can only be attained by illegal ships run by the computer.
(2) Is it EVER worth it to spend valuable Hull space to increase the Efficiency of the crew and/or marines? One of the five maxims of starship design given at the end of the manual says "Never economize on the crew space. If a crewman can't sleep, he can't fight." But it's never seemed to me that Efficiency affects the game much at all.... Maybe I'm missing something?
Crew efficiency increases the range of (non-disruptor) direct fire weapons. I havent tested the effect on disruptors.
(3) Shields seem underpriced. I mean, they're so valuable, and cost so little. A full Shield Strength of 30 covering every arc only costs 30 space, and the benefits are enormous. Does anybody ever actually skimp on Shields?
Yes, for fast side-firing ships the side that will ALWAYS be away from the enemy need not be that strong.
(4) The manual seems to imply that while ECM (Jamming) reduces both the chance-to-hit of beam weapons (phasers, photon torps, disruptors) and the damage caused by guided weapons (fighters, seekers, plasma torps), ECCM will only increase the chance-to-hit of beam weapons (i.e., does NOT increase the damage of guided weapons). Is that right?
The game has two formulas for direct fire weapons. One is used by light phasers and one by the rest (except disruptors which have infinite range). The difference in ECCM vs ECM will reduce the range of the weapon or not, depending. ECCM does not enhanse guided weapons. I'll try to dig up my game notes on this.
BTW Seekers utterly and completely suck. You can only launch one per turn, and how you divy them up in the racks (light verses heavy) is how many IN TOTAL you carry. Would that what you divied to each rack was what you could launch PER TURN, then that would be cool. But it ain't, so skip 'em.
(5) How the heck does ARMOR work?!?!
Under section 4.23 the manual says "A plating of extremely hard alloys can deflect enemy and protect a ship from damage. If an armored ship is hit, the damage it suffers is greatly reduced. Only plasma torpedoes can destroy armor, however a ship can be destroyed without first destroying the armor...it's just harder." And under Section 7.0 it says "When a layer of armor is hit, any further damage will be deflected. Armor itself can only be destroyed by damage from a plasma torpedo, although this does not prevent the ship's destruction."
This doesn't help a lot. I mean, does every point in armor absorb an absolute amount of damage?--so that having, say, 10 Armor will reduce the damage of every hit taken by 10? Or is the damage reduction calculated as a percentage of the ship's total space?--so that if a dreadnought (size: 240 cubic sectors) has 10 armor, all damage taken will be reduced by 10/240 (about 4%)?
I'm also wondering how much armor is destroyed by every plasma torpedo. Is it one-to-one?--a plasma torp which hits for, say, 15 damage will destroy 15 armor?
Hopefully some people are still playing this thing, or at least remember it from years ago. If you haven't tried out this awesome game yet, I hope you can track it down and give it a whirl!
This I'm not entirely sure. Planets have 50% armour but they DO eventually fall down. I''ve fought computer run ships with like 20% armour and it seems they took more punishment than expected. Bare in mind that the rules state that even though a system is hit it can still survive unscathed.
Really though the question is how does damage work? The question then is if say 3 points of damage get through is it three rolls or one for this damage. If it hits, say, a tractor beam (using 4 spaces) will three points of damage be enough to destroy it?
If you want me to, I can speculate about all this.
In other news
Wikipedia finally has an article about Cosmic Balance I (search THE cosmic balance), if you look through the article history you'll see I tried to post a bugs and exploits section which was rejected. So Ill reproduce it here (in raw WIKI format):
==Bugs and Exploits==
1. When setting up a scenario, Cosmic Balance asks you to choose your tech level before it asks you if you wish to use a saved ship. Furthermore, it does not check if your tech level matches that of the saved ship. This bug leads to the following exploit:<br />
* create a tech level 6 corvette with hull set to 15 and save,<br />
* reload the game, choose tech level 1 and load your corvette,<br />
* reduce hull to 5 and give your corvette a warp drive or cargo hold and save,<br />
* reload the game, choose tech level 6 and load your corvette,<br />
* remove the warp drive or cargo hold and set HULL to 20 and save,<br />
* repeat this process.<br />
Using this method you can give any class of ship a maximum 255 points of space.<br />
2. The following bug occurs with ships that have a maximum speed of 64:<br />
* the ship must be stopped and at speed 0,<br />
* give orders to increase speed to 32,<br />
* give orders to eliminate previous changes,<br />
* all power that was required to accellerate the ship to 32 will be returned for use, as per normal, but an additional 2 points of power will be created on top of that.
So have I yacked enough?