[resource taken from Anaxian Research & Fabrication Institute]
The game comes with a comprehensive guide. The official guide is very good. It has
good tips for beginners at the end. This playing guide will make
more sense after you have read the official guide. Because the
game grew faster than its documentation, you may find this essay
based on one player's perceptions offers an additional mix of
useful tactics and tips to help you more quickly get up and
enjoying playing Stellar Frontier. There's plenty more where this
came from, and questions, comments and suggestions will be gladly
and gratefully received by the author, Anaxis, at firstname.lastname@example.org. If this essay proves to be helpful
to you, please be kind to other new players and pass on these
tips and those you discover on your own.
Object of the game
You are accumulating credits and
points toward ever bigger and better ships and components.
Your "credits" spend
at your Starbase to upgrade your ship's weapons and other
Your points *and* your credits
qualify you for promotion to higher ranks.
Higher ranks get you bigger
ships. (An announced but not implemented feature: buying the
Stellar Aces will get you ships not otherwise available.)
To get promotions, you have to
get two things: kills and "points", not to be confused
with "credits" which are what you use to buy better
ship components at Starbases. All three (kills, points and
credits) are important to you.
You get the most points (anywhere from 50 - 1000, depending on how much work you did) by being
on the winning side of a game "win". You get
a few points (anywhere from 3 - 20) and also credits when you kill an enemy ship or successfully conquer an enemy planet.
A game win is when one race
"conquers the system" as the message reads when it
happens. In general, you plant colonies on vacant worlds and
asteroids until your side has the magic number (Press R to see a
screen that summarizes the race to conquest by colonizing). You
can get "points" for other things in the game, I see
them from time to time, but I don't understand this part and it's
not significant compared to "conquering the system".
Press Shift + R to see how the Rank / Promotion ladder works -
you need both the kill number and the points ("TS")
number to advance. When you get promoted, you get a message
(upper left corner of screen) saying you are promoted and can
proceed to nearest Starbase to upgrade your ship.
Your ship needs its Tractor for
this operation. To pick up a colony you orbit a planet that says
planet available, press J and a colony is generated and attached
to your ship. Pressing J again will increase the population of
your colony if the planet can spare the colonists for you. Now
you are ready to carry it to its destination. You can press N,
then parse through the possible destinations with the , and .
keys, and click "conquer" on your selection to make the
AI ships (we all just call them robots) carry colonies there too.
Your number pad keys 5 and 8 make you go, although you can use
the N (navigation) screen to select the destination and click Go
or press G and your ship's "computer" will
automagically drive you there on auto pilot, albeit at normal
engine speed, whereas if you drive yourself, so to speak you can
press 8 and use Boost speed until you run out of it. When you get
there, you fly over the destination and press the / key to
release the colony onto its destination. Try to get a nice hit,
it's easy after a few practice runs.
You can't drop a colony on an
occupied planet without a fight from the colony on it and from
ships from its side. So you need planet-reducing weapons. Flames
were invented for that, and Rapid1 and Laser1 aren't too bad
either. You need a good Shield if you are going to try to fly
over with a colony in tow that has a bigger population than the
target planet's colony. I like to zoom over and release and run,
saves time reducing the target population, but it depends on
circumstances what's best.
Ai robot ships will attack you
and you will have a "dog fight".
If you win the encounter, or go
around attacking AI ships, it seems they try to gang up on you
and come at you as if for revenge. This is wonderful if you are
prepared for it, because you don't have to hunt them down when
you are trying to rack up some kills. Notice I did say if you are
prepared for them.
Human players will seek you out
as prey, too, of course, and you will seek out them, too. Some
players are very touchy about being killed and whatever tactic
you use that wins will draw their often angry denunciations. This
is part of the fun. On the other hand if your tactics permit them
to win, they will consider that their tactics are divinely
inspired and greatly to be envied and praised, and tell you so.
This too is part of the fun.
Some players are more in good sport vein and will give you (and
expect) the equivalent of "Touché" when one of you
wins a fight.
So how to win a fight? Well, the
T key tells you what your ship is targeting, the A key acquires a
new target, the , and . keys cycle through the targets after you
press T or A. Having chosen a victim (be optimistic), pressing F
(for Fight), lets your ship's autopilot take you there and fire
your weapons. Against AI opponents this may be all that's
necessary. Against other players, more cautious tactics will help
keep your Kill/Loss ratio positive.
Details on tactics appear in the
next section, but a word about strategy first: it's a Darwinian
universe out there. The big fish eat the little fish and the
little fish that learn when to run away live to be big enough to
eat other little ones in their turn.
Resist invitations to stand toe
to toe with someone in a fight.
Usually, they will have some
advantage you don't know about and you'll just be a positive
statistic in their K/L ratio in a few seconds.
Tactics and Key Game Controls
Everyone has a different idea
about the best fight tactics. That's what makes it a game.
First learn a few controls.
Pressing F1 in the game can identify some controls not covered
here. Then scroll through the list of command keys and their
short descriptions. Other players you meet in a game may be
willing to explain any you don't understand. Ask.
The - and = keys on the top row
of your keyboard zoom the main screen in and out. I find two taps
of the - key do wonders for keeping the surrounding area in view.
You have to zoom all the way in to be able to see your, you hope,
Green shield indicator around your ship. So you zoom back and
forth as needed.
The - and + keys on the right
side of most keyboards zoom the radar screen in and out. I find
that zoomed out so you can still see the triangle symbol that
displays a ship location is useful. You can zoom out more from
time to time to check the neighbourhood for planets and
You set a destination any of
several ways in your Nav computer, then press G or F or to have
your autopilot take you there. If you set a destination far
enough away, and if you have Q-Drive, and if your ship has a mass
low enough to allow Q-Drive, you'll enter Q-Space and fly there
unseen and unexposed to any dangers from other ships. If you
always have a destination set that is far enough away, you can
Q-Drive away quickly enough to avoid enemy fire. I try to have my
Nav computer always pointed to a planet or asteroid my race
controls so that I can press G if I get damaged and go there to
refresh and recharge my ship by orbiting it. You have one more
advantage for this preparation however. When your ship is
entering Q-Space you see an animated flash on your ship. If you
press the 5 key on your number pad during this flash, your trip
will be suspended temporarily and you will be frozen in Q-Space,
safe from enemy fire, but still at the scene of the fight and
able to see all that's going on.
In a few minutes your ship will
recharge itself anyway, so it can be a good idea to do it this
way. Or you can see things develop around you that make you use
this as an opportunity to set a new destination or a new target.
Curious why it's
"Q-Drive"? Game developer Doug Hendrix posted this in
"I asked Neil if we could
have a Warp Drive. He came back with a Q-Drive. After a while of
using it I finally asked, what is a Q-Drive? The answer . . .
It uses the energy in the
background Quantum photon field that we exist in (but can't
measure) to power the ship. In case, anyone is wondering, this is
a real thing. Look up a book or a webpage on
Quantum Field Theory for
You have to pick the weapons
that suit your mission.
If you are colonizing, if no one
else is playing against you, you might choose a pair of FlameII
weapons to reduce the population of target planets.
If you are dog fighting, you
might choose missiles or torpedoes. If you won't be carrying
colonies for a while, if you can dock at a Starbase you can
select the Tractor (press S, then , or .) and then press Shift +
\ to "sell" it to the Starbase and open up that slot
for something else in your ship's "load out". You get 7
million credits for your Tractor. That will buy a lot of guns or
Your own experience and tastes
will tell you what weapons you want.
As a general guide, in the game,
as in real warfare, the object of weapons is to concentrate as
much fire as possible on the enemy.
essentially a massive, 10,000-strength warhead on a 5 second
fuse, is a timebomb with a real kick, introduced with the .99.99
version update. Its volume (1,000) is so large, you have to give
up something in order to carry it. You only get one at a time.
But if you drop it and qdrive out of there in time, very little
in the immediate area survives. (Unless it's activated in the DAT
file of the game you play, you won't see it available as an
option. Game developer Neil Hillis told me he put it in as an
ethical test of mod makers and the players of their mods: when
available, would they use the "ultimate" weapon? Short
answer: of course!)
Even beginners can pilot an
extremely lethal ship with the BigOne. If you are nimble, you can
transform a Scout into a deadly weapon, able to kill anything in
The BigOne will just fit in a
Scout if you sell back to your Starbase your Sensor, your Boost,
your Cloak, and your Tractor.
Configure your remaining systems
as shown in the table below.
As long as you get close enough
to your victim, err, target, and as long as you can qdrive out of
there immediately after depositing the BigOne, you can kick some
serious butt and accumulate some serious kill numbers -- and
credits. You have to get within 100 pixels of a Starbase to be
certain of a kill, but what's gameplay without a little
challenge, daring and excitement?
Less extreme methods of
concentrating fire provide possibly more flexibility.
Consider the 3 missiles, smart,
heat and dart. Their warheads are 180, 400 and 150, respectively,
but their speed of fire and speed of travel are different. You
might hit a target with more darts than you could with the slower
flying heats. So darts might be the better choice; certainly they
cost the most, even though they have the lightest warhead and you
only get x of them. Smarts, on the other hand, provide you with
300 shots and they fly at a medium speed. If you are planning on
firing them at the rear (an often less protected area on a ship)
of a target ship, smarts might do a better job. It depends on
which weapon will score the most hits and that depends on the
target and the circumstances.
Or consider the 4 torpedoes
shown in the table.
Torpedo 1 has a warhead of 150
and a launch speed of .6 c.
Torpedo 2 has a warhead of 500
and a launch speed of .35 c.
Torpedo 3 has a warhead of 100
and a launch speed of .7 c.
Torpedo 4 has a warhead of 400
and a launch speed of .8 c.
Torpedo 4 has a high mass and
volume. Only Starbases or Dreadnoughts with very little else in
them can carry them. The other torpedoes will generally fit in
regular ships, depending on other components being carried at the
So let's restrict this
comparison to Torpedoes 1 to 3.
If you are in a Scout, you might
consider carrying 3 of Torpedo 2 if you are going to attack ships
you could hit with most of these relatively slow moving
torpedoes. Other ships carrying colonies, for example, make
pretty good targets for this weapon, especially if you attack
them head on or directly from behind. A Scout is the fastest
ship, the smallest target and the most nimble. It has the least
protection, too, but nevermind. If you are attacking faster craft
than colony carrying Scouts and Destroyers, perhaps Torpedo 3 may
make more sense, or even Torpedo 1, if they are more likely to
hit the target.
If you fire 20 shots of Torpedo
2 at a target, but only a few hit because of the target's speed
and evasive tactics, if a faster torpedo could land more hits, it
might be a better choice.
Cannon achieves more "hit
points" than the others. Cannon "costs" you more
mass and volume. A Torpedo 2 achieves 500 "hit points".
Only two Torpedo 2 shots would seem to need to hit before you are
ahead of the damage a Cannon can do. Except a Cannon hurts Armor
more than the other torpedoes. So, you have to try the possible
mixes of weapons ("load outs") and see what works for
Shields and Armor and your
recharge times (Power and Engine levels determine these) and your
ship's speed (the smaller, the faster) are your given defensive
factors. Your skill in anticipating shots and in maneuvering are
your individual defensive factors. Shields come in 7 strengths.
Each increase in Shield power takes up more volume and raises
your ship's mass. The newly introduced "Armor" comes in
3 levels, each progressively bigger in volume and heavier in
"mass". Every ship component does this, of course, so
"loading out" a ship is a juggling act.
Many "senior" players
who are eligible to fly Dreadnoughts enjoy flying a scout or a
destroyer. Dreadnoughts are powerful but they are bigger targets,
too, and slower than smaller ships. Watch (press the P key to see
the Pilots screen) who's playing and when you see a player with a
fantastic Kill/Loss ratio, say 10 to 1 or better, notice (use
your targeting computer by pressing T and select their ships)
what power, shield and engine settings they are using. I often
see these players using a 4-4-4 pattern, or a 5-5-3 pattern, or a
4-5-3 pattern, depending on their preferences and the rest of
their load out. I believe your power and engine settings affect
your recharge time and your firing rate.
Ship Load Outs
A Deadly Scout
Scouts have a vacant
"slot", so you can dock at a Starbase when you
get/find/earn at least 10 million credits and buy armor for that
Example: A fairly deadly Scout
can be equipped with Power 4, Engine 4 (or Power 5 and Engine 3),
Shield 4, Armor 3, Qdrive 2, Sensor 3, Boost 3, 1-Stinger,
2-Stinger, 3-Stinger. Note omission of Tractor.
The game's developers added the
Freighter after demands from those who thought beginners would
find it useful or even exciting as an easy target when the
Artificial Intelligence pilots (or "robots") fly them.
The Freighter, a one-weapon tube ship design, has the hull volume
of a Dreadnaught. Because beginners can select a Freighter, this
ship can be thought of as a one-weapon tube Dreadnaughtj. The
real Dreadnaught requires a player to accumulate points and kills
to qualify to fly it. The Freighter even flies at the same speed
as a Dreadnaught. So here we have an extremely interesting unit,
if you apply some imagination to it.
Laser 1, Blaster or Stinger
Other Considerations When
Equipping Your Ship
Shields don't protect you when
Cloaked, armor does.
Armor burns off quickly in
combat - so if you snooze, you lose!
Other ships have all 12
"slots" taken with components. You have to swap in and
out while at the Starbase, depending on your supply of credits.
If you aren't carrying colonies, as already mentioned, you can
"sell" the Tractor for 7 million credits and create 400
units worth of room in your ship's volume.
Remember, maximize Power and
Engine to maximize rate of fire.
Grenade 1 and Lasers set to Auto
can be good defenses against missiles.
Counter is "counter
measures". You press the ' key, if you include a Counter in
your ship's load out, and any enemy missiles within 100 pixels of
your ship will have their autopilots "scrambled" and
fly back at who sent them. When you are zoomed all the way in
with the = key on your main viewer screen, 100 pixels is
approximately half way or less across the viewing area. The
LaserI range is 200 pixels, as another comparison of distance.
Cloak, if you have room for it, can be useful in concentrating
your fire on your target. You cloak, glide right up to within 100
or 200 pixels of your target, press C to uncloak and, if you were
in attack mode (the F key), unload a volley right into your
target. If your volley is composed of the Torpedo 2 weapon, and
if you are close enough so that most of them hit, you may destroy
your target with that one pass. But beware, your shields don't
work when you're cloaked and some senior players can tell where a
cloaked ship must be . . .
Create a "throw away"
character and choose "Play Against the Computer".
Then when you are ready, join an
online game. When you are pretty good (comes quickly), create a
new character and "campaign" this identity in the
Stellar Frontier universe.
Game Chat Precautions
Have fun! Oh! I always go to
Qspace before typing in the chat window. It's very easy to get
distracted by an interesting conversation in the chat window and
get killed if you leave your ship exposed.