by David Bohlke
David Bohlke teaches high school math and computer programming, and also coaches football and basketball. He lives with his wife and two children in the fifth home he has built. Since 1978 he's had about 70 articles and programs published.
ThetaTen is an adventure simulation that features action, strategy and a three-dimensional playfield perspective. Originally a mining planet operated by the Intergalactic Federation, ThetaTen was abandoned centuries ago when its ore was depleted. Now a new rare compound has been discovered deep below the planet's surface.
There is one minor problem to be solved before mining on ThetaTen can resume. A droid colony of Saucerbots of unknown origin has taken over the abandoned mine shafts. The Federation is seeking volunteer pilots to man the Disrupter ships and smite the Saucerbots from the mine caverns. Of course, the mission will be extremely dangerous and most likely suicidal. But bounties of untold wealth await any who can survive, if only for a short time.
There are many different variables and options which will come into play during your mission. Following is a list of the major play factors on ThetaTen. Sometimes the information will be repeated so that you can get a good sense of how the variables interact with each other.
At the beginning of each mission, you will be given three Disrupter ships. For each $10,000 you earn, an additional ship will be awarded. The main portion of the video display is the front window of your ship. To the left, digital gauges will indicate the mine level you are at, the number of hits on Saucerbots you have achieved, the number of ships you have and your current earnings. To the right of your window screen are two variable meters which will register the amount of energy remaining in your ship and the amount of gold you have collected.
On the bottom left of your ship's display is a specially designed radar scanner, and the bottom right corner contains a mine map selector. A color-coded key to help you interpret the radar and map is on the bottom center line of the display. Your location on the map and radar will be shown in white, the Saucerbots' positions in yellow, the Saucerbots' home base in red, and the Energy Pod fix in green.
The ship's steering arrows are located on the bottom center panel of the display. To move forward in the caves, just position the mouse cursor over the arrow that is pointing upwards. For turning left or right, move the cursor over the left or right arrow. There are two keys labeled "W" and "M" to the left and right of the arrow panel. The keys are used for the Warp drive and a cave Map option and can be engaged by placing the cursor over them and pressing the right mouse key. You can pause or exit the program by pressing both mouse buttons at the same time.
Before play begins, an alert box will give you the option of selecting from three different mine dimensions. Each mine size is a different adventure with its own distinct strategies. A 12' x 12' mine is fairly crowded and hence will stimulate a lot of action. The 20' x 20' maze requires more move and location strategy to find the Energy Pod and home base. In the 28' x 28' shaft there will be plenty of room to explore, and it is almost always necessary to use the Map option to find the home base; and you will sometimes need the Warp option to get within striking distance.
Although play may seem abrupt in the various caves at times, a high score is achievable in all three with a little luck and a lot of cunning. Each new mine level is randomly generated when you destroy the Saucerbots’ home base.
ILLUSTRATION BY BRAIN JON HABERLIN
Each of your ships contains a wave disrupter beam with which you can destroy the Saucerbots and their home base. The disrupter uses 300 units of energy and can be fired by pressing the left mouse button. The beam is most effective at close distances; in fact, your chances of a hit decrease by about ten percent for each cave room between you and the Saucerbots. For each successful hit, you will be awarded 100 points times the cave level.
The Saucerbots seem to operate around a central home base on each cave level. Their home base is a triangular-shaped power source that must be destroyed before you can advance down to the next cave level. Its destruction can by achieved by a hit from your disrupter, and this should be the primary focus of your operations.
It is believed the Saucerbots got their name from the fact that they are shaped like a flying saucer, and they patrol each cave level in a droid robotic pattern. The Saucerbots themselves cannot fire upon you, but instead will attempt to ram your Disrupter ship. This in itself will not destroy your ship, but it will drain excessive amounts of energy from your engines. When your energy level is depleted, your ship will be destroyed.
The Saucerbots have a cloaking device which will at times make them invisible on your window screen, but your radar and map will always have an accurate fix of their location. They always become invisible when they move from room to room within the mine, but occasionally reappear to use their sensor devices. Even though you may not be able to see the Saucerbots on your screen, your disrupter can still destroy them. So you will need to watch both your radar and window screen to locate them. The Saucerbots will viciously attempt to defend their home base, and their numbers will increase as you advance down to deeper mine levels.
When play begins—and each time you lose a ship and use one of your remaining ships—you will have three thousand units of energy. The only way you can lose a ship is by depleting your energy, the level for which is indicated by the green energy bar on the top right of the display. This bar can display a maximum of three thousand energy units even though at times you may have more.
Extra energy units can be obtained by trading any gold bars you have accumulated. The trade is only possible when you are in a cave room that has the Energy Pods displayed. To execute the trade, just press the right mouse button. Each gold piece traded is worth one hundred energy units. The location of the Energy Pods is reflected on the Radar and on the Map option by a green bogey reflection. Once you trade your gold for energy, a new Energy pod will be placed randomly in the mine.
Energy is constantly being used to maintain your ship's functions; plus additional energy is needed to fire the Disrupter beam, to use the enhanced Map option, to engage the Warp move, and by your shields when you are hit by a Saucerbot.
Gold bars are strewn throughout the various rooms of the mine caverns. You will collect some money for picking up the gold, but it is more important for you to accumulate the bars as they can later be traded for energy. When you enter a room that has a gold bar, press the right mouse button to pick it up. The amount of gold you have is displayed by a gold bar meter on the top right of the display. A maximum of 50 gold pieces can be shown on the meter, though you could possibly have more in your possession.
The number of gold pieces on each cave level is limited, so it is imperative that you locate and destroy the home base as soon as possible so you can advance to the next mine level. The only way you can obtain additional energy for your ship is by trading the gold in the mine room that has the energy pod.
At times the Saucerbots can move with blinding speed. To keep track of any near your location you will have to keep a constant eye on the Radar. This instrument can sense the location of the Saucerbots, their home base and the energy pods within a five-room radius. The radar screen is always oriented in the direction you are facing and your location is the center of the screen.
Since the radar can determine positions through the mine walls, it is possible that an object may be just a couple of rooms away from your position; but you might have to transverse all the way around the mine shafts to reach it. Your main window screen can show objects up to ten rooms in front of you when you are facing a long mine corridor; so the Saucerbots and home base could be visible there first.
You have two different types of maps at your disposal, and both of them are always oriented with North to the top. The standard map that is always displayed shows only a rectangle the relative size of the mine with a small white dot on the inside to indicate your current position in the mine. When you lose a ship or use the Warp move, your last old location and your new mine location will be shown on the map.
If you become lost in the shafts or if you need an accurate fix on the home base and energy pods, you can right click the mouse when the cursor is over the M key to obtain an enhanced version of the map. This extra map will show the locations of all the mine shafts on your level and all the objects in the mine except for the gold. Using this advanced map will cost you 500 energy units, and you will need to study it quickly as it will be displayed for only about five seconds.
In addition to your radar and maps, another aid in navigation Is your ship's engines. Whenever you enter a mine room, the exhaust from your ship will leave a radon print on the cave floor. Your main window screen will show these prints, and you can utilize them to know if you are going in circles or when you are entering new rooms.
At times you will become encircled by the Saucerbots and need a quick exit; or you may be in a larger mine and miles from the action and want a timely move. These are ideal occasions to engage your Warp engines by clicking the right mouse button when the cursor is on the W panel button. There is some danger, though, since the Warp drive has not been perfected; and your destination will be a random location. The use of the engines costs 300 energy units.
Success in your mission will be reflected by the amount of money you earn. This sum is increased each time you pick up gold, hit a Saucerbot or destroy a home base. Each of these values increase as you progress deeper with successive mine levels. Also, when you destroy a home base, your earnings are increased by the amount of energy you have remaining. This can be a large sum, so if you have the patience and nerve you can collect gold and trade it for energy instead of hitting the home base early in each level.
There are many different scoring strategies on ThetaTen you can attempt. But instead of rambling over them, I think you'll enjoy the adventure more by discovering them yourself!