Halo - Training Ground
Where is it and what's there to do?
Halo was designed a few years ago as a means of easing new players in to the game without them tripping over the big factions in the game and invariably coming a cropper. Simply put, the old methods of throwing the newbs in with the lions were no longer working. Years of paranoia following some fast and loose use of the Trainee flag to enter sensitive regions of space had eventually caused more than one faction to adopt a policy of shoot all Trainees on sight.
Historically speaking, the opening of a new region of space has been met with a tidal wave of affiliations stomping over the new systems in order to claim and control them before the opposition was able to assert their supremacy. If this was to occur in Halo, then its very purpose, a place for Trainees, especially when combined with a shoot all Trainees on sight policy would be not only undermined but positively destroyed.
We therefore designed the systems specifically to be unappetising to the larger affiliations and announced them as such. They were mineral poor even for the common ores and utterly lacking in the rarer ores. At best the systems would be a refuge for the desperate and a place for new players to mooch about while they get their space legs. We were also very clear that Halo was to be heavily GM moderated. We would have no qualms about smashing affiliation assets in Halo should we feel that they were 'taking the piss!'*
There was however a real danger that simply throwing new players into a relatively deserted region of space with little or no resources would quickly cause them to leave the game. To compensate for this we developed Missions (though missions and their design go much further than this).
The first mission encountered by new players was designed as a simple back-story - detail your captain, choose a ship and press a submit button. This then gave the new player the follow on mission appropriate to the type of ship they opted for. We went with the principle that three ships and a total of 9 missions would give them around a month's play time to get the feel of the game. By this time they should be confident to venture further afield, should have been contacted by recruiters and may even have ventured onto the forums to say hello.
There was however the possibility that they needed more time or by opting to try to do all missions simultaneously, running everything they could everyday - they could exhaust the missions within a couple of weeks. They may even have opted to start a political almost immediately but by the same token not quite be ready to leave Halo. To this end we have more invested time coding game controlled positions with a minor amount of AI.
Halo Tramp Haulers
These small and rather dismal ships are operated by civilians (game controlled). They program courses between the civilised worlds of Halo, selling their cargo and buying new cargoes. There aren't hundreds of them so they are far from being the golden goose. They do however give the opportunity for new players to test their hunting skills (read 'Diary of a Privateer').
Last thing we want however is a sudden influx of the big affiliations looking to hoover up all these little nuggets. Rather we want to encourage them to interact with new players, using them as the middle-men for the short period while they learn the game mechanics. To this end the Halo Execution Fleet will be becoming a little more active and used as a deterrent.
Unique Trade Goods
Within the game there are certain items that have a variable value based on their location. This is analogous to real-world items where a cigar in Cuba is considerably cheaper than the same cigar bought in London. An item taken from its source to be sold at the other end of space can be worth more than 10x its source value (often more than 20x) when sold for stellars to a civilian population via a starbase. So, once you have acquired your cargo of unique trade goods, you need to find a means of converting them to stellars (in-game money). The simplest thing is to announce on the trade forum what you have and see who offers what. You can discuss where to drop the stuff off - maybe in Yank at a starbase or maybe somewhere more local. Consider this an important part of getting to know other players. A word of caution though, just because they can be worth as much as 20x to somebody, it does not follow that they want to pay anywhere near this much. At the end of the day, the goods are not worth anything to you until you own a starbase and then only if the starbase is a long way from Halo!
Halo is a place to start playing in relative safety, get through your training missions or ignore them, do a little privateering if this is what you want and when you feel ready, leave. You can leave via wormholes. There are two - one to Yank and the other to Corewards Arm. While flying the Trainee flag, your ships are limited to Halo and Kastorian Space as these two regions of space are GM moderated. This is for your own protection and to avoid issues such as discussed earlier in this article.
*Taking the Piss! - this is a term that crops up occasionally in Phoenix. While other Online Games may dedicate reams of definitions, we use this little phrase. Effectively it means playing outside of the spirit of the game as defined on an ad hoc basis by the Game Designers. Generally speaking it is fairly obvious, people get defensive about their actions, start quoting game mechanics and pointing at the past actions of others.