Part 20: Drive-by Hacking
Fleet is deployed. Command station is up. Ion cannons are mine, and AIP is ticking down.
This seems like an appropriate time to unlock spider turrets. For a lot of people these are pretty much the first thing they unlock, but I've held off up until now. Spider turrets have less attack than snipers but do engine damage which massively slows down any enemy ships. The effect of that, given that ships take time to get into firing range, time to move across planets and time to escape our crumple-zone worlds, should be fairly obvious. These will get rolled out across the empire (as part of a comprehensive turret refactoring I'm planning to do, but not really talk about), but particularly importantly they'll slow down the ships spawning from the super terminal.
Of course, literally ten seconds after the hack starts mining golems appear. The one on Ifice will go down to fixed defences, but I'm going to have to work out if I want to do something about Larji and Jomondza.
About a minute and a half into the hack, we've made back the 25 AIP from popping the command station and I have pretty much every conceivable turret on Sother. That 'will spawn x strength when it dies' number is going up alarmingly rapidly. It's a shame I couldn't get the bottie over here, he'd be having a field day.
Oh holy crap this went to hell in a hand-basket way faster than I thought it would. It used to be that the super-terminal did a tick every 15 seconds. Now it seems to be doing one every two seconds. This decreases AIP faster, but also result in ships spawning much, much faster. It won't be long before I lose the planet and I don't have my termination plan in place yet!
This is this is absurd. Command station is dead, I'm down to just 113 ships remaining alive on the planet. I've told the drone spawners to exfiltrate, but I get a feeling that they're all going to die on the way to the wormhole. What the hell happened to the super-terminal hacking I remember?
7.xxx Patch Notes posted:
- Now when a superterminal dies, it immediately does as many pulses as it did previously, again.
- In other words, with every superterminal-tick you're writing a bigger and bigger "I can handle this" check, and when the superterminal dies... well, it's still just a short-lived response, but if you're not careful it may be you who's short-lived.
- Pulse interval from 15 seconds => 5 seconds, in hopes of making the hack itself more "interesting", without buffing the end response.
- Fixed a bug where the spawn strength of the AI responses to superterminal hacking wasn't factoring in AI Difficulty.
These patch notes are slightly misleading though. The super-terminal is doing a tick EVERY SINGLE SECOND, and seems to be accelerating.
Oh. Hell. See that 26 HaP? IT'S GOING DOWN BY FIVE EVERY SECOND.
Oh god. Oh god.
Under its cloaker starship escort with the champion finally get into range of the super-terminal. They've been the only ships surviving on the planet for the last 30 seconds or so. Note, 31,000 FREAKING SHIPS ON THE PLANET. And a 170,000 strength spawn coming in when it finally dies.
Now, I just want you to soak this in. Take a moment to savour. That is 61,000 ships in the threat fleet. -86 HaP. Suffice to say this is the point where, under normal circumstances, I would be save scumming my arse off.
Location: Nomad One
Hello. I would like to introduce you to the missile silo. Suddenly, getting this place up and running had become an urgent strategic priority. As such, 39 engineers are being assigned to it.
Now, I can count the number of times I've seriously considered using nukes on a single hand with a few amputated fingers. The +50AIP is just so not worth it. Under the current circumstances, however...
A Martyr, rapidly built as soon as I realised everything was about to go to hell, moves in to do damage control as hostile ships start to float into Nomad One. Seven seconds until the nuke is online.
The nuke is on the move, but there are 4,000+ enemy ships on Nomad One. I take a drastic step and wipe out the command station in the hope that the AI will consider the planet destroyed and leave the precious beacon alone.
Nuke explodes on Kulikea, taking out maybe 4,000 ships. It's by no means enough. AI takes down the nomad beacon.
Okay, at this point I think I'm going to have to accept the inevitable. I can spend the next twenty minutes fighting a desperate defensive battle, throwing lightning warheads and Martyrs around in a last-ditch attempt to save my homeworlds. Or, I can rewind time a few minutes and make sure that I have a kill-switch force in place. Seeing as I imagine most people would like to see the nomad beacon wreaking it's havoc at some point in this LP, I'll do the latter.
<Tape Rewinding Noise>
Take two. This time, note the immensely important addition of our champion floating under cloaker starship cover close to the super-terminal.
Okay, 119 AIP. 91 remaining HaP, with 2.5k ships on the planet and around a 41k strength spawn on destruction. This seems like a sensible point to cut off the hacking. Champion moves in, while the few remaining ships are told to load into the transports for exfiltration.
Command station dies. Super-terminal dies. What a difference 49 seconds makes, we've gone from -86 HaP to + 84, and from an insane 61,000 threat to a manageable 4.7k.
Transports have exfiltrated our few remaining starships to Nomad One. Interestingly they seem to have bought a few dozen AI power slavers with them as well, which spew out partially digested fleet ships when they die. That, uh, I think that might be an 'unexpected interaction' (aka bug). Three Martyrs are in place to take the brunt of the attack. Note the +435,000 energy, which indicates how many ships we've lost given we were at 10k after building all our defences.
Huh, they're moving through Kinzupde and not attacking. Which is weird, because they have 36,000 strength there compared to my 11,000 on Nomad One.
A Martyr goes to say hello. 1,000 ships die. Ooh, and some of the dead ships were powerslavers. Meaning that we free some 200 fleet ships before they're completely digested.
A few minutes later and it becomes evident that the fleet has decided to go up against Ifice instead. They take it down easily, of course. Intra-galactic warp gates on Nomad One are paused so that our forces can regroup on Savkaeal. Somewhat worryingly most of this threat is Mk V, meaning that between Ifice and Ceurhung we've got over 100,000 strength worth of threat. Compared to our total fleet and fixed defence strength on Savakeal. Oh, and I'm not actually sure if the botty can zombify Mk V ships.
The battle for Savkeael has begun. 800 ships on the planet, and another 1,200 threat about to pour in from Ifice. On the defensive, our regen golem and about a thousand mixed fleet ships. And a modular fortress.
You may also notice that we're speed building a Mk III (Xampite) Martyr to help out, and are about to detonate a Mk II (Pysite) version.
Holy hell that is a lot of powerslavers. And remember, these guys swallow one of my fleet ships every 6 seconds or so. The second Martyr is vectored in on them as we need these to die ASAP.
This is why I'm afraid of power slavers. Even after half of them get caught in the blast, they've swallowed almost 1,100 of my fleetships. This would absolutely cripple me on offense, but thankfully I'm on a fortified world where my fixed defences can take them out and free up the ships.
Eventually the assault is fought off. Woman of the match once more goes to the regen golem, who has selflessly given her life-force to regenerate destroyed ships.
After that interesting experience we're once again sitting down on 113 AIP, just ten above the current floor. Total AIP reduction throughout this game has hit exactly 300, meaning that if we hadn't been methodically eradicating AIP reducing structures we'd now be at 413 instead. That's pretty much game over territory on 9/9. Anyway time to lick our wounds, send a cleanup party to Ifice, and maybe some remains rebuilders to Sother.
Next time, on AI War: Risks, Rewards and Defences
Just to make sure this gets into the archive. You may be wondering, 'what happens if you didn't manage to get the champion to destroy the Super-Terminal?'. Well...
Why yes, that is 76 million threat ships. This picture was taken seconds before the AI become self aware, broke out of my computer's memory sandbox and crashed the game. Which is one hell of an alternative victory condition.