Critical FAQ on ihobo CFAQs
Discworld Noir - Manual Extract

ihobo Critical FAQ on Metro 3D's Armada (Dreamcast)

 1. What's a CFAQ?
 2. What is ihobo's relation to Armada?
 3. What is Armada?
 4. Should I buy Armada?
 5. What are Armada's best points?
 6. What are Armada's worst points?
 7. What race should I play?
 8. How do I control my ship?
 9. Is it worth talking to everyone?
10. How do I get into space? How do I land on Starbases?
11. How do I use my weapons effectively?
12. How do I navigate?
13. How do I read the scanner?
14. Why does everything have 100 hit points?
15. How do I make a lot of money?
16. How do I get a lot of experience?
17. What Ultratech should I buy?
18. What Ultratech is available where?
19. When do I get my next new ship?
20. Why is every planet boxed in?
21. I finished playing but my character wasn't saved. What happened?
22. How do I complete the game?
23. What's that floating in space that I picked up?
24. Is there a fast way to get the next mission?
25. What else is there to do?
26. How far does space go?
27. Where can I learn more about Armada?
28. What about Armada 2?

1. What's a CFAQ?

Check the Critical FAQ on ihobo CFAQs to find out more.

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2. What is ihobo's relation to Armada?

International Hobo was in no way involved in the design or implementation of Armada. Our only connection to the game is that we have played it extensively, and used it with focus groups to explore what facets of game design turn people off a game, or hook them into it.

ihobo comment: The boxed comments in this CFAQ are provided as examples of the sort of feedback ihobo provide with an Emergency Design Overhaul. For legal reasons, we cannot discuss actual Emergency Design Overhauls that we have performed.

Armada was chosen as a good example because the project experienced something common in the industry, namely a change in circumstances beyond the software house's control that results in a major rethink being required at a time when all the internal resources are tied up.

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3. What is Armada?

Armada is a top-down scrolling shoot-em-up for the Sega Dreamcast. It has been described as "asteroids the role playing game". Gameplay is almost entirely based around shooting swarms and swarms of alien craft, although there are some role playing elements, particularly in terms of collecting good equipment, and going up in levels. The player's ship becomes bigger as it gains levels, making the game both easier to play, and more satisfying.

It was one of the first games to be released in the US for the console, although the release date was delayed owing to last minute complications to do with problems with Sega's network. Armada was originally intended to be a massively multiplayer online RPG - it would have been the first online game on the Dreamcast, and the first MMORPG. However, Sega were unable to get their network problems resolved in time for launch, and Armada was hit with production problems.

ihobo comments: This sort of unanticipated crisis is common in the games industry, and undoubtedly caused panic and frustration at Metro 3D, the makers of the game. This is precisely the situation when an external consultancy like ihobo can offer relief to troubled software houses.

In this particular case, we would have taken everything that was already in place and restructured it within the design to take into account the lack of network access. It seems that Metro 3D had a good crack at doing this, but like any software house, there simply isn't time to resolve all problems in house, and until now there was no other way because design consultants like International Hobo Ltd did not exist.

4. Should I buy Armada?

As one of the first games released in the US, Armada is readily available preowned for $20 or less. This makes it a considerable bargain, if its blend of high octane blasting and role playing elements appeals to you. This is not a game that everyone will appreciate, however.

Be warned that this game is not available in the UK. British gamers will have to wait for Armada 2 which is expected no earlier than first quarter 2001.

If you are completely addicted to first person 3D graphics, you will probably hate Armada and consider it to be graphically crude. However, if you have ever enjoyed a two dimensional shoot-em-up (R-Type, Nemesis etc.) then this game could surprise you. Although its top down perspective with fog and starfield layers is simplistic, the sheer volume of beautifully designed and drawn enemy vessels will eventually win you over, especially as your own destructive power gradually escalates.

Be warned if you have any obsessive-compulsive traits at all that Armada can produce the same sort of symptoms as any other class and level RPG - you may find yourself staying up late at night "just to get the next ship upgrade". This is made all the more gruelling by the hideous spacing of the levels in Armada. If you do not like playing games for a long period of time, Armada is probably not for you.

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5. What are Armada's best points?

Far and away the best aspect of Armada in the view of many players is the ship upgrades. Most found themselves coming back to it again and again just to see how much bigger and better their next ship was. If anything, there was a slight disappointment from the ones that played the most that their ships were not as big as they could have been, even after hundreds of hours of play.

Each progressive upgrade does make your vessel much more destructive, however, and the difference between, say, a level 30 vessel and a level 1 vessel is staggering. This lends a sense of achievement to the game, even if on observation all that one has achieved is a lot of play hours spent on the game.

ihobo comments: the ship upgrades become such a drive to progress in the game that ihobo would probably have recommended making them come significantly faster; every two levels, or even every one. When the game was intended for online play, the spacing was necessary, because in an online game the players keep coming back for more to see how the community inside the game develops, often racking up many hundreds of hours play.

Without the online play, the longevity of the game for most players is not much more than 40 hours (this is roughly how long the main plot of the game will take to complete), and this is less than a quarter of the total play time probably required to max out the ship upgrades. Correspondingly, ihobo would have recommended placing the upgrades closer together, so that more players got to feel a sense of having 'completed' the game. As it stands, very few players will ever experience what ships are like at the highest levels.

Armada is also a fantastic multiplayer game - provided you can find other players who are prepared to come to grips with the control method. No other game in the history of the computer games industry has offered such frantic top down action, and Metro 3D are to be commended for achieving that.

Nice multiplayer touches include the fact that all players can keep coming back in (albiet in slightly worse condition) until every player has lost all their lives - this means the inexperienced player gets plenty of opportunity to practice their skills as they are in a manner of speaking immortal provided one player has not died three times.

Nothing is lost if you die - you return to the Allied Base (the centre of the game) with all your equipment and experience intact. This makes playing the game a lot more relaxing than most class and level based systems which usually punish harshly for character deaths.

The fact that characters are saved separately from campaigns is another nice touch - it means that if one of your friends is playing Armada at the same time as you, you can bring your character to their house to play in their campaign, and they can bring their character to your house to play in your campaign.

ihobo comments: there is a downside to the ability to "mix and match" characters and campaigns which could have been caught at the design level. Although in principle any group of characters can team up, in point of fact there is no point in characters of radically different levels teaming up. A 4 or even 8 level gap can be tolerated, but any larger than this and only the highest level ship will really be killing anything, and as a consequence they will be soaking up almost all the experience. The other characters almost needn't bother playing at all.

This sort of problem is common to class and level based MUDs (multi-user domains), which rarely bother to resolve it. However, there are several possible solutions, all of which could have been offered to Metro 3D if ihobo had been called in, although only two are presented here by way of example.

The simplest solution to level-gaps is to downscale the differences between levels (Gauntlet Legends is an example of a game which attempts this approach). That would have been disappointing here where the vast bonuses of higher level ships are actually part of the attraction. Our recommendation for a game like Armada would be to change the experience system so that experience is shared between all players, rather than awarded on a 'by kill' basis. Given that the online game was no longer an option, this system would allow new players to gain experience more easily, and mean that low level ships flying with high level dreadnaughts could act like "fighter escorts" and still get a share in the pickings.

The 'experience by kill' approach (which was founded with the table top role playing game D&D over two decades ago and became very old very shortly afterwards) is fraught with problems, and offers few advantages, except the possibility of players being able to 'snatch' kills from other players, which may be seen as an advantage to the more competitive players. We almost never recommend that all the experience goes to the person who takes the kill, and usually for an experience based RPG our recommendation is to split experience according to the amount of work done by each participating player. (Whether this could have been done in Armada would depend whether the processor was already working flat out to run the game in its current).

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6. What are Armada's worst points?

The plotted portion of Armada's game play comes to a very swift conclusion, and after that gameplay becomes immensely competitive. In addition, after the script writer went to great length to build up a sense of community between the players and the non-player character vessels, the whole atmosphere of the game is shattered after the last mission is completed, since the dialogue dries up and just repeats ad infinitum.

ihobo comments: one of the most common recommendations that ihobo makes is more dialogue, and more context-dependent dialogue. Not all software developers follow this suggestion, since there are often technical or financial reasons why this isn't possible. However, Armada appears to have used cheap (but competent) voice actors, and it is exceptionally unlikely that there was not enough space on the GD-ROM for more speech.

The place it is most obviously lacking is with the "wingmen" that players occasionally recruit. Each race has exactly one comment to make - from the snappy Scarab "There is strength in Unity" to the soppy Vorgon "Let's Team Up". Whilst these catch phrases become fun, they are irritating when they repeat incessantly, which is just about all the time.

It's possible Metro 3D added the "wingmen" to the game as a compensation for the fact that (with no online play) there wouldn't be other human pilots to fly with. This was an admirable move, but is let down by the lack of dialogue to accompany it.

International Hobo specialise in providing rapidly produced quality scripts for context dependent dialogue, and even if the development time was not there for context dependent speech to be incorporated, we could have provided additional speech which could have been used on a rotating basis, thus minimising the repetitiveness of the in game speech.

Another criticism is that the thirty one missions in the game are over very rapidly, and afterwards the player loses the role playing aspect of the game and is left with just the mindless blasting. This hurts longevity considerably, and since they occur in a linear sequence replay is generally tedious rather than rewarding. The script manages to hide the linearity of the story by giving the impression that the plot could go off in multiple threads, but the campaign plays identically every time you play.

ihobo comments: in the online version of the game, the players would have brought a life and atmosphere into the game, and Metro 3D could have kept the campaign going practically indefinitely by altering the server files. With the online version gone, more time should probably have been spent determining what was going to substitute for the online community.

Although it would add a couple of weeks to QA, ihobo would probably have recommended a branching plot structure, with a number of different endings. This could be done effortlessly inside the existing design since all plot development is done through dialogue.

ihobo would have sequenced dialogue (using only marginally more than was present in the game) to give the greatest impression that the players actions had a tangible effect in the game world. We would have recommended that the planets (which always remain under the control of the Armada or their allies) could become freed of Armada influence as a result of the players actions, since the loss of a few "dungeons" to fight in would have been more than offset by the sense of influence and participation, and since the code to run "safe planets" already existed in the Allied base. This would allow a long term goal of freeing all the planets to be aimed for.

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7. What race should I play?

The races in Armada are very poorly balanced, and appear to have fallen prey to the "it looks good on paper" syndrome. Having learnt from their mistakes, Metro 3D appear to be making more of an effort to achieve balance between the races in Armada 2.

The six races are as follows; each has a specific colour assigned to it which sometimes determines the colour of their shots, and sometimes the colour of the ships:

  • Terran (Blue): these were clearly intended to be "all rounders", but for various reasons the Terrans end up being inferior. The main reason is that the Terran's special ability - their homing missiles - can be picked up through a piece of equipment, and they are nowhere near as effective as the Nomad's torch sabre. Ultimately, the Terran undoing is that the Nomad vessel is (slightly) superior in just about every way to the Terran ship, meaning the only real reason to play Terrans is if you like their blue ships. When playing a Terran, you will probably have to get relatively close to your targets to fight them, since the shots only come out of the front of the ship.
  • Nomad (Red): the Nomads are one of the better races, and with the best weapon stats they become absolutely magnificent death machines at the later levels. Like the Terrans, the Nomads benefit from playing up close and personal, and since their torch sabre is omnidirectional, they even have an advantage when running away (although it should be noted that the torch sabre is available as equipment, so any race can use it).
  • Eldred (Pink): the Eldred's ability to be able to fire at warp would be fantastic, if it were not made completely redundant by one of the pieces of equipment later in the game. As it is, the Eldred is only worth playing if you do not plan to play the game much. By level 16, they are utterly redundant. Their experience bonus is all but useless because you will be struggling to make any kills at all if playing with anyone else.
  • Scarab (Black): in general, the Scarab is completely useless and unusable - although their partially phased "shadow" ships are very attractive. It's special ability - it fires two rear shots at 120 degrees to the forward shot - sounds great, but ultimately you can only be aiming one shot at any one time, so the extra shots are just random flak. From the sounds of it, the Scarab have been greatly improved for Armada 2.
  • Drakken (Green): the ability to fire three shots in the same direction is fantastically useful, and Drakkan ships are ideally suited to players who like a destructive spread in front of them. Their built in cash bonus is also handy, making them a reasonable choice, especially if you like the Klingon-esque green ships.
  • Vorgan (Purple): widely considered to be the best race in the game, the Vorgan's are in point of fact just wildly unbalanced. Too weak to be a serious contender in a single player game (unless you just can't aim at all, in which case they are a shoe in), they are only useful in multiplayer because their homing shots steal almost all the kills, and hence steal almost all of the experience. This is frustrating for just about everyone playing (even the Vorgan player who can become quite unpopular). However, Vorgan is the perfect race for a player whose computer game skills or shoot em up skills are just not as good as the other players, as they can just concentrate on staying alive and not worry about aiming their shots.

Ultimately, you should decide for yourself which race to play, but make sure you are happy with your choice, because you could be playing that character for a long time. Try them all and see which one grabs you.

ihobo comments: lack of balance between classes or races has plagued table top and computer role playing games for as long as there have been class and level systems. There are many solutions, not least of which is ditching the class/race based system entirely. We shall assume Metro 3D wanted to keep the game as a class and level system (although an ancient system, it has the advantage of being well known by gamers of all types, and therefore easy to pick up).

Many of the ihobo staff are veterens of table-top role playing games, and skilled at achieving game balance, and ensuring that advantages and disadvantages more or less balance out. An exact solution cannot be stated without more details of the internal workings of the game, but it would probably involve normalising the abilities so that all the race abilities could be acquired using equipment, minimising any advantage that any one race might have.

An additional minor point; not all the races have uniquely identifying shot colours. This is unfortunate, since it can often be the easiest way to locate your ship. White and yellow shots could have been used to remove the problem whereby Eldred, Scarab and Vorgan ships fire similar coloured shots. This is not a huge problem, however, since the Scarab triple shot and Vorgan homing missiles are highly distinct from the Eldred's basic forward shots.

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8. How do I control my ship?

Many people struggle with the Armada control method, mostly because they are used to relative control mechanisms, such as used in Micro Machines, as opposed to absolute control mechanisms.

In a relative control mechanism, controls are used relative to the character being controlled. If your character is facing up the screen, left turns them right and right turns them right. If they are facing down the screen, left turns them right and right turns them left.

In an absolute control mechanism, controls are relative to the screen. If you push right, your character faces and moves right, regardless of which way they were previously facing. Similarly, if you push up, your character will turn and move up regardless of which way you are facing. This is how Armada works.

If you have trouble controlling your ship, the following suggestion may help: always keep your analogue controller pushed in a direction. When you steer, roll the analogue pad around towards the direction you want to go (as if you were turning a steering wheel). This method means you will not generaly suffer the problem of the ship not turning when you want it to.

ihobo comments: Both relative and absolute control mechanisms have problems, and appeal to some people and not others. Giving the option to choose between the two might have been a good idea, although software companies are notoriously reluctant to allow for multiple control mechanisms.

ihobo believes Metro 3D were justified with going with the absolute control mechanism for a number of reasons, especially since once mastered this technique is by far the most appropriate for a screen so filled with action as a typical Armada screen.

To move, use the triggers to accelerate. Right trigger is thrust (think: Impulse drive; it doesn't drain your energy, but it's slow), left trigger is warp (which drains your energy for every race but the Eldred).

When you have been at warp for a short while, you will accelerate to your maximum warp speed and move faster, provided nothing happen to "burst your warp bubble" (such as a collision with an Armada ship) which will put you back to your normal speeds.

ihobo comments: the warp effect works well, and allows players to rapidly get to where they need to be in the game world. However, once slight disappointment is that the player is always in a position to outrun the Armada. No Armada vessel can catch the players if they decide to flee.

This is perfectly acceptable, but does mean one doesn't have to worry about fighting the Armada most of the time. This means the game rarely generates any surprises in long space journeys. Some Armada vessels have a weapon which temporarily paralyses the player, but it is short lived and more of an inconvenience than an effective weapon.

ihobo comments: It is highly unlikely that the material in the design documents would have made it apparent that there was no real possibility of an Armada ambush in the game.

However, if it was possible to divine this from the documentation (or from a Beta version of the game), we would have recommended a weapon which temporarily disables warp drive, possibly in the form of a "tractor beam" type effect. This would be particularly effective in multi-player games, where other players may have to rally round and liberate a player who has been caught.

Metro 3D may have intended for the players to always have the freedom to flee, in which case suggestions like the above would be irrelevant.

A button fires your main weapon, B your power pod attack (smart bomb), Y your power pod defence (shield), X activates the scanner.

You have three power pods which can be either used for attack or defence; they do not replenish when you die unless you have a Pod Siphon (see later). You can replace them by scanning Phoenix or by finding them amongst the debris of destroyed Armada ships.

The scanner is used to talk to people, recruit wingmen, collect salvage in space and to scan for anomalies. Later in the game, it is also used to activate wormholes.

You may well suffer problems learning the control mechanism, but persevere. Within an hour you'll be a natural, and that's a fraction of the amount of time you'll be spending the on the game if you enjoy it.

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9. Is it worth talking to everyone?

You can complete the campaign without ever speaking to any of the characters if you want, although it seems like a waste of the game. The script writer put quite a bit of effort into developing what personality they could out of the one-liners each of the characters gets to say between missions, and the voice actors give wonderfully understated performances, substantially better than in many games.

By the end, most players were disappointed they would never again hear Tak ramble on about the food mix, or Duke utter one of his pricelessly uptight remarks. If this sort of personality doesn't appeal to you, then feel free to skip speaking to everyone altogether, and nothing unforeseen will happen as a result.

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10. How do I get into space? How do I land on Starbases?

Up on the D-pad takes you up from planets; down on the D-pad brings you down to planets or starbases. (This is in the manual, but many players prefer to plough into a game without checking the manual. ihobo always recommends at least skimming the manual for any game, just to see what's there).

Some players report difficulties getting their ship to land at Starbases or Planets. Ships can descend to a planet or Starbase when it is in the lower half of the Starbase or Planet. If you are in the upper half, you may find you are out of the defined area within which you can descend.

ihobo comments: this problem is not a design issue, and probably should have been picked up in QA.

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11. How do I use my weapons effectively?

Until you get the Shiva, you have limited supplies of energy. It will always recharge, but when you warp, or when you fire, the bar goes down. Your shots are more rapid, and more powerful, when there's energy in the bar, so the most effective way to fire is in short bursts.

When you have equipment to make the energy bar recharge faster, you can make your bursts longer.

Once you have Shiva, you can just hold down fire and watch the enemy wither under your firepower.

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12. How do I navigate?

When you start playing, space is just a vast empty tract and you have no means to navigate at all. It is worth learning where everything is and the only way to do this (unless you have exceptional spatial skills) is to draw a map. It doesn't have to be complicated - just draw axes up to 30,000 units (don't bother marking any distance less than 1,000 units) and mark anywhere you go to on the map.

Although ihobo have a complete map to the Armada universe, we have not provided it here because half the fun of the game is finding new corners of the game universe through exploring, or following a lead given to you by the non-player characters at Allied base. Be sure to write down any co-ordinates they give you if you want to explore. If you don't want to explore, and you just want to do the missions, you can just wait until a new mission name appears at the bottom left of the screen when you talk to people. When you go into space, an arrow will guide you to the mission.

However, here is a list of the positions of each of the races' Starbases to help you find your feet:

LocationDirection from CentreCo-ordinates
Allied Base (Planet)Centre of game area 0,0
Allied StarbaseInsignificant distance North West-78, 99
Terran StarbaseShort distance North West-3408, 2400
Nomad StarbaseLong distance North (approx. NNE2421, 14343
Eldred StarbaseLong distance East (approx. ESE)13652, -5886
Scarab StarbaseMedium distance South-128, -9822
Drakken StarbaseLong distance North East12421, 7476
Vorgan StarbaseLong distance West (approx. WSW)-12989, 7334

There are also four secret Starbases, which you can find for yourself. None are further out than the 30,000 mark, so if you're looking for them and you go beyond this point, you know you've missed them. You can buy equipment at these Starbases at a lower level than at other Starbases.

The seven Starbases mark out a perimeter area around the Allied Base planet at 0,0. Armada ships get stronger outside of this area.

There are wormholes hidden in the map, although you will not initially be able to detect them. Use the wormholes by scanning them, at which point you will jump to the other end instantaneously. They can be used to move about a little faster than trying to go everywhere directly.

ihobo comments: we would certainly have recommended a map of the basic starbases being included in the manual, so the player could be better oriented when they start playing.

When you are near a planet, the types of ships you face in space will change. There is a circular area surrounding each planet where the "native" Armada vessels (the ones down on the planet's surface) can be found in space. Consequently, a change in the enemy ships could mean you are close to a planet.

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13. How do I read the scanner?

Green dots are friendly ships, red dots are Armada vessels. Big red dots represent capital ships - harder to kill, but worth more experience.

Green crosses only appear on the Allied Base planet, and are Phoenix (who replenishes your power pods when you scan him) and Lola (who repairs your armour when you scan her).

Red crosses are tentacled creatures which, when shot, leave a glowing ball behind which can be collected to repair armour.

Small white circles are mission objectives.

Big white circles are planets or Starbases.

Wormholes are marked with a purple circle.

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14. Why does everything have 100 hit points?

If Armada uses a hit point system (and it may do), it is hidden from the player. Instead, the player sees the condition of enemy vessels as a percentage - so they all start at 100, and they go down as they get hit. Weak ships will drop down fast as you hit them - bigger and higher level vessel will tick down slowly as you damage them.

Larger vessels always have a greater capacity to absorb damage; that is, a level 10 Armada fighter is considerably weaker than a level 10 capital ship.

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15. How do I make a lot of money?

Killing ships on planets nets more money than killing ships in space, but to make a lot of money there is no better way than delivering supplies to any Starbase except the Terran Starbase (which being closer offers smaller profits). The profit for delivering to all the other bases is the same. Here are the prices:

MaterialAllied StarbaseTerran StarbaseAll Other StarbasesProfit
Construction Materials15015517525
Medical Supplies10010514040
Computer Components20257050
Entertainment Pod12012519979

You must wait for the appropriate cargo to be developed before you can ship it (at the mission you are asked to deliver it for the first time).

If you don't have much money, Computers are the best cargo. If you have plenty of money, Entertainment Pods ("Dreamcasts" as we like to call them) are the best option.

ihobo comments: the commodity market is a hugely underdeveloped part of the game. With minimal processor overhead, ihobo would have designed a simple supply-demand system which would mean the player could not always ship to the same Starbase if they wanted to make a good profit. This would be more fun, and would keep the players moving between starbases when they are trying to make money.

In addition, we would have suggested making the sale prices at the secret Starbases to be substantially higher, to encourage expeditions to the furthest reaches of known space.

You can't trade money between players, but you can trade equipment. As a result, you can effectively trade money by buying stock and giving it to the other player to sell. This is a laboriously tedious process.

ihobo comments: we would probably have recommended that a facility to transfer cash between characters, and an ability to trade items without having to leave Starbases, were included in the game, to make character management easier.

Because a single player can drag other ships in warp, you can make the most money by tediously using a "mule" character (or characters) - another player brought in uncontrolled. All you do is fill their cargo bay with your extra cargo (by loading up, going into space, giving it to them and repeating) and reverse the process when you arrive at your destination. It is a lot of hassle, but it's the only reliable way to build up money relatively quickly.

Escort missions (see 'What else is there to do?') can also be quite profitable, but usually only in deep space where the opposition is strong.

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16. How do I get a lot of experience?

Fight a lot of Armada ships. If you are below Level 25, it is efficient to start a new campaign and run through all the bosses back to back (which gets progressively faster each iteration). After that, you do just as well to plough into the toughest foes you think you can survive and hope for the best.

Finding the hardest planet that you can still last a significant time upon is about the best way to accumulate experience.

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17. What Ultratech should I buy?

Much of the equipment in Armada suffers from the problem of being underpowered. Most of it is so weak in its effects that most players struggle to see an advantage, or if they see an advantage, they struggle to eliminate the nagging doubt that its effects are entirely psychosomatic.

What makes matters worse is that you can only have four pieces of equipment. This means that anything that might be helpful but you can't be sure of is dead weight, and you will quickly evolve towards four items which will aid you the most.

You can always pause the game and swap in different items when you need them, however, which means you can develop a set of optional equipment to swap in on demand.

ihobo comments: limiting ships to just four pieces of equipment would have been a reasonably solid idea in an online version because it would theoretically increase diversity between different ships. However, there are two problems with it.

Firstly, the players can swap in other pieces of equipment on demand, which inevitably leads to a certain level of frustration that one is constrained to only four items.

Secondly, almost all of the items of equipment are wholly or entirely useless. Most provide tiny fractional bonuses to the length of the energy bar, the damage of power pods or other areas which the player can barely experience the effects. Of course those effects are going on inside the game engine, but it all means nothing if the player doesn't experience the effects of the item. The list of items that follows shortly was compiled from the experiences of several players, and represents all the equipment anyone found to have an effect that could clearly be noticed.

Several of the ihobo team are veterans of board game and strategic battle game design, and we would certainly have proposed an alternative equipment roster (although the names of the equipment are quite satisfying as they are, the effects would have to be tweaked).

According to Metro 3D's request, we would either have developed a list of items with planned obsolescence (at higher levels, the old equipment becomes gradually redundant), or with maximum combinatorial effects. In essence, equipment would be constructed so that there would always be a reason to select one item over another. For example, an item which combines the features of two different devices would be less effective than two separate devices.

It is probable that after looking at the design documents, the ihobo team would conclude that the only problem with the equipment is that the modifying factors used are too small to be experienced by the player. Certainly, a situation would be reached where most, if not all, of the equipment in the game would be of clear benefit when used.

The following are the most useful items, although you should feel free to experiment with the other equipment in the hope that you find it works well for your style of play. You need to be a certain level to buy each item of equipment, but if you know someone with a higher level character, they can buy it for you and give it to you.

  • Pod Siphon: the single most important piece of equipment. With it, your power pods are restored every time you die, which means more destructive power, and more defensive options. In a multiplayer game, because you can continue to die provided at least one player has not lost three lives the pod siphon turns fast-dying characters into gratuitous exploding death blossoms.
    There are no upgrades for this item.
  • Impact Webbing: if you find yourself dying shortly after every collision with an Armada vessel (which can happen a lot in the early stages of the game), you should purchase Impact Webbing from the Scarab Starbase. You must be at least Level 4, or have a character who is Level 4 to buy it for you. At Level 16, it can be bought at the Allied Starbase. It costs 1800 credits. After about Level 20-30, you probably don't need the Impact Webbing any more.
    There are no upgrades for this item.
  • Warp Generator: unless you are playing Eldred, the Warp Generator is an extremely useful piece of kit. With a Warp Generator, only half your energy bar is lost to warp. This item is available at Level 4 at the Vorgan Starbase and at the Allied Starbase for 1300 credits.

    Upgrade: Armada Heart (4300, Level 12 Scarab Starbase)
    Upgrade: Shiva (50000, Level 16, Allied Starbase)
  • Energy Cycler: this increases the rate of energy regeneration, which is especially useful if you are having difficulty controlling your fire and you find yourself frequently trying to fire when the energy bar is empty. Available Level 4 at the Terran Starbase for 2300 credits, or at Level 1 at the Terran Special Base in Marauder territory (whose location is unknown to you at the start of the game).
    Upgrade: Energy Battery (3800, Level 12 Terran Starbase; L4 at Terran Special Base)
    Upgrade: Shiva (50000, Level 16, Allied Starbase)
  • Torch Sabre: Nomad's get this special weapon for free - everyone else pays 1800 for it (L4 at Nomad Starbase, Level 12 at Allied Starbase). It is far and away the best of the special weapons - it hits its target regardless of which direction you are facing (randomly determined at apparently random intervals) and best of all it is clearly visible, giving a satisfying sense of destructive power every time it fires. At the Nomad Secret Weapon or Secret Base (secret Starbases), this can be purchased at Level 1.
    There are no upgrades for this item.
  • Phoenix Rocket: although some players do not notice the difference, most recognise a more powerful forward shot - as if the weapon being fired was from the next upgrade of ship. Although you may frequently convince yourself that you don't need the Phoenix Missile, it can be addictive. Once you start playing a character with a Phoenix Missile, you don't want to give up the more powerful looking shots. Available Level 8 at the Nomad Starbase for 2800, and Level 1 at the Nomad Secret Base.
    There are no upgrades for this item.
  • Entropy Cannon: more damage and less energy per shot, this is one of the best weapon upgrades. 4300 at Level 12 at the Nomad Starbase; Level 8 at the Nomad Secret Weapon, and Level 1 at the Nomad Secret Base.
    Can be considered an upgrade of the Shot Booster or Penetrator, which are largely inferior versions of the Entropy Cannon.
  • Spatial Splitter: extra shots and also allows you to shoot phased ships, which is helpful but not essential. Some races (including the Vorgans)get their extra shots launched in a different direction which makes having this or a Shot Splitter (the Spatial Splitter's younger brother) almost essential. Level 8 at the Nomad Starbase for 3300 - or Level 8 at the Nomad Secret Weapon.
    Combines the Shot Splitter and the Probe, neither of which are essential by themselves.
  • Armada Burner: by no means essential, this is a useful piece of equipment to have around. When used, the ship's shots slow Armada vessels, which is especially useful for the Sentinel-type vessels which maneuvre to put a shield between themselves and enemy vessels.
  • Kill Scanner: this gives the Eldred experience bonus to any ship (and is cumulative with the Eldred's own bonus). This is only a little over 10% bonus, and frankly is barely noticeable on the long slog to the next ship upgrade. None the less, when you just can't wait to get to the next level, swapping in a Kill Scanner is useful. You can get it at Level 1 from the Eldred Starbase for 1300 (or Level 8 at the Allied Starbase).
  • Spectral Scanner: this gives the Drakken cash bonus to any ship (and is also cumulative with their bonus), much as above. Level 1 from the Drakken Starbase for 1300 (or Level 9 at the Allied Starbase).
    The X-Scanner is a combined Kill Scanner and Spectral Scanner; Level 12 at the Drakken Starbase for 4300 credits.
  • Hull Diffuser: increased damage resistance, which some players find useful. Level 4 from the Vorgan Starbase for 2300 credits.
    The Protection Ring is an upgrade for this which incorporates increased energy regeneration, which is useful until you have your Shiva. Level 12 at the Vorgan Starbase for 3800 credits.

There is one other item of equipment, attained late in the game, which we have chosen to keep secret in this CFAQ. Rest assured, you will want it almost as much as the Shiva, which provides infinite energy, and rest assured it is more expensive, so save up your credits. Like the Shiva it is available at the Allied Starbase, but you will need to be Level 32 to buy the last piece of Ultratech.

Almost all the rest of the equipment is useless. Anyone who can report a definite, positive benefit to other pieces of equipment is welcome to do so.

The most nominated piece of Utterly Useless Equipment has been the Ultrascope.

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18. What Ultratech is available where?

  • Allied Starbase

    1Warp Muzzle800Increased shot speed
    1Absorption Rod800Increased beam resistance
    1 Ultrascope800Detect Ultratech at long range
    1 Shot Splitter800More shots
    1 Defence Booster800Increased shield strength
    1Armour Booster800Increased armour strength
    4Power Gun1300Increased power pod damage
    4Warp Generator1300Warp only drains 50% of power
    4Power Rod1300Faster shot rate
    8Probe1300Hit phased ships
    8Kill Scanner1300Experience bonus for kills
    8Spectral Scanner1300Credit bonus for kills
    12Torch Sabre1800Beam attack
    12 Missile Rack1800Missile attack
    12 Armada Scalpel1800Increased rate of salvage
    16Energy Booster1800Higher maximum energy
    16Shot Booster1800Decreased energy per shot
    16Impact Webbing1800No damage in collisions
    16Shiva50,000Infinite Energy

  • Terran Starbase

    1Armour Booster800Increased armour strength
    1Power Rod1300Faster shot rate
    1 Missile Rack1800Missile attack
    4Energy Cycler2300Faster energy regeneration
    8Plated Emitter2800Increased armour and shield
    8Power Turbine3300Increased shield and power pod damage
    12Energy Battery3800Faster energy regen and max energy
    12 Armada Burner4300Main weapon slows Armada ships

  • Terran Special Base/Marauder Outpost (Secret Starbase)

    1Armour Booster800Increased armour strength
    1Power Rod1300Faster shot rate
    1 Missile Rack1800Missile attack
    1Energy Cycler2300Faster energy regeneration
    4Power Turbine3300Increased shield and power pod damage
    4Energy Battery3800Faster energy regen and max energy
    4 Armada Burner4300Main weapon slows Armada ships

  • Nomad Starbase

    1 Shot Splitter800More shots
    1Power Gun1300Increased power pod damage
    4Torch Sabre1800Beam attack
    4Power Spine2300Increased damage for main weapon
    8Phoenix Rocket2800More powerful forward shot
    8Spatial Splitter3300More shots & hit phased ships
    12Scorcher3800Increase weapon and power pod damage
    12Entropy Cannon4300Inc. damage, decreased energy cost

  • Nomad Secret Weapon (Secret Starbase)

    1Power Gun1300Increased power pod damage
    1Torch Sabre1800Beam attack
    8Spatial Splitter3300More shots & hit phased ships
    8Entropy Cannon4300Inc. damage, decreased energy cost

  • Nomad Secret Base (Secret Starbase)

    1Armour Booster800Increased armour strength
    1Defense Booster800Increased shield strength
    1 Shot Splitter800More shots
    1Power Gun1300Increased power pod damage
    1Torch Sabre1800Beam attack
    1Power Spine2300Increased damage for main weapon
    1Phoenix Rocket2800More powerful forward shot
    1Spatial Splitter3300More shots & hit phased ships
    1Scorcher3800Increase weapon and power pod damage
    1Entropy Cannon4300Inc. damage, decreased energy cost

  • Drakken Starbase

    1 Ultrascope800Detect Ultratech at long range
    1Spectral Scanner1300Credit bonus for kills
    4Energy Booster1800Increased energy max
    4Piercer2300Increased chance of critical
    8Absorption Battery2800Beam resist and inc. energy max
    8Power Chamber3300Detect Ultratech and inc. energy max.
    12Penetrator3800Inc. chance of crit. & dec. energy cost
    12X-Scanner4300Credit and experience bonus

  • Drakken Gasmine (Secret Starbase)

    1 Ultrascope800Detect Ultratech at long range
    1Spectral Scanner1300Credit bonus for kills
    1Energy Booster1800Increased energy max
    8Penetrator3800Inc. chance of crit. & dec. energy cost
    8X-Scanner4300Credit and experience bonus

  • Eldred Starbase

    1Absorption Rod800Increased beam resistance
    1Kill Scanner1300Experience bonus for kills
    4Shot Booster1800Decrease energy cost per shot
    4Energy Plating2300Beam resist and increased shot speed
    8Pod Siphon2800Power pods replaced after dying
    8Power Disk3300Exp. bonus and inc. power pod damage
    12Split Booster3800More shots at cheaper energy cost
    12Split Scanner4300More shots plus exp. bonus

  • Scarab Starbase

    1Warp Muzzle800Increased shot speed
    1Probe1300Hit phased ships
    4Impact Webbing1800No damage for collisions
    8Nullifier2800Armada ships do not subdivide
    8X-Probe3300No subdivide and hit phased ships
    12Power Converter4300Inc. shot speed and power pod damage

  • Vorgan Starbase

    1 Defence Booster800Increased shield strength
    1 Armada Scalpel1800Increased rate of salvage
    4Warp Generator1300Warp only drains 50% of power
    4Hull Diffuser2300Increased damage resistance
    8Power Ring2800Increased shield and energy max
    8Warp Lens3300Inc. rate of salvage + shots and damage
    12Protection Ring3800Damage resistance and energy regen
    12Armada Heart4300Warp uses 50% energy + shield strength

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19. When do I get my next new ship?

Ship upgrades are every 4 levels and take effect when you return to the Allied Base Planet. A fanfare accompanies your new bigger, more powerful weapon of mass destruction.

The experience for levels grows exponentially, according to the function 8 x (current level)^3. The required experience per level are as follows:

4216First upgrade
82,744Second upgrade
1210,648Third upgrade
1627,000Fourth upgrade
2054,872Fifth upgrade
2497,336Sixth upgrade
28157,464Seventh upgrade
32238,328Eighth upgrade
36343,000Ninth upgrade
40474,552Tenth upgrade
44636,056Last upgrade

After your last upgrade, not only will you look big and funky, but you have infinite power pods and therefore are practically invincible. Enjoy it - you've earned it.

ihobo comments: this experience chart would have been fine for the internet version of the game, but without that, it is much too top heavy. Few players will bother to raise even one character to level 40, let alone trying it with all six races.

We would have recommended downscaling the chart so that less experience was required per level, specifically, we would have reduced the gradient of the exponential so that the experience requirements at the upper end were more achievable.

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20. Why is every planet boxed in?

Presumably because the graphics for the planet do not tessellate, so the actual area that can be scrolled across is restricted. This is a shame, as it lends a wholly artificial quality to fighting on planets.

ihobo comments: the planet part of the game is perhaps the most disappointing. These are the game's "dungeons" (by comparison to an RPG at least), and they are essentially the same as space, but with different opponents and greater rewards.

We would have recommended a tessellating planetary graphic, so the planet surface could be made larger, and also made the planets more goal-oriented. By giving the player the ability to liberate each of the planets, the player can have a goal. The target number of kills could be quite large, so it would be a struggle, but each visit should reflect the strength of the Armada presence there, so the player feel a genuine effect. A series of larger and more dangerous bosses to kill en route could also be factored in.

When liberated, non-player characters from the Allied Base planet appear at the newly freed planets, and periodically the planets would be attacked by Armada ships, causing a new mission to be generated to attempt to defend or, if too late in responding, liberate the planet.

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21. I finished playing but my character wasn't saved. What happened?

In a multi-player game, each character quits with the menu option for quitting their character by name. Quitting in this way does save the character that is exiting the game.

However, when there is only one player, the option to quit character by name is not given. Instead, the option to quit is given. This will end the current game, and not save. Therefore, when you are playing single player, or when you are the last player in the game, you must use the Save Game option before you quit.

ihobo comments: menu systems ideally should be consistent for multi-player and single player games. If the menu system was detailed in the design documents, ihobo would have performed a structural analysis and suggested making the single player save game/quit analogous to the multi-player, so that the functionality of the menu remains constant.

If no menu structure was given in the design, ihobo would have offered to design the main menu system as part of its remit.

One nice quality of the save and load in Armada is VMU selection, which is both effortless and intuitive. Metro 3D are to be commended for having thought sensibly about what would be the best way to deal with this design issue.

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22. How do I complete the game?

The game will continue indefinitely, but there is a set campaign of 31 missions to complete. There are only three types of mission, unfortunately:

  • Delivery missions, which involve picking up one of several different commodities from the Allied Starbase and delivering them to one of the other Starbases.
  • Battle missions, which involve destroying ever more powerful foes.
  • Special missions, which involve going to co-ordinates doing one simple action.

The missions take place in sequence whether or not someone has told you about it, so if you know the location for the mission, you can skip returning home if you want to.

The following is the order of missions, the Level of the enemy for Battle Missions (you should aim to be about this level to take them on), and the location (or approximate locatoin) of each of the targets. They show up on the scanner as a white dot for battle missions.

MissionTitleLevel of FoeCo-ordinates or location
0(No title)L1Allied Base
1Destroy GuardianL4Just NW of Allied Base
2Deliver Construction MaterialsDeliveryTerran Starbase
3Deliver Food MixDeliveryDrakken Starbase
4Seek & DestroyL7approx. 8870, -4370
5Reduce Broodhome PopulationL89223, -4370
6Defeat the SentinelL9-9366, 3212
7Invade Life WorldL10-9408, 6400
8Defend VorgansL11approx. -14000, -7000
9Deliver Medical SuppliesDeliveryVorgan Starbase
10Dissect the Rock HammerL12-21022, -7000
11Deliver Computer ComponentsDeliveryScarab Starbase
12Destroy Claw CommanderL13approx. -13500, -4500
13Invade the Desert PlanetL14 -22998, -5327
14Scan for AnomaliesSpecial-326, -359
15Open the WormholeSpecial-22405, -9641
16Destroy Marauder CommanderL15-144, -9723
17Destroy Marauder GeneralL22-98, -4512
18Invade the Ice PlanetL17-14721, -20911
19Deliver Entertainment PodDeliveryEldred Starbase
20Destroy Armada Brain ShipL18256, -9328
21Investigate New Armada ThreatL197455, -14332
22Protect Eldred DomainL205442, -11002
23Liberate Drakken GasmineL2122522, 7334
24Prevent Tentacle EvolutionL2222954, -2886
25 Invade the Dead PlanetL238655, -17822
26Invade the Gaseous PlanetL2427421, 3284
27Invade the Volcanic PlanetL2522421, 24511
28Attack Armada MasterL26-20034, 31022
29Attack Armada OverlordL27-25032, 29878
30Invade the Infested WorldL28-31250, 342880
31Kill Armada Emergency BeaconL29-34123, 36544

The last mission can be completed with characters substantially below level 29 with good equipment, a few friends and a psychotic attitude.

After mission 31, space becomes much harder. The Level 1 Armada ships around the Allied Base go up to Level 16, and all the Armada vessel in space will be similar increased in level.

You can go to any of the planets to fight, which is the best way to get experience and money.

ihobo comments: the lack of any more missions after number 31 is disappointing. With very little work, existing dialogue could have been worked into an endless sequence of additional missions, reusing the bosses already fought, but placing them at ever higher levels. This could infinitely expand the basic game play at little or no extra expenditure of resources.

Combined with the ability of the players to "liberate" planets (mentioned before), and an ability for the Armada to retake the planets, the players would become far more involved in the development of known space and of the game.

More dialogue would be recommended (and scripted) to cover the additional situations, but there is plenty of material already available that could be switched for this alternative usage.

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23. What's that floating in space that I picked up?

It could be any one of the following:

  • Armour Repair: a green energy ball, left behind when a tentacled alien is shot.
  • Power Pod: a red circular pod, almost invisible on most backgrounds, left sometimes at random when you destroy an Armada vessel.
  • Credits: a little sparkling bone shaped piece of debris can be scanned or run over for money.
  • Ultratech: a little technoblock (usually very difficult to make out) represents a piece of Ultratech that has been found - that is, that you've been given a random piece of equipment. This is usually very disappointing, and does not happen often.

ihobo comments: it is a shame that at no point is there a mission which results in the player being able to salvage more advanced Ultratech. We would have recommended setting aside some of the more useful equipment such that it could only be found as salvage. We would also have recommended that the Armada Scalpel more noticeably increased the chance of salvaging.

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24. Is there a fast way to get the next mission?

Yes. Return to the Allied Base using the menu, then hold down your scanner and press up on the D-pad to ascend. On the way up you will talk to everyone - restoring your power pods, repairing your armour and getting any current mission.

You can also use this trick when ascending from planets to collect any salvage, power pod or armour power ups that you might have missed. It is worth "surfacing" frequently to check for what you have missed.

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25. What else is there to do?

Space is crawling with escort missions - a flashing green circle indicates a ship in need of assistance, and if you go to it you will find one of the six races with a huge carrier and a handful of support fighters (the Nomads have little men in battle suits, and are by far the coolest of the escort missions).

When you scanner the ship to be escorted, it begins moving to destination co-ordinates that you are given on screen. Payment is based on the distance travelled and the level of the enemy ships at your destination.

It is important when escorting not to lose sight of the ship you are protecting. It is very easy to peel off to engage a capital ship, only to discover when the dust settles that a squadron of fighters went straight to the escort vessel whilst you were occupied and turned it into debris.

ihobo comments: the escort missions are one of the more enjoyable aspects of the game, but marred by one fatal flaw. When the escort arrives at its destination, it just waits where it is to die. Since players often stick around for the fight at the end, it gives a very depressing and pointless feel to the gameplay.

Presuming this feature was documented in the game design, ihobo would have recommended making the destinations of the escorts by planets or Starbases, so that when the escorted vessel arrives it can descend to the base (using the graphical routines that the players' ships use to descend) giving a real sense of achievement.

If the supply-demand model for trading was used, the escort of ships could also effect prices at Starbases.

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26. How far does space go?

As far as we could tell, it goes on indefinitely, but other FAQs have unconfirmed reports of an edge of both the fog and the starfield.

At approximately 80,000 from the centre, all the ships become capital ships.

At approximately 200,000 from the centre, all the enemy ships are Level 50 - huge capital ships.

At periodic intervals after this point, different classes of ships are encountered, but they are all Level 50.

The furthest ihobo expedition went out to 320,000 from centre, where Shell-type vessels are the opponents. We encourage you to attempt psychotic expeditions even further into deep space and let us know what you find.

Robert Lemberg sent us this report from the deepest reaches of the outer rim:

"In my farthest trip through space I was able to reach around 520,000 from the center with no end in sight. By now the max experience from capitol ships was 154 and the max money from escorts was 1000. The ships I encountered were mostly lightning, marauder, and the ones that look like trilibites. If I manage to get farther I will tell you."

And Ashura Johnson sent us this report from the edge of the universe:

"First of all the co-ordinates of the end of space, in any direction is 1,000,110.

"Second of all you will need 3 things at least. A pod siphon, another charecter to select from, and another controller. With all of these set, head into space (best at level 12 for the one your using, and just use one at a time.)

"About 200,000 in, there are invisible ships that pop out of nowhere into your path, and a pod siphon is your friend, because you will encounter these off and on every 100,000/200,000 points in a coordinate, they are difficult to dodge, because the computer directs them so you run into them (my guess a safe gaurd to keep you from getting to the edge of the map).

"The main thing you want to do is race toward the end of the universe at high speed, using pod powers only to boost your shields. If you so happen to die, and lose your last man, quickly hit the start button on the second controller and load the other character, your character that just died will return to life (with one life) and you might want to quit the character you just loaded.

"Continually do this as you go through the universe, dodging all enemies to the best of your ability, (by the way, I recommend dodging the Invisible ships by swerving back and forth in their area, they are less likely to slow you down for long. And also, have an impact webbing equipped, or you might not last it the whole trip, and it's very hard to make it).

"Toward the end, the fog DOES cut off, and you can fly about 110 more points, then the map dissallows you to go further, however, I didn't notice any lack of stars, like other guides discussed.

All in all, there is an end, its just not worth it to find unless you want to prove a point or if you just want to go, and you probably only want to do it once."

ihobo thanks these brave explorers for their psychotic commitment to exploration!

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27. Where can I learn more about Armada?

The best other FAQ for this game we have found is at:

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28. What about Armada 2?

Armada 2: Star Command (originally Armada 2: Exodus) was originally planned to be released in 2001. However, Sega's discontinuation of the Dreamcast meant that Armada 2 was left without a platform, as it was designed with online play in mind (as the original Armada was) and the untimely death of the Dreamcast left no place to put it.

It is now due for release October 2002 in the US. It is expected to contain revised versions of the races with better racial balance, and substantially more equipment to choose from. It is planned that players will be able to use their save games from Armada to give themselves a head start in the sequel, but the extent of that head start has yet to be announced.

It will be available on the PS2 and X-Box only, and all versions will be able to play together on the internet.


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