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Basics of the System Map

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System Map window

OK, lets take a look at the System Map window (F3 from main menu bar).
The system map has several main display areas; The Top Bar, The Time Controls, The Sidebar, The Main Map Area and (optionally) the on-screen message display area.

The Top Bar (Icons)

The top bar is a quick, convenient way to open the many other windows needed to manage your empire. It is more fully explained here

Time Control

Below the Top Bar (Icons) are the Time Control buttons, which can be used to advance game time by the specified amount.

Warning: there is a glitch in the game that can prevent incoming missiles from being detected and fired upon by your automated defenses if you choose a long increment time in battle. It's safer to stick to increments of under a minute.

Main Map Area

When you open it for the first time we will be looking at the Sol system, possibly from a very zoomed-out view. The first time you look at a system the program will always try to include everything in the system within the frame of view, which means if Sol has some long period comets the system might be a green and blue blob in the middle. You can zoom in using either the + key on the your keyboard's keypad or the zoom icon near the top left. Each time you press Zoom the scale will double (you can check the current scale in the top left of the view-able area)

As you zoom in you will see two asteroid belts, the outer of which is the Kuiper Belt and the inner is the Mars-Jupiter Belt. You will also see about thirty small white circles with numbers scattered around the system. Those are jump point survey locations, which we will get back to later. Zoom in until you can see the inner system with Earth, Mars, etc. Click on Earth to center the map and keep zooming. Eventually the Moon will appear in orbit. Small bodies are hidden at higher zoom levels so they don't obscure the map. Zoom out using - on the keypad and click on Jupiter to center the map then zoom back in to see its system of moons. You can also use the numbers of the keypad to move around the system. When you leave a system the program will remember the zoom level and which part of the system you were looking at so you can easily jump back and forth between ongoing events in different systems.

The Sidebar

On the left hand edge of the System Map there is a grey Sidebar with nine different tabs and above it is the current system dropdown. This system dropdown is one of the ways you can select different system maps, although at the moment there is only one - Sol. The Sidebar should have the Display tab selected, which gives you the option to toggle on/off some of the system map symbology. For example, if you click on the Comet Path check box, lines will be drawn from the Sun through each comet and out to the maximum distance to which the comet will travel. You may have to zoom out to see the ends of some of those lines.

In the center of the Display tab is another drop-down entitled orbit comparison. This draws a circle around the system primary at the distances of various planets. Not much use in the Sol system but useful in other systems to give you an idea of scale. In the lower half of the display tab are several other display options with which you can experiment as you play the game. For example, unchecking the Show JP Survey Locations will hide all the small white circles I mentioned earlier.

If you move to the Body Info tab and click on any body in the system, you will get some basic information, although there are other places in the program where you can see more detail if required. The All Bodies tab has a tree view of all system bodies, including moons if you click on the small + icons. Selecting one will center the system map on the selected body. Sensors allows you to configure how you view details of your sensor capabilities and Contacts allows you to modify how contacts are displayed. We'll get back to those later.

Waypoints allows you to set waypoints for movement or missile launches. To create one click on Add and then click somewhere on the map. Click on the waypoints listed in the sidebar and click delete to get rid of them. Clicking the Last button will place a waypoint on the last system body you selected and that waypoint will move with it. Try selecting Mars and then click Last. A way point should appear on Mars. Select it on the sidebar and click Delete to remove it. This is useful for setting up a destination for a missile or perhaps a probe

The Military tab lists all the fleets and ships in the system. At the moment it will just list some empty fleets. Empty fleets don't appear on the map but they will appear in this Sidebar view. Minerals shows all mineral deposits in the system. We haven't surveyed anything yet so the only minerals displayed will be those on Earth. The Mineral Text button will show the minerals in text rather than a tree view, which is useful for copying and pasting into after action reports. Mineral text view also displays the number of planets, moons and asteroids in the system. While this view is useful for a quick check, the Geological Survey Report window is far more useful for detailed investigation of mineral deposits. I'll talk about this window later in the tutorial but if you want a quick look, it is about six icons from the right along the top of the window. The icon is a grey planet with a chart in front of it. Finally, the Display 2 window has a few more display options, including options to show weapon and fire control ranges. We'll use these later in the tutorial. If you discover any ancient ruins they will be listed in the Known Ruins section.

The icons along the top allow you to access all the other major windows in the program and the two rows of time buttons allow you to set increment and sub-pulse length.

On Screen Message Area

In addition to having messages appear in the message log, most players opt for a translucent section of the main system map area to show event messages scrolling up from the bottom of the screen. This option is turned on via the Side bar display tab options (Show Events). These messages are sometimes truncated but may be reviewed in full in the Event Log.

If an event is tied to a location then clicking on the message (either in the map screen or the log window) will center the map on that location.