Echo Quadrant. An Overview of the Game
Echo Quadrant is a freeware, single player space based strategy game, designed for blind gamers, running on Microsoft Windows. The player controls up to 16 fleets of vessels, with the aim of building a sustainable empire.
The action takes place in a distant sector of the galaxy, where human colonists inhabit all of the systems within one of nine local quadrants. The player selects the quadrant size, before the start of any new game.
Economic trade is supported by fleets of cargo vessels, that fulfill shipping contracts. Shipping contracts are the primary source of income, but not the only source. Piracy is common, but the player will discover that piracy is only one obstacle to gaining wealth and power.
You begin the game with limited funds. Use these funds to purchase a ships, but be aware that vessels incur maintenance costs.
The game ends when your debts exceed your liquid assets, or when every fleet has been destroyed. Manage your funds and your fleets wisely.
Part 1. The Interface
Echo Quadrant opens a window on the desktop, that can be exited through the game's menu system. Pressing escape will exit immediately, but the current game may be lost.
The user interface is a bespoke menu system, with each menu sharing an identical layout. There are approximately 40 menus following the same pattern. Menu selections are made using the cursor keys and the enter key, or by using the mouse.
Note, that some menu items are information only, commands, links to sub-menus, or a combination of the above.
The menus are laid out as follows:
A vertical strip on the left hand side, acts as an exit option.
The remainder of the display is divided into seventeen rows.
The top row is the title bar, containing information about the current menu. The cursor will be placed within the title bar whenever a menu is opened.
The remaining rows provide access for up to 16 options.
Note, that some special lists may contain more than 16 entries, and cover multiple pages. In these instances, pressing space, will move an item to the bottom of the list. This can be useful when managing a large list.
The initial menu provides access to loading and saving games, starting a new game or continuing the current game. The current game is automatically saved on return to the initial menu.
Part 2. The Ships of Echo Quadrant.
Various types of ship are available for purchase from any colonized system. Each type of ship enhances the capabilities of a fleet. For instance, scout ships allow the player to instruct a fleet to explore a chosen quadrant. Cargo vessels allow the player to obtain and fulfill shipping contracts. Military ships can reduce the amount of damage that your fleet is exposed to during battle. The more cargo vessels in a fleet, the larger the contracts obtainable. The following is a list of generally available ship types:
Access the ship encyclopedia for more details.
There is a very specialized type of vessel called a Mayflower ship. This craft can be planted on any viable world, to form the nucleus of a new colony. Under the right conditions, the colony will gradually grow in both material size and population. When a Mayflower ship is planted, all of the accompanying ships in the fleet are cannibalized for materials. Read the section on Colonies for further information.
When a fleet enters a star system that contains a friendly colony, then you may buy additional ships for that fleet. However, when you wish to create a new fleet then you must select the slot of an empty fleet first. The location of the new fleet will be at the centre of Echo Quadrant, or the nearest colony to the centre.
The composition of your fleets, and their standing orders, will determine the type of encounter that can occur.
Part 3. Colonies
Colonies grow from planted Mayflower ships. Chose the location of your colony carefully, because the conditions and size of a planet determine population growth, and the probability of catastrophic events. Only one colony may be founded in any star system. Colonies may not be planted in any system containing a hyper-space capable alien civilization.
When planted, the entire fleet is cannibalized to create the nucleus of the colony. The initial size of the colony is linked to the materials cannibalized.
Colonies incur maintenance costs when new, but when the colony has grown sufficiently, with a sizable population, then its productivity will yield a bonus in the form of income tax. The tax rate can be altered, but the attitude of a colony's population will affect productivity. Populations may decrease for various reasons.
Assigning a fleet of ships to a colony will reduce the maintenance costs of that fleet. This is achieved through the colony information menu.
Planets vary in size through the following scale: asteroidan, mercurian, sub-terran, terran, super-terran, neptunian, and jovian. Only mercurian through super-terran worlds can support colonies. Life bearing worlds maximise population growth, and are found between the hot and cold zones. Mercurian worlds are too small to sustain an atmosphere.
Part 4. Commands
The majority of commands are listed on the game menu, and the standing orders menu. Some commands and orders can only be executed by specific types of ship, that need to be present in the fleet. Ship purchase is accessible through the line item that lists the composition of your fleet, and through a keyboard shortcut.
Each turn of the game consists of immediate actions and issuing standing orders. Switching between fleets, allows the player to command fleets individually. All standing orders are executed when the player selects the option: Process Turn.
Certain actions are immediate, such as buying ships. Other actions occur when the turn is processed, such as movement through space. All encounters occur during the processing of the turn.
Fleets will report any failure to fulfill a standing order. This will usually involve an alert notification menu that can be exited in the usual way, or by selecting OK.
Part 5. Shipping Contracts.
When a fleet obtains a shipping contract then it is legally bound to fulfill that contract, within the specified time limit. Failure to fulfill a contract, for any reason, results in increasing fines. A breach of contract can result from: a partial loss of cargo through piracy, destruction or loss of a cargo vessel, or a failure to meet the contract deadline. Typically, remaining cargoes are jettisoned.
Most contracts are requested and awarded automatically, but it is possible to manually select specific contracts. Non-standard contracts can affect your reputation and provide higher fees. Carriers open additional contract options, with double the fees and double the effect upon your reputation.
Part 6. Battles.
Your fleets will inevitably engage in combat. Your choices will determine the magnitude of the result. The stronger of the two sides will always prevail, but you must decide upon the best option available. Careful management of your fleets will minimise potential losses and costs. This includes management of your reputation.
Typically, you will be presented with a battle notification menu. Battle menus are the only type of menu that inhibit the exit function. This menu will list the strength of each side, and provide you with available options. Sometimes, meeting the demands of a pirate is the lesser of two evils.
The winner may be presented with the opportunity to attempt the boarding of an enemy vessel. This depends, partly, on the presence of android marine units.
Additional help and instruction is available in the game.