Star Raiders Tutorial

Note: The following is a text version of an article that was printed in
the September 1982 issue of Byte Magazine.  I have not gotten permission from
them to do so, therefore, this file could be removed at any time(although it
is not too likely).

The article was intended for use with the Atari 400/800 version of Star
Raiders(which is referred to as Star Raider in the article for some reason).
Since the Atari 5200 version of Star Raiders is just a cartridge version of
the Atari 400/800 version, this article is perfectly applicable.


Advanced Star Raider Tactics and Strategies

C. Donald Harris Jr.
508 Misty Lane
Friendswood, TX 77546

	I assume that by now most people who own both an Atari 400 or 800
computer and the Star Raider game cartridge have either reached some level of
proficiency or given up the challenge entirely and gone on to other interests.
This article is directed toward those of you who have mastered the easier 
levels of the game, who thoroughly understand Atari's Star Raider Users Manual,
and are ready to attempt more hazardous adventures.
	From my viewpoint, the four levels of difficulty should be considered
in two groups:

* The beginner group (Novice and Pilot levels) will be entirely satisfying for
those of you who enjoy the game but wish to avoid addiction.  At the beginner
levels, your ship is small, almost indestructible, and will only be attacked
from the front.

* The expert group (Warrior and Commander levels) requires considerably greater
skills.  Your ship is larger, more vulnerable, and will be subjected to aft
attacks or even simultaneous front and aft attacks.
	I look at the Warrior level as basic training for the Commander level
and suggest that your advanced training begin with that approach.  Don't expect
much in the way of rank at the Warrior level -- the game-completion bonus is
too low.  A week or so of practice at the Warrior level will sharpen your
skils considerably and, with the tips provided in this article, you should be
prepared for mastery of the Commander level.

Overall Strategy
	You should first reach a fair amount of proficiency at the Pilot level.
For example, you should be able to fly "on instruments."  Without stopping to
think, you should know at once where the Enemy, the Zylon, is from the azimuth,
elevation, and range instruments on the display and which way to move the
joystick to maneuver your craft.  You should also know how to conserve energy
during hyperwarp and when using the twin ion engines.
	To properly prepare to wipe out your enemy, your battle plan should be
designed around three priorities: survival, defense of starbases, and energy
conservation.  The main objective of course is survival (no easy task at the
Commander level).
	To begin the attack, switch to the Galactic Chart and press "P" (the
Pause command).  Now, it's study time: note the locations of your starbases in
relation to the enemy's ships.  This should help you plan your hyperwarp jumps
from sector to sector more efficiently.  The early-game strategy for defending
starbases will include determining the starbase under attack and eliminating
the fastest-moving enemy squadrons first. (Never go after a four-ship enemy
squadron first, because you will find a starbase surrounded before you know
	You won't be able to figure out which starbase is first on the Zylons'
hit list right away.  It may take 150 to 200 centons (time units) of tracking
enemy squadron movements to decide.  In this interval, you should have blitzed
your second or third two-ship squadron.  Pick a nearby two- or three-ship fleet
(they are faster!) and attack it.  A caution: don't stray too far from the
galactic center until you're certain which starbase to defend.  You don't want
to waste energy crossing the entire galaxy to begin your starbase defense.
Don't forget about passing centons.  Check the galactic chart during lulls in
the fighting to make your hyperwarps short jumps to save energy.  Figure 1
shows the energy units used compared to hyperwarp distances out to nine 
sectors.  Notice the large energy increase for five sectors or more, and again
over eight sectors.  Once you've identified the starbase under attack, mop up
the sector you are in, if you feel there is time, and move to defend your
	As your attack continues, you should stay near the starbase under
attack and let the Zylons come to you; but watch the tricky Devils -- when you
least expect it they will switch starbases and begin moving to a new target.
Continue to wipe out the two- and three-ship fleets first.  Once you've done
that, the pressure is off your starbases.  Now that I've laid out the overall
strategy, let's proceed with the fun part: wiping out the evil vermin.

Behind Enemy Lines
	While in an enemy sector and attempting to destroy Zylons, your
objectives are survival and energy conservation.  The main energy drains inside
the sector result from hits from enemy photons and using the twin ion engines.
By far the most important of these is avoiding being hit by enemy photons.
Each photon hit costs 100 mergs (energy units) and causes damage.  Damage not
only reduces your chances of survival, but certain kinds of damage will mean
an unplanned trip to the nearest starbase for repairs.  The extra trip could
cost 300 to 800 mergs or more.  Eight hundred mergs is equivalent to about
eight final-score points, or the difference between ranks of Star Commander 1
and Star Commander 2.
	The ion engines should seldom be needed in the enemy sector.  As your
ship comes out of hyperwarp and coasts to a stop, three different types of
enemy movements will be found: ships with no movement, fast-moving ships that
will seem to approach you but then retreat, and ships coming on at full-speed
attack.  Notice that ships within 120 metrons (distance units) will always
attack, become visible, and be within photon range.
	Don't trust your tracking computer to lock on to the nearest enemy 
vessel.  If you are not immediately under attack when entering a sector,
press M (the manual-tracking key) to avoid nasty surprises.  If a ship is 
coming on at full speed, just wait for it.  When a ship seems to be coming in
for an attack, but then takes off in some other direction, don't chase it
because that's the sucker move.  Scan the sector for another ship to attack.
If you have the time and patience and are willing to wait, the enemy will
eventually come to you. (But don't forget that your starbase is under attack
while you are waiting.)  Early in the game at the Commander Level, you cannot
afford to wait.
	Contrary to what the user's manual tells you, speed 6 is not the most
efficient way to use your ion engines.  Energy requirements for shields,
computers, and life-support systems must be accounted for during the journey.
According to the manual, the energy drain for these systems is 2.75
mergs/centron (energy units per time unit).  Although my tests show a lower
energy consumption, the most efficient speed is actually 8 not 6.  Figure 2
shows calculated and measured energy consumed for distances of 500 and 900
metrons.  The calculated values are based on information taken from the user's
manual.  In either case, there is little difference in energy used for speeds
above 7.

Engaging the Enemy
	As you come out of hyperwarp and coast to a stop, you will often find
yourself overunning an enemy ship and being fired on before you are ready to
defend yourself.  Try this!  As the ship comes within about 150 to 200 metrons,
throw your ship into a hard turn in either direction.  Hold the turn until the
enemy has passed all the way behind you and is coming around the front again.
Watch your instruments.  By this time the screen will have stopped flashing,
and you will be ready to fight with no distractions.
	As the enemy approcaches from the front, maneuver your joystick to keep
him off to the side and low.  The idea is, of course, to avoid photon hits and
damage as he approaches.  When the enemy is about 20 metrons away, swing him
into your sights and blow him away.  Conserve your photons -- they cost energy
too.  Don't let the Zylon get much closer than 20 metrons before using this
maneuver, because he just might zip around behind you.  If two ships are
attacking from the front at once, concentrate on the one closer to the center
of the screen.
	A word about attacks from the rear: for several weeks I tried to handle
aft attacks without much success.  If you can handle a frontal attack one
second and an aft barrage the next (with all your joystick movements reversed),
that's great; but I've found that you can still reach Star Commander 1 without
mastering the aft attack.  To bring an aft-attacking enemy to the front, just
throw your ship into a hard spin and he will wind up in front of you.  You will
notice that you are almost never hit while in a spin.
	The toughest situation is simultaneous front and aft attacks.  You can
quickly turn off autotracking (press T) to concentrate only on the front.  I've
suggested how to handle frontal attacks, but in this situation throw in a small
amount of back and forth joystick movement.  This hurts the aim of the aft

Necessary Capabilities
	How do you know when to cut and run?  For some kinds of damage, there
is no doubt.  Some systems, however, are more important than others.  Table 1
is presented for your use as a guide only.  Many other damage combinations are
possible and are left to your judgment, skill level, and the game situation.
To help explain the chart, here are some examples.

* In a case where your photons are damaged, finish the sector if only one
enemy ship remains and then go to the nearest starbase for repairs.  If you
are outnumbered, leave the sector immediately.

* In a case where your computer and the sector-scan systems are damaged and
your ion engines are destroyed, finish the sector if you are faced with only
one Zylon, then go for repairs.

	A final hint: your subspace radio is much more important early in the
game than it is later when enemy ship movements are not as threatening.
	What I've just described here is just about all I know about Star
Raider.  I hope these suggestions will be helpful to your pursuit of new and
better ranking and many more hours of enjoyment.*