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Video Game / Space Trader

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The title screen.

Space Trader (Official Website) is a freeware game for Palm OS devices. It is compatible with Palm OS 2.0 and highernote . The game was initially released in 2002, with its most recent version being released in December 2005. It has since been ported to the Pocket PC, a native Windows program, and iOS and Android (the latter being retitled ''Dark Nova''), as well as more vanilla Android ports and iOS ports as of July 2014.

The game is based off of the fairly-popular Elite and Solar Warsnote . Space Trader itself became quite popular as far as freeware Palm OS games went, and it is commonly cited as one of the OS's best.

The game itself focuses on buying and selling goods between multiple planet-like "systems", with the ultimate goal of eventually purchasing a moon and retiring there. The player can choose to be a perfectly benign trader (perhaps bounty hunting on the side), or walk the path of piracy and plunder less capable traders (or somewhere in between) while dealing with the police.

The developer (Pieter Spronck) was writing a sequel at one point, called Picoverse, but unfortunately it has fallen off the map.

Tropes present in Space Trader

  • A Winner Is You: Your reward for claiming the moon is a nifty little picture before being ushered to the scoreboard.
  • All There in the Manual: The backstory of how the player's trading quest got started.
  • Anarchy Is Chaos: Planets under Anarchy have a very high concentration of Space Pirates.
  • Animal Theme Naming: Mimicking Elite, all of the ship types are named after insects. The player starts with a Gnat (one shy of the tiniest ship, a Flea), and the biggest on the market is a Wasp.
  • Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!: Frequently occurs for the player if they try to take out a target, only to find that the target gets a lucky streak of hits. This sometimes occurs with trader and pirate ships, too, should a strong player fight them.
  • Boring, but Practical: Trading back and forth between two fairly quiet systems (low pirates and/or police), steadily gaining profits.
    • Antigrinding: Systems take time to replenish goods, so doing this may result in suddenly running out of goods to trade at those systems, forcing the player to either wait or move on to another area.
  • Bounty Hunter: One way to earn money is to kill pirates. This also improves your Police Record, resulting in fewer inspections. If you're a criminal, you aren't paid bounty, but your record will improve anyway, reducing or eventually eliminating any punishment if you're caught smuggling.
  • Cheat Code: Has a few, which can be entered in the Galactic Chart's Find System box. The developer revealed them - with a cipher.
  • Continuing is Painful: If your ship gets destroyed and you have an escape pod, you (and your crew members, but they get sent home) will survive, but all of your cargo is lost and you're stuck with the most basic of the ship models. If you don't have many credits left, you're practically screwed.
  • Cool Starship: The more-expensive ship models boast impressive stats.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: What happens when a powerful ship meets a weaker ship, and the weaker has no luck in fleeing. Has the potential to happen within the first few days of the game.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Trading Narcotics can be very profitable, but good luck if the police catch you.
  • Dynamic Difficulty: Generally speaking, ships and equipment owned by pirates scales based on the player's current credit total.
  • Escape Pod: These can be bought from any shipyard, and are the player's one measure of averting Permadeath. The player character converts them into a Flea in order to continue trading.
  • Explosive Breeder: Tribbles, should they get their fur on any of the player's food.
  • Fascist, but Inefficient: Subverted. In Fascist states, both police and pirates come in a high concentration. The police are actually quite effective in prevention of trade in Narcotics, but are not interested in hunting pirates. Actually, the pirates mainly consist of government vessels that have gone rogue and rob random ships, without fear of consequences.
    • As the rogue cop vessels in Fascist states have no official sanction (and are shown as ordinary pirates in encounter screens) they still have one thing to fear: they are subject to lawful destruction shall they attempt to rob the occasional heavily armed trader who is willing to shoot them out of space for bounty. You can become one.
    • The Dictatorship systems play this straight. Piracy is pretty much looked through, as is smuggling. The police force exist mainly to protect the dictator himself.
  • Flat Character: Pretty much all the NPCs are simply there to give you something to do.
  • Guide Dang It!: Averted, more or less. The game includes a *very* extensive built-in help system, with text for virtually every dialog box that can appear. What little isn't mentioned there - such as details on the political systems and tech levels - can be read about in the included (external) documentation.
    • However, finding and completing all the quests can be difficult, as two only show up when you have a criminal reputation, and you usually don't want to spend too long as a criminal.
  • Immortal Life Is Cheap: In planets that run a Cybernetic State, the local Transhuman Aliens are all backed up on hard disk and death means no more than the loss of a ship, so both pirates and police come in huge swarms.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: The player can earn an unbuyable weapon through one of the quests.
  • Jack of All Stats: One possible way to set up the player character.
  • Luck-Based Mission: A few of the quests can end up this way, especially if the player needs to reach a specific system within a limited time frame; the system maps are randomly generated. And then there's the Amazing Stat Tonic ...
  • Moral Event Horizon: In-universe, destroying a police ship gets you labelled a "Psycho" and from then on the police will stop asking for your surrender and just shoot.
  • Nintendo Hard: Particularly for newer players.
  • One Nation Under Copyright: Corporate worlds. Always corrupt, so the police are bribable.
  • Permadeath: You can't reload your save if your character dies. Averted in the Windows port, however.
  • Polished Port: The Russel Wolf port goes above and beyond a straight port; bugs were corrected, the graphics got higher-resolution versions, and a few extra options were added to adapt the UI more for smartphones.
    • The Benjamin Schieder port does deserve mention, as it adds sliders to some dialog boxes and moves the main menus to a side bar.
  • Random Encounters: With traders, police, and pirates, mainly.
  • Randomly Drops: On occasion, a destroyed pirate or trader ship may leave behind some cargo, which the player may pick up.
  • Retraux: The Russel Wolf Android port adds the option of emulating the Palm OS color scheme. The port in general also mimics the style of the Palm OS UI, including drop-down menus and smallish "bubble-shaped" buttons. Meanwhile, the Benjamin Schieder port features the original sprites, including the app icon.
  • Schmuck Bait: You may encounter an abandoned ship during your travels. According to salvage law, you are free to take the cargo inside - including Narcotics, which can sell for a lot. Trouble is, the whole thing is an elaborate trap for catching criminally-inclined traders — if you take the narcotics out of the ship, the police will be waiting.
  • Space Pirates: A major enemy. Also, the player can be one (though it's not very profitable unless you have the right gear to avoid blowing up your targets).
  • Shout-Out: To Elite, Solar Wars, and Star Trek. The gameplay, as mentioned earlier, is even based off the former two.
  • Timed Mission: The aforementioned "get to a specific system within X days" quests.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: The player can be this, if he has a clean criminal record, a cloaking device, and smuggles drugs while remaining above suspicion by the police.
  • We Will Spend Credits in the Future