E.P.T. is a very rare example of a ‘lost’ game where we have been able to recover a huge amount of design documentation. None of what you read here would have been possible without the generosity of Ricardo Pinto, who was involved in E.P.T.’s development.
The vast majority of information presented here has been derived from the original documents written by Ricardo during 1987/88. E.P.T. was never finished, and so what is described here is the game as it was envisaged on paper by the creators, rather than a reflection of the work-in-progress versions that existed during E.P.T.’s development.
E.P.T. is a 3D science fiction space opera for the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga. The game is set in a fictional Solar System consisting of many different planets, moons, asteroids and space stations. Every heavenly object spins along its own orbital path exactly as you would expect in a real solar system, resulting in interplanetary positional changes over time which can be exploited by space travelers.
Some of the planets are the seats to ancient empires, whilst others are recently colonised and pioneering in spirit. Well developed banking systems facilitate interplanetary trade, giving the player plenty of opportunities to earn some money as they explore the system, traveling by anything from a mining scow to a plush interplanetary liner.
Docking at moon cities or space stations gives the player the chance to wander around, traveling on the internal 'tube' systems and visiting well known space ports, bars and stock exchanges.
However, in space as in life, conflict is never far away. Local civil problems and piracy are rife throughout the system. The player can develop their military skills by flying a wide variety of spaceships, from scout crafts and small fighters to controlling fleets of dreadnoughts, engaging other ships in stellar combat.
The player can make allies and enemies (with non-player characters) in equal measure, allowing them to become a leading figure in interplanetary politics, using their wealth or military leverage along the way.
The player begins their journey on Ontology Bay, a moon of the planet Mangoran. Cast in the role of a young worker at a local hydroponics lab, the player is left a box from their Uncle which contains a number of items (which would also have been inside the finished packaging). There first priority is to somehow get to the spaceship that has been left for them in a transit port in orbit over Hallis.
Whilst the player is making their way in the solar system, more shady events are also in motion. Dark, powerful characters are hatching plots for System domination. Multi-planetary corporations are subtly affecting the policies of whole worlds, exploiting the poorer planets and causing wars on others for their own sinister reasons.
The player communicates with all of the non-player characters (NPCs) via a Babelpisc Translation Unit (TU). This high quality multilingual unit consists of a viewscreen, twelve communication buttons on each side and a text display window. The positions of the buttons have been determined by communoergonomics and extensive field tests to give the best possible user lingual-interface.
The TU buttons are marked with the Standard Communicator Ideoms - including (in no particular order) Moderate Insult, Extreme Insult, Curse or Swear, Threaten, Threaten Strongly, Demand Surrender, Offer Bribe, Offer a Serious Bribe, Demand Something, Praise, Flatter, Negative, Apologise, Grovel, Surrender, Request news or information, Ask someone his name, Ask someone where he is from, Ask someone where he has come from, Ask someone where he is going, Ask someone what he is carrying, Affirmative, Ask someone to help you with something, and Ask someone to join forces with you.
The player can generate funds by dabbling in the stock market. There are a number of different currencies in the system, with shifting exchange rates. The various bank options include transferring money from one account to another, purchasing property, and buying and selling shares in several prominent multi-planetary companies via a series of nested menus.
There are two distinct trade systems in the Solar System; one based on the Quyan Empire and the other on the Urthian Confederation. It is possible to trade between the two systems but the penalties for getting caught are severe.
The player can apply for registration with a Trading House where upon they will be given a Trading House Credit Card [THCC]. With this card the player can buy commodities in any of that Trading House’s offices up to the given rating. If the card is lost a replacement can only be obtained from one of the Trading House’s main offices.
If the player does particularly well with their finances, they can buy more than one spaceship. For example, they can end up buying several cargo vessels which they can then program to follow a set route. They can hire escorts, enquire if anybody else is sending shipments along the same route, arrange a convoy, and so on.
The player can also purchase a number of additional devices to help them advance in the game. The most useful is the Astrolabe - a computer system that calculates the optimum time to travel to planets, based upon the planetary conjunctions. This reduces the amount of travel time the player has to endure (using cryogenics) when travelling great distances within the system.
Away from the strategy and trading side of E.P.T., there is also the 3D arcade element where the player takes direct control of events by flying various spaceships manually. Many ships will share similar functionality, although their control configurations may differ.
There are three types of military ship available in E.P.T. - Dreadnoughts, Destroyers and Fighters.
As the player's military status advances, additional military options (allowing them to direct dreadnoughts or planet-side forces) will also come into play.
Players move around inside Space stations, Moon cities and the like via 'tube' systems. These tubes have various nodes for locations such as banks, tube stations, etc. The player has to pay a docking tax when they first enter, but in compensation, all tube transport is then free.
Some locations within the tube system will have access limitations. For example, a guard might require a pass, a door might require a key or an entry code, or the player's identity or rank might not be currently sufficient to grant access.
Tube maps help the player to find their way around. A tube map represents nodes with solid discs of different sizes and colours corresponding to what they represent. For example, the Central Bank of Urth is a Bank represented on a map by a large red disc. A standard key is also displayed, explaining the colours of the nodes and the location types.
The player can also move around inside the various spacecraft they might encounter. The larger the ship, the more nodes (or locations) there will be.
The E.P.T. specification as written by Ricardo Pinto is a large and richly detailed series of documents. As previously stated, some documents would have been included in the game packaging, whilst others were just for the programmers and publishers eyes only.
Read all about it!
Thanks to the generosity of Ricardo, the vast majority of these documents are now available to download for anyone interested enough to read them!