So you've played against the AI some and think you're a decent player? Consider coming online to experience a whole new dimension to the game, against opponents capable of making strategic decisions who aren't made out of silicon!
Multiplayer Sins games are played through Ironclad Online (abbreviated ICO), which is free to all players who have bought the game and have a CD key. Registering an account for ICO and getting ready to play is relatively simple. On the main menu of Sins or any of the expansions, the "ICO" button will take you to the main login screen. Create your account using your CD key you received with the game. If you bought and downloaded the game online, your CD key is displayed in Impulse. Now that you've logged in, you can select "Add Player" to create an online name you can use to play with. Up to 5 names can be associated with a single ICO account at any one time.
After choosing a name to use, you will find yourself in the lobby, where you can chat with other players and set up games.
Players who play Sins online regularly are always on the Diplomacy expansion. The vanilla Sins / Entrenchment server rarely has any people.
Unfortunately, there are a few problems that can make it difficult to get started.
A very common error new players experience is "Your mesh files differ from the host". Players with this bug are unable to join the games of anyone else, and other players are not able to join the player's game either.
Luckily, it's relatively simple to fix this. Make sure you have the game installed from Impulse, and then follow these instructions given by Stardock support:
1. To clear out your mesh files, you'll need to go into the application folder (right click in Impulse, select 'Open application folder'), and there are three different 'Mesh' folders. The first is in the root folder, and there may be two more, depending on which version of the game you have, in the \Entrenchment and \Diplomacy folders. Delete everything in those (Mesh) folders.If that doesn't work for whatever reason, you could try reinstalling the game, or downloading the correct Mesh files from a friend, or you could make a post about it on the Sins forum asking for help. There are many users willing to assist.
2. Shift-right click on the game(s) in Impulse, and select 'Verify Installation'. Impulse will check the integrity of the installed application, and an update should be made available in Impulse. This is not an update to a newer version, but simply Impulse using the update mechanism to replace the missing files.
3. Once you complete the update, reboot your computer.
Unlike single-player games, playing Sins online depends on the internet connections of all of the players. The higher your ping or latency, the more time it will take for the game to register your orders. Having a low latency is essential to being able to play an enjoyable game online. In order to have a low latency, consider:
- Exiting any running torrent programs such as BitTorrent
- Exiting any other applications which download or upload significant amounts of data (such as Steam)
- Exiting any programs which are downloading updates
Another issue is simply the quality of your ISP. Some internet service providers are reliable for online gaming, but some aren't.
Another type of lag is processor lag, which occurs when your computer is having to carry out more game-related calculations per second than it can handle. This is more common on low-end machines in larger games such as 5v5. Other than turning down the graphics settings, there are no real ways to fix this other than to use a different computer or to play smaller games.
If you are ingame online and there appear to be issues. press F5 to identify the cause. The latency and CPU usage of every player will be displayed and you can see who the problem is coming from.
Commands and shortcutsEdit
On ICO, there are a number of commands available to you. In the main message box in a lobby or ingame, type one of the following commands before your message to use the command.
/w playername message goes here
/w is the command for "Whisper", which allows you to send a private message to a single player. While in the lobby or in a game with players, you can press Tab as a shortcut to cycle through the different players to whisper to.
(In the example above, replace "playername" with the name of the player you want to whisper to. If the player has a space in their name, enclose the player's name in quotes:
/w "Player Name" message goes here
/r message goes here
/r is the command for replying to the person who last whispered to you. It's often easier than typing in their name. Both /w and /r work in the lobby and inside of games.
Send to AlliesEdit
/a message goes here
/a is the command for sending a message to all of your allies when you're in a game.
Online gamers prefer to play on random single-star maps. In general, the following settings are used:
- Locked Teams
- Normal Fleet Sizes
- Pirates Off
- Diplomatic Victory Off
- Quick Start On
- All Speeds set to Faster
Unless these settings are used, players will often have a hard time persuading others to join their game. The main reason for these settings is to quicken the game so that it can be decided in a reasonable length of time - longer games means more lag and more minidumps and disconnects.
Once the game is full, teams are decided in one of three ways:
Sometimes, there will just be a general agreement out of expediency and people will form into teams on their own. Popular choices are "Top vs Bottom" (tvb) or "1212", based on the order in which the players appear in the lobby. Often in smaller 2v2 and 3v3 games, the most experienced players will simply decide teams amongst themselves and ask others to join their team. If an experienced player believes teams are fair, then they probably are. These informal "arbitrary designations" are the fastest way to set up games, but unfortunately, sometimes the experienced players deliberately stack the game in their favor.
Pick Up Game (PUG)Edit
Often used as a default method for choosing teams in 4v4 and 5v5, the pick up game is maligned for taking too long. If done properly, however, the pick up game is relatively quick. Two players, usually the two most experienced players, are chosen as team captains. Everyone else goes to team 10 until they are chosen by one of the team captains. It's considered polite if the skill level of the two team captains is very different for the more experienced captain to offer the other the choice of first pick, but this is seldom observed. If the captains can decide amongst themselves who gets first pick, then step 1 can be skipped.
1) The Number GameEdit
A secret number between 1 and 10 is sent from one non-captain to another non-captain. Upon receiving a number, that player says "I have the number" or something to this effect. The first player to say they have the number takes precedence, and the first number received by that player (if he received multiple numbers) takes precedence. The two captains each guess the number, and then the number is revealed. The captain who guessed closest gets to decide whether they want first pick. If they do not want first pick, they say "defer" and the other captain must take first pick.
2) Pick PlayersEdit
The first captain picks one player for their team. The second captain gets two picks, offsetting the fact that the first captain will pick the best player available. If the game is a 5v5, then both captains continue to make two picks on each of their turns. If it is a 4v4 or smaller, then only one pick is given on each turn after this. (The last player available is commonly referred to as the "Fat Kid".)
3) Play the GameEdit
It is considered extremely rude to quit when the picking process is over or almost over. Once players are picked, however, the game starts.
There are certain manners that players expect from their peers in online gaming:
- You are expected to surrender when your position or your team's position is hopeless. Depending on how long they will take, last stands are often acceptable.
- In a team game, you are expected to discuss with your allies whether you think the situation is hopeless before surrendering. If your team agrees to "call" the game, you can surrender.
- If you must quit the game and the rest of your team is still fighting strong, be sure to quit and not surrender. If you surrender, your units will stop moving and will only defend themselves. If you quit, you will be replaced by an AI that can still fight with your allies.
- If you have large amounts of excess money that you aren't spending and an ally asks for "feed", you should give some to him.
- Tell your allies if you are losing; it's often possible for allies to help you in one way or another, but you have to tell them early. If your fleet is gone and your homeworld is being bombarded, it's probably too late.
- If you're a beginner, don't be ashamed to ask for help. Some people are jerks (that's their problem, not yours), but most will be happy to give you advice and help you out.
A Note on Smurfs and BeginnersEdit
ICO allows players to create new player names whenever they wish. Each player name has its own independent win/loss counter and cannot be identified to a specific account. As a result, a player who wishes to hide his identity can do so easily. This is commonly called "smurfing". This has lead to tension, if not outright hostility, against players who have very few games played. Many will accuse these players of being smurfs. Because teams are chosen based on skill, it is impossible to know how good a smurf is, and at worst he may be mistaken for a beginner. As a result, it is a good idea for real beginners to tell players that they are indeed beginners.
Be careful not to play team games against computers to build up your win record, however, as players are even more suspicious of people who inexplicably win 10 out of their first 11 games.
Playing online is extremely different from playing single-player against the AI. Don't feel depressed if you lose your first few games: everyone does. There is a learning curve, so if you're new be sure to check out Multiplayer Strategies.