By Ross Little

Originally published in EUG #21


Astermene is a complex business game written for the 8-bit Acorn computers. When the game opens, it is the year 2500 AD. A new planetoid has recently been found to have large deposits of Astermene ore by private companies. Although very little has changed in the past half millennium, because of the numerous governments that have since existed, most notably the establishment of the Single Earth Government in 2432 AD, a fair amount of legality has changed.

Opening Menu

The opening menu presents several options descibed below:

Generate New Seed - When the startup variables are set, a random number is chosen automatically to set to the value of TIME. If you wish, you can set it to a chosen number. If you set it at this number at the start of every game, all the market conditions, and other psuedo-random events will be the same. The only difference need be your response.

Start New Game - Prompts you for a company name and then displays the initial screen. On default the company name will be set to 'AMC Ltd' (Astermene Mining Company).

Load Game - Asks for a filename, and to enter the company name.

View High Scores - Reads the high score chart from disk and displays it. Press any key to return to the opening menu.

Starting A Game

When you start a game, the screen is divided into two halves. The bottom screen allows you to make company decisions; the top screen displays the statistics as follows:

Name - Current company name.

Year - Current year. The game ends at the end of 2540.

Workers - The number of employees.

Mines - The number of mines you are using and that you own. The number currently in use is displayed before a backslash; the number you own after. E.g., 5/8 means five mines are being used out of eight owned.

Money - The amount of cash you have at hand. It is displayed in credits, the current world currency.

Satisfaction Factor - Equivalent of the current opinion poll. It it's equal to one, the workers (on the whole) are tolerant. Below and people may leave. Above, and people will request to join. It can, however, not be measured so simply. People may resign even when it is above one.

Mine Production - The amount (in tons) of Astermene each mine produced last year, as an average figure.

Ore In Store - Total amount of Astermene in storage. Not necessarily the amount produced this year; some may be left over from last.

Astermene Ore Price - Amount, in credits, a ton of Astermene costs on the market.

Mine Price - The current cost of a mine on the open market. It is automatically presented as the figure which is best value for money. Mines may be bought just opened from the Government, or from another company. These are also presented at the best value for money. Employees below you sort out that side of the business.

To allow the sorting of company statistics, the bottom screen will display a menu:

Complete Statistics - Displays company stats as follows: Prospective employees, Food budget (overall and each), Salary (overall and each), Total wage expenditure and amount of current free cash.

Buying - Allows you to buy mines and ore, and to reopen mines already closed. The reason for buying ore is that, if you have surplus profits and ore prices are cheap, you can buy tons of it and sell it when it is more expensive.

Selling - Allows you to sell mines and ore, and to close mines. You close mines if they are only selling cheaply, and you have surplus, or in order to buy, for example, eight workmen to mine your remaining ones.

Workforce - Allows you to change how much money you spend on your employees' salary and food budget. It also lets you lay off workers or employ new ones. The maximum number of new workers depends on the satisfaction factor displayed under the statistics. In the first year, it is zero since the workers will be primarily attracted by other companies.

End Turn - Simply allows you to end the year. The amount of money you have set to spend on employees will be checked and if you have not got the cash, you will be returned to the menu. When you have the cash, information screens are displayed notifying you of market gluts or radioactive leaks (which kill half your workforce and drop the satisfaction factor). Another yearly information screen displays the number of workers you presently have, those who've resigned, those looking for work with you, the satisfaction factor, workers carried to the next year and the number to which the workforce can be boosted.

If you press RETURN on this menu, you are presented with the 'Escape Menu' giving you various options to do with the actual game:

Seed Number - The seed used by the random number generator. If you type this in for a future game, the game will run identically.

Company Name - The current company name. This can be changed if you wish, by saving the same, reloading it, then re-entering the name.

Sale Value - The amount of money the company would fetch on the open market in the current climate.

You are given the following options:

Sell Company - You can choose to sell your company for the amount of credits displayed under the 'sale value'. The computer will double check with you, so as to make sure the key wasn't accidentally pressed. If your score is worthy of entering in the high score table, the computer will do so, and then (if possible) save it to disk. Beware - if you pursue this option, the game will be over.

Save Game - Allows the saving of your current game to disk. The seed value will not be saved.

Quit Company - This quits the game. The computer will double check whether or not you intended to press this.

Press RETURN again to return to the normal menu.

Statistics Displayed

All the statistics are to do with the workforce.

Prospective Employees - The number of people who are seeking work with your company. The number increases roughly proportionally with the satisfaction factor.

Food Budget - The food budget is displayed in terms of both the total amount of cash you are going to spend on food and the amount this works out to per head. Please note that the budget is not handed out to the persons but the actual food which is flown in.

Salary - This is also displayed totally and per head. It is in addition to the food budget and it is with this that they buy food, equipment and (if they are lucky) go on holiday.

Total Wage Expenditure - The total amount of money you are going to spend in wages; the food budget added to the salary.

Current Free Cash - If you were to buy the food now, the amount of cash left over. The number can be negative, showing that you cannot cover costs unless you raise more money, or sell more products. The salaries and food are the prime difference makers of the satisfaction factor.


Food Budget - Approximately Cr100 should be spent per head. This keeps the satisfaction factor constant. More, and it goes up. Conversely, less and it goes down.

Salary - Approximately Cr10 should be spent per head. This only has the ability to depreciate the satisfaction. It cannot increase it, therefore, Cr10 should be the maximum spent.

Mines Prices - These range from Cr2000 to Cr4000.

Ore Prices - These usually range from Cr8 to Cr20. They can drop below in a market glut. To ensure they rise quickly, mine production is automatically cut in half.

Possible Endings

The game can end in the following ways:

Government Takeover - This is where the government will force you to hand over the company for two possible reasons. Firstly, the living standards may be exceptionally poor, which will be shown to you in the satisfaction factor or, secondly, the number of people per mine may have fallen below ten.

Sellout Before 2540 - This is where you choose to sell your game before the forced end of the game. This allows you to take advantage of the possibility of a better climate, which will earn you more money. However, it is a gamble.

Forced Sellout - According to the imposed law, the longest amount of time a single person may take hold of a single company, is forty years. Therefore, it will have to be sold.

Saving And Loading

Saving - This is accessed from the Escape Menu. Simply enter the name you want to save it under. The computer will tell you if the file exists, and ask if you want to overwrite it. By pressing RETURN, the game will be saved under the default name 'sgame'.

Loading - The opposite to saving, loading, is available from the Start Menu. Simply enter the name of your game, and the computer will load it. If it does not exist, it will keep asking until it does exist. By pressing RETURN, it will automatically load the file 'sgame' (if it exists).


Write Protect (WP) Variable
This variable, defined in line 60, is either TRUE or FALSE. If TRUE, the disk in the drive is write-protected, and no writing operations will follow. By default, it will be set to TRUE. Don't set WP to FALSE if the disk is write-protected.

Error Trapping
There is no error protection in this program although ESCAPE is disabled. If an abnormal error is found, please notify me of it. But there may be problems with DFS filing systems. These will be rare, but be careful.

Ross Little, EUG #21