motti: Any advice will be appreciated

I got a link to GNU motti quite a while ago, and judging by the one-line description, it seemed to have potential.

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That description said motti is “a simple multiplayer strategy game. The objective of the game is to conquer enemies’ capitals by occupying and encircling their territories.” From that, I expected something along the lines of zis, or perhaps starlanes or even curseofwar.

Unfortunately, motti falls short of those titles. The map, such as you can see above, seems to be randomly drawn, with the entire field shown with a bold lowercase letter “p” and empty space.

There seems to be one square occupied by an “o”, also bold. A status line at the top tells me the turn, remaining moves and the screen frame is drawn out in dashes and pipes.

Unfortunately, my problems with motti began almost as soon as the first game started. I assume my capital is the “o,” but I don’t know what the other designations are. Occasionally I see capital letter “P” cells, but I don’t know what that indicates.

I can trigger my turn options with the space, and by selecting either “Attack,” “Defend” or “Guerrilla,” I can select a series of spaces around the map. I see in the documentation that there are rules of balance for attacking and defending, usually suggesting that “defending” is a means of advancing territory.

But I am still not confident that “o” is my territory. If I try to defend it, there will be “P” markers around it in the next round — is that good or bad? Did I just foolishly “defend” the enemy’s territory? I’m not sure.

I’ve looked through the online pages and the packaged documentation files and I haven’t found much that helped me. I don’t see any keys or legends, or codes for territories or advancement, and the rules that are described there are a little difficult to follow.

motti has some other shortcomings that really need attention.

  • The all-bold, all-white map is incredibly hard to read. I complained about visibility in zombies!, but finding that one lowercase “o” in a field of “p” characters is a huge problem for me. I can’t imagine larger maps.
  • Screen redraws are terrible. If you’re dedicated and want to plunge in to motti, do yourself a favor and turn off your cursor with setterm --cursor off. Otherwise, just moving the indicator around the screen causes wicked flashing effects.
  • There appear to be debug messages flashing on the screen, as the game is playing. This seems to happen most while the computer is taking a turn.
  • The status line information is only partly useful; I’m not sure what half of the information is showing there, and I can’t seem to find any tips in the documentation.
  • Since I’m on the subject, the documentation really needs updating. Parts of it appear to be mangled, or perhaps they were damaged in the conversion from texi to html. The section on an X interface is prefaced with “Not Implemented!”, which makes me wonder why that’s not in a “to-do” list, rather than part of the docs. The online versions also seem incomplete or obsolete, compared to the packaged docs. And sometimes the help file calls the game “morri.” That’s not a good sign.

motti does some things right. This is one of the few games I’ve seen that does popup all-ASCII menus cleanly, and the title screen is very attractive.

I had no trouble building the most recent version of motti in Arch, and it ran without error. I suspect Debian users will also have no difficulties.

But I get the feeling motti is not anywhere near complete, even if the source code I downloaded was timestamped earlier this year. I don’t know why it is listed among the GNU packages list, but I don’t know the rules for that either. Any advice you can offer will be appreciated. 😐