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Skitter Tag: How To Play

To start Skitter Tag, type skittertag at your shell prompt.

Top Menu

A new window should open, looking something like this:

You can press the 'm' key to choose which maze you'd like to play in. You can press the 'p' key to indicate how many humans will play. (One or two of you can play.) You can press the 'q' key (or Ctrl-C) if you decide you didn't really want to play Skitter Tag after all. You can press the '?' key for a help screen which will remind you how to play the game. You can press the 'Esc' key when you're ready to start flying around.

The Main Screen

After you press the 'Esc' key, you'll see something like this:

Here we see two players' views. (If only one human is playing, then we'll just use the left half of the window.) The player using the left side of the keyboard wants to look at the left side of the window; the player using the right side of the keyboard wants to look at the right side of the window.

That green triangle pointing rightwards is your spaceship. The white lines are walls of the maze. You can make your ship move. The right-hand player can rotate his ship with the 'z' and 'c' keys and accelerate with the 'x' key. (There are no brakes, nd a spaceship in motion tends to stay in motion.) The left-hand player can rotate his ship with the ',' and '/' keys and accelerate with the '.' key.

In the window, you'll also see your score (which starts at zero), and the number of Power-Ups you have (you start with one). Using a Power-Up can cause something random to happen--it's more likely to work if you're close to another spaceship and have line-of-sight to it. To use a Power-Up, press 's' or 'l' if you're the right-hand or left-hand player. We'll talk more about Power-Ups later.

After a few seconds, red and green colored lines will appear:

You're playing a game of round-robin tag. You are chasing a spaceship and another spaceship is chasing you. The green line points to your prey; the red line points to your predator. Rotate and accelerate to navigate your way through the maze, chasing your prey while avoiding your predator. To tag your prey, bump him.

If you're tagged, the lines will disappear: you're no longer chasing anyone or being chased. After a while (as more players get tagged), the lines will re-appear and you'll have a new predator and prey. While you're waiting for this, you might search around for Power-Ups.

If you tag your prey, congratulations! Your score will go up. Now you'll chase your prey's prey--the green line will point towards your new prey. However, if your new prey is also your predator, you aren't actually allowed to chase him, and the red/green lines disappear. But in a few seconds, they'll be back as you're assigned new predator/prey.

(Sometimes your lines will disappear though you've neither tagged your prey nor been tagged by your predator. That means that your prey has tagged your predator. Since your prey isn't allowed to chase you, the red/green lines disappear.)


Notice the little blue-and-yellow smudge in the top-left of this picture:

That's a Power-Up. If you bump into it, you pick it up and can use it against your opponents later. When you (or an opponent) use a Power-Up, one of the following effects may take place:

Pressor Beam
This appears as a red cross on the spaceship which triggered it. Nearby spaceships with line-of-sight to the triggering spaceship will be gently repelled. If one of these spaceships is the triggerer's predator, the predator will be strongly repelled. The effect lasts a few seconds.
Tractor Beam
This appears as a green smudge on the spaceship which triggered it.
If the triggering spaceship has line-of-sight to its prey, it will be attracted to its prey. If the prey is also closeby, the prey will be attracted to the triggering spaceship. The effect lasts a few seconds.
Control Lock
This appears as blue circles around the affected spaceship(s). Any spaceships which are nearby with line-of-sight to the triggering spaceship are affected. They can barely accelerate, and will tend to travel in the same direction/speed they were going when first "locked". The effect lasts a few seconds.
This appears as a number of bround smudges. One may appear for each spaceship nearby. Each smudge will crawl after its target. If a smudge catches its target, it will hold the target still for a few seconds. These smudges can track their prey for up to a minute.

Recognizing Excellence

You may wonder what the yellow dots on this spaceship mean:

They mean that this spaceship is winning. If these dots appear on your spaceship, then congratulations. You score points by tagging your prey. You can also score points (slowly) for surviving without being tagged.

Misc. and Cheating

While playing, you can press the 'Esc' key to pause the game and return to that menu to go to another maze or change the number of human players. You can press Ctrl-C to quit. While playing, you can press '~' to bring up a Python prompt.

Here are some useful cheats you can enter at the Python prompt:

Human0.numSpecials = 9999 gives the left-hand player 9999 Power-Ups.

Human1.humanControlled = 0 lets the computer take over the right-hand player and Human1.humanControlled = 1 puts it back under human control. This is useful if one player needs to go to the bathroom but the other player doesn't want to pause.

theRules.score['Human0'] = 999 sets the right-hand player's score to 999.

When you're done cheating in Python, press the 'Esc' key to resume the game.