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Ares
Ares is a top-down space combat/strategy game for Mac OS 9. As the captain of humanity's first interstellar spacecraft, you must fight to free Earth from the evil Cantharans with the help of the friendly Ishimans. Ares was created by Nathan Lamont and originally published by Changeling Software. It was released as shareware by Ambrosia Software in 1999. The source code was released in 2008 and a free port for Mac OS X is being created. It can be found at arescentral.org/antares.

 

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Level Time Date Player
01 - Easy Street 0:00:32 2009-08-28 Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg
02 - The Stars Have Ears 0:00:21 2009-08-28 Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg
03 - While the Iron is Hot 0:01:28 2009-08-28 Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg
04 - Shoplifter 1 0:05:15 2009-08-28 Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg
05 - Out of the Frying Pan... 0:01:48 2009-08-28 Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg
06 - ...Into the Fire 0:02:04 2009-08-28 Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg
07 - On the Rocks 0:00:34 2009-08-28 Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg
08 - Astrotrash Plus! 0:00:56 2009-08-28 Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg
09 - Hand Over Fist 0:04:40 2009-08-28 Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg
10 - Assassin 0:00:16 2009-08-28 Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg
11 - Shoplifter 2 0:02:10 2009-08-28 Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg
12 - Make Way 0:06:55 2009-08-28 Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg
13 - Yo Ho Ho 0:01:58 2009-08-28 Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg
14 - Captivating 0:09:25 2009-08-28 Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg
15 - The Left Hand 0:01:37 2009-08-28 Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg
16 - Hornet's Nest 0:01:30 2009-08-28 Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg
17 - ...And It Feels So Good 0:07:36 2009-08-28 Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg
18 - Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat 0:02:52 2009-08-28 Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg
19 - You Should Have Seen the One That Got Away 0:05:06 2009-08-28 Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg
20 - The Mothership Connection 0:04:00 2009-08-28 Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg

01 - Easy Street (Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg)
In order to beat this mission as fast as possible, I release the hyper key and press it again before I finish leaving hyper, so that I spend the minimum amount of time out of hyper for the first four transports. This requires incredibly precise jumping. I had to drop out within range of the transport, but not ahead of it or so close that I crash into it. You can brake while entering and exiting hyper, but you can't accelerate, so if I bump into the transport or any of its escorts, I will drift out of range unless I cancel my jump. There's also a significant chance that the transport will take evasive action, which makes it very unlikely that I'll kill it in time. The first four transports went perfectly this run, but unfortunately I missed a couple shots against the last one, costing a second or two. Still, it took thousands of attempts to get a run this good, and I'm pretty happy with it.

02 - The Stars Have Ears (Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg)
Like the first mission, but a bit easier to perfect since the targets are stationary. The gunship at the third dish helped me out by bumping me when I came in at the wrong angle. This time is probably not improvable.

03 - While the Iron is Hot (Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg)
The first base capture mission. I build a transport, target the enemy planet (newly built ships acquire your current target), then wait to see if the transport is built facing the right direction. If not, I restart. Then I build some cruisers and go kill the Gaitori. I take control of the transport at the end, since this allows me to start the landing sequence from slightly farther away than it would on its own. Due to the timing of when triggers are checked, this saves two seconds on this mission. There isn't time to kill the Gaitori carrier that appears towards the end, so I rely on the cruisers to distract it while the transport lands.

04 - Shoplifter 1 (Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg)
This mission is all about keeping the Obish transport moving back and forth between the prison cells and the passenger liner. This means I have to kill all the Gaitori ships guarding the cells and the reinforcements that appear whenever a cell is broken before they get close to the transport, otherwise it might take evasive action. I watch the transport approach each cell on radar, then break the it open before taking control of the transport. If I break the cell too soon, the Obiards inside will scatter in random directions rather than move towards the transport. If I wait too long, the transport may get scared of the unbroken cell and try to "evade" it. Then I turn around, grab a bunch of Obiards, and get the transport moving back towards the liner before transferring back to the heavy cruiser.

05 - Out of the Frying Pan... (Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg)
This is probably the hardest base capture mission to speedrun. For one thing, the enemy starts with a heavy destroyer, the ship class with by far the most firepower. They also start with two flak drones, powerful and (effectively) invulnerable stationary platforms, one of which is right next to their planet. Fortunately, you start with two engineer pods, which can't be seen by flak drones and can take control of them. I get the pods moving even before I build my transport, because otherwise it's virtually impossible to keep the transport alive. I build some cruisers and fight a couple Gaitori cruisers, then jump to the middle to distract the flak drone until the engineer pod takes control of it. I clear out the enemy ships in the path of the second pod and the transport, then lure the enemy ships away from the planet so the pod can survive long enough. Fortunately, the heavy destroyer jumps away just before I arrive. When it returns, I distract it from killing my transport. With the flak drone under my control, the transport lands safely. This time is only a few seconds short of the theoretical minimum.

06 - ...Into the Fire (Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg)
This mission is pretty easy. I use a bit of fast time while building up a force of cruisers. Meanwhile, the enemy loses some ships trying to kill power stations that are protected by flak drones. Then I send in my cruisers and they trounce the Gaitori while I kill a transport and distract a flak drone so my transport won't be slowed or killed.

07 - On the Rocks (Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg)
It took a lot of luck to get a run this good. First, the astrominer had to cooperate by focusing on the asteroid and ignoring the Cantharan schooner. Then, the asteroid fragments had to break up in such a way that four of the six samples hit me or the astrominer. They move very fast in this mission, so it's a pain to collect them otherwise.

08 - Astrotrash Plus! (Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg)
Another lucky run where the astrominers cooperated fairly well. I only got four samples from the first asteroid, but both fragments from the second asteroid produced three samples, and an astrominer collected one group while I got the other.

09 - Hand Over Fist (Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg)
Straightforward base capture mission. Cantharans are a bit tougher than Gaitori, but not too hard.

10 - Assassin (Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg)
As the name suggests, you just have to kill one carrier (the one that retreats in the beginning). To get the best possible time, it has to start out facing the right way, so it goes into hyper sooner, and you have to drop out of hyper near where it's going to, so you can start shooting it as soon as possible. I could order some allies to come with me, but it would slow me down more than it would help.

11 - Shoplifter 2 (Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg)
This is the first mission where you get a heavy destroyer, but I don't make full use of its combat capabilities. In fact, I ignore the enemies completely and only use my pulse weapon to break open the prison cells (missiles are unreliable and energy is limited). The objective is to collect 21 humans from the cells and deliver them to UNS Ares. Since you can only hold 5 at a time, this requires 5 trips. The first 5 humans from each cell are easy to collect if you are right on top of it when you break it, but the rest can be a pain. They alternate between sitting still and moving out of your path in a way that makes me think they really don't want to be rescued. This mission also requires extremely precise jumping. This is complicated by the fact that UNS. Ares isn't considered an object by the zoom settings, so you can't use "zoom to closest object" to estimate the distance to it. However, if your jumping is precise enough, the limiting factor becomes energy. Available energy (the yellow bar on the right) recharges quickly when you're not in hyper, but in hyper it slowly drains and entering hyper uses 1/8 of your total. My strategy to save energy is to collect all 10 humans from the first cell. This requires that the humans cooperate by staying clustered so you can pick up the second 5 quickly and that the enemies not hit any of them when they shoot at you. Since I'll get 5 the first time I go to each cell, I only need one more when I return to the second cell. This means I can pick one up without dropping out of hyper, though it requires a lot of luck. My point is that it took many hours of playing this mission to shave off those last 6 seconds.

12 - Make Way (Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg)
This is the most unfair mission in the game in one way: the Cantharans earn three times as much money as you do. So to even things up, I kill as many transports, assault transports, and engineer pods as I can, which increases the chances of them building more. After killing the first two assault transports, I transfer control to a new ship so I can leave my fleet safely out of the way. After killing a transport and an engineer pod, I return to protect my transport. Fortunately, the transport didn't get within range of the first flak drone (this depends on the orientation of the level, which is decided at random when you start). I distract the first bunker station, then the Cantharans who disabled the second station until my transport is safely past. Then I kamikaze the second flak drone, causing it to be distracted by the energy pulse released when I die. I transfer control back to my starting ship and clear out the ships along the path and the ones guarding the planet. Conveniently, the carrier decided not to defend until too late.

13 - Yo Ho Ho (Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg)
The most important factor for getting a good time on this mission is the direction the Elejeetian liner starts out moving, so I restart until it's moving towards the jump gate. The tractor tug appears as soon as I recover all the escape pods, so I do that before killing the Gaitori "pirates", then hope that it survives long enough for me to get back and protect it. After killing the Gaitori and the Salril, I can just use fast time until the end.

14 - Captivating (Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg)
A long base capture mission where I have to kill a lot of Cantharan carriers.

15 - The Left Hand (Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg)
I avoid getting too close to the station with my heavy destroyer because that creates one Audemedon and two Salrilian carriers. As long as you avoid that and attack before they have time to build up, this mission is pretty easy.

16 - Hornet's Nest (Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg)
Normally, taking on an Audemedon carrier, cruiser, and gunship with anything less than a heavy destroyer and a bunch of escorts is tantamount to suicide. Trying to kill the massive device while avoiding the Audemedons is even crazier. Still, with luck and good piloting, I was able to pull it off without having to wait for the heavy destroyers to help (you can't take control of them or give them orders as long as the research vessel is alive). Ideally, I would stay alive long enough to kill some enemies while waiting for my reinforcements, or the Audemedon fighters would kill the research vessel just after it finishes its scan. I wasn't that lucky this time, but the battle went so amazingly well that it didn't matter much.

17 - ...And It Feels So Good (Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg)
Straightforward base capture mission. Audemedons are tough, but not tough enough.

18 - Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat (Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg)
I send all my ships to Proxima Alpha while I go kill the Audemedon transport headed for Beta. If I'm lucky, as I was this time, enough of the enemy forces will retreat from Alpha to Beta that my first two transports will get through unimpeded (it takes two to capture Alpha). Since you can't change the target of the transports you start with, I build another as soon as I capture Alpha and send it to Beta. I build gunships because human cruisers suck hard.

19 - You Should Have Seen the One That Got Away (Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg)
To beat this mission you have to capture all three enemy planets and defeat the Cantharan gateship. The gateship is extremely tough and has the ability to immobilize its target while shooting it with homing pulses that send it flying a long distance away. This makes it impossible to fight effectively without a large enough fleet. I send a transport to capture Beta Pictoris because it's the only one that can build transports. I defend the power station because it's the only base that can be threatened by hyper-capable ships. Luckily, the carrier that the Cantharans sent to escort their transport retreated before killing my transport and the gateship cooperated by staying out of the way. I switch over to building cruisers even though they're terrible because I need a critical mass of ships to fight the gateship. Once I control Beta Pictoris, I focus on capturing its moons and finishing off the remaining Cantharans so that all my ships can concentrate on the gateship. The gateship went down surprisingly quickly once I had enough ships. This run looks sub-optimal in certain places, but it's over 20 seconds better than my next best attempt, so clearly a lot of things went right.

20 - The Mothership Connection (Nathaniel 'NMS' Stalberg)
Everything about this run went amazingly well. I was ready for the first two asteroids when they appeared, I got them moving in the right direction quickly, my aim was on target, and the gateship failed to dodge them. I kill the carriers by crashing them into the asteroids not because it's necessarily much faster than fighting them normally but because it doesn't give them a chance to launch their fighters. This is much harder than I made it look. At this screen resolution the icons are much bigger than the objects they represent, so they have to be pixel perfectly on top of each other for a collision to occur. They have to be in hyper for it to work, otherwise they will launch fighters at the asteroids, destroying them along with their fighters. Incredibly, every carrier I was trying for and one that I wasn't hit an asteroid on the first pass. I was really surprised when I ran out of asteroids, since this had never happened before. I decided to kill one carrier with my weapons while I waited for more asteroids to appear. To cap it off, the heavy cruisers, which can be a pain to hunt down because of their stealth fields, both practically walked into my fire and died. The last fighter took me a few seconds to finish off, but probably less time than if I had just waited for another asteroid.

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