Thursday, June 11, 2015

Starship Troopers: Terran Ascendancy -> Hints, tips, shortcut keys

Starship Troopers: Terran Ascendancy was the first game I ever worked on in the games industry.  I joined Bluetongue Software (later Bluetongue Entertainment) in Melbourne Australia in 2000, and I was testing what we called STTA during development.

Last night, I caught up with an old friend from Bluetongue, and we got talking about the old games we'd worked on.  After he left, I dug out STTA, and fired it up.  It still plays fine on my modern quad-core Windows 7 machine, after installing the Starship Troopers 1.1 Nvidia Patch, which was nice!  It even supported 1920 x 1080 resolution (even though no such resolution existed when the game was released).

But I found I'd forgotten some crucial hotkey shortcuts, making even the first level of the game very challenging!

The player needs to destroy a bunch of bug holes, and to do so, you need to switch to your Artillery Weapons and Fire those artillery weapons!  But I couldn't find any way to do those actions through the normal onscreen GUI!  I remember this being a bit of a problem when we released the game.  And the manual didn't even have a list of hotkeys!

So I dug up the old hotkey page I made in 2000.  Here it is for your delectation.

Grab the full Starship Troopers: Terran Ascendancy Hotkeys list here!

A few special tips and notes below...

Crucial hotkeys

W - Toggle Weapon on selected troopers
F - Fire Artillery  (then click on target to fire there)
H - Heal / Repair  (Medic / Engineer)
S - Stop  (stops all troopers from doing whatever they're doing)

Selecting Troopers

I also like to be able to save custom selections for groups of troopers.  Just use CTRL and Click to select some troopers, then hold ALT and press a number key to save that selection set.  Then you can just press that number any time while playing, to select those troopers again.  (By default, "1" is row 1, and "2" is row 2, etc).  

"~" is also very handy, as it selects ALL troopers.

You can also tap SPACEBAR to shift the camera between different groups of troopers, which can be handy if faster soldiers run off ahead of slower soldiers.

Trooper Attitudes

Also, crucial, are the Z, X, C, V keys which change the "attitude" of selected soldiers (Berzerker, Aggressive, Controlled, Stealth).  It changes the way they respond to nearby enemies, how they respond to move commands, and how visible they are to the enemy. 

"Z" makes troopers berzerker, meaning they'll run off an attack nearby bugs (which can make them "disobedient" and not follow move commands very ceremoniously, but it does make them effective at killing nearby bugs without having to issue specific orders.

"V" makes your soldiers stealth (and slow), helping to get past enemies undetected.

Equipping Units

Equipping units can be confusing.  You can add the special item to troopers to let them carry a second weapon, which can be very useful, so troopers can carry a missile launcher and a laser gun, for example.  You can then toggle between those weapons as needed during play.

Tac Map

F10 cycles through the TacMap modes (full, small, off).  I'd recommend just making it the largest size.  You can also click on the map directly to issue move orders, which can be very handy.


  1. Do you know how to get this game running for windows 10? The Nvidia patch fixes the menu issues, but the game will fail when attempting to load a mission.

  2. Hi Leon, unfortunately I haven't had any experience trying to get it running on Windows 10. I would have thought (hoped) that it would work fine.

    Perhaps you should try running the game from a different directory. Perhaps the pathname is too long, or there's too many spaces in the path, etc.

    Trying putting STTA into the root of your C:/ for example, and see if it works there. Or in C:/Games. Would be keen to know how you go.

    All the best!

    - Murray

    1. Thank you for your response Murray, I will attempt this and report back.

      Kind regards,
      - Leon

  3. Hey that's awesome, that's my first STTA Support email in about 16 years! :)

    1. Unfortunately I am still unable to play. When attempting to load a level I will get the 'Starship troopers terran ascendancy has stopped working' notification from windows.

      I wanted to ask, when I apply the patches, I notice that the D3D.dll file will overwrite the previous one, so for example if I add the full patch, then Nvidia patch will overwrite it. If I apply the Nvidia patch first, then the full patch will overwrite the nvidia patch and I can't navigate the main menu again.

      Am I applying the patches incorrectly?

      Thank you again for your assistance.
      - Leon

    2. Do you have a way to perhaps test it on a friend's computer, running Windows 7, or Windows XP? :) That might be a good way to see if the game is working as expected on those systems. And then, if it does, you'll know that you can try the same process on your Windows 10 machine, and narrow down the variables of the problem.

      This was the old support email I used to send out to people, about applying the patches...

      Try installing the 1.1 patch first.

      Then the NVidia patch after that if you are using a NVidia card.

      To install the patches, first make sure you have WinZip installed ( Then you just Right-Click on a patch, and select "Extract to..." from the drop down menu that appears.

      Then browse to your \stta folder, and press OK. By default, this will be found at
      C:\Program Files\Microprose\Starship Troopers\stta. It will sometimes ask you whether you want to over-write some files. Always select "Yes".

      If that still doesn't work, you may wish to try a fresh install of the game, and try applying the patches again, in case it was something that went wrong during the patch application.


    3. I just installed it again myself, on my Windows 7 computer, and I just ran version 1.0 (the default install) and it works fine. I have an AMD graphics card, though.

    4. Hey Murray,

      I believe my GTX980M is responsible for this fault, despite the Nvidia patch it is not enough. I have no idea where to begin trying to figure this out so I'm throwing in the towel. Thank you so much for your support thought. I guess the Bugs won this time.

      Kind regards,

    5. This is one of my all time favorite games. I've been trying to play it for years now. Could never get it to work on Windwos7... It works great on Windwos 10.

      - Install the game.
      - Unpack the 1.1 patch, copy the files from it, to the main game directory... the fonts too. I just overwrote the folder.
      - Run the game in WindowsXP Service Pack 3 mode, with admin rights.
      - It will ask for CD to be in a DVD drive. I have the original so I do that. Buy you can also use DemionToolLight and mount an ISO.

      I'm running Win 10 64x and Radeon HD 7950 with latest drivers. Game run in 1080x192 perfectly... although I'd like the menus to be a bit bigger, butwhatchagonnado? I'm very happy!

      I wanted to play this game for years. Few weeks ago I installed windows ME on my virtual server so I could install the game. I found the CD but before I did that, decided to try one more time. Works!

    6. Awesome to hear you got it working again! :)

      I was playing again recently, and found some pretty frustrating things about the game! I wish we could go back and change them. Like, walking for miles and miles and miles, then having to defend that fort against all those crazy bugs... man, that's hard! And if you have to do it again, you have to walk all that way again, and it's pretty boring! :)

      But overall, I'm proud that this was the first game I worked on!


    7. I have no idea how you achieved that Sebastian.
      I do the following:
      - Install the game.
      - Unpack the 1.1 patch, copy the files from it, to the main game directory... the fonts too. I just overwrote the folder.
      - Run the game in WindowsXP Service Pack 3 mode, with admin rights.
      - Game has graphical problems. black bars above and below the menu screen can't click on anything.
      - Install the Starship troopers Nvidia Patch
      - Game works! Menu Works! Briefing and squad selection works!
      - When I try to start the mission - Crash to desktop

      It would appear to me that the Radeon cards don't have this issue. and the Nvidia fix (which worked at the time) doesn't work with current Nvidia cards.. that's the only logical conclusion I can come up with.

      I need to find someone who knows about Nvidia issues with older games and what the work-around must be, this is so frustrating!

    8. I think you are right. The last time I ran it, I was running it on a Radeon card, and it did work (on Windows 7, I think).

      I'm now on Windows 10, using a Nvidia 970, and I can't get it to work.

  4. Hi,

    great game! Playing it again after several years but i have one question to it...while playing i was wondering if it would be possible to re-work some or all models which are in the game but honestly i have no idea where the in-game models are stored... any idea? :)

    1. Hi Tomas, I'm not too sure. I seem to remember that maybe the models got "kinda zipped up" into a proprietary "Toshi" format (the name of our engine at the time).

      I can't remember whether people tries to mod the game, or anything. So, sorry, I don't really have any useful info!

      I did a quick search online, and I don't think anyone has really had any luck modding this game, except perhaps hacking some save game files to let you have stronger units or something.

      It was kind of a shame we packaged it all up so well! It would be nice if people could have messed with it a bit more over the years. :)

    2. Hi Murray,

      thank you for your reply. Its really a nice feeling to "speak" with someone who was developing the game!

      I did a large research through google before i asked :) with the same findings as you which is quite sad. The game and the universe is great, it deserves some enhancement but due to the lack of any modding possibilities its impossible unfortunately.

      Anyway, thank you again for your reply and best wishes from Slovakia :) Tomas

    3. My pleasure!

      I was playing it recently, and I got up to the mission where you have to capture a bug specimen, then go to that military base which then gets attacked by tons and tons of bugs!

      It's so frustrating, because for so long, basically nothing happens (you just run around for ages), then you die at the base, and have to do it all again.

      Bad game design! :) Although, it certainly does raise the tension!

    4. Hi Murray,

      i have played this gem yesterday and got an Windows error at the end of one mission... hell no :). Anyway, i have also decided to give one more shot for the "moding" options here and found some very disturbing things, at least for me.

      1. The textures are saved as *.ppm binary files which is obvious from the header of the image (P6 255 RGB) but not all. Some of the images are having P7 inside the header which should point to *.pam format but to be the *.pam format its missing some information. I cant figure out why some of the textures are one format and the others a different one.. no sense, hell no. Of course, there is a nice tag in the header: File created by Blue Tongue Software's PPM Photoshop format plugin :), by all textures. However, the P7s are impossible to open :(. Nevertheless, the texture are very small (256x256) is the biggest one but mostly 128x128 and fitted to the models. Thus, if the model is square, the appropriated part of the texture features this deformation :).
      2. The *.pdo format of the models is again something i cant handle. No program which i know can open it and the header is absolutely empty and therefore no information about what the hell is this. Makes me sad.
      3. There is no sense to change either the texture or the model, you have to change both to make from that as much as possible.
      4. Without some "SDK" i dont think that its possible to mod this in any reasonable way.
      5. I have checked some other games the studio made with the “TOSHI” engine but only STTA has the *.pdo files…
      Any chance that someone has some “past” tools to be able to edit this gem? For example, release some SDK, everything, don’t know.. something at least :)

      Happy new year by the way :) Tomas

    5. Hi Tomas,

      Considering that the game never got a sequel, it's a real shame that it was so hard to mod. It would have been awesome to see people go crazy with it, adding in extra content, and being able to up-rez textures and models, etc more easily.

      I personally never knew much about the formats for the texture files and other data storage formats.

      I remember the artists talking about .ppm this and that at the time, but I never knew much more about it.

      I also never took any of the source code, or exporters home. I guess it must be on the hard drives on some of the dev team somewhere, although possibly not.

      I wonder if someone has that Photoshop PPM plugin.

      I know we were using 3D Studio Max at the time, so I guess everything was build in 3DSMax and exported through a custom exporter, and perhaps the textures were exported direct from Photoshop.

      I'm pretty sure STTA had it's own pipeline for the models and textures, and the next game we made was Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis, and it kinda had a whole new engine, from memory, with a new exporter for the dinosaurs and buildings, etc, from 3DSMax.

      I might check around a few people to see if anyone has the exporter for 3DSMax or Photoshop. :)

      - Murray

    6. Hi Murray,

      thank you for your answer!
      There are some Photoshop plugins for PPM but they cant recognize the "P7" format and neither linux or anything i tried and therefore it has to be something really custom :)
      Getting these plugins would be totally awesome and any other information. And I totally agree, a sequel would be awesome for this game. Shame that the FPS shooter which came after this was a mess.. . but I would prefer anyway a strategy like game as this one rather than an FPS shooter.
      Finger crossed :)


    7. :) I'll see if I can dig anything up!

      Not sure how I'll go, but I'll reply here if I get anywhere. :D

    8. Hi Tomas, I've rustled something up. :)

      It is the PPM plugin for Photoshop. You will most probably need to use an old version of Photoshop (circa 2000) for it to work. I'd be curious to know how you go!

      PPM Photoshop plugin

      There's also some very simple code to load "Bluetongue .ppms".

      They were passed along to me with the comments:

      "The PPM's seem very straightforward and the P7 seems to refer to alpha channels if I'm reading the code right, there doesn't seem to be any fancy compression on them."

      "Regarding the model/animation exporter, that thing was a nightmare! From memory it piggy backed the Microsoft .X exporter then grabbed the model from graphics memory once the .X viewer had done it's thing. An artist on the team upgraded their GFX card and it broke exports from his computer! Madness, that exporter needs to be left under whatever rock it crawled under once the project was finished!"

      Hehehe, so the exporter doesn't seem to be around.

      I guess see what you can do with the PPM plugin! :)

      All the best.

    9. Hi Murray!

      thats completely awesome!

      I have loaded the plugin and its working perfectly! The P7 was the confusing part of this, as a magic number for the PixMap it was pointing to something else but at the end it was the same thing just a bit adjusted… great. Overall, the artwork is great, some textures are awfull :D but a part of that is great!
      I have tried to change one picture related to the training mission inside the interface folder. The engine is generating cache files for each texture, this has to be deleted so the engine can generate a new one, and yeah, its working. The interface is defined in a *.b2d file “Blue Tongue 2D file”, for example for “train*.ppm” there is a window of 512x128px where each train*.ppm has a size of 128x128px.

      D="TrainingSelectIcons" 512 128

      I can change the train1.pmp to 256x256px and increase the window for 640x256px. Like this the new image is loaded properly, however, the *.b2d is defining space for the ppm file for 128x128px and therefore the final image is squeezed down.

      B3="train1" 177 1 0 0 128 128 0 0 0.000000 0.000000 1.000000 1.000000

      I guess that this is because the GUI has a fix size and everything is fitted according to that. And thus, I can change the textures but I have to keep the original size to avoid re-scaling or I will find a way to increase the size of the GUI, however, I have no idea where the GUI is generated. I believe that in-game its generated separately, will see :)

      As for the models, Jeez, the exporter seems to be a huge mess :D anyway, it’s a shame that the models cant be edited… now.. I hope to get around this somehow. I mean someone has to know how to do the reverse engineering on it :), really hope so.

      Thank you a lot! If you will find more info or documentation or anything related to this which could help me don’t hesitate to and throw it on me :)


    10. Hi Murray,
      i started my journey of endless Photoshop editing :) and so far so good, however, this is a long road to reach the finish line but i dont rush at all. The plugin helped a lot in this case, without that the Alpha CH textures would remain the same
      Anyway, i have found several things, some of them below:

      - The textures are really great, very low res, but really nice in most of the cases. Some of them are awful but most are lovely.
      - Textures are mostly in 64x64, 128x128 or 256x256 – the last one is used for effects or GUI, the rest for objects.
      - UV mapping is sometimes a mess but can live with that. Problems start if I cant recognize the positions of the texture and have to guess, UV coordinates would made a difference.
      - Best results are on large objects like terrain – here is see great improvement :).
      - All textures can be changed but the final result also depends on the model / object.
      - Looked a bit inside the compiled code – and it includes hilarious comments :), not much to see there but its fun.
      - Found a way inside the script to add bugholes to the map (any type) and similar. The scripting is pretty open, however, without documentation I still don’t know what every parameter means and can do.
      - The models are incredible low – poly, that’s a shame, and missing any depth. This is the drawback – better textures are nice but without any depth or more polys it will not make such difference.

      I will share something in the moment I will finish “a chapter” :), but it will take some time. Iam still playing with the thought that there is a way how to edit and replace the objects or terrains to something nicer – don’t know how much the engine could take. Any chance that someone has the object exporter plugin hidden somewhere? or you think it’s a dead end?

      Its really pity that the engine and everything connected to the game wasn’t released as “open” for playing around. There could be a lot of things, apart I can do right now, which could be changed and improved, really pity.


    11. Hiya Tomas,

      It'll be great to see what you get up to with those textures. :)

      Funny to think that the highest res game object is 128x128! That's crazy, considering nowadays texture sizes (2048x2048 or so).

      So, are you able to up-size the textures at all, or are you stuck with the size they are at already?

      I wasn't paying that much attention to the code and tools when we were developing STTA. I was 20, and it was my first job in the industry, and the game was already at around Alpha stage.

      Part of me wishes that I had just zipped up a copy of the source code and tools, etc, for posterity sake. But I didn't. And I'm not sure who else to ask, so I think we're at a dead end there.

      But you never know. Over coming weeks and months, I'll definitely bring it up in conversation if I happen to bump into any of my old colleagues, but it's quite rare that I do.

      All the best!

    12. When I played through, I couldn't get past the bit where you trapse across the desert for AGES, then end up in a fort which gets besieged by heaps of bugs.

      It was really frustrating that it was such a long and very boring jog to the fort, because if you had to try over and over, the whole lead-up was just really pointless and boring.

      I wish that level had been just the same, but without the big travel distance at the start. I'd happily do the fort battle over and over until I got it, but the start section took like 5 - 10 minutes of just running across the terrain.

      Do you have trouble with that bit Tomas? Or are you not really up to there?

    13. That level is one bit where, I wonder whether you could edit the Level Script so the player just starts right near the fort, or something, to vastly improve that mission. :)

      It'd be great to build some sort of "improved version of the game" with improved textures, and some tweaks to the game balancing and levels, and let people grab that as a ZIP or a PATCH.

    14. Hi Murray,

      well, almost 20years ago the resolution was a kind of standard i guess. With the game resolution of 800x600, textures with 128x128 are kind of hi-res :). Nowadays is nonsense but back in the gold-age of games it was nice. Anyway, i can upsize them but it wouldnt make any large difference and - Photoshop can do the scaling much better than the engine, i guess, but it would be low-res in high-res :), therefore i have decided to re-do the textures from scratch but keeping the original artwork and style, as i like it. It appears that the UV mapping coordinates are relative, unlike the GUI which is static, and thus it can nicely fit it to the model. Here something i have already done (comparing the up scaled texture, to the original small one and the new one):

      Yeah, zipping the whole dev folder for this with all the tools and documentation would be very handy right now :). New textures can make the difference but an appropriated model would make a huge difference. I really crossing my fingers that you will find something soon or that someone will just tell you: sure, here is it :D ... i dont know if there is a possibility to reverse the stuff and create a new plugin according to that.. will ask i guess. Last time i did some reverse-engineering on a BIOS file it took me 6months, however, I was able to inject a new block and hack the ACPI table to release the MXM II slot there – kind created an computer which is only of his kind. But this is above my skills… Maybe I should read the credit list and pick up some names to contact :D.

      Iam not sure about the starting position, wasn’t searching for this so far, but all scripts are human readable (some are connected to something) so theoretically it should be possible. Will see, I need to try what everything you can place on the map expect the ammo pod and bugs, maybe the level can be optimized with more stuff and bugs :)

      That’s my intention, to mod it and release it to the folks :). My workflow is a bit chaotic right now, jumping from that to that… but I have decided to go level by level mainly because I need to see how the texture will fit (sometimes it’s a mess).


    15. Those textures are looking cool!!

      Can't wait to see what you do.

      I'll update you if I can find out any more about the exporter. :)

    16. thx!

      Yeah, i will do some ingame screenshots (if the kay mapping is working) for better comparison. Will see how long it will take me to get an "Alpha" version of this - will release it straight after :) and keep you updated (there is lots of work, tons)

      ohhh,, that would be nice Murray! Thx... (finger crossed)

    17. Hi Murray,

      iam successfully fighting with the textures!, and very slowly re-doing them. I have to admit that i have learned a valuable lesson by creating a new animation for the Tanker. I dont know who but someone decided to use 16frames for this animation instead of 25frames. This means that the animation is not fluent if you will not try really hard... nightmare...

      Anyway, some screens:

      I have also spent 1day for looking on the *.pdo and *.ter models. I mean, it was year 2000 and the textures were and are not baked with the model, it’s a just a model damn… and it looks very similar to *.3ds but its not the same… it has to be way to convert it back to Max and then back to *.pdo. The same applies for the *.ter files. No luck so far.

      Next to this I also looked on the LZ, the position where the platoon starts. Found the entry defining the point but couldn’t change it.. at least I couldn’t change it in a way it would make sense. The scripts are connected between each other and without a tool its impossible to imagine how the connections are made.


  5. Hey Murray

    Got around wanting to play SSTA again, Got the patches and it loads fine. Using windows 7, Only issue i have that can't seem to fix is the text.

    In the settings menu aswell as in the unit selection, The text that shows stats ect don't appear.

    Any ideas?

  6. I think that it works best with an AMD graphics card, and not a Nvidia one.

    Are you using a Nvidia card?

    I'm not too sure how to get it working with Nvidia card.

    If anyone out there knows a good way to do it, please share here! :)

    1. Yea, I'm using Nvidia.

      If no one knows how to fix it, Then it is fine. After all it doesn't ruin the game.

      It is more of a personnel annoyance than anything else, But thank you for at least getting back to me Murray.

      SSTA is still a fantastic game despite the minor flaws of trying to get it to work haha. But it is worth it, Studying Game development myself i do want to make a SST game or a re-make of a existing one.

      But of course there is legal matters which are daunting.

  7. It'd be great if someone DID know how to play it with proper text rendering with a Nvidia card. Seems to be a common problem, which is a shame.

    I was playing through it a few months back, and the long, boring level, with lots of walking, and then the massive base-defense bit at the end was where I had to stop. It was so hard to get past it, and then waste such a long time just getting to the base to try again!

    Shame to have such a difficult level have such a long, boring lead-up.

    Also, I find the controls/process for catching a bug specimen to be super confusing.

    They are my biggest gripes with the game! :)

    But yes, I was enjoying it apart from that!! :D

    1. It's a great game Murray, the long walks I find add some realism to the fact that the Mobile Infantry had to really 'hump' from point to point after their deployment, makes them feel all the more vulnerable too.

      I still cant get the damn game to run so when I have some spare cash I am going to pick up any old laptop with a HD Radeon of some kind and jump right back in to the war! Have you played the First Person Shooter Starship troopers? that's a lot of fun too.

    2. Hiya Ginsu Moose,

      Yeah, a Radeon card seems to work better. Hope you can get it working! Great to hear some people enjoyed it enough to go to such lengths. :)

      I never played the FPS game of Starship Troopers, it looked pretty cool! I should check it out one day!!

      - Murray

  8. Having the same Nvidia problems for now but I played the hell out of this game growing up. One of my favourites which I hope to stream and show people soon thanks for the wonderful memories from this game good sir.

    If the mission you're talking about is Whiskey Outpost the easiest way I find to do it is once you reach the base ignore the Colonel for abit and just line everyone up along the wall and man the turrets. Camera facing the gate you want soldiers focused on the far left corner, the right side of the front gate and 2 guys at the back just to deal with that spare bughole, then you can move them up front with the others. Doing that I've never had a breach in the wall and you get some nice XP for getting the colonel out, hope that helps!

    Got alot of fun memories I wanna relive again hunting down every last possible bug, also heard that you can mod the files in game too to increase the craziness so I'll be sure to do that if I can get it running. Thanks again for being part of this game man.

    1. Just an update but I finally managed to get it working a week after the above post. For some reason this time the Nvidia patch just worked. I don't know what I did different outside of the usual recommendations. But the Full and Nvidia patches do work flawlessly... Eventually. One thing I like about some of these old games is pushing the numbers of bugs too. It really changes things up when a bughole can throw out 50 bugs, although your nuke gunners tend to level up like crazy. I'll try and find more answers anyway to see if I maybe ticked something different. I've tried like 15 years to get it working? And it just finally decided to. Don't know what to say beyond that. Good luck troopers!

    2. That's awesome to hear! Great to know it can be done.


    3. Great... OK I will try to get it working once again.


  9. My pleasure!

    And thanks for the good tips of winning that level. I'll have to try it again some time with your advice on hand! :D

  10. I picked up a second hand HP laptop, the game runs fine. Finally after a couple of years I can play again!

    You probably already know this, but with notepad you can edit the amounts of bugs and even types of bugs in each mission, I now have dozens of bugs swarming my platoon, its great.

    Thank you for trying to help me prior, hope more people enjoy this classic.