Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

  • Date: 27th June, 2014
  • Updated: 18th April, 2017
  • Category: Beginner

Introduction

Welcome to this tutorial for Planetary Annihilation. My name is Quitch and I’ve been playing since the alpha first launched. I wanted to make a series of tutorials to make it easier to pick up the game and play it well, based on what I’ve learned.

This tutorial will walk you through the in-game interface, the controls, what it all means and how you can customise it. The focus will very much be on elements unique to Planetary Annihilation.

When this tutorial refers to “clicking” without referencing a mouse button, assume the primary/left mouse button.

Global Game Settings

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

There are a number of options you can tweak to make the game easier for you to play. I’m not going to delve into things like graphical options, I’m sure you can figure those out.

Camera

The camera is controlled either by keys configurable on this screen, or by holding the third mouse button and dragging. To recreate the typical tutorial experience feel free to start a game, move the camera about, then comment in your gruffest voice that you’re “the best ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ soldier I’ve ever seen!”

Once in-game you’ll notice that as you move the camera about the planet that the north and south poles shift in relation to the screen. While this is the optimal way to play the game it can be incredibly disorientating. We don’t get straight onto a two wheeled bike, we first start with stabilisers. That’s training wheels for US folks. Planetary Annihilation has these stabilisers in the form of Planet Pole Lock.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

Switching this option on will ensure that north is always at the top of the screen and south is always at the bottom. Now, this is a sub-optimal way of playing for a couple of reasons: it gets you thinking about attack lines only from the east and west because that’s how you rotate the map and it makes it much harder to navigate around the poles, which can thus discourage you from spawning there or making any plays around them. However, despite this you’re going to have a lot to be learning at first so not having to fight camera disorientation can be helpful during this period. Indeed, I used Planet Pole Lock for the first few weeks of playing.

Keyboard

I’m not going to talk about these bindings, only draw your attention to this screen and advise that you look at familiarising yourself with them at some point.

UI

Show Unit Icons controls the strategic icons that appear over units so you can control them even at extreme zooms. Personally I recommend setting this to “always” as icons are much easier to make out than the units themselves.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial  Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

Show Metal Spot Icons controls the display of green dots over metal spots. You will always want this on.

Icon Display Distance controls how far out you must zoom before unit icons are shown.

Show Stat Bars controls when unit health bars are shown, as well as the small white indicators used for recharge times of energy dependent units such as your bombers. You should probably leave this on.

Show Order Previews controls whether or not you see arrows between a unit and its destination. These arrows will change in colour based on the order, so green for move and patrol, red for attack or reclaim and blue for assist . It will also show the end point of a command, so a movement symbol at the end of a movement path, or an assist system on a unit being assisted.

Show Metal Spot Icons controls the display of green dots over metal spots. You will always want this on.

Note that the final movement of patrol loop is not shown until a unit reaches the first patrol node.

Order Preview Behaviour controls whether order previews are show for all units or only the selected ones.

Show Build Previews controls whether you see wireframes for buildings queued for construction.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

Build Preview Behaviour controls whether you see build all build previews or only those of the selected units.

Orbital Shell controls when the green orbital layer is displayed around a planet to assist with orbital navigation. Modal means it appears when you select an orbital unit.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

Servers

Just set this to the region closest to you.

Setting Up A Game

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

You currently have two game modes to select from: FFA and Team Armies. By default Team Armies plays using the standard team model you see in every RTS, but there is a second option: shared armies. You change between these two options over in the player slots on the right, a grey “share army” button means you’re in the mode where everyone controls their own independent force and economy, while a green button indicates that shared armies is active meaning that all players on the team share all units and have a shared economy. Beware using the “select Commander” hotkey in this mode as it will select all Commanders on the team.

if you have spectators in a game note that they are assigned a colour. If you find yourself unable to select your favourite colour, and none of the players are using it, open a slot for the spectators to join so you can find the culprit and have them change to another colour.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

In a FFA you can enable “Dynamic Alliances” which allows you to ally (and unally) during the course of a game with other players. Breaking an alliance with someone breaks it both ways. You cannot see alliances between other players. You can also choose to enable victory for the last alliance left standing.

Sandbox sets up an environment where you can experiment with units without coming under attack.

To the right of each player is the economic multiplier. By default this is set to 1.0. Changing it to 0.5 would give a player 50% of their normal income while setting it to 2.0 would give them 200%. You can set this anywhere from 0 to 5, both for players and the AI.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

Use this drop down to load different systems

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

This player is still loading and the game cannot start until they’ve finished

When you load a system, or when first joining a lobby, you will see a rotating graphic in the system area as well as next to your name. Only when both these loading icons have disappeared will you be able to start the game, or select ready, depending whether you are the host or not.

Only the host can launch a game, and they can only do so once every player has clicked the “ready” button. Once they have done this a green tick appears on their row. Any changes to the lobby’s settings by the host removes the ready state from all the players. When you are in a ready state you cannot make any changes to your setup.

You can change your primary colour and also which Commander you will spawn in as by left-clicking. Set your default commander through the Armoury on the main menu. Some Commanders may be unavailable, for example the Alpha Commander is only available to Kickstarter backers who backed at the alpha level, or to people who bought the Cosmic Edition.

You can also add one or more AIs in the lobby. AIs on your team are supported, but not in shared team mode, nor will the AI use or respond to dynamic alliances.

AI difficulty controls how well they manage their economy, their micro level, which player it focuses attacks on, and how smart its threat decision making is. The AI plays by the same rules as you; it does not know where you spawn, it cannot see things outside of its line-of-sight.

Galactic War

Planetary Annihilation Galactic War

This is Planetary Annihilation’s randomly generated single-player campaign. You start out with almost no tech and must fight your way across the galaxy defeating enemies and gaining more technology. Victory is obtained when you eliminate the three enemy faction leaders.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

On the setup screen you select your commander and faction, both of which are cosmetic elements only. You can also name your game for later access.

The Size setting determines the size of the galaxy you will play in. A larger galaxy means a longer game, it also generally means an easier one as you will have more opportunities to collect tech ahead of battling a faction leader.

The Difficulty controls how quickly the AI ramps up in difficulty in terms of AI difficulty level, number of commanders and economic multipliers. On Absurd difficulty the AI has no ramp up, it starts out at its top difficulty settings from the first planet. At the time of writing no one, including some of the game’s best players, had beaten absurd difficulty in a small galaxy.

The Commander Loadout controls what technology you start the game with. You will unlock additional loadouts over the course of your Galactic War games.

For further information on playing Galactic War, click the How to Play button in the game.

The Basics

Spawning

Select a spawn location and click “start annihilation”. You will appear where you clicked within the spawn zone, so choose wisely.

When playing with shared armies all players on the team see the same spawn locations, in all other modes every player gets unique spawn options.

The Commander

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

The first thing we see when we spawn is our Commander. This is the key unit in Planetary Annihilation; lose your Commander, or in shared army mode lose all your Commanders, and you are out of the game. It doesn’t matter how big your base is, if the Commander dies everything else dies too.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

Players

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

In the top left is a count of the players and if we click it on we can see a list of who is playing. Any names in red indicate annihilated opponents.

System

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

The system name and a list of planets can be found in the top right. Clicking on a planet switches your view to that planet at the current zoom level. Clicking the icon next to the planet switches your view to that planet and fits it on the screen.

Under some planets you may see little engine icons, this indicates that this planet is a smashable. Build as many engines, or “Halleys”, on the planet as are indicated by the icons and you will be able to select another planet to annihilate, destroying everything on both worlds.

Economy

Economy bar

At the top of the screen is one of the most important parts of the game: the economy bar. On the left is your metal. The bar itself and the numbers underneath represent the amount of metal in storage against your total storage. The numbers to the right represent your incoming and outgoing metal, the top green number is income and the bottom red number is spending. The large number on the right is the result of income minus spending. To start with you are making ten metal per second from your Commander. On the right-hand side you will see the same information for your energy.

In the centre is your overall efficiency which impacts the speed at which you build units and buildings. At 50% efficiency two fabricators or factories are building at the same rate as one fabricator or factory would at 100% efficiency. Fabricators are the construction units of the game.

Issuing an order to my Commander to build something you will see the number and colour of the bars change. Blue means you are earning more than you’re spending and your storage is full. Red means you’re spending more than you’re earning and your storage is empty or about to run out. Green is in-between the two and the colour they should ideally be most of the time.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

Hovering over any unit which is currently building will show you how much it is costing you. The cost is always the same, regardless of what is being built. Likewise, buildings which generate metal or energy will show you how much they’re making. The green bar represents the health of the unit.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

The Commander’s income levels have been modified by its expenditure

Planetary Annihilation operates using a flow economy, meaning that all units and structures are built over time and cost your economy the whole time they’re being built. For example, let us take a standard Fabricator Vehicle which builds at 10 metal a second for a cost of 1000 energy per second. It can build a Missile Defence Tower, which costs 300 metal. This means for an economy operating at 100% efficiency it would take the fabricator 30 seconds as 300 metal divided by 10 metal a second is 30. The total energy cost would be 30,000, that’s 1000 energy a second for 30 seconds. If your economy were operating at only 50% efficiency then the fabricator would only be building at 5 metal a second, but this would still cost you 1000 energy every second resulting in a total cost of 300 metal and 60,000 energy over 60 seconds. The higher the metal output of a fabricator or factory the faster it builds things.

Controls

When you select a unit you can give it context sensitive orders with the right mouse button. For example, if you right-click in an empty space with your Commander selected it will be issued a move command. Right-click on an enemy and it would get an attack command. A left-click deselects the currently selected unit. This works for factories as well, so you can setup orders for as the rollout, such as a default patrol for fighter aircraft. Selecting a unit will cause the orders bar to appear on the right and, if the unit is a Commander, fabricator or factory, the build bar at the bottom.

  • Left-click selects units and orders
  • Right-click to give orders to a currently selected unit
  • Left-click to deselect a currently selected unit or cancel a selected order

Let’s first talk about the controls on the orders bar.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial Move is self-explanatory. You would generally use this when you want to move into a densely packed enemy area and the contextual command keeps changing to attack. When you order a group of units to move they will do so in a formation at the speed of the slowest unit. Units will continue to attack anything in range while moving.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial Attack allows you to perform attack moves whereby units will move to a location but stop to attack anything along the way. Also used to cause a nuke to attack a ground location. Unlike many other RTSs your units can attack while moving and therefore a move command will often suffice unless you have a particular reason to maintain your unit’s full range. Units on an attack command will not maintain formation and will move independent of one another.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial Alt Fire exists only for the Commander and controls its Ubercannon. This is a short-ranged, energy expensive attack that will devastate enemy units. It is much less effective against buildings and enemy Commanders.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial Assist is similar to the guard command seen in other games. A unit will follow the unit it is assisting, protect it from harm, and help it build things if possible. Fabricators can help factories build faster in this way.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial Repair allows fabricators to heal units and buildings. Fabricators will automatically repair units they are assisting.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial Reclaim is used by fabricators and combat fabricators to suck up units, buildings and trees. Metal will be reclaimed over time. It can also be used against enemy units. It’s not uncommon to use combat fabbers to power a so-called treeconomy.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial Patrol forms a patrol route based on the patrol orders you lay down. The first patrol order acts as the beginning and end of the path. Fabricators will automatically repair, reclaim and assist anything they come across.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial Use is for particular buildings like the Teleporter. You should never need to select this from the orders bar, it can always be issued as a contextual command via the right-mouse button. The only exception to this rule is using enemy teleporters (set your troops to hold fire first).

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial Unload is for transports to unload their cargo. If you’re moving a unit between planets using Astraeus transport then you need to issue the move order to the other planet first and queue the unload afterwards.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial Load is for transports to load their cargo. Note that Pelicans cannot carry Commanders.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial Stop cancels everything that unit or building was doing.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial Ping is found not on the orders bar but at the bottom of the screen by the clock. It is available at all times and forms a ping your teammates and spectators can see. Notice how a ping creates an alert at the top of the screen. Hovering over the alert provides a view of the area, and clicking the alert takes you to the alert location. Other events, such as the loss of a building or an attack on the Commander will also generate these.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial 

Fire orders allow you to control when a unit will open fire. The icon changes depending on the order selected.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial 

Move orders currently serve no purpose. The icon changes depending on the order selected.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial 

Energy orders are used to pause factory queues or disable energy expensive units as required. The icon changes depending on the order selected.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial 

Build mode is a contextual order for factories. Changes between normal and continuous modes. This determines whether completed units are removed from the queue or moved to the back of the queue. The icon changes depending on the mode selected.

Build Bar Commands

The build bar appears only for fabricators and factories. Fabbers will display the structures they can build, factories display the units they can build.

Fabbers

For a fabber you left-click the unit you want to build then left-click on the map to give the fabber an order to build it in the selected location. To build multiple items hold SHIFT each time you click to place an item on the map. This allows you to create a queue of build orders, and you can even mix in other orders between the build orders using this method.

Factories

The build bar for factories will show the currently queued units. While in normal build mode the number of units queued will decrease by one each time the factory starts building another unit. For example, once a factory with two fabbers queued starts to build a fabber it will reduce the fabber number from 2 to 1 to indicate the size of the queue remaining. In continuous build mode the factory will loop through the queued units and the numbers displayed will not change. There will not be an indication as to where in the queue it currently is.

The stop command can be used to cancel any currently building unit and to wipe the queue.

Units added to the queue before the enabling of continuous build mode are removed from the queue upon completion per normal build mode.

Advanced Commands

  • SHIFT-click increases units in increments of 5.
  • CTRL-click puts that unit at the front of a factory’s queue and excludes it from any continuous build queue.
  • Units queued prior to continuous build being enabled are excluded from the continuous build.

Take a newly built factory as an example: you click on the Ant twice, turn on continuous build, shift-click the Ant, click the Spinner, CTRL-click the fabber. This would result in the following:

  1. An Ant is produced (as the factory was inactive it started building immediately)
  2. A fabber is produced (CTRL-click put it at the front of the queue but didn’t interrupt the currently building Ant)
  3. Six Ants are produced
  4. One Spinner is produced
  5. Five Ants are produced (one less because the sixth Ant was queued in normal build mode)
  6. One Spinner is produced
  7. etc.

You could use CTRL-click to build additional fabbers in the future without compromising the build queue, or causing large numbers of fabbers to be produced.

Area Commands

The game provides you the ability to issue commands over areas rather than simply at individual points. Select an order, such as patrol, then click and drag. You can do this with orders for units or even factories. Below are shown four examples:

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

A Hummingbird is given an area patrol

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

A fabricator is given an area build for metal extractors

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

A fabricator is given an area build for energy plants. These build in a line formation.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

A fabricator is given an area build for energy storage. These build in a cluster.

Area commands, such as patrol, when dragged beyond the planet will now encompass the entire planet. You can use this to, for example, have aircraft patrol an entire world, or build on every metal spot.

Surrendering

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

It’s considered poor form to just disconnect from a game. Instead you should surrender. Press the escape key to bring up the menu and choose surrender, or select your Commander and press delete.

You should not use the quit function to exit a game.

Pausing

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

Press the escape key and select pause from the menu. You can issue orders while paused but build and order previews will not update while pause is active.

If your opponent pauses it is good etiquette to check that they are ready to resume play before unpausing.

Picture-in-Picture (PIP)

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial One of the unique features of Planetary Annihilation is picture-in-picture. The PIP allows you the exact same functionality as the primary window, you can view anything or anywhere, give orders, etc. Hovering over this window reveals four more functions:

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial Swap cameras causes the PiP view to swap with the view of the main camera.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial Capture main view clones the current view in the PiP.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial Follow alerts means the PiP will switch view to whatever the latest alert to appear is.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial Pin to opposite side will have the PiP view the opposite side of the planet you are viewing. Note that this still does not give you 100% visibility of the planet.

Chronocam

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial Another unique feature is the Chronocam, which allows you to look into the past, even during a live game. Grey bars represent alerts.

Closing the Chronocam takes you back to the present.

System View

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

This isn’t a separate view or UI feature. By zooming out – or by clicking the solar system icon in the top right – we can see the whole system and all its orbits. When units are moving between planets you will see them here. You will only see the movement of enemy units if you have a Deep Space Radar.

Planet Smashing

The feature that Planetary Annihilation derives its name from. Build as many Halleys on a planet as indicated by the engine icons next to the planet and you will see a new button in the system list. If the planet has no icons then it cannot be powered by Halleys.

Be aware that all players are notified every time a Halley is built and are given its location.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

Clicking it will zoom your view out to see the entire system. Potential targets will have a new icon next to them.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

Click the planet you want to annihilate. The view will now switch to the surface of the planet and you will be asked to click the location you want to come down on. Once you have done that click the final button.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

Once clicked the engines will light up and away it goes.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

If you cancel the move then the planet will settle into an orbit wherever it stopped. The same will happen if one of the engines is destroyed. A planet enroute to smash another planet cannot be targeted by nukes.

Be aware that if another planet gets in the way of the smash it will be smashed instead. In heavily populated systems you will need to monitor a planet’s smash route.

Once a planet has been smashed any bodies it had orbiting it will now commence their own orbit around the sun. If their orbit causes them to run across the path of another planet then the collision will be treated the same as a smash. Be wary of the chain reactions one smash can cause in a system.

Annihilaser (Death Star)

To fire the Annihilaser you must build five Catalysts using T2 fabbers on the blue control points found on any metal planet. These can be fiddly to place, so use area build to construct them. You must also ensure that any metal spots near the control point are empty.

Be aware that every player is notified every time a Catalyst is completed and are given its location. A planet smash near the pole will permanently destroy the control nodes and prevent the Annihilaser being used.

Once your weapon is ready to fire the system list will have a new button present.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

Click it and pick a target.

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

The Annihilaser will align the weapon, and then…

Planetary Annihilation Controls and the User Interface Tutorial

You can cancel the attack if you want. But why would you?

Additional Information

Planetary Annihilation Version
99377

Recommended Reading

    Quitch

    Guide has been updated for the various changes to the UI in Galactic, including AI difficulty, economic multipliers, and Galactic War. Some options have disappeared so I’ve removed them from the guide. Also provided information around how factory build queues work.

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