Xpilot on Mac OS

Xpilot is a game very much like Thrust on the C64, but with many more complicated features and game-play. The game is one of the pioneering games in internet gaming, it was one of the first to include in game chat and different game modes such as capture the flag. It was written for unix workstations, and the first public release was made back in 1992 by Bjørn Stabell and Ken Schouten. Xpilot runs on most unix systems including Linux, FreeBSD, NetBSD, Mac OS, ans Sun OS that I know of, in theory if the X libraries are installed Xpilot should run on it. You can build it under cygwin for windows, but I believe that there is a proper windows port you can use.

I built the game on my macbook which runs Mac OSX Lion. It was fairly straight forward to build, but I needed to install the imake utility from macports to make my life easier. I also had to modify some source code very slightly for it to work on my computer, so I would suggest using the version of it in Fink. I have previously built and ran the game on NetBSD, Linux and FreeBSD without any issues.

The games system requirements for getting it to work are fairly low, but it’s a good idea to not run it on very old hardware. Anything younger than about 10 years old should be fine. It can demand a lot of the X server, and can require a lot of your network if your X server isn’t local to where the game is running. I tried running the game on my old sparcstation to see how well it would work, it seemed fine, but the server used all of one CPU and the client a good part of the other. I was running the X server on my desktop machine which was taking some of the load off, so it would be unlikely that the old machine could have coped very well with the full load of the game unless I upgrade it.

Because of the systems the game was meant to run on originally, there is no audio as many X terminals never had sound and there wasn’t a uniform way to access audio hardware when it was first written.

The game play seems very complicated at first, there are tons of controls, options and bonus pickups to learn about. The initial keyboard controls are a bit unintuitive, so it is a very good idea for you to change them before hand. This can be a little difficult because you need to modify your configuration file to do it. Once you have changed to controls to something that suites you better, it is a much easier and better game to play. I found I was woefully outgunned against a bunch of robots, and I am still pretty much a newbie at piloting. My scores often go negative. Very negative. I have occasionally done better but that was weirdly enough when testing on the sparcstation.

If you’re looking for more information about how to play or configure the game there are numerous newbie guides of which I found this one to be quite good. The game is very addictive and quite fun (more so against humans than robots!) and many people still play it today. There are also a couple of newer ports that are partly compatible with the original called xpilot-ng and xpilot5. I’ve also noted there is a java client available on source forge and an app for the iPhone available. I tried xpilot-ng quite a while ago and think it’s pretty alright, but I haven’t tried the others for comparison.

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