Archive for November, 2012

26
Nov
12

Freeciv on FreeBSD

Main Menu

Main Menu

Quite some time ago I worked at a radio telescope for 3 months as part of my work experience for my engineering degree. During that time I had an incredibly old machine as my work station, it was an original Pentium running at 77 Mhz. Because it was so old and because of the job I was doing I installed Linux on it. I used my favourite old school window manager (FVWM) and had it set up pretty sweet.

One of my duties for a short period of time was looking after the telescope after hours. This was called being the duty astronomer and was something everyone did at sometime during the year. Basically you were on call for if something happened to the equipment that the remote astronomer couldn’t handle. Most of the people using the telescope were often some distance away and did observations remotely thanks to the power of the net.

The main view

The main view

So I was spending many hours at my workstation after work hours, not working, and watching the telescope and waiting for something to happen. This is when I installed freeciv and started playing. Surprisingly even on that hideously old machine the game played quite well and was quite enjoyable.

The city screen

The city screen

Recently I compiled and installed it on my sun fire R280 machine which is running FreeBSD. The machine is headless so I was accessing the machine via XDMCP in order to play. There are too many graphics to play the game via a VPN connection, but it works very well over a LAN connection, mine is 100Mbps so it would be significantly better on gigabit.

City production

City production

I was playing on the standard GTK based client, but there are other clients with support for the Xaw, Xaw3d and SDL toolkits so you can get it to work on systems without GTK installed. Most of the clients look pretty much the same with the exception of the SDL client which imitates the interface of the newer civilization games.

Research tree

Research tree

The graphics for units and the terrain are consistent across all the clients so you won’t be confused trying to identify units or terrain. There are several tile-sets to choose from as well so you can customise the way the game looks. Unfortunately the newer versions of freeciv don’t have as many tile-sets available as the older ones. Some times I have found some of the text is difficult to read because it is so small.

Other civilisations

Other civilisations

If your platform supports sound there are some sound effects for events such as combat. On the sun machine I didn’t have sound, however I do have it working on my macbook running the SDL client for freeciv. The sound is reasonably good, but not essential to game play. There isn’t any music in the game, but this leaves you room to play some of your own.

The SDL client

The SDL client

The game play is of course very much like civilization. The default rules most resemble the rules of civilization II with some differences. There are different rule sets that you can use, for instance there is a rule set for the first civilization game. There are unfortunately many subtle differences in game play that may annoy some players. The main draw card here is that multiplayer games are supported. This is reflected in the way diplomacy works differently to the commercial games.

Personally I actually prefer the original civ II game play, graphics and sound, but freeciv has some merit of its own. There are some features that are nice such as extremely large maps, and many more players in one game. The rules are subtly different which can change some of the strategies for play, but for the most part the same strategies will work. It still is fun to play for me, but it really will be a matter of personal preference as to whether you enjoy it or not.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Advertisements
19
Nov
12

Colonization for DOS

Title Animation

Title Animation

Colonization was released by microprose in 1994 and is a turn based strategy game very much like Civilization. My older brother bought it for my younger brother some years later (in 1997 I think) for Christmas and we used to play it on a Cyrix 166Mhz machine with windows 95 on it. Colonization quickly became a favourite around the house because of its deep game play, good graphics and very good adlib music.

The Title screen

The Title screen

The game is set in the new world at the time when the great empires where expanding into new and unexplored territories. Initially your job is to explore and establish new colonies, trading goods with the homeland to make extra money. The game is less focused on warfare than Civilization, your economy, trade and relationships with the native Indians are more important.

Talking to the King

Talking to the King

You can’t ignore your military need either, Indians and other European colonies all make their presence felt. So it is important to have some military forces available if the need arises, but if you have too large an army the king expands the size of the force he will send when independence is declared. You can get around this by stockpiling muskets and materials for building artillery, and deploying soldiers only when you need them.

Talking to the natives

Talking to the natives

The base of your economy are your colonies that you will try to establish in as many locations as possible. The citizens in the colonies produce good that you can sell back to the home land. Some goods you will produce to maintain and build up your colonies, these include tools, muskets and lumber to build more buildings. Once you’ve produced some valuable goods you’ll need to be able to ship them back, so organising and protecting a fleet of merchant vessels is also important to your economic success.

Introduction

Introduction

Combat units on land consist of musketeers, dragoons and artillery. You’ll need to keep a stock of muskets and horses to make the first two, and tools and lumber to make the artillery units. The dragoons are arguably the most useful as they are fast, musketeers are slow but cheap to produce, and artillery are more expensive but pack one heck of a wallop.

The main game screen

The main game screen

On the ocean you can have your own privateer vessels to steal cargo and destroy the ships of the other powers in the region, but the privateers don’t stand a chance against proper warships. If you were to fight an open war the ship of choice is the frigate, it’s fast and powerful enough to sink most vessels except the large man-o-war vessels the king sends.

Meeting the natives

Meeting the natives

The graphics are in VGA and are quite good, All the sprites are easy to identify and the artwork for the various factions/people you meet is crafted well. To match the time in which the game is set most screens and dialogues have a wooden motif. By the time this game was released VGA had become the standard, and older machines using EGA or older were more of an oddity.

The colony screen

The colony screen

The music in the game is excellent. Music that is from the period, and some new compositions all add to the atmosphere of the game. The music will change in some circumstances to match what is happening on screen, for instance there is a particular piece used when in contact with the native people.

The european status screen

The european status screen

Colonization is addictive in much the same way as the original Civilization was, you keep thinking to yourself just one more turn and soon find you’ve been up past midnight. The challenge is a little different in that you spend much more time managing your economy and transporting goods than you do in other games. Because you can play on a random map, each time can be filled with new exploration and new possibilities. You can still get the game on Good old Games for $5.99 (us$) which in my opinion is very well worth it.

14
Nov
12

Seek and Destroy for DOS

Title Screen

Title Screen

Seek and Destroy was released by Safari Software in 1995 and is a 360 degree shooter where you pilot either an Apache helicopter or an Abrams tank. I didn’t see this game until after DOS was no longer used on most computers in 1999 when a university friend of mine bought the game in a bargain bin for about $15. It came on a CD at a time when CD burners were quite expensive, so it didn’t have any serious DRM because the discs were difficult to copy. This was common in the early days of CD-ROM games.

Mission Briefing

Mission Briefing

The game is quite impressive graphically and scrolls smoothly providing you have enough processing power in your machine. It is best played on a 486 machine 66Mhz or higher although I would use something faster myself. It runs under DOS but I used to play it on my pentium II 333Mhz machine under window 98SE without any problems and I believe my friend was playing it under windows NT at the time. Playing it now under dosbox you want to have the cycle count at 20000 or higher if your machine supports it.

Chopper upgrade screen

Chopper upgrade screen

Sound is equally impressive, the music and sound effects are crisp and fit the atmosphere of the game. Because the game came on CD the developers had a lot more space to store higher quality audio than could be easily achieved in the past, and could make more support for the different hardware available. I’ve always used the sound blaster option with the game, but it also supports Gravis Ultra sound and some other cards that were common at the time as well as some less common ones.

Tank upgrade screen

Tank upgrade screen

The game plays as a pretty straight forward shooter. There are a variety of weapons for your chopper and your tank which you can upgrade as you accumulate medals that you will find scattered around the levels. The chopper is by far the most versatile vehicle, it has the ability to strafe in order to dodge incoming fire and moves significantly faster than the tank. I’ve found rockets are one of the best weapons for the chopper along with the machine gun when you run out of rockets. There are some other weapons that are useful for the chopper such as the air-to-air missile that homes in on its target. The tank has a different set of weapons, fewer in number than that which is available for the chopper. The shells are the main weapon and are the most powerful weapon in-game, you won’t need much else unless you run out of ammunition. The tank isn’t very manoeuvrable but does have a turret to make it easier to dodge and shoot enemies. In practise it is still not as good as the chopper.

Weapon loadout

Weapon loadout

There are a few levels throughout the campaign that do not allow you to use the chopper, so you have to use the tank at some point and putting some upgrades into it will be necessary. The levels get more difficult further into the game as more advanced turrets and enemies are introduced including enemy choppers and turrets that shoot homing missiles.

Medals

Medals

Seek and Destroy has plenty of action to keep you entertained for quite a while, without having a boring story. You can jump straight into the game and get your action fix pretty quickly. Each mission doesn’t last too long and because you can save you game between missions you’ll be able to get through the campaign even if you’re only playing it for short sessions at a time. I found the game the most enjoyable when piloting the chopper as it has the best weapons and is the most agile. If you can find a copy of the game it’s worth a play through if you enjoy action shooters.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

06
Nov
12

Dwarf Fortress

Dwarf Fortress is under development by Bay 12 Games, which is made up of the two brothers Zach and Tarn Adams. They started development of the game back in 2002, and are still developing the game today. Despite it’s state of development it is very playable and very fun!

There are two different modes of play, fortress and adventurer mode. In fortress mode you manage a group of dwarves creating their own city/outpost. You have to manage the problems that come with survival in some of the hostile terrain, and manage to make good with which to trade. Adventurer mode is a lot like games such as hack and rogue, but expanded to fit the dynamically created worlds and complex simulation within the game.

The game follows many of the traditions of rogue, one of the first dungeon crawling games that became very popular. It has ASCII art style graphics and user interface with minimal sound much like rogue. Dwarf Fortress takes a new spin on perma-death in that when your fort is destroyed or adventurer killed, the world in which they exists continues and you can play again exploring your abandoned fortress, or seeing the consequences of your adventurers actions.

I personally play fortress mode the most, and have found it very addictive! The first challenge is setting up your initial fort and getting enough food and water for your growing population. This can be difficult depending on the environment that you chose to begin with. Some locations may be lacking particular materials, you need to find ways to cope with this at least until a trade caravan arrives with the supplies you desperately need.

The supplies aren’t free however, you have to have something of worth to trade in order to buy these supplies. You’d normally do this by crafting objects in your workshops to sell. The easiest material to come by is stone usually, and will be the first thing you use for craft work that you will trade.

As your population grows you need to afford them some more comfortable quarters. If you dwarves start becoming too unhappy they will throw a tantrum and start slapping people and destroying furniture or buildings. This can lead to something called a tantrum spiral where by everyone eventually dies because they are all too busy slapping each other! It can be very comical at times.

Once your city/outpost gets big enough, other civilizations will start to send raiding parties and will siege your fort stopping all trade. You have to have a good secure entrance that you can close off so they don’t come into your fort and kill everyone. You can achieve this with a variety of different methods, such as flooding the entry way, or having a drawbridge. You can arm your dwarves and have them fight back, but I’ve found this seldom works against a large siege force.

I prefer to construct large machines to trap enemies either drowning them, capturing them in a cage, or squishing them under a stone. Machines can be large, complex, and are generally powered by water wheels. In one of my forts I created large storage containers of water so I could flood areas and enemies very quickly with water under pressure. It proved to be quite effective at blocking an entrance and even drowning a few enemies. This required the use of many screw pumps powered by water wheels to lift the water up high enough.

There isn’t a winning condition in the game, so eventually every fortress will fail for some reason or another. Losing can be quite fun surprisingly as many funny things often happen leading up to the collapse of a fort. I’ve often accidentally dug out a section and flooded my entire fort. Once I hit an aquifer and couldn’t dig bellow the first level of my fort.

The graphics being in the ASCII style (it’s code page 437) can be difficult to understand at first, but become more intuitive the more you play. The user interface is good for the basics but can be a bit of a learning curve especially when it’s dealing with some of the more complicated parts of the game. The only sound in the game is some guitar music which is nice, but can be a bit repetitive. You can turn the sound off and play your own music however as sound is not an important part of the game.

Dwarf Fortress is very much a geek game at it’s heart, it has such a great depth of game play that no one game will ever be the same. The learning curve is incredibly steep, but you will be rewarded. If you’re not a fan of the ASCII style graphics there are options in the form of graphics/tile sets that will make the game a lot easier for inexperienced players. There are also many articles and other information available on the Dwarf Fortress wiki.




Blogs I Follow

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


Mister G Kids

A daily comic about real stuff little kids say in school. By Matt GajdoĊĦ

Random Battles: my life long level grind

completing every RPG, ever.

Gough's Tech Zone

Reversing the mindless enslavement of humans by technology.

Retrocosm's Vintage Computing, Tech & Scale RC Blog

Random mutterings on retro computing, old technology, some new, plus radio controlled scale modelling.

ancientelectronics

retro computing and gaming plus a little more

Retrocomputing with 90's SPARC

21st-Century computing, the hard way

lazygamereviews

MS-DOS game reviews, retro ramblings and more...