Saturday, March 21, 2009

Open source Artillery / Worms clones

So it seems that Scorched 3D, Wormux, Hedgewars, and Atomic Tanks are all clones of inspired by... Worms? No. Scorched Earth? Nah. Gorillas? Nope. Tank Wars? No. That's right, their roots go all the way back to a 1980 on the Apple II under the name Artillery. Even earlier ascii versions from as early as 1976 are reported. Now that's real history - all other games (pong and chess excepted) are modern upstarts. ;-)

Atomic Tanks


One of the older and more mature open source Artillery clones, with version 0.5 first available in January of 2003, Atomic Tanks doesn't seem to have the online presence of it's contemporaries. This is probably because it doesn't look that nice, with garish colours, coarse widgets, and almost badly drawn sprites.

Update: Markus comments, "I am sure that the graphics and such in Atomic Tanks are intentional. It is a fairly faithful reproduction of the original Scorched Earth, and for those of us who grew up playing that game quite a bit, that is where the real appeal lies." I'm not sure I can agree with you there [on the intentionality of the bad graphics] after inspecting the original graphics.

What it lacks in the graphics department, it makes up for in features. The sheer range of weapons is overwhelming. You earn money, which you can use upgrade features and improve your tanks, making the game a much more appealing single player experience. Also the land behaves differently, falling to fill and holes created by explosions.

The latest release was 20th March 2009, which gives it a spot at the top of the article. :-)

Scorched 3D


Scorched 3D has been in development since 2001 with build 1 released on 29th April of that year.

The first thing to note about Scorched 3D is that it looks beautiful. It is the only 3D game in the article, but it is especially well done. The islands deform as they get pounded by missiles. Battleships stay moored offshore, the waves lap against the beaches, and jet fighters fly overhead the tanks. It looks as good as a commercial game.

Scorched 3D build 42.1 arrived on 3rd March 2009.



Hedgewars is the youngest of the four projects, in development since 2004 and first released on 13th November 2006.

If I had to sum up Hedgewars in 3 words, I would say, "Worms II with hedgehogs." (Hey, II is a number!) With it's yelps and ows, and faithful recreation of many of the popular Worms weapons, it makes for a very similar gaming experience, arguably even better.

Hedgewars 0.9.9 was released 19th January 2009 and version 0.9.10 is imminent. I think the video successfully gets across just how Worms-like Hedgewars is:



Wormux looks very nice, and gameplay deviates a bit more than Hedgewars from the original worms experience, but is still very heavily inspired by it. It includes all the popular Free software mascots, so there's plenty of characters that you should recognise or should learn to recognise - making it almost educational! ;-)

The last few years have seen the developers work towards a new engine that will massively enhance the game with features like integrated physics (they created whysics engine just for this). I expect Wormux will continue to depart in a good way - by adding new interesting features that enhance gameplay - from it's Worms foundations whilst retaining the spirit that inspired the project originally.

Version 0.8.3 was released on 5th March 2009 and included some backported enhancements from the development version.


Looking to the future, there is also the iteam project, inspired by Gunbound. It seems like it could combine the graphical panache of Wormux with the upgrading fun of Atomic Tanks, but development has been very slow despite a wave of initial enthusiasm.




If you like things to look Worms-like, but be more frantic, you should check out the games OpenLieroX or Gusanos - both inspired by a freeware game Liero(X). It has the character of old-school Worms but plays like 2D Quake. Gusanos (based on the classic Liero) development is inactive, last release occuring on 31st January 2006, whereas OpenLieroX (based on LeiroX) development is ongoing at a slow pace, with version 0.57_beta8 released 9th October 2008.

(My Liero-foo history may be out there, I'm not 100% sure how the different projects relate to eachother.)

Similar in gameplay style, but more modern and less retro-pixel, perhaps Teeworlds is your cup of tea. At version 0.5.1, the game is already solid, polished, and playable and has an enthusiastic, growing player base with many regular players. Development is very active and the last release was 25th January 2009.


The Artillery genre of open source games is possibly the healthiest genre of open source games with 4 very good, polished, playable, and actively developed projects, as well as other similar games, inspired by the classics. With 2D games increasingly neglected by the commercial sector, this genre is arguably one where a few of the open source projects have surpassed their commercial counterparts.

So, which (if any) of the Artillery-inspired open source games do you prefer to play? What's best about it? Or are you hardcore and only accept real clones and none of this contemporary rubbish? :-)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Foooooooooooooo Egoboo

Update: brain malfunction. I first posted 2.7.0, then 2.7.7b, but the correct _stable_ version of Egoboo is 2.7.0b and the development version is 2.7.7, got it? =/ Thanks for the pointer, maststef

A new stable Egoboo 2.7.0 2.7.7b 2.7.0 wraps up several months of development and bug fixing. This project has really come back to life over the course of 2008. It is very well tested with a lengthy changelog. If I had make a criticism, it would be that Egoboo really looks dated these days and perhaps they could renew focus on nicer textures and more detailed models - perhaps aspiring to be a bit closer to SoulFu in quality - but graphics do not a good game make. It's great to see the project successfully revived from a lifeless piece of bitrot that it had become a few years go.

Now it's a pretty smooth looking experience. Check out this (slightly rambly) video review:

Unknown Horizons 2009.1 was released several days ago. It now resembles a game, you can build a city, although it's still a few features short of being fun. They are changing their release policy to monthly updates / snapshots with stable releases less often (i.e. when they are ready) instead of a stable release every 6 months. Sounds like a wise plan to me.

Battery is a browser based 2D top scrolling game written in Java. The player controls an airplane in a top-down view and shoots down enemies. The game is free and freely distributable. The game can be played inside the browser window, if you have Java.

The Legend of Mazzeroth aims to be a new 2D MMORPG, I think in the style of The Mana World or Stendhal. In fact, I thought it was a fork or inspired by one of those two, but I can't easily find the reference nor do I have the time to search for it. Update: it was originally a fork of The Mana World but now is written from scratch although probably uses TMW graphics. Thanks for finding that out Crush.

Extreme Tux Racer 0.5 beta is supposed to be pretty nice and a big improvement over the 0.4 release.

Dammit I had at least two more project updates but I forgot them. Perhaps Freedroid RPG 0.12? Maybe. What about Vacuum Magic 0.10? Possibly. Who can remember... oh, check out this musicy web thingy. Your browser is the next Flash platform, it seems.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Top 10 Projects To Revive

The great thing about open source is a project can never become extinct - there is always a chance of it being brought back to life either by the original authors who re-find their motivation, by new contributors who see the potential, or a mixture of both.

Here are the top 10 games, complete with cliches, I'd like to see return to the development scene and back on the road to completion.

1. Bloodmasters


This gorgeous 3D top-down action game was released as open source last year after indie developer Pascal "CodeImp" vd Heiden found he'd lost motivation to continue with the project. It's a complete game with great graphics and needs a good C# developer to pick it up, port it to Mono, and help restore the community.

2. Project Citadel


A very nice looking turn based strategy game set in World War II.

The game reached a playable state before it's development team ByteWare stopped playing the development game.

3. Windstille


This project isn't technically dead - lead developer Grumbel occasionally bumps it with more concept work - but it's definitely in hibernation and progress is frustratingly slow.

Grumbel is actively seeking writers and developers so the prospects of reviving the project are quite good - no organizational work required.

4. Emilia Pinball


Come on, who wouldn't love a great Free pinball game? Emilia Pinball is a fairly solid 3D pinball game that is playable, if a little "bare bones" in it's current form. A better table editor, some more tables, and a bit of love to the user interface and ball physics and this game would be a corker.

Hopefully one day a pinball wizard will resume improving this game and add another table or two as well as a few more features.

5. Labyrinth of Worlds


Ultimate Underworld is my favourite ever game, and this is a project to create a new game based on it the 2nd instalment of the popular series. Since these days the world of Ultima is somewhat abandoned by it's foster parent company EA, I hoped projects like this and Underworld Adventures would have gained more support.

6. Boson


The promising 3D RTS came a long way but never quite snowballed despite having nice graphics, original gameplay, and most of the hard work already done. I think the dependency on KDE libs was hurtful to attracting contributors.

It is original, playable, has a full set of units for two sides, nice graphics. It has everything going for it except momentum. Oh but to borrow a bit of enthusiasm from the Spring project, and Boson could spring back into life.

7. MyLink / MyNet


MyLink is inspired by the rather cool game UpLink. After encountering difficulties the author started from scratch with the name MyNet, but after hitting difficulties again (with motivation this time) the project got abandoned. The author is waiting for a new maintainer to step up to the plate. Until that happens, consider this project disconnected.

8. Civil


Civil is a cross-platform, turn-based, networked strategy game, which allows players to take part in scenarios set in historical battle theatres. The U.S. Civil war was the primary focus before they started losing the battle and development stopped in 2005. Written purely in Python/Pygame, there should be plenty of people able to help out.

Battle simulations, how could that fail to be fun? When development dies, that's how!

9. Slickworm


An innovative FPS where the terrain was deformable. It went through a few rewrites before the lead developer went silent. He was obviously talented and probably snapped up by a commercial company - a shame for the open source game community as it blows a big hole in the future for Slickworm; this potentially brilliant game looks like it'll never be more than a tech demo.

10. Battle for Antargis


An original game that mixes elements of strategy and role play, this project enjoyed sustained development for several years and looked very promising before development tailed off as 2008 began. Hopefully somebody will pick things up again as this is one of those projects that counters the 'open source can only copy' popular criticism.

It had another original edge to it, it was probably the first significant Ruby game project, which probably doesn't help when it comes to attracting developers.

Honorable Mentions

Here's a few that I thought also had potential:

  • SilverTree RPG

    The lead developer of Battle for Wesnoth started to make an RPG! There was joyous celebrations and wide eyed expectation as SilverTree was unleashed on the public. Then he moved on to another project and the with it so went the development activity of the RPG.

  • Mars: Land of No Mercy

    A 2D mech strategy game that could be nice if development had no slowed to a near stand still. Every now and again something seems to happen that nearly equates to activity, so it didn't quite make the list.

  • GalaxyMage

    It once looked like a great new strategy game but the developers and the website went AWOL. Enthusiasts resumed development under the moniker Galaxy Mage Redux but it doesn't seem to be going anywhere other than the archives.

  • FreePop

    This was an attempt to recreate and improve upon the iconic Populous games of the early nineties. It never quite got to a playable state before the developer declared the project dead and moved on.

  • Legacy of Magic

    Another very promising war strategy game with very nice 3D graphics that never managed to emerge from abyss of alpha releases.

  • Fuzzy Adventure

    It came about at a time when the only platform games on Linux were SuperTux and XEvil. A quick burst of activity was never turned into long term development. I suspect that Fuzzy Adventure was just SuperTux with different graphics (gameplay was nearly identical) but that's never been confirmed.

  • Reaper3D

    A space shoot-em-up, this game was neary completed before it stalled.

  • OpenParsec

    This 3D space combat game was the darling of its time but very dated now. The developers declined to open source it for several years, and by the time they did the times, and with it the community, had long since moved on.

Another games you wished were still going?

Update: some more games that would be cool to revive:

  • Dark Oberon is an original 2D isometric RTS whose graphics are created by taking images of melded plasticine models.

  • Cspop, a Crystal Space populus-inspired game (svn, no homepage) previously mentioned (twice) on Free Gamer and announced on the happypenguin forums.

  • Zugspiel, a 3D train tycoon game (forum) which never quite made it after the author became inactive.

  • FreeTrain, a 2D isometric city & rail network building game. It needs an enthusiastic C# developer (contact me directly or post in the FreeGameDev Help Offered forum if you are interested).

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Quantum and PyDays


Quantum is a simple, minimalist-look rts game in which you try to control a network of planets. It can be played in multiplayer mode against human players and provides a Java Webstart package for a one-click start (works for me). It is a clone of Dyson.

The game reminds me of qonk a lot. Both share a similar look, are about conquering planets with the help of dots and the computer enemy can be hard to overcome. Quantum is more complex, as unit creation has to be managed but also provides an automatic waypoints mechanic. Qonk's planets are moving, which make the game a bit more fast-paced.

KGB Training Simulator, PyDay 6 entry

PyDay #6 just finished. The 24 hour python game development competition's topic was "surveillance", which mostly resulted in "move around and avoid triangular fields of view" games.

To rate all nine games, you will have to register and open the projects' pages.

Caterpillar Fever Dream, PyDay 5 winner
Two weeks ago, PyDay #5 ended. The theme was "lettuce" and it produced eight entries. The winner of that competition was Caterpillar Fever Dream (uppercase removed o_O), a snake-dig-asteroids salad bowl.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Open Source 3D Landscape Generators

I recently noticed two free 3D landscape generators and thought to myself: "I bet there are dozens of never-finish terrain generators for games and vr apps!" I was wrong. In this article, I will introduce the handful of floss scenery generators and editors that I was able to find.


InnerWorld is a Blender-based landscape generator that shines through a nice online documentation. Landscapes are generated from Blender noise functions or external sources. The tool's specialty appears to be object placement. The project is four years old and the last release (0.0.5) is two months young.


Terraform is an open source interactive height field generation and manipulation program, giving you the ability to generate random terrain and transform it.

The project seems to be non-living - last CVS activity: August 2003.


Height Map Editor is a 2D GUI for generating and precise-editing height maps. It is cross-platform and has a KISS philosophy. However, the last release is seven years old.


Wing, a GPLed, DirectX-based and thus Windows-only landscape editor, is aimed to
proceduraly generate four key ingredients of nature: plants, terrain, water and weather, with simple but powerful user controls

The project was found three years ago but appears to be in early development stages. It is looking for programmer help, so I assume that the project became active only recently.

Real Landscape Project (supposedly)

RLP is a one week-old, pre-anything landscape 'thing' project looking for programming aid. I'm afraid the language barrier will prevent it from thriving.

3D Landscape Generator (Processing)

One more, just for fun: 3D Landscape Generator for Processing is a GPLed, minimal, 120 LOC-long landscape generator and renderer that runs in your browser.

That's it folks! I hope these projects will prove useful for content creation in games. Be welcome to comment if you know of additional landscape generators or of open source games that feature their own!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Open Source Games Funding Survey

Open Source, Coin and JoysticClipart! - Thanks Tranberry!

A survey was started to explore the potential of open source gaming business. It consists of 20 detailed questions about how you would fund games and what acts of commercialism you consider moral for free software. Time to fill it in!

Just so you know what we're facing here ;)Survey 'preview'

The questionnaire has been created by Andrew Fenn, lead dev of Hardwar (a Hardwar remake ^^), who announced it in the FGD Forum and later, on his blog.

The survey was inspired by a similar one by evit, which unfortunately was not well formulated and rather Linux-centered, than free software-centered.

Another drawback of evit's survey is that the results were not published. Andrew's survey's results will be published on his blog (and will not contain any critical data like IP address of course). So as I said, take your time to participate.

Also: support the survey through digg and fsdaily! :)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

UFOs and Post-Apocalyptic Adventures

There's another monthly overview of developments for UFO:AI, the 3D turn based tactics game where you see off an alien invasion of sorts. Development is happening at an impressive pace, with a lot of new minor features and improvements to existing features. The changes affect many aspects of the project, and as such I won't summarize them here. Read it for yourself on their website. (No permanent link to the update, sorry.)

Speaking of UFO games, I do wish UFO2000 development would return. I have an affinity for the original game and I really hoped UFO2000 would emerge as a playable single-player game. It hasn't yet, and looks like it never will, which is a shame. They have a gorgeous website though.

FIFE world seems to have taken off a bit lately. FIFE is a 2D isometric game engine. It was originally created for the purposes of being a Fallout engine but evolved.

Shortly after stepping down from management duties from FIFE, project manager MvBarracuda announced PARPG - Post-Apocalyptic RPG - to the world, a game that uses FIFE to create a new, erm, post-apocalyptic RPG. I think he'd gotten a bit tired after many years working on FIFE - when you work on an engine sometimes the end result is less tangible and harder to motivate yourself for.

The announcement of PARPG seemed to galvanise the FIFE community, with new and old faces now popping up to fix and featurize FIFE after a fairly long quiet spell in development. There seems to be a lot of interest in contributing to PARPG with threads like this popping up in the forum. It seems they are looking primarily for C++/Python devs at the moment.

Unknown Horizons
OpenAnno has been renamed to Unknown Horizons, partly because the name OpenAnno sucked but mainly because Unknown Horizons is an original game and not an Anno rip off. I do like the new name.

Unknown Horizons is a 2D realtime strategy simulation with an emphasis on economy and city building. Expand your small settlement to a strong and wealthy colony, collect taxes and supply your inhabitants with valuable goods. Increase your power with a well balanced economy and with strategic trade and diplomacy.

Zero Projekt
Zero Projekt celebrated 3 years of active development and it's looking as nice as ever. There's some beautiful graphics in that game. Annoyingly for me site updates/news tend to be in German with English updates being somewhat sporadic.

With 3 promising active game projects on the go, the FIFE community future looks bright.

Like Morrowind? OpenMW 0.6 got released. Still, you need Morrowind to play it, and that's not Free, so...

However, a project that is Free software and Morrowind (well, more Daggerfall) inspired is DungeonHack. There's lots of interesting development noises going on in the forums - that's one to watch for 2009. There's an imminent demo which is the culmination of a lot of refactoring and project reorganizing and new technology adoption, but the next version after that will be where things start to get interesting as several procedural generation techniques are surfacing in their subversion repository.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Some things on my radar

"Damn Free Gamer is popular." So says the L-echo developer, as well as posting graphic illustration on the project home page. L-Echo is a free and open source clone of the game Echochrome (aka Mugen Kairou). Version 0.4.3 arrived in early February, although performance was unplayable on my non-hardware-accelerated laptop.

Freedroid RPG version 0.12rc1 - a 2D isometric RPG, a bit like Diablo, but not like it at all. There's lots of bug fixes, a new tutorial, a new starting level, lua scripting, and more! Help them playtest it so that version 0.12 is solid.

"Tesliz", a 3D turn based strategy game, inspired by Wesnoth, written in Python on top of OGRE. Early days here.

Speaking of Wesnoth had lots of updates over the Christmas period, building up to a stable 1.6 release. That game has some amazing artwork these days, like these wizard portaits. They have lots of playtesters already. If you don't know what Wesnoth is, crikey, just click the link already.

Globulation 2 version 0.9.4 (changelog) which is a lot of balancing, bug fixing and enhancement of existing features, from what I can tell. Globulation 2 is an innovative 2D RTS where you lead autonomous blobs into battle. Innovative, yah. Blobs, meh.

Java Classic RPG version 2009-02-28 (announcement) which has a rather large amount of changes since the previous release. Highlights include moving to jMonkeyEngine 2.0, new monsters, area dependent music playback, new portraits, and optimizations. I hope to see this project become a completable game this year.

Freelords tech release 0.03 is out. Freelords is a Warlords-inspired 2D strategy game written in Java. This release introduces simultaneous movement and improves the graphics and dialogs. Freelords was originally a C++ project - the C++ codebase lives on in LordsAWar. Recently the developer posted a video of a city history report (ogg) on the LordsAWar homepage, which I thought was quite neat. It's the kind of feature usually missing from Free games.

Tennix 1.0 is available. Tennix is a very simple pong-like Tennis game, but the amount of polish going into it shows how nice a simple game can become. All it takes is a little passion.

Gearhead2 version 0.540 (announcement) continues the spate of game rule adjustments. I like it that there's a lot of thought going into giving the game depth.

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