New Projects - Fresh from the Labs

Warsow—Fast-Paced Cartoon Combat (www.warsow.net)

In the multitude of first-person shooter projects available comes a particularly solid one: Warsow. Warsow is based on the Qfusion 3-D engine (itself a modification of the Quake 2 GPL engine); however, it runs as a completely standalone package and has a solid feel, avoiding the tackier drawbacks of a simple mod. For those of you about to say, “I've seen it all before”, hold on, because this is a particularly solid outing with some fresh approaches to game dynamics in an already-stale genre.

Warsow

Warsow has two elements in particular that make it stand out from the rest: speed and motion. Warsow is all about how you move around in the 3-D world. It's about fluidity, motion and some interesting changes to game balance. Particularly interesting are moves, such as the “Wall Jump”, where pressing a special key when touching a wall allows you to rebound while jumping, or probably the game's main dynamic, “Bunny Hopping”. Bunny Hopping has been in first-person games since you could first jump, but Warsow adds the element of increased momentum and speed, allowing for a slew of new gameplay tactics and design elements.

Don't be put off by seeing Quake 2 either, Qfusion is not an old and ugly engine destined to turn out some clunky old game that looks blockier than a LEGO factory with clumsy control. Warsow is an elegant title including great architecture, gameplay and feel, with its own unique cards brought to the table. Warsow has a unique approach to weapons with two types of ammo: the stock ammo that comes with a weapon (weaker) and stronger ammo once more is collected. Aesthetics also play a large part, in particular, a cell shading look similar to manga and the like, lending the game a feel of something like a cross between Quake III and Nerf Arena Blast. Part of this cell shading ideal is to remove the ultra-realistic, gritty feel of most modern shooters and to reduce the violent content and feel with something more lighthearted with a comic inspiration (which is, indeed, a welcome relief).

Despite the old Quake 2 base, Qfusion's modifications allow for some great architecture, as seen in Warsow.

Cell shading makes Warsow's environment much more colorful and lighthearted than today's standard grizzly fare of action games.

Installation

Installing Warsow is very easy. Available on the Web site is a unified package containing both Windows and Linux binaries. Download this, and extract it to somewhere convenient. Open the new folder either with a file manager or a terminal if you're the minimalist type. The solitary inconvenience in this package is that you'll have to flag two files as executable: the warsow script and the platform binary that suits your system. For Linux users with an Intel-based machine, you have the choice of warsow.i386 or warsow.x86_64, for 32- and 64-bit systems, respectively.

If you're using a file manager (I use Konqueror for this example, other file managers should be similar), right-clicking on the script and the binary, and choosing Properties and then the Permissions tab will show you the options you need. Check the box for Is executable, and you should be ready to go simply by left-clicking on the warsow script when you're done. For those using a terminal, this should do the trick:

$ chmod u+x warsow warsow.i386

Once done, start the game by entering:

$ warsow

Usage

First things first, I'm afraid that Warsow is a multiplayer-only affair—sorry. However, for those looking to refine their skills without other humans, in-game bots are available (see the game's documentation for more details). Before you jump head on into the action, check out the available tutorials. These are clever presentations using the game itself, but instead of you being in control, it puts the movement “on rails” so to speak, and a voice-over guides you through what is happening.

Once you're confident enough to start the game itself, the controls are the standard FPS affair with WADS controlling the movement, and the Spacebar for jumping, steering and looking around. Shooting is done with the mouse, as well as with the “Special” button, which is used for dashing, wall jumping and the like. All of the controls are re-assignable, however, and it's well worth customizing it to your own needs as well as checking out the game's other controls.

When you're ready, choose join game to search for an arena to play in, or alternatively, you can host one yourself. At first, join game probably will come up with nothing, so you will have to click search down at the bottom to browse for new games. Choose the server that sounds best for you (look for one with other players if you can, obviously), and if you don't have the map installed, Warsow will download it from that game's server.

At the time of this writing, Warsow is at 0.40 status, yet the gameplay is seriously solid. There are a few problems here and there, such as the occasional menu quirk and jolts with the sound, but the level of problems in the game are normally what you'd associate with something close to full release instead of an early demonstration. I imagine that Warsow probably will add things like single-player skirmishes before it gets to something like 0.9 status, but it's already a fantastic piece of work even for the fussiest of players. Keep an eye on this one, and any programming houses, keep an eye on these coders!

______________________

John Knight is the New Projects columnist for Linux Journal.

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