Introducing Zero-K, a Real-Time Strategy Game for Linux

Zero-K is a game where teams of robots fight for metal, energy and dominance. They use any strategy, tactic or gimmick known to machine. Zero-K is a game for players by players, and it runs natively on GNU/Linux and Microsoft Windows.

Zero-K runs on the Spring Real Time Strategy Game engine, which is the same engine that powers Evolution RTS and Kernel Panic the game. Many consider Zero-K to be a spiritual successor to Supreme Commander and Total Annihilation. Zero-K also has a large and supportive player and developer community.

When you first open the game, you'll see a panel that shows you what is going on in the Zero-K community.

Figure 1. Game Start Panel

The game has a built-in making queue that allows people to play in 1v1, Teams or Coop mode:

  • 1v1: one player plays another player.

  • Teams: 2v2 or 4v4 with a group of players of similar skill.

  • Coop: players vs. AI players or chickens.

You also can play or watch a game via the Battle List, which allows you to make any custom game mode you like, including:

  • Massive Wars: up 32 players going at it at the same time.

  • Free For Alls: maps supporting up to eight starting spots.

  • Password Protected Rooms: if you just want to goof around with your friends.

Figure 2. Final Assault on Base

If you don't feel very social, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the game:

  • Single-player campaigns with more than 70 missions.

  • Thousands of replays from all of the multiline games available on the website.

Figure 3. Campaign Mission in Progress

If you are feeling social, you can join a Forum, a Discord Server or Clans.

There are usually tournaments scheduled once a month. You can see commentated broadcasts of Zero-K tournaments here, as well as some other channels on Youtube and Twitch.

To enhance the team play experience, there is a built-in chat, along with map mark and label features.

Zero-K is a very dynamic game. It has a flat tech tree, and it allows you to add another factory whenever you want, as long as you have the resources to pay for it. You can mix and match units as you see fit, and it allows you to play to any style you desire. There are more than ten factories from which to build big and small robots, and each factory produces around ten unique robots. Each also factory has a different flavor of robot.

Figure 4. Large Team Game

The game is newbie-friendly with a simple interface and simple economy compared to other real-time strategy games. You can set the difficulty level to whatever is appropriate for the player's skill. There is AI for both first-time RTS players and veterans of Zero-K. If the hardest AI isn't strong enough for you, you always can add more opponents to the opposing side. Conversely, if the easiest AI is too difficult, you can add AI assistance to your side.

The economy consists of two things: metal and energy. You spend metal to build bots, and you spend energy on building bots, cloaks, shields and some static structures.

Figure 5. Player vs. Chickens

There are more options to customize your game because it is free and open-source software. Commanders' starting units are customizable with modules. Modules give commanders different abilities. If you have a Zero-K account and you are playing online multiplayer, you can use a pre-set commander from your profile. You also can create game modes that can add or remove units, water, metal or energy. Hundreds of maps are available that you also can create and upload. Additionally, you can program any key binding that's most convenient for you.

You can get the game from the flagship site or from here. The source code for the game is available on GitHub.

There also is a wiki that documents every aspect of the game.

The current version of Zero-K at the time of this writing is Zero-K v1.6.2.2.

About the Author

I am a System Administrator and Software Developer. I have been working professionally for five years. I am a Free Software Foundation member and greatly believe in user freedom. You can follow me at,, and

You can email me at if you have additional questions or comments.

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