Computer-room four star generals are probably disappointed with the lack of Real-Time-Strategy games for Linux; the last commercial release worth playing was either Introversion’s own Darwinia,
Tribal Trouble, or Linux Game Publishing’s Majesty. Before that, there was Kohan. In the commercial realm we are missing out on great games like Company of Heroes or Supreme Commander. The most recent indie RTS games of note were Gate 88 and Galcon. Is Defcon worth playing? Let’s find out together!
The technical aspects of the Linux port present no issues for me. Defcon’s binary links to libSDL, the ogg vorbis libraries, and runs without error on my Athlon 64 machine running under x86_64 Gentoo Linux. Obviously we won’t have the surround options offered by the game’s Sound preferences dialog, so there is that issue. I think I’ve seen the ghostly move indicators move too quickly when viewed with the objective near, but that’s about it.
Defcon presents us with no story, just imminent doom from nuclear destruction. How much
is up to the players. There are a number of homages to nuclear war films, from the raster-like map display which is quite reminiscent of Wargames
to the vast echo hallway which call to mind the war room in Dr. Strangelove. Do not be deceived by the screenshots; this isn’t just a quick Flash game mood piece. Instead, it is a complete package containing a new take on the somewhat tired genre of real time strategy war games, something for which we can all be thankful. It is refreshing to see something profoundly creative in this well-mined genre.
Defcon avoids the usual WWII or sci-fi trappings with a unique setting: the Cold War. While there is strong variation between say Company of Heroes and Command and Conquer, it pales compared to the difference in atmosphere, mood and most dramatic strategy between Defcon and its peers.
So, what is Defcon‘s take on strategy?
Instead of a standard field of battle, the player is presented with an simple modular command map. No on-the-ground perspective is provided. Another significant deviation from the standard RTS formula is a complete lack of resource management. Not even Kohan with its system of capturing cities to increase your general resources strayed so far from the familiar. In Defcon, there are no resources, no mines, no peons to zug zug and order around; the payoff is raw direct strategic combat. Stripped of logistical warfare, we are left with only naval fleets and various aircraft to order around. Add to that a few basic immobile units: airbases, radars, and missile silos, and your arsenal is complete. Cities are also present but you have no control over them. They merely serve as targets for the enemy to slaughter and for you to protect.
Cities also serve as a tremendous part of the atmosphere of this game, which itself is lush in its sparseness, gripping in intensity, and, if you let it take you in, can be overwhelming and depressing. Actually, this is probably the only game I have ever played which can get quite this depressing. Through sparseness Defcon entices your own imagination to speculate on the wholesale incineration of cities, countries, and millions of people. This can’t be stressed enough. The atmospherics, while simple, are tremendously effective at pulling you into the mood of the end of the world. Defcon does make one concession from realism and this not only serves gameplay but also increases the tension: in Defcon, Reagan’s delusional dream of SDI
has come to life; in-flight nuclear warheads can be shot down by aircraft and missile defense. And this, the fact that one can take action, but in the end millions die anyway, seriously ratchets up the tension. In the real world we learned, as did Joshua in
Wargames, that the only way to win was not to play. In Defcon we are given the fantasy of missile defense and are still left with the feeling that if only I were faster and smarter, millions might have survived.
So the atmosphere for Defcon is decidedly not fun unless you can get over the hump of stark destruction in the game. Every single person I have played the game with so far has gone quiet whilst playing
and being immersed, then remarked about how depressing the atmosphere is when asked about how they were feeling. For some, this will be the game’s greatest flaw. For others it elevates the game to high art. If you are looking for simple
fun, this is not it. If you are looking for an intensity of experience rarely seen outside of film, Defcon is definitely it. Defcon takes a very upsetting subject, makes it into a compelling
multiplayer game complete with moderation of the original subject matter for balance, and then leaves you with that and a tongue-in-cheek manual to play on. I realize that most people reading this review are going to think that no game, let alone one that employs a low graphics 80s movie style, can possibly elicit such an emotional response. Playing this game is much like watching Threads or When the Wind Blows. It’s certainly worthwhile, but not for the faint of heart.
It is also true that as someone who was born in 1982, I may not be able to present the attitudes of my older peers who lived under the actual threat of nuclear annihilation during the cold war. Defcon is a great game, but whether it is a great game for you may depend a lot on how you react to the setting of the game. I would advise that you play the demo before you make a final decision about that atmosphere. It is a fairly complete demo and can be later unlocked to provide the full game.
Getting back to the actual gameplay. Unlike a standard RTS game, there is also no research and development tree present in Defcon. Instead, you are presented with time limits in a variety of modes. As the clock counts down both in time and from Defcon 5 (peace) to Defcon 1 (unrestricted nuclear war), new actions become available as others fall away. So right away from the start of the game, everyone has the same weapons and technology. Your main weapons are, of course, your nuclear arsenal. Your secondary weaponry is for defense only, and are your fighter jets which can take down incoming missiles and bombers. There are no usual mobile ground units, at all. The scale is global and primarily strategic, and operational land assets aren’t missed. I do think they might be interesting in a more tactical variation on the theme of this game, for at least the actions leading up to the Defcon levels.
Defcon levels are unavoidable. Defcon levels will fall from 5 to 1 within the game and nothing can be done to prevent the level from escalating. Time progression can be slowed down or sped up in the interface or, if you like, keyboard shortcuts. This only happens, though, if all players agree to the new game
speed. Each lower Defcon level allows more action from all parties involved. Players may choose to ally with each other. If you ally with someone and your nukes are in their air toward your allies targets, your nukes will automatically be disarmed in flight so as to not ruin that friendship. In addition, the server host of the game can configure that session in a stunning level of detail covering everything from scoring to the style of alliances.
Speaking of scoring, by default you get points in this game through killing the population of the nations you are at war with. By default, you get points for every enemy killed but you also lose points when your citizens are wiped out. So if you take out a large majority of the enemy population, but not their nuclear arsenal, you can still lose if the enemy manages to take out more of your population. This isn’t immediately obvious and you could go from 70 to -50 through loss of your population. Recently while playing online I lost to another player by one point in a similar situation. I’d taken out a large majority of his civilian population, however his nuclear arsenal had remained relatively unscathed.
Technically, Defcon is no incredible achievement. Nor will it provide an engine to be licensed endlessly in an attempt at cashing in on Introversion’s hard work. This game was developed in a relatively short period of time when compared to most regular modern games, though certainly due to no lack of good work. The final product as presented in the 1.42 form is so far without any obvious bugs or issues. Though as far as technical quality, there are a few fonts which appear to be pre-rendered bitmaps too small to view on my 1680×1050 monitor.
Defcon‘s interface could probably stand a few months more polish to improve usability. Differentiating between selecting a fleet to move as opposed to say launching fighters from an aircraft carrier in
that fleet can be quite confusing and I have seen it lead to frustration as naval units appear to become uncontrollable while the desperate atmosphere of the game claims its psychic toll. The controls are also fairly unintuitive for long-time RTS folks, to which I would suggest Introversion make an optional Defcon Annihilation mode, so that these folks who hate the completely
new-for-Defcon control interface don’t get frustrated. I fully expect a patch or two in the future from Introversion which may alter the gameplay and controls, much as they did with their last game
Darwinia. The “victory timer”, presented in an apparent conceit to game play balance, could certainly use tweaking and further user instruction with regard to operation. I generally end up altering the options of games I host so that I don’t have to have the game end early with many players.
The only feature I really find lacking is some kind of demo recorder, like in the Quake games, so you can replay the action and really learn about the strategy in each multiplayer game from all sides. Perhaps we’ll get lucky and this all of this functionality will be added in a later patch.
As Defcon is almost entirely a multiplayer game, bots are provided but not much fun to play against. The bots have limited strategic options and are fairly easy to defeat. While one can battle a large number of bots simultaneously this challenge by numbers is less appealing than the challenge one can enjoy in the multiplayer modes and hardly prepares you to compete online. This is a huge change from Introversion’s past titles, which were all single player affairs. I must say that I’ve had no problems with network connectivity or lag to players even in the far reaches of the globe. This isn’t entirely surprising as the game is fairly simple.
If you’re already a bit confused I would suggest you go ahead and get the demo at least before making your final decision to buy or not buy this game. It certainly isn’t a graphical powerhouse of a game, so laptop users won’t be neglected so long as they have bare bones OpenGL acceleration of some sort. However, the lack of fancy graphics and/or the decidedly depressing tone may cause some people to give up before truly experiencing what Defcon has to offer. I feel, at least, that the tone may be something which is a disadvantage to the enjoyment of the actual gameplay. However, I think that perhaps Defcon wouldn’t be regarded so highly if it weren’t so depressing. I know I will be enjoying Introversion’s latest art house masterpiece for some time to come, though it is understandable if the charm is lost on others behind graphical and atmospheric issues inherent with an indie game of this nature.
So with the compelling atmosphere, and sufficiently original gameplay, Defcon gets a 9 out of 10.
$19.50 well spent.
Computer-room four star generals are probably disappointed with the lack of Real-Time-Strategy games for Linux; the last commercial release worth playing was either Introversion’s own Darwinia,
INTROVERSION AND AMBROSIA SOFTWARE ANNOUNCE DEFCON FREEPLAY WEEKEND
LONDON and ROCHESTER, New York — August 16, 2007 — Introversion Softwareand Ambrosia Software announced today its plans for a DEFCON freeplaylong-weekend in conjunction with the Penny Arcade Expo. The event will takeplace on Friday, August 24th at 18:00 GMT and run until Monday, August 27that 06:00 GMT. During this time, DEFCON will be free for all to play.
To take part in the DEFCON freeplay weekend, simply head tohttp://www.everybody-dies.com/downloads/ and download the free trial. Forthis limited period, the usual demo restrictions will be lifted and gamerswill not be required to provide key codes to have access to the full game.
“DEFCON is a great game and this will be a fantastic opportunity for thosewho haven’t yet played it to have a go,” said Vicky Arundel, Head ofMarketing at Introversion. “We’re really looking forward to welcoming somenewcomers to the DEFCON community and hope that this taster will leave youwanting to come back again.”
We’ve got our Defcon Linux review up, here is some of what I had to say about this port:
Computer-room four star generals are probably disappointed with the lack ofReal-Time-Strategy games for Linux; the last commercial release worth playingwas either Introversion’s ownDarwinia, Tribal Trouble,or Linux Game Publishing’sMajesty.Before that, there wasKohan.In the commercial realm we are missing out on great games like Company of Heroesor Supreme Commander. The most recent indie RTS games of note wereGate 88 andGalcon.Is Defcon worth playing? Let’s find outtogether!
Good news to all Linux users as we announce the release of DEFCON Linux today!
Apologies to all those who have been waiting for this release. As so often occurs with development, we experienced some unforeseen delays, this time due to compatibility complications between the Mac and PC DEFCON versions but we hope you’re happy with the results :)
DEFCON Linux will be available to all existing DEFCON PC users free of charge, using your existing key code. You can download it here from:
For those of you who’ve been holding out until this release – you can now buy DEFCON Linux for £10 from:
For all queries and comments relating to DEFCON Linux, please post on the Linux troubleshooting pages:
With the press release announcement of Defcon version 1.4 for other platforms, introversion also mentioned:
Indie-developer Introversion Software today announced the release of version1.4 of their hit-title DEFCON, an online multiplayer strategy game, basedaround the theme of thermonuclear war. Significantly, the new patch providescross-platform interoperability, enabling Windows users to wage nuclearArmageddon against fellow Mac players. Linux users will also soon be able tojoin in the fun, with the release of the Linux version due around the end ofApril.
Introversion has announced that their latest title, DEFCON, is now available at retail in North America courtesy of Encore Software.
DEFCON is a multiplayer (AI opponents are also available) global thermonuclear war-themed strategy game; a beta Linux build (for use with the Windows retail version) was recently released for public testing.
Download Linux Beta Demo: [ introversion.co.uk ]
We’ve made a beta version of Defcon for Linux available and we’d really appreciate your help testing it.
In order to cut down on downloading time (for future Linux betas or those with an install of Windows Defcon), we’re distributing the sounds.dat (60MB) separately. So you need:
- sounds.dat – Extract it from an installation of Defcon for Windows (or download it here).
- The Defcon files – Download it here
Then extract the defcon files with tar xzf defcon-v1.4-beta2.tar.gz and put the sounds.dat file in the defcon-v1.4-beta2/lib directory.
If you come across any bugs, please can you post them in this forum, using [defcon 1.4 beta 2 linux] to prefix the subject line.
DEFCON is a global thermonuclear war sim with multiplayer support; you can order the retail version online from the Introversion Store (as well as Introversion’s previous Linux titles, Uplink and Darwinia).
Screenshots: [ View ] Download: [ introversion.co.uk ]
“Introversion Software, ‘the last of the bedroom programmers’ and creators ofthe award-winning hit PC game – Darwinia – will be releasing their thirdtitle, DEFCON, at the end of September 2006. DEFCON will be retailed onIntroversion’s online store at £10 for download, and £12.50 for a downloadwith a boxed copy (sent by post). A fantastic pre-order offer will go livemid-September, running for two weeks, where customers will have theopportunity to buy DEFCON for £10 and receive a complimentary boxed copy ofthe game. DEFCON will also be offered in a bundle pack with Introversion’stwo previous games Uplink and Darwinia for £30.”
According to the game’s site, the Linux version should be out in November and even though the team’s confidence in this date is listed as “low”, we rely on Introversion’s resident Linux guru, John Knottenbelt, to bring us this game as soon as possible. Stay tuned for more news about Defcon on LinuxGames.com.
Introversion Software’s newesttitle, Defcon,is now in
Today we kicked off the Defcon beta test – we are nowin the final phases of this games development. 100 Testers have been chosenfrom the list of applicants, and emailed instructions on how to download thefirst alpha.
We have developed a ton of new networking technology for this game (servermatching, authentication, lan play etc) so the first builds will be designedto test just that. This means they are unplayable. Testers can start games andjoin games, via internet or LAN, but once the game starts their team iscontrolled by AI and they can only watch. This will enable us to safely testthe new networking systems before (eventually) moving on to the full game.
Defcon is a real-time strategy game inspired by Cold War strategic nuclearwarfare scenarios.
Eurogamer conducted an
Chris Delay: Points are scored by successfully nuking the enemy civilianpopulation into oblivion. This is an extremely difficult task becauselaunching an attack on the enemy makes you very vulnerable – Ground Silos andSubs and Bombers all give away their positions the moment they launch nuclearweapons.
We’re playing this game every day and people keep coming up with newstrategies – but the bottom line is it’s very difficult to win convincingly.Games often end with both sides obliterated. It’s a fascinating and nervousgame to play.
It’s anticipated that the game will be completed this April.
It’s fair to say that we’ve neglected our linux fans for a little while now, but I’m hoping to change that. I have just finished uploading:
- 32 and 64 bit RPM
- 32 and 64 bit Deb
Packages for DEFCON and Multiwinia.
If you are linux fan, please let us know how you get on with them.
We’ve added Dungeons of Dredmor as a beat-the-average game to the Humble Introversion Bundle! If you’ve already purchased the Humble Introversion Bundle, check your download page to access it! Otherwise, you’ll have to pay more than the average price on the site in order to receive Dungeons of Dredmor (as well as Aquaria and Crayon Physics Deluxe).
In addition, all Humble Introversion Bundle customers now have access to the source code for Darwinia, Multiwinia, DEFCON, and Uplink! Introversion has distributed their source code before by offering “developer editions” of their games — and they’re doing so on an unprecedented scale with the Humble Introversion Bundle. Not only do all purchasers get access to the source code for Darwinia, Multiwinia, DEFCON, and Uplink, but they also get access to developer forums and wikis exclusively for those interested in making cool modifications to the games.
Dungeons of Dredmor is a fresh yet faithful take on the “roguelike” genre, featuring deep character customization, turn-based gameplay, and unrelenting difficulty that makes each victory sweeter than the last. Dredmor’s randomly generated levels and huge roster of items, skills, and abilities make for a vastly replayable dungeon-crawling experience. If you’ve already purchased the bundle, the game should already be on your download page.
We’re used to seeing cool stuff from arrangements like this — after the first Humble Indie Bundle went open source, the intrepid developer and hacker FrozenCow patched the physics platformer Gish to include the ability to grow and shrink the protagonist, a neat update that demonstrated new gameplay possibilities.
There are only seven days left to pay what you want for the Humble Introversion Bundle: Darwinia, Multiwinia, DEFCON, and Uplink and beating the average gets you Dungeons of Dredmor, and the award-winning Aquaria and Crayon Physics Deluxe as well! Support charity and DRM-free, cross-platform gaming by picking up the Humble Introversion Bundle today!
Be sure to pay what you want for Darwinia, Multiwinia, DEFCON, and Uplink — the complete catalog from the British indie studio, Introversion! If you beat the average price, you also receive Aquaria and Crayon Physics Deluxe!
I’m pretty sure this is the first Linux release for Multiwinia, and all of the games are AWESOME, so go get it!
Introversion Software, the developers of Uplink and Defcon, have been posting tutorials for Multiwinia: Survival of the Flattest, the upcoming multiplayer sequel to their real-time strategy game Darwinia, in their weekly Multiwinia Mondays feature. The first installment describes Domination mode, where the player must battle for spawn points, while the second gives an overview of King of the Hill, which adds additional point-laden zones.
That is correct we can now confirm the release date for ‘Multiwinia’ to be 19 September 2008.
Pre orders will be kicking in shortly so watch this space.
We will also be celebrating the release of ‘Multiwinia’ by producing a small batch of Multiwinian Limited Edition Tins exclusively for our online store.
Details of the Limited Edition Tins will be Coming Soon.
Chris Delay, the creative force behind past Introversion titles Uplink, Darwinia and Defcon, as well as Darwinia’s upcoming multiplayer sequel, Multiwinia: Survival of the Flattest, shared some details about Chronometer over at Introversion’s blog. The game has been in early phases of development for three months now and is co-funded by the UK broadcaster, Channel 4:
It’s one of our more recent ideas, and was first written down during Defcon’s beta phase. I specifically remember the moment I explained it to Mark – in a KFC in London of all places, and he just stopped and stared at me while I was speaking. He genuinely couldn’t continue eating. By the time I’d finished I went back to my food and Mark just sat there silent for a few minutes before uttering “fuck me”, slowly shaking his head in disbelief. [...] Ultimately we don’t know for certain if Chronometer will be going into full production – the conditions would have to be right for Introversion and for Channel 4, although they’ve been fantastic to work with during pre-production.
Introversion hired a new writer, Chris Hastings, to work on the game. With Multiwinia (coming mid 2008) and Subversion (coming 2009) still in the works, the UK-based company is now apparently working on three titles simultaneously.
In the meantime, Frictional Games, an independent game company based in Sweden, while still at work on Penumbra: Requiem (an expansion pack to their horror adventure game Penumbra: Black Plague, coming August 2008), had this to say about their next project, given the working title of Lux Tenebras:
It is for sure a typical Frictional Game – creative, moody and filled with new and bright ideas. It runs on a new inhouse developed game engine, it has been granted a 300,000 DKK from the Nordic Game Program and it is slated for maybe a 2009 release.
Also released was Unbirth, an early project by one of Frictional Games’ co-founders, Thomas Grip. The project never got past alpha stage, as it was deemed too unstable to run even on its native Windows platform, and was abandoned back in 2003. Daring young men and women with Windows compatibility layers might nevertheless want to give it a shot.
Chris: One of the problems we’ve always had is with remaking what we’ve already done. Lots of people, including Mark, asked us to remake Uplink, and people wanted more Darwinia, which we’re kind of doing, but not doing. Multiwinia is quite different. We’re not too keen on this because you can’t make that many games. The loophole for us is that we can take our games and release them on every platform under the sun.
Besides the games mentioned above, Introversion also released DEFCON for Linux.
Indie developer Introversion created an Anthology Pack containing their three existing titles: Uplink (future hacking), Darwinia (Tron-esque real-time strategy), and Defcon (WarGames-esque real-time strategy) as a limited-time offer that is now being extended:
Well it seemed a shame to take this offer down as we’ve realised its clearly something that you, the customers, have been wanting. To that end we’ve decided to keep the Introversion Anthology up and running on our Store for the foreseeable future and you can get it from here.
If you haven’t yet seen this offer, we think its quite a steal. All three of our games can be downloaded for just £20 (editor’s note: $39.95 US), or if you’d like boxed copies along with that, its all yours for £30. We can’t say fairer than that!
You may want the Uplink version 1.55 patch that’s linked from the official forums; there’s also a few mod sites:
Finally, Rock, Paper, Shotgun posted a Darwinia-related comic today.
The Introversion Christmas Anthology is the ultimate box-set for lovers of indie gaming and now available to buy from the Introversion Store. Representing stunning value for money, and for a limited period only, you can download a copy of all three of our award-winning titles, Uplink, Darwinia and DEFCON for just £20! Or why not make this the perfect Christmas gaming gift, with a download and boxed version of each game for just £30 (includes postage and packaging)?
The offer ends on 02 Jan 2008; Introversion’s next title is Multiwinia, a multiplayer sequel to Darwinia.