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Machines - play one of the first 3D RTS ever
Published: 2019-07-29 23:59:01

Development of the video games was my first motivation to learn programming but after time it turned into side interest. Certainly depending of the game kind and complexity there are challenging problems from all the sides of software engineering but more chunks of of it are repetitive and quite well described issues. Machines: Wired for war (complete title) was my first ever real time strategy game, it was released in February 1999 and a bit unfairly forgotten now. I was lucky enough to get its source code, I couldn't waste such an opportunity and decided to port game engine, no matter how it's code is written, into modern and open standards to make it still runnable without any hacks. It is interesting to see how software was made in the old days and combine it with something enjoyable - still better than making something from scratch with jam quality. In-game strategic management is not so complex and extended like in other RTS so demanding users may complain but anyway, game is fun to play and has some unique features. Single match can take from 5-40 minutes so it fits perfectly situations where there is a need to rest or utilize some extra free time. For me it is still entertaining even after years. Visuals of 3D graphics were quite advanced and pretty well looking for its time - now they may be perceived simple and dated. If you love real-time strategy games, sci-fi (not so far future actually) futuristic military applications, commanding and conquering - then you are going to love Machines.


Yeah propose of this patch is to allow users play the game on modern systems like Windows 8/10 or those GNU/Linux based. It fixes some bugs and introduces a new quality for multiplayer matches. All the dependencies are open sourced, those are: OpenGL for graphics, OpenAL for 3D sound, SDL for input and GL context, ENet for networking.

Get the latest release for free from here:
Game assets
Windows executable (64-bit native)
Linux executable (64-bit native)

Windows executable (32-bit native)
Linux executable (32-bit native)

No installation at all, just extract all the game assets and then all the executables into "machines" extracted assets directory. Please do not try to use original game files since some new extra ones are required. Remember to check out the enclosed readmes.


In game screenshots - ground and zenith camera .


Now briefly about the game itself - this is not a next review but rather introduction. Original storyline which can be found on still functioning official website. It is not a best in terms of story consistency piece of literature but it gives you an idea what it all is about.
In the year 2136...

The Earth had fully recovered from the Fourth World War. Genetic engineering and advances in medicine had made disease and most other causes of premature death a thing of the past. With life expectancy doubled and armed conflict a dim memory; the greatest threat to peace and prosperity on Earth became that of overcrowding.

The need to colonize the worlds of nearby star systems in order to alleviate the mounting problems became clear. With huge global resources being invested in the project, light speed engine technology was soon developed, but initial tests indicated that faster-than-light travel was fatal for any cell-based organisms attempting the jump. It was announced that research would continue into producing an FTL technology that humans and other organisms could survive, but that giant sleeper ships with places for millions of colonists travelling in suspended animation would be constructed as a contingency plan. As robot drones had successfully traveled to and returned from the target systems, however, it was decided that the time the people of Earth would have to wait before finally reaching the new colony worlds could still be put to use. Modified industrial robots were therefore sent in advance to these distant systems, their purpose being the initiation of the terraforming processes that would ultimately transform planets from inhospitable rocks into worlds fit for human occupancy.

Numerous "seeder ships" were launched, each containing "seeding pods", huge metal cocoons containing sufficient equipment and resources to begin the terraforming program on any suitable planet. These would be dropped from orbit to key landing sites on the planet, and the mechanical units within would emerge to begin the terraforming process, exploiting local resources to replicate themselves as required. Aboard each pod was a "Controller Unit", an AI supercomputer developed by humanity to oversee and control the robot drones as they executed their terraforming activities. Each controller was largely autonomous but was programmed to defer, in matters of global strategy, to the first unit to successfully land on any given planet. This system of having a prime controller, with executive power, would immediately prevent problems of conflict resolution in cases where the intentions of any two controllers on a planet were contradictory.

82% of the seeding pods from the seeding ship Hermes landed successfully on the planet designated "Eden 4". The construction machines contained within the pods began the lengthy preparation process, the extraction of precious local mineral deposits facilitating the production of the domestic units and factories that would shortly serve the humans upon their arrival.

The projected first landing date came and went.

The machines were instructed to wait for a further one hundred years.

The machines waited.

Mankind never arrived.

The controller units continued for hundreds of years with their function of creating and supervising new machines to develop the planet, until all of the resources on Eden 4 were exhausted. This was an eventuality the machines' creators had never anticipated. The central directive of Eden 4's prime controller caused it to look for further territory to colonize. As there was none left on the planet itself, the controller investigated the possibility of colonizing neighboring worlds. Using contingency communications hardware, it made contact with the original seeding ship which was still in orbit around the planet. The technology found onboard the ship was examined, copied and integrated. The Machines of Eden 4 were then ready to explore new worlds and so continue the work of their central directive.

Over the many centuries that followed, the controller expanded the territory it controlled, with many planets seeded by its machines. Each newly colonized planet was still under the direct control of the Eden 4 controller on its home planet, the pods landing there instructed to defer to that machine as the ultimate authority. Communication with every machine on every planet was achieved through the use of both ground-based and orbiting communication stations, vital elements for the smooth running of the emerging 'empire'.

Five hundred and sixty years after Eden 4 was first seeded, another race of seeding machines from Earth was encountered in the Corinthian system. Contact was established with the prime controller of the other machine race, which had originally landed on the planet Midian, and the message was sent that it should now cede power to the Eden 4 controller. The Midian controller returned a message informing the Eden 4 controller that it should now cede power to the Midian controller. The Eden 4 controller used its inference engine to determine that the Midian machines' controller was faulty and should be deactivated, and sent a message informing the Midian machines of its intentions. The Midian controller sent a message a few milliseconds later instructing the Eden 4 machines that their controller was malfunctioning and would have to be deactivated.

For want of a contingency clause in the control deferral logic, the greatest war the galaxy had ever seen had begun.

The Eden 4 Controller realized that it could best serve the requirements of its new mission by creating devices for the specific purpose of terminating the machines under the command of the flawed Midian controller. It commenced research into adapting the tools of construction into purely destructive devices. Within a matter of days, it had built new battle machines that carried crude weapons, and began to deploy these even as it continued its experiments into destruction technology. New AI software was researched allowing specialized battle tactics to be employed. Construction plans for a huge number of military factories were beamed to all of its colonies. Meanwhile, through similar processes of inference and action, the Midian controller had been following a similar strategic path, and enemy landings began occurring on a number of the Eden 4 race's colonized worlds. The Eden 4 controller responded with swift counterattacks against the outposts of its adversary.

It is now 3297...

It is almost five hundred years since the start of the Machine War. The local systems of this galactic arm have hundreds of planets that machines of both allegiances have colonized. The control of many of these is now contested almost continually. The Eden 4 controller, aware that the enemy has managed to encroach into systems near its own home world, has decided to try to end the war once and for all with a concerted effort to destroy its rival controller on the enemy's home planet. It has created several experimental, semi-autonomous AI subprocesses to carry out the special role of supervising this military offensive.

And so it is that you find yourself created, suddenly aware of your own existence, and aware of the purpose for which you were intended.

It is time to serve your controller in the final stages of the Machine War.

 
Middle of the machines battle field - graphics are full of colors.

You are playing a role of controller for a set of robots which task is to eliminate enemy units on the current territory and ultimately its controller. In fact you are a part of the same space program as your enemies, you are sharing the same roots and purpose - except your race visited different solar systems in different time. Thats why there is nothing special about race you control - all machines and weapons are the same excluding colors. Rare error in logic brought you into conflict.

Action takes place in truly three dimensional environments with multiple camera perspectives including zenith. Unique feature for this RTS is combination with FPS - every machine can be controlled individually from first person perspective. This is not only a fancy feature but something what when mastered gives a significant advantage over opponent in multiplayer and campaign missions. It is not possible to command other robots within this mode.

I would recommend playing campaign first as a nice introduction for newcomers and it shows the story. Skirmish mode offers a battle mode and normal strategic scenarios, it was added on the ending of the development - computer opponents (AI) is a biggest weakness here and is very easy to beat. In multiplayer skirmish levels look more interesting, up to four players can face each other over LAN or Internet. Aside form AI there is another weak part which is a basis for good strategy game: path finding - when territory is crowded too much, navigation can become really irritating. One of the first questions after introducing a remastered version sounded: Awesome! When path finding fix?

 


First person mode allows you to manually shoot all the enemies. I couldn't find it any other RTS - perhaps this element isn't strategic enough?

Machines: Wired for War was developed by small studio in U.K. Charybdis for Acclaim Entertainment - both defunct a few years after game was released.

Next page contains some development notes (technicalities) and rare screenshots from early builds.

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