Saturday, October 13, 2018

William Shatner's TekWar (1995) (Short entry)


Date: 1995
Developer: Capstone Software
Publisher: Capstone Software

System Requirements:
 - 486SX
 - 8MB RAM
 - MSDOS 5.0 or higher
 - VGA Compatible video card

Where to purchase?
 - TekWar is not available in digital form anywhere so check Ebay or Amazon for original hard copies.


TekWar is a FPS game developed and published by Capstone Software in 1995 that is a tie-in to thespian and national treasure William Shatner's TekWar universe.  Besides this game, the TekWar universe spans 9 novels, 4 TV movies, a TV series, and a comic book series.  Given this extensive background from which to draw lore and the pedigree of  William Shatner's genius and Capstone's stellar track record of PC game development in the 1990s, I fully expect this game to be a milestone in PC game history, taking a place alongside other greats like Doom, Civilization, Command and Conquer, and Operation Body Count.  

I remember playing the demo of this game off a PC Gamer demo disk when it originally came out in 1995, but other than that I have no experience with the game.  I also know nothing about the TekWar universe, so I'll be experiencing the rich and nuanced stories that make up the tapestry of legends that is the TekWar lore for the first time as well.  I am excited to get started, so let's fire up William Shatner's TekWar and get going!




Despite Capstone being a relatively large developer in the 80s and 90s, there is not a lot of information out there about them and even less about TekWar, but I'll try to cover the basics.  Capstone Software was created in 1984 from its parent publishing company IntraCorp.  Capstone was primarily known for two things: Licensed games and low-quality FPS games.  Some of their licensed games include Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Waynes World, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Surf Ninjas, and Zorro.  I've played Zorro and it was one of the worst video games I have ever experienced.  It is essentially a copy of Prince of Persia, but even more frustrating and much less fun.

Capstone's first FPS games used the Wolfenstein 3D engine licensed from id Software.  At the time, id Software was beginning work on Doom so they were motivated to sell the Wolfenstein engine to squeeze as much money out of Wolfenstein 3D as possible before the release of Doom made Wolfenstein 3D out of date.  id Software actually reached out to Capstone and offered the use of the Wolfenstein engine for around $50,000 per game, which really doesn't seem like much.  Capstone used the engine to create their first two FPS games: Corridor 7 and Operation Body Count.  Neither of these games is considered a "classic".  While the former is a decent early FPS game, the latter is pure garbage.

Corridor 7

Operation Body Count
I am probably being a little unfair towards these early FPS games by Capstone.  After Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, the market was flooded with FPS games and many of them were a lot worse than Capstone's offerings.  While I maintain that Operation Body Count is quite bad, Corridor 7 actually has some interesting ideas and Capstone did some nice things squeezing every bit of functionality out of the Wolfenstein engine.

By 1994, Doom had been released and the Wolfenstein engine was outdated.  It is hard to believe when compared to today's relatively stagnant state of PC technology, but in the 1990s computer technology progressed so fast that one year was all it took to make a game engine become woefully out of date.  Seeing the capabilities of Doom, Capstone decided they needed to license a new engine for their next FPS games.  Since the Doom engine was either not available or too expensive, they decided to use Ken Silverman's Build Engine, of Duke Nukem 3D fame.  To read more about the Build Engine, I covered it in a bit more detail in my playthrough of BloodTwo Capstone FPS games, Witchaven and TekWar (both in 1995), were actually the first commercial products released that used the Build Engine and came out a full year before the release of the ground-breaking Duke Nukem 3D.  

Switching to the Build Engine gave the Capstone developers a huge new arsenal of tools to create a more interactive, living world.  Instead of mindlessly moving through a single story maze shooting anything that gets in the way, TekWar worked to create a more realistic portrayal of a future Los Angeles.  Cars and city buses move around the city streets, a commuter train moves from station to station and can be boarded, and civilians and police move about the city minding their own business.  The player can holster their gun to move about without drawing attention, but drawing your weapon and firing will cause police officers to attack.  Capstone and lead programmers Les Bird and Jeff Shultz really tried to maximize what could be done with the early Build engine to create a realistic city environment.  Whether that translated to a good game is debatable...but I'll cover that a bit later.

William Shatner was very involved in the development of TekWar.  He apparently played a bunch of contemporary games like Doom, Myst, Magic Carpet, and...Johnny Mnemonic(?) to prepare for working with the Capstone developers in making TekWar.  He and Capstone even had plans to create a sequel, tentatively called TekWar: New York, but Capstone folded before that could come to fruition.  In 1996, shortly after the release of Witchaven II, Capstone was struggling financially and was trying to take the company public in an effort to save it.  This failed, and their final game, Corridor 8, was cancelled before it was finished and the company dissolved.

It is a sad ending to a truly strange developer.  As I said before, Capstone was known for some really low quality movie/TV licensed games, but they were also known for their eclectic and weird FPS games.  In 2006, Les Bird released the source code for TekWar, along with some other Capstone games.  The code can be found here


Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Settlers 2 Gold Edition (1996)


Date: 1996 (1997 for Gold Edition release)
Developer: Blue Byte Studio
Publisher: Blue Byte Studio

System Requirements:
 - 486DX/2 66 MHz
 - 8MB RAM
 - 30MB HDD space
 - 2X CD-ROM
 - SVGA capable video card

Where to purchase?
 - GOG.com


The Settlers 2 Gold Edition is a real-time strategy game with elements of city building and management.  I've never played any of the Settlers games, but I am a fan of similar modern games such as the Tropico series, the Anno series, and the Sim City games, so this seems like the kind of game I should love.  I'm surprised I never got around to playing a Settlers game as the series has been quite popular.  The original was released in 1993 and sequels were released fairly regularly, the most recent of which was in 2016 (renamed to a new IP).  The original Settlers 2 was released in 1996 and the Gold Edition, released a year later, added a new campaign, over a hundred custom maps, and a bunch of gameplay and graphics improvements.  I'll be playing the GOG.com Gold Edition version without any other mods or changes.  There was 10th Anniversary edition released in 2006 that is a full 3D remake, so if anyone wants to play an more modern version of the The Settlers 2, that would be the way to go. 

Prior to starting this post, I played through the first mission of the campaign to get a general feel for the game so I wouldn't be a complete mess starting out, but otherwise I have no experience with the game and I'll be going essentially blind.  Let's dive in to The Settlers 2 Gold Edition!  


Monday, March 19, 2018

Metaltech: Earthsiege (1994)


Date: 1994
Developer: Dynamix
Publisher: Sierra On-line

System Requirements:
 - 386DX/33MHz
 - 4MB RAM
 - 27MB HDD
 - MSDOS 5.0
 - VGA Capable Video Card

Where to purchase?

 - It is FREE!  Hi-Rez Studios, the owners of the Tribes (and Metaltech) IPs have released all the old games in these series as free downloads.

 - Download links


For my next game, I'm moving on from the 4X genre but I'm sticking with a scifi themed game.  I'm going to be playing Metaltech: Earthsiege by Dynamix, a giant robot mech sim game.  I messed around with this game a bit when it originally came out and a friend of mine had a copy, but I never progressed beyond the first or second mission.  I remember thinking this game was the best thing I had ever seen when I originally played it as a teenager, so I'm curious to see how it has aged.  When compared to the relatively simple games I had been playing at the time such as Wolfenstein 3d, Doom, or Rebel Assault, Earthsiege blew me away with its amazing polygonal graphics, FMV-type characters, sound effects, and complex simulation gameplay.  I'll give it an honest try and see how far I can make it before I decide to move on to the next game.

Lets jump into Sierra's ripoff competitor to the Battletech universe!


Monday, March 12, 2018

Ascendancy - Part 3


Ascendancy - Part 1

Ascendancy - Part 2


Today I am continuing my playthrough of the fantastic 4X game Ascendancy.  My Nimbuloid empire continues to exist while struggling against the tyrannical Fludentri, conniving Chamachies, and war mongering Marmosians.  My goal for this post is to eliminate at least one of these opposing species so I can get to a good stopping point to wrap up my coverage of Ascendancy.  The game is great fun and I'm enjoying my time playing it, but this is the third post covering the game so I think it is time to finish it and move on to the next game.  If I can't get to total galactic domination, at least I should be able to wipe a few of these other species.

Click below to continue to follow the rise of the Nimbuloid empire.


Saturday, March 10, 2018

Ascendancy - Part 2


Ascendancy - Part 1

The Great Nimbuloid-Fludentri War continues in Part 2 of my Ascendancy playthough.  "Great" may be too strong of a word since nothing has happened yet, but I can tell those shifty Fludentri are going to be a tough opponent.  They look like toothpaste.

In this post, I hope to capture the essence of war in Ascendancy with ship-ship and ship-planet battles along with planetary invasion.  I should see some of this pretty soon since it did not take long for the Fludentri to declare war on me after we made first contact.  I can also start to show some of the weird tech tree gizmos that the game encourages me to place in my ships.  I will try to provide occasional overviews of the galaxy map to allow readers to follow along and understand how my Nimbuloid empire is progressing as well.  Hopefully we can conquer the other galactic denizens and spread our strange, gaseous cloud people to the farthest reaches of the galaxy!  To continue reading about Ascendancy, click below!


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Ascendancy (1995)


Date: 1995
Developer: Logic Factory
Publisher: Logic Factory

System Requirements:
 - 486DX/33MHz
 - MSDOS 5.0
 - 2x CDROM
 - VESA compatible SVGA
 - 8MB RAM

Where to purchase?

 - Unfortunately Ascendancy is not sold anywhere digitally, so your best bet is Amazon or Ebay looking for use copies.  There used to be an iOS version, but this was taken down a few years ago.


Today's game is a change of pace from my previous outings of the past few weeks.  After playing mostly action games for my initial posts on RPDG, I'm going to slow down and play through Ascendancy, a 4X space strategy game.  Before starting, let's get some acronyms out of the way first: 4X stands for eXpand, eXterminate, eXplore, and eXploit, these being the primary driving motivations behind the gameplay in these kinds of games.  Like many of these kinds of games, Ascendancy is a turn-based strategy game (TBS), in comparison to something like Command and Conquer, which is a real-time strategy game (RTS).  Sometimes I find ATBA (Acronyms To Be Annoying), but in this case it is helpful to know this stuff ahead of time.

I have limited experience with Ascendancy from playing the demo way back in the 90s, so I'm going in to this game fairly blind.  But I do enjoy these kinds of galactic conquest games, so I'm looking forward to it.  Let's fire it up!


Saturday, February 3, 2018

Dark Forces - Part 2


Dark Forces - Part 1

I'm continuing my playthrough of the FPS game Dark Forces, and so far I am enjoying the game.  It has enough in common with modern FPS games to limit the frustration over its dated engine and gamplay, while also maintaining that 90s era nostalgic charm.  I'm about 1/3 of the way through the game, and I aim to finish it in this post or the next one.  So lets continue on with mission 5, I look forward to blasting more stormtroopers!