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Saturday, December 26, 2009

xbattle is a multi-player real time strategy game

xbattle Xbattle is a concurrent multi-player game which combines elements of strategy with arcade-like action to capture a wide range of military scenarios. Opponents play from separate displays, with commands being executed concurrently -- the players do not take "turns", but rather they all issue their commands simultaneously.

There can be any number of players, with each player assigned to a specific team, indicated by marker colors. The game board is a matrix of cells (square, hexes, etc.) that can be occupied by colored troops, with the goal of the game being to eliminate the enemy from the board by attacking cells occupied by enemy troops. A wide variety of command line options (and previously configured game files) provide an abundance of different scenarios and gaming environments.

The game was originally written for unix systems using the X Window System. Many military-type scenarios can be played out in this game. The board is very generic, consisting of repeated geometric shapes (hexagons, triangles, squares, or octagon with squares). Water obstructions can be included and randomly generated boards are often used. Each player is assigned a color. Each player gets a pre-set number of bases that generate "troops". Troops look like blobs of color, with strength indicated by the size of the blob in the location. Troops can be moved around the board to take over additional squares or opposing bases. Supply lines thin out, so the opposing force usually tries to cut off your supply lines. There are numerous options, including fog-of-war limits on visibility, dig and paratrooper options. Some recent versions include a single player AI option with two quite sophisticated AI engines. There is also possible to prepare a game with AI versus AI only.
This game does not run as client server. Instead, it opens windows on all the clients using the X window system, so it is really just a single application running multi-headed. However, there is a version 6.0 which has a developer version of network client-server code, currently rather unplayable.
The X-Battle project has been orphaned several years. In year 2009 there was a try to revive the project a bit at the University of Gdansk, where a highly motivated group of five students take the code from stable AI 1.2.2 version and prepare it to further development (version 1.2.3). The code was refactorized, and there are quite a few improvements added, such as an improved client-sever code or AI's ability to dig (right now it is experimental, and digging is done randomly, but it works). If the project would not stop there should be a newer stable version with modern client-server interface, which can help to populate this awesome game across the world.

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