Robot Wars Comes to PC's
by Jim Bray
With the popularity of those shows that pit home made robots against
each other, could a virtual version be far behind?
Obviously not. Now there's RoboForge, a downloadable game thingy with
which you can build your own onscreen robots and send them via the Internet
into a virtual arena to take on the best of what other gamers can throw
The brainchild of Liquid Edge Games, of Auckland, New Zealand, RoboForge
(available from www.roboforge.net) gives you all the tools you need to
design, build, and configure your own personal droid.
According to Mike Ward, spokesman for Liquid Edge, "Using the simple
construction kit (downloaded from the RoboForge Web site) (players) build
3D robots on their PC's and train them to think and fight."
I don't know about the thinking part, let alone "simple," but fighting
is definitely what it's all about.
The company claims you use real robotics and physics in your robot,
choosing your surrogate self's binary bits and pieces from a library of
parts. You can tweak elements, assigning different actions to them in
the hope that when virtual push comes to shove, your happy little creation
will be the baddest cybernaut in the universe.
Most of the game is focused around the construction and testing of your
robot's strength against pre-programmed bots that come with the product.
To sweeten the deal, however, you can also enter your machines into online
competitions for CASH PRIZES!
The tournaments are supposed to be organized like professional sports
events, and Liquid Edge says they'll be running daily tournaments of 10,000
entrants or more, with a first prize of up to $10,000. I imagine this
all depends on how many people buy the product, master the droids, and
then decide to log on and have at it.
Liquid Edge is taking the non-traditional, but increasingly popular,
strategy of offering the game for sale online only, bypassing the game
publishers, distributors and retailers. This not only keeps the price
down for consumers, it keeps profits up for Liquid Edge.
According to spokesman Ward "Online distribution is really the future
of game distribution because publishing and distribution costs eat up
an enormous chunk of the profits on games. We're able to pass cost savings
onto gamers and at a MSRP of $29.95 the game is substantially cheaper
than most premium games on the market."
RoboForge was developed in Java, and should run on all 32 bit Windows
platforms, as well as Linux and other Unix variants. The minimum PC specifications
are 233Mhz CPU, 64MB Ram and a 8MB 3D card. I ran it under Windows 2000
and, unlike some games, it worked fine.
The graphics leave a bit to be desired, being rather low resolution
for my taste, and I must admit that it didn't take me long to tire of
the concept itself. That isn't really a indictment of RoboForge, however;
I'm sure that if you're into this type of thing you can have many happy
- and relatively inexpensive hours - with Roboforge. It just wasn't my
cup of tea.
Speaking of games, Activision has released an expansion pack to its
popular "Star Trek; Voyager Elite Force" first person shooter game.
First person shooters are where the action happens from your point of
view and you see your hand - and ordnance - stretched out in front of
you as you move. Elite Force, in fact, uses the Quake III Arena game engine
- and it's a good one - as its basis.
The upgrade includes an interactive tour that lets you poke around the
deepest innards of the USS Voyager, as well as a bunch of new missions
that require you to have more than a passing knowledge of those innards.
You can roam 10 of Voyager's decks and do neat stuff like launch shuttle
One of the new, single player missions is based on the "Captain Proton"
holodeck mission featured on the Star Trek: Voyager TV series. There are
also four holodeck missions and a "Borg Slayer" game, as well as a new
You also get some new multiplayer maps (five of which were supposedly
created by fans of the game's original release) and nine "Capture the
flag" scenarios. There's also an assortment of new characters and other
interesting things - like the viciously fun-sounding "disintegration mode."
Now that's my kind of game!
Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.
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