X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter
This Page Updated:
Sat Jan 24, 1998
Developers: Crack dot Com
Genre: Real Time Strategy
Release Date: Spring 1998
Page 1: Action and Strategy in One
By: Evan Jones
Golgotha was the name of the plain just outside of Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified. It is a word derived from the Hebrew word meaning skull, because if you looked out on the Golgotha plain you could see a skull-like protrusion. It is also the name of the upcoming game by Crack dot Com, the creators of Abuse. Golgotha is Crack dot Com's entry into the real time strategy genre, and it takes it in an entire different direction.
The game takes place in 2048, after all nuclear weapons have been dismantled. During a dig at the Golgotha plain, an American archeologist is killed by terrorists. In a counter strike the Americans decide to send in the marines to crush the terrorist group. Because there was little resistance the commander in charge decides that the US must have set it up and declares that his forces are no longer American. This triggers a chain of events that ends by starting world war 3. This plot will be played out through game engine movies, rather than digital video, which allows your computer to play the movies at the highest possible quality.
Golgotha is really very different from most real time strategy games, and the difference is in the way it is played. You produce and control units in groups called formations, which you then control in a standard overhead view. What makes this game so different is that you can build a super tank and go behind the controls to wreak havoc upon your enemy. The super tank is very fast and very strong with lots of weapons and armour. It can destroy many formations by itself. You can control the super tank with the standard overhead view, where it will fire for you, or you can hop behind the controls yourself and go into battle. This sort of strategy and action combination has been done before with Cyclone Studios's Uprising, but Golgotha is less action oriented then that title, and more strategy oriented.
Golgotha is rendered with Crack's own 3D terrain engine, instead of simple 2D graphics. It will not be the first real time strategy game that uses a 3D engine, Bungie beat them to that title with Myth: Fallen Lords, but it is still unusual. This engine renders the outdoor environment, buildings and units at the highest quality your machine can draw while maintaining a decent frame rate. The engine looks very nice, as you can see from the screenshots. The engine supports a wide variety of 3D accelerator cards through Direct3D, OpenGL and Glide. All the latest 3D graphic technology is supported like static and dynamic lighting, alpha blending, projected object shadows and colored tinting. High resolution mip-mapped texture maps are used for convincing models even close up. Everything is drawn in 16-bit high color, with support for 24-bit true color.
Crack dot Com believes that software rendering is still very important, so you will be able to get most of the features of the 3D accelerated version without a 3D accelerator. The only difference is that the software render takes some shortcuts to maintain a decent frame rate. Dave Taylor, the game designer and company owner, says that an unaccelerated P133 gets near 17 FPS, an unaccelerated P200 25 FPS and a 3Dfx accelerated P200 can get near 60 FPS. One interesting way that Golgotha improves the frame rate while maintaining high quality is by draws a quick, low quality image first, then improving the quality of the image as you continue to look at it.
Even the sound uses cutting edge technology, with support for Direct3DSound and Aureal's A3D. These technologies produce surround sound effects, and seem to work quite well. You can try it for yourself with the A3D demo clips. To be able to hear A3D sound you will need a sound card that supports it, like Diamond's Monster Sound. The sounds are well done, maintaining Crack dot Com's reputation for high quality effects that began with Abuse. The squeaky treads of tanks and the explosions of missiles are convincing. You can sample the songs, which are being composed by an in house composer, on the Golgotha Music page.
Crack dot Com will also be continuing their dedication to cross platform gaming. Golgotha is being developed for Linux (a UNIX variant) first and Windows 95/NT secondly. It may also be released for IRIX (SGI's UNIX) and AIX (IBM's UNIX) operating systems as well.
Golgotha will support multiplayer gaming out of the box, over modem, IPX and TCP/IP networks. The game will support players from different platforms in a single game, a persistent world that allows players to join and leave, strong support for team work and support for at least 8 simultaneous players. It is unknown if there will be built in Internet support and what form it will take.
The final version is supposed to be as customizable as Abuse was, which means down to the bone. User modifiable DLL files, similar to Quake 2, will be used to control the game. This allows everything to be edited from the game physics to the artificial intelligence. The level editor is built right in to the final release so you do not have to switch programs to test your level. All the sounds, graphics and units can be modified.
There is a demo available for download, the latest being Demo 5 (10 MB). This demo is really just a technology test and gives us a small taste for the final game may be like. The controls are a little awkward at first and it is difficult to win. It takes a bit of time to figure out what is going on, and you certainly can not just load it up and start playing. Reading the readme files gives you a good overview on how to play the game. This game does not have any of the upgrading and building of other strategy games, instead it focuses on action and battle.
There are a quite a few rough edges in the demo. The first problem is the controls are awkward. Instead of moving around the map by pushing your mouse against the edge of the screen like in most strategy games, you must use the arrow keys or click on the map, which makes it slow in navigating around the field. There is also a lot of choppiness with the mouse that makes it hard to order your troops. The switch between the overhead view and the cockpit view is quite smooth, but the biggest difficulty is that when you are in the cockpit, it is very difficult to oversee the rest of the battle. Perhaps a co-op multiplayer option should be considered where one player manages the overhead battle and the other pilots the super tank.
Golgotha looks really promising. What we have here is a game that combines the action and strategy genres in a unique way and promises a lot more in the bargain. It uses a lot of the latest technologies and supports many different features. If Crack dot Com can make the game easier to control, improve some of the minor issues, and if they manage to deliver on three quarters of their promises they will have a hit on their hands. At the very least, it will definitely change the direction of this overcrowded genre. Golgotha will not appeal to everybody, but it is very different from everything else. Golgotha is due out in the first quarter of 1998.
Crack dot Com
It's Golgotha, Dammit!