October 6, 2006
Earlier this year I wrote about how much I loved Introversion Software's indie PC game Darwinia. Introversion just released their newest game, DEFCON.
DEFCON channels WarGames and Balance of Power..
.. but Defcon begins where Balance of Power ended:
It's positively strangelovian.
The developers nail the mood of cold war paranoia, as explained in this Eurogamer interview:
[Defcon] simulates Global Thermonuclear War.
Points are scored by successfully nuking the enemy civilian population into oblivion. This is an extremely difficult task because launching an attack on the enemy makes you very vulnerable - Ground Silos and Subs and Bombers all give away their positions the moment they launch nuclear weapons.
We're playing this game every day and people keep coming up with new strategies - but the bottom line is it's very difficult to win convincingly. Games often end with both sides obliterated. It's a fascinating and nervous game to play.
We've gone for a very minimal atmosphere, with some wonderful ambient music playing (written by Alistair Lindsay and Michael Maidment - the same guys that did the awesome Darwinia audio). There's very little in-game sound except deep rumbles when nukes hit. It's like you're ten miles underground in a bunker, bringing the world to an end one city at a time, completely detached from the millions of deaths you are causing.
DEFCON uses OpenGL, which is quite problematic in Vista at the moment. It works great under XP, of course.
The game is unusually multitasking friendly; it doesn't capture the mouse pointer, so you can run it on a secondary monitor and treat it just like any other window on your screen. It also continues to run in the background when you minimize it. Running in the background is essential for those inevitable office matches:
Yeah, we're very excited by Office Mode. The basic idea is that a group of work-mates can start the game up in the morning in Office Mode, playing over their local area network. The game takes place entirely in real-time (you can quite easily end the world with nuclear conflict in eight hours) and each player controls one territory, e.g. North America or Russia. You can hit the Panic key (press escape twice) which immediately removes the game from the screen and places a discreet icon in your system tray. That icon changes when important things happen - for example if you detect some nuclear launches the icon will flash as a Nuke for a few seconds. Because everything is taking place in real-time you've got at least 30 minutes before those nukes land, so you've got plenty of time to respond without interfering with your real work too much.
Although DEFCON offers four speeds from real-time to 20x, even on 20x it's still a relatively slow paced real time strategy game, with plenty of "think time". Battleships and bombers don't turn on a dime, and rapid clicking won't win games.
Unlike Darwinia, DEFCON is primarily a multiplayer experience. Although you can play against the computer AI-- our good friend the W.O.P.R.-- there's not much of a single player narrative to the game. The best way to conduct Global Thermonuclear War is with a couple of your closest friends. Download the demo version, which has functional LAN and internet multiplayer, and nuke your coworkers into the stone age.
Posted by Jeff Atwood
Jeff said, "... but the bottom line is it's very difficult to win convincingly. Games often end with both sides obliterated..." Sounds very life like and realistic. Like real war, there may be a winner politically/militarily speaking, but in effect all sides lose.
Didn't we learn anything from the movie? The only winning move is not to play......
I like the timing of this post.
I got quite heavily into Defcon on release day, but then (quite by chance) stumbled into Armadillo Run. And since then, I just haven't been able to get back into it, due to my obsession with a yellow bowling ball.
Defcon makes me pine for the good ole days of Hunt for Red October, and to a lesser extent Harpoon.
H4RO on the XT... now *there* was a game that could scare you off your seat.
"... but the bottom line is it's very difficult to win convincingly. Games often end with both sides obliterated..."
As they say: War doesn't decides who's right, only who's left.
TristanK: If you liked both Harpoon and HfRO, did you also play Red Storm Rising?
It combined the submarine focus and playability of HfRO, and the campaign view of Harpoon.
I lost many a night to patrolling the North Sea...
The best way to conduct Global Thermonuclear War is
with a couple of your closest friends
Hey! [insert cynical political joke here]
From the title screen:
Theaterwide Tactical Warfare
Theaterwide Biotoxic and Chemical Warfare
Global Thermonuclear War
Why use nukes? Can't we just "give away" our politicians?
I had the original Balance of Power. The problem with it was that you could only lose. The enemy was always pushy, irritable and uncooperative to unrealistic levels; if you ever stood up to them even once, that was it - you had magic mushrooms on the horizon; the very near horizon.
Still, it was a good way to finish off some chips, a Coke and the whole human race just before turning in to bed. Wasn't much of a game for playability though.
Red Storm Rising was OK until I figured out how to effectively hunt the Soviet Diesel Electrics and then it was too damned easy. You simply sat around dead silent for while and they would slowly come in towards you - the first you heard of any sound from them you went full active sonar and started firing torpedos and noise makers as fast as your little digits could tap the keys - they never could effectively deal with that tactic. However, watching a nice Soviet carrier slip under the frigid North Sea waters was also a nice reminder that the sun was about to rise on a new day and you had once again forgotten to sleep.
Of course, if you were really into showing up for work with red eyes, sunken cheeks and sucking back your third Big Gulp sized coffee, nothing could waste away entire evenings and nights like Sid Meier's Civilization.
Is it any wonder why I don't play computer games anymore?
"Although DEFCON offers four speeds from real-time to 4x, ..."
This is incorrect. The available speeds in DEFCON are real-time, 5x, 10x and 20x.
hmm...Follow the white rabbit into the rabbit hole
Just in time too. . I wonder how the korean part plays out.
I like their tag:
It's Global Thermonuclear War, and nobody wins.
But maybe - just maybe - you can lose the least.
"Why does the single player experience need a narrative?"
A computer AI is predictable, however clever it is...
A stupid online random, is unpredictable..
Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups ;))
I really liked Balance of Power on my old Atari ST.
It was possible to beat. As I remember a lot rided on the percieved credibility of your threats. e.g. if you really wanted to send miliary aid to Poland as USA and refused to back down you would often succeed if previous confrontations with Russia had resulted in them backing down.
"there's not much of a single player narrative to the game."
I don't get it. Why does the single player experience need a narrative? In fact, I can't see any difference between playing against multiple AI players and playing against multiple human players, which in my opinion is a good thing. Actually, there is one key difference: the single player experience requires no network connection - also a good thing. Of course, I had to tinker with the game files to change the default for "AdvertiseOnInternet."
dagnabbit - Tim, I meant Red Storm Rising, I *always* get those mixed up!
I still have a copy of it somewhere, and I'm now itching to go dig it up...
Holy crap! This is awesome. Love the graphics (just like I remember from the movie, but they've been updated for today which I know doesn't make sense) and boatloads of fun. I'm buying this now after playing the demo for a short bit. Now all we need is this on XBL.
Why the beep is a nuclear missile launched from my city (Bucharest / Romania / Europe) ??!
As my great great grand-uncle "Willy" (a/k/a 'Cump') had said in the Civil War (You guessed damn right, that's General William Tecumseh Sherman I'm talking about and proud of him as my ancestor on my father's side): WAR IS HELL! Well, copy cat President Truman during WWII claimed that as his own - anyway, he stole those words! The Global ThermoNuclear War Game is only a simulation as I see it but as a futurist, when WWIII comes, it's gonna be much worse than that even with the battle robots and high-tech UFO stuff going on as well as with the Book of Revelations from the Holy Bible itself together prophesied.
Defcon - I'm a bit over it but still enjoy the fast paced thermo-carnage. The next phase of this type of gaming is a more prosaic but relevant, modern day and easy to update, strategy-fest complete with stealth bombers, satellite warfare and of course, rogue states and slumbering super-powers. Harpoon is close, Defcon is close, forget arcade elements, stick to strategey. Hmm
defcon is a bloody amazing game
the reason I play defcon a lot of the time is because i like logical and
strategy games like Medieval Total War and the Civilization games and i am a brilliant chess player.
if you like games which are games of logic and strategy i suggest you buy defcon
hell is a world of war - war is a natural part of life
Im a better chess player than u becuz i leik logical and logical gamez and not just strategy lol. ok so you beat me ONCE in chess I beat you a lot more than that. And 3 posts does nut make ur smarter?
my favourite speech from my book about a nuclear war is:
"To have peace, there must be war" president harris (fiction)