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Outcast is an action/adventure Video game by Belgian developer Appeal, released in 1999 by publisher Infogrames. It was named "Adventure Game of the Year" by GameSpot the same year.[1]

Plot

In 2007 the U.S. government successfully sends a probe to an alien world in a parallel universe. The probe starts transmitting video images of the world back to Earth. Then, just minutes into the mission, an alien life form discovers the probe and damages it, causing an unforeseen backlash of energy to create a black hole threatening Earth. Cutter Slade, a former U.S. Navy SEAL, is given the job of escorting three scientists (William Kauffmann, Anthony Xue and Marion Wolfe) on a mission to this alien world to recover the probe and close the black hole.

Arriving in this alien world, Cutter is separated from the other scientists and is hailed by the natives as their messiah, the Ulukai.

Adelpha

Adelpha is a world that is parallel to our own, and it is here that the action of Outcast takes place. The main population are the Talans, basically the parallel version of human beings. Their technology seems very primitive compared to our own; one could say theirs is roughly equivalent to what would have been found in Ancient China or medieval Europe. However, their weapons seem to be advanced. Their energy based weapons and intercontinental portals suggest that at one point they were much more advanced.

Regions

Adelpha is broken up into several regions, which are hinted to be separated by large water masses. Transport between regions is ensured by gates known as Daokas, which allows its users to instantaneously teleport from one region to another.

Ranzaar
An arid polar region, covered in snow, and the headquarters of the Dolotaï Guardians. Cutter's quest begins here.
Shamazaar
A large area where Talans grow riss, a major nutrient for themselves. Unfortunately, they are forced to give away most of their production to Fae Rhan's army, and live under constant fear of being reverted (an euphemism they use to describe death) should their production not meet the expected standards. This region notably has four temples, one for each of the Talan essences. The Temple of Fae lies at the center of the region, having been built larger by Fae Rhan after his arrival.
Talanzaar
A desertic region, home to the only large city of Adelpha, Okriana. The city is broken up into several blocks named boks, each one dedicated to a certain kind of merchandise, such as meat, craftsmanship, pottery, fruit, and so on. Fae Rhan's colossal palace is at its center.
Okasankaar
A region covered in marshes, also houses the small city of Cyana. One should tread lightly in this region, as the deep waters are infested by sannegtas (essentially the Adelphan version of sharks), and the shallows by dangerous carnivorous plants known as zeedogs, which can kill anything with one single bite.
Motazaar
A volcanic and arid region, with many lava pits, where Talans are forced to risk their lives to mine helidium for Fae Rhan's soldiers. There is virtually no flora in this region, save for a few cactus-like plants, and no fauna is to be spoken of, save perhaps for some gamors (which can be likened to coyotes or hyenas).
Okaar
The ancient forest of Adelpha, where a barbaric tribe known as the Oogoobar live, and home to several old temples. This region also connects to Cutter's home world, and it is here all members of the expedition arrive, albeit knocked out.

Fauna

Krakit
Krakits are akin to giant spiders, make a very distinct sound allowing to hear them from afar, and attack by spewing acid.
Gamor
Gamors could be likened to our world's hyenas. They look quite thin and underfed, and they are surprisingly intelligent, preferring to attack in packs and to surround their target. They are also surprisingly resilient, as even fire hardly seems to faze them.
Sankaar
The common fish of Adelpha, which also happens to be carnivorous. Much like our fish, they can be killed by being shot, or by having explosives blow up under water.
Sannegta
The Adelphan shark. It infests the deep waters of Okasankaar, and cannot seemingly be killed by any weapon in Cutter's arsenal. Sannegtas are known to be afraid of Gorgors, and ingenious Talans discovered that using feces (known as zort in Adelpha) of the beast will keep sannegtas at bay. As such, the Talans have set up floating barriers with zort to keep sannegtas away from Cyana. Sannegtas are also afraid of boats, so swimming close to one will keep one relatively safe.
Zeedog
A carnivorous plant that looks like a giant whip with a mouth at its end. Notoriously difficult to kill, the zeedog spits dangerous projectiles from afar at any potential victim, and gives a lethal bite should it come in range. When successfully killed, a zeedog drops a gland which contains an extremely sticky substance, which is used amongst other things to fix boats.
Gorgor
A legendary beast living on the aptly named Gorgor Island in Okasankaar. Essentially a carnivorous dinosaur, it is extremely fast and resilient to damage, and packs quite the powerful bite.
Achondar
Another beast of legends which can be found in Okaar. It is basically a giant Frill-necked Lizard which lives underground, and supposedly has extraordinary hearing. If one treads too close to its lair, it will emerge from it, and spew extremely dangerous acid at any trespasser. Said acid, however, is known to be useful in cleaning old relics.

The Talans

Essences

The Talans are distinguished amongst themselves by the essence that they carry. When coming of age, a male child Talan will walk into the Well of Essences in Shamazaar, and one of the Yods (the Talan gods) will grant him his essence.

Fae
The essence of fire, it grants the Talan the ability to use specially crafted weaponry which no other Talan can use. At the time of Outcast, most of the Fae Talans are soldiers of Fae Rhan, but part of them work for the Dolotaï Guardians, helping Cutter in his quest.
Gandha
The essence of earth. Gandha Talans make up the bulk of the working class, i.e. farmers, miners, and fishermen, but also surprisingly enough, engineers and crackpot inventors.
Eluee
The essence of water. These Talans become artists, craftsmen, merchants, and recreators. Recreators are a very rare breed, and they have the power to synthesize ammunition for Cutter's weaponry using nothing but natural resources available in Adelpha.
Ka
The essence of wind, it is the rarest essence ever to manifest. Ka Talans become shamaz, in other words healers. They can use their essence to cure and heal other Talans, as well as Cutter. There are seldom more than one shamaz per region, with Motazaar being the one exception during the events of Outcast. However, the youngest shamaz just converted at the time of the game, and it is plausible that he just needs to learn the ropes from the older shamaz before taking over his role completely.

Upon an unnatural death of a Talan, he is said to be reverted, and his essence can be seen leaving his body. When Talans die of natural causes, their essence is laid to rest through a specific ritual.

History

Most of the Talans, save for Fae Rhan's soldiers, seem to honor the sayings of the late prophet Kazar at the time of Cutter's arrival. Kazar preached harmony amongst all Talans, and was opposed to the needless use of violence. During most of Kazar's lifespan, Adelpha was in peace and balance.

One day, hinted to be several years after the appearance of Kazar, the being known as Fae Rhan arrived on Adelpha. He meets with Kroax, a Fae Talan who has long wanted to put Adelpha under his control, but has been unable to get any kind of leverage. Fae Rhan manages to coerce most Fae Talans to work for him by persuading them that they are a superior breed. It is also suggested that Fae Rhan found out that Fae Talans can use their essence to wield powerful helidium weapons to wreak havoc.

Kroax was at one point appointed commander-in-chief of Fae Rhan's army, and the latter enforced his newfound authority by setting up policies typical of a military dictatorship: farmers and fisherman were forced to give up nearly all their production to feed the soldiers, merchants were forced to pay inhumane taxes to boost the morale of the army, and miners were forced to mine for more helidium in order to maintain the weaponry in good shape.

Adelpha was thrown into chaos, and Kazar wanted to put an end to it. During a very rare event, the Ne Seyat (event where both moons of Adelpha eclipse its two suns), Kazar and Fae Rhan met up to discuss the future of Adelpha. This meeting ended up with Kazar being reverted by either Fae Rhan himself, or one of his soldiers.

With Kazar out of the way, Fae Rhan could finally rule on Adelpha. He ordered that the city of Okriana be built in the beautiful region of Talanzaar, and in a few years it became an enormous one. However, the Yods of Adelpha were not pleased with the dictatorship of Fae Rhan, and caused a massive sandstorm which lasted for weeks, effectively burying the city, and making Talanzaar a desert. Fae Rhan did not despair, however, and rebuilt the city, somewhat smaller than before, and had it surrounded by a wall to prevent the Yods from striking again.

The Dolotaï Guardians continued to preach the sayings of Kazar, who spoke of a messiah, Ulukaï, that would one day arrive on Adelpha to end the reign of terror of Fae Rhan and Kroax, and most Talans secretly await this moment.

It is around this time that Cutter Slade appears in Okaar. Found unconscious by Dolotaï Guardians, he is brought to their base in Ranzaar for resting. It is revealed to him that he is Ulukaï, the long-awaited savior that Kazar had expected.

Technology

Graphics engine

Outcast's graphics engine is mainly a combination of a ray casting (heightmap) engine, used to render the landscape, and a texture mapping polygon engine used to render objects. The "Engine Programming" section of the credits in the manual[2] has several subsections related to graphics, among them: "Landscape Engine", "Polygon Engine", "Water & Shadows Engine" and "Special effects Engine".

Although Outcast is often cited as a forerunner of voxel technology[3], this is somewhat misleading. The game does not actually model three-dimensional volumes of voxels. Instead, it models the ground as a surface, which may be seen as being made up of voxels. The ground is decorated with objects that are modeled using texture-mapped polygons. When Outcast was developed, the term "voxel engine", when applied to computer games, commonly referred to a ray casting engine (for example the VoxelSpace engine). On the "Engine Technology" page of the game's website, the landscape engine is also referred to as the "Voxels engine".

The engine is purely software-based; it does not rely on hardware-acceleration via a 3D graphics card.[4]

Outcast features effects such as character shadows, depth of field and reflections. Anti-aliasing is used to smooth certain texture boundaries. The heightmap engine renders reliefs with self-occlusion, motion parallax, and silhouettes (but no shadowing)--even for details such as cobblestones.

Water surfaces appear both translucent and reflective. The surface appears to reflect the environment (the skybox) and appears rippled with moving waves, which react to the character's movement while in the water. The degree of translucency depends on the viewing angle. The more vertical the angle, the clearer the water appears while the more horizontal the angle, the stronger the reflections.

Other visual effects include bloom and lens flares, falling snow, fire, and other glowing particles. All of these taken together would have crippled even the most advanced graphics card at the time of release.[citation needed] As a result, the graphics were considered beautiful and well ahead of their time upon Outcast's release.[citation needed]

The disadvantage of this type of CPU-intensive software-rendering was that Outcast required an extremely powerful CPU (nothing but the most powerful Intel Pentium III processors of the time, in the 500-600 MHz range) and massive amounts of RAM (128 megabytes were recommended) to run at full speed and maximum resolution (512x384). However, these considerations can now be safely ignored, as even low-budget PCs of today significantly surpass those requirements, some even needing slowdown applications to prevent glitches on too fast processors.

Artificial intelligence

The AI used in Outcast was considered revolutionary at the time it was released[1]. It was based on a proprietary engine codenamed GAIA, for Game Artificial Intelligence with Agents, which was composed by a set of C++ libraries that provided sophisticated control of game characters based on research in distributed AI. Intelligence is represented as a distributed activity over a set of autonomous routines called agents. An agent uses skills, such as hearing, sight, acrobatic, to complete assigned tasks. These agents can interact and even compete with each other to realize a complex task.

Gameplay

Outcast uses a unique way to save games, integrated with the game world. At the start of the game, the player receives an object called a "Gaamsavv". He is instructed that the Gaamsavv is able to "capture his essence", so that it may later be restored. To save a game, the player equips the Gaamsavv and "squeezes" it, making it glow and emit a sound. The sound can be heard by enemies and they will investigate, so that the player must take the situation into account before saving a game. After a few seconds, the game pauses and a menu overlay appears.

Music

Outcast features a high-quality orchestral score composed by Lennie Moore and performed by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra and choir. At the time of Outcast's release, orchestral game scores were uncommon, and Moore's achievement was hailed as "absolutely top-notch".[5] Game's publisher Infogrames released the hour-long score on a soundtrack album and it was later made available for MP3 download on the game's official website. Anyone who owns the original game can listen to the soundtrack by putting disc 2 into a CD player [2].

In Okriana, the player can sometimes hear the The Throne Room/End Title track from Star Wars be played by a Talan. When questioned, the latter will answer that he is playing "Kazar's Harmony". This is likely the first hint the player can get about the fact that the legendary prophet Kazar is someone from Kauffmann's expedition.

Sequels & port

A sequel, Outcast II was originally being developed for Sony's PlayStation 2 console. During development, the company Appeal went bankrupt and development ceased. Appeal had been requesting funds from their publisher to help finish the game for release but this plea fell on deaf ears.

The Eternal Outcasts are developing a free sequel called Open Outcast[3] as a Crysis mod. The project initially used the Gothic and later the Crystal Space 3D engine.

A Dreamcast port of the original was also planned, but was shelved when the PC version failed in the marketplace.

Playing Outcast today

Today's fast computers may cause unexpected glitches in the game, such as rendering the player character unable to run on certain surfaces, or loading errors such as "Bad audio tracks" that stop the soundtrack from playing. To prevent these, one can use a program such as to artificially prevent Outcast from using all the processing power. For reference, on an AMD Athlon 64 3000+ processor, setting CPU Grabber to grab 55% of the processor is generally enough to prevent these kinds of glitches. If using such a program to prevent glitches that occur when the game is loading, you can Alt+Tab out of the running game and disable the program, or leave just enough processing power restriction to overcome in-game glitches.

Several patches are available to solve certain bugs relating to modern hardware. Patch 1 solves a problem installing the game with a modern DirectX version present, patch 3 solves ingame bugs and should be applied after installation. Also an unofficial resolution patch is available to play the game at 640 x 480. The resolution patch/loader was created for Windows 98 and requires gamers on Windows XP or later to run Outcast executables (oc1|2|3.exe) in Windows 98 compatibility mode, an option found in the EXE files' properties window.

Re-release

On 20 April 2010, Outcast was re-released via digital distribution by Good Old Games. The re-released game is compatible with Windows XP and Windows Vista. This version of the game includes fixes for several of the problems described in the Playing Outcast today section, including a community developed patch that negates the need to use a CPU slowdown program, and is generally playable on modern PCs without any extra troubleshooting required.

Outtakes

After Outcast was released, developer Appeal published a series of short films on its Web site, called "Outcast Outtakes", which were also included on the DVD version of the game. It was essentially a series of in-game recordings which were made to poke fun at itself, such as Cutter making an advertisement for his backpack that acts much like a magic satchel, by showcasing that he could store house furniture such as doors and chairs in it, or extra scenes involving Nikaa, a Talan whose gender remains under debate to this day. These films were made purely for fun, and do not exist in the game itself.

References

  1. The Best & Worst of 1999: Adventure Game of the Year. GameSpot. Retrieved on 2007-05-03.
  2. Outcast Manual (german ed.). Dreieich: Infogrames Deutschland GmbH. 1999. OUTCAPC52D/B2 
  3. Bertuch, Manfred (2009). Klötzchenwelten in c't Magazin. 04. Hannover: Heise Zeitschriften Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. ISSN 0724-8679 
  4. "Voxel terrain engine", introduction. In a coder's mind, 2005.
  5. Goldwasser, Dan (2000-09-17). Outcast Soundtrack. SoundtrackNet. Retrieved on 2007-05-03.

External Links

Official websites

Articles in Games Journalism

Fan-sites

Also on Fandom

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