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Universal Combat

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Universal Combat (sometimes abbreviated to UC) is the 2nd video game series by 3000AD Inc., the successor of Battlecruiser series of games.

Compared to the Battlecruiser games, the game placed more focus on action, designed for a wider audience of action and space sim fans alike.

Universal Combat

Codenamed ABC, it is a computer game developed by Derek Smart.

Game play

Universal Combat offers the player a very large game world to play in using varying forms of transport and combat. The player can pilot spaceships of varying sizes, land on and explore planets where they can then drive varying land craft, where more than 21,000 areas of interest are available to explore. The size of the playing area is seen as one of the game's main points, where travelling from place to place can take considerable quantities of time, as there is no time compression. The game has a high learning curve that is daunting for newer players.

The game is most notable for its high level of detail. For instance, every single crew member on the ship is tracked in location, hunger, AI level, and fatigue. Every system on board the players starship can be monitored and controlled. In order for the player to fly a shuttle, they must first take time to walk though the ship to the shuttle bay, forcing the player to plan ahead for tactical encounters. This often leads to a great many instances of emergent gameplay. For example, enemy boarding parties can be trapped on the ship by disabling Launch Control, which will not allow the intruders to escape via a shuttle craft or fighters.

New items include:

  • 22 first person weapons plus other items
  • 28 character models with over 1500 animation frames
  • 4 new careers for a total of 9 playable careers
  • 22 driveable vehicles
  • 12 controllable threat (e.g. SAM) units
  • 10 controllable naval units (ships, subs, LCACs etc.)
  • 5 flyable planetary gunships
  • 54 flyable space crafts (fighters, carriers, cruisers etc.)
  • 64 player multiplay support

The game contains 1 Advanced Campaign scenario (A Fragile Hope), 15 Instant Action scenarios.

The freeware version has fewer music tracks (the game FAQ shows how players can add their own MP3 tracks) and no multiplayer.

Development

The project began as early as 2000 when Derek Smart announced he had licensed Croteam's Serious Sam game engine for "Project ABC," for "After Battlecruiser," as replacement for the Battlecruiser Tactical Engagement add-on module intended for Battlecruiser Millennium. The game had scheduled released date in late 2001, developed for PC and Xbox.[3]

Development started in late 2001 as Battlecruiser Generations, the 5th game in the Battlecruiser series.[4] As part of its design, the upcoming game was intended to make use of newer technology.[5] With a new publisher, Dreamcatcher Games, on board and offering more oversight, the direction of the game changed towards more action-based gameplay than the Battlecruiser series had previously been known for. The changes warranted a new title, and the name was changed to Universal Combat.[6]

Universal Combat was not ready in time for the 2003 holidays, despite expectations. It was shipped in early 2004 by the publisher, DreamCatcher Interactive, at half of the originally announced price. Smart pursued legal action against his publisher. A cease and desist letter was issued on behalf of 3000AD[7] to Dreamcatcher alleging, among other things,[8] that the price reduction was "clearly calculated to inflict economic harm on 3000AD". In the hearing, DreamCatcher Interactive claimed that the game's quality did not justify a midrange price, citing the graphics as an example of the overall quality of the game. A hearing was held to determine if Dreamcatcher would be prevented from shipping the title at the reduced price. The presiding judge denied[9] the injunction stating that 3000AD "made bold but unsupported assertions regarding the irreparable harm to it", allowing DreamCatcher Interactive to ship the game[10] and 3000AD to proceed with their lawsuit. The matter was later settled out of court[11] under undisclosed terms.

In 2005, 3000AD Inc also announced termination of Dreamcatcher's publishing right for Universal Combat,[12] but the deal only expired at 2007-12-18.

When 3000AD announced to release the game as freeware, the company reported it had told DreamCatcher to initiate a DIF (Destroy In Field) order to its various retailers so that the remaining copies can no longer be sold, and any unsold copies would be filed as losses in Q4 2007.[13]

Universal Combat Gold

It is a version with updated patches and enhancements.

Graphics engine was updated to DirectX 9. Multiplayer engine was switched to ReplicaNet. Improved planetary terrain engine. All new (sixteen) first person character models from Universal Combat - A World Apart are included, except these are low-polygon versions.

New scenarios include:

  • 1 campaign scenario (Way Of The Titans) played from the perspective of the Commander or Elite Force Pilot career
  • 16 new Instant Action scenarios
  • 1 32-player multiplayer deathmatch/roam scenario.

Full localization supports Russian, French, Italian, German and Spanish languages. Additional custom language interfaces are possible.

Development

After terminating a publishing deal with DreamCatcher Interactive,[15] Smart released an updated release titled Universal Combat Gold. Starting with this release, Smart has made a policy of releasing games through online resellers.[16]

In 2005 Turner Broadcasting licensed both Battlecruiser Millennium and Universal Combat Gold for their games on demand system, GameTap.[17]


Universal Combat - A World Apart

It is a sequel to the original Universal Combat games.

Although the game had switched to DirectX 9, graphics improvements only began in this edition. Audio engine now based on FMOD ex starting in v1.00.11 patch.

Gameplay changes include:

  • New high definition first person character models (16 total)
  • New first person weapons (24 total, excluding the 4 grenade types and the all new Anti-Personnel Mine)
  • Revised planetary bases
  • 1 new 16-mission Advanced Campaign Mode scenario, entitled 'A World Apart', which can be played from the perspective of Terran/Insurgent Commander career, or Elite Force Pilot career
  • 16 new Instant Action scenarios featuring various careers
  • 2 co-op specific multiplayer space based scenarios with support for up to 32 players. Also included is the default deathmatch scenario.

Development

The game was originally announced in 2004-11-18 as an expansion pack for Universal Combat, which would feature newer and more advanced technologies found in the then-upcoming Universal Combat - Hostile Intent and Galactic Command Online.[20]

DreamCatcher Interactive originally announced the publication of Universal Combat: A World Apart in May 2005,[21] but several issues with the publisher (DreamCatcher) held up the boxed retail release of that title, and led to the termination of the publish agreement. As a result, the publish right returned to 3000AD Inc.[12]

As a result of the termination, boxed version of the game was not released, and the developer also removed DreamCatcher-created content from the retail game.


Universal Combat Special Edition

A compilation release that includes all previous Universal Combat games, plus all outstanding updates and fixes.

Terrain rendering engine now uses improved texturing technologies such as high resolution textures support, reflections, volumetric clouds. Multiplayer and audio engine are also improved.

New scenarios include:

  • 1 new 16-mission Advanced Campaign Mode scenario (A World Apart Episode 2) playable from the perspective of the Commander and Elite Force Pilot careers. The scenario storylines are a continuation of the Episode 1 storyline from the original UCAWA game.
  • 8 new Instant Action scenarios featuring several career modes.

Total scenarios now 58 Instant Action scenarios, 5 Campaign Mode scenarios ('A Fragile Hope', playable from the perspective of the Commander career; 'Way Of The Titans', playable from the perspective of the Commander and Elite Force Pilot careers; 'A World Apart : Episode 1', playable from the perspective of the Commander and Elite Force Pilot careers); 'A World Apart Episode 2', playable from the perspective of the Commander and Elite Force Pilot careers).

In addition to the standalone title, a version exists as expansion pack to the Universal Combat - A World Apart game, which only works with Direct2Drive version of the game.

Universal Combat Collectors' Edition

A compilation release that includes all previously published Universal Combat and Battlecruiser games, running on improved versions of the Universal Combat Special Edition game engine. Unlike previous releases, it is distributed via DVD, and Windows 98 and 2000 are no longer supported.

The game include native support for 16:9 and 16:10 aspect ratio resolutions, with built-in support for 1280x720 (720p), 1680x1050 and 1920x1080 (1080i) resolutions.

The game now includes total 11 Advanced Campaign Mode (ACM) scenarios, and 111 Instant Action scenarios.

The game DVD also includes complete and patched versions of standalone Battlecruiser games (except Battlecruiser Millennium Gold), Game Builder System (GBS) which allows user created scenarios, source to all scenarios included in the game. The Battlecruiser 3000AD games are supported via the included DOSBOX emulator.

The scenario created by this version Game Builder System IV is not compatible with previous games.[25]

Development

In December 2006, Smart announced a collectors edition consisting of his Battlecruiser and Universal Combat games.[26]

Cancelled releases

  • Universal Combat - Hostile Intent[27]: Also called Hostile Intent - Planetfall, it is a combat focused action game based on improved version of Universal Combat game engines. It represents the company's intent to split off the Universal Combat brand as an action focused franchise which takes place in the established game world. On 2006-01-25, 3000AD announced Hostile Intent - Planetfall to be available on Xbox 360,[28] with projected release in Q1 of 2008.[29] However, during the game's development, it was evolved to become part of the Galactic Command series.[30]
  • Universal Combat - Hold The Line[31]: It would be the second Universal Combat game focused on action, but much larger and advanced than Universal Combat - Hostile Intent.[32] It would be sold as expansion to Universal Combat or boxed title (which would also include the original game).
  • Universal Combat - Edge to Edge[33]: It is an announced standalone space and planetary squad based multiplayer tactical combat game. The game would feature a much smaller world (2 space regions and 4 planets), with graphics update. Single player mode features a single campaign between the Terran military player and insurgent counterparts.[34]

Reception

The game was reviewed and rated in several print and online game magazines.[35] Metacritic gave it an aggregate review score of 54%.[36] Gamespot scored it 59% and said "This wildly ambitious simulation is torpedoed by an almost incomprehensible interface, the absence of a tutorial, numerous bugs, and many fit and finish issues, including dated production values."[37] PC Gamer scored it 75% and said "... Derek Smart's Battlecruiser series has been going strong for eight solid years. Over that time, the idiosyncratic space-combat franchise has transformed itself from a bug-ridden lemon to a respected genre contender. Universal Combat is the latest chapter in this recently rebranded series (with new publisher Dreamcatcher), and though the game remains an acquired taste, it's better than ever."[38]

Universal Combat was criticized for an unfamiliar interface and voluminous documentation (a manual of over 100 pages, 200-page downloadable appendix, and 80-page downloadable tutorial).[39]

Universal Combat - A World Apart was rated 54% by Game Rankings and 48% by Metacritic.[40][41]

References

  1. Universal Combat VCF
  2. Universal Combat. gamershell.com. Retrieved on 2008-01-02.
  3. Battlecruiser Team Takes on Serious Sam Engine
  4. BCG rebranded as Universal Combat
  5. UC Version Control. Retrieved on 2006-12-05.
  6. Battlecruiser Generations rechristened — PC News at GameSpot. Retrieved on 2006-12-05.
  7. 3000AD Issues Cease & Desist Letter to Dreamcatcher (PDF). Retrieved on 2004-02-04.
  8. 3000AD Final Factum Filed Against Dreamcatcher (PDF). Retrieved on 2004.
  9. Canadian Judge Rules On 3000AD Injunction Against Dreamcatcher. Retrieved on 2004.
  10. Universal Combat ships despite lawsuit. Retrieved on 2004-02-05.
  11. DreamCatcher to publish another 3000AD title. Retrieved on 2005-01-13.
  12. 12.0 12.1 UC: A World Apart Gold - 3000AD vs. DC, Round II
  13. Universal Combat Goes Freeware
  14. Universal Combat Gold VCF
  15. 3000AD announces trio of new titles, breaks ties with publisher — PC News at GameSpot. Retrieved on 2006-12-06.
  16. BATTLECRUISER Online — Sales and Order Information. Retrieved on 2006-10-20.
  17. Turner licenses 3000AD titles for GameTap. Retrieved on 2005-08-05.
  18. Universal Combat - A World Apart VCF
  19. UCAWA Dev Version Control. Retrieved on 2006-12-06.
  20. Universal Combat Add On Announced
  21. DreamCatcher Games to Publish Universal Combat: A World Apart
  22. Universal Combat Special Edition VCF
  23. Universal Combat Collectors' Edition VCF
  24. Universal Combat Collectors' Edition Now Shipping!
  25. Using GBS-IV Included in Universal Combat CE
  26. Galactic Command (PC/XB360). Retrieved on 2006-12-04.
  27. UCHI page
  28. 3000 A.D. Completely Sells Out to Xbox 360. TeamXbox (2006-01-25). Retrieved on 2006-12-01.
  29. Hostile Intent - Planetfall (X360). GameSpy. Retrieved on 2006-12-01.
  30. Hostile Intent — Planetfall. GameSpy. Retrieved on 2007-11-06.
  31. UCHTI page
  32. Universal Combat - Hostile Intent press release
  33. UCE2E page
  34. Universal Combat – Edge To Edge press release
  35. Universal Combat Reviews. Retrieved on 2006-10-20.
  36. Universal Combat (pc: 2004): Reviews
  37. Universal Combat for PC Review — PC Universal Combat Review. Retrieved on 2006-10-20.
  38. PC Gamer review of Universal Combat (PDF). Retrieved on 2006-10-20.
  39. Wolpaw, Erik (October 2004). Universal Combat. Computer Gaming World. Retrieved on 2007-01-07.
  40. Universal Combat: A World Apart (PC: 2005): Reviews. Retrieved on 2006-12-06.
  41. GameRankings.com aggregate review of Universal Combat: A World Apart

External links

Games in the series

Title Released Publisher
Universal Combat 2004 Dreamcatcher Games
Universal Combat Gold 2005 3000AD
Universal Combat: A World Apart 2005 3000AD
Universal Combat: Special Edition 2006 3000AD
Universal Combat: Collectors Edition 2007 3000AD

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