DEFCON is short for Defense Condition, on a numerical scale, with 1 being the highest level of alert or readiness. It also happens to be the name of a video game that lives up to the origins, the movie WarGames, which was released in 1983. The movie is based on the premise that an teenager war-dials every telephone number in his city trying to find the computer system of a video game publisher. One of the telephone numbers goes straight into a military computer, and he thinks it’s actually a computer of the video game company. He figures out the password to the system and starts a “game” of Global Thermonuclear War, which unbeknownst to him, triggers the computer into starting a not-so-video-game nuclear war military simulation.
A large portion of the film takes place in the most expensive movie set ever created at the time, a full-scale replica of the underground NORAD headquarters Command Center. After inflation, the set would have cost nearly 2.1 million dollars to create today.
What’s equally impressive is Introversion Games (or simply, IV Games), the developers of DEFCON (the real life video game) had about 18 months and something like 8 employees to present the world with their version of the movie set turned into a video game.
IV has definitely had it’s share of difficult times, as this forum post goes into detail. Not many independent game developers can say they’ve gone from spending tens of thousands of dollars on speedboats and cars to living on government benefits. Thankfully they kept making video games instead of giving up after going bankrupt.
The game seems ludicrously simple at the beginning. You’re automatically assigned a territory, and you place radar dishes, silos, carriers, battleships, subs, and much more around your territory as you see fit. The game proceeds at up to 20x normal speed (most games would take 8 hours in real time), meanwhile counting all the way up to DEFCON 1 where you can actually launch nukes. What starts out as simple ends up being a rather complex strategy game. The “winner” of each game depends on the mode being used, but the goal is to nuke other countries’ population centers while fending off nuclear attacks on your own cities.
Instead of going into more detail, here’s a video I made of three computers playing each other. It’s a pretty good introduction into the DEFCON stages – watch the white text and red countdown timers. I’ve dubbed the video over with some appropriate music to speed things along, but the actual game soundtrack is absolutely epic – just like the original movie. The graphics are wireframe based (much like Darwinia) and they look great, while helping the player focus on what is most important – the gameplay itself.
Each of their previous games, Uplink, and Darwinia have native Linux clients. I would imagine that their next title in development Multiwinia will also support Linux, as well as Windows and OSX. The Linux demo is pretty fantastic, it was simple to install and run. I’ve been reiterating over and over lately, supporting companies that support Linux is very important, and if you check out the demos and enjoy them, send some money their way. They can probably put it to good use getting their fast car polished or something. 😉
If you need instructions, to get all three games running, here they are:
1. Install a couple common files you might need from a vanilla Ubuntu 7.10 installation:
sudo apt-get install libgtk1.2 libstdc++5
2. Install Defcon
tar xvfz defcon-v1.42.tar.gz && cd defcon-v1.42 && chmod a+x defcon
3. Install Darwinia
chmod a+x darwinia-demo2-1.3.0.sh && ./darwinia-demo2-1.3.0.sh
chmod a+x ~/darwinia-demo2/darwinia && cd ~/darwinia-demo2
4. Install Uplink
chmod a+x uplink-demo-1.54.sh && ./uplink-demo-1.54.sh
chmod a+x ~/uplink-demo/uplink
If you don’t need instructions, you should be doing one of two things: reading Linux Journal (see below), or downloading the demos. Both options are free (as in beer) to those of you in the USA, and that LJ promotion has been putting enough money in my pocket each week to buy a
cup of joe coffee-flavored-milkshake from Starbucks, along with a muffin or other tasty treat.
If enough loyal readers out there check out the free LJ offer, I might be able to buy… speedboats or fast cars come to mind. Last but not least, I’ve received word that the interview with Ken VanDine of Foresight Linux is about halfway done. He’s apparently a rather busy guy, I’m REALLY looking forward to it. If you had subscribed to my Twitter feed you would already have that delivered to your cellphone.