Hixie's Natural Log

2002-10-21 03:47 UTC Weekend

This weekend has been lots of fun (and it's not over yet!).

Allan and Damian came down on Friday and stayed overnight to attend the latest BUNCS LAN party which started late Friday afternoon and went on until this evening (Sunday). The main games being played were WarCraft III and Quake III Arena over the network, and Super Smash Brothers Melee on the game cube with a video projector. I suck at WarCraft III, I suck at Quake III Arena, but I rock at Super Smash Brothers Melee. D'oh, d'oh, and horrah for me, respectively.

WarCraft III is your typical run of the mill real time strategy wargame, but unusally for games of its kind, it sports a full 3D engine. The engine is absolutely amazing. For example, the hands on the town hall clock towers actually go round correctly and in sync with the game clock. (Funnily enough, I noticed only two of the four faces on the clock tower have hands — the back two don't, presumably because Blizzard didn't expect people to turn the camera around to check.) The engine is also amazing from a map designer's point of view. WarCraft III comes with a stunning map editor, and maps support a dizzying array of triggers, conditions and actions. You can even write the code for it by hand if you want, there's a custom programming language just for this. WarCraft III also has a pretty cool Hero system, basically unique characters with special abilities that gain experience as they kill things, much like many role playing games.

However, despite the engine being amazing, the gameplay still lacks some features which I think are key to RTS games. For example, there's no key to select all offensive units on the map or on the screen (as far as I can tell). And there's no way to make groups with more than 12 members. You can't queue constructions independently of the units who are doing the construction work (indeed you can't queue more than one construction at a time per construction unit at all). You can't tell multiple units to help construct a building. You can't see a list of all your units and their status. You can't select only damaged units. You can't see what waypoints you've set. You can't see a list of all your research possibilities in one place (so to research something you have to hunt through strangely named and odd-looking buildings to find which one has the required button). There's no way to queue building units that you can't afford yet. There's a pathetically low limit on the total number of units per player. And while you can set a rally point as being another unit (so that units rally wherever your hero has gone, for example), if you lose that unit the rally point is lost (it doesn't switch to the most similar nearby unit, preferably in the same group, which would be the most useful thing to do).

Also, while the 3D engine is quite capable of doing it, the game doesn't offer you an option of switching the view to first-person. It would be neat if you could switch to first person and move your hero or scout about at ground level.

If the game was free software, I'd be able to fix these limitations myself. Unfortunately, Blizzard, like many software companies, don't seem to value their users' freedoms.