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I miss playing RTS

i think I wrote about that before but I really do miss playing real time strategy games. I started my RTS career with Dune 2, and Lord knows I miss those days.

When I came home from the hospital I decided to order Age of Empires II for the Mac, which I played for about two months straight almost every day. I used to play Age of Empires II during my middle school afternoons, and I remember clearly when me and a couple of friends of mine started first using DirectPlay with dialup connections for one versus one games, and then experimented with the first little connectivity we had (56k dial-up modem), to play three at once.

Unfortunately either I became ever better at these games even not playing them for years, or the AI in AoE2 for Mac is not as good as it used to be. The reason why I say this is that I was able to crack the computer’s strategies even when using the Hard setting: I just need some villagers to build bombard towers around the enemy’s base and I’m done; if the map is a water map, I just need enough bombard galleons and I’m also done.

So I don’t really think I’ll be playing with AoE2 for long, it’s simply too boring after a while. Plus it’s a bit of a mess as I can’t even patch it to latest version or it crashes on Rosetta (both with Tiger and Rosetta).

Now, I do have some extra games (original games by the way), some of which are RTS. The problem is that they are all for Windows. But they are also quite old, as I got them with videogames magazines around year 2000, and they were mostly obsolete at the times already.

My first try was with Throne of Darkness; not an RTS, but a very nice RPG, I already played it once, arrived almost to the end of it, but I got stuck and then lost the savegames, which was bad enough. I played it with winex, I think; at the moment, it doesn’t run with simple wine.

Then I decided to try Total Annihilation: Kingdoms (my sister has my copy of Total Annihilation), and, well, it runs, sorta.
I say sorta because there are two problems with this: the first is that I can’t run it in full screen, for some reason when it tries to set the resolution to 1280×1024 like I’d like it to, it crashes down, leaving the screen messed up; the second is that it requires me to not move the mouse out of the window if I want to move around the map (when I use it with wine’s virtual desktop setup).

I think tomorrow I’ll try to see if it helps to start a different Xorg server without MergedFB, with just wine running, and TA:K set to run at 1280×1024 (which should cover the whole X root window). In theory this way I should have the limits of the screen to be the same as the limit of the game window, and thus it should work like I had it in fullscreen.

Another problem with running it through Wine is that it seems to be impossible for now to have decent PulseAudio support on amd64 with Wine; maybe it’s the same on x86, I don’t know. Yes of course on AMD64 you also miss the 32-bit libraries for PulseAudio, but I was able to “fix” that thanks to Alexis who sent me the binpkgs for PulseAudio and for alsa-plugins.

The first try for me was using ESounD wrapper, but seems like I’ve hit bug #199507, I didn’t really see the bugmails up to last night, and today i was working all day long so I was unable to tackle it down, I think I’ll try to get it fixed tomorrow. I was pretty sure I used it fine with Caesar 3 while trying the demo, but I didn’t connect the misbehaviour with PulseAudio upgrade up to last night.

When ESounD failed on me I decided to try the ALSA way with the Pulse plugin; the ESounD way was easier to think of because it does not require to fiddle with 32-bit libraries beside the ones in emul-* packages. The ALSA way required me to get 32-bit libpulse and the 32-bit pulseaudio plugin, but that, thanks to Alexis, was easy.

I thought there would have been some kind of configuration on winecfg for the ALSA output.. but there isn’t; it simply seems to use default:0, which doesn’t work, and then it falls back to access hw:0 directly, which works because the via82xx soundcard I still have enough “virtual channels” (aka hardware mixing channels), but it doesn’t come out together with PulseAudio as I’m using spdif as Lennart suggested. This output method outputs the wave directly on the digital output rather than messing it through the hw mixing, which does give a better output, but suffers from the same problem as a soundcard without hardware mixer. As it is I can at least just switch between PulseAudio and other outputs through kmix or similar.

I wonder if I should resume looking at Wine in deep. I used to follow the development, I also wrote a couple of patches (yes I have this dark secret) while I was working on NoX-Wizard and on the Unicorn GM Tool for Ultima OnLine (I think it was my last project wrote in Borland C++ Builder). It’s probably a waste considering I would just be using it to play old games, but maybe this way I could actually understand the way win32codecs work in xine.

Anyway, to return on the RTS theme, I think TA:K might be a good way to pass time – once I’m done with my current job – as after trying it a bit to see how it worked on Wine, I found myself losing… twice! It means that the AI on that game is way different from the ones I’m used to, so it might be a good challenge.

If this doesn’t work, I still have Dune 2000, I was never able to complete the campaign on that…

Comments 6
  1. you should try battle realms, and startopia as well (although the latter is only a bit similar to rts and more of a simulation/financial game).

  2. Seeing through the strategy of RTS-sounds awfully familiar. I used to play them extensively, but most games are just repeating the same medicin and it takes very little time to see through it.You might want to look at “Rise of Nations”. That’s the last RTS-game of which I thought that it really contained some new elements…and was fun to play. More-over the strategy needed really depends on which nation you are making it a though game.disclaimer) I basically stopped playing games after Rise of Nations due to lack of time, so my knowledge might be outdated.

  3. What about StarCraft, or Warcraft 3? Sure, they’re old (especially SC), but they’re among the best RTSs ever created. (SC is the best, IMO.)Also, both have native Mac versions, and SC runs perfectly fine in standard Wine, too. Don’t know about WC3.

  4. I just played a StarCraft demo, but yeah I liked it quite a bit. I wonder if I can find it second hand on ebay or something.. but first now I have to beat the computer at TA:K.

  5. The original Total Annihilation and TA:CC are excellent RTS games. If you like them, you may also look into Supreme Commander from the same author.StarCraft is also a good game, though not as good as TA 🙂

  6. Warcraft 3 is really good imho. I like a special map called DOTA quite a lot, which is not as much a RST map as a fun map.

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