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Remember that simple circle-and-a-stick game our fathers used to play when they were kids? You took a metal wheel frame from a bicycle and roll it down the road, trying to keep it steady by using a stick. Try and compare that game to - let's say - Glest or Starcraft. Now hold that image in your head for a second and imagine trying to stabilize that iron circle with nothing but a scarf. You'd have to pull on both ends of the scarf and try to somehow keep the balance of the rolling circle. A stick would be much more handy, but where's the fun in that?

That's how I see Globulation 2,a 2D RTS game that many people enjoy. The majority of RTS games allowthe user to point and click with their mouse in directing a certainunit to do a task. Globulation 2 however makes use of flags to attracta unit in doing what the user wants.

Units

The game has all the elements you've already encountered in other RTS titles: resource gathering, upgradable buildings, workers, warriors and an enemy to eradicate from a map of your choice. What makes Globulation 2 particularly interesting is the way you'll have to make some sort of order in the total chaos of your units.


And speaking of "units", the starts of the game are tiny blobs, each working for it's tribe that bears a certain color. They have to gather, build and fight for you and they can be grouped in only three distinct classes: workers, warriors and explorers.


Workers are the ones that gather all the necessary resources for survival and building: wheat that is their basic food source, wood and stone for the buildings, different kinds of fruits, algae and papyrus for improving the existing buildings.

Warriors are a little bit larger and they protect the colony orattack enemy colonies when told to do so. Explorers look like birds andthey're the ones that do the... exploring.

Buildings

You start with a Swarm, a building with pointy towers that is usedfor storing wheat and creating other blobs. Click on the building andyou'll notice three horizontal bars, each bearing a unit type's name.Fill the Worker bar by dragging your mouse on it all the way to theright. Now the building will start producing only Workers, until youassign another build cycle to it. You can also use it to build allthree types of blobs by giving all three bars the same value.


You'll also notice that the sidebar on the right has a minimap in the top-right corner, showing you how much of the terrain has already been discovered and where units currently are. Just below that map there are four circular buttons. Click the first one to see a list of all the buildings you can make. The second one displays the flags you can use (we'll discuss these in a minute). The third and fourth ones display statistics concerning your blobs: how many you've got, how many are hungry or building or are capable of swimming (among other useful things).


Right after the game starts, the first thing you'll need to do is build an Inn. This building stores food for your units and is also the place where they'll be going to eat from time to time. The more Inns you'll build, the more resources you'll be able to store and the more healthy your population will be.

Next you should build a Hospital so that when injured, your units will have a place to rest and start the healing process.You'll notice right away that the blobs are moving rather slow and chaotic. To make them move faster - and therefore quickly finish their tasks - build a Racetrack for them. They'll enter it to train and when they come out you'll see they're moving with greater speed. If the Inn and Hospital required a blob to deposit only wood in the construction,the Racetrack also needs stone. Other buildings in the game require additional materials like algae to be built and papyrus when upgrading.

Most maps in the game are composed of islands so that a player would have time to build and train an army before being attacked. Islands are surrounded by water but your blobs can swim quite well. Build them a Swimming Pool so that they'll be able to set foot on other islands and gather wheat and wood or attack an unsuspecting village.

Barracks improve the fighting skill of your warriors while the Defense Tower throws stones at invading enemy forces. You can also build Stone Walls for passive defense or to confine your units to a certain place.


The Market building is quite peculiar. It allows players to trade fruit with one another. There are cherries, oranges and prunes in the trees nearby, and the more fruit your units eat the more happy they are. If you check the "mV" (Market Vision) option in the alliance menu of the game, other players will be able to import and export fruit with your camp.

Fruits also play a role of conquest. When a blob gets hungry it will search for an Inn to eat in. The wider the fruit variety the Inn offers, the better for you, as enemy blobs will come and eat at your Inns and switch sides. Always strive to offer fruits of all kinds toy our units because enemy camps may also have fruits to offer and you don't want your blobs going to eat at their place.

Schools are very important as they teach your workers how to build and gather resources. Without a School you won't be able to upgrade your other buildings.

Gameplay

Except the Stone Wall, all buildings are required to be able toupgrade. And believe me - you'll need those upgrades. An upgradedRacetrack makes your blobs move even faster. An upgraded Inn can storemore food and allow more blobs to feed at the same time. UpgradedDefense Towers can shoot projectiles at a greater distance and inflictgreater damage upon your enemies.

Build more Swarms to be able to produce more units than the defaultrate allows you to. Always have Explorers at hand to scout for you andreveal enemy camps and the progress other blobs make.

As I've said in the beginning of this article, you attribute tasks by placing flags. If - for example - you need your Warriors to attack a newly-discovered enemy building, place a War flag on top of the building. Enlarge it's radius to the max and watch your units wreak havoc in that area. The Exploration flag is used solely by the Explorers. You can place it somewhere on the map to discover the terrain beneath the black fog. The Clearing flag is used by the Workers. Resources like Wood and Wheat tend to regenerate and if left unattended they will slowly grow around your buildings making movement impossible. To clear an area of resources to gain space for buildings,place a Clearing flag on top of it and watch the Workers devour.


Most of the time, your units will do their job without the need ofguidance. Workers will gather Wheat and store it in Inns, build stuff,feed or learn. Warriors will keep walking aimlessly, always getting inthe way of the Workers until a portion nearby gets attacked andExplorers will fly in circles around the areas designated by you.

Since this micro-society will quickly grow in numbers, you'll have to impose some limits. From the Flags menu you can pick a Forbidden Area flag and trace the lines of your kingdom. Blobs will not cross these red areas and remain within the limits your specified. Workers can keep harvesting wheat and wood from the places you mark as Clearing Areas and Warriors can be made to guard certain parts of your village by placing Guard Areas in key points. Upon placing a flag, the corresponding nearby blob type will become alert of the change and race towards that place. Areas cannot be moved but they can be deleted with the help of the button that has an arrow facing upwards painted on it.Flags can be moved by dragging their symbol around and can also be expanded or contracted.

A few things worth mentioning You can switch between the menus in the sidebar by right-clicking anywhere on the screen. Press the "t" key at any time to see the trajectory of each blob: where is it going and to what building or activity will it return to.Defense Towers need stones as ammunition. They won't be able to fire again until a Worker begins carrying stones back to the Tower.Buildings can be repaired if damaged.You can use the fourth menu in the sidebar to check which blobs are starving or are engaged in fighting.Allow space between your buildings. Some of them need to under go changes while upgrading and need to expand. If there's no room for them to expand you won't be able to upgrade them.There's no need to wait long for the buildings to be finished or upgraded. Click on the structure and raise the "Working" bar to assign a few more nearby blobs to it.You can check how many blobs are currently training in a facility by clicking on the building. You'll see a bar with dots moving from left to right. When a dot reaches the end of the line you'll see a readily-trained blob exiting the building.Depending on your upgrades, Explorers can be trained to attack.By selecting the Market building, you can decide if you wish to import or export a certain kind of fruit.The game ends when all the enemy buildings and units are destroyed.Final words

Globulation 2 is a game you would call "one of it's kind". It can behigly entertaining once you get the hang of it. It will certainlypuzzle you at first and maybe even frustrate you since it's rules don'tresemble anything you've encountered before, but past that, it's fun atit's finest. It can be played in almost twenty languages, in a LAN orthrough the Ysagoon Online Gaming service. It is also highlyconfigurable and can use both SDL or OpenGL. Being open-source, thegame is constantly improved, however at a slower pace than one woulddesire.

Besides being a fun game to play, Globulation 2 is also an excellentexample of AI development. There are different levels of AI, each withit's - dare I say it - personality.

My advice regarding Globulation 2? If you want something different, give this game a try.

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