by Chris Barylick
October 11th, 2005
Distractions With Paper
It began back in high school. Amid hormones that rarely helped, a steady torrent of shareware games passed around on floppy disks both kept things interesting as well as violated computer lab policy regarding outside software with abandon.
Somewhere along the line, a copy of Glider Pro found its way onto one of the Macintosh LCs in the lab. Simple, interesting and fun, this had all the appeal of the marquee titles of the day including Marathon, Doom, Doom 2 and Heretic, while showing what a clever game idea could do.
The premise was simple: fly a small paper airplane through a house along whatever available air and heat currents you could find, use or create through the items available and try to reach the end. As the game continued, puzzles could be resolved through by making use of nearby objects that the plane touched. Crash into the ground, other objects or come into contact with anything that would destroy an actual paper airplane and you lost one of your three lives.
The classics survive in the shareware puzzle classic "Glider".
Even if the premise was simple, it was fun and the player couldn't help but relate to it. Here was a puzzle game unlike any other where a player had to literally take in every detail they could from the side-shot of the room their plane was currently in, see what the goal of the moment was, then see which objects would help them achieve the goal and work from there.
Need to fly over a bookcase to reach a control switch? Flying low over a pair of candles might be the only solution, despite the fact that without the proper height and speed, your plane was guaranteed to catch fire. These were the puzzles that kept players interested in the game and wanting to play through just one more room to see what the next challenge was and if they could resolve it.
So, here it is, available for both Mac OS 7-9 as well as X and completely free to anyone who wants it since Casady & Greene went belly up and took some excellent utilities with it. The main version, a three megabyte download, features a serial number to activate the program as well as the Slumberland demo house. Additional levels can be downloaded while Glide creator John Calhoun's page still documents the game and links to fan sites.
Glider requires Mac OS 7-9 to run the Classic version and any version of Mac OS X for the current version. The game is free to all, but the Classic version features the level editor, which allows players to design new homes to fly through.
Counter-Strike's Attractive Cousin for the Mac: Frag Ops
Years ago, when Half Life was canceled for the Mac, hearts broke, The economics of the situation made sense in that it didn't look like there would be enough sales to make the port viable and it was hard to argue with the figures.
This isn't to say it didn't hurt nonetheless.
So, with that in mind, Frag Ops may be one of the best substitutes out there if a round-based first person shooter is to your liking. A free Unreal Tournament 2003 and 2004 mod by the Pandora Studios team with a Mac translation and installer by the santaduck team, this works as a total conversion featuring new weapons, items, armor, models, maps, game modes, skins, textures and realistic rag doll physics which combine the best of Unreal Tournament 2004 with a squad-based feel.
Fast, crisp and sporting a good AI that both plays aggressively on its own end and covers the player fairly well, the mod looks as good as anything you'll find on any platform with excellent model work, sound, ambient noise and realistic elements such as weapon kick back (short, controlled bursts are necessary to keep on target) and light glare from various objects. Other elements such as water and other surfaces go above and beyond what one might expect out of a total conversion mod and it's clear that the developers have poured their hearts into something they care about.
Lining up the kill in Frag Ops, a free Unreal Tournament 2003 and 2004 total conversion mod.
Perhaps the most interesting things are the mod's RPG and stat-based elements. Players can choose a class of soldier to fight with that will affect how their character survives within the game. An ex-cop character might have greater stamina and be more comfortable with hand guns, while an outcast character might be better with certain weapons. Former prisoners of war have built up tolerances to poison-based weapons, while the "rambo" class trades speed for increased vitality and can handle almost any weapon they run across.
Counter-Strike surprised the first person shooter world when it first appeared by including what were essentially economic limitations within the system. A player began with a standard set of weapons and armor and literally had to earn money to buy something better for the next round.
The idea stuck in that one wasn't given the tools to dominate from the get-go and was pushed to both excel with what they had as well as earn the tools that worked best for them, all the while risking the loss of the resources they had should they do horribly in any given round.
Frag Ops incorporates this idea with an amazing purchase-based system that makes more weaponry and armor available provided the player had earned enough money to afford it. One round you may be fighting to afford anything better, the next you might be able to purchase an arsenal that would have Charlton Heston hand over his lunch money upon glimpsing it and the next you might have to change gears completely in order to fight against the other team's new equipment and tactics. As a result, the gameplay varies with each new round and while a player may have a favorite arsenal, nothing remains static.
Frag Ops 2.0, complete with a Mac installer, is available as a free 471 megabyte download through dr2.net. The most recent version (2.16) can be downloaded via fz.se, installed into Unreal Tournament's mod folder (User/Library/Application Support/Unreal Tournament), and then launched via the Frag Ops launcher program, which can be easily placed in the Dock.
Unreal Tournament 2004 requires a 933 MHz G4 or G5 processor, Mac OS X 10.2.8 or later, 256 MB of RAM, a video card with at least 32 MB of RAM, a DVD-ROM drive and six gigabytes of hard disk space to install and run. The game is available through MacSoft for $39.99.
That concludes the Slacker's Guide for this week. Special thanks to Ron Parro for pointing out the OS X-compatible version of Glider and if you see anything of interest in the Mac universe, please let me know.
Chris Barylick covers games for The Mac Observer, and has written for Inside Mac Games, MacGamer, UPI, the Washington Post, and other publications.
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