by Chris Barylick
November 23rd, 2005
Fandom Cranked to 11: Warlords
When it first happened in 1999, I was there. Having resolved a fight with my roommate, who promptly threw me a case of ginger ale with which to make friends in the line, I ran off to the subway to join the line for Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. In 2002, I committed 12 days to waiting for tickets for Star Wars: The Clone Wars and despite losing both an iBook and an iPod in a flash flood, enjoyed myself completely. This year, in spite of having to be out of town when tickets were slated to go on sale, I camped out for several nights with friends.
This was Star Wars and everything else could be put aside for a while.
Warlords, a mod for the inimitable Homeworld 2, seems to share this sentiment. A free total conversion for the real time space strategy game, Warlords adds Star Wars models, characters, weapons, graphics, sounds and gameplay to the title.
Here, players can sculpt the fleet of their dreams, mixing both Rebel and Imperial units while also drawing on vehicles available from the Clone War era. While core units such as Homeworld 2's mother ship unit models remain the same, as does overall gameplay and the style within, it's still fun to draw on a custom fleet to this degree. And while the mod is perhaps a temporary entity until Lucasarts fills the gap by providing an excellent vehicle-based real time space strategy title, the team is devoted to improving an already-incredible piece of software and consistently works on revised versions.
A mixed Rebel and Imperial fleet in the Warlords total conversion for Homeworld 2.
Warlords currently stands at version .45 for the Mac and can be download from macologist.org for free. As with most of the files on the site, this is fairly large (over 260 MB), which might cause brief wincing. Once downloaded and decompressed, the Read Me file covers installation nicely while a graphical icon can be copied to the hard drive and added to Mac OS X's Dock to allow for easy access to the mod.
A group of TIE bombers finishes off a cruiser.
Warlords requires a full copy of Homeworld 2 to run. Homeworld 2 can be purchased at a little more than half its Apple Store retail price (US$49.95) from Amazon.com for $26.99 and requires Mac OS X 10.2.8 or later, an 800 MHz G4 processor, 256 MB of RAM, 1 GB of hard drive space, a CD-ROM drive and a video card with at least 32 MB of VRAM to run.
Filling the Gaps: iSquint
For the most part, I have to hand it to Apple. When Steve Jobs buys into an idea or wants to push a technology, concept or new way to use a computer, almost nothing will stand in his way. And with this have come some absolutely incredible, bleeding edge products that have led the way for the rest of the market. Unfortunately, Apple's implementation, while usually extremely credible, hasn't always been perfect.
This seems to be the case of the most recent iPod (aka the Video iPod). While an excellent product and among the first of its kind, Apple has yet to address shortcomings in prepping and transferring files to the device. QuickTime, Apple's multimedia 800 pound gorilla, takes an inordinate amount of time converting and moving the files over to the device, and as a result has drawn a fair amount of criticism.
Enter a motivated person with a clear goal in mind. Tyler Loch's iSquint program, available as a free download. iSquint seems to be the killer application that clears the issue up entirely. Easy to install with a clean, foolproof interface that also allows users to customize more intricate settings such as interlacing, bit rate, frame rate and crop sizes, this is the catch-all that video buffs have been looking for to quickly prep and shoot their video data over to the new iPod after the initial "bought it, tinkered with it a bit and put it aside to work on something else" phase has ended. In short, this brings a level of functionality to the process that makes the current iPod as useful as the user could have hoped for once they bought it.
iSquint in action.
iSquint, which currently stands at version 0.9j, does one trick and does it well: transferring video data to the iPod in real time, often three to four times faster than Apple's export method and at a smaller file size. Not a bad thing if you can do it and Loch seems to have found a better back way than Apple had considered to do so.
The program, a 3.4 MB download, is free to anyone who wants it. While a version 1.0 release is in the works, the author warns that the program is offered "as-is" and despite the ample positive feedback on download sites like VersionTracker, avoids responsibility for whatever may happen through use of the application ("iSquint is provided for free without any warranty or support contract whatsoever. I take no responsibility if this program malfunctions, reducing your computer to a smoldering heap of toxic components. So far, about 15,000 people have tried iSquint, and nobody has been rushed to the hospital as a result of it. Yet. iSquint may or may not bring your computer to life and cause it to kill your cat. I've seen it happen.")
iSquint requires Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later to run. The program's functionality can also be enhanced if Telestream's Flip4Mac has been installed (this adds Windows Media's .wmv format encoding to the list of export options that iSquint can work with).
If you have a new iPod (or happen to give or receive one for the holidays), be sure to at least download this and play with it. Perhaps Apple will make fixes that render the application's advantage obsolete, but for the time being iSquint has the big kahuna beat for the functions it offers.
That wraps it up for this week. As always, if you see anything new, cool or useful in the Mac universe, 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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