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Open Source Extends a Classic - Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory

The Slacker's Guide - Open Source Extends a Classic - Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory

October 6th, 2006

Wherever you may stand in regard to it, the open source community can be seen as a mixed blessing. True, the programs are available for little to no money, but sometimes a development team consisting of too many chefs can ruin any good intentions that created the effort.

Other times, the effort works out. Bugs are fixed and the collective effort brings about some amazing new features. The open source community makes a great thing that much better.

When I first downloaded the multiplayer demo of Return to Castle Wolfenstein for the Mac several years ago, I was blown away. Even with only a single map to play on (the classic Omaha Beach level, complete with fortified bunkers and full machine guns to defend with), I was hooked.

Here was a game that, for its time, I didn't know how it could be improved upon. Amazing graphics, realistic sound, cool use of directional audio channeling, detailed maps and cool physics aside, the absolute selling point for it multiplayer mode was the use of roles. Spawn as an engineer and gain the ability to plant or defuse explosives. Spawn as a sniper and a long-range rifle as well as the ability to call in air strikes via binoculars was yours. When the multiplayer matches on the Omaha Beach level began, the shared goal of the invading team became to send engineers to destroy the wall while others covered them while the defending team did everything in their power to prevent this from happening.

Nasty little tricks like remote controlled explosives remain in Splash Damage's Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory.

To be perfectly honest, I wasn't sure how this could be improved upon for multiplayer gameplay.

Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory has done just that. When Id Software and Activision released the source code to Return to Castle Wolfenstein in 2004, the open source and mod community got to work.

The result was Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, an open source effort by Splash Damage and other contributors that takes the best of Return to Castle Wolfenstein and actually improves upon a classic experience by adding role-playing elements. Where the typical multiplayer first person shooter title has a character remain static (the player spawns in as a fairly powerful character, grabs the best weapons and power ups that they can, then survive for as long as possible), Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory incorporates the idea of experience points. Like a role-playing game, gaining experience points helps advance the player to the next level. From there, new attributes can be gained and the character can grow into something into something that much more powerful.

Following the classic Return to Castle Wolfenstein multiplayer mode, players can enter as either Americans or Germans and choose the role of soldier, medic, field ops, engineer and covert operatives. Different weapons and abilities will be assigned depending on the role chosen (for example, field ops can distribute ammo packs to fellow players and call in fire support while covert ops are equipped with silenced hand guns).

A Thompson machine gun, the Quake 3 engine and enemies to kill. Welcome home.

As the game progresses and the player racks up kills, kill assists and tactical points for helping to achieve their team's goals (such as planting or defusing explosives, capturing a flag, etc.), the game grants experience points to two main areas; Battle Sense and Light Weapons.

For each level gained within Battle Sense, the player will gain the following abilities:
Level 1: Binoculars to scan enemy positions.
Level 2: Stamina bar increased to 160%
Level 3: 15 additional health points.
Level 4: The ability to "see" enemy land mines.
Level 5: 200% stamina bar.

For each level gained within Light Weapons, the player will gain the following abilities:
Level 1: Extra magazine of ammo on respawn.
Level 2: Load weapons 35% faster.
Level 3: Small machine gun fire spread reduced by 35% while pistol recoil is reduced by 50%
Level 4: Dual-wield pistols.
Level 5: Overall weapon recoil reduced.

Depending on the server configuration chosen, sometimes experience points that have been earned will be saved between rounds and visits to the server. Other times these points will be shed to equalize gameplay.

Either way, the final product, which is regularly updated and distributed for free, is as fun as any multiplayer first person shooter in recent memory. Everything that made Return to Castle Wolfenstein a favorite game on my Dock is there while the role playing elements add cool new changes that pop up as the game congratulates you on your promotion and changes the face icon to reflect the new rank. The joy of the closed room firefight remains when several players entering a room try to simultaneously kill everything but their teammates, as well as fall back for cover, lives on in an improved form.

Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory is a 258.32 megabyte download (courtesy of that expands to 723.3 megabytes when installed. The game requires almost no configuration even when hosting a server, retrieves required map files when needed without a full install, and performs well on both PowerPC and Intel-based hardware. The client requires Mac OS X, a 600 MHz G3 processor or better, 128 megabytes of RAM and a 32 megabyte video card to run.

If you missed Return to Castle Wolfenstein, this should be like coming home. And if you're still hankering for the original, check out Aspyr's site, complete with copies available from $28.27.

That wraps it up for this week. As always, if you see anything new, cool or useful in the Mac universe, .

Chris Barylick covers games for The Mac Observer, and has written for Inside Mac Games, MacGamer, UPI, the Washington Post, and other publications.

The Slacker's Guide Archives.


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