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May 2001

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FreeCiv 1.11.4

By Thorsten Thielen © February 2001

Editor's note: VOICE would like to thank Team OS/2 Region Trier e.V. for donating this article.
Strategy/simulation ("Civilization II" clone)
Free software (GPL)
English (others are planned at least)
Multiplayer capable, extremely customizable
On Team Trier Collection Vol.8 CDROM or via http://homepages.tu-darmstadt.de/~st002279/os2/html/xfreeos2.html
OS/2 port: Alexander Mai (st002279@hrzpub.tu-darmstadt.de)

Games have always been a bit rare on the OS/2 platform and this situation hasn't exactly improved. So it's all the better that every now and then people port packages from the Un*x world to OS/2 which is possible thanks to EMX, XFree86/OS2 and OpenSource software.

One of these ported packages is the game Freeciv. As the name already suggests, it is more or less a clone of Civilization II® from Microprose®. As the leader of one of many civilizations you explore the world; erect cities, expand them using all kinds of useful buildings; cultivate the surrounding area; train settlers, diplomats and military units; collect taxes; research for new technology, and finally try to keep your people about happy (otherwise you may be overthrown!).

You start the game with two settlers and an explorer. It is best to immediately let the explorer start exploring the vicinity while you are searching with your settlers for a nice place (one with maximum resources and green land around for food production) to erect your capital city. There you then will be able to develop different units (like e.g. warriors to defend your city or more settlers) and buildings (like, e.g., a granary for storing your cereals or barracks where your units can be trained) built. Depending on the size of your population and the available resources this can take some time.

The second settler can be used to build roads, which increase trade, or irrigation canals, which increase food production, or to found a second city, which is preferable. The faster you expand, i.e. found new cities, the greater your chances to win.

The more and the larger cities (growth largely depends on the available food) you own, the more your income and knowledge increase. A certain number of knowledge points (that increases with progress) is required to discover new technologies, which in turn enable you to produce additional units (chariots, musketeers, steamboats, tanks, planes, etc.) and build new city extensions (city-walls, churches, universities, factories, nuclear power plants, etc.) that give you advantages in trade, research, defense, or production.

Of course existing units and buildings need some money and production points for maintenance each turn; so you will eventually have to raise the taxes or lower the amount you are spending on research. Maybe you should also think of doing some revolution and switching to another kind of government: While a monarchy is very suitable for military conquest, republic and democracy provide excellent conditions for trade and research, though they have the disadvantage that your people are more demanding (more expenditure for luxury goods) and military units are not very popular - and if your people are not content, there may be a revolution resulting in anarchy (that has negative influence on production etc.)!

When a civilization has reached a certain size, you can think of exploring the world and contacting other civilizations (if that hasn't happened yet; in this case don't forget to equip your cities with defensive units!). You can try to trade with them peacefully (key-word: caravans) or to conquer them, which requires a sufficient amount of military units that of course ought to be stronger and have better equipment than that of your opponent.

The game's ultimate goal is of course to triumph over all other civilizations and become the largest civilization on the planet. Alternatively, you can build spaceships, and the civilization that reaches Alpha Centauri first is the winner.

One thing that caught my eye is the multitude of customizable options in the game (although it is not that exceptional for a Free Software project). Starting with the size of the map via the number of special areas in the maps to internal factors like the amount of food that is required for a city to grow nearly everything can be customized (using the server, see below). This way you can change a wide range of gaming characteristics and FreeCiv comes with a parameter set that allows you to play using nearly the same rules of the original Civilization I.

A lot of manuals, FAQs and tutorials can be found at the Freeciv home page and most manuals written for Civilization® are also usable, so there should be no problems for beginners to quickly get an overview of the game. There you can also find some hints on how to win a game for a change and on where the AI's weaknesses lie, though I haven't been able to use them successfully yet - maybe it's lack of practise or I'm just too stupid ;-).

The program is divided into a server ("civserver", the back-end) and a client ("civclient", the front-end) part. This separation may seem a bit overcomplicated at first, since you have to start both programs for gaming, but in the end it has some advantages:

Starting the game via the included batchfile "localciv" does not work for me, client and server both start nicely, but then the client freezes and I have to kill it. When I open an xterm by hand and start the server and then the client everything's ok... (Editor's note: This may be due to a bug in the port. Be sure to grab the latest ersion from Alexander Mai's home page.)

It is possible to report your server to the FreeCiv metaserver (by specifying the option -m upon server start) so other interested players can note it and login to it. Of course this also works the other way round and you can contact the metaserver to search for a running server that you can login to.

Anyone who is able to gather some friends and some machines connected via a LAN doesn't have to think about that or about a single player game, of course. Moreover, you know your pals in that case and you don't have to think about the strengths of possibly unknown FreeCiv professionals or the AI that seems omnipotent at the beginning...

And now: Go give'em hell!

If you have any questions about FreeCiv, feel free to contact me via e-mail: thth@gmx.net

A few screenshots

[Freeciv 1.11.4 Screenshot 1]
Fig.1: Cities on an island and a dialog showing demographic data (81 KB)

[Freeciv 1.11.4 Screenshot 2]
Fig.2: Help system (87 KB)

[Freeciv 1.11.4 Screenshot 3]
Fig.3: Overview of a larger map area (147 KB)

[Freeciv 1.11.4 Screenshot 4]
Fig.4: Startup window and detailed information from the server (84 KB)

[Freeciv 1.11.4 Screenshot 5]
Fig.5: Startup dialog for defining player characteristics (11 KB)

Thorsten Thielen is the author of OS/2 packages like Minta, Wanda, Gotcha! and Carrie R. Lust and maintains the Team OS/2 Region Trier's web site.
Article References:
FreeCiv home page: http://www.freeciv.org
OS/2 port by Alexander Mai: http://homepages.tu-darmstadt.de/~st002279/os2/html/xfreeos2.html

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