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Feature: Games

Getting stressed by the season? Try Blob Wars

By Joe Barr on December 09, 2004 (8:00:00 AM)

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The holiday season is hard upon us. The stress of shopping for loved ones, making travel plans, or preparing for holiday guests is building. If you're starting to feel like you might need a gun to take and to hold a parking place, it might be time for a stress-buster. That's where Blob Wars comes in. No, it's not a new diet. It's a free, fun, frenzied chance to gun down the bad guys and rescue fair maidens. It's also an SDL-based game which runs well on Linux. And the 1.0 release might be here before the new year.

Here's the introduction from the site:
Since their world was invaded by an alien race, the Blobs have faced a lifetime of war. But now they have a chance to win the war once and for all.

In Blob Wars: Metal Blob Solid, you take on the role of a fearless Blob agent, Bob. Bob's mission is to infiltrate the various enemy bases around the Blobs' homeworld and rescue as many MIAs as possible. But standing in his way are many vicious aliens, other Blobs who have been assimilated and the evil alien leader, Galdov.

But the best way to get a feel for the game is just to start it up and watch the intro movie. There you'll be introduced to the happy, peaceful world of Blobs. Happy and peaceful, that is, until "something went terribly wrong." They were invaded by aliens and forced to go to war to save their world.

Learning the basics

If you care to do so, you can spend a few minutes in training missions to learn how to move Bob around the screen. But if you're already comfortable using the arrow keys for movement, and using the Ctrl key to fire, it's not really necessary.

Splash screen
Click to enlarge
You can easily tweak game settings from the Options Screen. You can the volume of game sounds and music, the screen brightness, switch Blood and Gore on/off, configure the control keys or joystick, and so on.

When you're ready to save the world, select Start New Game and (ignoring Practice, you've already been there) choose your level of difficulty: Easy, Normal, Hard, or Extreme. Once you've made your choice, a Blob world map appears. As of this release, there are only two choices on the map to choose from: Grasslands or Flooded Tunnel. Using the mouse, place the bomb sight over one or the other of them and left-click on it.

At first blush, I thought Blob Wars was a clone of the popular Commander Keen series from years ago. A couple of minutes of game play later, I no longer harbored such misconceptions. Unlike Commander Keen, Bob carries quite a variety of weapons at different times. You can kill the evil aliens with grenades, pistol, laser gun, spray gun, or machine gun. Just remember, only the pistol works when you're under water. And when you shoot the bad guys in Blob Wars -- at least with Blood/Gore set to ON -- they explode into all sorts of goodies that you can pick up on your way to rescue the next MIA.

What itch was being scratched?

I asked software author Stephen Sweeney was his motivation was in writing Blob Wars. He replied:

My motivation for writing the game came partly from the positive response from Project: Starfighter and also my own wish to increase my programming skills and make another fun game. Blob Wars went through several incarnations before it got to the stage it as at now. The first game was a top-down capture the flag affair with teams of blobs fighting over multicolored flags. The second was quite like the game we have now, except ammunition was limited and there was the ability to carry multiple weapons. I decided in the end to make the ammo unlimited and use weapon powerups instead, like in The New Zealand Story. This approach fits the game well and judging by feedback and the score on Happy Penguin, the players have really enjoyed it.

More about SDL

I was vaguely familiar with the SDL -- Simple DirectMedia Layer -- library from comments I've read by Bob Pendleton on a local Linux mailing list, and since I have a game project of my own in mind, I asked Sweeney if it were the best choice for cross-platform game development. He said:

Absolutely. One of the reasons for learning C was that an API like SDL was available and so very easy to use. Before I had written games on the Amiga in languages such as AMOS and Blitz Basic. After that I had been spoilt by Java, so programming a game in C seemed very daunting. SDL convinced me otherwise. When I started making Starfighter I had begun programming the game on Windows. The ease of SDL meant that getting it up and running on Linux was simply a case of installing the libraries and running make to build the game. For Linux games development SDL and OpenGL are certainly the way to go.

Bob Pendleton -- one of the developers working on SDL 2.0 -- agrees with that. He wrote:

I'm not sure how big the SDL community is, but it seems to be huge. There are 459 games listed on the SDL web page. Over 100 add on libraries. If you look at a standard install of Linux you'll find SDL because so many of the desktop tools, applications, and games require it. SDL is being used in major commercial games such as Unreal Tournament 2004.

SDL runs on just about everything that can run a program. Versions for cell phones are being developed. There is a version for the PS2.

SDL is big and getting bigger. SDL is over 10 years old. There are several things in SDL that reflect the realities of game development 10 years ago. The next generation of SDL is going to clean out, or at least deprecate, those features and add features that reflect the current state of hardware. We are also taking a strong look at the future and trying harder to "future proof" SDL.

Another trend that is affecting SDL is that while it was developed for game programming it is being used as a general applications development platform and as an image processing platform. The demands of those parts of the community are pushing SDL to be a more general while still trying to maintain its game programming roots.

When it's Blob Wars soup

When Blob Wars is soup, it will have -- according to the Web site -- more than 25 missions. I've spent several hours playing already and haven't finished the second one yet. This is a fun game, old-school style. It'll take your mind off of just about anything, and you're saving the world to boot. Can't beat that! Thanks, Stephen!

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on Getting stressed by the season? Try Blob Wars

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Nice game

Posted by: rabbit78 on December 10, 2004 04:32 AM
Reminds me of the good old C64 days. Exactly what I was searching for. Thanxs!!


Actually the game is fully developed

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on December 10, 2004 09:10 AM
The comment "as of this release, there are only two choices on the map" is misleading: all the levels are there in this release and have been for months. However, only the first two levels are visible on the map to start with. After you complete the second level you will be able to move to the next level, etc.

Also, regardless of the "Blood and Gore" setting you always get goodies. It's just that with "Blood and Gore" off the enemies don't emit fountains of red stuff when they pop.

Joe is right, though, this is the perfect game for getting out those holiday aggressions! Kudos to Stephen for a rolling good time!


Re:Actually the game is fully developed

Posted by: Joe Barr on December 10, 2004 09:20 AM

Oh, man. I've been busted. Now everyone knows I haven't gotten past the second level yet!<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:)

Glad to hear they are all there, though.


Re:Actually the game is fully developed

Posted by: Sam Leathers on December 19, 2004 02:19 PM
yeah, I celebrated more than I have in any other game when I beat the 2nd level. This game is pretty difficult from the get-go, nothing better than a good challenge... Now I wish I could figure out how to get past the big water area in the 3rd I don't think theres anyway even with full life to navigate that water hole, so I'm assuming either the water lung is on this level or I have to come back later...


hardware minima known?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on December 10, 2004 12:58 PM
anyone know what the hardware minima (memory, proc, graphics card, etc.) are for this game?


Re:hardware minima known?

Posted by: Joe Barr on December 10, 2004 09:18 PM
So low as to not have much meaning for anyone reading this online. Quoting from the Blob Wars <A HREF="" title="">Requirements</a> page,

Screen Resolution: 640 x 480

Color Depth: 16 bit

Minimum Memory: Unknown

Harddrive: 7MBs

Controls: Keyboard (or Joypad), Mouse

There are software requirements, though.


SDL Image

SDL Mixer


Hope that helps.


Re:hardware minima known?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on December 27, 2004 01:46 PM
Minimum Memory: as low as 32MB
Processor Speed: as low as P2 200Mhz

Blob Wars runs fine on my PS2 with the Linux kit and its 32MB of memory.

It also runs on my 200Mhz Pentium 2 system under Linux, with 64MB of memory. It is slow when run under X, but seems to run at full speed when run under the console with SVGAlib (though I did have some other issues).


Mac OS X port available

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on December 14, 2004 07:17 AM
Mac OS X port available from <A HREF="" title=""></a>


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