Free Empires

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Free Empires being edited in Gambas on Fedora Core 4

Free Empires
Systems: GNU/Linux, Microsoft Windows (drafts)

Engine: Gambas Genie

Type: Real Time Strategy Game

Genre(s): Historical

License: GNU General Public License


Free Empires (FE) is a Piga Software project to make a Free Software clone of the Microsoft and Ensemble Studios strategy game Age of Empires (AoE). It is intended to run on GNU/Linux and other Unix-like operating systems; others are interested in making it work on Microsoft Windows. The series will chronicle the rise and fall of human empires and civilizations as they advance through history. There are four games planned for the series, spanning from the Pleistocene to the Modern Age.



GNU/Linux Screenshot
GNU/Linux Screenshot
Lamp Refugee Screenshot
Lamp Refugee Screenshot
Microsoft Windows Screenshot
Microsoft Windows Screenshot

The idea for making an Age of Empires-like game came soon after the Piga Software developers first played Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings in 2005. The original idea was to make a Age of Kings-like game called "Age of Kingdoms" but that idea was later abandoned; partially due to finding a small commercial game already using that name. Development on Free Empires was started soon after as a series of prototypes in Game Maker 6.1; some based on edits of established Game Maker bases and sometimes on attempted self built engines. Initially the game contained stock graphics ripped from Age of Empires but work began in early 2007 to replace these with original and/or free content substitutes to make the game more fully free. With the switch to GNU/Linux and Gambas in April 2007 the Game Maker version was abandoned.

GNU/Linux Development

Development on the GNU/Linux version was started in April of 2007 and webmaster Graham L. Wilson created the first draft of the Free Empires website. Later when a discussion about running Age of Empires on GNU/Linux through WINE cropped up on the Linux Questions forums Hamish Wilson announced the project. This brought a lot of initial interest onto the newly created modern version of the Piga Software Forum, with many complimenting FE as a good idea and offering their services. This community has died down since then but this is mostly due to a lack of released content to talk about as whilst engine development continues work on Free Empires proper is on hold. Since the project began numerous development shots have been released, including one from the very first night of development.

Due to popular demand, Free Empires released its first Source Release on June 21, 2007 and another was supposed to be released on October 26, 2007, the tenth anniversary of the release of Age of Empires. However, because of technical difficulties, it was not released until November 9, 2007. These two Source Releases were primarily focused on setting up and exploring a variety of different game features, rather than starting outlines for game play itself. On March 24, 2008 a representative from the Extreme Tux Racer project named Christian Picon (cpicon92) came to the forum and announced that he wanted to make Extreme Tux Racer and Free Empires partner projects, just like that project had been doing with other free software projects. The projects still remain partners. Around this time work on the spin-off game Age of War began.

A technical demo for Gambas Genie showcasing mouse-based unit movement was released on July 15, 2008, after assistance from Christian Picon helped fine tune the needed formula. For many months all that was released about the development of FE was vague statements on the Piga Software Forum. However, in early August 2008 news a notable experimental technological advancement was released, as well as a new development shot showing an alignment of Villagers in the form of "FE! Piga" (not a game play feat but a drawing one). A later development shot showcased texturing (building on from the old drawing experiments). Two other tech demos were being created showing resource management and another technological research. One was started in December 2008 to try creating basic attack controls and enemy artificial intelligence.

All of these were being created to build up features to be merged on top of the new object rendering and texture system in SR 3.0. Graham Wilson later announced that he had stopped working on the tech demos, and was working on a "tech demo to rule them all", which was aimed at creating something half playable, using inelegant tricks for the moment if necessary (object rendering for example). The first source release for this project, Lamp Refugee was completed October 26, 2009. Work on a new release of Lamp Refugee is on going with better drawing and more complete game functions.

After a few more incarnations of LR work on Chiefs and Warriors might begin again; with the others in the series all to be built atop the same "common engine." On January 28, 2011 the Free Empires site moved from its old host to become a subsection of the new Piga Software site on and on March 11 the project was given a new higher detail and properly free content logo. The offical release date for any final release is "When it's Done." Free Empires for GNU/Linux is being made in Gambas with primary development being on Griffindor, with more and more development being done on Snape.

Microsoft Windows Development

Microsoft Windows development began on July 6, 2007. There is currently no source code released from this effort; the Windows version of Free Empires was being developed using Visual Basic 2005 Express on a laptop running Windows XP Home, Service Pack 2 . As of August 2008 new plans have been made regarding the Windows port. After GNU/Linux development goes beta the Windows project will be redone from scratch. At that time, all existing attempts at a Windows port will be released. The plans for the Windows port is that it is still to be done in Visual Studio 2005 Express to ensure compatibility and ease of access to programming tools. However, if anyone has any suggestions for other Visual Basic, or Gambas-like tools in Windows feel free to add to post them on the forums. More recently new plans have been made including the possibility of creating a detailed instruction document for running coLinux.

Source(s): Microsoft Windows solutions

Gameplay Design

An idylic village
An idylic village

Free Empires is planned to play much like the original Age of Empires games as the player will lead a tribe of people and order them to construct, gather, attack or defend. Villagers function as domestic units and can construct or repair buildings and gather resources. A variety of military units, including melee, ranged, and cavalry, can be used to attack or defend from enemy civilizations. A third class of units will include priests, scientists, doctors and diplomats throughout the ages that will be able to impart knowledge, heal the sick or win over hearts and minds. Siege weapons will be able to be used to destroy buildings and fortifications and docks will be built allowing the construction of fishing, trading and war ships. Buildings will range from Houses, Barracks, Archery Ranges, Stables, Docks and more. Walls and trenches will be available to be constructed for defensive purposes.

Alliances will also be able to exist between civilizations and thus allow trade and diplomacy. Civilizations will win either through conquest or other set objectives such as building a Wonder of the World, reaching a certain civ score or gathering relics/artifacts. The game formula will largely mimic that of Age of Empires but subtle differences will probably still exist with glaring changes able to be toggled on on off in the menu for the sake of series purists ("Classic" and "Modern" modes). The main design of the game is meant to most reflect the gameplay of Age of Empires II: The Conquerors per developer and audience demand. The game is intended to be a purely two-dimensional game to retain the simplicity and elegance of the first two Age of Empires games but will feature an isometric grid and terrain such as hills, cliffs, pits and the like. Similar to the first two Age of Empires games Free Empires will feature animated sprites built up from pre-rendered three-dimensional models as is already demonstrated in Lamp Refugee.

Differences from Age of Empires

  • The inclusion of North and South American civilizations from the beginning rather then just European and Asiatic.
  • "Unit types" as well as "building types" for civilizations allowing their units to have different ethnicity and clothing.
  • Nomadic civilizations will be able to pack up and move their buildings like AoK trebuchets.
  • Within certain guidelines military units can construct some military fortifications.
  • The ability to for civilizations to terrain shape to build trenches or hills.
  • Livestock animals may be fattened up to increase their food value; as well as a greater amount and variety of livestock available.
  • A system of diplomacy more like Sid Meier's Civilization II.
  • Modes for "stand-alone" or "dependant" allowing more realistic setups for military campaigns or colony settings with external backup and resource transfers.

Common Engine

Main article Gambas Genie

Free Empires is intended to be modular. Current source releases have the levels built into the engine. However, before Free Empires goes beta it is planned that the levels, objects, sounds, textures, etc will be completely separate modules from the base engine. The end intention being to create a series with a common engine but separate levels, and objects. In this way the development of a series of games in different time periods becomes more of a a design of different unit and level sets than a variety of different games. When Chiefs and Warriors is completed it will feature a map and campaign editor and other modding tools, as well as the source code being freely available. Piga Software plans a Battle for Wesnoth-esque plan to help make development quicker. They will actively encourage modding and mods of quality might make it into the final release, once the Piga staff have made any needed changes such as checking historicity. In this way the series might come together faster after the engine is done.

Games in Series

There are four games planned for the Free Empires project. Each game is set in a different period of human history.

  • Free Empires: Chiefs and Warriors (Pleistocene)

Currently being developed, it is to only contain Neanderthals originally however later other hominids will be added.

  • Free Empires: Emperors and Barbarians (The Ancient World: 6000 BCE - 1000 CE)

From the dawn of farming to the era of world wide decline between 500 CE and 1000 CE.

  • Free Empires: Kings and Tyrants (600 CE - 1500 CE)

The world slowly advances and recovers from the age of decline, the modern state of Europe and Asia emerges.

  • Free Empires: The Renaissance (1500 CE - 1800 CE)

Having surpassed the Ancients the European powers explore and conquer new worlds, hacking their way through the locals.

  • Free Empires: The Age of Superpowers (1800 CE - 2000 CE)

This game is mostly to focus on the major super powers of the modern age: Britain, Germany, France, America and the Soviet Union. It will also discuss their smaller allies, and involve themes of small nations trying to maintain their sovereignty in the modern age.

Free Empires: Age of War

Free Empires: Age of War
Free Empires: Age of War

Is an in-development spin-off title of Free Empires called Age of War being developed for FreeDOS (compatible with MS DOS and DOSBox). Using ASCII graphics, number manipulation and probability you lead your tribe against its bitter enemy while building up your capital, with technology roughly spanning from the Paleolithic to the Bronze Age (though the encyclopedia documents history beyond this). The "Age" in its title is a reference to the Age of Empires series where it derives much of its design. It also shares ideas with Piga Nation.

See Also

External Links

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