Harry studies computer science at the University of Technology in Aachen, Germany since 1994. He came to Linux in 1995. Since then he plays around with it, always surprised about what a great piece of software it is. He programs a little under X, likes graphics and of course playing games. Other hobbies are: playing board games, reading SciFi, playing guitar (bad!), cooking and practicing Ju-Jutsu.
glTron is a fast 3d racing game. Move your lightcycle around inside the arena, leaving an energy wall on your track and avoid to crash into the cycles of your opponents and any walls.
Once upon a time (in the early 80's) there was a movie called Tron. The hero in this movie had to fight an evil computer mind, called MCP (Master Control Program), which reached for world domination. During this challenge the good human got digitalized and trapped inside the computer, where programs suffered from the evil artificial intelligence. Renegade programs were imprisoned and forced to fight each other in deadly gladiator games. One of this games was the lightcycle race.
Today there are several games based on this race, one of them glTron. At the time of writing this article the current version of glTron was 0.61.
There are two packages you can choose between at the glTron homepage www.gltron.org. Besides the source package (2.8 MB) there is a precompiled version, together with the Loki Games installer. This file has a size of approx. 4.1 MB.
|X window system|
|Simple DirectMedia Layer (SDL) 1.1 or higher|
|a 3D graphics adapter (recommended)|
For this article, the binary package was used. Installing it was a piece of cake, no library problems, everything went just fine. After downloading the file and changing its flags in order to make it executable (it is a shell script), run it as root. After it has been started, the scripts asks you for the directory the game data should be installed to as well as the directory you want the executable to be copied to.
You can start the game by entering gltron inside a console window. When starting the game for the first time a resource file, called .gltronrc is created in your home directory.
The first thing you see after starting the program is the
game menu. Here you can change several settings regarding graphics,
sound and gameplay in general.
Menu items are selected by pressing ENTER, hitting ESC brings you one level up inside the menu hierarchy.
The Game Rules sub menu lets you select the size of the racing arena and the level of difficulty (how clever computer opponents will be). Additionally you can choose the game speed.
Finally inside the Play Settings sub menu you can change some
viewing issues (I personally cannot recommend all of them, as some of
the views aren't very helpful while racing). The view mode can also be
changed while racing with the function keys. For example you can choose
cockpit view, look from behind your light cycle or additionally bring
the view of the computer opponents onto the screen. Additionally you
can change the point of view by moving the mouse.
Looking at the arena
Starting the game from the Game menu brings you into the arena. At the beginning the game is paused, hitting SPACE starts the race itself. The arena is a square shaped area, bounded by walls made of symbols. The floor consists of a grid. As soon as you start the race, your cycle moves with a constant speed, no way to accelerate or break. Turning means changing your direction by 90 degrees every time you hit the corresponding key. While you drive across the floor, you leave a deadly wall of light on your track. Either hitting your own wall or those of your opponents will be deadly. Of course same goes for hitting an opponent's cycle or the bounding walls. As soon as only one racer is left, the game is over, the surviving one is the winner. In multiplayer (hotseat) mode, up to four players can race against each other. All have to use the same keyboard, the screen shows a separate view for every player.
Light cycles are nicely rendered and glow in the distance. The light walls are semi-transparent, all objects throw shadows. Above the arena, a guarding bot circles around. Bumping into a (light) wall changes the view you can watch your cycle exploding into pieces. Additionally you hear an appropriate sound. Inside the game, whether racing or traveling thru the menus, the selected song is played. Unfortunately there is currently only one song available.
Game performance is ok, even in higher resolutions it is quite fast (if you have chosen a higher game speed). Due to the fact that the floor is a simple blue grid above blackness, shadows look a little bit disturbing. A semi-transparent or reflecting floor might look better. The light walls have no width, so it might happen (especially in cockpit view mode) that you might bump into a wall, if you follow the track of an opponent, simply because you haven't seen it. Movement does not only take place on the lines of the floor grid. Between two grid lines there is room for more than one light wall. The blackness around the arena and those symbols bounding the racing area create a nice unreal atmosphere. However, if you don't like this arrangement, you can create your own graphics for walls and the surrounding and use them!
Who is going to make it?
glTron is a really nice racing game. Gameplay is quite easy, after you get used to the fact that turning is done by 90 degrees, you should get into the game quite fast. The keys to success are fast reactions and some kind of planned moving instead of simply driving around and trying not to crash into the walls.
The game still misses some features (especially network play), some
other issues are: more songs and maybe some more improvements to the
game graphics (like a reflecting floor or walls with a certain width).
Another thing is the shape of the arena. Though you can select
different sizes for the gaming area, it is always a square. This could
get a little boring as time goes by. On the other hand you should be
busy enough to stay alive.
Some more issues and suggestions, sent in by gamers, are collected at the glTron homepage. This might give you an idea about future versions of the game.
However the most important thing is that the game is already
playable at a descent speed and features almost all important issues
giving you some hours of joy, especially if you are competing with some
friends, messing around while trying to share the keyboard. (-:
Maybe this is even more fun than a network game where players are spread around the world sitting lonely in front of their own screen.
Not fast enough!