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Updated November 20, 2004

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Nebula Engine: Capture The Flag
(Nebula Software)

"Unreal Reigns Supreme in QB!"

3D first-person shooters were supposed to be one of those urban myths that was never meant to happen in QBasic. But as the years went by, technology improved and research on the subject intensified.

Now the Nebula Engine, an evolution based on Enhanced Creation's much-talked about RTEngine, makes the dream of first-person shooting in QB a reality! Arm yourself with up to nine different weapons as you try to outsmart a team of enemy bots, then work with your own team of bots to make your way to capture the enemy's flag!

Game Review
Graphics (n.)
The use of animation and visual effects to stimulate the senses
(Very Good)
Roel Tempelaar, the main programmer behind Nebula Engine: Capture the Flag, set a very clear goal inspired by Enhanced Creation members Angelo Mottola and Peter Holmberg's RTEngine, to  "achieve 3D in QBasic."

To make this feat possible while allowing sound effects and music to occur within the game, Roel combined several packages (including DS4QB and the Future Library) with a raycast engine he built based on the humble beginnings of the RTEngine.

The result is unbelievable. 3D maps, with floors, ceilings, and wall tiles are drawn out with a choppy but very playable framerate. The Nebula Engine features absolutely no flicker, and even with many enemy bots on screen, looking upward or downward, or during turns, the game shows no sign of slowdown, poor controls, or bad sound synchronization. In terms of this versatility, the Nebula Engine is awesome. 

There is, however, a lack of detail when it comes to the in-game graphics. For example, there are no bullets that can be seen flying out of the weapon regardless of which one is used. This is fine for pistols and machine-guns, but some weapons, like the Razor or the Rocket Launcher, look kind of silly without any projectile flying out of them. A more original and flavored group of graphics tiles and other nifty-looking effects like lighting or explosions would also help boost the graphics score, but that's just being really ambitious for a game that's only meant to be a demo of the engine.

Sound/Music (n.)
The smooth blend of atmospheric sounds and original harmonies
There was no real attempt to be original here-- those who have played Unreal will get a serious feeling of dejavu with the game's music and sound effects, which only add the familiarity factor triggered by the Unreal-like maps, graphics, and weapons. It's this lack of originality that prevents Nebula Engine: CTF from gathering more than three sound/music points.

In terms of execution though, the sound and music were implemented into the game very well. Weapon fire can disrupt the game's music at any point, causing waves of shock if it's unexpected. It's also nice to see "Roel Tempelaar" implement some of the teammate-related exclamations from the Unreal Tournament game, including popular lines like "I need some back-up" and "I'm hit! I'm hit!"

Gameplay (n.)
The precision of control and involvement of character within its universe
In the Nebula Engine variation of the "Capture the Flag" FPS game, the goal is to reach for the enemy team's flag before they get to yours. To help you get to the enemy flag without being shot, you're given nine pre-set and pre-loaded weapons, and a few teammate bots who can either back up your attempts to get the enemy flag, defend your team's flag, or make an attempt to get the enemy flag themselves.

All nine weapons have their applications, but because of the nature of the game and the lack of multi-player support, only three of the weapons can really be considered practical in Capture the Flag-type of play. Surpisingly, the easiest and most effective weapon to use is the Enforcer, which works with high accuracy, packs plenty of ammunition and can be fatal at just the right distance. The Sniper Rifle also deserves some respect, since it can cover a greater distance while making head shots really easy.

What really impressed me the most about Nebula Engine: CTF is the keyboard/mouse support. Once you experience a first-person shooter by combining the keyboard/mouse, it's difficult to go back to using a keyboard or gamepad. The Nebula Engine reaps the benefits of this technology, allowing for analog movement and aiming that is incredibly precise.

Story (n.)
The creativity and presentation of the game's critical plot
Nebula Engine: Capture the Flag's levels are based on Unreal Tournament, so that alone doesn't warrant any story points. The reason there is a story point here is because Roel Tempelaar included an "Intro" section to the game, explaining the evolution of QBasic in 3D and how he got interested in making the Nebula Engine. Perhaps this is the best way to make a story for a game engine whose main character is the engine itself. 
Replay Value (n.)
The timelessness of the gamer's delight, such that the experience can be repeated again and again
Average. With only two actual game levels and one tutorial level, there simply aren't enough rooms in Nebula Engine: Capture the Flag to keep the game fresh, especially once a good strategy is found for each level. However, the keyboard/mouse controls are done so well that that alone allows the Nebula Engine to compete with some commercial FPSes that offer a less friendly scheme.
Challenge (v.)
To strike the mental nerve in such a way as to stimulate human thought and reflexes
The key is to let your CPU teammates do the work for you. Because the enemy bots prefer to shoot only when close enough, it doesn't take more than one to three shots from such a distance for them to land a kill against you. But to compensate for that, enemy bots almost never try to shoot you from a certain area just inside your shooting range. This makes camping and playing the role of back-up during each game of Capture the Flag most effective, and it also makes wide open spaces very easy to manage.
Fun Factor (n.)
The overall entertainment value as maintained throughout the adventure
While the three levels in Nebula Engine: CTF do a great job of showcasing all the things that the Nebula Engine can do, none of the levels in the game actually use all those features simultaneously. Only the tutorial level utilizes all of the Nebula Engine's features, including picking up weapons, opening doors, and using teleporters.

But even with the limited use of the engine's resources, Roel Tempelaar managed to make a game that's fun to play. Of course, some credit has to go to the guys at Epic Games and GT Interactive for coming up with the level design showcased by the Nebula Engine, but at the same time it's not everyday some QB programmer says "I'm going to make a QB game that uses the levels from Unreal Tournament" and actually goes out and does it.

It's this rendition of the Unreal Tournament levels that makes me look forward to the future version of the Nebula Engine promised, which will include source code and documentation. The purpose of this future version of the Nebula Engine is to provide other QB programmers with the capability to customize and ultimately make their own first-person shooters. That's when the potential of Roel's hard work will really pay off, and when all QB gamers win.

Nebula Engine: Capture the Flag Reviewed by Vance Velez

Players 1 player Genre: Arcade/First Person Shooter
Rating To solve: 30 min Final Rating: 17/35

To download Nebula Engine: Capture the Flag (1.29MB), click here.
wIf you're unzipping this program in DOS, you may have to use the -d option.
wThis game is mouse-compatible. Make sure it is hooked up when playing this game.
wTo play Nebula Engine: Capture the Flag, unzip the file and run "RUN.BAT".

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Game Summary
Coding Group
Nebula Software 
Homepage URL
1 player
Final Rating
17 out of 35 points

The Highs: Great Unreal-style controls implement the keyboard and mouse for realistic and highly immersive gameplay.
The Lows: With only two game levels and one game mode, the Nebula Engine needs to be put under a more rigorous test before becoming really enjoyable.

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