Outcast (video game)
||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (January 2013)|
|Release date(s)||July 31, 1999|
Outcast is an action-adventure video game by Belgian developer Appeal and released by Infogrames for Windows in 1999. A Dreamcast port of the original was also planned, but was shelved when the Windows version failed commercially.
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In 2007, the U.S. government successfully sends a probe to an alien world in a parallel universe. The probe starts transmitting video images of the world back to Earth. Then, just minutes into the mission, an alien life form discovers the probe and damages it, causing an unforeseen backlash of energy to create a black hole threatening Earth. After being briefed on the situation by his old friend Major Vernon, former U.S. Navy SEAL Cutter Slade is given the job of escorting three scientists (William Kauffmann, Anthony Xue and Marion Wolfe) on a mission to this alien world to recover the probe and close the black hole. Arriving in this alien world, Cutter is separated from the other scientists and is hailed by the natives as their messiah, the Ulukai.
Adelpha is a world that is parallel to our own, and it is here that the action of Outcast takes place. The main population are the Talan, basically the parallel version of human beings. Their technology seems very primitive compared to our own; one could say theirs is roughly equivalent to what would have been found in ancient China or medieval Europe. However, their energy-based weapons and intercontinental portals suggest that at one point they were much more advanced. Adelpha is broken up into several regions, which are hinted to be separated by large water masses. Transport between regions is ensured by gates known as Daokas, which allows its users to instantaneously teleport from one region to another.
The player controls Cutter Slade around the world of Adelpha in a third-person view, and only uses two mouse buttons; The right mouse button aims the player's weapon, and the other is context-sensitive (For example, standing in front of an NPC makes the mouse button initiate conversation, while running around has the mouse button make Cutter jump). The player can walk, run, jump, crawl, and climb onto virtually any ledge Cutter can reach with a jump. The player can also press a key to switch to first-person mode. Aside from the tutorial area, the player is free to move to any region of Adelpha as they please through the travel gates known as Daokas. The player can drop teleport beacons from the F-LINK gadget to instantly move between areas inside a region, but these beacons do not work between regions. The player can also acquire a Twon-Ha (a beast of burden that can be ridden), which makes traversing the vast regions much quicker, either by simply buying one or doing certain quests that reward the player with one.
A large part of the game focuses on conversing with Talan in order to learn the story and history of Adelpha, and to progress in Cutter's mission to find the probe. While this can all be skipped, they treat the player differently depending on how the player treats them, through a reputation system; If the player perform many tasks to help them, they like them more and are more eager to help, whereas if the player does things that harm them they will become more and more angry with the player and aggressively dismiss them. There are multiple variations of dialogues which are selected either randomly or based on the player's reputation.
Each weapon in the game fires slow-moving projectiles, requiring the player to constantly maneuver to avoid the enemy soldiers' attacks, and carefully aiming so that the player's will connect. Alternatively, the player can sneak around the enemy, by use of standing behind cover, lying down in a muddy field, using gadgets that turn you invisible for a short time, and so on. Cutter begins the game with just a pistol and his fists, and the player can buy more weapons (and upgrades for those weapons) whenever they have the money, while ammunition can either be found in the world, or crafted by taking a certain amount of materials to a Talan known as a Recreator. Soldiers will sound different alarms with a horn-like instrument when they see the player, to give orders to others nearby. They will try to move behind the player in order to flank them, and search the area or call for a meeting when they can no longer find them. In addition to soldiers, the hostile and less intelligent Adelphan wildlife will also try to fight the player if they come too close.
The enemy soldiers can be weakened by performing a certain task for the leader of each region. When this is done, they will stop producing resources for the soldiers; Stopping food production lowers their health, stopping the mining operations makes their weapons less powerful, etc. A good reputation is necessary to convince the Talan to stop production of resources, so the player is encouraged to be good to the Talan.
Outcast uses a unique way to save games, integrated with the game world. At the start of the game, the player receives an object called a "Gaamsaav". He is instructed that the Gaamsaav is able to "capture his essence", so that it may later be restored. To save a game, the player equips the Gaamsaav and "squeezes" it, making it glow and emit a sound. The sound can be heard by enemies and they will investigate, so that the player must take the situation into account before saving a game. After a few seconds, the game pauses and a menu overlay appears.
Outcast's graphics engine is mainly a combination of a ray casting (heightmap) engine, used to render the landscape, and a texture mapping polygon engine used to render objects. The "Engine Programming" section of the credits in the manual has several subsections related to graphics, among them: "Landscape Engine", "Polygon Engine", "Water & Shadows Engine" and "Special effects Engine". Although Outcast is often cited as a forerunner of voxel technology, this is somewhat misleading. The game does not actually model three-dimensional volumes of voxels. Instead, it models the ground as a surface, which may be seen as being made up of voxels. The ground is decorated with objects that are modeled using texturemapped polygons. When Outcast was developed, the term "voxel engine", when applied to computer games, commonly referred to a ray casting engine (for example the VoxelSpace engine). On the "Engine Technology" page of the game's website, the landscape engine is also referred to as the "Voxels engine". The engine is purely software-based; it does not rely on hardware-acceleration via a 3D graphics card. Outcast features effects such as character shadows, depth of field, bump mapping and reflections. Anti-aliasing is used to smooth certain texture boundaries. The heightmap engine renders reliefs with self-occlusion, motion parallax, and silhouettes (but no shadowing)--even for details such as cobblestones. Water surfaces appear both translucent and reflective. The surface appears to reflect the environment (the skybox) and appears rippled with moving waves, which react to the character's movement while in the water. The degree of translucency depends on the viewing angle. The more vertical the angle, the clearer the water appears while the more horizontal the angle, the stronger the reflections. Other visual effects include bloom and lens flares, falling snow, fire, and other glowing particles. All of these taken together would have crippled even the most advanced graphics card at the time of release. As a result, the graphics were considered beautiful and well ahead of their time upon Outcast's release. The disadvantage of this type of CPU-intensive software-rendering was that Outcast required an extremely powerful CPU (nothing but the most powerful Intel Pentium III processors of the time, in the 500-600 MHz range) and massive amounts of RAM (128 megabytes were recommended) to run at full speed and maximum resolution (512x384). However, these considerations can now be safely ignored, as even low-budget PCs of today significantly surpass those requirements, even to the point that additional software is needed to make the game slow enough to be played.
The AI used in Outcast was considered revolutionary at the time it was released. It was based on a proprietary engine codenamed GAIA, for Game Artificial Intelligence with Agents, which was composed by a set of C++ libraries that provided sophisticated control of game characters based on research in distributed AI. Intelligence is represented as a distributed activity over a set of autonomous routines called agents. An agent uses skills, such as hearing, sight, acrobatic, to complete assigned tasks. These agents can interact and even compete with each other to realize a complex task.
Outcast features a high-quality orchestral score composed by Lennie Moore and performed by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra and choir. At the time of Outcast's release, orchestral game scores were uncommon, and Moore's achievement was hailed as "absolutely top-notch". Game's publisher Infogrames released the hour-long score on a soundtrack album and it was later made available for MP3 download on the game's official website. Anyone who owns the original game can listen to the soundtrack by putting disc 2 into a CD player.
After Outcast was released, developer Appeal published a series of short films on its website, called "Outcast Outtakes", which were also included on the DVD version of the game. It was essentially a series of in-game recordings which were made to poke fun at itself, such as Cutter making an advertisement for his backpack that acts much like a magic satchel, by showcasing that he could store house furniture such as doors and chairs in it, or extra scenes involving Nikaa, a Talan whose gender remains under debate to this day.
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|“||Okay, so the hero’s name is stupid and the plot sounds like a rehash of Stargate, but trust us, this action-adventure game was revolutionary. You could freely explore open world cities, mountains and forests (two years before GTA III). You could commandeer extraterrestrial vehicles – in this case, dinosaur-like creatures - for quicker transport (two years before Halo). You could pick and choose missions in the order that suited your playing style (nine years before Fallout 3).||”|
—GamesRadar in 2009
A sequel, Outcast II was originally being developed for the PlayStation 2. During development, the company Appeal went bankrupt and development ceased. Appeal had been requesting funds from their publisher to help finish the game for release but this was not granted.
The Eternal Outcasts are developing a free sequel called Open Outcast as a Crysis Wars mod. The project initially used the Gothic and later the Crystal Space 3D engines but has now made the step to the CryEngine 2. The project already released two techdemos (Oasis 1.0 & 1.1) which can be played together with the Crysis Wars Demo version.
On 20 April 2010, Outcast was re-released via digital distribution by Good Old Games. The re-released game is compatible with Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 . This version of the game includes fixes for several of problems, including a community developed patch that negates the need to use a CPU slowdown program, and is generally playable on modern PCs without any extra troubleshooting required.
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- Outcast Manual (German ed.). p.34: Infogrames Deutschland GmbH. 1999. OUTCAPC52D/B2 More than one of
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