Z (video game)
|Developer(s)||The Bitmap Brothers|
|Publisher(s)||Virgin Interactive (PC)
GT Interactive (PS/SAT)
A sequel, Z: Steel Soldiers, was published in 2001.
Unlike traditional real-time strategy (RTS) games, collecting resources or building specific structures is unnecessary for creating an army - the same principle that was introduced by Nether Earth, one of the RTS games ancestor. Regions and structures within their borders that actually manufacture the units are captured by moving troops to their respective flags. All you need to do is to hold acquired position for a certain amount of time while the unit is manufacturing. The more regions are under the player's control, the less the time required. More powerful units take more time to construct.
The objective of the game is to eliminate the opponent by taking out their command Fort: either by sending a unit to enter it, or by destroying it directly. Alternatively, destroying all of the opponent's units immediately wins the game.
At the start of every mission, each side is given control of their Fort and a small group of units. A host of unmanned turrets and vehicles are usually scattered about the map and sending a robot to these will allow the player to add them to their army. However, the assigned robot will remain in the captured vehicle or turret as a pilot or a gunner.
The game is significantly different from others of its type: For example, vehicle drivers can take damage from enemy fire, and if the driver is destroyed, the vehicle they were commandeering will be unmanned and can be captured by either side. At the time of its release, Z was also noted for being more complex, intense, and challenging compared to other games of its time, like the original Command and Conquer, where the gameplay usually boiled down to tankrushing AIs showing a lack of aggression. Further different robot types behaved differently. Units such as a sniper with a higher intelligence level are less likely to pop up from a tank because they are likely to be shot.
The game starts off with simple, symmetric levels where the CPU starts with roughly the same hardware as the player. As the game progresses, the levels become more complex, demanding more skill to control all units effectively, and the computer gains an advantage in starting units. For example, the CPU's fort usually has substantially more powerful guard turrets. The computer also gains more logistic advantages.
Combat takes place on several planets, with 4 missions on each. When one is successfully captured, a space ship transports the robot army to another. Worlds are divided into the following types:
- Desert: A dry, open and scarcely vegetated environment, in which units have little trouble moving around freely. The player encounters rivers and islands as they progress through the battles on this planet. Some territories are controlled by flags on islands.
- Volcanic: A much more hostile environment with intense heat and constant eruptions. Lava flows are an impassable barrier.
- Arctic: A frozen world of snow and ice spanned by glacial rock formations. One level has a wall of ice blocking the way to the fortresses. Penguins densely populate the icy terrain.
- Jungle: A verdant world of menacing swamps and impenetrable chasms. Crocodiles in the swamps lash out at robots hanging around the mud.
- City: A decaying industrial complex where danger lurks around every corner. Construction cranes will often be needed to repair any bridges that take damage. Sewer monsters ambush robots moving across polluted water.
The game opens with General Zod shooting the Bitmap Brothers Logo off the screen. Meanwhile, a Supply Ship is adrift in space. Its occupants, two robots named Brad and Allan, wake up to the radio buzzer. The two find two new messages from General Zod. The first shows Zod telling about his delivery, one hour overdue; the second shows him threatening to "kick their red butts" if he finds out about them slacking off. Allan and Brad just resume their mission. The two constantly steer the ship in a bunch of twists and turns (one sends them knocking the game's title into the opening credits, which are just visible in space), and finally arriving at their first destination. Their mission sends them across twenty levels on five planets, fighting enemy soldiers. Only when the five planets are conquered will the party begin.
After the final level, Zod gets a promotion to Supreme Space Colonel. Zod and the other soldiers celebrate by drinking many cans of rocket fuel, and by the next morning, so many discarded cans litter the ground that Brad and Allan are sick. Zod gets into the Supply Ship with Brad and Allan and decides to show them how to fly the spacecraft. Zod uses the ship to pull acrobatic stunts in space, leaving Brad thrilled. When Allan pulls another can of rocket fuel from the box, he notices a "do not shake" warning on its side. He shakes it up and tosses it to Zod. When Zod opens the can, an explosion blows the ship apart. Brad and Allan are hurled off, and Zod's hat can be seen floating in deep space...
There are 2 versions for PC use, one for MS-DOS named Z and another one for Windows 95 named Z 95 & Expansion (that give Zeditor and Extension pack with additional challenging levels from 20 to 31. Each of these level are parallel; so 21 is the same kind as level 1 but with a bigger map and all Units available). The former used to require DOSBox (an open source MS-DOS emulator for various operating systems) to run on a modern Windows XP system.
Ports for the PlayStation and Sega Saturn were released in 1997 and 1998 only in Europe. Both were handled by Krisalis Software and published by GT Interactive. An iOS version was released by KavCom in 2011.
A workaround for Z 95's incompatibility with Windows XP which allows Z95 to run on a Windows XP system without any form of emulation was posted on the ZZone forums. The workaround, named "Z Expansion XP", involves disabling some protected instructions in the Z 95 executable and contains a custom installer since the original Z 95 installer refuses to run under Windows XP. In the concerning forum thread the Z Expansion XP workaround is also reported to work under Windows Vista.
Difference between Z and Z 95 
There are few differences between the Z DOS version and the Z 95 version. Most of all Z 95 was made much more compatible with Windows 95 which was becoming more and more popular. Also some more levels were added to the so-called Expansion Kit. The Z DOS version has an interface for loading the game as its first step. In Z 95 the interface is still there but modified and is just a normal interface using APIs of Windows 95 without the eyecandy buttons. Z Dos version is much slower, which affects the game play, whereas the Z 95 version improves the speed and lets the game feel like a real time strategy field. Also, a few unit statistics were changed to improve the game's balance.
Z was highly rated by various computers gaming magazines. For instance, it was awarded 92% by the PC Zone magazine, when it described Z as "a brilliant strategy game that is so hard Like all Bitmap Bros' games, there are loads of little touches that will amuse you, from the incompetent piss-head droids in the cut-scenes, flying you from level to level and crashing on the people flagging them in, to the voice which says, when you're struggling, 'You are so crap'. And you probably are. "Z"
The game has been kept alive with the help of an unofficial fan website called ZZone. This has helped spawn many efforts such as the Windows XP launcher for Z95 support past Windows 95. It has also brewed a lot of hacking efforts to dig out a lot of the original graphic and sound assets from the game as well as editors for tweaking game stats such as unit speeds etc.
The Zod Engine (Remake) 
The Zod Engine is an actively developed open source remake of the game. Its main focus is to provide a cross platform friendly source base which is multiplayer oriented. Considering that the original is easily available the developers of the Zod Engine decided not to focus their efforts on the single player aspect but instead to make single player merely an option of multiplayer. The Zod Engine currently entails almost all of the original features and gameplay of the original game and is in a Beta stage. It is derived out of the efforts of the hackers at the ZZone website and is available at http://zod.sourceforge.net/
The Zod Engine has had an article written about it by the magazine Linux Format June 2011.
- KISSMAD (July 5, 2006). "This is how I got Z (not z95) to work on XP". The ZZone Board. Retrieved July 4, 2012.
- Tony (April 3, 2011). "Kavcom links licensing deal for The Bitmap Brothers classic ‘Z’". KavCom. Retrieved July 4, 2012.
- Patterson, Blake (March 3, 2011). "GDC 2011: Bitmap Brothers' Z, Gods, Xenon II, Chaos Engine, Magic Pockets Coming to iOS". TouchArcade.com. Retrieved July 4, 2012.
- "Z - You'll love the smell of rocket fuel in the morning!". KavCom. Retrieved July 4, 2012.
- Zod (June 22, 2007). "Z Expansion XP Launcher". The ZZone Board. Retrieved July 4, 2012.
- "PC Review: Z". CVG. August 13, 2001. Archived from the original on April 29, 2001.
- "The Zod Engine in the Linux Format Magazine June 2011". zod.sourceforge.net. June 2011. Retrieved July 4, 2012.