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Zero-K (ZK; formerly known as Complete Annihilation and CA) is a free multi-platform open source real-time strategy computer game. Initially based on content from Total Annihilation on the open source Spring Engine, it was forked and all proprietary content replaced, and evolved into a completely new game with unique features. Among the games powered by the Spring game engine, Zero-K is particularly notable for its extensive use of Lua scripting for interface and gameplay changes/enhancements, as well as unique RTS concepts such as a flat technology tree.
Zero-K has similar gameplay to Total Annihilation and its successor, Supreme Commander. As computers grow faster, Zero-K intends to scale with them, allowing players to increase their resolution and allowing for higher unit counts with virtually no limit.
Players start out with a construction-capable bipedal mech known as the Commander which acts as the player's avatar. Players use their commander to construct a base of operations from which they can expand to fight and ultimately destroy opposing players. Players can use experience points to upgrade their commander with new weapons and modules.
Players earn experience points for each Zero-K game they play. These may be used to unlock new units for use in game or to customize their commander. After they play enough games, players will be able to unlock the entire Zero-K unit collection. This feature exists to prevent new players from building units that are not designed to be used by inexperienced players, thus, they must gain experience playing Zero-K before they can use those units.
The game includes 10+ factories each with 8+ unique units for a huge variation of viable build orders on most maps. Aside from the factories, there are many important buildings that create resources, provide radar coverage, shield units from Enemy weapons, conceal units from enemies, provide defence to a static location, and perform many other functions.
Zero-K includes a unique game mode called Chickens. Chicken games are essentially similar to tower defense games, except you are free to build any units you wish. The chickens will adapt to your strategy to keep the game interesting.
Chickens comes in various levels of difficulty, as well as the ability to set custom difficulty options.
In a game of Chickens the goal is to survive an onslaught of various semi-sentient alien creatures until their "Queen" attacks. The objective of a game of chickens is to survive,with a side objective being to destroy "Roosts" placed around the map - keeping the attacking chickens from becoming more powerful. The Game ends with either annihilation of the players, or the death of the Chicken Queen.
The origins of the name are unknown.
Economy in Zero-K, like in Total Annihilation, consists of two resources, Metal and Energy.
Energy is produced by certain structures, most of which can be built anywhere; each of these structures is ideal for its own set of situations. Energy is consumed in all build projects 1:1 with metal, for repairs to damaged units and structures, during "Resurrection" of unit wrecks, powering structures like radar towers and charging shields, and is used to activate the biggest defenses such as the "Annihilator" energy weapon.
Metal is either extracted from metal in the map using "Metal Extractors" or reclaimed from wrecks and debris of destroyed units and structures. Each and every unit or structure requires a specific amount of metal to be built, making capturing areas suitable for metal extraction or reclaiming wrecks of utmost importance in every game.
Connecting energy production to Metal Extractors allows "Overdrive", automatically producing additional metal. However, Overdrive has diminishing results, requiring more and more energy to continue increasing the production bonus until additional attached energy has only negligible increases in production.
In Zero-K any player can create any unit through the appropriate factory, provided it was unlocked. There is no technology progression during a game. Each unit's reason for being used or built is its appropriateness for the battle at hand, not devoting resources to gain access to it.
Interface and Control
Zero K minimizes the amount of interface limitations. Executing sophisticated strategies is made as simple as possible, including queuing up any number of units, ordering a constructor to build many of different buildings, or ordering a factory to build planes that would automatically patrol a route as they roll off the assembly line. The interface allows players to build up large armies and bases with easily so the player is free to concentrate on actual tactics and strategy. Zero-K is almost unique in having this level of control.
Zero-K is primarily meant be played online in 1v1, Team, or FFA style battles, as well as cooperatively against Chickens.
Planet Wars is an MMO style strategy game tied to Zero-K where individual battles are fought in Zero-K against other players to gain "Influence" on planets. Each player can either create or join a clan, and all the influence they earn will count as the clans. Planet Wars resets each time one clan achieves one or more of the three victory conditions - Conquest, Economy, Technology.
However, ever since season 8, a new faction system has been implemented. Each clan and player is randomly assigned to a faction, and all the influence that person or clan makes will count as the faction's.
There are no artificial unit limits imposed by the game, but playability at large unit counts is limited by CPU power. As of 2010, 5000 units is understood to be the point where game starts to become unplayable and players start to lag. The cause is thought to be the CPU expensive pathfinding. There's also screen framerate loss due to Lua user interface. Zero-K run on Spring engine and by 2013 the engine now include an alternative pathfinding algorithm and multi-core support that aim to address this performance issue. The multi-core support is, as of September 2013, still in development and not in mainstream use.
Zero-K is released under "the GNU General Public License or Public Domain unless otherwise specified".
- A breakdown of languages used in Zero-K can be found at its Google Code site: http://code.google.com/p/zero-k/
- A more detailed history of the game's development can be found here: http://www.moddb.com/games/zero-k/
- "Zero-K: Mulitplayer-Strategiespiel zum Download". Chip.de. Retrieved 19 May 2011.
- The end of the guide for new players explains this: http://zero-k.info/Wiki/NewbieGuide
- Description - Gamespy - http://www.gamespy.com/articles/494/494673p11.html
- Multitouch Interaction in Spring RTS Engine --http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHKY9KprBEA
- This is explained more fully at the following link: http://zero-k.info/PlanetWars
- Faction info: http://zero-k.info/Forum/Thread/958
- Spring Engine "About" page - http://springrts.com/wiki/About