Darwinia (video game)
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|Publisher(s)||Introversion Software (Windows/Linux)
Ambrosia Software (Mac OS X)
Cinemaware Marquee/eGames (USA)
|Distributor(s)||Pinnacle Software  (Windows)
14 December 2005
31 January 2007
11 February 2010
|Genre(s)||Real-time tactics, real-time strategy|
Darwinia is a 2005 real-time tactics and real-time strategy video game for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. It is the second game developed by Introversion Software, and is set within a computer environment that simulates artificial intelligence. It received favorable reviews and won three awards at the 2006 Independent Games Festival. A multiplayer sequel, Multiwinia, was released for Windows in 2008. Darwinia and Multiwinia were released together as Darwinia+ for the Xbox 360 in 2010.
Darwinia was created as a digital theme world for artificially intelligent polygons by Dr Sepulveda. Housed in a massive network of surplus Protologic 68000 machines from the 1980s, Darwinia is a world where the single-poly Darwinians, with their simple, but growing AI, can grow and evolve. Darwinia is also where the world can visit to see them frolicking in their natural, fractal habitat. A Darwinian lives a life working and growing, until the eventual death of the Darwinian, which releases their digital soul to later be reincarnated.
However, the player arrives in the midst of an emergency. Darwinia has been infected by a computer virus, and Sepulveda is in near panic, watching decades of research being corrupted and being used up. Sepulveda enlists the player, a curious hacker who stumbled across Darwinia by accident, to aid him in rescuing the Darwinians and drive off the computer virus. The player is given access to the combat programs, simple tools that originally began as mini-games. These are now the only means of attack against the virus. As the player progresses, it soon becomes clear this is not enough, and that triggers the third aspect of the gameplay, which is evolution.
The first two levels of the video game act as an introduction and allow the player to familiarize themselves with the controls. After that, Dr Sepulveda begins assigning tasks that span several levels to achieve a long-term objective. The first task involves clearing the virus population from and reactivating the Mines and Power Generator to provide resources for the Construction Yard. Once done, the Yard begins producing armored units, allowing the player to move on. The next task involves the reincarnation of Darwinians: the Soul Repository in the center of Darwinia collects the floating souls, and sends them down to the Receiver, where the Darwinians gather them and send them to the Pattern Buffer to be reprogrammed with the main Darwinian blueprint code, where they are sent to the Biosphere to be reborn. The player must clear the Viruses from all the facilities and reactivate them.
In the final level of the game, Sepulveda traces the Viral infection back to its source, which is e-mail spam. After Sepulveda had accidentally flashed an image of his face across the skies of Darwinia, The Darwinians had assumed him to be God. They then re-aligned a portal inside Darwinia in an attempt to communicate with God. The Darwinians managed to access Sepulveda's computer, downloading several files and eventually downloading the Spam. The e-mails were infected with a very nasty strain of internet virus which corrupted the Darwinians. The player is tasked to destroying the few remaining e-mails.
Darwinia mixes elements from strategy, action, puzzle, hacker and God games alike, meaning that it does not fall under a specific video game genre. The player has the ability to run several programs through the Task Manager (a reference to the Windows Task Manager), similar to units used in many real time strategy games. Research allows the player to upgrade programs and weapons, which is critical as the enemy develops. Mission Objectives are given at each location/level, as the player and the Darwinians attempt to wipe out the Viruses.
Darwinia was inspired by the theme of the first Indie Game Jam, where a group of programmers experimented with generating tens of thousands of sprites on screen at once. Introversion began prototyping a war game with more units on screen than had ever been done at that point. After months of iteration and development, this coalesced into the gameplay for Darwinia.
The initial beta testing of Darwinia begun on 27 August 2004, and the beta testing of the full game started on 26 November, the same year. A demo level of Darwinia was released 3 months later on 21 January, and can be downloaded from the Darwinia website. Darwinia was released on 4 March 2005, while the Macintosh version was released 30 March 2005 by publisher Ambrosia Software. A patch was released on 28 April 2005 for Microsoft Windows, bringing the version to 1.2. New features included an improved unit selection system, as well as numerous modding updates including the ability to create custom strings. Another patch (version 1.3) was released in September 2005, which includes the option (enabled by default) of clicking icons or using keyboard shortcuts to create units instead of using the gesture system. A new demo, using features of the above-mentioned version 1.3 patch and an entirely new level "Launchpad" not in the full game, was released in September 2005.
Darwinia was released on Steam on 14 December 2005. This helped solve some of Introversion's distribution problems, and allowed for localized versions to be developed; a German translation was included with the Steam release. A new patch was released on 10 March 2006 bringing the version up to 1.42 and adding difficulty settings ranging from 1 to 10. Higher difficulties increase the number, speed, and health of monsters. It also increases the speed of the player's own units. eGames-owned Cinemaware on 4 April 2006 issued a press release announcing they would bring Darwinia to US markets in June 2006. Beta testing signups for version 1.5.x started on 15 December 2006. A Windows Vista exclusive version of Darwinia with extra eye candy and 3 additional levels was released on 31 January 2007. Version 188.8.131.52 patch released on 18 June 2007, providing support for DirectX 9c, including extra eye candy and the "Launchpad" level.
Darwinia+ is the version of Darwinia for the Xbox 360, released on the Xbox Live Arcade on 11 February 2010. It includes updated versions of both Darwinia and Multiwinia. This was Introversion Software's first venture onto a video games console.
Darwinia features a number of intros randomly selected when launching the game. These contain a number of references that may be obscure to some players, especially those unfamiliar with older European computers. These include:
- Cracktro text scroller: a spoof of the crack intros that were common among pirated computer games, especially on platforms popular in Europe, such as the Amiga and Commodore 64. The text humorously references both coding for 38 hours straight and finishing the intro in 12 minutes. Allegedly, the release of Darwinia on the Steam platform was delayed for several hours when a Valve employee saw the intro and believed there had been a security breach.
- The Matrix: one intro features green Darwinians dropping from the top of the screen to form a logo, a reference to The Matrix (See Matrix digital rain).
- Real-time Raytracer: another cracktro-style intro featuring a raytraced scene of spinning spheres. This was a popular effect in many old demo scene productions.
- Cannon Fodder: a black screen displaying the text "This game is not in any way endorsed by Sensible Software" while the beginning of the theme from Cannon Fodder plays. The text is a reference to the message that shows at the start of Cannon Fodder, "This game is not in any way endorsed by the Royal British Legion." Some see this as an acknowledgement of Cannon Fodder's influence on Darwinia.
- ZX Spectrum: one of the intros is designed to look like the ZX Spectrum when loading a tape-based game.
- Life: a simulation of the cellular automaton game of Life in which Darwinians live, die and spread in a grid based on just a few basic rules.
- MBTI intro: this intro scrolls through the four dichotomies on a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, listing introversion last as it is the name of the developer.
Darwinia was positively received by critics, garnering "generally favorable reviews". It won the Seumas McNally Grand Prize at IGF 2006, as well as the Technical Excellence and Innovation in Visual Art awards.
- Nominated for Best Game in the GameShadow Innovation in Games Awards 2006
- Scored 90% from PC Gamer UK and reached number 21 on its 'Top 100 PC Games' list.
- "Has to be played" from PC Review
- Earned a 5 out of 5 on X-Play.
- New Age Gaming magazine awarded Darwinia a score of 97, its highest ever, and an Editor's Choice award. No other game has exceeded 96 as of June 2007. A scan of the review can be found on the official site. It also received a video review included on NAG's cover DVD.
- Stone, T: "PC Gamer UK", pages 80, 81. Future Publishing, 2005
- Sikora, Drew "Gaiiden". "Interview with Introversion Software". gamedev.net. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
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- "Darwinia and Steam: an Interview with Introversion – The Steam Review". Steamreview.org. 23 November 2005. Retrieved 17 November 2012.
- "VERSION 1.42". Introversion. Retrieved 25 July 2009.
- Knottenbelt, John (15 December 2006). "Darwinia Update Testing". Introversion. Retrieved 25 July 2009.
- "Darwinia+ XBLA Xbox Live Arcade". Introversion.co.uk. 10 February 2010. Retrieved 17 November 2012.
- Chris (15 December 2005). "Darwinia released on Steam!". Introversion. Retrieved 12 January 2009.
- Adams, Dan (25 March 2005). "Darwinia". IGN. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
- Gillen, Kieron (7 March 2005). "Darwinia". Eurogamer. Gamer Network. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
- Mueller, Greg (25 August 2005). "Darwinia Review". GameSpot. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
- "2006 Independent Games Festival Winners". Independent Games Festival. Archived from the original on 4 June 2016. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
- "Darwinia for PC Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved October 11, 2016.
- "Darwinia Review" (JPEG). New Age Gaming: 66. April 2005. Retrieved 12 January 2009.