Universal Combat

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Universal Combat
Developer(s) Derek Smart (Lead Developer, Executive Producer)

DreamCatcher Interactive Inc.

3000AD (freeware)

Game Builder System III

2.00.31 (freeware)
Platform(s) Windows 98 SE
Release date(s)

5 February 2004

2 January 2008 (freeware)[1]
Genre(s) Space Combat Simulation
Mode(s) Singleplayer, Multiplayer

Universal Combat (sometimes abbreviated to UC) is the second video game series by the developer 3000AD Inc. and is the successor of the Battlecruiser series of games. It is reported that, in comparison to the Battlecruiser series, the game places a greater emphasis on action and is designed for a wider audience, appealing to both action and space "sims" fans alike.


The project began as early as 2000 when Derek Smart announced that he had licensed Croteam's Serious Sam game engine for "Project ABC", for "After Battlecruiser", as replacement for the Battlecruiser Tactical Engagement add-on module intended for Battlecruiser Millennium. The game's scheduled release date was in late 2001, developed for PC and Xbox.[2]

Development started in late 2001 as Battlecruiser Generations, the 5th game in the Battlecruiser series.[3] As part of its design, the upcoming game was intended to make use of newer technology.[4] With a new publisher, DreamCatcher Games, on board and offering more oversight, the direction of the game changed towards more action-based gameplay than the Battlecruiser series had previously been known for. The changes warranted a new title, and the name was changed to Universal Combat.[5]

Universal Combat was not ready in time for the 2003 holidays, despite expectations. It was shipped in early 2004 by the publisher, DreamCatcher Interactive, at half of the originally announced price. Smart pursued legal action against his publisher. A cease and desist letter was issued on behalf of 3000AD[6] to DreamCatcher alleging, among other things,[7] that the price reduction was "clearly calculated to inflict economic harm on 3000AD". In the hearing, DreamCatcher Interactive claimed that the game's quality did not justify a midrange price, citing the graphics as an example of the overall quality of the game. A hearing was held to determine if DreamCatcher would be prevented from shipping the title at the reduced price. The presiding judge denied[8] the injunction, stating that 3000AD "made bold but unsupported assertions regarding the irreparable harm to it", allowing DreamCatcher Interactive to ship the game[9] and 3000AD to proceed with their lawsuit. The matter was later settled out of court[10] under undisclosed terms.

In 2005, 3000AD, Inc. also announced termination of DreamCatcher's publishing right for Universal Combat,[11] but the deal expired on 18 December 2007.

When 3000AD announced they would release the game as freeware, the company reported it had told DreamCatcher to initiate a DIF (Destroy In Field) order to its various retailers so that the remaining copies can no longer be sold, and any unsold copies would be filed as losses in Q4 2007.[12]

Game play[edit]

Universal Combat offers the player a very large game world to play in using varying forms of transport and combat. The player can pilot spaceships of varying sizes, as well as land on and explore planets. On land, they can drive varying land craft, with more than 21,000 areas of interest available to explore. The size of the playing area is seen as one of the game's main attractions, where travelling from place to place can take considerable quantities of time as there is no time compression. The game has a high learning curve that is daunting for newer players.

The game is most notable for its high level of detail. For instance, every single crew member on the ship is tracked in location, hunger, AI level, and fatigue. Every system on board the player's starship can be monitored and controlled. In order for the player to fly a shuttle, they must first take time to walk through the ship to the shuttle bay, forcing the player to plan ahead for tactical encounters. This often leads to a great many instances of emergent game play. For example, enemy boarding parties can be trapped on the ship by disabling launch control, which will not allow the intruders to escape via a shuttle craft or fighters.

New items include:

  • 22 first person weapons.
  • 28 character models with over 1,500 animation frames.
  • 4 new careers for a total of 9 playable careers.
  • 22 drive-able vehicles.
  • 12 controllable threat (e.g. SAM) units.
  • 10 controllable naval units (ships, subs, LCACs, etc.).
  • 5 flyable planetary gunships.
  • 54 flyable space crafts (fighters, carriers, cruisers, etc.).
  • 64 player multiplayer support.

The game contains 1 Advanced Campaign scenario, "A Fragile Hope", and 15 Instant Action scenarios.

The freeware version has fewer music tracks (the game FAQ shows how players can add their own MP3 tracks) and no multiplayer.

Universal Combat Gold[edit]

Universal Combat Gold
Developer(s) Derek Smart
Publisher(s) 3000AD
Engine Game Builder System III?
Platform(s) Windows 98 SE
Release date(s) October 2005
Genre(s) Space Combat Simulation
Mode(s) Singleplayer, Multiplayer


After terminating a publishing deal with DreamCatcher Interactive,[13] Smart released an updated release titled Universal Combat Gold. Starting with this release, Smart has made a policy of releasing games through online resellers.[14]

In 2005, Turner Broadcasting licensed both Battlecruiser Millennium and Universal Combat Gold for their games-on-demand system, GameTap.[15]

Game play[edit]

Universal Combat Gold is a version of Universal Combat with updated patches and enhancements. The graphics engine was updated to DirectX 9, the multiplayer engine was switched to ReplicaNet, and the planetary terrain engine was improved. Sixteen all new first-person character models from Universal Combat - A World Apart are included, except in low-polygon versions.

New scenarios include:

  • 1 campaign scenario, "Way of the Titans", played from the perspective of the Commander or Elite Force Pilot career.
  • 16 new Instant Action scenarios.
  • 1 32-player multiplayer deathmatch/roam scenario.

Full localization supports Russian, French, Italian, German, and Spanish languages. Additional custom language interfaces are possible.

Universal Combat - A World Apart[edit]

Universal Combat - A World Apart
Developer(s) Derek Smart
Publisher(s) 3000AD
Engine Game Builder System IV
Platform(s) Windows 98
Release date(s)

3 August 2005
31 October 2005 (demo)

1 May 2007 (price reduction)
Genre(s) Space Combat Simulation
Mode(s) Singleplayer, Multiplayer


Universal Combat - A World Apart is a sequel to the original Universal Combat games.

The game was originally announced on 18 November 2004 as an expansion pack for Universal Combat, which would feature newer and more advanced technologies found in the then-upcoming Universal Combat - Hostile Intent and Galactic Command Online.[16]

DreamCatcher Interactive originally announced the publication of Universal Combat: A World Apart in May 2005,[17] but several issues with the publisher (DreamCatcher) held up the boxed retail release of the title, and led to the termination of the publishing agreement. As a result, the publishing rights reverted to 3000AD Inc.[11]

As a result of the termination, the boxed version of the game was not released, and the developer also removed DreamCatcher-created content from the retail game.

Game play[edit]

Although the game had switched to DirectX 9, graphics improvements only began in this edition. The audio engine was also based on FMOD, starting in the v1.00.11 patch.

Game play changes include:

  • 16 new high definition first-person character models.
  • 24 new first person weapons, excluding the 4 grenade types and the all-new anti-personnel mine.
  • Revised planetary bases.
  • 1 new 16-mission Advanced Campaign Mode scenario, entitled "A World Apart", which can be played from the perspective of Terran/Insurgent Commander career, or Elite Force Pilot career.
  • 16 new Instant Action scenarios featuring various careers.
  • 2 co-op specific multiplayer space-based scenarios with support for up to 32 players. Also included is the default deathmatch scenario.

Universal Combat Special Edition[edit]

Universal Combat Special Edition
Developer(s) Derek Smart
Publisher(s) 3000AD
Engine Game Builder System IV
Platform(s) Windows 98
Release date(s)


2007-05-01 (price reduction)
Genre(s) Space Combat Simulation
Mode(s) Singleplayer, Multiplayer

A compilation release that includes all previous Universal Combat games, plus all outstanding updates and fixes.

Game play[edit]

Terrain rendering engine now uses improved texturing technologies such as high resolution textures support, reflections, volumetric clouds. Multiplayer and audio engine are also improved.

New scenarios include:

  • 1 new 16-mission Advanced Campaign Mode scenario (A World Apart Episode 2) playable from the perspective of the Commander and Elite Force Pilot careers. The scenario storylines are a continuation of the Episode 1 storyline from the original UCAWA game.
  • 8 new Instant Action scenarios featuring several career modes.

Total scenarios now 58 Instant Action scenarios, 5 Campaign Mode scenarios ('A Fragile Hope', playable from the perspective of the Commander career; 'Way Of The Titans', playable from the perspective of the Commander and Elite Force Pilot careers; 'A World Apart : Episode 1', playable from the perspective of the Commander and Elite Force Pilot careers; 'A World Apart Episode 2', playable from the perspective of the Commander and Elite Force Pilot careers).

In addition to the standalone title, a version exists as expansion pack to the Universal Combat - A World Apart game, which only works with Direct2Drive version of the game.

Universal Combat Collectors' Edition[edit]

Universal Combat Collectors' Edition
Developer(s) Derek Smart
Publisher(s) 3000AD
Engine Game Builder System IV
Platform(s) Windows XP
Release date(s) 3 October 2007[18]
Genre(s) Space Combat Simulation
Mode(s) Singleplayer, Multiplayer


In December 2006, Smart announced a collectors' edition consisting of his Battlecruiser and Universal Combat games.[19]

The Collectors' Edition consists of a compilation that includes all previously published Universal Combat and Battlecruiser games running on improved versions of the Universal Combat Special Edition game engine. Unlike previous releases, it is distributed via DVD, and Windows 98 and 2000 are no longer supported.

Game play[edit]

The game includes native support for 16:9 and 16:10 aspect ratio resolutions, with built-in support for 1280x720 (720p), 1680x1050 and 1920x1080 (1080i) resolutions.

The game now includes a total of 11 Advanced Campaign Mode (ACM) scenarios, and 111 Instant Action scenarios.

The game DVD also includes complete and patched versions of standalone Battlecruiser games (except Battlecruiser Millennium Gold), Game Builder System (GBS), which allows user created scenarios, and the source to all scenarios included in the game. The Battlecruiser 3000AD games are supported via the included DOSBOX emulator.

The scenario created by this version of Game Builder System IV is not compatible with previous games.[20]

Universal Combat Collectors' Edition v2.0[edit]

Universal Combat Collectors' Edition v2.0
Developer(s) Derek Smart
Publisher(s) 3000AD
Engine Game Builder System IV
Platform(s) Windows XP
Release date(s) 14 May 2009
Genre(s) Space Combat Simulation
Mode(s) Singleplayer

This version is based on Universal Combat Collectors' Edition, but uses game engine from Galactic Command: Echo Squad Second Edition. Multiplayer support is no longer functional.

A free upgrade to v2.0 was available for existing owners of Universal Combat Collectors' Edition until 1 January 2010.

Cancelled releases[edit]

  • Universal Combat - Hostile Intent:[21] Also called Hostile Intent - Planetfall, it is a combat-focused action game based on an improved version of the Universal Combat game engines. It represents the company's intent to split off the Universal Combat brand as an action-focused franchise which takes place in the established game world. On 25 January 2006, 3000AD announced Hostile Intent - Planetfall to be available on Xbox 360,[22] with a projected release of Q1 of 2008.[23] However, during the game's development, it evolved to become part of the Galactic Command series.[24]
  • Universal Combat - Hold the Line:[25] It would be the second Universal Combat game focused on action, but much larger and advanced than Universal Combat - Hostile Intent.[26] It would be sold as expansion to Universal Combat or a boxed title (which would also include the original game).
  • Universal Combat - Edge to Edge:[27] It is an announced standalone space and planetary squad-based multiplayer tactical combat game. The game would feature a much smaller world (2 space regions and 4 planets), with a graphics update. Single player mode would feature a single campaign between the Terran military player and insurgent counterparts.[28]


The game was reviewed and rated in several print and online game magazines.[29] Metacritic gave it an aggregate review score of 54%.[30] GameSpot scored it 59% and said "This wildly ambitious simulation is torpedoed by an almost incomprehensible interface, the absence of a tutorial, numerous bugs, and many fit and finish issues, including dated production values."[31] Universal Combat was criticized for an unfamiliar interface and voluminous documentation (a manual of over 100 pages, 200-page downloadable appendix, and 80-page downloadable tutorial).[32]

Universal Combat - A World Apart was rated 54% by Game Rankings and 48% by Metacritic.[33][34]


  1. ^ "Universal Combat". gamershell.com. Retrieved 2008-01-02. 
  2. ^ Sam Parker (7 August 2000). "Battlecruiser Team Takes on Serious Sam Engine". Gamespot Asia. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved 29 May 2012. 
  3. ^ BCG rebranded as Universal Combat
  4. ^ "UC Version Control". Archived from the original on 2007-11-07. Retrieved 2006-12-05. 
  5. ^ "Battlecruiser Generations rechristened — PC News at GameSpot". Retrieved 2006-12-05. 
  6. ^ "3000AD Issues Cease & Desist Letter to DreamCatcher" (PDF). Retrieved 2004-02-04. 
  7. ^ "3000AD Final Factum Filed Against DreamCatcher" (PDF). Retrieved 2004. 
  8. ^ "Canadian Judge Rules On 3000AD Injunction Against DreamCatcher". Retrieved 2004. 
  9. ^ "Universal Combat ships despite lawsuit". Retrieved 2004-02-05. 
  10. ^ "DreamCatcher to publish another 3000AD title". Retrieved 2005-01-13. 
  11. ^ a b UC: A World Apart Gold - 3000AD vs. DC, Round II
  12. ^ Universal Combat Goes Freeware Archived 9 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ "3000AD announces trio of new titles, breaks ties with publisher — PC News at GameSpot". Retrieved 2006-12-06. 
  14. ^ "BATTLECRUISER Online — Sales and Order Information". Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved 2006-10-20. 
  15. ^ "Turner licenses 3000AD titles for GameTap". Retrieved 2005-08-05. 
  16. ^ Universal Combat Add On Announced
  17. ^ DreamCatcher Games to Publish Universal Combat: A World Apart
  18. ^ Universal Combat Collectors' Edition Now Shipping! Archived 19 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  19. ^ "Galactic Command (PC/XB360)". Retrieved 2006-12-04. 
  20. ^ Using GBS-IV Included in Universal Combat CE
  21. ^ UCHI page
  22. ^ "3000 A.D. Completely Sells Out to Xbox 360". TeamXbox. 2006-01-25. Retrieved 2006-12-01. 
  23. ^ "Hostile Intent - Planetfall (X360)". GameSpy. Retrieved 2006-12-01. 
  24. ^ "Hostile Intent — Planetfall". GameSpy. Retrieved 2007-11-06. 
  25. ^ UCHTI page
  26. ^ Universal Combat - Hostile Intent press release
  27. ^ UCE2E page
  28. ^ Universal Combat – Edge To Edge press release Archived 14 August 2004 at the Wayback Machine.
  29. ^ "Universal Combat Reviews". Retrieved 2006-10-20. 
  30. ^ Universal Combat (pc: 2004): Reviews
  31. ^ "Universal Combat for PC Review — PC Universal Combat Review". Retrieved 2006-10-20. 
  32. ^ Wolpaw, Erik (October 2004). "Universal Combat". Computer Gaming World. Retrieved 2007-01-07. [dead link]
  33. ^ "Universal Combat: A World Apart (PC: 2005): Reviews". Retrieved 2006-12-06. 
  34. ^ GameRankings.com aggregate review of Universal Combat: A World Apart

External links[edit]

Games in the series[edit]

Title Released Publisher
Universal Combat 2004 DreamCatcher Games
Universal Combat Gold 2005 3000AD
Universal Combat: A World Apart 2005 3000AD
Universal Combat: Special Edition 2006 3000AD
Universal Combat: Collectors Edition 2007 3000AD