Urbanoids


[Preview - click on the image to start the game]

Urbanoids - The Story

In the not too distant future, AI research suddenly experiences a breakthrough and computer programs can be made as intelligent as chimpanzees. This makes it possible to mass-produce robots for taking over tedious chores previously handled by unskilled labor, like garbage disposal, mail delivery and talk show hosting.

This new generation of servant robots, popularly titled "urban droids" or urbanoids for short, becomes a huge success. They are inexpensive, they are practical, they come in a variety of different colors and models. Everybody wants one.

To make life easier for robot owners, most local retailers install a special control server that automatically transmits weekly minor software updates and bi-annual major revisions to each unit, by radio waves. This totally eliminates the need for customer support about anything else than mechanical failure.

The only weak link in the system is the server itself. But it comes with a warranty and its software was created by the same company who brought the world six generations of DOS. They assure people there's nothing to worry about. They have thought of everything.

They said they had solved the year 2000 problem.

They lied.

On April 26, 2000, the control server in a small town accidentally transmits the wrong system update information to all local robot units. There is a file name discrepancy and instead of the intended code replacements, it grabs the system administrator's saved settings file for Final Doom Quakem Raider VI. Then it gasps a last "WinErr: 013" and crashes. As a result, every droid in town gets its programming replaced by one single directive: destroy all human life.

Panic ensues as the formerly obedient robots go after their owners, but eventually everyone gets evacuated, most with only minor injuries. The military sets up road blocks and seals all possible exits from town, to keep the robots from spreading. Phone lines and communication cables are similarly cut, just in case the droids would attempt to pass on their directive over the network. When it turns out that there is no way to revoke the faulty programming, a quick decision is made to fire-bomb the area at nightfall, unless the problem has somehow resolved itself by then.

What nobody knows is that the town was never completely evacuated after all. You, Erwin O'Skunk -- an out-of-work TV repairman, were soundly asleep during the commotion, having partied yourself into a coma the night before. When you eventually wake up you are completely alone. After your initial disorientation and hangover clear up, you manage to piece together what has been going on by listening to the radio.

You realize that you won't be getting any outside help. Nobody will miss you anytime soon and there is no way you can communicate to the rest of the world that you are still alive. There is only one thing to do. You will simply have to save the town (and yourself) on your own, by destroying or incapacitating every single droid before the bombing starts.

So you rush into your hobby room and build yourself a weapon and some protection out of the junk you've got lying around. Adding a trenchcoat and some sturdy boots, you grab a toolbox and get going. Somehow you feel confident that you will be able to handle this crisis -- or at least die trying.

Playing Instructions - The basics

This is the control panel. The window to the left is where all the action will be. The one to the right displays various kinds of information.

While playing, you move the main character around with the I, J, K and L keys and fire with SPACE. The background will scroll and follow you along. You can also climb in and out of the sewers (see below).

The rounded objects with numbers on them are symbolic representations of droids. Your enemies. The bad guys. All of them have to be killed. You do that by shooting at them or crushing them with brute force. Of course, they can do the same to you. (Otherwise this wouldn't be any fun, would it?)

You have a force field which protects you from direct physical injury, but all collisions wear down your energy supply. So does shooting. When it's all gone, your power pack has a tendency to explode and, well, kill you rather violently, so try not to let that happen.

At any time during the game you can press the S key to pause it. In that state, clicking on any droid (or yourself) will bring up statistics about it in the information window. You get to see, for example, what strength, shields and firepower it is equipped with. Pressing G starts the game again.

Important objects

The graphics have been deliberately created to make it obvious what you can walk on and which things are obstacles. But these items probably need an explanation:

Battery. Aside from being worth 25 points, it replenishes part of your energy.
Manhole. Enter the sewers by pressing D.
Exit. Go up again by pressing E.

Taking over droids

This isn't one of those mindless games you can beat by just running around and shooting at everything that moves. (I thought I'd try something different this time.) A good strategy is essential. The armors of some of the droids are simply too strong for your standard weapon. Sooner or later you will need to upgrade.

The way you acquire better strength, shields and firepower is by hacking into droids and taking control of them. Then you can ride the droid and get access to all its capabilities. And if you run out of energy, only the droid gets killed. You'll be safe ... for a while.

All droids have a neural network processor which works as a brain. Leading out from it, sending directives to the body, is a neural brain stem. This happens to be very sensitive to outside influence. By feeding electrical impulses through the right cables, you can block out the droid's processor and gain control over all motoric parts -- wheels, limbs and weapons. But droids also have a built-in defense which will try to counteract your tampering by sending impulses of its own into the brain stem. The better the operating system, the tougher the defense.

To initiate a takeover attempt, hold down the T key and get in physical contact with a droid. Then you will be presented with the following screen:

  1. Influence meter. This shows which side is currently dominant.
  2. Spare impulse generators. Release a new one by pressing SPACE or K.
  3. Color switch. Any impulse sent through it will change into the opponent's type.
  4. Junction. Splits or combines impulses.
  5. Active impulse generator. It transmits a signal for a few seconds and then fades away.
  6. The neural brain stem of the unit you are trying to take over.
  7. Timer. When it runs out, the dominant side wins.

Move your impulse generators up and down. When they are in a proper position, press SPACE to make them fire a signal. (It may take a couple of tries before you get the hang of it.)

If you lose, your power source or the droid you are presently in control of will burn out and explode. If you win, on the other hand, the other droid is then your property, and instead of your character on the screen you will see a representation of that droid, but colored white. Now, in addition to its strength, shields and firepower you will also have access to its operating system, which may make it easier to take over other droids, in turn.

Statistics

Model 100
Class: Household
Name: Home surveillance droid, a.k.a. "Door stop"
Firepower: None
Armor: Level 1, plastic
Strength: Level 1
Natural speed: 4 km/h
Operating System: CP/M

When you click on a droid during the paused state, the information you get looks something like this.

There are five different droid classes: household (red), maintenance (yellow), construction (green), law enforcement (blue) and military (black). Household droids are typically the dumbest and weakest, with the rest ranging in that order up to the military droids, which are the smartest and most powerful. The number identifies the specific droid model -- in this case the "Model 100, home surveillance droid."

The level values of Firepower and Strength determine the offensive capabilities of the droid, for shooting and bumping respectively. Similarly, the Armor value determines its defensive capability. A level 3 armor will protect against firepower up to level 3, and so on. (You can also hear, when you are shooting at a robot, if your bullets just bounce off. Then there's a "plink" sound instead of a crash.)

Natural speed is how fast the droid can move on its own.

Scoring

This part is pretty simple. If you kill a droid you get as many points as its model number. If you take over it you get twice that amount. And the batteries, as previously stated, are worth 25 points each.

Overview map

Clicking the little button that says "MAP" brings up (you guessed it) a symbolic map of the current area. It doesn't contain any information about the terrain -- just the relative locations of you, the remaining droids and the batteries.

Clicking on the "OK" button sends you back to the game screen.

Optional music

The game comes with a background tune in three formats: MIDI, MOD and SID. If you have a fast computer and the appropriate browser plug-in installed, just click on the corresponding button to play it. Click NONE if you wish to turn it off.


(331 kb)
Author: Karl Hörnell
Homepage: http://www.javaonthebrain.com
Java Source: Not available
Download: urbanoids.zip
Usage: If you place a link to the homepage of the author,
you may regard the applet as free for the private use.


Never seen before in java. Complex and gripping.
'Taking over' droids is a nice idea.
Perfect in design, programming and concept.