Thursday, December 1

There is an open source ‘Age of Empires’. Against all odds, it has been in “alpha” version for more than twenty years


Lovers of strategy games have a wide catalog of titles at their disposal, but along with ‘Civilization’, ‘StarCraft’ or the legendary ‘Age of Empires’ there is a somewhat unknown but very special alternative. This is ‘0 AD’, a very special video game that has just been renewed.

What is ‘0 AD’. It’s a strategy game that started out in 2001 in a curious way: what the original developers wanted to do was a ‘Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings’ mod. Ultimately the developers decided that the mod limited their creative abilities, so they embarked on the adventure of creating a standalone game. This is how Wilfire Games was born, the company that is in charge of its development.

Open Source Heart. Although for some years the development had a more closed philosophy, in July 2009 Wildfire Games published the code of ‘0 AD’ as Open Source under the GPLv2 license. Not only that: all graphic resources are also released under a Creative Commons CC BY-SA license (share and adapt with attribution and keeping this license). Even the soundtrack is free under that license, and can be downloaded in its entirety in MP3 format.

long live the collaboration. Throughout the history of the project, the collaboration of professional and volunteer programmers has been notable, and more than 100 people have contributed to the different versions of a video game that has not stopped improving and gaining more and more features.

A game with solitude. Those responsible for Wildfire Games announced these days the availability of ‘0 AD Alpha 26: Zhuangzi’. The previous version was ‘Alpha 25: Yauna’, and was published in August 2021. This Open Source project is one of the longest-lived — more than 20 years in the spotlight — but it is also unique in another section.

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An eternal ‘Alpha’ version. It seems surprising, but the developers do not seem to consider that the game deserves to leave the Alpha version that it has been in since it was created. At this point the game is really very polished and comparable to any end product that just gets updated. That qualification seems almost anecdotal, but they do not seem to be in a hurry to abandon that name.

Han dynasty arrives. The great novelty of this latest version is the inclusion of a new civilization, the Han, which has been developing for some time and has its own technologies, art, buildings and strategies. There are also two new maps and improvements in the interface, the AI, the graphic interface or the graphic resources.

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Back to the ‘A’. Each of the 26 versions of this game has had a nickname related to some historical name, and always following the sequence of the English alphabet, hence this latest version corresponds to a word with the letter Z.

In this case they have paid homage to the Chinese philosopher Zhuang Zhou, better known as Zhuangzi, who wrote one of the most important texts of Taoism. The 26 letters of the English alphabet have run out, so the next version will return to ‘A’, and the developers are already asking for suggestions that, yes, “must be original and related to the date range contemplated in 0 AD (from 500 BC to 1 BC)”. If you like the effort, you can make a donation or even contribute with your ideas and work.

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