Date Developed: 2000(?) - June 20, 2003
Platforms: *NIXes (Linux, BSD) under X11, Windows, MacOS, BeOS
What FreeCraft was?
FreeCraft is, or was, an engine to run Real-time strategy games. It was distributed under GPL license.
In June 2003, the engine was pretty mature, and could run two things:
- Warcraft II, a commercial game by Blizzard Entertainment - also supports the expansion set Beyond The Dark Portal.
- The free data set provided by FreeCraft Media Project (FcMP).
Basically, the primary reason for the system's existence is that it runs Warcraft II, with an improved client, on modern systems. It is similar in operation to Exult (for Ultima VII), except that you need to use a conversion script to extract the game data from CD. To run Warcraft II, you need to own the game, naturally. The client supported TCP/IP multiplayer but was not compatible with original Warcraft II or Battle.net.
FcMP is another story. Basically, the idea is to make a free version of Warcraft II data, but, eh, they just don't have the skill. Imagine, if you will, what would be the result if Blizzard would have made Warcraft II with a shoestring budget. Graphics are almost tolerable but nowhere near WC2's glory or "commercial quality", the sound effects are done by one guy with no acting talent whatsoever, and some sound effects are rather lacking (click on a burning house and you hear the guy saying "burning", and destroy it and you hear "explosion two"). Animation is silly or nonexistant. And instead of Glenn Stafford's masterful music, you hear a funky tracker adaptation of Toccata & Fugue. This is so unadulteratedly blasphemous to the sacred memory of Warcraft II that it's actually quite hilarious!
Anyway, the game actually works pretty well even with the FcMP data (aside of the unintentional hilarity), and it looks very good with the WC2 data. In either mode, it can use custom maps in Warcraft II PUD format.
...but it's not called FreeCraft anymore, is it?
Heck, no. Back in the ancient days of yore, Blizzard was very cool towards modding, but now they're more like "Modding is cool. No, no, I mean, 'modding' means using a custom MP3 on your custom map. Anything else will be sued out of existence."
So, in June 20, 2003, Blizzard cease-and-desisted the FreeCraft project, claiming the name "FreeCraft" was far too close to WarCraft brands. FreeCraft maintainers went a little bit itsy. Specifically, rather than changing the name, they ended the project with a bang and quit in disgust.
The resulting fury was quite horrific. Blizzard fans were quick to dismiss FreeCraft as a derivative which had no right to exist as such, many believed it was a direct rip-off or even a direct copyright infringement. Some even confused it with bnetd and flamed them. People with a clue were rightfully furious at Blizzard.
It was not pretty.
I tell you, it just was not pretty.
Once, back in the day, Warcraft II was the modder wonder paradise. Now, even Blizzard's fans comdemn projects like FreeCraft.
O tempora, o mores!
As a long-time Blizzard fan, I personally found the bnetd case appalling enough, but FreeCraft case made me boycott Blizzard's products actively... Here's some nickels, kids, go buy yourself a copy of Myth III.
FreeCraft is dead, long live Stratagus
Fear not! There is light at the end of the tunnel! All is not lost! There's a silver lining on every cloud! Tomorrow will be a beautiful day! (But Blizzard's attitude still sucks.)
FreeCraft code lives on. Nowadays, the project is moving to different directions:
ProjectInferno (http://www.shadowconflict.com/projectinferno/) is the engine that powers a game called Shadow Conflict (http://www.shadowconflict.com/). This is a FreeCraft code fork that is probably far more ambitious than Stratagus and company, and they're rewriting huge chunks of code.
- Stratagus (http://www.nongnu.org/stratagus/) - These folks will apparently continue the development of FreeCraft codebase, with the only change being the name, and the change of focus to general RTS support rather than War2 support. More will be said of Stratagus as it develops (and it develops slowly as FreeCraft folks quit...), probably enough to warrant a writeup of its own.
- Wargus (http://pingus.seul.org/~grumbel/tmp/wargus/) is basically the thing that lets you play Warcraft II on Stratagus, like in the old times with FreeCraft.
- Aleona's Tales (http://www.nongnu.org/aleona/) is what FcMP is these days.
- Robovasion (http://www.nongnu.org/robovasion/) - This is a project to create a completely new SF strategy game based on Stratagus.
If more heads of this hydra can be found, I'll add them here.