Return to Part 1: Dumpster Diving
Continued from Part 9: Ancient Archaeology
It was another shovelware collection that first introduced me to XEvil, in this case 300 Arcade Games by Cosmi Corporation made in 2000 for Microsoft Windows. This X11 classic was ported to DirectX by Micheal Judge, with the original game being first released by Steve Hardt in 1994 as a way to teach himself C++ as a sophomore. XEvil would grow in popularity from there, even being the star of organized tournaments similar to those done for Doom and Quake at the time.
The version included on 100 Great Linux Games is actually the forked 1.5.5 Mutant Strain with inferior sprite work, worse controls, and choppier performance than the final stable 2.02 release. A controversial opinion in some quarters as the comments section of The Linux Game Tome illustrates, with people bemoaning the loss of the green chopper boys and black aliens, with some even pining for a return to the original black and white graphics.
That final version of XEvil has near feature parity between the Linux and Windows releases, with one glaring omission. The interfaces are a little different but accomplish the same thing, with the Linux version having more graphics options but the Windows version supporting full screen. On Linux smooth scrolling is disabled by default and needs to be toggled due to the performance penalty, but it gave me no problems running on my Pentium III 500 Katmai.
No, the biggest issue is the Linux version does not have any sound. On Windows a memorable MIDI music soundtrack plays that sounds great with my Sound Blaster 16 card, and the sound effects are as much a part of my childhood as the whole rest of the game. XEvil plays the same no matter the platform, but for a game that started out on UNIX it is disappointing that Windows users once again ended up having the better time.
At heart XEvil is a basic deathmatch, but it is the anarchic elements that keep it entertaining. You can end up transmogrified into a frog gifted with built-in lasers, or have the dog whistle spawn facehuggers instead, breeding aliens that fight for you. By playing with the wide assortment of creative weapons, items, scenarios, and classes on offer, anything that can happen will happen. One minute you can be down, the next you can be right back up again.
All of this was well documented on the XEvil website, including detailed character backgrounds providing some backstory on how everyone got sent to Hell. Familiarizing yourself with these is important, as a large part of the game is learning the strengths and weaknesses of the various character classes, and swapping between them as necessary. They are all fighting for their rank in Hell, with the best positions available to those who kill the most.
With a premise like that the game is edgy to the point of unreasonable, but it is done with enough tongue in cheek to keep it from being offensive for the most part. If it were rated by the ESRB it would have warnings for violence, animated blood, suggestive themes, use of drugs, mature humour, and strong language. That being said, one of the scenarios tasks you with saving baby seals, so you can not get too upset with it. Until it tasks you with the inverse.
Sadly the creator made a real deal with the devil to keep the website online in 2017, preserving just a shell with hosting paid for by an awkward segue promoting online casinos. It need not be like this. XEvil is free software released under the terms of the GNU General Public License. The burden of the game's future does not need to rest in the creator's now jaded hands. Another with the talent could revive XEvil and bring all of its features back home again.
I am not sure which would be easier, adding a sound layer to the original X Windows version or instead porting the DirectX release over to SDL, but XEvil is worth remembering. It still runs fine on current Linux distributions, and an adaptation for modern compilers and 64 bit machines was posted on GitHub with the version number 2.1 Beta 1. There is no reason XEvil has to die a death, other than its modern obscurity.
Having now explored a whole host of other sidetracks, I think it is about time I went back to the original stated goal I had when first building the computer, and play another title from Loki Software. This time I intend to take full advantage of possessing legacy hardware to play a game that not only does not have a modern source port, it is not even available for sale digitally at time of writing. Even if this particular apple does not fall that far from the tree.
Carrying on in Part 11: Forgotten Heresies
Return to Part 1: Dumpster Diving