Armada II Upgrade Project, Vanilla Ultimate

Four years ago today the first version of the Armada II Upgrade Project was released to an unsuspecting group of A2 gamers. Loosely passed...

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Four years ago today the first version of the Armada II Upgrade Project was released to an unsuspecting group of A2 gamers. Loosely passed around by friends by email the first versions only changed half a dozen effects that stood out the most such as the weapons and shields.

Since I started modifying special effects textures all those years ago other people have done their own work on other aspects of the game. Yacuzza produced his beautifull Midnight modification that aimed to improve the graphics of the map objects like the planets which has always been the natural counterpart to my own work on weapons effects and Yacuzza has been kind enough to let me use his work in this release. From having seen Picture of the Days submitted over my time as an A2files admin I know at least a few people have worked our two projects together themseleves before, but this is the first time they have come packaged in a single release that people without modding experiance can use.

In addition to Midnight, Fahres has worked on the user interface for a long time with his well known but sadly underused Project Blue and he's been gracious enough to allow me to use his work. Elrond and Draconis produced what was in its day the biggest leap foward that A2 modding had taken in the new shield effect which has come to be called the "blue shields" modification. After some texture changes this has been assimilated into the mass of work compiled here.

Last, but not least we come to The Kid and Thunderfoot. Beween them they have produced the Physics Project which makes the ships look a lot more graceful and it also makes the ships look a heck of a lot better in combination with the new lighting. The Kid also has been outstanding on Armada II FIles for the last year. This release only exists because the amount of time he put in released me to play with this instead of watch over A2files.

Thunderfoot also started the Improved Single Player Campign Project which the campign section of this project was born from. A lot of thanks to everybody else on the team as well! :) Poor Thunderfoot got a bit more than I think he expected when he asked me to help him with his campign as after Achilles helped me out with a first AI file I quickly realised how to program an AI.

Without the help of these people this release simply wouldn't exist and most of the credit for this release does really belong to them as its their work.

You can see in the screenshots below how far the community has managed to bring Armada II, this does look quite nice and will probably set the new standard for graphics in mods from here onwards. :) At least now when your fleet is being blown to bits it will look pretty!

And yes, speaking about your fleet being blown to bits. Its going to happen fairly often! Most people looking at this are probably aware than the AI in this release is an refined version of the AI that I released for the Single Player Campgaign that now has a somewhat fearsome reputation. Once upon a time I was ranked as a Supreme Commander in an Armada II Clan, and I know Armada tactics inside out. Indeed, I introduced some tactics into the game that are mostly lost to time these days because online games have degenerated into huge rush fests.

Programming an AI to play as I used to many years ago was quite challanging, though it was a lot of fun. (It also left the IMP SP Campaign beta testers in a state of abject terror when they were asked to test them!) After initial problems caused by the Borg having assimilated my Beta testers on the first mission (those testers still tell me RESISTANCE IS FUTILE when I ask them to play it.) I managed to recruit a few very experienced A2 gamers to have a go.

Suffice to say that they all died at least three times before learning what the AI was going to do to them. With that knowledge they did eventually manage to beat it.

At this point I realised that I might, you know, POSSIBLY have created a monster that almost nobody could beat left me with a quandary. Nobody likes getting crushed flat by an undefeatable enemy every time they play, but making it easier just let people gloat (quite loudly...) that they could fight my AI and live. No, that would never do! Another way had to be devised. It took me a while before I realised that the way to do it was already in the game. Difficulty levels! Thank the makers.

You see, the stock AI was pretty bad. To make it harder to play against it the original programmers had to make the AI cheat in several ways. On the harder difficulty in stock A2 the AI's ships do double the damage they should do, plus they also cost a lot less and build faster.

Now, I had the reverse problem. My AI without cheating shreds literially everybody at least a couple of times. Therefore three difficulty levels were created. Pushover, Easy and Merciless.

Pushover, as the name suggests is fairly easy. Its nearly completely crippled by all but preventing the AI from using its special weapons and reducing the damage of incoming fire by 30%. And the AI has to spend three times more for each ship. And it spends three times the amount of time building it. And it gives you a 20% bonus when mining. Boasts about beating this difficulty level will be ignored!

Easy, as the name might suggest is fairly... easy. The AI can use its specials most of the time, but its crippled by having to pay double for everything it builds, and it takes it twice as long to build it. This is a good stepping stone for those people who want something harder than the pushover but are still hiding from the Merciless AI.

Merciless is aptly named. It's a crude, feeble, slow, stupid, fragile, soft, merciful, pacifist and rudimentary approximation of how I used to play online. It has to pay by the same rules as you do and it provides a worthy opponent for the most people. I especially recommend playing Fed06 a few times on Merciless, its great fun!

Anyway, this is as complete as I think I am going to get a chance to make it given that I don't have any spare time for modding these days. The last version that was publicly released didn't have any reported errors, so its just became an offical release. It is complete with new maps utilising Midnight eye candy and deadly AI's to the second mission of the Klingon Campign, at which point your back to the stock maps and AI.

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Readme
Armada II Upgrade project, Version 2.0.0 ("Vanilla Ultimate") release notes and credits.


Contents

0.	Credits
1.	Installation
2.	System Requirements
3.	Difficulty Levels
4.	Online Multiplayer
5.	Known Issues
6.	Disclaimer
7.	Contact
8.	Distrubtion/Authorised download mirrors
9.	Third party use


0 - Credits

Special thanks go out to the following people.  In no particular order: -




The Nano FX team -

The Nano FX team produced the Nano FX mod, which is the source of lots of the pretty explosions and big bangs.

The following license agreement only applies to their work.

LICENCE FOR DISTRIBUTION

This mod is the property of Nightsoft, Inc., patent pending, and is not to be distributed for profit, sold, bartered, rented, or otherwise used for personal gain without express permission from the owner. All rights are reserved.

Permission is hereby given to all that wish to distribute or alter this mod, as long as the above conditions are met and this licence is included in the readme, and appears at the top of the document. The mod must remain proprietory; usage is restricted to SFC, BC, KA and Armada. You must also secure permission from the original author of the mod. If you wish to alter this mod in any way, we ask that you contact the original author for permission before you release it to the public. If you do not follow the aformentioned conditions, you will be considered in violation of this user licence agreement, and will be subject to legal action. Any and all subsequent alterations or additions to this product are the property of Nightsoft. Nightsoft reserves the right to alter this licence at any time.



Yacuzza -

Yacuzza is the author of the Midnight Universe series of mods, which bring the map objects (asteroid fields etc.) up to state of the art standards.  Midnight Universe is essentially the natural counterpart to my own work on special effects, as it concentrates soley on the things I haven't done.  The Upgrade Project and Midnight Universe are a natural combination, and from some of the screenshots that are submitted to Armada II Files its also something that at least a few people have done already :).



Fahres-

Fahres produces Project Blue, a modification aimed at the GUI, which is an unloved area of modding in Armada.  Project Blue makes a number of distinctive changes to the GUI, which I am sure most people will notice.



Draconis Sharp and Elrond-

The "Blue" shields mod was one of the biggest moves foward in Armada II Modding, allowing the shield effect to be changed from the original ripple that reflected the damage of the ship's shields to a static colour.  Unforunately, blue shields only really work for the federation so these are coloured white to look more natural with the other races.

Elrond also produced the pink blob begone mini mod, which I have also used.  This removes the little pink blob that appears in tactical mode and is the bane of anybody taking screenshots for display purposes.



Rake - Rakes weapon textures (armada one modification)

Rake generously allowed me to use his work as a starting point four years ago, the phasers and pulse phasers originally came from him.



IKS (Imperial Klingon Spanner) - Armada II modder, now admin of Legacy Files.

IKS produced the new borg cube, tactical cube and the middle bit of Fusion Cube textures and he was kind enough to allow me to use them in the Upgrade Project.



Chiletrek - Armada II modder

I am not using anything of Chiletreks now as Curtis has completed the mammoth job of doing new textures for pretty much every ship and station.  However, I do feel obliged to admit that I only realised how to do alpha maps on textures (used for lightmaps in A2) after Chiletrek was trying to explain something to another member of the community.  Without reading his post I would probably still be none the wiser, and as I later explained how the lightmaps worked to Curtis we would be with either without either the new ship textures, or the lightmaps.  Or both.  

Anyway, thanks.  :)



James Hastings-Trew -

James produced the planetry texture maps and made them available from his website which are free for use in non profit 

applications.

http://planetpixelemporium.com/planets.html



The Armada II Physics Project -

The physics project is the reason why your ships no longer do instant 180 degree turns, and instead bank and turn.  This finally allows us to show off the lighting that the A2 engine is capable of.



The Armada II Single Player Campaign Project - 

The Single Player Campaign is responsible for getting around to doing the campaign.  Some minor modifications may have been made to show off new features.  Many thanks are due to this team, especially Thunderfoot.


Curtis - 

Curtis is a former developer on the Upgrade Project team, he has excelled at producing unit and station retextures for almost every ship and station in Stock A2.  If you see a new ship or station texture, its likely it is his.


"The Kid" (The Starfleet Kid, Armada II Files Staff)

In addition to running the Upgrade Project and participating in a few other Armada II projects,  I was also the administrator of Armada II Files, the largest Armada II website.  Receiving several hundred visitors a day its a fairly busy site.  Keeping the place updated with new files that are submitted and keeping an eye on comments that are made to make sure people don't start flame wars is a huge time sink, and as I am active in the Real World I don't have a huge amount of time spare to start with, which means the more time I spent on A2files the less time I spent on other online activities like the Upgrade Project.

Since he joined the Staff he's been invaluable in taking care of pretty much anything anybody wants added to the site.  

As a result, I don't need to spend nearly as much time on the site which means I can spend more time doing things like this, and coming up with highly lethal AI's.


Elevator Music -

Those new nebula textures are really pretty, thanks!


The Armada II Upgrade Project - 

Thats me, last and definatly least this time around.  :)  Seriously, as a ballpark figure I reakon at least 80% of the work contained in this release has been done by other people.

This time around my major contribution was fitting together lots of great work and making it work nicely together, which was occasionaly problematic as most of these mods were never intended to be intergrated in one installation.  Most of the credit for this release must go to the authors above, as this is more of a complitation of great bits of work than a single mod.



1 - Installation

Run Setup.exe and keep clicking on the next button. The installer should locate the copy of Armada 2 that is correctly registererd with Windows automaticially, but if you wish to install on another installation then you do have the option to change it.

This version is incompatible with playing A2 online against a stock 1.1 installation.  If you wish to play multiplayer games with this then the other person has to have this installed, so if you plan on playing random people on gamespy then copy and paste your Armada installation and then install this on the new copy.



2 - System Requirements

To be perfectly honest, I am not sure what your going to require to run this at full detail.

It runs perfectly on an AMD Quad core system with 4GB of RAM and an NVIDIA 8800GT grapphics card, however you'd hope so really, considering that this spec happily runs Crysis on full detail at a reasonable resolution.  None of my testers have complained about any performance issues, so I guess this works on a wide range of mid spec equipment.

A poll conducted on Armada II Files ages ago suggested that at the time 90% of people have a computer with more than a 128MB graphics card.  This should be plenty sufficant, if you have problems then turn the graphics detail down in the options menu.



3 - Difficulty levels for Single Player


Pushover:

Intended for newcomers that find the easy AI to hard.  As the name suggests, the AI is severely crippled and will have serious trouble killing any human player.  It will however serve up a nice supply or targets for you to blow up.  If its left alone for a very long time it will mass ships for an attack, but its not likely to kill off a human player.

This AI pays triple the amount of resources for one of its ships, and takes triple the time to build them.  They also do 30% less damage.  If that wasn't enough, they are also almost forbidden from using their special weapons.

In the time it takes the AI to build 3 ships, you can (resources allowing) build a fleet.  



Easy:

Intended for those people that like a challange and want something more than a pushover, this AI will give you a decent fight.  There is a remote possibility of losing a level to the AI, enough to make it a danger for the average player.

The AI has to pay double on the materials, and it takes twice as long to build.  However, the AI does a normal amount of damage, and it can use its specials most of the time.



Merciless:

Intended for decent strategists and the gamers that have played A2 online, this difficulty level is well, difficult.  

You can probably expect to lose each level a couple of times before getting a win out of the level.

This AI is not crippled in any way, the only restrictions it has are the ones you have.  It pays the same, builds in the same time, does the same damage and can use its specials whenever it wants to.  It does not cheat.

Its a crude, feeble, slow, stupid and rudimentary approximation of how I would play the level if you were fighting against me.  I ( "Freyr" ) played online games from 2003 until 2006 when an ever increasing number of cheaters were playing, and strategy died in favor of rushing on every map, at which point I didn't find it fun because all the games lasted less than ten minutes.  You either died in the rush, or teched up and won because nobody knew how to use anything bigger than a destroyer.




4 - Online Multiplayer

This version is incompatible with playing A2 online against an out of the box 1.1 installation.  If you wish to play multiplayer games with this then the other person has to have this installed.

FAQ- What do I remove to use this online against other people playing vanilla 1.1?

A- Use A2U 1.6.0, its a back engineered version of V2 compatible with online games.



5 - Known Issues

Unfortunately, there are a couple of issues with this version.

1) YOU MUST SELECT A 32BIT GRAPHICS SETTING!

Um, yes.  Some textures from Midnight Universe are in 32 bit, and look mottled when displayed in 16 bit mode, which A2 defaults to on a new install.

2) Federation mission 1 cutscene is broken and displays scenes of nowhere.

Sorry.  Fixing it would require redoing the entire mission from scratch as I don't know what the camera is not focusing on, and I don't have the time.  Just skip it.




6 - Disclaimer

As required by the Armada 2 End User License Agreement: -

"THIS MATERIAL IS NOT MADE OR SUPPORTED BY ACTIVISION"





7 - Contact

Our website is located at www.a2upgrades.net 

If you need to contact us please contact Freyr, the project leader at "freyr@a2upgrades.net".  This is also an MSN address.

8 - Distrubtion/hosting 

We are not likely to suffer any problems with running out of bandwidth, however if your interested in hosting this file or otherwise distrubiting it then please contact us.

[Legal Stuff]
Please do not distrubute this file in any form without prior permission by email.  (feel free to give this to friends on a CD or USB stick, this is aimed at people publicly sticking it on a website etc.)  You have no authority to host this file (or submit this file for hosting) at another website and you are hereby forbidden from doing so.

The reasons for this are fairly simple.

1) Some sites have terms of service that are unacceptable and we don't wish to be subject to them.

2) We would prefer only having a couple of download mirrors because its considerably easier to update a smaller number 

of mirrors.  We have had problems before where people have been downloading a version thats a year old and recommending that we change something that had already been done ages ago.

If you want to have this file on your downloads page then you may link to the file on our server (though linking to the downloads page would be appreciated) on the condition that you agree to update your page to link to the latest version when it is released.
[/Legal Stuff]




9 - Third party use

Unfortunately, as a result of using a lot of other peoples work its a little more complicated this time around.  If you want to get permission to include this as one pack with your mod you need to get permission from Yacuzza, Fahres and Thunderfoot as well as they don't have a policy saying you can use their stuff without asking.

All in all, its probably easier all around you drop me an email and we can sort out the permissions and credits required for what you are using.

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Freyr

A2Files Staff


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Registered 6th February 2005

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