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Submarine Titans

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Submarine Titans

 

I remember playing demo of this game as a kid and recently I have rediscovered this overlooked game from the year 2000.

It's a real-time strategy situated in the future where a collision of Earth with Clark Comet causes enviromental changes which destroys most human communities on land, melts down the polar ice causing rise of the sea level. The only one who survives this disaster intact are undersea colonies build before the collision.

Here is a screenshot of the game itself:

 

submarinetitans006.jpg

 

There are three playable sides and basic gameplay has some resemblance to StarCraft but there is quite a lot of additional features.

The three sides are the White Sharks, the Black Octopi and the Silicons.

 

 

The backstory

 

White Sharks emerged as a faction from undersea colonies created by UNCED - an organization created under the auspices of the United Nations, had a military leadership. This organization had made an attempt to prevent the collision but failed miserably because of corruption and competing factions within the organization. The only thing they achieved was breaking the comet into smaller pieces using nuclear satellites.

 

Black Octopi are remnants of an ecological organization EcoOctopus. EcoOctopus focused on preserving the life on Earth after the impact rather then preventing it. They were the first to start building undersea colonies and UNCED followed shortly after. They were also working on space colonies program which was appropriated by UNCED for their nuclear satellites program. Both EcoOctopus and UNCED were very powerful at this point and this action created tension between them which resulted in a war right before the Clark Comet arrived.

 

When it comes to the story, Silicons are just an alien craft which was in the wrong place at the wrong time. They settled for a while on the Clark Comet because they needed to gather Corium from the comet to refuel (Corium is one of resources in the game and is used as an energy source). Silicons decided to stick around in the solar system for a while to study the impact and the following years on Earth after the impact. But somehow they missed that bunch of the Earth's satellites are essentially nuclear mines and their explosion not only broke Clark Comet into pieces but also badly damaged their ship. So, now they are stuck on Earth until they manage to repair their ship and get out. Sucks to be them.

 

 

 

The game itself is in isometric view and looks very nice. In the background you can often see various sea animals just swimming around. My only complaint would be that because the faction color pallete of ships and buildings is the same they often blend in together.

The weakest point of the game is it's user interface. You can't issue a queue of commands or waypoints and while you can create groups of units and bind them to numbers the interface doesn't show what kind of units are in selection unless the group has only one type of unit. The interface shows it's age here, but it has a few neat feautres like a scouting command (unit moves to marked location and when it is damaged or sees an enemy it returns back to original position), zooming out the game and rotating the game - rotating and zooming is not something often seen in 2D strategies.

 

 

What makes the game special

 

Now what makes the gameplay stand out?

 

First of all, the game is divided into 5 depth levels. Both buildings and units can move up or down between these levels.

This cames into play mainly in combat. When units get into fight they automatically get the defend command and will change their depth while shooting. This makes them dodge torpedos and other slow projectiles.

Defense buildings are also affected by their depth level because they have a certain range of depth levels where they can shoot. That means that defense on the lowest depth level can be completely bypassed by just ordering your units to get into highest depth level. This applies to mines as well. The depth of the mine depends on the depth of the minelayer submarine in the moment when the mine is deployed.

Unfortunately it is rather difficult to micromanage the depth level of your units but it is still something to keep in mind. I just feel that this feature has not been used to it's full potential.

 

Another interesting thing is the resource gathering. White Sharks and Black Octopi mine metal and corium using extractors and submarines delivering mined resources into silos. There is also an oxygen level to worry about, which works the same as energy in Command and Conquer. That is what you would expect in an RTS. But then there is gold. You extract gold from the sea itself. You build gold extractors which generates gold and the rate of gold generation is dependent on how many other gold extractors there are in close proximity and what is the overall concentration of gold in the sea.

Silicons work a bit differently. They also mine Corium the same way as other factions but they don't have any metal or gold or even oxygen. Instead they extract silicon from the sand on sea floor and they have to worry about energy. Silicon is their basic building material, just like metal is to other factions, but energy works different because it is needed by their ships as well. Ships need to replenish their energy for which they have certain storage capacity. Energy is generated using metal deposits but Silicons can also gather metal from wreckage of destroyed submarines and they can transform silicon and corium into energy when needed.

 

White Sharks and Black Octopi have also access to trade port, which allows player to trade gold, metal and corium with surviving population on the Earth's surface. You can also trade between players but that is not done just by transfering resources instantly between players with a press of a button. Instead you have to order trade port to eject a container filled with resources, you load the container onto transport sub and send it to unload into other player's trade port.

 

Another not often seen feature is ammunition. Most of your submarines will use a weapon which needs ressuply of ammo and for that you have building which manufactures the ammo. That is of course not for free but requires various amounts of corium. When a submarine is built, it has a decent amount of ammunition in storage. Once it runs out it is automatically supplied by armories but keeps only few torpedos in storage. That of course means that once it runs out of ammo it is on life support and if you lose your ammo factories your whole army will be useless after one or two shots.

 

The last thing to mention is technology tree. You develop technologies and you pay in gold (or in energy in case of Silicons I believe) and there is a lot of technologies to develop.

There are of course the usual technologies like weapon and armor upgrades, technologies required for building of certain units and structures... but then there are things like hacking into your enemy computer systems to see how many units, structures and resources he has, sonar technologies allowing you to build sonars detecting enemy ships in range on your minimap (similiar to how radar works in Supreme Commander), cloaking technologies, anti-sonar technologies, teleport, anti-teleport (prevents teleporting into area around anti-teleporting structure), capturing enemy submarines, technology which allows your defense buildings to fold up - move and redeploy, shields, mind controling device, superweapons ranging from White Sharks nukes to Silicons orbital lasers, even defense against superweapons which makes them inaccurate and freaking cyberworms and cyberdolphins - the former steals resources the latter is a suicide bomb. And how do you defend from them? Shark mind control device of course, or did you think those untargetable sharks swimming around the map are here just to look pretty?

(to be fair, cyberworms and cyberdolphins can be shot down by regular units but they are fast and resilient, unfortunately I didn't have an opportunity to test the shark defense yet)

 

Oh and you can also dismatle your buildings and repair submarines.

 

 

 

Overall it is a very interesting game filled with features which not only make every faction in the game unique but would also make for a very interesting multiplayer experience where these features would come into full use.

The singleplayer campaign is not very interesting because there are practically no characters but there is at least good mission variety ranging from simple destroy enemy to goals like capturing certain structure or unit and gathering resources.

The game's good soundtrack helps too.

 

 

How to run the game

On todays versions of Windows you can encounter few problems with the game. Namely wrong color palette and low framerate.

 

You can find some solutions to this problems on the internet.

For the color palette issue the most reliable method suggested was to stop explorer.exe process and run it again after you are finished playing.

I didn't find anything related to framerate issues but I found out they can be solved by changing resolution while in game (in an actual mission not just in main menu).

 

However these solutions are awkward to use. What you should do is downloading ddwrapper:

http://bitpatch.com/ddwrapper.html

Put it into your Submarine Titans folder and change ColorFix and ForceDirectDrawEmulation equal to 1 in the aqrit.cfg file. This solves both issues without the need to kill explorer.exe or do anything else. Worked for me on my Win 7 64bit machine.

 

 

Closing words

Unfortunately the game is no longer distributed. The only place you can buy it is places like Amazon where are few used copies and one unused copy on sale. Product details confirms that the game has been discontinued by manufacturer.

According to game's manual, the developer of Submarine Titans is Ellipse Studios, game has been distributed by Infogrames and Strategy First published it.

 

By my own effort of contacting some of the people responsible for game's development I found out that the game sold poorly and quickly lost it's support. Ellipse Studios closed down and the ownership is now in hands of Strategy First.

Well, on http://www.strategyfirst.com/ there is a list of games but you won't find Submarine Titans there. Strategy First currently sits on the rights for it and does nothing with it, not even selling it.

 

The playerbase is also next to none. I found only one fan site (http://www.submarinetitans.com/), which constantly changes hands and hosts either none or even content unrelated to the game.

I tried to put that fan site into waybackmachine.org and found out that this url was used for a web site about that game in 2000, then in the next few years it probably has been taken down and recently (July 2015) someone used that url and put up his own little site about Submarine Titans. But now even that humble website is no longer there.

There are some mentions about the game but most of them are really old, although I found some recent posts on neoseeker.com forums.

It seems there are also no walkthroughs or guides on the internet, only the manual, suprisingly enough it can be found on the Strategy First website, here is the link: http://www.strategyfirst.com/app/webroot/files/files/Sub%20Titans%20Manual.pdf

 

I think it's safe to say that this game is in the state of being abandonware.

Edited by Guest (see edit history)

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I'd love to see this! Submarine Titans is a fantastic RTS and seems to be right up Ross' alley given it's unique atmosphere and state on the utter brink of death. I know it's hard to come by but I believe there are working cracks floating around the interwebs.

 

However, I believe he might have a hard time recording this even if it piqued his interest. Getting it to run on modern systems without being absolutely disgusting looking (inverted colour pallet) is a bit of a challenge itself, let alone getting it to record. If memory serves, DirectDraw is the main culprit; I've personally found you can work around it by killing explorer.exe with the task manager and re-starting the process when finished but trying to record it or even take a screenshot results in all sorts of problems. That being said, Ross is quite savvy and likely knows work-arounds for such problems (or knows people who do).

 

Here's hoping!

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Finding the game for download wasn't hard for me, only the legit copies are hard to come by (or let's just say in limited quantity).

 

Killing explorer.exe was my solution as well, and changing resolution in game solved my framerate issue (for the duration of the mission).

But recently I found a workaround using ddwrapper with colorfix and ddraw emulation settings turned on. Now the game runs on my 64bit Win 7 without any issue.

http://bitpatch.com/ddwrapper.html

 

 

Also I was preparing to make an update here, so I guess this is as good time as any:

 

I tried to contact people involved with the game to find out more about what happened to it. First I tried to contact Strategy First support but I just got ignored.

But then I managed to get contact on one of the game designers, Craig Thomler, and he replied to my email. I'll quote here what he said about the game losing it's support:

 

It sold roughly 25,000 copies, which wasn't enough to be a commercial success & the studio (which was Adelaide based) closed down soon afterwards with the various developers scattering to other companies, mostly in the game industry at the time. The development team were largely ex-pat Russians who settled in Australia post the rise of Gorbachev, with the studio owner an Indian who also ran an IT company at the time.

 

Why did the game disappear so quickly? Most games around that time had fairly short lifespans - it was long before modding and editors extended games' lives & only triple A titles had the financial backing for the marketing support needed to breakthrough.

 

He also said that rights for the game would be in the hands of publisher. But Strategy First doesn't have Submarine Titans in it's game list so I suspect it's probably more complicated, because they sell many of their games on their website, even some really old ones.

He didn't reply to my reply yet. From what I found he is very active and therefore probably busy. But one week without reply seems like a bit too long. I think I'll try to send him another email and get from him at least some more contacts.

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Bad news, I got stuck.

 

I asked the founder of Ellipse Studios about ownership of Submarine Titans and he confirmed that they sold it to Strategy First.

Which means they got it this whole time and they do nothing with it...

 

And since their support ignored me when I asked about the game, I doubt that asking them again will change their minds about rereleasing it.

Does this count as killing a game?

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I recently tried playing through the Black Octopi-campaign but got stuck somewhere after the half-way point. Some issue with the mission objectives not resolving.

 

More generally I also had a problem with not being able to scroll at a reasonable speed, but I got used to it.

 

Why this is worth playing:

- Not a lot of RTS' around that take place in an underwater setting

- Nicely differentiated factions

- As described by Enguzrad, some interesting mechanics (resources, depth etc.)

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