Outcast [PC]

Released in the summer of 1999, Outcast was the pinnacle of the hot new technological trend hoping to render (ha!) video cards obsolete: voxels. We were to be liberated from an ill-conceived 3D arms race in favor of CPU-focused, voxel ray casting engines. The problem was that games like Half-Life had already been released a year before, leaving some of the more impressive graphical feats like snow, rippling water, large rolling hills and shadows playing across character models not quite the industry shaking innovation they would have been a couple years before had the game released on time.

Outcast was more than an attempt at technical trailblazing, though. Fully voice acted and backed by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, Outcast did a lot to set the stage for the open world games we enjoy so much now. You play as Cutter Slade, a US Navy Seal who finds himself in another dimension and trying to save the earth, all while juggling a population who thinks he’s a God. This is plausible when you consider that it takes place in the far flung future of 2007. In what has now become a mainstay of modern game design, you spend a lot of time navigating the open 3D world, getting into random, real-time shootouts with unfriendly factions and running quests to further the story.

While hybrids are common now, the action/adventure/sandbox blend was pushing all kinds of envelopes in 1999. Outcast had some of the main tenets of story driven, open world exploration games like Fable popularized, all while Peter Molyneux was still mucking about with giant cows in Black and White. The best part is that in the age of dual-core CPUs, everyone can enjoy Outcast at the opulent 512x384 resolution, something few could manage with the hefty Pentium III, 128 MB RAM requirements back in the day. If you're feeling brave you could try the demo, or hope against hope that fans remake the original in a modern engine. We're not likely to ever see a modern sequel, Belgian developer Appeal shut down in the early stages of development with their slick new 3D engine. That's what you get for abandoning voxels.

Comments

Hmm, voxels, 1999, new? The first Voxel game I saw was Comanche Maximum Overkill back in 1992. Back when most flight sims featured land that consisted of flat polygonal plains with pyramidal mountains, the Comanche voxel game world, while tiny, had an incredible curvaceous landscape of rounded canyons, hills, plains, and even a caldera, I think. It was truly mind-blowing, even if the voxel size was about 10'. I spent hours and hours piloting that comanche through those canyons.

Novalogic released the first Delta Force in 1998, and that same voxel tech was now being applied to a tactical first person shooter. The from the improved voxel engine the designers created large environments with beautiful rolling hills, valleys, and other complex features that did the best job so far of immersing the player in an outdoor environment. Even though the voxel size was large (a foot or so), it was fantastic to crawl up a ridgeline and poke your head over to see into the enemy encampment. Although it could have used more trees and other vegetation, the environments were a revelation.

I think the failure of voxel tech is that, as you say, no one accelerated it. Without acceleration, there was no way it was going to compete with accelerated mapped and shaded polygons. If the tech had caught on enough to encourage someone to develop acceleration hardware for it, today we might have a competing graphic technology that could have offered a completely different type of engine. What that engine would have lacked in resolution compared to mapped polygons it would have made that up with completely organic architecture and landscapes as well as complete destructability.

I recently discovered that someone had converted the old Wolfenstein 3D into voxels. That can be downloaded here.

If you haven't played it yet, go ahead and pick it up. Yes, it's old, but the story is awesome, and the engine is so different from what we see today that the vsiual experience will be something new for you. There are no surfaces, just the beautiful flow of the landscape. The industry has yet to come up with a cooler mount than the Twon-Ha and a dialogue system which makes an npc refuse to talk about a guy standing right next to him because it's, you know, not very polite.

Hehe, the german version had the added benefit of starring Bruce Willis, sort of, since he and Cutter Slade share the same voice actor, Manfred Lehmann.

Arclite wrote:

Hmm, voxels, 1999, new? The first Voxel game I saw was Comanche Maximum Overkill back in 1992.

pinnacle

pin⋅na⋅cle
2. the highest or culminating point, as of success, power, fame, etc.: the pinnacle of one's career.

I suppose "new" is a relative term, but I think Outcast was the height of the voxel push -- I don't think we saw another non-3D card dependent 3D game after that. Games like Red Alert 2 used them for units, but that's about it.

Why even mention Molyneux when speaking about this unparalleled piece of videogame art?. None of his games will ever be half of what Outcast was.

The demise of Appeal when they were finishing the sequel was a complete travesty.

paketep wrote:

Why even mention Molyneux when speaking about this unparalleled piece of videogame art?. None of his games will ever be half of what Outcast was.

The demise of Appeal when they were finishing the sequel was a complete travesty.

Because if he doesn't mention Molyneux then I can't point out that Outcast didn't have a giant cow who would eat its own poop.

Outcast was something special in the day. Though it is remembered for its rebellious use of voxel techonology when the industry was moving in a different direction, it probably should be equally remembered for setting a precedent in 3rd person open world games. I think the objectives were loose enough that you could choose how to tackle the gameworld and liberate the enslaved alien populations.

I played some, though I didnt finish it. I tried to restart later, but had some difficulties with the patch and just moved on.

I remember vaguely that the conversation trees were pretty involved. I think there was an article where they mentioned crafting the alien language to the degree that there was actual meaning behind the alien voiceovers, which I thought was pretty cool.

I think it also came in some pretty cool packaging for the day, maybe one of the early flip top game boxes.

Oh my memory is hazy.. I'm getting old.

Alien13z wrote:
paketep wrote:

Why even mention Molyneux when speaking about this unparalleled piece of videogame art?. None of his games will ever be half of what Outcast was.

The demise of Appeal when they were finishing the sequel was a complete travesty.

Because if he doesn't mention Molyneux then I can't point out that Outcast didn't have a giant cow who would eat its own poop.

A dismal failing on Outcast's part, verily.

Voxels were made to render a giant animal discipline game!

Loved this game (best Stargate movie tie-in that wasn't actually a Stargate movie tie-in ). Still has the best "crunchy snow" sound effect in any game ever....wonder if it still runs on my machine....

Also, am I just mad or would I be correct in thinking that this was pretty much one of the first (if not THE first) major PC game released on a DVD. I have memories of getting the DVD version and it being quite a big deal at the time. I could be completely wrong about that though.

Outcast shipped on 2 CDs. I know this because I walked into my office and looked in my 'Nostalgia' CD case.

Just for giggles, the other games in this case include:
Starcraft
The Longest Journey
Homeworld
Grim Fandango
Dark Reign 2
Deus Ex
Thief II
Baldur's Gate 2
Myth 2
Combat Mission
Diablo 2
Red Alert 2
Alpha Centauri and
The Wheel of Time.

Damn, those were good games...

I would think the pinnacle of voxel tech would be ... Crysis, as it uses voxels for its terrain system.

Seeing this was a riot. I have been thinking of firing this game up again for about the last month and to see it listed here out of the blue, pretty wild. I never got very far into it back in the day but I'd like to give it a whirl again.

adam.greenbrier wrote:

I would think the pinnacle of voxel tech would be ... Crysis, as it uses voxels for its terrain system.

Bah. To me, it ain't voxel tech if it requires a monstrous 3D graphics card to run well. I'm a purist, sir. A purist.

@ Certis

Okay, okay. I see what you were trying to say. I do mourn a bit the demise of voxel tech, b/c I had a lot of fun in the game worlds created with it.

@ Adam

Really? Crysis uses voxels? I had no idea...

@ JohnnyMoJo

That's a great list. I've played most of those, and I STILL have BGII and Deus Ex on my "must play" list. Ah, Alpha Centauri. I'd actually install it, if I thought I wouldn't lose a whole month of my life...

Outcast falls into that category of games I always said I would one day get around to playing, but never did. The couple of people I know who actually played it said it was amazing, especially how the game handled the whole Messiah angle. But odds are this game will forever remain doomed to exist in both my future and past, never in the present. Kind of like Psychonauts but filmed in voxelvision(TM)

JohnnyMoJo wrote:

Outcast shipped on 2 CDs. I know this because I walked into my office and looked in my 'Nostalgia' CD case.

Yeah but there was definitely a special DVD version - I know 'cause I bought both

Article wrote:

Outcast had some of the main tenantstenets of story driven, open world exploration games like Fable popularized

/me totters off to return Wordsmythe's pedant hat

Like Giftzwerg76 says, the little touches they made to the world were amazing, and it was pretty huge, too. Probably my favorite music score for any game I've played as well. It's one of those games I would actually say I have fond memories of, beyond simply having enjoyed it at the time.

stevenmack wrote:
JohnnyMoJo wrote:

Outcast shipped on 2 CDs. I know this because I walked into my office and looked in my 'Nostalgia' CD case.

Yeah but there was definitely a special DVD version - I know 'cause I bought both

Really? I was thinking it pre-dated games on DVD's. I guess I don't remember that.

你好 comrades,

In the interests of the people, here's a download link from the original site (I think?) if you don't feel like registering at fileplanet:

http://www.outcast-thegame.com/gallery/demoindex.htm

Nice to see the site is still up.

Ah, I loved Comanche, now that was a properly awesome game. It blew everything else out of the water (and into the water, come to think about it)

Certis wrote:
adam.greenbrier wrote:

I would think the pinnacle of voxel tech would be ... Crysis, as it uses voxels for its terrain system.

Bah. To me, it ain't voxel tech if it requires a monstrous 3D graphics card to run well. I'm a purist, sir. A purist.

Oddly enough the comments about voxels dying because they weren't hardware accelerated are correct, but the advent of programmable shaders means they could easily become hardware accelerated again.

Why would voxels ever be better than polygons? It seems to me that voxels are the 3d equivalent of sprites or just a ton of square polygons. I see how rendering a voxel right angles with 1 voxel = 1 pixel might be easier, but what happens when you rotate the image at any non right angle? They also seem less scalable which would make me think playing at different resolutions would result in very different experiences.

Voxels are interesting because, as their name implies, they are "volume pixels." This allows game objects to be made of a solid substrate, where as objects in polygon based games are normally hollow. The main benefit is that solid objects can to be destroyed more easily than polygon ones, because the internal structure does not have to be modeled or represented differently than the surface. You could potentially mine out a voxel mountain. Unfortunately voxels are hard to accelerate, and since they were CPU bound in a GPU world they fell out of favor. I wonder if people will begin to experiment with them again with the rise of many-core machines? This is very interesting, I had no idea anyone had attempted such an ambitious game using voxels. Thanks for the article!

This is still one of my favourites. I remember being completely obsessed with this game, in particular its story and the virtual world Appeal created. After playing "Outcast", I knew that games would have to evolve into ... well ... what they are today. Still, only few modern titles can reach the brilliance of the quest of the Ulukai.

Although I'm not fluent in the language of the Talans anymore, I still remember some of the vocabulary even 10 years later. And sometimes I awake in the middle of the night, the heart pounding, sweating, and then I hear those words ... "Dolotai kez okahar ... " http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkwdYo_c2sE

Folks, hi,

I've only made it about 1/4 of the way through Outcast to date, and it is a great game so far. Unfortunately, it's an absolute pig to get running in XP/Vista. However... that's kind of my de facto hobby of late, so if you happen to have the Outcast CD's lying around and want to get it running on your modern gaming rig, then please pay a visit to:

Steve's XP Games Corner

The entry for Outcast is about 2/3 the way down the page. You'll also need to bind Outcast to a single processor/core, and there are instructions for doing that on that page as well.

Cheers,
MetzO'Magic

metzomagic wrote:

Folks, hi,

I've only made it about 1/4 of the way through Outcast to date, and it is a great game so far. Unfortunately, it's an absolute pig to get running in XP/Vista. However... that's kind of my de facto hobby of late, so if you happen to have the Outcast CD's lying around and want to get it running on your modern gaming rig, then please pay a visit to:

Steve's XP Games Corner

The entry for Outcast is about 2/3 the way down the page. You'll also need to bind Outcast to a single processor/core, and there are instructions for doing that on that page as well.

Cheers,
MetzO'Magic

How about if I can't even get the demo past the installation initialization?

mrtomaytohead wrote:

How about if I can't even get the demo past the installation initialization?

mrtomaytohead, hi,

After you install the demo, you'll need to use imagecfg on the .exe file that is used to run the demo. See the instructions in Steve's XP Games Corner (link in post above) under:

Q. My game intermittently locks up, or my cursor leaves trails on the screen. Both of these symptoms are indications of possible hyperthreading or dual core problems. Is there any way to fix this?

Outcast won't even start up if you've got this problem.

Good luck with it,
Steve
P.S. I haven't tried the demo, so there may be other problems. But that would be the primary one.

metzomagic wrote:
mrtomaytohead wrote:

How about if I can't even get the demo past the installation initialization?

mrtomaytohead, hi,

After you install the demo, you'll need to use imagecfg on the .exe file that is used to run the demo. See the instructions in Steve's XP Games Corner (link in post above) under:

Q. My game intermittently locks up, or my cursor leaves trails on the screen. Both of these symptoms are indications of possible hyperthreading or dual core problems. Is there any way to fix this?

Outcast won't even start up if you've got this problem.

Good luck with it,
Steve
P.S. I haven't tried the demo, so there may be other problems. But that would be the primary one.

I can't even get the demo installer to fully load, let alone get to launch the actual demo. Oh well, no voxel love for me.

mrtomaytohead wrote:
metzomagic wrote:
mrtomaytohead wrote:

How about if I can't even get the demo past the installation initialization?

mrtomaytohead, hi,

After you install the demo, you'll need to use imagecfg on the .exe file that is used to run the demo. See the instructions in Steve's XP Games Corner (link in post above) under:

Q. My game intermittently locks up, or my cursor leaves trails on the screen. Both of these symptoms are indications of possible hyperthreading or dual core problems. Is there any way to fix this?

Outcast won't even start up if you've got this problem.

Good luck with it,
Steve
P.S. I haven't tried the demo, so there may be other problems. But that would be the primary one.

I can't even get the demo installer to fully load, let alone get to launch the actual demo. Oh well, no voxel love for me.

Yeah, same problem here. I was ready to try it out again, but the demo gives some error and won't even install the files.

ok, so I'm not alone. I'm running Windows XP Service Pack 2, and I'm running AVG anti-virus.