Released in 1999, Warzone 2100 was one of the first RTS games to be truly 3D. Rather than being merely an aesthetic feature, Pumpkin Studios used the game's 3D engine to allow modular unit customization and terrain features such as lines of sight and mortar arcs. Thousands of unit combinations are possible as players can create everything from heavily armored VTOL aircraft to lightly armored hover-tanks with command sensors allowing them to direct other units. The game features a single-player campaign where base and units are retained from one mission to the next. In order to prevent players from simply amassing an unstoppable force as a result of this the majority of missions have a timer. This proved to be one of the main points of criticism however as a single enemy unit left on the battlefield could cause the player to lose a two hour mission if they ran out of time - no small matter when the PlayStation and pre-patch PC versions only allowed the player to save between missions.
On November 3rd, 2085 the NASDA satellite system, designed to be the ultimate nuclear deterrent, misfired in an apparent malfunction. Every major city on earth was obliterated causing a world-wide nuclear winter. A year later a small group of survivors fight off bands of marauders and make their way to an abandoned military base in the Rocky Mountains. There, using the old military technology, they begin the Project, a group designed to rebuild civilization. In 2100 drop ships are dispatched to several sites in an attempt find technology from before the collapse. Team Alpha are dispatched to Arizona; there they initially encounter only disorganized scavengers but as they set up a forward base and discover pre-collapse technology they come into contact with the New Paradigm, a military survivalist group intent on seizing control of the desert. However, the New Paradigm end up simply being a provincial nuisance compared to the other groups awaiting the Project in the cities and mountains of a post-apocalyptic America.
The game begins with the player in charge of Team Alpha in the Arizona Desert. First the player establishes a base and constructs oil derricks from which the game's only energy currency is derived. As the player takes on scavengers artifacts are recovered and new technologies can be researched. These allow units to be build with the usual assortment of machine guns and rockets but there are also sensors such as the commander turret which allow more advanced strategies to be used. The commander turret can have units assigned to it which will follow its commands and it can also act as a rally point for new units, avoiding the need to ferry units between the main base and the front line. Units assigned to a commander unit share its experience level which would normally take thousands of kills to amass.
The second mission sets the scene for much of what is to come as the mission timer is introduced and the player is asked to load a drop ship with units from the first mission to explore a separate map away from the player's base. The missions that follow alternate between base development and defense as the existing map is expanded and these off-site missions which usually involve scouting and then assaulting an enemy base.
Base defense offers almost as many options as unit creation; towering lines off hardcrete walls can be created with machine gun bunkers in front and artillery units behind guided by sensor and counter-artillery towers. The game features a sprawling research tree in which a concept is researched from an artifact before branching practical applications can be researched. Thus researching a heavy cannon allows the player to then go on to research a heavy cannon turret for a tank and a heavy turret emplacement. Multi-player in the PC version supports up to eight players and allows players to specify technology levels and even pre-design a list of units so that custom units do not have to be created from scratch for each new game.
Along with the base defense and sensors, the game has a heavy focus on long range artillery, some of which can reach across the entire map, similar to Total Annihilation's high tier artillery. Artillery emplacements can be coupled with sensor towers to automatically assign targets based on the type of sensor (regular ground sensors will target incoming enemy units, while counter-artillery sensors would determine the origin of enemy artillery fire and return fire), and can also be assigned to commander units, which are self-contained control groups that can handle both repair and construction of new vehicles and artillery support independently.
The player takes on the role of a commander as part of the Project and is given mission briefings by an unnamed female narrator. Although the ideology of the Project is never made explicit its main goals are to attempt to rebuild humanity and find new technologies.
The New Paradigm
The New Paradigm are a survivalist group based in the Arizona desert who are using synaptic link technology to create cyborgs in an attempt to become the dominant force in the region.
Based in the area around the city in which the Project's Beta team is based, the Collective seek to destroy the Project. Though they are a powerful force in their own right as the second campaign develops it becomes clear that something has infiltrated their systems and is secretly pulling their strings.
In the final campaign among the Rocky Mountains the player must take on NEXUS, a force led absolutely by a mysterious artificial intelligence capable of corrupting electronic systems and subverting them towards its own goals.
Open Source release
On December 4, 2004, following a 2003 petition by the fan community Pumpkin-2 to get the rights from Eidos, the source code for the PC release and most of the game assets (not including music and video sequences), were released under the GNU General Public License, effectively making the game free for anybody to distribute and modify, and the Warzone 2100 Project (originally: "Warzone 2100 Resurrection Project") was started to improve and port the game to other platforms, with it's first major release on June 11, 2005, available for GNU/Linux and Windows, with the first Mac port available in 2006. During this period an alternate Creative Commons licensed soundtrack by Chojun and Michael Bethencourt was created for the game.
On June 10, 2008 the game's license was clarified to liberate all game assets, including the previously unavailable music and cutscenes, as well as some previously PlayStation exclusive music, which was then added to the open source release.
The free, open source version of the game is still in active development by the Warzone 2100 Project at https://www.wz2100.net, with graphical additions such as shaders, anti-aliasing, higher resolution textures and an entirely new texture rendering system allowing for smoother transitions between terrain types.
On 2/18/2020 the open source Windows version was forked and published by "Underdone Gaming" on Steam. According to the open source development team (on http://forums.wz2100.net), the release is "not associated with any of the developers, the community, the Warzone 2100 Project, or wz2100.net" and "was packaged incorrectly" and has "broken functionality". Community reception to the Steam release is generally negative, with the recommendation being to download the supported open-source release.