The history of XPilot
The original XPilot was developed in the early 90's by Bjørn Stabell and Ken Ronny Schouten from the University of Tromsø, Bert Gijsbers from the University of Amsterdam, and Dick Balaska from BuckoSoft.COM. XPilot was developed as a networked multiplayer game for UNIX workstations. Servers would be run with varying configurations - custom maps, different numer of robot ships, and all the gameplay parameters tweaked to make the game more or less difficult (hitting a wall - bounce off or die in a shower of sparks?). Clients could then connect to this server, joining together players from around the world in one game of combat.
From The Story of Xpilot article by Bjørn Stabell and Ken Ronny Schouten:
A short explanation of the game play is in order.
You guide a triangle shaped space craft through a two-dimensional cave-like environment. Your vehicle has a very simple steering system: a rear mounted engine provides forward propulsion, while two thrusters (one mounted on each side) are used to rotate. The space you fly through has no resistance, but plenty of gravity. Learning to fly is one of the most challenging aspects of XPilot.
But in XPilot, as opposed to games like Thrust and Asteriods, you're not alone. The real fun begins when you fly around with friends. By configuring over one hundred game parameters, you can set up a number of playing modes. For example:
race through a course between the cave walls, have dog-fights with machine guns as the only weapons, so it's all up to your flying and aiming skills, play together in teams and try to destroy other teams' treasures or steal their valuables (a ball you have to tow back to your team's home base), have a full-out nuclear war with your \"friends\", where strategy and the size of your weapons arsenal means everything.
In a typical XPilot game you have to fight to stay alive and not be drained of energy. You have to avoid being hit by weapons fire from the deadly robot players, other human players, and cannons scattered around the world. At the same time, try to set traps for (e.g., plant mines at an enemy home base) and shoot down enemies, search for new weapons, and refuel from fuel stations.
You have extreme configurability in XPilot: you can change the game parameters, the cave you fly in, or the shape of your space-craft. All of this makes for varied game play, and that perhaps explains how people can be XPilot addicts for years.
If you're interested in playing XPilot on your desktop, you can still find the source for the old 4.5.4 version, or download the new XPilot-NG. Most Linux distributions have the RPM for XPilot available. There is also a OS X version of XPilot-NG for Mac users.