Originally Published: Thursday, 16 November 2000 Author: Martin Willner
Published to: enhance_articles_games/General Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Parsec: There Is No Safe Distance

Wow! After hearing about (and forgetting about) Parsec a few months ago, this article really opened my eyes to all of the new features! Parsec is a multi-platform space-fighting game, and it's really starting to look good. Check out this article, and then head over to the Parsec website to download a copy!

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"Fast-paced multiplayer cross-platform 3D Internet space combat." Wow! What's it about? It's about the feeling of travelling millions of parsecs away from Mother Earth in outer space. No place to hide, no map to guide, only the sound of the helix cannon smashing against your spaceship. No friends out there. The radar screen shows you a bunch of enemies catching up, the onboard computer, "Li," tells you that your ship is almost gone, adrenaline flows into your veins, you give full throttle to get out of range, but it's too late. The guide missile is locked onto your ship: "Incoming! Incoming!" Your last thought before the deadly missiles hit you is:"...there is no safe distance."


Parsec started as project for a computer course at the Institute of Computer Graphics at the Technical University of Vienna back in 1996. This early version of the game was based on a software-render, optimized and written in assembly language and running on DOS. Designed for 486 and Pentium systems, the game was running in 640x480 and 320x200 resolution with 256 colors and could be played by four players over an IPX network. As the course ended, they decided to continue the project and make a game. They called it Parsec. More features were implemented to the software-render as resolutions up to 1280x1024 and 16/24bits per pixel.

In the fall of 1997, the first Glide version for Voodoo 3dfx was coded for Parsec. This was an important step for the game, but needed lots of changes in the rendering engine. In the summer of 1998, a big code cleanup and restructuring was done when the parsec team decided to port to win32. The last assembler parts were gone and the game was now a plain C program.The modulization of the code made it much easier to port to new platforms, since only system-dependent subsystems had to be reimplemented for each new platform. So the MacOS and Win32 versions were done. A short time later the Linux version was born. Since that time, the Parsec team learned that multi-platform development helps to improve the code. Parsec currently runs on Win32, MacOS, Linux and the early versions on DOS.

More and more features and design elements have made their way into Parsec. One of the most impressing features besides the wonderful graphics is the ear popping soundtrack. It fits perfectly into the whole art design of the game.


Parsec is a pure multiplayer game. There is no single player mode, no bots, and no place to explore. It's pure death match. Death match in empty space? Yes. Just you and the enemy. No place to hide. Just pure skill. There are a lots of powerups and weapons in the game that help you to laser/blast/dodge down your enemies. You need a lot of pilot skills to catch powerups that float around in space. This pure deathmatch mode makes the game so much fun to play.

The game action takes place in a 360-degree environment called Galaxy which is infinite in size, so there is really no place to hide. (Don't try to fly to the planet; you won't reach it). Your spaceship has a radar device to find the enemies in space. A very nice feature of the spaceship is the onboard computer, "Li," and her voice comments.

We all know the handy features of a game console: Parsec has one, and it looks great with its transparent background. The features of the console are awesome. As with all good FPS's, you can record a demo of yourself.

The control unit of the spaceship is a keyboard and a joystick. No mouse, however -- the Parsec team told me that they will implement a mouse support in the next version.

To give yourself a fearsome outfit which scares your opponents to death when they see you, you can choose one of six spaceships. Every single ship has special features and drawbacks. Choose the one you need!


Standard Laser: High fire rate weapon for mid range attacks. Three levels of evolution.

Lightning Cannon: High energy lightning burst designed for infighting. If you get hit by one of these, you'll be blind for a short time.

Helix Cannon: Balls with very high energy in spiral patterns head for your enemy. High energy consumption but very high damage.

Photon Cannon: Places a shield of photon balls around the spaceship which will be released when releasing the trigger. The fire rate of this very, very high and the damage is destructing.
Dumb Missile: Mid-range slow non-guided missile.

Guided Missile: Slower than the dumb missile, but equipped with a tracking device to lock on the enemy. Theon board computers of every spaceship have a device to recognize when a missile is locked onto the spaceship. The computer "Li" tells to you, "Incoming."

Swarm Missile: Weapon of the latest generation. Once the enemy is locked as target, a swarm of deadly missiles make their way to the ship. There is no safe distance from this deadly swarm.

Proximity Mines: Placed in space somewhere between items, this weapon is deadly for all who don't watch out. The latest generation of spaceships has a mine detection device.


Firebird: The fastest ship in Parsec. Very good maneuverability and handling, but lacks of weapon space.

Bluespire: The fighting fortress. This ship can hold a massive amount of missiles, and has high-quality energy banks. Maneuverability and handling is rather poor.

Cormoran: This ship has an extraordinary design unique in the field of spacecraft engineering. Cormoran has the best possible maneuverability of all spaceships.

Stingray: The space tank. It was designed as an escort vessel for transport fleets, so it is very hard to crack.

Claymore: Claymore is a mid-class spaceship. Very versatile. Low weight, streamlined hull and two powerful thrust engines make it suitable for a wide range of pilots.

Hurricane: Equipped with a rotating solar panel that automatically refills the energy banks, this ship is really a hurricane. Thr most powerful device of this ship is its cloaking device.


  • Native Win32,MacOS and Linux version
  • Glide and OpenGL hardware rendering
  • Peer-to-peer mode on IPX and TCP/IP networks
  • Particle special effects and weapons
  • Internet game play using a client/server architecture with a dedicated server
  • Semi-transparent command-console to configure and tweak engine and game play
  • Ear popping soundtrack
  • Dazzlingly fast network game action in a 360 degree environment
  • All game play variables user-configurable on-the-fly and via configuration files
  • Sophisticated weapon and powerup system

    Note: The URL to the Parsec page was accidentally left out of the article's main body. For all those interested, here it is. www.parsec.org.

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