Natural Selection (computer game)
The game was created by Charlie 'Flayra' Cleveland. Natural Selection v1 was first publicly released on Halloween 2002, and is now at version 3.03. Version 3.1 is planned for public release soon.
The game features two teams: Kharaa (alien species) and Frontiersmen (human space marines). The alien vs. human conflict is a common science fiction theme, notable examples being the StarCraft game and the movie Aliens. It should be considered that the visible Kharaa "units" are actually simply the spawn of the real Kharaa (aliens) which are microscopic life-forms according to the NS story line.
Table of contents
The game is played via a first-person perspective. The Frontiersmen also have a single "Commander" player who may place buildings, issue movement orders, and grant upgrades from an overhead perspective (as in RTS game). The Kharaa have no commander, but instead have "Hive Sight" which allows them to see teammates anywhere on the map. Both teams are able to access a map screen which shows them the location of teammates and friendly structures during play.
Frontiersmen tend to be the more popular choice, especially amongst less experienced players (or newbies) as it is generally regarded as easier to play. In many cases, this can result in much of the match having 1 extra Frontiersmen player. In extreme cases, multiple players may hang around the Ready Room waiting for someone to join the Kharaa or for a Frontiersman player to leave.
The game takes place on sprawling, complex maps most of which are supposed to be spaceships or space stations built by the marines and invaded by the aliens.
A typical game can last anywhere from 10 minutes to more than an hour (for Combat mode this is often not the case for reasons discussed below), with both sides vying for control over strategically important map areas and Resource Nodes.
The game ends when one side has achieved the victory condition. For the Frontiersmen (marine) side, this usually entails destroying all alien hives (currently it is only possible for the alien side to control 3 hives), thus ensuring no further alien players may respawn and then hunting the rest down. For the Kharaa (alien) side, winning means destroying all marine "Infantry Portal" structures, thus ensuring that they do not respawn and then eliminating the rest of the marine team.
The game can also automatically end due to stacking, if the game server has the relevant settings enabled. This feature also gives each team the ability to end the game automatically in a forfeit by exiting to the ready room (more commonly known as "F4-ing", due to the default button pressed to enter the ready room) if the other side is unnecessarily prolonging the game. One common example is when either side hides and refuses to come out when it is clear they can no longer win. However most of the time, "F4-ing" is frowned upon and is even a bannable offence in some servers (although in these servers, many of the problems which can result in a team wanting to "F4" are also bannable).
It is generally agreed amongst players and admitted by its creators that Natural Selection is not perfectly balanced, and that game balance tends to fluctuate with the total number of players. It is alleged that the game's resource distribution system is at its most even in a 6v6 match-up and this is indeed the way most clan matches are played. Most public games however have more players, with 8v8 or more. Certain servers even have up to 16v16 (the normal Half-Life limit). In public servers, 6v6 matches are frequently unbalanced anyway due the skill difference of players. The higher number of players tends to balance player skill out more evenly, although it is not perfect due to the preference for Frontiersmen. There is also the problem of "skill stacks", where a group of highly skilled individuals (such as a clan) stick together in one team.
There are two game modes in Natural Selection.
The Frontiersmen has a commander chair which the commander plays the game like an RTS. He is the one responsible for upgrades, buildings, technology, etc. although he can not directly attack anyone and is immune to direct attack while in the command chair. The rest of the team generally follows the commanders orders, and acts as they see fit. The marines spawn from an "infantry portal" which must be placed by the commander and built by the team. The team shares the resources, but only the commander can distribute them. When a structure or marine is under attack, the command chair sends a message to the commander alerting him of the attack. It is then up to him to notify the marines and tell them how to respond.
The Kharaa do not have a commander but function more independently, each alien can chose their role. The aliens start with one hive which is their respawn area. The total amount of hives aliens can have in a map is three. Not each alien can build structures. Only the gorge lifeform can create more structures and upgrade buildings. Without a hive, the aliens continuously take damage. When a structure or lifeform is under attack, the Kharaa Hivemind sends a message to all alien players, alerting them of the attack.
The combat mode is more of a team deathmach game than a strategy oriented one. It was introduced in NS 3.0 and is occasionally criticised by diehard NS fans for abandoning the ideals of NS and bringing in too many "leet" CS type players. However it is still very popular, arguably more popular then classic amongst the general NS playing populance.
Neither team can build buildings, the marines do not have a commander, and aliens can only have one hive. Each player buys themself skills which they earn by the level they are on. To gain experience points, the players either must deal damage to the enemy hive or command chair, heal their hive or command chair, or kill the opposing team players. However in the first four levels, if they are nearby a group who are killing players, they gain field experience for being in that area. So if a player is level 2, and nearby players are level 8 or level 9, they can stay nearby and let the higher level players hit the front lines while they gain some experience. This is sometimes called 'leeching'.
There have been various changes to the spawn system in the various betas to try and make matched more interesting and more winable but also without making it such that a team that suffers a major loss of players can still come back. An admin configurable time limit (default 15 minutes) was introduced in beta 5 which remains in the final version. With the time limit, Marines are usually on the attacking side and Kharaa are on the defending site. Failure of the attacking side to win within the timelimit results in a victory for the defending site. This has somewhat reduced the phenomena of both sides "camping" in their respective bases, unwilling to attack the other side. From beta 5, Kharaa also gain experience slowly as time progresses and from the final version of 3.0, they slowly heal even without the regeneration skill or being near a hive.
It should be noted that even without the timelimit, combat matches tend to be shorter.
The commander can issue weapons, equipment and upgrades for the Frontiersmen.
- The Knife is a starting weapon,its held in the 3rd weapon slot, it is mainly used for taking down alien structures in order to conserve ammo, with a high ROF(rate of fire) the knife has been claimed to be unrealistic by many and inapropraite with the theme of the game. due to the fact that Marines represent and utilize ranged weapons and the Aliens utilize melee combat. the fact that the marines are given a very powerful melee weapon seems to be agaisnt one of Natural-Seletions fundemental beliefs.
- The pistol is a starting weapon,it is held in the Secondary weapon slot and, perhaps surprisingly, a long range weapon. Highly accurate,and quite powerful, with no spread to the shots.
- The light machine gun ("LMG") is the primary starting weapon,held in the primary weapon slot. ideal for medium-range combat. It has a good rate of fire, is quite accurate , and does 50 damage per bullet.
- The shotgun ("shottie" or "SG") is a powerful close-quarters weapon with a medium rate of fire which fires a large number of projectiles at once in a wide cone. It is most effective in close-quarter combat and deals 17 damage per pellet.
- The grenade launcher ("nade launcher" or "GL") has a high damage and large blast radius and a low rate of fire and long reload time. It is useful against grouped aliens and very good against alien structures. Another common tactic is nade spamming, the practice of unaimed launching of grenades to discourage alien attack.
- The heavy machine gun ("HMG") is useful for sustained fire against advanced Kharaa lifeforms, but has a penalty against structures. It isn't very accurate, but the bullets and damage make up for it.
- The welder is a support tool, used to repair marine structures, marine armor, and to destroy webs. On many maps there are also specific points which require welding to activate a particular action (such as opening a door). It does very low damage against enemy units.
- Mines are small devices placed on the ground or walls to deter Kharaa lifeforms. They detonate and do large amounts of damage when an alien comes in contact with them. They are most effective against lower lifeforms and come 4 in a pack (or 1 per life in Combat).
- Each Marine can carry one Grenade with him. It's like a single grenade of the grenade laucher, but with a lower range.
- The armor upgrade has three levels, which progressively increase the effectiveness of armor and also increases starting armor points.
- The weapon damage upgrade has three levels, each offering a 10% increase to damage inflicted.
- The motion tracking upgrade allows the Marines to track the Kharaa. Moving aliens are shown in-game as blue circles.
- The hand grenade upgrade provides marines with a single hand-thrown grenade per life.
- Med packs can be dropped by the commander to restore the health of marines in the field.
- Ammo packs can be dropped by the commander to provide additional ammo to marines in the field.
- Catalyst packs ("Cat packs") can be dropped by the commander to give a boost of speed to a marine for a short time. In combat mode, after getting that upgrade, you receive a cat pack whenever you kill an enemy, and it lasts for a short time.
- The jetpack ("JP") is an advanced piece of equipment that gives a marine the ability to fly for short periods of time. Marines wearing jetpacks also are immune to the stomping attack of the onos and do not take damage when falling from high altitudes.
- The heavy armor ("HA" or "Heavy") is an advanced piece of equipment that gives a marine a large boost in armor rating but makes the wearer slower and gives a distinctive sound when walking. A popular tactic of public servers is the "heavy train", a large group of HA-equipped Marines carrying welders and heavy weapons such as heavy machine guns or grenade launchers. Able to repair each other's armor, and wielding massive firepower, only a well-coordinated alien team has a chance to stop them. The lerk spore attack will not harm marines wearing heavy armor.
Kharaa units may upgrade/evolve to other forms during play. All Kharaa units except the gorge have melee attack attack as their primary weapon. In Classic Mode (See Below) at every hive after the first each species of Kharaa gets a new ability. The first slot ability is always active; one hive provides slot 2, two hives provide slot 3 and three hives provide slot 4. In Combat Mode, gaining access to slots 3 and 4 each require separate personal upgrades. Aliens have innate regeneration at a rate of 2% per second, this regeneration will always heal at least 1 point of health or armor and adds to healing from Defense Chambers or Hives, but doesn't 'stack' with Regeneration.
- The skulk is the starting unit, able to climb walls and parasite enemy units, revealing their locations to teammates.
- Cost: 0 Res
- Bite: a close ranged bite
- Parasite: a ranged attack that does very little damage, it main purpose it to cause marines and buildings to show up on hive sight, revealing their position to all alien player. Does not do damage to buildings. Parasited building show up as a yellow triangle, while parasited marines show up as a yellow circle
- Leap: the skulk jumps forward while thrashing its claws. usually used to quickly close the distance between itself and the marine.
- Xenocide: the skulk explodes causing heavy damage to nearby marines and structures.
- The gorge is a basic unit, key in that it is the only one that can build new buildings for the Kharaa team.
- Cost: 10 Res
- Spit: a ranged weapon, which travels slowly and can be avoided
- Heal: Spray a medium ranged atttack which heals aliens and structures. does light damage to marines and no damage to marine structures
- Bile Bomb: an arced, medium range attack which is extremely effective against structures, but does no damage to marines
- Web: when marines are caught in the web they cannot fire their weapon and moving speed is greatly reduced. Webs can be destroyed by the welder or grenades.
- The lerk evolution is a fast but fragile flying unit with a gas cloud attack that damages enemies.
- Cost: 30 Res
- Bite: a close ranged bite
- Spore: a posionous gas wich hurts marines. Cannot hurt structures or marines in heavy armor.
- Umbra: a gas which blocks 50% of all bullets fired. Does not affect grenades.
- Primal Scream: nearby aliens, including the lerk, will have a temporary increased attack rate and damage by 30% and a temporary increase energy recharge rate by 60%.
- The fade evolution is a tough warrior unit which can blink from one point to another, moving extremely quickly.
- Cost: 50 Res
- Slash: a close ranged attack in which the fade swings its claws
- Blink: the fade flies forward at extremely fast speed, in order to escape or close the distance betwwen itself and marines
- Metabolize: the fade is able to heal itself and restore energy at the same time
- Acid Rocket: a ranged attack that can weaken marines and structures. Does twice the damage to structures.
- The onos evolution is a large alien which does double damage against structures and has the devour ability, which "eats" a Marine, taking him out of play for a time as well as healing the onos.
- Cost: 75 Res
- Gore: a close ranged attack where the onos attacks with its horn. Does double the amount of damage against structures.
- Devour: the onos can eat one marine at a time. An eaten marine slowly takes damage over time, and heals the onos. If the onos is killed or redeems before the devour process is complete then the marine is saved.
- Stomp: stuns marine, except jetpackers, for one second
- Charge: the attack doubles the speed of the onos and damageseverything it touches. The attack does not stop untill all the energy is used.
A gorge may build offensive chambers which damage nearby enemies and can eventually kill them. A gorge may also build a hive. The hive is a respawn point and can only be built in certain locations predetermined by the map maker; also, each hive built allows the alien team to build one type of upgrade chamber. Kharaa upgrades become available for selection to the entire team when a gorge builds an upgrade chamber. Typically a poll is taken at the start of the game to choose the first chamber, then another poll is taken when a second hive is built.
Heals nearby Kharaa players and structures. Provides one of the following upgrades:
- Redemption: With each level, the hive will have a greater chance of pulling the player back when near death (i.e., the health display is in red.)
- Carapace: Each level provides more armor, increasing the amount of damage the player can take before dying. In the case of the skulk, the upgrade also slightly decreases the run speed.
- Regeneration: Every two seconds, the player will regain a certain amount of health/armour that has been lost, depending on the level of upgrade.
Replenishes the energy of nearby Kharaa units and Speeds up their movement. Provides one of the following upgrades:
- Adrenaline: Each level will give an alien a 33% greater gain of energy regeneration, allowing an alien to use their abilities more.
- Celerity: With each level, the player will gain a boost in run/fly speed. This speed boost lets the unit move around the map more quickly and makes it harder to hit in combat.
- Silence: Each level of this upgrade will drop the volume of noise made by the player by a third, up to complete silence when level 3, offering considerable ambush advantages.
Renders nearby Kharaa players and structures invisible, nearby Marines show up on scent of fear. Provides one of the following upgrades:
- Cloaking: Players moving faster than walking pace will gradually become more visible the faster they move, but only to a max visibility of 30%. Players using Cloaking upgrade will no longer be fully visible at any time unless attacking or being attacked. You have to wait 3 seconds after uncloaking before you begin to cloak again. Turrets will not fire at slow moving aliens (-> players with less than 10% visibility). Increased visibility for aliens moving at greater than normal moving speed (bunnyhopping, gliding, etc.). They can walk very slowly and remain cloaked, however this is countered by an Observatory in NS mode, or Scan Area in Combat (CO).
- Focus: An alien's slot 1 attack will do more damage with each level. The downside is the RoF (rate of fire) will also greatly decrease with each level. At level 3 the damage an alien's attack will inflict is doubled, but the RoF is more than halved. This is arguably one of the best upgrades available for skilled players, eliminating marines with a few well-timed attacks.
- Scent Of Fear (SoF): Marines will show up on hive sight, as red circles. Each level will increase the range that a marine will be seen from 600 units, to 1200 units, to 1800 units away.
The Kharaa improve themselves with new evolutions, either different upgrades or new lifeforms. The upgrade system works differently depending on the game mode.
Players spawn as un-upgraded skulks. Upgrade evolutions do not cost resources. Evolutions are not retained after death or changing life forms; they must be upgraded again. There are a total of 9 upgrades, 3 from each of the strategic chamber structures: Defensive, Movement and Sensory. However, a player may only have a maximum of 3 upgrades, one of each type. This allows specialised strategies involving certain combinations of upgrades.
Evolving into advanced lifeforms cost resource points, and the cost to do so ranges with the lifeform to be evolved. Evolving from an advanced lifeform back into a skulk does not cost resources.
All evolutions cost skill points. These skill points can be used to evolve lifeforms or upgrades. When a player has acquired the requisite amout of points for a specific lifeform, they may choose to spend on that lifeform. However, when a player dies, they will spawn as a skulk and any points they used for lifeforms are refunded. The player will then have to re-evolve to the lifeform of their choice, assuming they have sufficient skill points. A player may not evolve from one higher lifeform to another.
Evolving upgrades costs 1 skill point per upgrade (with exception of focus, which costs 2) and are retained after death. A player can evolve any of the 9 upgrades as as many as they like as long as they have the skill points to do so. In combat, players can also evolve (or unlock) hive abilities, thereby receiving the corresponding third or fourth slot attacks. The third slot costs one skill point to unlock, while the fourth slot costs 2.
Natural Selection is a very popular mod for Half-Life. Several communities modified the mod, with plugins, most notably was the Voogru community, which has an entire modification/admin system, coded by Spencer 'Voogru' MacDonald. Voogru was the first to implement a Shared Resource Pool for the aliens, a health-giving-armoury (medarmoury), nightvision, Fireworks, Signs, recycling of alien structures, manual siege, Phase Select and Chat variables. Other plugins were LerkLift, MvMfix, besides the many voogru plugins whose concept was used for similar plugins.
- Official Natural-Selection website
- Readyroom.org, one of the first 3rd party websites
- The Voogru community
- The Lunixmonster NS community
- Modification Forum
- AusNS, An Australian Natural Selection Community
- WA-NS, The West Australian Natural Selection Community
- OldF, Mature Gamers Natural Selection Community
- The Guns4Back2School (G4B2S) NS community
- Specialists Army Community