Continuum is a two-dimensional space shooter computer game. This freeware game incorporates quasi-realistic zero-gravity into a massively multiplayer online game. The action is viewed from above (aerial view), which presents challenges very different from those of a three-dimensional game. The game has no built-in story or set of goals; players may enter a variety of servers, each of which have differing objectives, levels, sounds, and graphics.
Continuum was originally known as Subspace when public beta testing began in 1996. It was released commercially in 1998 with a list price of US$30 for unlimited play. It required no monthly or hourly fees. The game was developed by the United States branch of now-defunct Virgin Interactive (abbreviated VIE, for Virgin Interactive Entertainment). The very early versions of Subspace were called Sniper. While in the beginning the game only offered four playable ships, a couple of servers, and limited numbers of maps, during a costly and extensive testing period the game developed depth and replay ability unrivaled by many games before and since. When the game was eventually officially released, it was not a commercial success due to poor marketing and the relative newness of the massively multiplayer online genre. In addition, after two years of playing for free, many core players were so addicted that when the beta ended, they refused to pay for a game that they had beta tested for two years and instead developed software cracks to bypass the CD check. The server software had been distributed with the commercial release, so a few independent servers not run by VIE appeared and gathered a small following. With the demise of VIE, commercially hosted servers were gone, and independent servers were the only choices. The community lost a lot of players, but continued to survive.
Within a short amount of time, cheats such as the Twister hack appeared, forcing a player named PriitK (who also happens to be one of the creators of Kazaa) to reverse-engineer and clone the client while adding lots of anti-cheating features. The client he created, named Continuum, is now the only client allowed to connect to most servers. In addition to the security improvements, Continuum added increased visual and gameplay capabilities. Continuum is not open source; PriitK will not release its source code for security reasons.
Continuum is divided into different “zones”, or servers, to which the player can connect. A zone usually has a main “arena”, in which a certain game is played. Many, such as SSCX Star Warzone and SSCX Extreme Games, are Capture the flag zones, in which one team (called a “frequency”) must capture and hold all the flags, which resemble small spheres, in the zone for a predetermined amount of time to win. A variation of this (played in the most populated zone, SSCU Trench Wars) is “basing” (or “turf”), in which the flags are stationary. Other zones involve Powerball, which resembles soccer; a team must attempt to get one or more Powerballs, which appear in the default graphics set as small red balls, into an enemy goal. Some zones are free-for-all (or “melee”) zones, such as SSCX Alpha West SVS. In this type of zone, the only objective is to kill enemy players.
Zones are organized into arenas, with certain arenas designated as public arenas being the main areas of gameplay. However, sub-arenas exist in most zones. Many sub-arenas are used for hosting events where different maps and settings than those present in the main arena(s) are needed. There are frequently arenas for players to fight and practice without interference from other players. Many squads have their own private arenas as well.
The different servers that one can connect to with the Continuum client are called “zones”. Within a zone, a player can usually choose between eight different ships: Warbird, Javelin, Spider, Leviathan, Terrier, Weasel, Lancaster, and Shark. Many zones restrict the available ships. A player can also choose to spectate the game.
The basic weapons, bullets, bombs and mines, require energy to use. This energy is also used to power a craft’s shields; if a player’s energy reaches zero, he or she dies. In most zones, a player’s energy constantly recharges. This forces a player to carefully evaluate his or her ability to attack based upon how much damage the player’s ship can absorb. The maximum energy levels of ships and other settings, such as maximum ship thrust and speed, can be upgraded with “greens” or “bounty”, which are small green boxes that can upgrade a ship that runs over them. Greens can also give the player special items such as “Thor’s hammer” (a weapon that flies through walls and explodes if an enemy is nearby), “repel” (pushes nearby enemies, mines etc. away from the player), “rocket” (gives the player greater speed for a short time period) and others. Again, the available weapons vary greatly by zone.
Many Continuum players are organized into squads. These squads allow players to cooperate and improve their skills, as well as to become more familiar with fellow players. In addition, many squads compete in competitive leagues hosted by various zones. These leagues are typically run like professional sport leagues, with a preseason, regular season, and playoffs for the highest-ranked squads. Dueling is another favorite pastime of many Continuum players, and many zones have separate arenas for such.