YOU REBEL(STAR) SCUM
The death and resurrection of Email X-COM
World Of Stuart makes no apologies for
having banged this particular drum on more than several occasions, but
Email X-COM, a game published by Hasbro in the late 1990s, represents both
the very best and the very worst of the videogames industry. The best
because it's one of the greatest games ever written for the PC - a simple,
snappy updating of Julian
Gollop's legendary Spectrum turn-based strategy classic Rebelstar
designed to be played by two players via email. And the worst because
Hasbro, the game's disease-ridden idiot publishers, implemented it in such
a way that when they switched off their proprietary email servers a couple
of years later, the game was, for no good technical reason, rendered
useless overnight. OR WAS IT?
coders attempted to
hack the game to produce a workaround to the problem, with some success,
but in such a fiddly and complicated manner that this reporter could never
get it to work. Certainly, the hoops which had to be jumped through to
implement the "fix" were so technical that a large part of the game's
appeal - the accessibility and simplicity which meant it could be grasped
instantly by even novice gamers - was destroyed.
thanks to a piece of genius lateral thinking by an alert reader, World Of
Stuart is proud beyond words to announce that Email X-COM has been
The solution to the problem of the dead
Hasbro email servers is so simple that it's practically stupid. And so,
as a service to posterity and gaming culture, World Of Stuart brings
you Email X-COM 2004. Just follow the much-simpler-than-they-look steps below,
and you too can enjoy one of gaming's great lost treasures. (If you
already own the game, you can skip to Step 3.)
1. Download the
Setup files (3.5MB) and unzip to a folder. IMPORTANT: Because
there was no end to Hasbro's dogged determination to irritate and
inconvenience their customers, the game (which is no longer available to
needs the CD in the drive to run. You will need to either burn the
contents of the unzipped folder to a CD, or use a "no-cd" patch,
or install a program like
(free) and place this ISO file (3.5MB) unzipped
into your "virtual" CD drive. (If you choose the latter option, you don't
need to download the Setup files, just open the ISO in your virtual drive
and install the game from there.)
2. Run SETUP.EXE to install the game.
3. You should notice that the
directory the game installed to (by default Program Files>>Hasbro
Interactive>>Email X-Com) contains a folder called "Temp". Open this
folder. (You may want to make a shortcut to it on your desktop for ease of future
4. Start the game as normal, select
your battleground and play your first turn. (It's a pretty
self-explanatory game, but the manual is here
if you need some basic instruction.) When the game asks for the
email address of your opponent, enter any old thing and click the
"Send Turn" icon.
5. At this point, you should get an
error message saying "Cannot connect to the game server". Do NOT
click "OK". You should notice that a file has appeared in the "Temp"
folder, called something like "p1_trn1.xem".
6. Copy or move this XEM file out of
the "Temp" folder to somewhere else, eg onto your desktop. Now you
can press the "OK" button, or simply quit out of the Email X-COM program.
7. Now, use your normal email
program, eg Outlook Express, to email the XEM file to your
opponent. When they receive it - assuming that they've also installed
Email X-COM, of course - they should be able to simply double-click on it
or open it from the mail program, at which point it will automatically
load up Email X-COM and enable them to play their turn, and then email it
to you as detailed in steps 4-6, and so on.
And that's it. It's that simple. Basically,
all you're doing is intercepting the move file before the program tries to
send it to the dead Hasbro server, it's only one minor extra step as
opposed to how the game was played when the servers were still there.
Which is frankly an extraordinarily tiny inconvenience to endure to be
able to play one of the world's most excellent games, World Of Stuart is
sure you'll agree. So go do it. Thank us later.