Developer(s) See Credits
Engine Spring
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux(X86, X86-64) (With fewer associate tools)
Genre(s) Real-time strategy
Media/distribution Download

Zero-K (ZK; formerly known as Complete Annihilation and CA) is a free multi-platform open source real-time strategy computer game. Initially based on content from Total Annihilation on the open source Spring Engine, it was forked and all proprietary content replaced, and evolved into a completely new game with unique features. Among the games powered by the Spring game engine, Zero-K is particularly notable for its extensive use of Lua scripting for interface and gameplay changes/enhancements,[1] as well as unique RTS concepts such as a flat technology tree.[2]



Zero-K provides a RTS experience not unlike the gameplay in Total Annihilation and its spiritual successor Supreme Commander. Tens of thousands of units can be seen on the screen at once. As computers grow faster, Zero-K will scale with them, allowing players to crank up their resolution and crank up the unit limits with virtually no top end.

Players start out with a construction-capable bipedal mech known as the Commander which acts as the player's avatar in commanding vast armies of robots. Players use their commander to construct a base of operations from which they can build an army to fight and ultimately destroy any opposing players. Players earn customizations for their commander in Zero-K and then use the same customization over and over in many battles.

Players will earn some experience points for each Zero-K game they play, and these experience points can be used to unlock new units for use in game or to customize their commander. After they play enough games, players will be able to unlock the entire Zero-K unit collection. This feature exists to prevent new players from building units that are not designed to be used by inexperienced players, thus, they must gain experience playing Zero-K before they can use those units.

The game includes 10+ factories each with 8+ unique units for a huge variation of viable build orders on most maps. Aside from the factories, there are many important buildings that create resources, provide radar coverage of a large area, shield units from artillery, conceal units from enemies, provide defence to a static location, and many others.[3]


While most games shackle players with unit limits and queue limits and a very basic AI, Zero K removes all possible interface limitations. With just a few clicks you can start executing very sophisticated strategies. In 5 or ten clicks, you can queue up hundreds of units, order a constructor to build hundreds of different buildings, and order a factory to build planes that would automatically patrol a route as they roll off the assembly line. In fact, those planes will automatically break off of a patrol to attack an enemy, then circle around to land at a repair station, then zip back into their patrol route—automatically! The interface allows gamers to build up obscene armies and bases with such ease that the player is free to concentrate on actual tactics and strategy. Few games even come close to this level of control.[4]


Economy in Zero-K consists of two resources, Metal and Energy.

Energy is produced by certain structures that can be built anywhere; each of these structures is ideal for its own set of situations. Energy is consumed in all build projects 1:1 with metal, for repairs to damaged units and structures, during "Resurrection" of unit wrecks, powering structures like radar towers and charging shields, and is used to activate the biggest defenses such as the "Annihilator" energy weapon.

Metal is either extracted from metal in the map using "Metal Extractors" or reclaimed from wrecks and debris of destroyed units and structures. Each and every unit or structure requires a specific amount of metal to be built, making capturing areas suitable for metal extraction or reclaiming wrecks of utmost importance in every game.

Connecting energy production to Metal Extractors allows "Overdrive", automatically producing additional metal. However, Overdrive has diminishing results, requiring more and more energy to continue increasing the production bonus until additional attached energy has only negligible increases in production.


In Zero-K any player can use any units he has unlocked by building the appropriate factory, there is no technology progression during a game. Each unit's reason for being used or built is its appropriateness for the battle at hand, not devoting resources to gain access to it.[5]


Zero-K includes a unique game mode called Chickens.

Chickens comes in various levels of difficulty, as well as the ability to set custom difficulty options.

In a game of "Chickens" the goal is to survive an onslaught (Or, Exterminate an infestation) of various semi-sentient alien creatures until their "Queen" attacks. The focus of a game of chickens is first, to survive, second, to exterminate "Burrows" placed around the map - keeping the attacking chickens from becoming more powerful, and third, to prepare for the Queen's attack. The Game ends with either annihilation of the players, or the death of the Chicken Queen.

Online Play

Zero-K is primarily meant be played online in individual Team or FFA style battles, as well as cooperatively(Or not!) with "Chickens".

Planet Wars

Planet Wars is a MMO style strategy game tied to Zero-K where individual battles are fought in Zero-K against other players to gain "Influence" on planets. Each player can either create or join a clan, and all the influence he.she earns will count as the clans. Planet Wars resets each time one clan achieves one or more of the 3 victory conditions - Conquest, Economy, Technology.[6]

However, ever since season 8, a new faction system has been implemented. Each clan and player is randomly assigned to a faction, and all the influence that person or clan makes will count as the faction's.[7]

See also

  • Spring (game engine)


  1. ^ A breakdown of languages used in Zero-K can be found at its Google Code site:
  2. ^ A more detailed history of the game's development can be found here:
  3. ^ "Zero-K: Mulitplayer-Strategiespiel zum Download". Retrieved 19 May 2011. 
  4. ^ Description - Gamespy -
  5. ^ The end of the guide for new players explains this:
  6. ^ This is explained more fully at the following link:
  7. ^ Faction info:

External links

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