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Lamp Refugee

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Lamp Refugee (informally known as LR) was a development test-bed for the Gambas Genie real-time strategy game engine, which was ultimately being created for the Free Empires project. The first Source Release was completed on October 26, 2009, which was the twelfth anniversary of the release of the original Age of Empires, and the second anniversary of the completion of Free Empires Source Release 2.0. The second Source Release of Lamp Refugee was completed and sent off on May 8, 2011, the fourth anniversary of the first pubic announcement of Free Empires, and became widely available on May 9. It was loosely inspired by the original Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, with two equally balanced factions: the Genies and the Spectres.


See Also: Free Empires#Gambas and Gambas Genie

Work on a separate test-bed first began in the spring of 2007, early on in the development of modern Gambas Genie. This original testing version was different, however, called Electric Warfare and featured robot remains from a now dead human exosolar colony still fighting an ancient war. The whole point of this testing ground was to experiment with more freedom, away from more strict Age of Empires-style conventions, and to try and create a more playable game, using shortcuts where necessary. Electric Warfare, for example, used keyboard rather than mouse unit movement and played a bit more like an arcade game than a more complex strategy game.

SR 1 Development Shot
SR 1 profile shot
SR 2 Development Shot

After releasing the second Source Release of Free Empires, the project's development changed direction. Despite having already built in some primitive features, it was decided to abandon the main builds for bow and instead experiment with different real-time strategy designs inside different "tech demos". Starting out in January 2008, these branched out into several areas - mouse movement, research, resource gathering, and even attack and enemy artificial intelligence. One such demo was released on July 15, 2008, that of mouse movement. This demo was created with the assistance of Christian Picon (cpicon92) of Extreme Tux Racer. The approach was later returned to, alongside Lamp Refugee development, in 2011 and 2013 with demos for a terrain model and for isometric projection.

In May of 2009, experiments were made into rough system of unit and building construction - termed The Lamp based on its reliance on a pre-set collection of units. After having made this functional if inelegant template, another more elegant breakthrough was reached. Utilizing the panels feature available in Gambas, a portable and scrollable world was created. It was then decided to try and merge the other technical demos into this one, and try and create the "mother of all tech demos." Development on this continued for six months, and became what is now known as Lamp Refugee, with Hamish Wilson writing up a short design document. During this time, basic enemy tracking and constriction artificial intelligence was created. The game borrowed GPLed and public domain assets from Spiderweb Software via their recent Blades of Exile code release, as well as from, and the Battle for Wesnoth project. 3D modelling of the buildings was completed by Malcolm Wilson Multimedia] using the Rhinoceros 3D modeller.

After release, some work began in earnest towards enhancements. For example, work on improving the mining code was done in late 2009. At the beginning of 2010, work started on trying to port the game from the original Gambas over to Gambas 2. This encountered several hurdles, similar to those encountered by Windys, in terms of porting over the graphical environment. After failing to find a solution, in August it was realized that porting the graphical environment was not strictly necessary as a new one based on drawing areas rather than picture boxes was needing to be implemented anyway (the next release is actually to revert to using picture boxes for units in tandem with drawing/GL areas). Because of this, the new build contained proper transparency and texturing. Work on this was delayed due to various reasons until January 2011, when finishing Source Release 2 became a priority project.

The main bulk of the work was porting code over to the new drawing environment and also over to a now modularized code base. Instead of one massive code file, functions are now stored in separate class files. Having been unable to make these form independent, it was decided to make the form FMap into FGame and serve as a loader for an eventual alternate map system. Sunday became the day of the week Graham Wilson pushed out ports and updates. A history of this was updated each week in a forum post on the Piga Software Forum. In late April, with the release date already chosen, work began to get it ready for release - which included final porting and bug squishing. The new release was completed and sent out on May 8, despite Graham suffering a head cold and a sudden grass fire breaking out in a nearby tower field, though the project file was not widely available and documented until May 9.


The storyline is not clear and fully established in the first and second Source Releases. The game mentions the player as Genies, who have been trapped in a "barren and oppressive realm" by their enemy the Spectres – a race of fiery beings. The one map featured ,called "Slime River" features, a Genie camp on one side of the river in question and a Spectre camp, with the Genies trying to build up a base in this new world. There are also Gremlins, small snivelling creatures that live in underground nests that are usually near bountiful resources. The Genies must succeed in building up their base to prepare for the war ahead.


SR 1 Screenshot
SR 2 Screenshot

The game featured numerous upgrades from the previous Gambas Genie releases. There was a larger map that the player can scroll through. The player could also in, a limited way, train units and construct buildings. There is a set limit of how many of a given object the player can build, give the hard-coded natures of such in the current versions. The second Source Release added transparency and texturing, and added more complete domestic functions such as building Barracks and giving every particular unit the same abilities. It also reduced the maximum amount of objects from five to four to make porting easier and to make it even. Further advances hope to increase this number and allow for bigger maps.

The Palace building type can be built two other times, and is used to trade one resource for another and build more Genie workers. There can be up to four workers at once. There can be two Barracks built, to be used to train four Warriors and two Conjurers. The Warriors can be used to kill Gremlins and Spectres and destroy Spectre buildings and Gremlin nests. Four Storage Pits can be built and used as drop off points for mined resources.

The Genie workers can mine from the two mines of enveloping magic which, although only partially implemented yet, will be used to create units. Once the mine is selected, the Genie will move to it, pick up all its energy (though efforts towards pacing this are implemented, a bug is still blocking it), and then take it to the main Palace. The player may instruct it to instead deposit it in another Palace or a Storage Pit. After one enveloping mine is out, the Genie will head for the other. Spirit energy may also be mined, but will most likely be grabbed by the Spectres before the player gets the chance. Spectre AI can be turned off with the console command "Out of Fuel"; Gremlin AI can also be turned off with "Wax Gremlin".

Templates for new Palaces may also be laid down, and then sending the Genie worker to them will cause it it to build it up. Storage Pits and Barracks currently are all built up once laid; though a template system is hoped for in the next release. There is also a special hero unit present at the beginning of the game named Quenching Liquid, though currently he is equal in ability to the Warriors that can be created at the Barracks - though if he is killed the game ends.

The game is "playable" in that after completing a few tasks the game may be won. There is not really an easy way to lose, but it is possible. This is basically only currently done through suicide, by killing units with the delete key, as the same pacing bug affecting the mine also made the Gremlin's attack so strong and that it needed to be disabled for now. In order to win, the player must create all buildings and send troops against the Spectre camp.


MWM at work

Head Coder: Graham L. Wilson

Additional Programming: Hamish Wilson, Christian Picon (cpicon92)

Design: Hamish Wilson, Graham L. Wilson

3D Modelling: Malcolm Wilson Multimedia

Additional Multimedia: Spiderweb Software,, and the Battle for Wesnoth project.

Music: Kevin MacLeod at incompetech

Music for Source Release 1 composed by Bjorn Lynne (PRS). All rights reserved. Used under permission.

I recommend royalty free music from the excellent stock music library at


This is the raw Gambas source code. We do not promise stability and usability but all feedback is welcome and appreciated. A complied executable is included in the Project Archive for those of you who want to run it as an independent application.

See Also[edit]

External Links[edit]