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Artillery games are two or three-player (usually turn-based) video games involving tanks (or simply cannons) trying to destroy each other. The core mechanics of the gameplay is almost always to aim at the opponent(s) following a ballistic trajectory (in its simplest form, a parabolic curve). Artillery games are among the earliest computer games developed; the theme of such games is an extension of the original uses of computer themselves, which were once used to calculate the trajectories of rockets and other related military-based calculations. Artillery games have been described as a type of "shooting game", though they are more often classified as a type of strategy video game.
Early precursors to the modern artillery-type games were text-only games that simulated artillery entirely with input data values. One of the earliest known games in the genre is War 3 for two or three players, written in FOCAL Mod V by Mike Forman (date unknown). The game was then ported to TSS/8 BASIC IV by M. E. Lyon Jr. in 1972. Ported again to HP Time-Shared BASIC by Brian West in 1975. And, finally, to a cross-platform subset of Microsoft BASIC by Creative Computing in 1979 for the book More BASIC Computer Games where it appears with multiple names: Artillery-3, Artillery 3, and WAR3. Another early game is Gunner (1973) by Tom Kloos. These early versions of turn-based tank combat games interpreted human-entered data such as the distance between the tanks, the velocity or "power" of the shot fired and the angle of the tanks' turrets.
Emergence of graphical artillery
The Tektronix 4051 BASIC language desktop computer of the mid-1970s had a demo program called Artillery which used a storage-CRT for graphics. A similar program appeared on the HP 2647 graphics terminal demo tape in the late 1970s.
Graphical adaptions of the artillery game, such as Super Artillery and Artillery Simulator, emerged on the Apple II computer platform in 1980. These games built upon the earlier concepts of the artillery games published in Creative Computing but allowed the players to also see a simple graphical representation of the tanks, battlefield, and terrain. The Apple II games also took wind speed into account when calculating the path of the artillery. Some games used lines on the screen to show trajectories previous shots had taken, allowing players to use visual data when considering their next shot. Similar games were made for home computers such as the Commodore PET by 1981. In 1983, Amoeba Software published a game called Tank Trax, which was very soon picked up and re-released by the early Mastertronic Games Company. This was again the classic version of the Artillery Game, however you could change the height of the hill in between the players to either a mountain or a foothill (However this sometimes made no difference in the actual gameplay as some foothills were as high as mountains and some mountains were low enough to be considered foothills). The players also had the default names of General Patton and Monty.
Video game console variants of the artillery game soon emerged after the first graphical home computer versions. A two-player game called Smithereens! was released in 1982 for the Magnavox Odyssey² console in which two catapults, each behind a castle fortress wall, launched rocks at each other. Although not turn-based, the game made use of the console's speech synthesis to emit sarcastic insults when one player fired at the other. The first widespread artillery-based video game was Artillery Duel. Artillery Duel was originally written for the Bally Astrocade by Perkins Engineering and published by Bally in 1982. It was later released in 1983 for the Atari 2600 and ColecoVision video game consoles as well as the Commodore 64 and VIC-20 home computer platforms. The game featured more elaborate background and terrain graphics as well as a simple graphical readout of wind speed and amount of munitions.
Around 1984 a game called Siege also appeared by publisher Melbourne House, this was released on many old computer systems such as the Commodore 16 (the game was bundled with C16's on a compilation tape along with Zapp, Hangman and many other games), VIC20 and several other comparable machines of that era, some variants for some reason were misspelled as Seige instead of Siege.
Artillery games for IBM PC compatibles
With the increased presence of IBM-compatible PCs came the arrival of artillery games to the platform. In 1988, Artillery Combat, or EGAbomb, was released by Rad Delaroderie, written in Turbo BASIC, and was later distributed by RAD Software. Following in 1990, Kenny Morse released Tank Wars, which introduced the concept of buying weapons and multiple AI computer-player tanks to the artillery game. Gravity Wars was a conversion of the Amiga game of the same name that took the artillery game into space, introducing a 2D gravity field around planets, a format that has also inspired multiple re-makes.
In 1991, one artillery style game in particular got widespread attention when Gorillas was distributed as part of QBasic with MS-DOS 5.0, the Amiga also had a release at this time called Amiga Tanx distributed via Amiga Format magazine in the UK which included some digitized voices of the tank commanders, some quite amusing when shots got too close for comfort. That year also saw the release of the first version of Scorched Earth by Wendell Hicken. Scorched Earth was a popular shareware game for MS-DOS in which tanks do turn-based battle in two-dimensional terrain, with each player adjusting the angle and power of his or her tank turret before each shot. Scorched Earth, with numerous weapon types and power-ups, is considered the modern archetype of its format, on which the popular games Worms, Atomic Cannon, Hogs of War, SpaceTanks, GunBound and Pocket Tanks are based. Scorched Earth incorporates many of the features of previous graphical artillery games (including sarcastic comments by each player's tank before firing) while expanding the options available to each player in regard to the choice of weapons available, the ability to use shields, parachutes, and ability to move the player's tank (with the purchase of fuel tanks). The game is highly configurable and utilizes a simple mouse-driven graphical user interface.
Modern derivatives of the artillery game
- In 1995, Team17 released the first version of its successful Worms series of turn-based games on the Amiga computer platform. In Worms, players control a small platoon of worms (rather than tanks) across a deformable landscape, battling other computer- or player-controlled teams. The games feature bright and humorous cartoon-style animation and a varied arsenal of bizarre weapons. Subsequent games in the series have been released since 1995, including a 3D variant (Worms 3D) in 2003. This was later followed by Worms Forts and Worms 4. The game then went back to its 2D style gameplay in Worms Open Warfare (2006) and Worms: Reloaded (2010).
- In 2000, Infogrames released Hogs of War, featuring 3D graphics, and a third-person perspective. The game is set in the First World War-era where anthropomorphic pigs engage in combat.
- In 2001, Gavin Camp released a 3D artillery game called Scorched 3D that is loosely based on the earlier game Scorched Earth. Scorched 3D offers options such as multiplayer LAN and Internet play, player avatars and flexible camera views.
- Other active projects include Warmux or Hedgewars, fully playable on many systems, including Windows, Linux or Mac OS X.
- DDTank is a popular browser-based free-to-play MMORPG artillery game.
- In December 2009, Finland-based Rovio Mobile released Angry Birds, a popular video game in which the player aims to find the most efficient way to destroy various structures by anticipating the trajectory and destructive effects of a bird fired from slingshot, which could be considered a version of an artillery game as it features a 2D limited world, angle/power input, passive missiles which follow gravity-driven trajectories, and the use of missile and/or landscape destruction to kill several non-vocal pigs in each level. It does, however, lack counterfire from the player's targets, as well as infinite ammo of at least one variety of projectile.
- The March 2012 release of Total War: Shogun 2: Fall of the Samurai saw the inclusion of an in game variant of the artillery game. Players may manually control artillery pieces, firing, and subsequently adjusting, for each round.
- In March 2015, kChamp Games released their ShellShock Live game on Windows, a 2D artillery game inspired by the 1991 Scorched Earth built with Unity game engine. Players with their tanks, shoot enemies after maneuvering the trajectory by controlling the shot angle and power.
- Barton, Matt. "Scorched Parabolas: A History of the Artillery Game". Armchair Arcade. Archived from the original on 2016-03-05. Retrieved 2007-11-25.
- Ahl, David H., ed. (1977). The Best of Creative Computing: Volume 2. Morristown, New Jersey: Creative Computing Press. pp. 247-248. ISBN 0-916688-03-8.
- Ahl, David H., ed. (1979). More BASIC Computer Games. New York, New York: Workman Publishing Company. pp. VII, X, 2–3. ISBN 0-89480-137-6.
- "Gunner (Mainframe)". MobyGames. Blue Flame Labs. 2018-03-28. Retrieved 2019-01-03.
- IGN - Worms Retrospective by James LaFlame
- "ShellShock Live". ShellShock Live Wiki. Retrieved 2019-12-20.
- "Release Notes". ShellShock Live Wiki. Retrieved 2019-12-20.