Scorched Earth (video game)
|Release date(s)||1991, 1992, 1995|
|Genre(s)||Artillery game, Strategy game|
|Mode(s)||Single player, Multiplayer (Hotseat)|
Scorched Earth is a popular shareware artillery video game, which is a subgenre of strategy game. The game was developed in the DOS era, originally written by Wendell Hicken (using Borland C++ and Turbo Assembler), in which tanks do turn-based battle in two-dimensional terrain, with each player adjusting the angle and power of their tank turret before each shot. Moonbase Commander is a spiritual successor.
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Scorched Earth is one of many games in the genre of "turn-based artillery games". Such games are among the earliest computer games, with versions existing for mainframes with only teletype output. Scorched Earth, with a plethora of weapon types and power-ups, is considered the modern archetype of its format.
Its slogan, "The Mother of all Games", was coined in 1991, during the Gulf War, after Saddam Hussein threatened the U.S. that if they stepped on Iraqi soil, it would be "The Mother of all Battles".
The game has a wide variety of customization options from gravity and wind to money and meteorite showers, and a similarly large pool of different payloads, allowing for a large amount of entirely different situations.
In addition to the possible in-game changes, the text messages the AI players can display before firing (e.g. "I shall smash your ugly tank!") and before dying (e.g. "Join the army, see the world they said") are read in two plain text files, TALK1.CFG and TALK2.CFG, respectively, free for creative users to change or translate.
The weapons range from small missile rounds to MIRV warheads to high-yield nuclear weapons. All weapons can be upgraded with tracers which allow the player to more accurately adjust the trajectory on their next turn. In addition to conventional warheads, there is also such ordnance as napalm, wildly bouncing bombs, and earth weapons, allowing the player to dump dirt on other tanks or to remove ground from beneath them. A tank which is covered with dirt has to shoot itself free and may get damaged in the process; one which falls from too high a level may be destroyed. A variety of utilities, such as deflector shields, recharge batteries, and tank parachutes, make it much harder to score a kill with a single hit even with the more bizarre and advanced weapons, adding another dimension to the game's tactics.
Projectiles can be manipulated in their flight-path by wind, shields and guidance systems, and sometimes have partially random effects. Walls may have a bounce, wrap-around, or no effect, as may the ceiling. As the player advances in the game, they can afford more and more powerful weapons, but so can their opponents.
The game can be played against up to nine other human players and/or computer-controlled ones. A broad range of differently skilled player types is offered by the program. If the player-controlled tanks are destroyed before the others, the AI-controlled players continue to battle each other, effectively turning Scorched Earth into a zero-player game.
There is also a similar game from the same era called Tank Wars and another on the Commodore Amiga computer system called Scorched Tanks. Tank Wars was made in 1990 by Kenny Morse, a year before Scorched Earth. Commodore also released a similar version in their educational software catalog called Artillery.
There are several versions known to exist, the earliest being 1.0b (where "b" is presumed to mean "Beta"). Public versions include 1.0, 1.1, 1.2 and lastly, 1.5, which was released in 1995.
Although, graphically, 1.0B looks similar to the later versions, in-game, its menus were completely different. It was also not as feature-rich and contained some different AI class names, such as "Rifleman" and "Twanger" (which may have been changed, as they were also AI class names in the slightly earlier artillery game, Tank Wars).
Starting with 1.0 in 1991, the game became Shareware and was graphically the same Scorched Earth that is widely known of today.
In Version 1.1, more weapons were added, such as Napalm, Smoke Tracers, and Liquid Dirt as well as Joystick support and two new death animations among other things. Also in 1.1, a modem icon was added with the intention of including some form of net play in a following version, however, this feature was never implemented.
Nearly a year later, in 1992, version 1.2 was released which added, among other minor things, a new death animation and Synchronous firing mode. Versions 1.21 and 1.22 were released as very minor updates, both of which listed themselves as version 1.2 in-game and in all documentation except for the "readme" file. In early 1993, version 1.23 was released, and it identified itself as such in-game.
The last version (1.50) was not released until 1995. In 1.5, the registration feature was removed and instead, only a shareware version was released freely while the registered version could only be obtained through a mail order. Purchasing the registered version allowed the player to use the triple-turreted tank as well as removing the shareware reminders. New to this version were lasers and SuperMags as well as a couple of new skies and the introduction of scanned mountain ranges.
Scorched Earth in the present
There have also been numerous clones made (and still being made) such as Atomic Tanks, Nasty Armoured Tanks of War, xscorch (Open Source clone), Scorched 3D, which attempt to modernize the gameplay and graphics, and others such as Charred Dirt that take a different approach by using a unique graphical style. In 1999 a clone written in Java was released called Scorched Earth 2000 which runs from a web browser and supported online multiplayer games. There are also several variants, such as WarheadsSE in which the players fire missiles between planets, with the trajectories curving as missiles pass through gravitational fields.
It was hinted in December 2005, by the original developer, that more news on the official version would surface soon. He mentioned this again in February 2006 in his blog. This is suspected of being related to a suggested "Scorched Earth project" that the developer has mentioned in his blog in March 2006.
The Scorched 3D remake is faithful to the original, including the same economics, physics, weapons, and environments as the original. It includes full network support, a headless server daemon and a server browser from within the game.
Wendell Hicken's official site for the original Scorched Earth offers a ZIP file download containing all officially released versions of the registered game (which are all known versions except for 1.0b). The ZIP file also includes a .MTN builder to create your own Scorched terrains and an HTML edition of the version 1.5 manual. The website offered a special scholastic site licenses for the game until 4 August 2012.
Computer Gaming World in 1993 called Scorched Earth "the most configurable artillery game I have come across ... the most playable and addictive", with "quite good" SVGA graphics. The magazine concluded that the game was "a bargain for its modest" $10 price.
- Scorched 3D, a 3D remake of Scorched Earth, with both turn-based and real time game modes
- Death Tank, a similar game with real time instead of turn-based gameplay
- Tyrian, which offers a Scorched Earth-style minigame called "Destruct"
- "MobyGames Summary for Scorched Earth". MobyGames. Retrieved 2007-12-31.
- "Tools section" of the Scorched Earth FAQ
- COWELL, ALAN (September 22, 1990). "CONFRONTATION IN THE GULF; Leaders Bluntly Prime Iraq For 'Mother of All Battles'". New York Times. Retrieved 4 May 2011.
- "Atomic Tanks page at SourceForge"
- "N.A.T.O.W. page at SourceForge"
- "xscorch web site"
- "Charred Dirt web site"
- "Scorched Earth 2000 browser based Java clone"
- MusicIP Forums
- "Whicken's blog" February 2006
- "Whicken's blog" March 2006
- "Official Scorched Earth web site"
- "Scorched Earth FAQ (archived)"
- Miller, Chuck (September 1993). "Applying A Little Strategy". Computer Gaming World. p. 76. Retrieved 30 July 2014.