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A Tron clone in 3D.

(Pronunciation: just like Armageddon, just with a 'tr' instead of the 'dd'.)
--armagetron.sourceforge.net

A freeware open source (GPL) futuristic 3D bike-racing game, where the bikes leave solid walls in their wake, and the object is to make all other players/teams crash before you do. The implementation emulates the lightcycle game in the 1982 Steven Lisberger Disney movie Tron, where it is one of the gladiator-style games the evil MCP (Master Control Program) has the dissident programs play.

A video arcade game by the name of Tron was released in 1982 by Bally/Midway, and reportedly made more profit than the movie.

Gameplay

It takes only two or three keys(depending on whether braking is allowed,) really, to play this game. You go right, you go left, you brake, you crash (no particular key needed.) Driving close tho player-created walls, whether someone else's or your own, will speed you up, which is an excellent balancing tool, as it gives any player the chance to catch up before being completely boxed in. Very narrow spaces between parallell walls can be entered with enough skill, even when they are nearly invisible, but this is very hard when no braking is allowed.

The (standard) game is played in matches of 10 rounds. Making someone crash results in 3 points, surviving (winning) the round in 10. Crashing costs 2 points, and committing suicide (crashing into your own or the outer walls, while no other player is near, as far as I can tell,) results in a loss of 4. The team/player with the most points after 10 rounds, or the player/team that exceeds a certain point limit before that, wins the match.

The game can be played single or multiplayer on a standalone computer (with up to 4 players,) over a LAN (with or without a dedicated server,) or online. Server settings include the length of the trails (mostly not set, for theoretically infinite trails,) whether or not bots are allowed to play, whether or not the brakes will be functional, and if so, how much they will slow the bikes down, and whether play will be in teams or free-for-all.

Players can configure the look of the arena, (setting all or most graphics options to low/off will result in a significant speed up on older systems, without totally destroying the feel of the game,) camera-angles and keys for steering, braking, chatting, and in-game camera changes.

Gameplay is pretty well-balanced and there are options in place to alleviate lag, or at least dole it out evenly, and the game can be played reasonably well even over a dial-up connection (YMMV).

Technical stuff

Versions for Linux as well as for Windows are available, and a Mac OS X version is in the works.

I couldn't find any official minimum system specs, but I suspect any PII+ system with a 3D-card that supports openGL can be configured to run it.

At press time, the stable (windows) version of Armagetron was at 0.2.4 and the development version at 0.2.5.1. Both weigh in at a little over 1.2MB. The dedicated server .exe is a whopping 543KB.

The game executable, sources, rpm, and what have you, as well as the dedicated server program can be downloaded from http://armagetron.sourceforge.net.

Whodunnit

The game's main developer is one Manuel Moos. There is a movie-pack that can be downloaded separately, created by Fabrice Holbé that adds graphics and sounds from the movie.

What are the scores, George Dawes?

ups:

  • Excellent, very addictive gameplay, especially in multiplayer.
  • Pretty low minimum demands on hardware and bandwidth.
  • Free, as in beer.

downs:

  • Only one really: When only two not especially daring players are left in a round, it can take a long while for one to make a mistake and paint him- or herself into a corner, which is pretty boring to watch for the players already out of the round. There is a server option to create an instant win zone after a certain time-limit is up, but this potentially creates an unfair advantage, if one of the players happens to be much nearer that zone. I would have liked to see the possibility of a tied round in such a case, which would result in significantly less points than a straight win, to encourage hunting the other player out.

conclusion:

We award this game 3 carpal tunnels.


sources:

armagetron: http://armagetron.sourceforge.net
imdb: http://www.imdb.com
history of arcade games: http://www.hut.fi/~eye/videogames/arcade.html

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