Instant Instant Action

Garagegames, they of the Torque middleware engine best known from Tribes, have today opened up the beta of their latest endeavour, InstantAction. I had hoped for InstantActon, in which I could wander a streaming 3D representation of the birthplace of The Who and that power station they filmed bits of Aliens inside, but this’ll have to do.

InstantAction is one of the first of the new breed of browser-based games, a concept best evidenced by Battlefield Heroes and Quake Live. GarageGames have gotten there first, though their take on it is a portal for multiple games rather than a single title. The philosophy’s the same – quick to install, quick to load 3D games that run from a browser, require minimal hardware and gun for that curious crossover audience that encompasses both the shaky-reflex casual or lapsed gamer and the points-obsessed hardcore. It’s super-big on community – all friends lists and instant chat. And it’s super-big on micro-payments, employing its own ActionTokens currency to buy unlocks, maps and, eventually, entire games. That stuff’s not in there yet, though. Spammers are, however – the thing’s only been running a day, and I’ve already received junk mail to my InstantAction inbox.

What is there is four free-to-play casualish games. Think Tanks is already picking up a mild buzz, and some speculation as to whether it’s the sort of approach to expect from Battlefield Heroes. It’s entirely cartoonish (check out the knowingly over-written backstory), it adds enough treacly vagueness to WASD and mouselook controls to ensure hyper-reflex teenagers won’t dominate matches, and, yes, it’s in functional but effective 3D.

Marble Blast Online is a slick remake of Marble Madness (with nice sound effects), and again accomplished enough that I did a double-take to check this really was playing in a browser. Again, it’s predominantly multiplayer – racing other players to collect the most gems before the clock stops – but like Think Tanks I worry that there isn’t a great sense of achievement to winning. You see a flash of score table, and then the session ends or restarts. There isn’t a vast sense of competition to it or Tanks – but I dunno whether the intended audience needs that, or if it’s just my own expectancies getting the better of me. (It’s another dread standard TF2 has left for everyone else to try and follow – that’s a game where you really know when you’ve won, both in canny sound effects and in the fine reward of mercilessly hunting down your now unarmed opponents).

Will it be successful? I dunno. It’s a giggle, it looks cute and it’s very impressive to see this level of technical accomplishment within a Firefox tab, but I haven’t yet felt the familiar tingle of compulsion I get from a great casual game. I suspect some sort of persistence and stat-tracking may be key to that, which is one of the more likely reasons Battlefield Heroes will be hee-yu-yu-yu-ge from the off.

All that said, the real jewel hasn’t yet been set in InstantAction’s crown – knowingly Tribesy shooter Fallen Empire: Legions could attract the FPS crowd in droves.

Anyway, the beta’s free, and you’re allowed in within seconds of signing up. You can do so here.


  1. Scott says:

    Those think tanks sure look a lot like the coach’s tank in Psychonauts.

  2. Theory says:

    Think Tanks has been around a while I think. I remember playing something very like it in by browser in secondary school.

  3. Mark says:

    I’d sure prefer games like this if I didn’t need to play them in a browser window. The web browser is not a good platform for 3D games. If I have a browser open, I’m probably doing other things, which means that these games are going to run like crap on my single-core PC. And that’s assuming the browser plugins themselves run correctly. After a few bad experiences, I’m extremely hesitant to load even more multimedia bloat onto my browser.

    Do any of these at least have the option to play them in a standalone format?

  4. Wozza says:

    I messed around with the Torque engine demo, to see how these bods make games, I lasted about 30 seconds.

  5. Marcin says:

    It’d be a great worktime+travel diversion if … it worked on a Mac :P

    At home I have a backlog already so casual gaming is out, but I’m definitely going to take a look at Fallen Empires when it comes out.

  6. Curt says:

    hey, thanks for the review. as to the compulsion, all i can say is level up on marbleblast a few times and the compulsion will eat away all your spare time. :)

  7. Harold says:

    Maxthon, 19 tabs (with heavy duty Digg Netvibes etc), InstantAction on a fluid Marble Madness session, 33 % CPU, 280 MB RAM on a 4 years old Pentium M Acer laptop.

    Works like a charm and InstantAction is neat (community stuffs etc). It’s great for gamers, it’s really great for developers why bitching?

  8. Chris R says:

    man, this is fun, lol. And the graphics are actually pretty decent looking, I’m impressed. It runs extremely well, try it out. I’m using Firefox btw.

  9. malkav11 says:

    Wait, Battlefield Heroes is going to be browser-based? I think I missed that part in the previews I’ve been reading.

  10. Meat Circus says:

    Since these games only work on Windows, and through a small subset of browsers, how are these games ‘browser based’?

  11. Alec Meer says:

    Because a) they’re based in a browser and b) it’s a beta version. I’m sure platform support will be expanded in time if sufficient demand is perceived.

  12. Meat Circus says:

    There’s no need for them to be ‘in’ a browser though. They can run full screen, they’ve just been nerfed so that they only run in browser windows.

    So they can pretend to be browser games.

    Which is utterly pathetic, since they’re not actually running within the browser’s process, they’ve been deliberately crippled just so they can continue with this pretence that they’re something they’re not.

    Compounding a lie with deceit, and a little bit of unnecessary crippling. THE FUTURE OF GAMES LOL!

    Give me a break.

  13. Johnny Law says:

    I think it’s not as cynical as you are assuming. The browser is an infrastructure for their games… actually analagous to the sort of service you get from Steam, come to think of it. A common launch point, a common user-account system, community, updates, store, etc.

  14. renter says:

    the stinken website dosent have fallen empire legiond

  15. Al3xand3r says:

    It does have it. Unless I somehow got in a closed beta. I can play it fine and it rocks already. Now waiting for more maps and the chance to purchase the thing once Instant Action goes out of beta and garners bigger audience to ensure I can always find matches. I still wish I could buy it and play it stand alone outside the browser (I know it can run fullscreen) but I guess they’ve done a pretty good job of making a “mere” website act as something analogus to the Steam platform. No way to check server pings and such though… Hopefully a future feature.