Tank Universal: His Tronish Majesty’s Landships

The thing with Tron, which you try to forget, is that it was just a bit rubbish.
Adam Britton dropped us a line, expressing surprise that we hadn’t written anything about Tank Universal. After playing the demo, I can only agree. Those RPS guys are a bunch of slackers. Shun them! Anyway, with the disappointing news about Introversion being fucked around by a magazine, yet still honouring the deal which prevents me telling you about Multiwinia, I was clearly vulnerable for anything touched with the pixel-halo of Tron. And as a Battlezone-derived Tank-war, Tank Universal is clearly one of that eighties kiddie-fi epic’s children. Impressions follow!

You’re a driver/gunner/commander/whatEVAH of – yes – a Tank. It’s a little more complicated than a straight shooter, with two teams trying to steal the opposition’s key from deep inside the fortress. Collectors gather some manner of energy crystal from the battlefield, and transport it back to their bases to… well, I’m not sure to do what, but I figure it was probably helping. The main thrust is trying to disable the opposing turrets and a variety of enemy vehicles in a true Battlezone-esque trajectory combat. In fact, getting too close is generally a bad idea, due to the area-effect of your weapons, especially if you power up the shot beforehand.

There’s a smattering of role-playing elements – your successes lead to upgrade points, which you can use to purchase differnet levels of abilities for your tank. For example, there’s basic things like speed-boost and repair to start with, but even the next two are more esotreically amusing mines and mini-gun turrets. God knows what the other six get up to. There’s a plot in the full game, and the final section demonstrates a little first-person adventure where presumably the narrative continues. In addition to two missions proper, there’s also a challenge mode where you have twenty minutes to kill as many of the opposition as you can – the best way to get your hands on some of the niftier toys in the armoury, as well as have a nice gape at the battleship floating above the battlefield, bombarding you.

It so was.

While highly enjoying both its odd sense of scale and intensity, and the retro-aesthetic, my main reservation about the demo is actually just a small mis-step in the opening level. There’s a support creature called the lifter, which you have to summon to get back onto the battlefield – despite the fact there’s only a tiny wall between you and the world which you’d be better to zoom past. The fact the lifter isn’t involved in the second mission makes it clear that it’s a case of the developer trying to introduce all the major tools in the game in the first level. In practice, it just means an unnecessary annoyance in your initial few deaths – and, of course, since it’s the first level proper, you’re clearly going to have a few.

But if you can grit your teeth though that – I find a little eye-rolling helps excellently – it’s highly enjoyable, especially when you reach that second level. I’d recommend people give it a shot. You can tank me later.

C’mon. Almost a whole piece with no tank puns. That’s good. For me. Yes.

37 Comments

  1. GiGinge says:

    Off topic but related to the Introversion link (and grammer nitpicking), the quote at the end “And in Future we will certainly be dealing with them first” is of course aimed at PC Gamer/CVG and the like I assume? Or is that just a typo?

  2. Fumarole says:

    “Grammer” nitpicking? Hah!

  3. Kieron Gillen says:

    GiGinge: I don’t know. I presumed it was a coded message too. I do know the magazine they’re talking about isn’t a Future one, so it would make sense.

    KG

  4. Kast says:

    GiGinge – It seems that IV’s ire was directed at Total PC Gaming and Imagine Publishing so, given they’re good history with PCG who gave them their first big break I’d say that’s very likely.

    Also, tanks… like angry houses. Sorry, i’ll get my coat.

  5. Pod says:

    I also got the impression that PCG and Introversion were bezzie mates. What’s the skanky mag whose name is blured out? I won’t be buying that!!!! ( I wouldn’t anyway, of course).

    Does this kind of shaftery happen often? I’m on the beeeta for MW, but I haven’t had time to play it much. I feel like a timewaster ;(

  6. Heliocentricity says:

    Tron tanks, Like angry polygonial houses.

    The demo is taking its time :( I’ll be playing it tomorrow it looks like.

    Could PCG take that cover art (since its an introversion graphic?) Pretty please!

  7. phuzz says:

    Whichever mag it was, they’ve just taken a credibility hit, must suck for them if it really was just an “editorial mixup”…

    ahh yes, tanks, shooty bang :)

  8. Stu says:

    That front cover does looks like it has the Total PC Gaming logo on it (it helps if you squint); the issue number under the logo is in the same style; and the price is right (£3.99). I’d say it’s definitely Imagine that did the dirty. For shame!

  9. hoohoo says:

    well it does stink that if true they were promised the cover and lost it. honestly i cant imagine any game publication putting multiwinia on the cover, especially this time of the year. i could see maybe a feb-april cover in the slow months. its not like its going to be a big blockbuster game. i mean “e3” or whatever is left of it is right around the corner, and surely there will be bigger, better, exclusives to have on the cover. if anything i could see the editors making multiwinia a placeholder in case a big exclusive cover happened to not come through. like a duke nukem forever announcement exclusive or something. there has to be atleast 10 games before multiwinia that any editor would want on a cover in this big announcement season.

  10. Alex says:

    To be honest though, that cover image doesn’t look that great..

  11. hoohoo says:

    @stu,
    i just browsed over to iv’s news section link to introversion.co.uk and indeed there is total pc gaming with a large breasted age of conan chick on the cover. cant say i blame total at all. exclusive review of what would become one of the best selling pc game launches, and a new serious entry into mmoland. iv still gets a prominant cover blurb and 8 freaking pages inside. these guys should be thankful they got that much instead of bitching. they always seemed a bit full of themselves to me before, with the “last of the bedroom” crap, and the fact they havent really done much. their games are good but really for the amount of coverage they get you’d think they were the next valve, which honestly they arent. this little bitch fest cements to me this attitude. hell, they are still on the friggin cover.

  12. NeoThermic says:

    @hoohoo
    Ignoring the Ad Hominem comments made against IV, you need to understand that when a games mag wants exclusive and is willing to offer a full front cover and 8 pages, that is what you expect. The games mag back peddled on the full front cover; if IV had gone else where they would have got the full front cover (to a mag that doesn’t give them BS that is).

    You might not like their games, and that’s fine, but you can’t dog down their success. Defcon’s release not only took down every server IV could get it on, but it also took down the Steam Authentication servers. Only the original HL2 release did that, and the system has been updated since then to prevent exactly what IV managed to do. Think about that one…

    NeoThermic

  13. Robin says:

    They should be taking pride in the fact that their held in such high regard as to be able to secure a cover deal, even if it didn’t work out. There are plenty of developers who’ve been toiling in obscurity for years.

    If it’s any consolation, I don’t suppose Totally PC Gaming has as much of an audience as you’d get from your game popping up on Steam … or even RPS, possibly.

  14. hoohoo says:

    @NeoThermic,
    for all we know, somebody at iv got cover story, and cover blurb confused. where is the signed contract for the cover story? where is it written like chris states that they had the cover? if it says they had the cover, why isnt iv suing them? how do you know they would have gotten front cover somewhere else? if that is so, why didnt they go with the people they claim supported them in the first place? talk about ad hominem. cant really expect less from their #1 fan.

    and please, you of all people should know better than to try saying defcon took down steam auth servers. the only reason the steam servers went down was because the crappy iv metaserver couldnt handle the load:

    “metaserver…Our custom bit of software was having to handle 30,000 incoming messages every minute, meaning if you spend longer than 2 miliseconds thinking about one request you end up backlogging. This caused us all kinds of problems – steam authentication was failing, users couldn’t get server lists a lot of the time, and often the lists they received were out of date and contained servers that had long since shut down.”

    link to forums.introversion.co.uk

    sure defcon sold well for a small game, it doesnt instantly make the next one a hit, nor does it make it prime full cover story material in the run up to major game announcements/major releases. especially when its a rehash of a game thats 3 years old already and should of had a mp expereince at launch, or atleast 6 months after release. i mean, lets see, you are the editor of total pc gaming, you have a choice of an exclusive multiwinia/darwinia+ cover story, or an exclusive first review of one of the most anticipated games of the year, which do you choose to put on the cover? hmm thats a tough decision. NOT.

  15. Devin says:

    @hoohoo

    Why are you trying to defend a group who aren’t even defending themselves? There’s no available evidence to contradict Chris’s story, so you’re falling back on “I think Introversion are wankers, therefore they must be lying even though the people they’re lying about haven’t even claimed that and there’s no evidence.” That’s pretty sad, even for the internet.

    Chris says he had an agreement, he says he got that agreement in writing, his story has been passed on as true by Kieron, who is certainly an insider in UK games journalism and not likely to pass on, let along support, a story that didn’t ring true. Furthermore, Total PC does seem to have a one-week exclusive, and since Introversion could certainly have gotten more than one cover blurb this week if they’d simply had no exclusive period (whether or not they could have gotten a different cover, I’ll bet you they get a couple cover blurbs next week), we have to assume there’s a quid-pro-quo here in order for Total PC to get that exclusive.

    On the other hand… Wait, there is no other hand. I can’t find any statement by the magazine in question, and the only thread I can see about it on their forum is unanswered. They haven’t issued a statement of any kind. If Chris really was making up a story about a written agreement just because he couldn’t wring enough self-important whining out of the truth, don’t you think they’d claim innocence? If they made some other deal, or thought they made some other deal, wouldn’t they say so? If they did make that deal, but there was a clause in Chris’s written agreement that maybe he didn’t read closely enough that gave them an out in the case of a prior agreement, and they had a deal with the Age of Conan guys from six months back for a cover at such-and-such time, don’t you think they’d say so?

    The fact is, Chris’s story makes sense. There’s circumstantial evidence supporting it. Sure, not enough for a court of law, but it would be very unprofessional for Introversion to publish a private business agreement at this stage. I’m sure if they do go to court, they’d submit it as evidence, but that would take a lot of capital out of their coffers, so even if they got it all back when they won the suit, it would be a poor strategic decision for them at this stage.

    Now, if Total PC had offered any kind of statement on the subject, maybe we could argue. You’re right that without seeing the agreement, it’s a matter of Chris’s word (and the plausability of his story in light of the exclusive period now in effect) against Total PC’s.

    But here’s the thing. When it’s your word against theirs, and they don’t say anything, you pretty much win. If the internet were a court of law, Introversion would be pretty close to winning the case by default judgement.

    Seriously, I suggest that you reframe your discourse here. Next time, try something like “It sucks that Total PC can’t honor their agreements, and I’ll look poorly on the magazine, but hey, at least it happened to a bunch of overhyped, self-important wankers instead of someone who deserved a cover.” You’ll get a lot farther with that than you will arguing in defiance of all visible indications.

  16. Devin says:

    By the way, I love Introversion with every cold, blackened shard of my heart*. Anything negative I say about them above should be read as applying to hoohoo’s (and I use the term very loosely indeed) position.

    *that’s a lie, really. I only love Introversion with the shards of my cold, blackened heart that are not already used for loving Mother Russia or split between loving the Sisters of Mercy and laughing at Andrew Eldritch.

  17. Ben Abraham says:

    Hey, TANKS HEAPS KG for your impressions on a game we’re all sure to soon be playing. (lol puns!)

  18. zima says:

    Multiplayer Battlezone, anyone?

    link to bzflag.org
    link to en.wikipedia.org

    Without Tron-look, though (and afer this news item…it would fit great/why nobody thought about it?)

  19. Gap Gen says:

    It’s a shame that the more recent ‘biometal’ Battlezones didn’t do so well, although I guess they did well enough to spawn a sequel, and the did invent (I think) the ‘jump in/out of vehicles’ thing that a lot of games use now.

  20. Kieron Gillen says:

    Regarding cover stuff, talking as someone who did some of the contract/cover stuff when I was working in house on
    magazines, I may be able to explain some of this…

    This is what usually happens. There are special cases.

    A contract is signed based around coverage. I’ve never seen one been used as a legally binding thing – the actual function is really formalising a relationship. As in, we will give you X amount of pages coverage and you will not release information to anyone else before that date. Or, for major games, something like “Leading up to release, we will do 3 separate 2 page previews, an interview, 2 covers (one preview, one review) in exchange for the first review and demo”.

    What it means is that if a magazine (or a publisher) doesn’t actually fulfill what they say they’re going to do, the other can go and do something else relatively cleanly. As in “You didn’t do that preview cover you said you would – we’re going to give the first review to this other magazine”. Or “You didn’t give us the assets for this in time, we’re going with a different cover, etc”.

    (The main problem from magazine’s perspective is when you find you’ve signed up four games for covers, and they all end up being released in the same month. If a PC Gamer cover has a mish-mash of random images on the cover, it’ll probably be due to one of these. This makes Art Eds cry)

    So – if they break the contract at the last minute, after you’ve done everything you should have done… well, you just get pissed off. The Publisher (or magazine) normally demands some manner of repairations in a “Well, do X for this other game we’ve got” way. And even then, you can normally presume the next exclusive from that company is going to go to another magazine which didn’t fuck them over.

    So, if this is a standard situation, all Introversion are doing is basically what any publisher would do. They’re pissed off because they acted in good faith, and the mag didn’t honour it.

    For those who are bigging up the Conan cover… well, for me, that’s an odd choice of cover too. The game’s been out for a long time now. An exclusive review post-release isn’t normally a thing that sells well. It strikes me there’s more to the Editor’s decision than I know.

    EDIT: Probably worth noting that I don’t think Multiwinia would have got a cover at PCG.

    Robin: Not actually knowing their sales, but having heard some convincing tracking rumours, I’d say that RPS has at least ten times as many readers as the in question magazine does (As in, regular RPS readers rather than occasional ones). In fact, we’ve got more regular readers than any UK PC games mag.

    But – y’know – we are free.

    KG

  21. Hexapodium says:

    A lovely game, and they had me hooked on buying it until I got to their “buy me” page and noticed download insurance, and a demand not to use free email addresses. And to think I would have bought it, too.
    Roll on Steam Cloud, hopefully it’ll put an end to this kind of email discrimination.

  22. MadJack says:

    Hexapodium

    We’re using Share-It at present to handle purchases – wasn’t aware this might be a problem for some.

    A direct Paypal link can be provided, please check back on the website shortly for an alternative that should solve the ’email discrimination’ you’ve experienced.

  23. Kieron Gillen says:

    Yeah – play the thing, people. It’s fun.

    Hexapodium: Man, I hate that. I mean, I use a bloody gmail account primarily.

    KG

  24. Kieron Gillen says:

    Er… I think I may have just deleted someone’s post about the game by accident. Sorry? They were right – people should play it.

    KG

  25. MadJack says:

    Kieron/Hexapodium

    Guys – I’m the author of Tank Universal. If Share-It is no good for you, I’ve posted a link to PayPal direct, which should solve your email issues.

    link to tankuniversal.com

    Alternatively, the game’s been picked up by Meridian4 and should be appearing on various portals (possibly Steam hopefully), over the next month or so.

    Phil Jones
    Dialogue Design

  26. Kieron Gillen says:

    Congrats, man. And do drop us a line if it goes up anywhere else. RPS’ doors are always open to men who create digital tanks.

    KG

  27. NeoThermic says:

    @hoohoo
    Without going over the same points that Kieron went over, it would be silly for any company to go into legal action over instances like this. No money would have parted hands over this agreement, ergo it is not a service, so legally it’d be hard to hold down a case. If I were to say that I’ll mow your lawn for free, and then I don’t do it, you can’t sue me.

    Also, please learn what Ad Hominem means.

    As for Defcon taking down the Steam Auth servers, it’s in your own quote. Everything went down. When a Steam version of Defcon tries to authenticate, it does so with the Steam Auth servers, not the metaserver. In the case of a Steam copy of Defcon, the metaserver is only used for getting a list of games. Ergo when IV note that the metaserver was suffering under the load, then yes, that’d prevent people from getting a list of games. Since it’s clear that Chris also mentions the Steam Auth servers were down, then it’s safe to say that they also went down.

    While past performance isn’t an indicator of future performance, the industry normally expects the next game from a developer who’s had previous big hits to be a big hit as well. Uplink sold well. Darwinia sold even better. Defcon beat all three of them. Given that pattern, it’s not unexpected to say that Multiwinia will beat them all.

    Your comments about Darwinia and how it should have had multiplayer indicate to me that you didn’t play Darwinia or that you don’t know how hard it is to take a single player concept and make it multiplayer. Balance is always a bitch, and Darwinia could not be balanced for multiplayer without rewriting chunks of it… what you see now in the form of Multiwinia.

    As for your AoC or Multiwinia cover question, considering that AoC has been out for quite a while now, I can’t quite see how it’s an exclusive. The mag should have honoured the agreement it had with IV.

    NeoThermic

  28. Hexapodium says:

    Yeah, thanks from me as well- the system works!
    And RPS has more readers than any of the print mags? I knew it was a little bit revolutionary, I didn’t know it was *that* revolutionary.

  29. Al3xand3r says:

    Note he said UK mags. It sort of makes sense. Pay to read magazine only available in one country, or free to read website blog available to read for anyone in the whole wide world? Of course, the requirement is for the blog to be good, like RPS ;)

    Sad thing is, the mags probably still make way more money both from ads and from ripping buyers off. I really don’t understand this, with internet browsing available on all major platforms, why do they still sell when all the information you could possibly want is available online months before? People need to get with the times, I haven’t (regularly) bought a related magazine ever since I bought my first pc over 10 years ago (I was a console junkie prior to that).

  30. Ben Abraham says:

    I hope you guys are managing to monetize RPS in some not-too-sinister way. You deserve it for all the top work you all put in.

  31. LSTAR says:

    Free on-line platforms have been dwarfing print platforms for quite a while now, but for the moment, paper is where the money comes from.
    On the subject of Neon-Tanks, I’ll download this and give it a go.

  32. Cooper says:

    Nice little game. Well done to them for pulling off that tronish look without it being painfully galring and cheesy, it’s actually pretty cool. Shame the resolutions are fixed though.

  33. Caiman says:

    Yes, I hope more people actually try the linked game despite the thread getting a little off topic. I had to get the full game, and there’s a lot more variety in the missions and parallels with Tron than the demo implies. It’s a mix of great base fights a la the demo, and levels best described as Tron 2.0 with tanks.

  34. Ginger Yellow says:

    “Free on-line platforms have been dwarfing print platforms for quite a while now, but for the moment, paper is where the money comes from.”

    Also, people who read RPS and the like are already more likely than average to buy Multiwinia. A print publication like Total PC Gaming is more likely to reach people for whom Multiwinia would normally pass under the radar.

  35. steve says:

    Weird, this talk about contracts/written agreements for covers. I put together er, about 150 of them without a single written agreement.

    Of course I never screwed anyone over and backed out at the last second, though I probably should have. I did have a cover deal fall through with a weekend to go because the publisher promised something they didn’t pass through legal.

  36. paul says:

    Just chipping in here as another happy purchaser of TU and happy reader of RPS. Coincidental? I think not. :)

  37. Kieron Gillen says:

    Steve: As in many things, it seems things are different in the UK. Or at least where I was in the UK.

    At least on my time, I had many covers fall through. I’m impressed you didn’t have to break any promise though – I mean, what did you do when a game slipped a month and you’d promised them a cover which you’d already promised someone else?

    (And, to be doubly fair, being a newstand based business rather than a subs one, covers are of more import in the UK than the US)

    KG