• 2D shoot 'em up
SDL2 Rogue tutorial
SDL2 Gunner tutorial
SDL2 Shooter 2 tutorial
SDL2 Widget tutorial
SDL2 Adventure tutorial
The Making Of
TANX Squadron was the last game I made on the Amiga and was certainly the most challenging. It was largely inspired by a game called "UFO : Enemy Unknown", probably one of the greatest games ever made in my humble opinion.
TANX Squadron was the story about how ten men and women took on the task of attempting to rid the world from an alien invasion of unknown and unprovoked origin. The aliens ranged from organic tanks to mutated flying insects. The team had originally been members of a global task force which had suffered many losses and were now routed. Convinced there was a better way of dealing with the alien threat the team decided to investigate all avenues and stop the aliens at the source of their arrival on the planet.
Another team known as The Cyberwolves were also present in the game. This team however were now part of the alien faction having been mind controlled. They were working along side the aliens helping them to spread their presence throughout the world.
TANX was at times very frustrating to make and took many many hours to test. This was due, in part, to creating a complex game on a machine that ran at 14Mhz! Nice! The enemy turn would take a long long time to complete. But the end results were worth it.
Even though it was inspired by UFO, the game was to going to take a linear approach to the mission structure - ie - After finishing a level the player would move onto the next level. The game did include some optional levels and objectives though. However these extra objectives usually involved the recovery of some blue prints in order to buy a new type of weapon.
The player could customise their team, being able to name the characters and select which vehicle they would pilot. The vehicles came down to tanks and jets, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Speed, payload and weapon compatibility were all factors determining the vehicle's abilities. Jets were also faster so the pilot could benefit from more time units at the expense of armour. Two unique vehicles in the game were the Trojan and the Devestator. These two vehicles were the only two in the game that could carry a weapon known as the Neutron Cannon.
Like UFO all units in the game had a number of time units to use that would allow them to move and fire. As the pilots' skill increased their time units would also extend. Towards the end of the game the pilots would be so skilled that they could run rings around the enemy. Couple this with some powerful weaponary and you soon became invincible.
The game however did feature a time limit that only became evident 1/4 of the way through the game. You were told that hundreds of thousands of alien spores were in ready and waiting to be dropped onto the surface of the Earth, from orbit, in 48 hours' time. The time limit had been imposed from the beginning of the game so the time the player had already spent was deducted. The time limit was never meant to be tight but would help to convey a sense of urgency in what was being done. Luckily time was only deducted from this limit during the player's turn in battle and even then it was done according to frame rate, rather than time real.
When the game started there were only a few items available to buy - Shells and rockets. Depending on the vehicle only certain weapons could be used and also only a certain number of weapons could be overall equipped. The AKIKAOs and Light Tanks could only equip a maximum of 3 weapons, whilst the Devestator and Trojan could carry all 8 available weapons.
The machine gun was unlimited. It was a rather wimpy weapon, but was useful against the basic organic tanks and the flies. Attacking a Sentinel with a machine gun was pointless. Apart from shells and rockets, a laser and plasma cannon were available. The laser a very powerful weapon in that it was not only unlimited, but passed through the enemies striking them several times and could also bounce off walls. A wall place shot could take out a number of enemies ... and also yourself if you weren't careful! After being fired the Laser cannon would require 1 round to cool down before it could be used again. Other weapons included a freeze cannon, a weapon known as a Concussion Missile and the Neutron Cannon.
New weapons would have to be gained by recovering Blue Prints on certain missions. In some cases (like the Concussion Missile) the player was not told of the weapon's presence and they would need to explore the level carefully in order to find it. Other weapons were guarded by the Cyberwolves. Two of the Cyberwolves guarded the Laser Blue Prints on the forth mission.
Delete it. All of it.
Have you ever gotten to the point when you're working on something were it has just managed to get you so frustrated, so upset and basically just pissed you off so much that you just want to see the back of it and never ever have to deal with it again? Well, this happened to me twice with TANX Squadron.
The first time was actually Richard threatening to delete it because I was getting in a mood about writing it and how it wasn't working properly. He didn't delete it but I came very close to actually letting him do so.
The second time I really did delete it. This happened when I was working on the first level and the game would crash often whilst doing important things such as Line of Sight checks. I deleted the game and then went on to do some other things. The next day I regretted what I had done and thankfully found a backup copy I had made a few days previous. I started working with this backup copy once more and managed to solve the issues I'd been having. Work on the game continued at a steady pace after this.
"No, because you still owe Steve £25 ..."
There is a very silly joke that sometimes crops up when we are with close friends when Richard tells me I owe him some money. Someone will pipe up that the sum requested is not accurate since Richard still owes me £25 for TANX Squadron.
About the time I finished University I left England with the intension of travelling around Central and South America for a year. The trip was cut short six weeks in after I discovered some family issues. I decided to return home at this point. One morning Richard received a letter containing a cheque for £50. He looked rather bemused and then suddenly mentioned that this must be for TANX Squadron.
It transpired that whilst I had been away, Richard had taken my hardwork and sent it in to Amiga Format. Amiga Format had awared the game their Reader's Contribution of the month and had printed a small article on the game, creditted Richard and promptly sent him £50. Whilst it wasn't that Richard hadn't done any work on the game, I was fuming, since the vast majority had been done by myself (essentially the game was my baby!). He did, of course, give me the £25 I was due, but to this day we have never really let it go ...
The Cyberwolves were the player's team's nemesis. They used to battle along side them before they were captured by the aliens and brainwashed. They would show up from time to time during the missions and cause the player a certain amount of grief before fleeing the battle scene. It was never possible to kill the Cyberwolves at this point, merely scare them off after causing them a certain amount of damage.
There were two highly signicant encounters with the Cyberwolves. The first was during a mission where the player would seek to save a member of their team who had been kidnapped. The kidnapping took place around the 10th level in the game. After fleeing a base that was burning down a random pilot (except one in charge of a unique vehicle) was removed from the team. The rescue mission allowed the player to open a door where the pilot was held and allow them to rejoin the mission. The player did, of course, have to battle a number of Cyberwolves in order to get their team member back, including the Cyberwolves' Leader, Commander Tyrran.
The second encounter took place when the player attacked the Cyberwolves' base. This mission was by far the shortest in the entire game. Both teams entered an arena (full with obstacles to allow for line of sight hiding) and battled until only one team was left standing. It was easily possible to get through this mission without any loss of life, however Cyberwolves exploited every situation possible including using the "freeze and shatter" ice gun attack.
The Final Level
Unlike games like Starfighter and Metal Blob Solid, I do sometimes wonder if anyone ever finished TANX Squadron. There are many reasons why they may not have - They may have found it too hard, they may have gotten bored and given up ... Or they might not have been able to.
Although I'm sure it was removed before the final build I remember having to change some of the indexing on the map to allow the player's units to move into the squares. These squares were significant since the player had to pick up four keys in order to gain access to the final area and destroy the main computer. After all the work that I put into the game, it would be a real pity if the experience had been runined by such a major oversight. And unfortunately I am completely unable to simply update the game since I no longer have access to the source code ...
If there was one major flaw with TANX Squadron it was this - The game was far too hard. Without weapons such as the laser cannon and the machine gun, the player could end up finding themselves caught short during battles and find themselves out of ammo. Although this was actually a rare occurence during game play, it was none the less a pretty significant short coming.
The other aspect of made the game too hard was the fact that if a team member was killed they were gone for good. The simplest solution was to just not let it happen and save the game a lot. However it was still something that I now believe should have been rectified.
If I ever were to remake TANX Squadron I would add in more features and levels, add in some more points about the backstory and make the game quite a bit easier by default.
Having said that I still believe that TANX was a crowning acheivement on my part and I have a lot of fond memories of the game as a result.
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