Saturday, March 21, 2009

Open source Artillery / Worms clones

So it seems that Scorched 3D, Wormux, Hedgewars, and Atomic Tanks are all clones of inspired by... Worms? No. Scorched Earth? Nah. Gorillas? Nope. Tank Wars? No. That's right, their roots go all the way back to a 1980 on the Apple II under the name Artillery. Even earlier ascii versions from as early as 1976 are reported. Now that's real history - all other games (pong and chess excepted) are modern upstarts. ;-)

Atomic Tanks


One of the older and more mature open source Artillery clones, with version 0.5 first available in January of 2003, Atomic Tanks doesn't seem to have the online presence of it's contemporaries. This is probably because it doesn't look that nice, with garish colours, coarse widgets, and almost badly drawn sprites.

Update: Markus comments, "I am sure that the graphics and such in Atomic Tanks are intentional. It is a fairly faithful reproduction of the original Scorched Earth, and for those of us who grew up playing that game quite a bit, that is where the real appeal lies." I'm not sure I can agree with you there [on the intentionality of the bad graphics] after inspecting the original graphics.

What it lacks in the graphics department, it makes up for in features. The sheer range of weapons is overwhelming. You earn money, which you can use upgrade features and improve your tanks, making the game a much more appealing single player experience. Also the land behaves differently, falling to fill and holes created by explosions.

The latest release was 20th March 2009, which gives it a spot at the top of the article. :-)

Scorched 3D


Scorched 3D has been in development since 2001 with build 1 released on 29th April of that year.

The first thing to note about Scorched 3D is that it looks beautiful. It is the only 3D game in the article, but it is especially well done. The islands deform as they get pounded by missiles. Battleships stay moored offshore, the waves lap against the beaches, and jet fighters fly overhead the tanks. It looks as good as a commercial game.

Scorched 3D build 42.1 arrived on 3rd March 2009.



Hedgewars is the youngest of the four projects, in development since 2004 and first released on 13th November 2006.

If I had to sum up Hedgewars in 3 words, I would say, "Worms II with hedgehogs." (Hey, II is a number!) With it's yelps and ows, and faithful recreation of many of the popular Worms weapons, it makes for a very similar gaming experience, arguably even better.

Hedgewars 0.9.9 was released 19th January 2009 and version 0.9.10 is imminent. I think the video successfully gets across just how Worms-like Hedgewars is:



Wormux looks very nice, and gameplay deviates a bit more than Hedgewars from the original worms experience, but is still very heavily inspired by it. It includes all the popular Free software mascots, so there's plenty of characters that you should recognise or should learn to recognise - making it almost educational! ;-)

The last few years have seen the developers work towards a new engine that will massively enhance the game with features like integrated physics (they created whysics engine just for this). I expect Wormux will continue to depart in a good way - by adding new interesting features that enhance gameplay - from it's Worms foundations whilst retaining the spirit that inspired the project originally.

Version 0.8.3 was released on 5th March 2009 and included some backported enhancements from the development version.


Looking to the future, there is also the iteam project, inspired by Gunbound. It seems like it could combine the graphical panache of Wormux with the upgrading fun of Atomic Tanks, but development has been very slow despite a wave of initial enthusiasm.




If you like things to look Worms-like, but be more frantic, you should check out the games OpenLieroX or Gusanos - both inspired by a freeware game Liero(X). It has the character of old-school Worms but plays like 2D Quake. Gusanos (based on the classic Liero) development is inactive, last release occuring on 31st January 2006, whereas OpenLieroX (based on LeiroX) development is ongoing at a slow pace, with version 0.57_beta8 released 9th October 2008.

(My Liero-foo history may be out there, I'm not 100% sure how the different projects relate to eachother.)

Similar in gameplay style, but more modern and less retro-pixel, perhaps Teeworlds is your cup of tea. At version 0.5.1, the game is already solid, polished, and playable and has an enthusiastic, growing player base with many regular players. Development is very active and the last release was 25th January 2009.


The Artillery genre of open source games is possibly the healthiest genre of open source games with 4 very good, polished, playable, and actively developed projects, as well as other similar games, inspired by the classics. With 2D games increasingly neglected by the commercial sector, this genre is arguably one where a few of the open source projects have surpassed their commercial counterparts.

So, which (if any) of the Artillery-inspired open source games do you prefer to play? What's best about it? Or are you hardcore and only accept real clones and none of this contemporary rubbish? :-)