Tribes 2
Jungle boogie?
Publisher: Dynamix
Posted: 05/15/1999
Written by: Benjamin E. Sones

FORUM: Tribes 2
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NEWS: Tribes 2 to debut at E3
NEWS: Tribes 2 goes gold
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Shot One Trees, rock overhangs, and a nasty new tribe called the BioDerms… what's not to like?
Watching the sequel to Dynamix's 1999 online masterpiece in motion on a massive projection screen inside the Tribes 2 trailer on the E3 show floor, it is difficult to keep from feeling at least a little excited. The engine has received a good deal of polish since its initial incarnation and the environments look a bit less barren than they did in the original Tribes. The terrain engine is still based on a height map model (variations in the terrain are extruded from a flat plane based on height information), but a greater number of separate objects have been worked into the maps to provide features that are impossible to create with a height map (such as overhangs and rock bridges). Trees and other foliage lend a more organic feel to the Spartan landscapes, and while the greenery is fairly sparse in the desert map being shown at E3, Dynamix promises that there will be worlds with foliage dense enough to provide a true tactical benefit. "We would like to have a world like Dagobah" explains software engineer Mark Frohnmayer, although the team has yet to determine whether such a swamp environment will actually make it into the game.

One thing that will make it into the game, Dagobah or no, is water. Large bodies of water are evident in the E3 demo, although the team explains that the effects of water have not yet been coded into the game. Ideally characters will be unable to breath under water without the aid of an environment pack, making bodies of water tactical obstacles that block the movement of players who lack the equipment to traverse them. "Light" characters will likely be able to jet over even wide expanses of water, but "heavies" will have to spring for an environment pack or find another route.

Also evident in the demo are new weather effects, such as an animated double layer of clouds and random bolts of lightning that strike down from the heavens without warning. Far from being mere eye candy, the lightning bolts can potentially strike characters in the air or on high ground. The chances of getting hit will probably not be extremely high—Dynamix does not want the lightning to act as an "inanimate enemy," but rather pose a tactical concern as players are maneuvering about the map.

Shot Two An image of the E3 demo in progress shot on a Kodak DC210 digital camera; note that the image quality is lower than that of a standard screenshot
The array of vehicles offered in the original game will be expanded to include a number of different ground vehicles. None of these are present in the E3 demo, but the plan is to integrate a ground version of the scout vehicle and a turreted assault vehicle into the existing assortment.

Dynamix has been paying attention to suggestions and complaints from fans of the original Tribes, and hopes to address some of the major concerns in the sequel. One of the biggest gripes has been in regards to the lack of a real single player mode, and the team is creating bots that will possess the ability to intelligently pursue team goals to help on that front. Bots will also be useable in multiplayer games to provide opposition or to help fill out a small team. Dynamix also plans to enhance the game's front end to make it easier for players to meet and create games, but specific changes have yet to be determined. Weapons have also been tweaked a bit—several new weapons will be added to the game's arsenal, and existing weapons will be tweaked to give them a little extra "oomph." The plasma gun has already received this treatment, and now provides sound and visuals every bit as satisfying as the plasma rifle in Q3test. The game is also being built to support OpenGL from the start, hopefully improving the quirky performance that Tribes has never been able to adequately fix in regards to that API.

Another welcome addition to the game is built-in support for voice communication, which will be provided through either a third party license or a proprietary system. The ability to chat with one's team mates without having to stop and type is an invaluable asset in any team-based game, and if Dynamix can make this feature function smoothly they may have the team game to beat when it ships for both the Macintosh and the PC in early 2000.
©1999 Strategy Plus, Inc.

Starsiege: Tribes PC BOOK 01/99 $13.95
Starsiege: Tribes CD 12/98 $17.95
Starsiege Tribes 2 CD 04/01 $29.95