Atomic Tanks is a multi-platform Scorched Earth clone. Players destroy other tanks to earn money, which they can spend on shields and weapons to better wipe out the opposition. The game features a wide array of weapons, AI players, destructible landscape, weather, parachutes, teleports, and many other features.
It sounds like serious business, but developer Jesse Smith says it’s all about fun – “a bunch of saucy cartoon tanks shooting oversized, unrealistic weapons at each other. There are very few stats and no story line.”
Smith says Atomic Tanks reminds people of the kinds of games you could play in the early ’90s, when you could play a game in five minutes, waste some time, then go back to whatever you were doing. Smith says the game has been featured in a few magazines (mostly in Europe), and gains a lot of players by word of mouth too. It’s popular with both adults and children. “Some parents have written to me to thank me for coding a baby-sitter for them,” Smith says.
Version 3.9, which was just released on Monday, has more than 20 new features, Smith says, including Russian language support. Perhaps the most prominent is keyboard support – a mouse is no longer required to play. The developers have moved image and sound files into folders, so people can easily customize the look and feel of the game. They can also optionally play music in the background. Smith says, “I hope this will encourage people to create ‘Atanks music’ and share it with the community.”
The developers also created an Add-ons page for the project to allow people to share links to their custom backgrounds, music, and other tweaks with other Atanks users.
Smith says he has “a list of about six new weapons or items that will be added in the next two releases. There will also be more translations to better support both Russian and German languages. Also, networking code is slowly getting added, so we should see Internet-wide play of Atanks in the next year.”
The project releases a new version about once every month or two – “whenever I have enough material to justify a release. As the project matures, I think we’ll see regular releases about once every three months.”
One of the keys to the success of Atomic Tanks, Smith says, is “our willingness to take suggestions and roll them into the game. I get dozens of e-mails from people saying, ‘Can you make a weapon like this?’ or ‘Could you make it so I can do that?’ and we do our best to put those things in. I try to respond to every request and try to add things suggested by our user community to every release.”
Of course Smith doesn’t do it alone. “The project constantly gets help from all over the globe. All the translations, much of the graphics, and countless patches have come from all over, and I wish I had enough time to thank all the people who have lent a hand. But we can always use more help! We could really use a part-time Windows C++ coder. I try to make Atanks completely cross-platform, but I only have experience with Linux, and some features haven’t been ported to Windows yet. We can also use graphic designers, people who can translate the game to their native language, and musicians. I also won’t say no to hardware or money donations.
“If anyone wants to help, they can e-mail me directly at jessefrgsmith AT yahoo DOT ca. If I don’t respond within 48 hours, it’s probably my spam filter getting trigger-happy – please try again! The next-best way is to join the Atanks forum and make some suggestions.
“I will write a letter of reference for anyone who contributes material to Atomic Tanks that is included in a release. It’s the best I can do, as there’s no money for the project right now.”
Finally, Smith offers a tip for players. “When fighting, don’t underestimate the power of well-placed dirt. Being able to cover an enemy (or get out from under a lot of dirt) can be key to staying alive.”