Talking BattleTanx with creative director Michael Mendheim

 Talking BattleTanx with creative director Michael Mendheim

Within the unimaginably distant way forward for 2001…

After the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer failed to achieve traction within the market, Journey Hawkin’s firm needed to pivot fairly shortly into software program to outlive. Whereas 3DO could be greatest identified for polluting the online game panorama with poorly acquired Military Males video games (and a few legitimately good ones), the beginning they’d was really very promising. They scooped up numerous expertise and managed to land a couple of hits.

1998’s BattleTanx was one such recreation; their first on the N64. For the system, I nonetheless take into account it to be top-shelf leisure. I used to be completely happy to have the ability to discuss to the sport’s creative director, Michael Mendheim, about its creation, because it has lengthy been a title I’ve stored near my coronary heart.

Michael Mendheim is probably greatest identified for the Mutant League video games on Sega Genesis: Mutant League Soccer and Mutant League Hockey. They have been developed with EA, which is the place Mendheim met Journey Hawkins. Or, as Mendheim places it, “I knew Journey Hawkins from my EA days engaged on the Mutant League franchise. He left EA to start out the 3DO Firm. When the 3DO Firm transitioned from a {hardware} firm to software program growth, Journey prolonged me a proposal and I got here on board as a design director for an unnamed undertaking.”

That unnamed undertaking was being developed beneath the watch of programmer Robert Zdybel. Zdybel’s title may not instantly ring any bells, however he’s an trade veteran, having labored on ports of Missile Command and House Raiders for Atari. He additionally helped design Bug Hunt, which was a pack-in title for the Atari XEGS.

“Rob Zdybel is an trade legend,” Mendheim mentioned. “I felt very misplaced reviewing his undertaking. It’s like a child out of movie college telling Martin Scorsese the way to direct a movie.”

Battletanx Story

Heavy armor

“I talked intimately to Rob and the group about their undertaking, they usually had numerous cool standalone concepts for options however had a tough time speaking their imaginative and prescient of what the sport was going to be. To make the overview more durable, the sport wasn’t very playable so it was obscure the core mechanics, however you possibly can transfer an object inside an atmosphere and that was fascinating to me. My orders have been to both assist the group end what they’re creating or attempt to come up with a brand new idea that might use the know-how already developed.”

“The product schedule to develop and full the sport was a few yr. It was an bold schedule, and we’d be 3DO’s first console recreation to market. There was numerous strain on me, and I didn’t really feel comfy rolling the cube on a undertaking I didn’t have a transparent imaginative and prescient of. As an alternative, I got here up with a recreation idea that might work with the groups’ present tech.”

Mendheim took inspiration from Tokyo Wars, a sit-down arcade title wherein groups of tanks battled it out within the streets of Tokyo. Nevertheless, this was shortly after GoldenEye hit the N64. If you happen to weren’t round for these days, having an N64 and GoldenEye meant abruptly having three pals. It was a enjoyable four-player recreation that had a myriad of modes to maintain you enjoying by way of the evening. I bear in mind having numerous difficulties discovering a rental copy, as each weekend, they’d be out of inventory.

“I pitched BattleTanx as — ‘Tokyo Wars meets GoldenEye.’ We might construct a Tokyo Wars-style recreation utilizing the present know-how already developed and have the group deal with making a enjoyable multiplayer recreation. That’s how I bought the sport to the event and government groups at 3DO.”

Guided Missile

Queen Lord rescued

The inspiration is obvious. Regardless that there’s an pleasurable single-player marketing campaign, numerous thought was put into multiplayer. There’s quite a lot of modes from traditional deathmatch to capture-the-flag. There have been numerous nice weapons scattered across the atmosphere, and cautious use of them could possibly be the distinction between victory and defeat. If you happen to might get everybody collectively on a weekend, BattleTanx might absorb numerous time.

“At first, the dev group was reluctant,” Mendheim. “They thought it was a foolish concept – however I had them play Tokyo Wars so they may perceive the mechanics. Early in growth, the group wasn’t completely happy with the brand new route and didn’t imagine in it. I don’t assume anybody on the group trusted me at that time, however we moved forward on the event.”

“Our first playable is what turned the group round. The multiplayer recreation was a blast to play, everybody had enjoyable, and that’s when Rob and the remainder of the group began to imagine within the undertaking. When group members begin to get excited and contribute concepts for cool weapons, map design, and different options, that’s when you recognize they’re purchased in. As soon as a group believes in a undertaking every thing begins to snowball in a constructive route and that’s what occurred with BattleTanx.”

There’s a storyline to tie all of it collectively. A lethal virus wipes out 99.9% of girls; like hand sanitizer for estrogen. With out female nagging to information the boys of the world, international locations descend into civil battle, ending in a nuclear apocalypse. Then the survivors commandeer tanks and battle over the remaining girls. After I was a child, I assumed this narrative was so cool. That was earlier than a world pandemic grew to become actuality, and as a substitute of tanks, we simply ordered in rather a lot. Now I simply assume the story is hilarious.

“One reviewer mentioned, ‘BattleTanx has the strangest story we’ve ever heard of however the gameplay is not any joke.’ Would I do the identical story now? In all probability not with out huge adjustments however again within the nineties… effectively it was nonetheless means excessive. The storyline was only a means so as to add a story to the seize the flag gameplay. I got here up with an concept {that a} virus killed 99% of the feminine inhabitants of Earth, and after a nuclear apocalypse, the world was left in ruins, roving bands of gangs battle for the few remaining girls who’re proclaimed Queen Lords. Being a warped and deranged designer, I assumed making an attempt to seize girls could be much more fascinating for 13 to 18-year-old boys than capturing a generic flag.”

Honest sufficient. However why are there so many tanks mendacity round?

“It’s a Mad Max kind of world, so the gangs are salvaging and rebuilding navy armor. Look when you’re going to purchase into Queen Lords then having numerous tanks on the earth isn’t that a lot of a stretch so far as plausibility goes.”

Honest sufficient.

Battletanx magazine ad

Unconventional Ordinance

BattleTanx was ridiculous. The tanks speed up like they run on sugar. The weapons ranged from guided rockets, to lasers, to a damned nuke.

“The group was simply making an attempt to push issues so far as they may go, and you’ll’t push an explosion additional than a nuke,” mentioned Mendheim. “The feasibility of this weapon all got here all the way down to how we might make it enjoyable — hold the battle going even after a nuke was deployed and pull off what needed to be the largest and most spectacular visible impact in your entire recreation. Alex Werner was the engineer who created that VFX and when he confirmed it to me my jaw dropped. It was every thing I hoped for and extra. The nuke was positively going to make an look within the recreation. It was the cherry on the pie. Alex Werner introduced a lot expertise and creativity to BattleTanx, with out him we don’t have successful. He was one of many group’s greatest stars.”

It’s superior. You drop the nuke and run. Air raid sirens go off, then the sport’s draw fog turns a sickly yellow-green. A blastwave rips by way of your entire stage, crumpling buildings in its wake. They are often troublesome to search out in BattleTanx’s maps, however there’s a faction that truly begins with one in multiplayer. It’s an effective way to start out issues off with a bang.

The nuke from BattleTanx. The cerebral bore from Turok 2. The laptop computer gun from Excellent Darkish. The shrink ray from Duke Nukem 3D. The holy hand grenade from Worms (The Director’s Reduce). What an period the ‘90s have been! One of the best we appear to get as of late is a grappling hook.

Battletanx Nuke Blastwave

Street journey

The destruction on the whole was maybe an important half. Other than some strategically positioned buildings, virtually every thing could possibly be leveled. Paths could possibly be lower straight by way of metropolis blocks. Every map was based mostly on real-world places.

“We had ranges of San Francisco’s Pier 39 (Fisherman’s Warf), State Avenue in Chicago, Fremont Avenue, Las Vegas, and Instances Sq., New York. I traveled to those cities and took images which I might use to design the maps after which move to our artwork director, Peter Traugot for use for reference for the artwork group.”

“Town maps have been designed like mazes with a large number of buildings appearing as partitions, conserving the tanks contained on the road inside a confined house. Since a lot of the buildings could possibly be destroyed with a number of blasts, gamers would destroy buildings to open the maze and create tactical benefits in opposition to the opposing group. All multiplayer maps have been designed like this, and it added technique and ways to the quick and livid arcade gameplay. It gave the sport depth and replayability.”

Quarantine Zones

I’d be amiss to not point out the music in BattleTanx, which reminds closely of the grittier facet of Sega Genesis tunes. Crunchy guitar and artificial beats, like in Shadowrun. The music duties are credited to Trackattack throughout the recreation, which I couldn’t discover any extra info on. In response to Mendheim, this was Larry Millas from the band Ides of March, and Mendheim’s personal spouse, Robyn Mendheim. Excuse me whereas I fireplace up the soundtrack.

BattleTanx was the hit that 3DO wanted to interrupt into the console house. On the time, I noticed them on the identical stage as Acclaim and Activision: publishers who I might really bear in mind the names of. Whereas they burnt out their goodwill in later years, BattleTanx was a hell of a approach to make a mark within the software program market. The truth that it’s not higher remembered at present is a criminal offense.

Fortunately, BattleTanx did warrant a sequel, which got here within the type of BattleTanx: World Assault, however extra on that subsequent time.

For different retro titles you could have missed, click on proper right here!

Zoey Handley

Zoey is a gadabout gaming hobbyist. She’s been enjoying video video games all her life and is a lover of each new and retro video games. She enjoys digging within the dust and selecting out the video games which might be completely advantageous when you clear them up a bit.

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