Welcome to another More Than Mashing, the net’s only column about mastery of the art of play. This week I’ve got some great Tribes videos from all 3 games in the Tribes series.
The big thing in the Tribes series is velocity, how you get it, how you hang onto it, and most importantly: how you use it. The original Starsiege Tribes was designed with massive maps and was intended to be played with vehicles moving soldiers around, and using jetpacks to get onto things. What players discovered is that they could slide down slopes by pressing jump repeatedly. Presumably this happened because while in an air state players had no friction holding them back, so by jumping instantly every time they hit the ground, they could avoid ground friction and ski down slopes, converting their gravitational acceleration into horizontal acceleration. Players bound a macro to the space bar so that they could hold it down to repeatedly jump and skiing was born, with players sliding down slopes, then lifting off with their jetpacks to gain greater speed. Among movement techniques this is one of the most analog, its effect varying a lot depending on the angle of the slope, so players need to know the map well to really gain speed. Tribes had a fair share of weapons, but after Skiing was discovered, everyone’s favorite became the disk launcher, later called the spinfusor.
The Spinfusor is like a rocket launcher by a different name, it launches a disc at opponents that explodes on contact, doing massive damage, naturally this makes it a very potent tool for ranged combat. Due to skiing, players using the disc launcher have to be careful where they aim. They can nail players on the ground and hit them with blast damage, or if they’re skilled enough, they can even airshot enemies, hitting them clean with the disc. Anyone familiar with the rocket launcher in normal first person shooters like Quake, Unreal Tournament, or Team Fortress 2 knows that in order to hit, you have to aim a bit ahead of where the target is, to hit them where they are moving to. Tribes, featuring high speed pursuit across massive maps, takes the concept of leading your shot to a whole new level. To successfully land discs, you need to predict far ahead of where your target is, and their movement through the air, hitting them dead on, a small collection of pixels on your screen.
To make matters trickier, there’s inheritance. The thing is, as you move, the projectiles you shoot inherit your velocity. They don’t just fire straight in the direction you point, they have both their own velocity from being fired, and that’s added with your velocity vector to produce the final trajectory and speed of the projectile. For example, if you’re moving forward at 300 KM/H, and fire a projectile at 200 KM/H, in a 100% inheritance situation, it will fly at 500 KM/H, the combined total of both your forward velocity and its own velocity. If you fire it to the left, then it will not move perfectly in that direction, instead it will move a bit in the direction you were moving and a bit off to the left, the combined total of 30o KM/H forwards and 200 KM/H to the left, producing a velocity vector of 360.55 KM/H at a 33.69° angle from the direction of your character’s velocity. If you’re facing backwards from your movement direction, and fire a shot off, then your velocity of 300 is subtracted from the disc’s mere velocity of 200, and it now moves in the same direction you are, at 100 KM/H. Most weapons in Tribes Ascend do not have 100% inheritance, but instead 50% or 20%, so they only inherit half your velocity, or 20% of it.
The big deal with velocity inheritance is that your projectiles go faster, and more importantly, you need to factor it in when you’re leading your shots. You need to know how fast you’re going and how fast they’re going in order to figure out how to line up your next disc. This makes airshots insanely challenging, especially across long distances like the video up top. Lower inheritance can make shots easier to aim (it will hit closer to the exact spot you point at), but it comes at the price of slower projectiles and potentially hitting yourself if you are traveling at higher speeds (fire a projectile that moves 200 KM/H, move at 300KM/H, do the math). On the opposite side, higher inheritance can make it a bit easier to hit targets moving at the same velocity as you, because they, and the projectile you fire will remain at relatively the same distance from each other (if an entire system is moving at 100 KM/H north, then from a relative perspective, any component of that system might as well be standing still, so from that perspective, the disc will be the only object in motion relative to the players, so its trajectory will be completely straight as far as the individual players moving in unison are concerned) this principle is well demonstrated in this video. Unfortunately such perfect conditions are rare and if your foe is moving perpendicular to you, taking them down can be tricky.
In addition to just projectile inheritance, a huge part of most Tribes game modes is the flag. Most of the Tribes game modes include a flag that needs to be held onto among a team, either so it can be captured or possession of it can be kept, and to do this, you’re given the option of passing it off to a team mate. Frequently the best way to hang onto a flag is to give it up by misdirecting the enemy with careful flag passes off to allies, forcing your opponents to drop the focus on you and swerve around to follow your team mate. When you toss the flag, naturally it inherits some of your velocity like most other projectiles, so flag passes have to be careful. While you’re in possession you can’t get hit with nitron grenades or you’ll drop it. This means that speed gained from Nitrons has to be done before you pick up the flag, or you’ll lose it as soon as it was acquired.
Another great tactic in tribes is hitting yourself with Nitron Grenades in order to get a speedboost. This is also possible with other exploding projectiles like the spinfusors, although costly. Nitrons can be tricky to use as they take a sec to explode, so at higher velocities you actually throw them slightly ahead of you so they explode when they’re right behind you. This means you have to aim carefully when throwing them. Using Nitrons can be a great way to get a lot of speed in a hurry, or to get better speeds than the slopes around you would really grant, but it comes at the cost of harming yourself. You can also shoot yourself with discs to speed up, much like rocket jumping, but this hurts a lot more unless you take the Egomaniac perk in Tribes Ascend.
All in all, the biggest component of skill in tribes is really a type of analog evaluation. In contrast to many other types of game skills, skill in tribes is less about pushing certain button combinations at the right times or advanced obscure knowledge and more about simply figuring out the relative velocities of objects and judging how long you need to jetpack to hit the next slope on the way down. It’s a system that really rewards people that have foresight and who can get a feel for bodies in motion. There are a bunch of other great Tribes montages I’d have loved to stick in this article, but I don’t really have the space for it, so here’s a listing of them, Descendents 1, Tribes Legacy: Skill, Tribes Legacy: Speed, Tribes Legacy: Team, Flag Capper Must Die I, Flag Capper Must Die II, Mortar-ly Wounded, and Most Wanted.
Do you have some skilled gameplay footage, forward it to me in the comments. I plan to review all that I can and next up could be yours. I’ve been working on my collection and it grows by the day. If you want to have a look I have it up in playlists here, here, and here.
Know your enemy, know yourself, and victory will follow. See you next time!