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Alas, Browser Games, I Knew Thee Well

About 16 years ago I entered into a college dormitory for the first time, clutching my new Dell desktop and a suitcase full of clothes. I soon unpacked my computer and set it up. Sure, I used it for studying and completing assignments, but when the sun had set and everyone was asleep, I hit the web browser games. If you were on the internet around this time, then you would have been well acquainted with these little online gems. Games such as RuneScape, Adventure Quest, Bejeweled, and Tribal Wars were just a few of the titles that stole my study time. Of course, these games ended going over to cell phones. Alas, the age of the web browser games was over just as soon as it had begun.

Some developers, however, have not forgotten what these types of games are capable of. A good browser game can become an instant reprieve from the daily grind, and that is worth the time and effort it takes to create one. For indie developer Martin Mortensen and his brother Nicolai, these games have unlimited potential in a busy world where people are always in front of a computer or cell phone. It is for that reason that they, and a talented team of coders, created Tankwars.io; the free-to-play browser MOBA that lets you dominate the field of battle using the tank of your choice.

Sliding Into the Gaming Industry

A picture of the Mortensen brothers during their Skiftselv.dk days. Nicolai (left) and Martin (right)

I was able to sit down and speak with Martin Mortensen about the creation of this title and why he chose to make a browser game instead of a mobile title. Game development was not always on Martin’s mind. As a native of Denmark, he and his brother had an early start at some entrepreneurial opportunities. Years ago they started a company called Skiftselv.dk that specialized in buying and selling items for lower prices to clients. As the internet gaming craze began in the early 2K period, the brothers saw possibilities in gaining revenue through creating a game. Thus Tankwars.io was born.

According to Mortensen, the Tankwars.io game that we have today was nothing like the previous model. In fact, the early form of the game was rather primitive, and it was very expensive to create. With limited knowledge of game development, the Mortensen brothers had to shell out quite a bit of their own money to finance the project. The end product ended up being less than desirable. The gameplay was very primitive, and it provided very little depth to the browser game experience. They needed to do something different, so they looked to help in high places.

Reaching Out to the Big Boys

The brothers found a larger gaming production company based out of Hamburg, Germany that was willing to help with the project. They willingly gave the game over to them to make necessary improvements. As the refining process took place, however, the Mortensens noticed that the company asked to have more and more control over the distribution of the title. The original plan was to have the company merely make a better production of the game. However, they wanted to make money off of the game themselves and gave the Mortensens a very small cut of the profits.

This plan did not sit well with the fledgling developers. After catching wind of the potential exploitation, the brothers took their completed project back from the company, which the producer allowed, for a price. Tankwars.io was officially completed after a few years, and plenty of dollars spent. It is now looking better than ever, and back into the right hands. With the new game in hand, Martin Mortensen created PlayOn.io, the tech company that would provide the round the clock support for Tankwars. The game was ready for the masses to enjoy, but how would it be received?

The guys hard at work on Tankwars.io.

A Quick Review of Tankwars.io

Wanting to see this game myself, Martin generously provided gems and gold (the currency of the game) to start playing with a decent amount of power. It was very easy for me to set up an account and immediately start playing the title. This game is a MOBA. As such, I was halfway expecting the gameplay to be a convoluted mess where seasoned players had a clear advantage over those who are just beginning. I did not experience that.

Jumping into the top-down gameplay, I first noticed how easy it was to control the tank. Other tank games give the body of the tank a “front and back”. Moving forward simply moves the front of the machine forward, and that can get incredibly confusing. Tankwars.io takes the hassle of those controls and replaces them with a simple “up, down, left, right” interface that uses the W, S, A, and D buttons. The mouse controls the turret, so it is as easy as pointing at the object and then clicking to fire at it.

The action is non-stop, so you better have fast reflexes and a steady aim.

There are two modes, Conquest and KingDM. The Conquest mode is basically “capture the point” that pits tanks against each other. KingDM is a free-for-all that makes certain players a greater target to everyone else by giving them a giant crown. Nothing says “shoot me” like some added bling. Both of the modes are fun, but I preferred the Conquest mode because it was less a “who just shot me” and more of an “I shot that guy, I just missed” type of game.

Upgrades, Skins, and the Money in Your Pocket

For those of you who do not realize this, free games still cost money to produce and keep live. With that said, much like cell phone games, browser games pay for their overhead by offering paid-for content. Tankwars.io is no different, but the game itself gives the players quite a bit to work with. A daily loot crate will provide a new skin, commander, or gold, each time the player logs on. Along with that, the upgraded tanks may provide a tactical advantage, but a beginner with a good shot and support will always prevail. The weapons on the battlefield also provide a welcome addition to the action. Such “powers” include air support, defensive turrets, and power shields.

As I play the game, I am reminded of when my time was taken up by older Flash games. This game, however, was created using HTML5; it is not graphically intense by any means. This is quite a feat for the amount of content that is contained within this title.

If You Are On Break, Check This Game Out

The final product of this title has greatly pleased the Mortensens. Martin thinks that Tankwars.io is the perfect game for busy people. These are people who just want to take a break from their work; I can relate to that. I have found myself logging onto the Tankwars.io browser during my lunch breaks at my job to shoot up some strangers. It is a great way to pass the time.

As for the Mortensens and PlayOn.io, they are going to continue to support and develop Tankwars.io. The game has plenty of promise, just very few players. It is Martin’s desire to get this game out to more people. In fact, he wishes to create a mobile version of the game in the future. The mobile format is currently in development, but it will take some time before it gets off the ground.

I invite all of you to try Tankwars.io out for yourself. All you need to do is follow this link and start a game. You can start as a guest or take a few moments and set up your own account. It is that easy! So, are ready to take on other players in some tank to tank combat?