Tribes (video game)

From Academic Kids

For the biological concept, see tribe (biology). For the social concept, see tribe.

Tribes is a series of science fiction first-person shooter computer games originally published by Dynamix, a subsidiary of Sierra Entertainment. Set in the same universe as the game Starsiege, there are four games in the Tribes series:



Starsiege: Tribes was one of the first first-person shooters meant to be played exclusively against other human players across computer networks, either on a LAN or over the Internet. Its only solo play consisted of a few training missions. It also was also one of the first first person shooters to feature vehicles as a major gameplay element, and it was known for its very large outdoor levels.

Because of its online play and vast terrain, Tribes requires strategy, coordination, and teamwork among players. "Lone cowboys" are less of a factor in victories here than in other first-person shooters.


Several notable features distinguish the Tribes games from other first-person shooters:

  • Battles primarily take place outdoors amid hills and valleys which can constitute a vast area. The terrain is actually mapped to a virtual sphere far too large to be traversed during a game, though the landscape can be seen to repeat itself if a player explores far enough in a single direction. Some worlds are lush and green with lakes; some are frozen and snowy; others are black and charred with lava pools.
  • All players are equipped with jetpacks, allowing limited short-duration flight and requiring vertical attacks and defense. Jetpacks are powered by the player's armor; the armor recharges its energy at a slower rate than the jetpack uses it, requiring some recharge time between uses. The practice of leaping down a slope to pick up speed then jetpacking up the next slope is known as skiing, and can allow even a heavily-armored player to move rapidly across the terrain. (The idea of jetpacks in this game may have been derived from the book Starship Troopers.) Ironically, skiing was a bug in the original Tribes, but it since has become an intrinsic element of the Tribes series due to its popularity.
  • The Tribes games emphasize, and even require, teamwork and strategy. Games can involve two teams of sixteen players each. Instead of attacking the enemy directly, a player can decide to erect defenses such as turret emplacements and sensor networks, and can repair them when they become damaged. A player can also attack the enemy's resources, for example by destroying power generators so as to cripple the enemy's ability to resupply. Someone can earn a great deal of points, and serve a useful purpose in helping his team to victory, without ever having seen or fought the enemy.
  • Several different kinds of land and air vehicles play an important role in the games. Transports allow someone to fly heavily-armed teammates into enemy territory. Mobile point bases are heavily armored large trucks which provide sensors, a rearming station, and a missile turret wherever they are deployed.
  • At a resupply station, a player can choose between three kinds of armor: scout armor can move and fly quickly, heavy armor is slow and can take a lot of hits and can carry larger resupplies such as missile turret refits, and medium armor is a tradeoff between the two. A player can further prepare for a specific role in the game through his choice of backpack: a repair pack allows him to repair damaged teammates and equipment, an energy pack allows longer flight and can power the sniper rifle, a cloak pack provides limited invisibility, a jammer pack shields him from enemy sensors and turrets, and so forth.
  • There are several game variants available in addition to the conventional capture the flag. "Siege" puts one side in charge of defending a switch and the other side's goal is to touch it; if successful, the teams switch sides to see if the other team can reach it quicker. "Rabbit" places one flag on the field, and the first person to pick it up becomes the rabbit and is hunted by everyone else; upon dying he drops the flag for someone else to pick up and be hunted, and when the round is over the person who has carried the flag the longest is the winner.
  • A detailed set of voice bindings allowed players to send vocal commands or information to each other by pressing short sequences of keys. The sound clips used were pre-recorded, and each player could choose from several different kinds of voices for his character.
  • Any player can initiate a vote to boot another player off (for example, if someone is a teamkiller) or to start a new game on a different map.
  • The Windows versions of the games feature a detailed scripting language, allowing for a wide range of customizations and mods.

Weapons in the games include conventional blasters, chainguns, sniper rifles, and grenades. Also available are mines, disc launchers (here called "spinfusors," their projectiles follow a straight trajectory and can be deadly when used by a skilled player in motion through the air), and mortar cannons (whose projectiles can hit targets hundreds of meters away). A targeting laser itself does no damage, but can be used to "paint" a target and provide teammates with an aiming reticle at which to fire; this is especially useful in letting teammates use mortars and missiles to hit targets even on the other side of a mountain ridge.


Starsiege: Tribes is still considered to be one of the best games ever made. It still retains a large community of players. Starsiege: Tribes pioneered many elements ubiquitous in many multiplayer first person shooter today (e.g. Unreal Tourament 2004, Battlefield 1942 etc.). It is available as a free download from Sierra's web site. [1] ( (The downloadable version is lacking a patch which can be found at FilePlanet, though registration is required to obtain the patch. [2] (

Tribes 2 added additional vehicles (such as a two-person tank and a three-person bomber with a belly turret), weapons, and items. A few details of gameplay were changed; for instance, the original game made a player choose his loadout while he was at a supply station (sometimes resulting in long lines to use the station), while the sequel required the player to choose his loadout before he used the station. Tribes 2 also included many features to help its community of players: it included user profiles, interactive chat areas, and message boards. The initial release of Tribes 2 was plagued by bugs and slow performance; several patches were released over the following year (first by Sierra, later by GarageGames) to address these issues. The message boards were eventually removed by a patch when they came to require too much effort to maintain against objectionable content.

A Mac port of Tribes 2 was almost completed, but scrapped before release.

A single-player game named Tribes 2: Fast Attack was designed but not released.

The graphic engine used in Starsiege, Tribes, and Tribes 2 was named the Torque Game Engine and was licensed to independent companies for US$100. It was used in several other Dynamix games such as Trophy Bass.

Tribes: Aerial Assault was a PlayStation 2 version of Tribes 2. Developed by Inevitable Entertainment and published by Sierra, it offered simplified gameplay (fewer maps and vehicles, and a subset of the original's voice commands) and network support for up to sixteen players at a time.

Tribes: Vengeance is a prequel to the other games. In addition to multiplayer support, it features a full single-player game with a storyline. It was developed by Irrational Games and uses a modified Unreal engine to bring the game's appearance up to par with other modern first-person shooters. This new Tribes largely de-emphasized the focus on massive maps and slower gameplay that was iconic of the previous Tribes games. Now, battles were faster paced, and teamwork and vehicles were not nearly as necessary. Tribes: Vengeance was released in autumn 2004.

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