1. Introduction (for those who don't know what BZFlag is)
2. Maps I've created
3. Tools and resources for creating maps
4. How to get started playing
5. Guides on how to play well
6. Thoughts on the game
I've played the game BZFlag for a little while now, and I think it's great. In it you drive a tank (via software you run locally), and you play against other people on the internet via a server, in a 3D world. It's a cross-platform open source project, so you may just download it and start playing.
There are several reasons I highly recommend it. First of all, and most importantly for anyone who has to do a lot of work each day, is that it's possible to play for 5 or 10 minutes, and then go back to work. For those few minutes you can completely forget what you were doing, and take a nice break using the spatial reasoning part of your brain. There is no long lead time to get involved, and you may exit gracefully at any moment.
It also has what I think is an attribute of the best games: the rules and
elements are simple, but the combinations are complex. The classic case
of this sort of game is chess - you can learn how the pieces move in a few
minutes, but understanding how they interact can take years or a
lifetime. Having simple elements, such games are easy to learn to play,
but hard to play well. This also means that most of your learning you
may do by playing, which is not only effective but fun.
I've got a separate page now about the maps I've created - mainly so that you don't have to wait for all of the bitmaps, etc. to load. From this page you can download the map files, read about the designs, and see glimpses of the maps (mainly via bitmaps captured from BZEdit).
To get to my maps page, click here: Maps I've Created
For some discussion on creating maps yourself, and links to toolkits and resources,
go to my Map
The main place to start is http://www.bzflag.org/. From here there are links to let you download source code, precompiled executables for different platforms, as well as to read fora and find links to other resources.
A good place to discuss things and in general find out what's going is is
the BZFlag Centrum, at http://bzbb.bzflag.org.
It took me a while to learn how to play modestly competently, and a few guides helped; unfortunately they're a bit hard to find nowadays. My recommendations (these links should work):
I chose the name "The Purple Panzer" mainly because I decided to usually play as a member of the Purple team. In BZFlag you don't have to be part of any team (then you're a "Rogue"), but I think the team aspect adds something to the game. Admittedly it's hard to cooperate effectively given the fast-moving pace of the game, and if someone nails one of your team members while holding the Genocide flag you die too - really the only negative to team play.
But the cooperation can be fun - for example, you have a teammate with Guided Missile who's in a good location, with a chokepoint that attackers have to get through; you get Stealth, and guard the checkpoint, picking off anybody who comes through. The teammate with GM may never know you're doing this, as it's often hard to type while playing, and team score usually makes little difference to people, but it's still fun, and it isn't something you'd do if you were operating alone.
I've tried (without a lot of success) to operate in a sort of "wing man" mode with teammates; it's hard because the leader has to be thinking about setting up situations in which your combined presence has maximum advantage. Without some degree of prearrangement and discussion this is hard; if you just start following a teammate to assist, it may not be fully welcomed or appreciated (especially if you ricochet a shot of a wall and take him out).
If anything I wish that there were more cooperation. I've thought about setting up some Voice over IP hub, where teammates can connect in and hear audio from other teammates. Then, instructions could be passed quite rapidly. The downside would be increased bandwidth usage, but perhaps the bandwidth could be pretty low per user, just by limiting the acoustic band to something like 500 Hz to 3000 Hz (or lower; it isn't even necessary to identify the speaker, just to hear what's said.)
I picked the purple team because of its association with the Roman Emperors. Unfortunately, the color in the game is more of a magenta or pink, so we look more silly than imperial. Ah well, that's no particular reason to change now.
A note on defense: some players, a minority I think, look down on strong defensive positions, referring to it as "camping". Sure, it can be obnoxious if there are few players, and someone with Guided Missile or Laser is effectively invulnerable, but this is rare. I think that using cleverness to find a good defensive position is a fine thing, as it requires thinking through the advantages of the different flags as applied to a particular map, and evaluating the possible attack strategies which opponents might use. Rarely is any position defensible for any length of time, so it becomes a matter of anticipating who might be attacking and how.
On the other hand, attacking such a person usually involves thinking through an approach, getting the right flag, and maybe getting some luck with distractions from other players. I enjoy this challenge, certainly more than just shooting someone in the open field. Maybe because I think it requires more and careful thought, and depends less on skill in mouse manipulation.
If I see someone with Stealth going after someone (not on my team) who's had Guided Missile for a while, I won't shoot him (unless he sees me, assumes an imminent threat, and appears about to attack). I wish more people thought the same way - not that I expect anyone to change, and the uncertainty of ad hoc cooperation is what gives it its spice.
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Last update: 9/21/04.