We know that Fruit Ninja was the game that set Aussie mobile developer Halfbrick on its path of success. What we didn’t know is that studio’s creative powers could be used for eeeeviiillll, as the deceptively simple, yet oddly nefarious game Tank Turn Tactics showed.
If you’ve never heard of it, don’t beat yourself up. As Keith Andrews over at PocketGamer writes, Tank Turn Tactics only ever existed as a prototype board game — of sorts. In a talk at GDC 2013, Halfbrick CCO Luke Muscat described it as a concept for a massively-multiplayer game, now shelved, due to the surprising amount of animosity it generated between co-workers.
You can see an image of the game over at PocketGamer, but essentially, it’s just a board with square tokens on it, which represent the players’ tanks. Each player has action points they can spend to move or, if they’re adjacent to another player, shoot. But, you could also choose to give your points to another player.
What happened next was unexpected, but strangely understandable. From the article:
Instead of shooting each other, players teamed up and passed their action points from person to person so one player would have enough points to take out one player on the other side of the grid … Later games then saw players pairing up to exchange points before turning on each other, and — in extreme cases — led to people spending hours of their day devising strategies for victory.
As a result, players/employees would be singled out and eliminated. Muscat says that it eventually came to a head when he was approached by a “really, really upset” employee who did not “want to come in” to work thanks to the game.
And so the decision was made to shelve it. Perhaps it was a case of introducing Tank Turn Tactics into an environment full of highly-competitive people (a situation I’m familiar with having worked in a studio myself). Even so, it’s crazy to think such a basic concept, composed of nothing but a square board and some tokens, could be so evocative.