Talking BattleTanx with creative director Michael Mendheim

Talking BattleTanx with creative director Michael Mendheim

In the unimaginably distant future of 2001

Trip Hawkins'' 3DO Interactive Multiplayer failed to gain traction in the marketplace, but it had to deploy fairly quickly into software to survive. While 3DO would be best known for unpopular Army Men games (and some legitimately successful ones), the initial outcome they had was absolutely excellent. They gained a lot of skill and made a few hits.

The 1998s was the first on the N64, yet I still consider it to be top-shelf entertainment. I was fortunate to have opportunity to talk with Michael Mendheim, the games creative director, about its completion. It has long been a title Ive kept around me.

Michael Mendheim is perhaps the best known for the Sega Genesis games: Mutant League Football and Mutant League Hockey. These teams were developed with EA, where Mendheim spent many hours working on the Mutant League franchise. When the 3DO Company changed, Trip offered me a deal, and I was promoted as a design director for an unnamed project.

The unnamed project was being developed under the supervision of programmer Robert Zdybel. He might not immediately ring any bells, but he is an industry veteran who has worked on the ports of Missile Command and Space Raiders for Atari. He also helped design Bug Hunt, which was a pack-in title for the Atari XEGS.

Mendheim said: "I felt very out of place reviewing Rob Zdybel''s project. It''s like a kid out of film school telling Martin Scorsese how to direct a film."

Heavy armor

Rob and the team discussed their progress in a variety of ways, but they were dissatisfied with their own distinct notions. To make the review harder, the game was very intuitive, so it was difficult to understand the core mechanics, but you could move an object within a context that was interesting to me. My intent was to either assist the team complete what they are currently developing or to develop a fresh approach that would be used.

The game''s development and completion schedule had about a year. It was a challenging schedule, and we would be the first console game to market. There was a lot of pressure on me, and I was hesitant to roll the dice on a project I didn''t have a clear vision of. Instead, I came up with a game concept that would work with existing technology.

Mendheim took inspiration from the Tokyo Wars, a sit-down arcade model in which tanks battled it out in Tokyo. However, this was shortly after GoldenEye reached the N64. It was a fun four-player game that had a variety of modes to keep you playing throughout the day. I remember having a lot of difficulties finding a rental copy every weekend.

I pitched as meets. We may build a -style game using the already developed technology and have the team concentrating on developing a fun multiplayer game. So, how did I sell it to 3DO''s development and executive teams?

Queen Lord rescued

The focus is on multiplayer, as well as classic deathmatch to capture-the-flag. There were a variety of techniques scattered around the environment, and careful use of them might be the difference between victory and defeat. BattleTanx might save a lot of time if you could get everyone together on a weekend.

Mendheim thought it was a strange idea but I had them play so they could understand the mechanics. Early in development, the team wasn''t happy with the new direction and didn''t believe in it. At that point, I think anyone on the team trusted me. However, we moved ahead on the project.

The first playable is what turned the team around. The multiplayer game was a blast to play, everyone was engaged in, and thats when Rob and the rest of the team agreed to participate in the project. When team members get excited and announce ideas for cool weapons, map design, and other features, thats when they know they are purchased in. Once a team believes in the project everything starts to snowball in a positive direction, and thats what happened with.

There is a link between two groups. A deadly virus kills 99.9% of women, like a hand sanitizer for estrogen. Countries descend into a civil war, ending in a nuclear apocalypse. When I was young, I thought this narrative was so cool. Instead of tanks, we just ordered in a lot. Now I just believe it is hilarious.

One reviewer said the gameplay isn''t a joke. Would I do the same story right now? Back in the nineties, the narrative was rather straightforward, with the possibility of causing a nuclear disaster that killed 99% of Earth''s female population. After that, the world was left in ruins and raging gangs fighting for the few remaining women who are proclaimed Queen Lords. I thought that engaging in capturing women would be far more beneficial than photographing a generic flag.

Fair enough. But why are there so many tanks lying around?

The world is a region, so the gangs are salvaging and rebuilding military armor. Look if youre going to buy into Queen Lords then having a large number of tanks in the world isn''t that much of a stretch as far as plausibility goes.

It''s just that.

Unconventional Ordinance

The tanks were ain''t too low, but they''re accelerating like they swooped on sugar. The weapons ranged from guided rockets to lasers, to a damned nuke.

Mendheim said that the team was just attempting to push things beyond a nuke. All of the success of this technology was because to how we could make it fun while a nuke was deployed, and the jaw became clear. It was all I needed and I was hoping for and more. Without him we didn''t have a chance. He was one of the teams'' greatest icons.

It''s fantastic. You drop the nuke and run. Once the enemy hits, the aircraft explodes and the enemy turns a sickly yellow-green. In BattleTanxs maps, a blastwave cuts through the entire level, sifting buildings in its wake. There''s a faction that starts with one in multiplayer. It''s a great way to start things off with a bang.

The nuke from BattleTanx. Turok 2. The laptop gun from Perfect Dark. Duke Nukem 3D shrink ray. Worms'' holy hand grenade (The Directors Cut) What an era the 90s were! Here''s how we see it today.

Road trip

The destruction in general was perhaps the most important component. Nearly everything could be leveled out of some strategically placed buildings. Paths may be cut straight through city blocks. Each map was based on real-world locations.

San Francisco''s Pier 39 (Fishermans Warf) was on State Street in Chicago, Fremont Street, Las Vegas, and Times Square in New York. I went to these cities and took photographs which I could use to prepare the maps, then passed them to our art director, Peter Traugot, who was then used as a reference for the art team.

The city maps were designed like mazes, as well as walls, and keeping the tanks hidden on the street within a confined space. During this period, players would destroy structures to open the maze and create tactical advantages against the opposing players. It also improved gameplay.

The vocals in, which reminds heavily of the grittier side of Sega Genesis tunes, are credited to Trackattack within the game, which I couldnt find further information on. According to Mendheim, this was Larry Millas from the Ides of March, and his wife Robyn Mendheim.

The BattleTanx incident sparked interest among 3DO''s efforts to expand into the console space. At the time, I saw them on the same level as Acclaim and Activision, but they did not exist until later years. While they slowed out their success, BattleTanx was a hell of a tool to help make an mark in the software industry. This fact is a crime.

Despite the fact that BattleTanx was a success for the sequel, it was similar to BattleTanx: Global Assault, but it will be released next time.

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