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Bang! Howdy is an online strategy game with a "Wild West" theme. It is made by Three Rings Design, the makers of Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates. Public beta testing ended on December 1, 2006 and the game is now "live". There is no cost to download the game (or to play it in-browser) and start playing. Three Rings Design's website tallies the total number of "pardners", or players, at 500,000.
The setting mixes elements from a variety of related genres, such as steampunk or Native American myth. Several of the players' available units are entirely mechanical, including artillery and a "steam gunman", a robot boasting large wagon wheels for movement while wearing a cowboy hat. Other, more conventional units include cavalry and gunslingers. At the 2006 Game Developer's Conference, Three Rings described the formula as "Chess + Mario Kart + Real Time/ Turn-Based + Steampunk Westerns + Secret Sauce".
Gameplay most resembles a turn-based tactics game with minor real-time strategy elements added; the player (up to four players in a given match, including those controlled by the AI) chooses a set number of units, which are then laid down on a grid. Units have a set distance they can move during their turn, and a set range at which they can attack. However, for purposes of playing against other players, a real-time element was added: Units can only move every four "ticks", each tick roughly equivalent to five seconds, and all players' units move in tandem. The result is that gameplay moves a lot faster than it would if each player had to wait for the others to decide to move.
In addition to the set number of base units (varied by map and game mode), players also may bring into play one more powerful "Big Shot" unit with special abilities, as well as cards that can be played at any time to achieve various effects. If a unit is killed, it will respawn at the owning player's base some time later.
At the end of each game, players earn scrip (currency) based on how well they placed. In addition, players are able to use real money to purchase a separate in-game currency, "gold". Scrip can also be exchanged for gold in-game. These currencies can be used to buy cards, unlock additional units, or change the players' in-game avatar. Badges are earned for completing particular tasks, and may also unlock units, customization options, duds, or other things. In all modes, play continues until time is up, and the winner is determined by the points they have at the end of the round, mostly determined by the objective, but also by the player's kills or other bonuses. Except for the objective, all game modes follow the same base rules.
There are currently eight different game modes.
The first four are available in Frontier Town. In "Gold Rush", players send their units out to collect gold, and bring it back to their mine. "Claim Jumpin'" further allows players to steal gold from opposing players' mines. In "Cattle Rustling", players' units brand cattle, while keeping their opponents from stealing their cows. "Land Grab" has homesteads to claim around the board, which are vulnerable to attack just like any unit.
The other four modes are available in the newly released Indian Trading Post. In "Wendigo Attack", players must move to safe zones or get items to protect their units from a periodic attack by demons. In "Totem Building", players get points for stacking totem elements on a base. In "Forest Guardians", the players cooperate to fight off logging robots and protect seeds as they grow into trees. In "War Path" players fight to get their Big Shot on top and gain the most levels by killing opponent's units.
Initially conceived as an insect-themed game, the primary mechanic of Bang! Howdy is designed to get around the problems of both real-time and turn-based strategy. Michael Bayne, project leader of Bang! Howdy, described RTS as "overly complex and too fast-paced", while turn-based strategy is "no fun when it's not your turn." Bayne also described the development approach as episodic, with the plan of getting the core game released quickly, and working on new towns in turn.
- ↑ Three Rings Design website. Retrieved on 2008-02-08
- ↑ Slashdot coverage of Bang! Howdy at the 2006 Game Developers Conference
- ↑ How The West Will Be Won: Michael Bayne on Bang! Howdy. Gamasutra. Retrieved on October 2, 2006
- ↑ GDC: Independent Games Festival Awards Topped By Aquaria, Gamasutra
- ↑ 2007 Independent Games Festival Finalists Announced, Gamasutra