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Hovertank 3D

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Main screen

"In HOVERTANK 3-D you play mercenary Brick Sledge, hired by a beneficent organization to rescue people from cities targeted for limited nuclear strikes. Get in, get 'em, and get out, before the missile hits. Climb on board your new HOVERTANK and go to it!"

Hovertank 3D, also known under a variety of other names (Hovertank, Hovertank 3-D or Hovertank One), is a vehicular combat game developed by id Software and published by Softdisk in April 1991 under Gamer's Edge. It is not currently legally available for digital download, but is streamable via the Internet Archive.


"The cities are full of nuclear mutants, armored patrols, and other terrors bent on your destruction. You must enter the cities and rescue the innocent humans needing your help. Here's the catch --- the nuclear missiles are on their way. You must rescue the people... the ones that are still alive. You and the legendary HOVERTANK will not be teleported back to safety until you've accomplished your mission. You have an energy cannon as your main weapon. Holding down the fire button will build up power in the cannon. Release the button to fire. After all the people in the area are either rescued or killed, a warp gate will appear. And, it may not appear where you teleported in... Other things to know... Watch the time. If that missile arrives, goodbye HOVERTANK. Be careful about picking up the people. You don't want them killed by your stray cannon shots (and, of course, you get more money for more safely rescued people.) Good luck!"

The player must drive a hovertank through the levels and try to find the people Brick is supposed to rescue. There are also many enemies in the levels, who are hunting down the people as well as the player. These may be dispatched with a single volley from the tank, although the cannon is slow firing. Repair Units which can restore armour are found in some levels. The player can keep track of both people and enemies in the radar box at the bottom of the screen. There is also a timer that counts how long until the nuke is dropped. Once all the living people are collected a yellow teleporter appears somewhere in the level, and the player must find it to win. Then the player receives their fee, based on the number of people safely rescued, and how fast the operation was completed. All damage to the hovertank is repaired at the end of the level.



Hovertank 3D is set during a nuclear war. The player controls Brick Sledge, a mercenary hired by a shadowy organization called the UFA to rescue people from locations under the threat of atomic attack. These are largely humanitarians or innocent bystanders targeted by a multitude of factions. However, the maps are also full of mutant demons, squid creatures and enemy hovertanks. Success brings cash from the handler, failure brings a radioactive demise.

- VGamingJunkie



Credits screen

John Carmack's research in the game's engine took six weeks, two weeks longer than any id engine before it. The engine written for this game was expanded upon with texture mapping to make Catacomb 3D, and then later still with raycasting for the well-known Wolfenstein 3D. Following the engine's completion, the id staff decided on the nuclear apocalypse theme and the campaign was drafted. Adrian Carmack is said to have enjoyed drawing the monsters and other ghoulish touches, in contrast to the cartoonish Commander Keen, while Tom Hall's trademark humour is seen in the mission briefings. The credits are John Carmack and John Romero as programmers, Tom Hall as game designer and Adrian Carmack as game artist.


Hovertank 3D is a landmark in first person game graphics, especially for PC compatibiles. Other 3D games at the time, such as flight simulators and others (such as Alpha Waves) that had more detailed environments, were noticeably slower. This improvement in speed was based on reducing the engine down only to its most fundamental, essentially only drawing shaded rasterized polygonal walls and sprites.

The game is similar to the 1980 arcade game Battlezone in concept, only using flat-shaded walls and sprites instead of raw vector graphics; it also somewhat resembles contemporary release Nova 9 (sequel to the Battlezone clones Stellar 7 and Arcticfox). It is also technically similar to Wayout for the Atari 8-bit computers from 1982 and MIDI Maze from 1987 for the Atari ST, which both also used coloured walls and a similar system of projection.

Starting with Catacomb 3D later that year, id would focus more on the immersive concept of controlling a human player, although armoured vehicles (including the SMC Hovertank) appeared in the id produced Quake 4 from 2005, as well as in Enemy Territory: Quake Wars (2007) and Rage (2011). First-person futuristic tank combat would survive as a sub-genre, with titles like the 1998 Battlezone remake, Tanarus (1997) and Gunmetal (1998).

The source code to the game, then owned by Flat Rock Software, was released in June 2014 under the GNU General Public License in a manner similar those done by id and partners. The lack of legally available data has hindered source port development, but the Hovertank3DdotNet port exists for those who either retain an original disk or acquire legally dubious abandonware copies.


Somewhat remarkably, the game has had two mods produced. Both currently utilize the Hovertank3DPlus code base.

Both are essentially total conversions of the original, changing graphics and setting. New levels can be produced with the Hovertank 3D Editor.

A commercial remix, Abrams Tank, was also briefly sold and even attempted a Steam Greenlight, but was later withdrawn amidst multiple controversies.


External links[edit]

Hovertank 3D
Lore: Brick Sledge, Factions, Handler
Entities: Hostages, Demons, Squids
Machinery: Hovertank (Cannon), Repair Unit, Teleporter, Atomic Bomb
Modifications: Demon Hunter, Robot Redemption, Doom World Wars
Ports & Tools: Hovertank3DPlus, Hovertank3DdotNet, Hovertank 3D Editor