Fortress Gameplay


Player Journey UX


Tournament Development


launching globally

I returned to an old game I began playing in 2006: Armagetron Advanced. Amazing. Beautiful mechanics. I thought it was the virtual equivalent to football, minimal team game with the potential of becoming as popular. A dynamic version of Go, ‘the surrounding game’. The genius solution of solving the problem of ping with ‘rubber’ and acceleration. Two teams, two zones. Minimally, two keys to play, left and right.

Joined a game, 6v6, and felt the thrill once again. Incredible mazing skill of other players. I was certainly the worst player there. I am a nervous player. Too sensitive. Panic is my general response, and my brain just can’t send the appropriate signals to the fingers fast enough. As I like to say, I have hooves not hands.

I conceived the basic structure of a tournament back in 2006, and it was initially rejected by the leading players/coders at the time. However, I went ahead and created a wiki and invited people on the forum, and with the goodwill of players, it proved to work. The core process was improved by careful administration by a number of active players, and the Tronic Ladle successfully ran monthly for a decade.

When I returned to the game in 2009, I suggested we needed to take the game forward collectively. The next film version of Tron was in the works, and I thought there was an opportunity to not only get more players, but also promote the movie. My call to action was ignored. The powerful contingent were worried that it might attract the ire of Disney and close down our little indie operation. Meanwhile I was invited to join a team, Plus, and some of us (Sinewav, Concord, Compugene, spring to mind) tried to move the game forwards by producing promotional video content, blog posts, and so on. Compugene had a similar idea to me which was to get Arma in schools. In fact, I managed to get my school to set up a discrete server (facilitated by Z-man), and the result was explosive. Yes, there was a ban on its use during school hours; and the tough learning curve of grinding for launch as lone users joining a fortress match online, turned out to be the most powerful teamwork learning activity for a group in person I have implemented as an educator. I also see it as an excellent portal to coding, from entering consol commands to alter game visuals, to writing patches for an open source ecosystems.


Full-stack playing.

David Pinto

Returning to the game now, there is a small group of what I would call elite players, people committed to playing, similar to when I returned briefly in 2016. The tournament is now played as a round-robin, because the number of teams are small. It shouldn’t really be called the Tronic Ladle since it doesn’t conform to the Tronic progression; a Tronic Cup with 1 million players won’t be run as a round-robin.

Beyond reaffirming how brilliant the game design is and recounting a little history, the following posts records my observations as I return to the game at four levels. These four levels are all about player engagement. Under the hood technical levels, client code, server code, internet protocols, are only touched upon in relation to player engagement. Four levels: playing the game itself, the player journey to get onto the grid (especially from non-player), the requirements for a tournament hosting 1 million players, and how we go about doing it (forming an open team).

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