Real Time Worms

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Real Time is undisputedly the most debatable subject in Worms. Should Real Time Worms (RTW) be made? Would it work, and would it work well? Anybody who's anybody knows I am an RTW enthusiast. Many a debate I have seen and started on the Team17 forum. On this page, I will bring those debates together to argue my case for why RTW can work, and why it should become a reality.

Market Forces

So why do we need Real Time Worms?

The current market for the video game industry mainly wants two things: Three dimensions and fast, action-packed games. We all know it's demand that drives the developer in a particular direction, as Team17 have already entered the 3D arena with Worms 3D, which without doubt is a great success despite much scepticism earlier in its development by the general public. Now it's time they picked up on the other half of the demand and made a Real Time Worms game, for all those gamers who couldn't sit still between the turns of previous Worms games.

And Real Time Worms could well be more successful than Worms 3D. Many gamers previously oblivious to the world of Worms, but urged by their curiosity and their inexplicable attraction to the graphics on the cover-art could easily be turned away by the words "Turn-based" printed on the back of the box, be it 2D or 3D. Even those who venture far enough to try it out may quickly get bored with waiting for the opportunity to do something in the game if they have the mindset of a Half-Life player. Real time, however, could drag whole new swathes of the gaming audience into the Worms franchise, and Team17 could only benefit from an obscenely inflated fanbase - so it is surely in their best financial interest to create such a game. Especially when you consider that, in comparison to Worms 3D, it wouldn't take much effort to develop. But don't quote me on that.

But could it be done? In a way, it already has been. Which brings up another point - why create a Real Times Worms game when there are already so many similar games - freely available might I add - on the internet? The answer is simple. Most if not all of those attempts at creating a real time version of Worms are pathetic. For just one or two programmers they are pretty damn good, but nowhere near marketable quality. They are all share-ware, and made without intention to sell. And this is where Team17 should step in. With a budget of thousands and dozens of programmers, and with a publisher to advertise across the world, not to mention a blatant connection to the highly successful Worms series, a Real Time Worms game could be made to work, and made to sell.

Still, Team17 are being stubborn on the matter, making it clear that a Real Time Worms game is not going to happen. But demand drives the developer and if demand for such a game picks up, Team17 might pull a U-turn on their stance. Too many people remain sceptical for that to happen any time soon, pointing at all sorts of gameplay problems and technical hurdles that would have to be overcome to make it work. In an attempt to gain support for Real Time Worms, and debunk the undying cries of "There'd be no strategy!" from Turn-Based enthusiasts, I am going to provide possible solutions to those proposed problems.

It's worth remembering that when rumours of a 3D Worms game in development were edging there way across the fanbase not so very long ago, many thought it would be a bad idea. Now Worms3D is out - and outstanding. With a little thought, Worms Real Time could be just as successful and just as fun. Perhaps better.

Problems and solutions for Real Time Worms

"It just wouldn't be Worms!"

This is a particularly annoying argument that comes up again and again. What is Worms? Worms is a two-dimensional turn-based strategy game. So obviously RTW wouldn't be Worms if you stuck to that definition. But would that stop it from potentially being fun? Of course not. Would it still feel like you were playing a Worms game? Yes, yes it would.

Worms3D makes a good example of a Worms game that 'just isn't Worms'. It feels like a Worms game, and it's fun, but it doesn't play like its predecessors. Keep Worms3D in mind and you soon realise that the "It just wouldn't be Worms" argument is a waste of time.

"Real Time Worms would be chaotic!"

Another favourite argument from the anti-RTW party. Sure enough, if you took a random scheme from Worms Armageddon and put it into a Real Time situation, it would be chaos. With unlimited bazookas, you could fire away to your heart's content until there was nothing left to fire at. With unlimited minigun, you could just let loose a torrent of bullets to rip the landscape, and all who stand on it, to shreds.

But if a RTW game was actually made, I'm betting that some thought would go into it. With the right restrictions and limitations, games would be far from chaos. A player is not going to unleash wave after wave of bazooka shells in random directions knowing he only has half a dozen left. That would be a waste of his firepower, and put him at an extreme disadvantage. Instead, that player is going to spend more time planning his moves, and carefully aiming to make sure he gets the most out of his limited supply. Limit all the weapons in this way, and it becomes clear that RTW need not be as chaotic as one might think. Players will spend more time planning, moving, and aiming, and less time firing. What results is a fairly relaxed, and not epileptic, game of Real Time Worms.

What's more, the degree of chaos likely to emerge in any one game can be directly controlled by the game host. Give the players very few weapons, and they will take their time to make sure every shot counts. Boost the ammunition numbers however, and the players will be less concerned about running out, and more prepared to use their weapons recklessly.

This method has a flaw, though. Limit every weapon, and there's a possibility of every player running out of weapons. The game would come to a standstill. One solution is to have a plentiful supply of crates, the other solution is to have reinforcement weapons beamed straight to your team's stockpile at regular time intervals. Either of these could lead to inventory abuse by sealing off an area of the map, hiding, and stocking up on weapons indefinitely, but a simple restriction on the total number of weapons in a team's inventory at any one time would prevent getting hold of a Full Wormage stockpile.

This is one example of strategy being preserved for Real Time. Rather than a five-minute frag-fest, games could be more strategic even than the turn-based equivalent. Combinations and use of weapons, rather than the shear number of them, would be of far more importance. Brains would out-perform brawn and strategy would be limitless.

"What if a player kept shooting you, and you couldn't get up to fire back?"

This is a valid point. But similar to above, a simple restriction would solve the problem. A small delay of four or five seconds between weapon usage would prevent a player from releasing a quick succession of mortars or a stream of uzi rounds. this would give any stricken victim time to either escape, or pull out a gun and fire back. That worm would then himself have to escape, before the opponents delay expired allowing him to shoot again. This would add to the strategy, as there would no longer be the option of running into an enemy-infested area and letting all hell loose. Nor would there be the simple "face-off until somebody dies" situation, as each player might have chance to escape and save his worm's life.

This 'delay' could vary between weapons, to account for their potential abuse. A bazooka might have a delay of three seconds for example, while a pigeon would have a much greater delay. Then there are delays between switching weapons, which gets a little more complicated. You wouldn't want to wait several seconds to use a teleport after dropping a mine, for example. Non-hostile tools and utilities should have little or no delay, depending on what they are.

"How would health be managed? It would be too annoying if you had to wait for it to be deducted every time you got shot."

The game engine would take no more than a few milliseconds to calculate how much health you lost in any particular attack, so waiting for that calculation is not a problem. Instead, health could be deducted instantly and control of the worm never lost. The health display is another matter. It may get in the way if it hung above your worm's head all the time, and the 'floating' deduction notices that occur when you lose health would be too frequent in a real time game, especially if you were shot with a minigun and lost health in packets of 5. The floating deduction boxes could be ditched, and replaced with just one health display which reduces in value every time you are shot. That display could be made semi-transparent, so that it can be seen but also does not get in the way too much.

Alternatively, the health display could be stuck in the corner of the screen, but this would make playing the game tedious if you had look in the corner constantly to keep an eye on your worm's health.

"Airstrikes would be too easy to use. It would just be "Click 'n' Kill"."

As it is, they would be far too easy. Target a worm walking along an open bit of ground, and the enemy player would barely have enough time to react to the incoming missiles, let alone escape. Put a delay of a few seconds on the time it takes for the bomber to get there, though, and you not only give the enemy a chance, but a little more strategy is required to get the shot right. Target the worm directly, and by the time the missiles arrive the worm will have moved out of the way. Use some clever thinking, and you can predict where the worm will be next and target there instead. Using this method, "Click 'n' Kill" is no longer an issue for airstrike usage.

"Offline multiplayer would be impossible."

That's to be expected. It would be impractical to have several people crowded around one keyboard, especially given the large number of keyboard commands assigned to Worms. But then again, how many modern real time multiplayer games can be played around one PC? I certainly can't think of any. LAN games still offer a ray of hope, however, for 'offline' multiplayer.

"How would you control a whole team of Worms at once?"

This is perhaps the strongest argument against Real Time Worms. I can think of a few solutions, however.

The first is to have just one Worm in the game at any one time. The Worm could have a number of 'lives', so when he dies he could respawn and fight again until all those lives expire. For a relatively more realistic approach, his death could be followed by the arrival of your second team member by parachute or teleport. When he dies, your third team member could be drafted in, and so on, until your entire team is killed.

Alternatively, your whole team could be made present on the battlefield. This would be a bit unmanageable with eight worms, but four would be suitable depending upon the situation of the game. You could only control one worm at once, but pressing Tab would instantly (without need of getting out a Select Worm utility) switch control to the next worm in your team. This may get difficult to handle if two urgent situations arise simultaneously, especially in the more chaotic games (see second part of this article). But if you deem one worm to be safe for a few minutes, then you have time to switch to another and take control of another situation. Teleporting any 'spare worms' to a bunker and using one as a front-line fighter would probably be the safest strategy.

Thirdly, a mixture of the two ideas could prove most popular. Having two or three worms on the terrain at once should be fairly easy to manage. And should one die, it could be replaced with your next team member so you would always have two or three worms at once.

Finally, having a 2v2 or 3v3 game and letting friends take control of the other team members would have a similar effect to the whole team being controlled simultaneously. It also brings in Co-operation, which will boost gameplay and strategy, as does any team game.

"Darksiders (Tunnelers) would always win - just hide and let the other players kill each other."

It's important to note that this tactic happens in almost every real time game, and in fact happens in turn based Worms, which instantly makes the argument invalid. The only way to avoid such tactics is to ensure there are only two factions, i.e. one vs one or two vs two. Another way to answer this argument is that, if darksiding always won, then both players would do it, and you can't have two winners. Besides, Lightsiding (non-tunnelers) would be unsafe in a real time Worms game. Hanging about on the surface will expose you to all sorts of fire.

"AI players could not cope with Real Time."

Perhaps the second strongest argument against Real Time. More precisely, however, it is the constant terrain deformation which AI could not cope with. In Turn Based Worms, the AI player has a few seconds before its turn to memorise the shape of the terrain and then calculate trajectories and movements. But as soon as the terrain changes, it needs to calculate it all again. On a constantly changing terrain, the AI would never have chance to fire. But this doesn't quite rule out Single Player campaigns. Simply use indestructible maps for missions, and the AI need not re-consider the shape of the terrain. It would however severely limit Single Player campaigns to have terrain undeformable all the time.

However, I am convinced that the AI can be improved enough to cope faster with a changing terrain. Perhaps the AI should just ignore the most recent changes to the terrain - it probably won't affect his shot. Or one part of the program can consider just the local area and move the worm about - perhaps to a high vantage point or safe bunker - while the another part of the program considers the map and what to do when the worm gets there.

Several enemy worms would drain the processing resources of the AI, though, even with this unlikely solution. Surely computers are fast enough by now to deal with it though?

If not, then the game is purely restricted to online gameplay, which will destroy any potential of it being marketed successfully by a company such as Team17.

"Wormnet would be less sociable - in-game chatting would be occasional at best."

In most Real Time Games, chatting is restricted to one line, which gets sent to all players and then disappears shortly after. If Worms retained the Page Down chat box the game would probably be more sociable than other real time games, as chat messages would be stored and players wouldn't 'forget' what another player said, so a reply is more likely. But that's something which could be done in any game.

Worms has always been a sociable game, and it is the time to chat, created by a turn-based system, that makes it so. Real Time would certainly reduce this important part of Worms gameplay, unless it was a particularly slow-paced game. Chat-promoting features could also be introduced, such as an ability for a player to request Cease Fire, which other players may or may not comply with depending on the situation or their own ethical guidelines. It would be a useful feature if a player needs to leave his computer, but would also make time for chatting.

"What would happen if two weapons collided with each other?"

As it stands, weapons pass through each other. This can be tested in WWP using the multiple weapon usage mode. Such collisions in Real Time would not only be rare, but add no strategy whatsoever. Programming a whole bunch of physics just to make it a little bit more realistic is probably not worth the hassle.

This is all I can find for now as far as addressing critics' concerns is. I am convinced that Real Time Worms can work and I hope the solutions above have convinced you as well. If you have opinions on the matter or wish to reply to anything I have said, or can see a problem not mentioned that might appear in RTW, you're welcome to send your comments to me via e-mail, and I will update this page as necessary.

Clones of the Real Time Worms Concept


click here to download - requires MS DOS :: click here for Liero community website

Liero gives us a good taste of what Real Time Worms might be like, although many use it as an example of why RTW shouldn't be made. After a few hours of playing it, it's not hard to see why.

The weapon system is confusing at first, although this might have more to do with being used to the Worms weapon system. On it's own, Liero's weapon system is a unique and cunning approach to the problem of selecting weapons, although it does severely restrict the number of weapons you can have in the game.

Chaos is Liero's downfall (see Problems and Solutions, above). For a start, the weapon ammunition is infinite, so there's just no point in not firing a weapon: you've got nothing to lose. As a result the game arena is chock-a-block with weapon fire, and not just weapon fire that quickly dies away. Some of the weapons linger about for several seconds, bouncing off walls and dropping what seems to be hundreds of pixel-sized bombs. They do little or no damage, which is just as well because they're almost unavoidable. All they seem to do is clutter the screen up. Most of the weapons are clusters, covering huge areas and being completely random. So you don't even really have to aim: just get the general direction right and you're almost guaranteed a hit. Again this is just as well, because the worms move too fast for any pinpoint accuracy weapons to be of any use. Often the reason why worms are moving about so fast is not because they are walking or jumping but because they are being pushed and shoved about by an endless firework display of ammunition.

The only restriction which works against chaos is the delay on using the weapons. After using so much ammo on a particular weapon, you have to wait for it to charge back up. But this time is far too short - if it were longer there would be more hesitancy in using a weapon, and more aiming to get it right. This wouldn't completely solve the problem - ammo limits and fewer clusters should be priority - but it would be a promising step forward.

Although the Liero Community Website shows evidence of a map editor, the default maps are pathetic. The terrain starts off completely filled in, bar a few holes where your worms are spawned. After a few minutes of weapon fire however, half the terrain is gone and a giant cavern has formed; usually at the bottom of the map if gravity has its way. A lack of water is disappointing, but not surprising when you realise how little time it takes for the battle to move to the very bottom of the map.

Hopefully, things will improve with Liero 2 (see community website). The project was abandoned by Liero's creators but many fan groups have taken up the task. No mention yet as to whether the chaotic behaviour of the game will be addressed though.


click here for the Soldat website

I don't know why people compare this to Real Time Worms, but they do, so I'd best say something about it. Soldat is a graphically superior 2D real time shoot 'em up. The only thing it has in common with Worms is that it is 2D, has a variety of weapons (mostly if not all guns) and the occasional crate. Other than that it is completely different - no deformable terrain, no explosives as far as I have seen, the characters aren't even worms. They're people.

I can't comment too much on the gameplay as my version didn't work very well, but I did get an eyeful of the graphics which are pretty advanced, and a few seconds of shooting a gun which was fairly enjoyable.


click here for the Nim2 website

Taking most of its ideas from Liero rather than Worms, this graphically enhanced version of Liero could have been better. The game is very buggy, and controls are not just difficult to get to grips with but difficult to use full stop. It's as if the keyboard commands change over time. Sometimes you wonder whether you really are in control of your worms - random movements and random shots seem to be commonplace. The worm sprites, which appear to have been drawn in a 3D program and then converted to a static picture, don't fit into the rest of the graphics at all. The game may be more detailed but the graphics don't match.

The music is catchy though. Probably the only thing that's good about it. Perhaps I'm being a bit unfair though: this game was made entirely by two teenagers. It's a damn good effort when you consider that.

Real Time Worms

Oddly enough there is a shareware game out there known as "Real Time Worms", although I have not been able to run it on my computer. Judging by the files I could access, and the front end, it is no where near marketable quality and I suspect the gameplay will be pretty awful. Still, I'd like to give it a go and will eventually try to play it on a non-XP machine.


click here for the Wurmz! website

Have not yet played this game.

Weapon Restrictions


Aside from the time delays that would have to be instated to make Worms Real Time work smoothly (see Problems and Solutions, above), some weapons would have to be modified or removed completely. In this section, I hope to addresses every single weapon, both those that already exist and those that are merely suggestions (see Weapons Section), and analyse the weapon's probable performance in a real time environment. This section will likely remain incomplete for a while yet.

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