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Video Game / Scorched Earth

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The original in all its DOSBox glory.
Scorched Earth is a popular shareware Artillery Game, originally written by Wendell Hicken using Borland C++ and Turbo Assembler, in which tanks do turn-based battle in two-dimensional terrain, with each player adjusting the angle and power of his or her tank's turret cannon before each shot.

Things get interesting with up to ten players, a wide variety of AI levels and an even wider assortment of power-ups players can purchase between rounds, including batteries, Deflector Shields, warheads that can destroy the ground beneath your enemies (or create new ground on top of them, burying them alive), napalm, and conventional explosives of various sizes and stability. (Love that Funky Bomb!)

The spiritual predecessor of games like Worms and Gunbound, Scorch (as it is known to fans) is the self-proclaimed "Mother of All Games", with a very simple presentation that is nevertheless addictive.

The game can be downloaded for free from Hicken's own website, with an optional monetary contribution if you want all official versions of the game.

Scorched3D is the free three-dimensional Fan Sequel available for all widespread operating systems and is even included in Gentoo and Debian/Ubuntu Linux repositories.

Scorched Earth contains examples of the following tropes:

  • A.I. Breaker: The Air Viscosity, as mentioned in the manual, confuses AI players.
  • Artificial Brilliance: The magnetic shield always deflects shots upward. The AI is capable of lobbing a shot to come down near the ground next to your tank close enough that the shield pulls it upward... directly into your tank.
  • Artillery Game: At its core, you still have to guess a shooting angle and velocity on each shot, but the wide variety of powerups and game settings really mixes it up. Individual battles can also play out in either "sequential" (player 1 aim/fire, player 2 aim/fire), "synchronous" (all players take their turns aiming, then everyone shoots at the same time), and "simultaneous" (real-time) modes.
  • Critical Failure: Except for the Heavy Shield, there's a small chance that a given shield will fail to absorb or deflect an incoming shot, allowing its user to get killed by the incoming attack.
  • Death from Above: The Vertical Guidance System causes a projectile to drop straight down onto its designated target area, even accounting for wind. Combined with a MIRV or Death's Head... well, There Is No Kill Like Overkill. And then there are random meteorites and lightning strikes, though they're typically not as lethal.
  • Deflector Shields: There are two varieties. The purple Deflector Shield deflects shots that impact it at an angle, while the yellow magnetic deflector repels shots upward before they hit.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: Depending on which version of the game and which OS the user plays. For example, one bug caused the "battery" item to deplete HP instead of restoring it, forcing many an AI to retreat and self-destruct after taking any amount of damage.
  • Geo Effects: Most explosions destroy terrain by default, but there is a decent variety of dirt-producing weapons (Dirt Balls and charges) that can be used to bury opponents; and a good variety of non-damaging dirt-clearing weapons, which can be used to dig oneself out of trouble without killing themselves in the process.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: If you're not careful, you could off yourself with your own weapons. Especially if you're using the Death's Head, any form of the Sandhog, or the Funky Bomb.
  • Kill It with Fire: Napalm and Hot Napalm.
  • Not the Fall That Kills You…: If gravity is on, you had better purchase a few parachutes in case someone blasts the terrain out from under you.
  • One-Hit KO: Though a direct hit from just about any weapon will destroy an unshielded tank, a direct hit from a Sandhog or concentrated Napalm can destroy a tank even through heavy shielding.
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner/Pre-Mortem One-Liner: There is also a file containing taunts the tanks can make before firing.
  • Selective Gravity: The player can control whether or not loose terrain falls to the ground during gameplay, which changes the usefulness of dirt-producing weapons (like the Dirt Cloud especially). There's also a gravity charge weapon that makes any and all dirt fall to the ground if it hasn't done so already.
  • Shareware: The shareware version only gives the triple-turret tank to the computer players. Registered players get to use the triple-shot tank, and also get 25 scanned images of mountains.
  • Shout-Out: Many of the one-liners, in both Pre-Asskicking One-Liner and last words:
  • Splash Damage: Almost every weapon (even the default Baby Missile) is powerful enough to kill an unshielded tank with a direct hit; you generally only take damage from a near miss. Note that the game provides a setting allowing you to scale damage radiuses to various sizes, depending on the amount of destruction you want.
  • Taking You with Me: Some of the ways to die can result in this. Even if you weren't planning on it, going out with a bang like a Funky Bomb and taking out four opponents is very satisfying.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Some of the weapons are extremely devastating: The aptly-named "Death's Head", for example, can simultaneously destroy most of the terrain on the field and all players in one use, including the person who fired it. Note that because even the Baby Missile (the free, default weapon) can kill with an unshielded tank with a single direct hit, so all the more powerful weapons are essentially just shield breakers and various types of overkill.
  • Trope Maker: For turn-based artillery shooters (with Worms as the Trope Codifier).
  • Unpredictable Results: The Funky Bomb. It can nail multiple opponents or miss everything, do no damage with a direct hit or wipe out a target with a full Heavy Shield. Ditto with the various forms of the Sandhog, except that if it does connect, it's an Insta-Kill.
    • When a tank dies, it may explode in a number of random ways: It could just fizzle and pop, or it could take out a whole mountain (and anyone nearby) with a nuke-sized explosion, or it could spray Funky Bomb explosions everywhere.
  • Unstable Equilibrium: Players that do well and get more kills are awarded more money to buy better equipment. Being able to buy better equipment (especially shields) in turn makes a player much harder to kill and thus easier to kill other players. A player that loses will have to be damn creative with the weaker weapons to catch up (but if they were that good, they probably wouldn't be losing in the first place).
  • Videogame Cruelty Potential: There's nothing like covering an opponent with dirt, waiting while he painstakingly digs himself a tunnel to the surface, and then filling that tunnel with napalm.
    • It's entirely possible (though rare) to fire a high-powered shot through an enemy's shield without destroying them. With napalm, this means you basically cook them from inside their own shield.