Vektor Wars

Our recent videogame past and shooting robots in their roboty face.

I’m enjoying Vektor Wars a lot. I like it because I like running around a neon infused Tron-esque environment shooting robots in the face with my giant and colourful lasers, I like it because it’s dumb-as-rocks FPS action for those moments where thinking is way, waaay too much effort. I like it because it reminds me of another time in videogames.

Vektor Wars could have fallen through a timewarp

I’m not going to say it’s nostalgia, there’s no warm fuzzy feeling, no longing to relive something, no aching heart for a moment in time. It’s not nostalgia. It’s more just a memory. A memory of a time before we’d really cemented the perception of what indie is. Before TIGS, before Cave Story influenced so much that came after. Before wot is indie became tied to 2d, pixel art and puzzle platformers, even though it’s always been so much more and still very much is so much more.

Vektor Wars could have fallen through a timewarp but it’s from a time neglected, ignored. Like so much of our history of indie games that we fail to document clearly, preferring instead a mythologised view of where we are and how we came to be.

It’s the time where Dark Basic and Blitz3d dominated so much of the made at home videogame landscape. A curiously blurry point between the old shareware model and the anything goes of a post 2006 indie world. A time where big budget FPS were piling on the development pounds and the gulf between made at home and made in a studio became unimaginably enormous. A copy of Milkshape and a 3d engine did not Half Life 2 make. It could, however, make a heck of a cool neon soaked environment, yeah? Also asteroids. Lots of asteroids, but that’s another story.

Instead of following the industry at scale, we opened up thousands more possibilities

For a short while, the cool and (vaguely) affordable nature of 3d BASIC variants looked like indie games were charting a different course to the one they took. One where they explored the 3rd dimension in a weird parallel to the 3d obsessed big guns of videogaming and 2d was pushed to casual, to the super hobbyist corners. It wasn’t to last. Dark BASIC never seemed to get the grip it needed, Blitz3d became Max losing most of the easy 3d along the way and then became Monkey and we don’t talk about Monkey. The rest of the indie story well told. It’s not even that the 3d dream died, Unity is ubiquitous now, a port of call for studios and hobbyists alike. We diverged and we diverged towards a more healthy place where 2d and 3d stand side by side. Instead of following the industry at scale, we opened up thousands more possibilities. Including following the industry at scale, natch.

Like I said, I love Vektor Wars precisely because I like shooting robots in the face and it’s a game that’s really good at letting you shoot robots in the face and that’s just fine. There’s no roguelike elements, no procgen, no eternal unlock cycle or any of the trappings of a modern videogame trying to be the most modern of videogames. Vektor Wars is a 3d arcade game where you shoot neon laser robots in the face with neon lasers in a neon laser world.

shoot neon laser robots in the face with neon lasers in a neon laser world

It’s a 3d game that seems to pick up from that weird blurry time between shareware and now, it’s almost the game I hoped someone would make back then but they never did. I’m patient though and we get there in the end.

Ten years ago, I’d have really loved this game. Luckily, ten years on, it’s still the sort of thing I want to play. I guess I’m grateful that someone sorted that for me. Just so I know.

And I must admit, I like that it reminds me of how much we take indie as-is-now as if it’s always been like this when it really hasn’t.

It stops me taking the future for granted.