Rest in Peace, Tribes Ascend
It recently came to my attention that one of my favorite games - the critically acclaimed first person shooter game Tribes: Ascend - is no longer searchable on Steam, Hirez’s website, or Google Search, and the only way to still get to its Steam download page is to click through other pages or already have the URL. In other words, Hirez Studios has finally decided to stop distributing Tribes: Ascend. RIP.
Tribes: Ascend - Wikipedia
Tribes: Ascend is a free-to-play first-person shooter developed and published by Hi-Rez Studios for Microsoft Windows, as part of the Tribes series. […] The game was released on April 12, 2012. In February 2013, Hi-Rez released a Game of the Year Edition, which unlocked all classes, weapons, equipment, and perks in a single package. In July 2013, Hi-Rez halted further development on Tribes: Ascend to focus on other titles, though a small team resumed development in August 2015.
In light of that, it’s time for me to write another game obituary. The game Tribes: Ascend was released in 2012, and continued the Tribes legacy in being the only game series in its genre. I like to describe Tribes as a “slow shooter”, because unlike all the Call of Duty games the kids these days are playing, Tribes: Ascend was a first person shooter that you could do really well at by being slow, tactical and precise, taking sometimes as long as a few full seconds to line up a perfectly calculated shot on the enemy. I still have memories of one of my best friends playing this game at 10fps on an old laptop and managing to be far from useless. Tribes: Ascend brought first person shooters to the demographic of gamers who would rather be deliberate and calculating in their gameplay, rather than relying on split-second twitch reflexes. Catering to this demographic was something that no other series has managed to accomplish, though some have definitely tried.
Update 4/19/2020: Looks like Midair is trying a second time by launching Midair Community Edition, with the help of new volunteer developers. Their focus is to remove as much cruft as possible and concentrate on core gameplay quality and onboarding. That this could happen at all is a huge testament to the Tribes community’s strength. I signed up for the closed beta on their new website, and I encourage you to as well!
After Hirez Studios bought the Tribes property they created this game, Tribes: Ascend, which was rated 9/10 by IGN and given the rare and coveted Game of the Year title in 2012 - basically the video game equivalent of an Academy Award for Best Motion Picture in terms of prestige. Then, 1 year later, its development company, HiRez Entertainment, killed Tribes: Ascend. Less like one would slaughter a cow for meat, but more like one would step on a bumblebee at the side of the pool to save it from a long and agonizing death.
WTF happened? Why did this award-winning game only last 1 year?
Q: Tribes: Ascend was Game of The Year and got 9/10 on IGN. It was an outstanding game. So why in the good lord’s name did it have such a short run?
A: Tribes was dead long before Hirez realized it, by virtue of the way they systematically alienated each part of their player base to focus on short-term profits without any regard to the health of the community or long-term viability of the game. For more details, please read Athelian’s post in the next section.
Q: Why doesn’t Tribes: Ascend show up on Steam any more when I search for it?
A: HiRez Entertainment has delisted Tribes: Ascend from Steam. You cannot search for it - you need the direct URL to get to it now.
Q: Why doesn’t the Tribes: Ascend Steam page show up in Google Search when I type “tribes ascend steam”
A: As part of the delisting process, Steam has explicitly requested to Google that the Steam store page be removed from Google Search results. (They signaled this to Google by using a snippet of HTML code called a “meta noindex” tag).
Athelian on Why Tribes Ascend Died
Athelian’s post is the most spot-on documentation of the Tribes: Ascend trainwreck that I could find. I have reproduced it in its entirety, because it was deleted when HiRez Entertainment shut down the official Tribes: Ascend forums in 2013 (they also posted about their intent to shut down the forum, but those posts were deleted in 2015).
Here’s why Tribes: Ascend died, according to Athelian:
Well, I can’t say that I was not warned about posting in the Tribes forums :)
You guys have to understand that developers are human also, when a passionate team makes a game (which gets exceptional reviews for carrying on the Tribes name whether you personally agree or not) but gets beat on every time they post something in the forums they will tend to communicate less.
I understand what you’re saying but how does ignoring a problem help to fix it? Honestly, you should count yourselves lucky that there are people on here so enthralled by this game and passionate about not only the Tribes franchise, but the monumental creation that is Tribes: Ascend. If you post a poor balance change in Smite or GA or (future) Killstreak forums and no even gives a d***, that should tell you how uncommitted the players are.
To be perfectly honest, you all need to man up. Do you have any idea how many times I’ve been called an F-ing C-word over xbox live by a 9 year old? How many foul mouthed 9 year old are there in this game? Not many. The average age (genuine maturity) of the people playing PC and this game particularly is far above that of most games. Imagine the kinds of comments you would be receiving if the COD community playing this game. It is YOUR JOB to oversee the well being of your investment. When I’m at work and a customer shouts and swears at me I don’t cry and go and lock myself in the toilet; I empathise and realise that as a professional, I have a responsibility to do the best job I can regardless, because their anger is not personal and because I love my work. I find it hard to believe that the team is ‘passionate’ about Tribes when they would give up on it so easily.
As for your comments about people finding the game too difficult. I tried StarCraft II about a month ago and lost 20 matches in a god d*** row. But do you know what kept me going? The fact that I was constantly given tips in tutorials, the fact that the campaign built me up and up, that there were arcade type challenge missions to help me get to grips with the mechanics. What do you get in T:A? A tutorial on how to ski and a message telling you how to reload.
The thing that really bothers me is that this game is bloody fantastic. I mean it. This game is absolutely incredible. I’ve never played something so enjoyable and different. The thing is that I knew, I knew - that this was something special when I began. The artwork and design are astounding, the idea of how it’s played… the skiing is just amazing. The flow and calming delicacy of skiing around as a capper is something more people need to experience. But how will they if they have no idea that it’s possible; it wasn’t until you featured Sh4z’s stream that I realised that Cappers would actually self-harm in order to go faster, and that wasn’t until I was a gold player. When did you tell me that Hi-Rez? You didn’t. I also thought that Sentinel’s were completely useless until then, I had wanted to be a sniper but thought they were pointless. But now what? I’ve played 700 hours with roughly 450 hours of just sentinel, sniping for teams in the top 10 in both EU and NA competitive scenes. But how the hell are people supposed to know what classes are useful for each role? It’s no wonder that all the juggernauts sit in their own gen room all game. All of the comp scene revolves around CTF, but for 20 levels or so I thought that TDM and arena were the competitive game modes!! How in the hell was I supposed to know that only CTF mattered?
Why isn’t there 7v7 matchmaking with comp rules in the UI? There should be a tab that says COMPETITIVE in the Play Now section, where you are directed to streams of comp games and given a run-down of the rules. Where the thing that keeps people playing is a skill based matching system - alongside your exp level you are also given a skill level, your 7v7 CTF gives you an actual number relative to who you have defeated. For example if the average skill level on my team was 20 with the other team being 30, but we still manage to win, my players gain a few points the their players lose a few points respectively. Imagine how much of a competitive sense you would drive into new players if they were challenged to defeat players of similar skill levels alongside 4 of their buddies and a couple of randoms. It would actually give some structure and urge to win (not gen camp) to a their everyday games. Something that this would require, but should have already been implemented, is in-game voice support so that people can talk to one another. However, this ‘comp tab’ idea should be taken even further. It’s ridiculous that the GameShrine and TWL sites are the only way to view which teams are the best. Alongside the skill based matchmaking there should be tournament matchmaking, where you assemble a proper team of 7+ permanent players. With this mode there is no skill number but only a leaderboard rank, which changes depending on who you play. Imagine how new players would feel if they managed to get the words ‘Best Global Rank - #9’ featured on their profile alongside a unique medal and given a unique armour camo/decal that only players who have been in top 10 unlock. The leaderboard should be interactive, showing the state of affairs in a manner similar to GameShrine; however with this being in the UI it should also include means to view each team’s roster within the game, so that new players can check a team’s skill levels, what their individual roles are, what the best Global Rank for each player is etc. Of course this would all be helped if there was also a way to view a specific player’s profile when in game, which is something that should have been implemented in the first place. In essence the thing that will keep people playing is if you bring competition into the fundamentals of the game.
I knew, that if I stuck at it this would be the most fun game I’ve played in a long time, and I was right. What I worry, is that the T:A development team but particularly people like you, the CEOs, don’t recognise just how huge this game could be. Do you know why I decided to play this game? Because it was one of the highest rated games in a very long time. Do you know how much money similarly rated games are making? I bet it’s a lot more than you. You have unequivocally failed to give this game to the people, despite designing one of the best games for them. But then how could anyone take the game seriously? The bugs, the poor balance choices (the plasma gun? Really? Sentinels are still too strong, do you really think I give a d*** about waiting an extra 0.2 seconds to make my next shot at a capper that’s 30 seconds out from a 420 grab, ruining his regen?), the macro-transactions, the missing comp tab in Play Now, the lack of tutorials, the absent mod support, the broken spectator mode, the ‘impossible’ demo support - I get that the game wasn’t originally designed to be an esport and that demo support is now very difficult to add, but do you realise how much of a profit you would make if you sunk in the resources and actually got the d*** thing fixed??? Same with the spectator mode, this game could be spectacular fun to watch, but no one can!! It’s naive to think that the game won’t make it as an esport when it’s missing the one thing required for it to be one. It’s like making a film but then deciding it’s rubbish before anyone has even seen it!! You’ve designed a F2P game without enough customisation to warrant the gold system. I get more cosmetic customisations when I play COD for Christ’s sake. Why isn’t there stupid stuff like custom gun/armour decals, weapon camo, armour camo? Different helmets, different jet colours, where all I have to do is click on the $0.69 to buy a new sword or claw colour?
It is not a d*** surprise that the game is doing poorly. But you could turn it all around and make the next big thing with some strategy. You have absolutely no idea how lucky you are to have gained the Tribes community, you will never, ever, find anything like us again, and I am fairly certain that none of your games will ever be as highly rated as this one and I mean that. This is your one and only chance to make something big, and I mean StarCraft big. There is a gap in the market for an FPS esport - you have the capacity to fill that gap with TA, but you will never have that again.
Not putting the resources into T:A will be the worst decision Hi-Rez ever makes, and will stop them from being the company that they could become.
Quotes of this post exist on The Wayback Machine. Copies of the original post, as far as I can tell, have been lost to the internet. But there is still a Reddit discussion of it.
Why did HiRez Entertainment take down the Tribes: Ascend forums, and this post with it, to move the community towards a subreddit instead? One Redditor, GrethSC, thinks that it is an attempt to censor the company’s past failures:
This is simple datacide on a giant scale. On reddit threads don’t tend to linger, outrage is minimized and quickly boiled away.
The Tribes forums have threads spanning hundreds of posts detailing everything that was going wrong with the game since the early closed beta. Hirez has been pruning those threads and blaming the community for being toxic for no reason. The evidence had been wiped away. Now there won’t be any record of their mistakes and all the things discussed by the community in vain to help Hirez establish a top end competitive game.
Their next title will have a hapless audience that has no history to fall back on. The Global Agenda players warned the Tribals that this would happen. And in turn the Tribes players warned those playing Smite.
Hirez has a pathological problem of shooting itself in the foot when they are doing well. Using archaic marketing tricks and very poorly timed damage control.
It pains me to say goodbye to this game, because it was so incredible yet so poorly mismanaged. If I didn’t have so much fun with this game, or if there were any other game out there that was comparable, I wouldn’t be so sad to see it go.
RIP Tribes: Ascend. You will be missed.
Edit: View the Reddit discussion of this article.
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