Tribes is a series of science fiction first-person shooter computer games originally developed by Dynamix, a subsidiary of Sierra Entertainment. Set in the same universe as the game Starsiege, there are six games in the Tribes series:
- Starsiege: Tribes, released for Microsoft Windows on November 30, 1998
- Tribes 2, released for Windows on March 28, 2001 and for Linux on April 24, 2001
- Tribes Aerial Assault, released for PlayStation 2 on September 23, 2002
- Tribes: Vengeance, released for Windows in October 2004
- Tribes Universe, an upcoming MMO developed by Hi-Rez Studios
- Tribes: Ascend, an upcoming multiplayer-only successor to Tribes 2 developed by Hi-Rez Studios
The Tribes series is set in a distant future, spanning from 33rd to 40th century AD, while the back-story of the games begins in 2471, when a scientist Solomon Petresun invents the first "cybrid", a bio-cybernetic hybrid artificial intelligence named Prometheus or IT. Based on ITS design, thousands of cybrids are mass-produced as slaves for the mankind, however, by 2602, Prometheus grows wary of humans and rallies all cybrids produced to date against humanity in a devastating slaughter later named The Fire. The events of The Fire are depicted in Earthsiege (1994), the precursor of the Tribes series, although several important points (such as the appearance of Petresun and Prometheus as the factions' leaders) were retconned later in Starsiege.
In Starsiege continuity, the Terran resistance manages to drive Prometheus' initially victorious forces out of Earth and onto the Moon where they are consequentially decapitated by General Ambrose Gierling and his squad's suicide attack on the cybrid base in 2627. Prometheus, however, survives the explosion and to counter this threat, Petresun (having technically achieved immortality through his studies) proclaims himself the Emperor of Mankind in 2652 and succeeds in unifying and rebuilding the Terran civilization. Pursuing his goal of fortifying the Earth against the inevitable cybrid retaliation, Petresun ruthlessly exploits Martian and Venusian colonies, spawning massive resistance movements among the colonists by 2802. The Martian rebellion led by the former Imperial Knight Harabec Weathers and the consequent Cybrid Wars are described in Starsiege (1998).
The chronologically first game in the Tribes series is Tribes: Vengeance (2004). Set some time between 33rd and 40th century, it shows the Great Human Empire, now ruled by "Imperial King" Tiberius, having hunted down (almost) all remaining cybrids and expanded beyond the boundaries of the Solar system through the so-called Interstellar Transfer Conduit. While the Empire itself is prosperous, there are outcasts, known as "the Children of Phoenix" (after Harabec "Phoenix" Weathers, whom they consider their progenitor) or simply Tribals. Their insubordination has made the Empire dispatch a great force of elite Imperial Knights, the Blood Eagles, against them, however, by the time of Tribes: Vengeance, the Eagles have fully embraced the Tribal way of life, considering themselves Tribesmen despite still having ties to the Empire.
The next (chronologically) game in the series, Starsiege: Tribes (1998) sees the conflict between the Blood Eagles, the Children of Phoenix, and other tribes formed by the renegades of these two (such as the Starwolf and the Diamond Sword) escalating into countless blood feuds before finally culminating in the devastating Tribal Wars about 3940. The sequel, entitled Tribes 2 (2001), deals with the insurgent uprising of BioDerms, a new race of warriors/workers created by the Empire to replace the cybrids, and their assault on the Wilderzone, the space frontier where the Tribes mostly reside. The Tribes Aerial Assault (2002) does not significantly contribute to the fictional setting of the series.
Starsiege: Tribes still retains a large community of players. Starsiege: Tribes sold a total of 210,000 copies.
A single player version called Tribes Extreme began development shortly after the release of Starsiege: Tribes, but was abandoned before completion .
Tribes 2 added additional vehicles (such as a two-person tank and a three-person bomber with a belly turret), weapons, and items. A few details of gameplay were changed; for instance, the original game made a player choose his load out while he was at a supply station (sometimes resulting in long lines to use the station), while the sequel required the player to choose his load out before he used the station. Tribes 2 also included many features to help its community of players: it included user profiles, interactive chat areas, and message boards. The initial release of Tribes 2 was plagued by bugs and slow performance; several patches were released over the following year (first by Sierra, later by GarageGames) to address these issues.
Tribes Aerial Assault was a PlayStation 2 version of Tribes 2. Developed by Inevitable Entertainment and published by Sierra, it offered simplified but significantly swifter gameplay (fewer maps and vehicles, and a subset of the original's voice commands) and network support for up to sixteen players at a time.
Tribes: Vengeance was a prequel to the other games. In addition to multiplayer support, it featured a full single-player game with a storyline. It was developed by Irrational Games using a heavily modified Unreal engine to bring the game's appearance up to par with other modern first-person shooters. This new Tribes largely de-emphasized the focus on massive maps and slower gameplay that was typical of Tribes 2 in favor of the swifter action of the original Starsiege: Tribes and Tribes Aerial Assault. Battles were faster paced, and teamwork and vehicles were less necessary. Tribes: Vengeance was released with almost no marketing support in autumn 2004 shortly after the release of Doom 3 and Far Cry and just before the releases of Half-Life 2 and Halo 2. Sales were predictably poor: after six months, only 47,000 copies of the game had been sold. In March 2005, all support for Tribes: Vengeance was dropped, including a planned patch that would have addressed several bugs and added PunkBuster support.
In February 2006, GarageGames "leaked" short videos of a tech demo which featured "tribes like" game play on their Torque Shader Engine or TSE. The demo made its debut at the 2006 Game Developers Conference as "Legions", an obvious allusion to the Tribes series for which the team is famous for. Announced officially in 2007 as a "spiritual successor" to Tribes, Fallen Empire: Legions was released to the public in June 2008 on InstantAction, and is currently being developed by the community after InstantAction was shutdown in November of 2010.
In March 2009, GarageGames announced it had obtained the rights to the Tribes franchise from Activision Blizzard and would be bringing Starsiege: Tribes to InstantAction as PlayTribes. However on November 11, 2010, InstantAction was shutdown, thus cancelling development on PlayTribes.
On October 23, 2010, Hi-Rez Studios announced that they were the new owners of the Tribes franchise, and were developing a new Tribes MMO called Tribes Universe.
Hi-Rez Studios attended PAX East 2011 and announced Tribes: Ascend, a multiplayer-only successor to Tribes 2 for the PC and XBLA.