You are a ball.
That’s the first thing you’ll notice about TagPro, the deceptively simple computer game that is exploding in popularity on social networks and message boards around the Web.
You are a ball, and you can roll around by pressing your keyboard’s arrow keys. Forward, back, left, and right; I just taught you everything you need to know about gameplay controls in TagPro. There are no weapons, no item inventories, no equipment upgrades. There’s no equipment at all. Balls don’t have opposable thumbs.
TagPro is a minimalist, modern take on the old outdoor game of capture the flag. You and your three ball teammates, each a real person playing in his or her Web browser, work together to capture the opponent flag and bring it back to your base. The other team, of course, is trying to capture your flag, and the first team to score three captures wins the match.
Careful, though. Whenever your ball is carrying the flag, it can be tagged by an opposing player, causing your ball to pop, returning the flag back to your opponents and your ball back to its home base.
Underlying these simple game mechanics are rich sets of strategy, tactics, game theory, and teamwork principles. You’ll get to that later, though. Right now all you need to know is that this game is seriously fun, and while it might take just a minute to learn how to play, you can spend hours, days, weeks, and beyond trying to master the TagPro skill set.
TagPro has been receiving a lot of attention lately on some of the most popular social networks on the Internet. Posts about the game have reached the front page of Reddit twice in the past few weeks, generating a huge influx of new players in “pushes,” as TagPro old-timers refer to the popularity boosts.
Here are 10 reasons you need to start playing TagPro right now.
1. It Has Power-ups
In case rolling around as a ball wasn’t exciting enough for you, the game features three power-ups that help you capture the opponent flag and defend your own.
The “grip” power-up lets you accelerate faster, allowing you to change direction and juke your opponents. The “rolling bomb” power-up surrounds you with a one-time-use force field, making you temporarily invulnerable.
Finally, the “TagPro” power-up, for which the game is inexplicably named, allows you to pop any opponent, whether or not he has the flag.
2. You Can Play With Friends Or Strangers
If you need your TagPro fix immediately, you can jump right into an anonymous game on a public server, and you’ll be rolling around in seconds. You can change your ball’s handle to anything you’d like, but keep it clean or you might be booted from the game.
If you’d rather play with your own friends, you can set up a group session. When you get five friends to enter your game, you can choose your map, adjust game rules, and even alter game physics.
3. It’s Got Pieces Of Flair
Unlike at the restaurant Chotchkie’s in the movie Office Space, where you’re required to wear at least 15 pieces of flair at all times, in TagPro you get just one. As you move up the ranks, though, earning “degrees” after certain numbers of wins, you can choose which flair you want to put on your ball for the world to see.
Flair is related to the degree earned. Reaching the 32nd degree, for example, earns your ball the snowflake flair, because water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
4. It’s The Ultimate Test Of Teamwork
In its simplest form, TagPro is about teamwork. You can’t successfully capture the opponent flag unless your own flag is safely in base when you arrive, so even the most brilliant offensive player relies on his teammates to play defense.
Since your team is made up of four players, the optimal split is two on offense and two on defense, since anything more than two balls on a side offers diminishing returns.
For example, if you play a 3-on-defense strategy vs. a team playing the optimal 2-and-2 split, your advantage of 3 vs. 2 on defense is a smaller ratio (1.5) than your opponent’s advantage of 2-to-1 (2.0) on his side of the map.
5. You Can Make The Major Leagues
If you seriously love TagPro and want to take it to the next level, you can sign up for the “professional” division of the game, called Major League TagPro.
Players are drafted based on skill and positional need by teams in the league, and all team members are required to install a voice communication app called “Mumble,” so they can talk to teammates in real time about tactics and strategy.
6. It Has Its Own TV Channel
Sort of. TagPro matches are often streamed for hundreds of spectators on Twitch.tv, a real-time game-viewing site. TagPro also has its own streaming channel on YouTube called TagPro TV, where announcers comment on “the Super Ball” in real time.
7. The Super Ball
At the highest levels of TagPro, the four individual balls on each team meld into one cohesive unit of flag-capturing fury, and the action is crazy and fast.
You’ll see such a game at the culmination of the Major League TagPro season, when the two best teams compete in the Super Ball championship.
8. Games Run 24 Hours A Day
The sun never sets on TagPro. With a growing player-base from dozens of nations, and servers dotting North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia, you can find a game any time of the day or night.
9. It’s addicting
Earlier this month, a TagPro fanatic posted on a message board about how he had to manually block the TagPro game from his Web browser so he could study for college exams. Players flock to these same boards to write about and debate strategy. A growing design community works tirelessly on making new game maps. There’s even a fan-published game newsletter called “The Ball Street Journal.”
What does this all mean? TagPro is addicting, in a good way, and you can choose your own level of involvement.
10. Anyone Can Play
There are other capture-the-flag games out there, including a popular mode in the Call of Duty first-person shooter games. However, unlike Call of Duty, TagPro has no violence, unless you consider a water balloon popping violent.
Instead of Call of Duty’s first-person perspective with heads-up displays, complicated weapons inventory, and intricate controls, TagPro offers a simple top-down, two-dimensional camera with the simplest control scheme possible.
This means that TagPro is a game appropriate for all to play, no matter their gaming experience.