About TASO 131

Stand in awe as massive explosions unfold in full 256 colors using software alpha compositing.

TASO 131 is a multiplayer action game from the 1990s. Players use helicopters, cruise missiles, ground troops and paratroopers to destroy opponents’ bases while defending their own. In the campaign mode, players also design their own bases in a manner similar to real-time strategy games, constructing buildings from barracks to air defence systems.

I started developing TASO in 1993 when I first started learning C/C++ and Assembler. Over the next few years I played it with my brothers and friends in the neighborhood and kept adding features that we came up with. Some friends, especially online friends that I made through my BBS, contributed background songs to the game. The last version, TASO 131, was released in 1998.

When I last tried this, my keyboard was a lot bigger and my friends’ hands a lot smaller.

During the 1990s, there was a whole scene of young guys in Finland making and playing small action-oriented PC games like this, known as suomipelit (“finngames”). The games were distributed via disk swapping and through bulletin board systems (BBS), and eventually also through the Internet (see TASO’s entry in Suomipelit.fi). Many of the most popular finngames, like AUTS and Wings, were split-screen multiplayer flying games inspired by a Finnish Amiga game called Turboraketti. TASO combined split-screen flying with elements from the first real-time strategy game I ever saw, Dune 2. The result was fairly successful. In 1997, TASO was awarded the first prize in a national game development competition co-organized by Housemarque.

TASO 131 supports up to four players, which can be AI players or human players playing on a single computer using split-screen graphics. Fitting eight hands on a single keyboard is an interesting metagame in its own right.

TASO 131 credits

Code and most graphics were created by Vili Lehdonvirta.

The intro music, Still out of the dark, was composed by Serum. In-game music was created by Seer, Aga and Queek. End music, Files deleted, is by Seer.

The Midas Digital Audio system was written by Petteri Kangaslampi and Jarno Paananen.

For ideas, playtesting, level design and general gaiety, I wish to thank my brothers Pyry and Otso, as well as the neighbourhood guys, including Miikka, Tuukka, Sami, Henkka, Tumppi, Marko, Mixu and Jussi (and someone I’m probably forgetting). Thanks guys! The impetus for putting this site up also came from Miikka and Sami.

The name TASO means ‘level’ in Finnish. I’m not sure why the 13-year-old me thought that would be a great name for a game.

TASO 131 manual

As global warming advances, countries fight for the last bits of snow to go cross-country skiing on.

CONTENTS

1 Settings
2 Game modes
3 Buildings
4 Units
5 Scoring system
6 Tips & tactics
7 Credits & contact

1 Settings

The menus are fairly self-explanatory, but but below are a few tips.

The key selector

Move the cursor to the desired player, press Enter and then press the desired key for the function shown (up, down, left, right, fire1, fire2). The settings are unfortunately not saved, so you will have to redefine the keys before each game.

Computer players

When selecting players for a new game, use the horizontal arrow keys to set the AI difficulty level (1-3) for computer players.

Ground type

Hard ground means ground that cannot be damaged, no holes will appear from shooting (recommended). Soft means that shooting will cause holes to appear in the ground. Pile means that shooting will blow dirt off the ground and cause piles of dirt to form.

Starting cash

The cash setting refers to starting money in the campaign mode. Not used in classic mode.

2 Game modes

There are two game modes available in the settings screen: classic and campaign. In the classic mode (referring to old versions of TASO) you are given a randomly generated base and unlimited choppers. You also have a limited number of ground troops, which are replenished over time. Also, a single Cruise Missile will be available to you (see below for unit descriptions).

In the campaign mode, you construct your own base as the game unfolds. In the beginning, you have a limited amount of money. Items marked red are not available to you either because you don’t have enough cash or because they require other buildings that you don’t yet have (these dependencies are listed below). You earn more money by doing damage to enemy targets. You don’t lose money from receiving damage.

When you buy a building, you need to place it. Arrows move the building around. Fire1 places the building, and fire2 cancels it.

The quit option exits the shop and takes you to the vehicle selector (pressing fire2 also exits the shop). If you bought choppers, for example, you will see a chopper icon and a number telling you how many you have in store. Select the chopper and press fire1 to take off! When you die, you go back to the vehicle selector. Select buy to get back to the shop.

3 Buildings

Note that the cost and requires fields only apply in the campaign mode.

Chopper shelter

cost:     250
armor:   1300
requires: –

The most important building of your base, this is where your choppers are launched from. Has an automatic weapon which makes bombing hard.

Barracks

cost:     40
armor:   170
requires: –

Your ground troops are sent from here. If it gets destroyed, everyone inside is killed, so you’d better have more than one.

Repair pad

cost:     20
armor:   300
requires: chopper shelter

Land here with a chopper and it will be instantly repaired and rearmed. If not super useful, at least very cheap.

Radar

cost:     160
armor:   800
requires: –

Scans the skies above your base. Your SAM sites will not function without the guidance of at least one radar.

SAM site

cost:     70
armor:   400
requires: radar

Surface to Air Missile sites launch engine-homing missiles to take out enemy choppers. Effective especially in large numbers, but quite easy to destroy. Will not work without at least one functional radar.

 AA battery

cost:     200
armor:   1200
requires: –

Anti-Aircraft batteries pepper the skies with small flak fire when they see enemy choppers. Not very effective against fast targets, but prevets choppers from slowing down over your base.

Flagpole

cost:     5
armor:   –
requires: –

A fine, tall flagpole displays your colours to the enemy. Swing your noble banner high!

Missile silo

cost:     280
armor:   900
requires: –

A huge underground silo which contains your deadly Cruise missiles and maybe sometimes even a Nuclear Reaper.

Guard tower

cost:     50
armor:   400
requires: –

An excellent defence against trooper attacks, but easily destroyed by aerial attackers.

Barbwire fence

cost:     30
armor:   –
requires: –

Thick fences of barbed wire slow enemy troopers down and make them easier targets for guard towers. Virtually indestructible except by well-aimed bombing.

4 Units

Requires indicates a building type that you must construct before you can buy the unit, and in which the unit is stored. If the building is destroyed, the vehicle is destroyed as well. Having multiple buildings of one type helps reduce the risk.

Gunship chopper

cost:     50
weapons:  6 x Mk II bombs, Mk 100 machine gun
armor:   200
requires: chopper shelter

Quite slow, moderately heavy craft suited for destroying ground targets. The best way to kill ground troops. Pressing UP+DOWN activates the ejector seat.

Dogfight chopper

cost:     35
weapons:  5 x Mk I engine-homing missiles, 2 x Mk 80 machine guns
armor:   150
requires: chopper shelter

Very fast, very agile, very nice. Takes out slow choppers with the missiles and the forward-pointing, very powerful machine guns. Vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire due to weak armor. Pressing UP+DOWN activates the ejector seat.

Parachopper

cost:     80
weapons:  4 x Mk I bombs, 10 x paratroopers
armor:   300
requires: chopper shelter

A good way to get ground troops into enemy base. You must have some troopers waiting in your barracks, they’re not included in the price. Very slow, and cannot fly very high, which makes it unusable in some levels.

Heavy transport chopper

cost:     90
weapons:  10 x Mk I bombs
armor:   300
requires: chopper shelter

What does it transport? Bombs, lots of them. A modified version of the Parachopper, so it looks the same and performs identically.

Suicide Commando

cost:     20
weapons:  Energy Peagun, Suicide Bomb
armor:   30
requires: barrack

Can attempt to steal enemy choppers: Go to enemy chopper shelter and press UP for a gunship or UP+FIRE1 for a dogfighter.

Trooper

cost:     15
weapons:  Energy Peagun
armor:   2
requires: barracks

Troopers are weak and easy to kill, but in large numbers they do huge damage to enemy buildings (if they ever get that far). They are not user controllable, you just send them off and try to protect them.

Pioneer

cost:     25
weapons:  Energy Peagun
armor:   2
requires: barracks

Pioneers are otherwise the same as normal ground troops except that they can repair damaged buildings. Buildings cost a lot of money, so make sure you regularily send off some pioneers to repair them before they’re completely destroyed.

Cruise Missile

cost:     200
weapons:  Paukku-class explosive warhead
armor:   80
requires: missile silo

Cruise missiles are ideal for taking out heavily armored buildings, but are easily destroyed by flak fire and Mk I homing missiles from Dogfighters.

Ultimate Nuclear Reaper

cost:     2000
weapons:  Massamurha-class nuclear warhead
armor:   700
requires: missile silo

The Ultimate Nuclear Reaper will cause incredible devastation wherever it lands.

5 Scoring system

When all players except one are killed, their bases completely destroyed or their cash depleted, the game ends and calculates scores. The score is based on how much damage you did to other players. For example, destroying a chopper shelter gives you 1200 points since that is how much armor it has. You lose points for damage you did to your own buildings or units, and you also lose 300 points for each chopper you’ve lost.

There’s also a survival bonus: The player who dies first receives no bonus, the second receives 2000 points, the third 4000, and so on.

When the scores are displayed, there’s also some statistical information showing how many bombs, homing missiles, and paratroopers each player used. The oth means other and shows how many times your ground troops and buildings fired (the number is this x 100). Dwn (down) shows how many choppers you lost. The lower half of the screen shows how much damage each player caused to other players. Greens are the damage inflicters and reds are damage takers.

6 Tips & tactics

Constructing a base

This, of course, does not apply to the Classic mode since there is no base building involved in it. But seasoned players probably find that the Campaign mode is much more interesting, anyway.

A good anti-air capability is very important. AA-batteries are good in the beginning, since they are quickly placed and can take lots of damage, which is good since in the beginning you have other things to do than to look after your buildings. Place the batteries on high ground, and make sure that they are not too close to tall buildings, as they might otherwise hit your own structures. Well-placed SAM-sites are very effective too, but because of their weak armor, they require constant repair.

If the opposition insists on sending hordes of troopers, place one Guard Tower on each side of your base and surround the towers with barbwire fences. If you send pioneers to repair the towers often enough, they will stop almost any number of attacking troopers.

A landing pad can be surprisingly useful: place one on the edge of your base and you need not to go all the way to your chopper shelter to rearm and repair your choppers.

Barracks are very weak structures. If you want to use ground troops a lot, you should build several of them and place them somewhere where they are not easily bombarded. But for those who use troopers only casually, it is usually best to build a new barracks every time you need one and leave no troopers to stay there for any longer than necessary.

Attacking

Attacking with choppers is usually the most effective technique, but do not underestimate the power of the ground forces either. Troopers are not so easily noticed, but when even a few get inside a base, they cause quite a hefty bit of damage to the structures. Troopers are, however, very vulnerable to gunship choppers and guard towers, so it is usually best to escort them with a gunship chopper or a dogfighter when you send them in large numbers. Remember to use parachoppers, too, especially when there are too many guard towers around the base.

If the enemy base is too well defended against chopper attacks, the Suicide commandos can be used to take out SAM-sites even deep inside the enemy base. Commandos move very fast and carry a lethal load of explosives with them.

Remember that the dogfight chopper can be used for air-to-ground attacks as well. Especially AA-batteries that are placed on high hilltops are very vulnerable to the dogfighters’ Mk.I missiles, which the dogfighter can fire from outside the AA-battery’s range.

When the enemy has placed several tough structures close to each other, such as two chopper shelters side by side, it may be worth to take them out with a Cruise missile. The missile is easily destroyed by AA-batteries, but if it hits it takes out several buildings and is usually well worth the trouble. Cruise missiles as well as the Nuclear reaper are quite difficult to use, but once you become skilled enough to hit your target, they are very useful.

Defending

Remember to send pioneers to repair your structures regularly. Use the dogfighter for quick missile sweeps, ie. take off, shoot all your missiles, land. Five well-scattered missiles should keep the sky around your base clear for a few seconds to let you focus on something else. Use the gunship chopper to kill enemy troopers before they get inside your base.

7 Credits & contact

Code and most graphics were created by Vili Lehdonvirta.

The intro music, Still out of the dark, was composed by Serum. In-game music was created by Seer, Aga and Queek. End music, Files deleted, is by Seer.

The Midas Digital Audio system was written by Petteri Kangaslampi and Jarno Paananen.

For ideas, playtesting, level design and general gaiety, I wish to thank my brothers Pyry and Otso, as well as the neighbourhood guys, including Miikka, Tuukka, Sami, Henkka, Tumppi, Marko, Mixu and Jussi!

Contact:

vili@lehdonvirta.com
http://vili.lehdonvirta.com/

Download TASO 131 (MS-DOS/Mac/Windows)

MS-DOS

The game was originally made for the MS-DOS operating system. You can download the original here:

Download TASO 131 for MS-DOS

Mac

In August 2012 I made a Mac version that uses the DOSBox emulator to run the game on OS X. It’s all packaged into a single application, just open to play:

Download TASO 131 for Mac

Note: seems to crash sometimes with four players. Workaround is to use max three players (duh).

Windows

To run the game on a modern Windows, you can download the MS-DOS version above and run it on the DOSBox emulator. If you would like to make a standalone Windows distribution like the Mac version above, let me know and I will add it here.

Level files

A command-line utility for making your own levels was included with the game. If you have some old level files hanging about, please let me know and I will post them here.

For details on how the game and its various buildings and units work, check out the TASO 131 manual. Or just give it a spin.

“Requesting permission to land.”

Creative Commons License
TASO 131 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. DOSBox is licensed under the GNU General Public license.