Cortex Command 1.0

By: Derek Yu

On: September 28th, 2012

Cortex Command
Splash image by Cortex Command artist “Arne” Niklas Jansson.

I’ll be honest, part of me was expecting that we’d all be brains in jars before Cortex Command reached 1.0. But no! After almost a dozen years in development, Dan Tabar’s opus has hit that milestone and is now available on Steam. Players who have already purchased the game, either directly or through a Humble Indie Bundle can get a Steam key here. A Linux build is still in development, according to Dan’s announcement post.

The release marks the completion of the game’s campaign mode or “meta game”, which allows players and CPUs to engage in large-scale warfare, building bunkers and attacking one another across the face of a planet. To find out more about this new mode, check out Dan’s latest playtest video below. And if you’re new to Cortex Command, this is also a good way to see the game’s impressive physics and AI in action.

Congratulations to Dan and the rest of the team on the release!

  • News

    sleepy dan’s redemption

  • allen

    game is still pretty much unplayable. after about 30 minutes of playing I uninstalled it, not worth my time.

  • Levi Morgan

    which humble bundle was this in? I’m looking through my old saved Humble Bundle e-mails and I don’t see which one had Cortex Command in it. I’m 100% sure I bought it, just need to know which one.

  • goldcray

    There should be a steam key for it on the humble bundle downloads page.

  • Dan Tabár

    sorry to hear you didn’t like it, allen. can you please give some specfics so we can improve it?

  • Dan Tabár

    thanks for the post, derek! hehe i do feel like my brain is in a jar somewhere else atm

  • guest

    Bought it back in 2004, or so my memory will have me believe. It was a fun buggy-holy-shit-this-has-potential tech demo. Fast forward to today and it still has a lot of the minor issues, but has managed to wipe the major ones and is a fun game that still has a lot of potential for fun. Just check out the modding scene for even more madness.

  • News

    sleep on it

  • News

    swole before trolls

  • RVA8

    I bought the demo a few years ago and loved it! Can’t wait to get my hands on 1.0! Thanks Dan!

  • whoa

    dude, where’s your shirt?

  • Caspian Prince

    Dan, you’ve gotta learn with how to deal with the internets one of these days :D

  • BearKiller


  • Solus

    Can’t speak for him, but for me the biggest problems are that moving and aiming feel very clunky, and that the actual game elements don’t seem all that compelling. It feels like a physics sandbox with some game elements tacked on, rather than a game with a physics engine, if that makes sense.

  • lollolo

    hahah how to beat the tutorial ? ^^

  • guest

    But that’s part of the fun in my humble (dohoho) opinion. It would be like taking the tentacle elements out of Octodad.

  • Dan Tabár

    hehe enlighten me!??

  • Conimar

    I remember, from following this game’s development, that there was a lot of back story to the different factions. Also there were crabs. Even though I love the game mechanics, I kinda wish the campaign mode was treated more alla Age of Empires or Warcraft or any other strategy game were you played as each faction and there was a story to be told. Some game mythology to write fan fiction on if you may.

  • Gabriel Verdon

    Allen hates everything, don’t worry about it.

  • Paul Hubans

    Congratulations, Dan! 12 years? Wow, that must feel like quite an accomplishment. As luck would have it, I did purchase this via HIB3, so I will check it out!

  • Paul Hubans

    Wow, that was great fun. Just spent the past couple hours playing it. Feedback:

    The interface feels pretty clunky at first, and I think this would be prohibitive to newcomers, but once past that hump I totally get the design vision behind this and it’s really great. The UI can be a pain, too, chiefly because of small fonts used in menus. Can the font be enlarged?

    The gameplay itself is conceptually brilliant, though I’d have to say there are definitely noticeable issues and as another pointed out, “feels like a physics sandbox with some game elements tacked on, rather than a game with a physics engine.” Controlling the ragdoll style characters can be frustrating and requires some finesse. The random and chaotic nature of the gameplay is very fun, though.

    The graphics and sound are also great but not without their own issues, like some inconsistencies in resolution/rendering. For example, the clouds have this weird dithering and overall ugliness compared to everything else. The environment tiles are top-notch though and the character sprites are pretty good.

    If I had to rate this game in its current state I’d give it a 3.5 out of 5, with easy potential for a 4 to 4.5 if these issues were fixed.

    Thanks for this game and I’ll definitely be playing more of it!

  • t1gerdog

    Cortex Command is awesome, been playing it for a few years!

  • fedup

    Calling this 1.0 is really stretching it… Unless this was all it was meant to be and if so then I am really dissapointed and anyone who honestly think this is an awesome job well done for 11 years is clearly…oh whatever nevermind.
    As others already have pointed out, it’s not a game at this point, it’s an engine. I feel bad for the people on steam who got duped into buying this. But I know, I know, Dan is a friend of Derek and no critique allowed on tigsource. So just disregard this and call me a troll and go back to circle jerking eachother off.

  • Derek Yu

    Man, that last part is totally unnecessary.

    1. I’ve been a fan of Cortex Command/DIRT long before I knew Dan.

    2. I can’t remember the last time I called someone a troll or censored a legitimate criticism.

  • fedup

    Actually you are right and I didnt mean to attack you personally and for that I’m sorry.

    I was referring to the usual fanboy defenders crowd and I’m just frustrated about the whole thing. Theres alot of people outraged on the steam forums about buying this game and rightly so imo. I too am (was) a longtime fan of CC so why am I and the steambuyers so utterly dissapointed by this release and you only have good things report about it?
    The reason I’m getting so emotional about it is that I think bad indie releases hurts the scene in general (and theres been alot lately) and that we could and should be alot more selfcritical. As a indie developer myself I dont want “indie title” to become synonym with “half assed”.

  • Derek Yu

    Thanks, I appreciate it. And I agree that we should be self-critical as a community and maintain a high standard for our games. So I apologize if my post about CC seems misleading – I haven’t played 1.0 yet and my only intention was to announce its release, explain the basic features of the game, and point people to Dan’s playthrough.

    What’s most disappointing to you about this release, though? Were there features you were expecting that didn’t make it in?

  • Dan Tabár

    After initially being dismayed by some of the reaction in the steam forums, I have come to realize it’s really only caused by a very small, very vocal minority, led by a couple of individuals who have been harassing me personally and trolling the data realms forums for many years under many different user names. For what reason? I’m not quite sure, but i suspect they got overly emotionally invested/attached to what they _imagined_ the game was going to be/become and especially _when_ it was going to get there.
    The disappointment of it not reaching those lofty expectations is apparently causing irrational and uncontrollable rage in some, despite my best efforts of managing those expectations with big red disclaimers etc. I know: “welcome to the internet”…

    The game has always been polarizing, which I take as a good sign overall, since it shows people care about it and its potential. It’s just a bummer that some decide to express themselves through personal attacks and sustained harassment when they could just take their refund and move on to the next game that suits them better.

    You get emotional about “bad releases”, but please explain why this one deserves such a label? Tens of thousands of people have been happily paying $18 for this game in a MUCH less finished state for almost five years now. I can count on my two hands the total number of refund requests we have had during this period. The version 1.0 released on Steam is a complete game, fully playable, but NOT fully polished. That’s why it’s called “1.0” and not “final”. We don’t have direct control over the text that goes onto the steam store page, but I’ve asked valve to add some language clarifying the current state of the game. I sincerely hope that satisfies you!

    I am extremely proud of how the game has turned out, and look forward to making it even better with steamworks integration, achievements, and added polish. All the gushingly positive comments, reviews and gameplay videos from people who “get it” and actually _enjoy_ the steep learning curve do balance out the bad apples who can’t seem to handle their shit when they come across something they don’t like. That’s life, I guess ~

  • Joseph King

    I’d love this game if the controls were responsive like Soldat…

  • Darek Yu

    Stop trolling.

  • Paul Hubans

    My roommate and I are playing this and we seem to be confused about how to proceed once anti-air turrets have been placed across the surface… Is there no way to deal with this defense strategy? I know you can drop bombs from your ships, but as soon as it comes on screen you’re pretty much being shot down and it becomes impossible to survive, let alone issue commands… Or are we missing something?

  • Paul Hubans

    Welp, turns out there’s no real solution to this problem and it was also pointed out in someone’s post on another forum, followed by a string of very harsh criticisms for this game :( I really, really wanted to like this. I gave it a very fair shake and stuck with it, thinking that the flaws were just a lack of my own understanding of the game’s complexity… but after hours of playing only revealed more problems than answers to previous issues, I’m left with the impression that perhaps the game is pretty broken.

    It’s very disappointing, because the concept of this game is brilliant, I WANT to play a game that incorporates turn-based strategy with fast-paced real-time action. I WANT to play THIS game, but without it’s buggy, broken issues. In my opinion, being able to drop an infinite amount of anti-air drones across the map and spawn-kill any opponent who attempts to attack you is a huge, game-breaking oversight. There’s no counter-measure of dealing with these things, either.

    Here are my suggestions of just a few methods you could use to solve this problem:

    1) Orbital Strike. This option would be available to attacking players similarly to the surface scan. For a few thousand ounces of gold (maybe 5 – 10K?) the player would be able to fire an orbital strike which would clear the entire surface of the map before attacking. Since bases are typically built downward into the earth, most units would be completely safe.

    2) Put a limit on the distance from your base/brain that you can place objects in build mode. This would also be a great solution to the problem.

    3) Give the more sophisticated but heavier and slower drop ships MUCH more armor, so one missile doesn’t clip their wings and send them reeling. Allow the player to customize the loadout BEFORE starting the attack. Hell, if they want to drop their brain in a cargo crate, which is a lot faster and has a much lesser chance of getting shot down, allow this. If they want to arm their drop ship with a payload of bombs to neutralize anti-air drones on the surface, that would work, too.

    I feel like the solutions to these problems are easy as pie and pretty much already built into the game’s tech if you only flipped a few switches. I really hope you’ll consider fixing this issue using one of my methods, because I don’t think I will be playing this as much until this issue is fixed :(

  • Paul Hubans

    Sorry, I hope my previous post doesn’t come off as too bitchy, I just got finished losing the campaign in a really cheap/crappy way because of the issue I mentioned, so I was still feeling somewhat bitter. Anyways, I do hope that version 1.0 doesn’t mark the end of development, because I would really love to play this gain once some problems are fixed.

  • Dan Tabár

    rest assured, we are still working on polishing it and adding steamworks integration, which will blow open the doors on the CC modding universe that has already matured for half a decade!

  • Dan Tabár

    it disintegrates when i get mad

  • Paul Hubans

    Okay, awesome. I do hope you focus on the polishing aspects over the Steam stuff, though; I couldn’t care less about achievements and all that. Are there currently mods that address some of these problems?

    On another note, have you anyone from the modding community considered online multiplayer? Would something like that even be possible to patch in at this stage?

  • guest

    You FOLLOW it.

  • Dan Tabár

    i feel like you’re making a mountain out of a molehill with this one AA exploit tactic that can be so easily remedied (as you pointed out several alternative ways).. does this really “break” the game completely for you? how about you just agree with your friend not to be lame and not cover the surface with AA turrets in the name of good sporting fun, until we implement and test a proper way to disable the exploit.

    Networked multiplayer is not on the plate for CC 1. Its engine was programmed naively by me without the required rigorous determinism etc in mind. Our next project’s engine, on the other hand, has been built from the ground up to run a fully deterministic sim, and therefore is a much better candidate for networked mp.

  • Notimpressed

    Amazing how someone can start making a game 12 years ago, never finish it and charge people nearly 20 bucks for the unfinished playtest with horrid controls.

  • Paul Hubans

    Yeah, well that’s pretty much what we’re going to have to do to continue playing the game fairly. I’m sorry if it seems like I’m giving you such a hard time about this, it just really surprised me that this exploit wasn’t caught sooner since people have been playing the game for years. Wouldn’t you agree that a 1.0 software release should aim to be exploit-free? I understand that there will always be bugs and oversights, but I think that after 11 years people are going to hold you to a much greater scrutiny with these kinds of things!

  • Dan Tabár

    although the engine and game has been worked on since eleven years ago, the metagame only came together as fully playable in the past couple of months. The game was built from the ground, up.. meaning physics engine first, game engine on top of that, tactical game design implemented on top of that, and then finally metagame design and implementation on top of it all. Hope that explains why the tactical sandboxy stuff seems a lot more mature than the metagame.

  • eobet

    Well, you might never see this, but I’m not a part of that very small, vocal minority, because although I paid for your game years ago, I haven’t said anything about it yet.

    So here goes:

    Ever since I paid for the game, I’ve never tried it or had it installed for more than 5 minutes. Why? I always encounter some interface quirk I never get past, and figure “well, it’s just an alpha/beta, it will get fixed”.

    However, even the 1.0 version didn’t last more than 5 minutes either. First of all, in the combat tutorial when I was asked to switch control of characters, that didn’t work. I had to remap a few times to get it working (and I remapped to the same Q and E keys). Then I got to walk and jump around and get the first weapon. Only the AI instantly killed my robot and then swarmed the tutorial base, and I still had no clue as how to get more weapons, so I was just mowed down. Not really fun!

    Second, I don’t think the strategy part has a tutorial at all. Or at least, I didn’t find it. I was making and ending turns and scanning (and scanning, and scanning because it seemed I wasn’t allowed to do anything else) without a clue what was going on. Meanwhile, my opponent seemed to do a whole bunch of things.

    I bet there is a really nice game in there somewhere, but the user interface is not done for the masses, and I think that is why people are venting their frustration on the Steam forums; first the have to combat with a difficult interface and then they have to combat with a difficult game.

  • Dan Tabár

    Any user interface is surprisingly hard to design and implement well,
    let alone one that is supposed to control a whole team of little
    soldiers in real time. This is my first try at making one.. so i
    appreciate any slack you might find in your heart to give me.

    That said, it is the absolute first time I’ve heard of anyone having
    trouble with the actor switching mechanic/key mapping?! The default
    mappings should have worked, of course… I honestly don’t even know how
    to approach fixing that, since i don’t know how to reproduce the
    problem :(

  • Chris Geehan

    Beautiful looking game, but as this thread has heavily covered, there is much more to come that’ll make this game a lot better, so with that, I am looking forward to future updates! HIB3 buyer here! Good luck and keep improving CC! Always loved the visuals of this.

  • idiotmeat

    I suggest taking a look at the playthrough at the top of this very page, since it explains quite a bit about the campaign.

    I must admit I was fairly lost when I first picked up the 1.0 version, getting
    instantly swamped in both the campaign and the short tutorial scenario. After watching the video and giving it a bit of time, things got a lot easier.

    It is unfortunate that not as much time has been spent on the metagame in comparison to everything else because it surely shows in its lack of polish. For example, I had at one point eliminated all other players, but the game kept on going. Is there anything more after that? Is that supposed to be the end? On the plus side, even in its current state it did capture my interest and the gameplay elements were quite entertaining.

  • Andrew Perrine

    Hi guys. Long time lurker, first time poster. I’m sorry to chime in with a negative note, being a huge fan of this site and of its contributors, but having bought CC I must express my disappointment. At first I accepted the incompleteness. It’s in development. That’s fine. But playing the latest version is torture to me. I’ve given it many, many tries. I said to myself, maybe it’s like Spelunky: hard and a bit frustrating at first, but then the manifold rewards come. But no. When playing I’m mostly thinking why the fuck is this fucking piece of shit fucking not working like a god damned game should work? Again, I apologize for the negativity, but fuck. Buggy piece of shit.

  • Graham Luke

    Well I wonder if that’s the case, that you were trolled by the same few guys over and over. Customer service is like this. People will hate your shit, often for legitimate reasons. The only thing you can do is listen and improve. There is no way to stop the hate. Thinking of the haters as “irrational” though won’t help you.

    I like Cortex btw.

  • Schrekse

    How about a Demo? It’ll stop some of those haters. I love CC, And I hope it will be further developed.

  • Anonymous

    Yup, that’s right. Don’t use the link to data realms, just open your HIB2 URL and get the steam keys at the top of the page.

  • AW

    Am I just missing something or is the balance in this game totally out of wack? Attacking any site with an established base seems like a crazy proposition since you drop in pretty much naked (regardless of how much budget you could have) and then need to fidget around in the menu, waiting for reinforcements to arrive while getting mercilessly hunted down.
    Well, the game is generally pretty unpredictable though. In my first campaign attempt with 3 CPU:s I was getting stomped until I was left with one brain. I landed beside a steep cliff with a base on the top and started frantically digging through the menu when i heard someone shout “Ungh!” and got my first victory out of nowhere. After that I was sitting pretty as the guy who totally dominated the game didn’t attack me for some reason (out of brains?) Still, dethroning him was pretty impossible.
    It’s an interesting game to mess around with, though the physics engine makes for lots of nasty surprises (units flailing and dropping their weapons, fresh dropships blowing up and crushing your expensive cargo, etc…)

  • Heckman

    I just bought it after seeing some impressive let’s plays as well as this TigSource post and I am really confused at a lot of the implementation. It’s a huge red flag for game design when it takes someone 4 tries to beat the tutorial. I’m trying really hard to enjoy it, figuring maybe there’s something I’m missing, but here’s some stuff I immediately found wrong with the game.

    First off, I can’t see where I’m aiming. I’m not sure if this is a graphical bug or not, but the jetpack was impossible to maneuver at first without a retical. You can “kind of” guide it by the way the current unit is facing, but for the most part it seems random.

    The AI seems damn near omniscient. I’m using 1600×900 resolution and they’ll shoot me in the face far before they’re ever on screen. Whilst my units seem to sit there even when I explicitly set their AI to attack.

    The game suffers GREATLY from slowdowns. My computer is no beast, million dollar gaming machine, but it should be able to handle as many units as are coming at me. That said, nothing seems to be time based, so when the game slows down it actually becomes easier. It’s a decent strategy to fill my base with crabs just so the AI slows down.

    There isn’t a full screen option. It goes, 1X windowed, 2X windowed, then fullscreen all in one button. I have no clue what the reasoning behind that was, it should be a radio box or something. I had to restart the game 4 times before I got it into fullscreen with the resolution I wanted. No mouse sensitivity option was also a huge bummer.

    I hate to be a dick about it, but all in all I really feel kind of ripped off that I even paid $10 for this with the holiday sale on steam. I’ll keep track of it to see if any of this stuff is fixed later on, but I am going to have to tell everyone I know to steer very far away from this game for the time being.