Mortice is an ex-worm
A series of computer and video games in which little annelids attempt to destroy each other with various wacky weapons. Inspired by the 'Gorillas' game concept and Scorched Earth and featuring Pythonesque humour, this is by all accounts a classic series.
How it all began - Worms
The first game in the worms series began life on the Amiga as Total Wormage, the pet programming project of Andy Davidson, then a high school student. He wanted to improve the Gorillas/Scorched Earth concept by allowing players to control more than one character, and allowing the characters to move. His choice of character came from the worm farm in his bedroom.
Because the game was designed not for profit, but for fun, Andy was able to take his own direction with the game's concept. This allowed him to use 20-something 'down the pub' humour and design some wacky weapons. These were two of the biggest selling points of the original game.
In 1995, when 'Total Wormage' was complete, Andy sent the game to various software houses before Martyn 'Spadge' Brown's Team 17 house saw its potential and took Andy on. Soon afterwards, the game was released as 'Worms' to Amiga and IBM PC (DOS). Later on, versions were released for the Playstation, Game Boy and various other formats.
This first game in the series set a trend for the rest of the series, with graphics taking a back seat to playability and humour. It was a huge success, largely due to the fact that no two games were ever the same - terrains were randomly created, and 'weapon crates' could tip the balance of play at any time.
Expansion Pack schism - Worms DC and Worms: Reinforcements
After the phenomenal success of Worms, Davidson and Team 17 had a difference of opinion about expansion packs and the direction of the game's development. Davidson wanted to continue developing for the Amiga, and to bring more weapons in for the expansion pack, while Team 17 were disinterested in Amiga versions, since they did not sell as many copies as the PC and other versions. Neither did they want new weapons for the expansion pack, preferring to save these for a sequel.
And so the two camps split. Andy was given a team of developers for what would become Worms DC, the last worms game on the Amiga, with some brilliantly innovative new weapons and ideas. The rest of Team 17 began work on Worms: Reinforcements, a good expansion pack using a lot of Andy's ideas, but with no new weapons.
Both of these new versions featured health crates, the ability to change your team's grave stone, new speech packs and new terrain styles. These changes added to the playability of the game vastly, but one has to ask whether they really warranted a whole expansion pack.
In contrast, Worms DC added new weapons: The Super Sheep, Baseball Bat and Ming Vase, all of which were used by Team 17 for Worms 2, the Mole Bomb, not re-introduced until Worms: Armageddon, and the Sheep-on-a-rope, which has not rematerialised. The game also featured a vastly improved Ninja Rope, which was almost too much fun to use.
The two expansions were both released in 1996.
Bye bye, Andy. Hello Worms 2!
After 1996, due to continued arguments with Team 17, Andy Davidson all but left Team 17. However, since the project was still his, he continued to oversee development and advise on it, and to receive some revenue from sales.
In the meantime, Team 17 was working on Worms 2, featuring a completely overhauled game engine, running graphics at 640*480 under Windows 95 and with support for multiplayer games.
Many of Davidson's weapon ideas were incorporated, along with a lot more, many suggested by the already-strong community. This version also included single-player missions, very customisable weapons, and many more speech sets.
The game was a huge success, aided not least by the excellent website and thriving community fostered by Team 17 under the fan site 'The Allotment.'
Worms 2 was released in 1997, a worthy sequel, but beginning to show more 'cutesy' graphics and beginning a worrying trend; the target audience for this title appears to have been mid-teens, whereas the first game had been primarily pitched at late-teens and twenty-somethings.
Is it an expansion? Worms: Armageddon
After having great success once again with Worms 2, Team 17 decided to make an expansion, called Wormageddon, which would add many features to the game, in the tradition of Worms: DC. They hyped this expansion up early on, and made many fans very excited. However, it was first made into a whole new game, put off until October, then until 'before Christmas', and then finally released in January, 1999. The name was changed to 'Worms: Armageddon' after SCI, publishers of Carmageddon decided the original name was too similar to theirs.
This game added a few new weapons, WormNET for multiplayer gaming, enhanced single player modes and full-colour maps. However, it suffered from reduced ability to customise and a target audience that was once again lowered.
The feel of the game, along with inability to play under Windows 2000 (still unresolved), and various problems with 'WormNET' led to much of the Worms 2 community becoming alienated and leaving. This hurt the game considerably, as it led to the closure of the 'Allotment' and a reduced appeal in multiplayer gaming.
With this release, Team 17 appear to have completely lost the plot, which is a real shame for a company once renowned for listening to customer suggestions.
Let's market for 9 year olds! - Worms World Party
Worms World Party began life as a multiplayer-only release for the Sega Dreamcast. However, Team 17, never ones to miss a money-making oppurtunity, decided to release it on the PC, not as an expansion pack, but as a full game.
Of course, many people decided to buy it, since it was by now virtually impossible to find a good multiplayer game on WormNET. Those that did were disappointed. The game featured a 'fluffy cloud'-style design and appeared to be marketed at pre-teens. This alienated yet another sub-set of the worms-playing community, thus reducing the appeal of playing the game over the Internet. The irony was, of course, that Team 17 had used the 'strong playing community' as a major marketing point for both this game and Worms: Armageddon.
Beware cheap 1970's concrete! Worms mythos
As part of the wacky humour associated with the Worms series, Andy Davidson also invented a religion around it. It is fairly monotheistic, with those who play honourably and in a sporting manner worshipping the Concrete Donkey, also an extremely destructive weapon in Worms 2 and later games, while those who hide and attempt to win at all costs worship the Buffalo of Lies.
We are also warned to beware donkeys made of cheap 1970's concrete, as they are minions of the Buffalo. The origin of all this silliness? Andy's parents had a Concrete Donkey in their back garden which always used to fascinate and frighten him as a child.
Hylla Betong Asnan!
How low can we go? Worms spinoffs
Not content with bleeding young children's cash reserves dry, Team 17 also made Addiction Pinball with a Worms table, and did their best to market that to Worms players. It was, thankfully, not a huge success.
They are currently working on Worms Blast, a Bust-a-move clone set in the Worms world, and apparently marketed at the same audience as Worms World Party.
Let's make some real games - Andy Davidson
Although he has left Team 17, Andy is reported to be working on a new game based on the Worms mythos. If its concept is anywhere near as fresh as Total Wormage, this could be a game to watch out for.
*Update* - Andy Davidson has a site at slightlytwisted.co.uk which appears to be about a new worms-style game. Watch this space.
'Hylla Betong Asnan' is bad Swedish for 'Hail the Concrete Donkey', often heard shouted by Mr. Davidson at random intervals.
Take a look at CaptainSpam's writeups on various Worm Weapons, also.