It’s been quite a while since I last talked about the source engine phenomenon that never dies: Garry’s Mod. For those who have been living under a rock, Garry’s Mod was a game created for the Source Engine all the way back in 2004. Despite being well over a decade old, the game managed to attract a large amount of people and the community is still very much active today. What you do in Garry’s Mod is up to you, it’s a sandbox and the majority of maps, gamemodes and creations have been birthed by the game’s immortal community. I last talked about the game when I listed some of the best gamemodes the game and its community has to offer.
If you’ve been an avid player of Garry’s Mod for the past three to ten years then you probably noticed that I missed out a server so massive that it has been immortalised in the history of Garry’s Mod. If you somehow missed the title, the game I’m talking about is, of course, GMod Tower. One of the largest and most ambitious gamemodes/servers to ever be modded into the game, GMod Tower allowed players to login to a server with sixty three other players to engage in a variety of activities. It’s almost a standalone game in itself, and now, it literally is. On the 8th of April 2016, GMod Tower closed its doors forever to make way for its sequel: Tower Unite. Although Tower Unite is a great game-I mean, I funded it on Indiegogo-it just doesn’t have the same feel or sense of nostalgia and community that GMod Tower had. So today, I will be giving you a look back at GMod Tower. What it was, what made it so great, the rise and fall of the server and everything in between. This is a look back at the social gaming legend that was GMod Tower.
What was GMod Tower?
GMod Tower was a server… well, really a collection of servers. There was a main hub or lobby of sorts where you could connect to a variety of separate gamemodes which linked to the main server. While in the lobby, you weren’t simply waiting however, you had your own suite in the tower that you could decorate to your heart’s contents, a sweet boardwalk, a working in-game cinema, a whole bunch of shops, a casino, a nightclub and a battle arena. Even when you weren’t visiting any of these places, you were hanging out with friends or complete strangers. The community was one of the best and most tight-knit I’ve ever seen. I even heard about a person who met their future husband on GMod Tower! Anyway, let’s go over everything you could do in more detail.
Ultimate Chimera Hunt
I’ve already been over this in my ‘Top Five Best Garry’s Mod Gamemodes’ list so I’ll keep it brief. One player plays the chimera and has to try to eat all the pigmasks. Everyone else plays a pigmask and has to try to stop the chimera. There is only one way to stop it however, pressing a button on its back. This gamemode was easily my favourite on GMod Tower. You were forced to communicate and work together with complete strangers to succeed and the frantic, frenetic gameplay this provided is unforgettable. No one game was ever the same meaning it held the most replayability for me. Thankfully, there are still separate UCH servers up despite GMod Tower being shut down making it the only gamemode that you can still play on an online server after GMod Tower’s end.
This should be pretty self-explanatory. GMod Tower had its own version of Minigolf with dozens of wacky, well-designed courses that could keep you occupied for hours. Of course, it would be boring and take too long if everyone took it in turns so everyone does the course at once. Due to the fact that this gamemode gave the most virtual money, it was the most popular and you’d often find yourself putting with over fifteen other people at once which got pretty crazy.
Zombie Massacre was probably the most underrated game on the server. You often had to wait a while to get into a game with some people, but when you did, a collection of captivating carnage awaited you. You chose one of five classes: Doctor, Mercenary, Electrician, Journalist and Survivor. Then, you participated in, well, a Zombie Massacre. You picked up weapons, used special abilities and fought bosses in some frenetic, fast-paced gameplay that never got old. It was a competition for points and a team-based survival game at the same time that constantly kept you on your toes in anticipation of the next zombie or mutant.
Inspired by the multiplayer gamemode in the FPS Timesplitters, Virus had you outrun a different kind of zombie. While they were still easy to kill, these zombies could infect you simply by running into you. One person is infected at the start and it’s their job to infect everyone else. It may seem easy at first, but after the first couple of people got infected, it was often absolute chaos as the scales slowly tipped in the infected’s favour. You dreaded seeing that warning message: “You are the last survivor” as it meant you were in some serious trouble. You loved running through a group of survivors infecting over half of the people in the game at once. You revelled with every infected kill you managed to rack up. The constant tension Virus managed to supply has never been matched for me. I sorely miss hiding in a corner, waiting, shotgun raised for my doom to come… because I can’t aim for shit.
Source Karts was the newest gamemode to be added to GMod Tower and although it certainly needed a lot of work and way more than ONE collection of courses, it was still incredibly fun. To put is simply, it was Mario Kart in Garry’s Mod. You raced through a Mario Circuit inspired map firing rockets and beer at your opponents to get ahead of the game. At the end, you participated in a battle, again similar to Mario Kart, where you each had three lives and hit each other with items until you were the last one standing. It’s too bad Source Karts was incomplete, but it was nevertheless entertaining and ruined friendships just as good as Nintendo’s franchise.
My least favourite gamemode on GMod Tower was PVP Battle, but that’s probably due to my stubborn dislike of First Person Shooters in general. Fortunately, it was inspired by one of the few FPS’s I like: Timesplitters. Even someone as bad as me could have some fun with the varied armoury of weapons. It was hilarious to launch myself at an enemy with a sword and start slashing like there was no tomorrow, or break out the dreaded… toy hammer! And no-one can forget the joy that was shotgun jumping. It’s a testament to how awesome the server is when it can make me like one of my least-favourite gaming genres.
Like most of the gamemodes in GMod Tower, Ball Race was inspired by a well-known game: Super Monkey Ball. The game is relatively simple. You manoeuvre your way through some startlingly well-designed maps, through pipes and launchers, through loop-de-loops, working together by pressing buttons to demolish obstacles. As well as this, you collected banana’s along the way which donated to the amount of GMC you received at the end. Some of the maps could be frustratingly difficult, but there was enough variety to keep you coming back for more.
In the Lobby
As a reward for playing and doing good at the various gamemodes, you got GMC or GMod Coins. There were many things you could buy with it, but first and foremost was furniture for your suite. You got your very own mini-yet-not-so-mini room in the tower which you could decorate to your hearts content. Not only that, but you could also invite friends round or have a party where everyone drunk beer and vomited all over your sweet pad. Radios allowed you to stream music in-game and you could use TV’s to stream Youtube videos meaning parties could get pretty crazy. Some of the furniture, such as trampolines or pianos were also able to be interacted with. So much work went into this part of the game and honestly, it still would of been amazing if the game was just the tower and lobby surrounding it.
While not the most popular area in the lobby, the casino was certainly a fun place to hang around in. I’ve never really liked gambling but I still managed to have a grand old time playing Poker with other players on the server. I lost badly, but I was having so much fun that I didn’t really care. There was also your typical slot machines and a wheel of fortune that only seemed to land on 1 GMC. Finally, a battle arena lay through a door at the back where you could challenge other players to duels with a number of different weapons.
Just next to the casino was the Pulse Nightclub. Although there wasn’t much to do in there and it was scarcely populated, it was one of my favourite locations. You just got to hang around, spam the dance emote and drink way too much beer to the point of vomiting or your untimely death. Streaming music was incredibly easy and it was always nice to find new favourite songs and share your own with the server.
This part of the server was unfortunately not finished by the time it shut down but there was still arcade machines in the theatre and an arcade in a previous lobby. Here you could play flash games such as Fancy Pants Adventure or the flash version of Portal. There was also a Trivia game which I never really got to play as it was always broken. It may seem like a pointless addition, but it was nice for aesthetics and it’s hard not to get addicted to playing Tetris, especially when there are spectators cheering you on.
GMod Tower made further use of its streaming plugins in the theatre. Here, you could enter videos into a queue so you could show them to whomever else was in the Theatre with you. Everyone else could also enter their own videos into the queue meaning you never knew what to expect when you went through to one of the screens. The first lobby also had a space theatre which was too cool for words.
There were a number of shops selling a variety of goods in the lobby. Of course, there was the furniture shop where you could also buy posters of various games and the like. There was a toy store(pictured above) that sold pets as well as toys, a music store where you could buy instruments(some of which actually worked), an electronics shop and a player customisation shop. You could customise your character to a ridiculous level with a massive amount of player models, hats, facegear and potions that had strange effects such as making your character really small. That’s not even counting the special items you got for gaining certain achievements such as the pigmask player model.
Finally, there was a boardwalk; complete with a beach, swimming pool(with rideable inflatable hoops) and a ferris wheel. Riding the ferris wheel and looking into the picturesque sunset was something I liked to do to relax, and riding the inflatables around the pool and down the slide was fun when you were waiting to enter a game. As you can see, GMod Tower was full to bursting with things to do, which is why I spent well over 100 hours on the server. Let’s take a look at the history, creation and shutdown of GMod Tower!
GMod Tower Timeline
GMod Tower was created by four people: Maclin D. Guy, the one who originally came up with the idea, Mr. Sunabouzu, the modeller and mapper and Azuisleet and Nican, the programmers. The development for the first version of GMod Tower took almost three years, from December 2006 to the 24th of July 2009 when it was first released. Initially, the launch was incredibly popular and within hours, thousands of people were scrambling to get onto the one, singular server, forcing Garry increase the player limit on a server from 64 to 128. At release, there was only two gamemodes to play; Ball Race and PVP Battle which is a far cry from the seven gamemodes the server had before it shut down.
The server went on for two years before suddenly closing on the 1st of January 2012 with no clear indication whether it was going to be coming back or not. Of course, this caused quite the stir and many people were left unhappy upon finding this out. Fortunately, they didn’t have to wait long for the server to return! On the 17th of April 2012, GMod Tower returned with even more content than it had previously much to the joy of its fanbase and community.
End of Lobby 1 and Release of Lobby 2
Eventually, after another three years, GMod Tower moved on to even greater things. Although I had(and still have) a lot of love for the first version of GMod Tower’s lobby, it was certainly starting to show its age. So, on the 8th of February 2015, Lobby 1 closed its doors for good, going out with a large bang. A countdown timer was displayed at the top of the screen, ominously counting down, and as the time of reckoning drew near, weird things started happening around the tower. Signs for the various areas of the tower started glitching with the characters constantly changing more and more rapidly. Intense music started playing with increased urgency. Eventually, everything exploded and a flash of white light, people screaming “LAAAAAAAA” in the background of seemingly no reason. Lobby 1 was gone, and Lobby 2 had come to fruition.
Unfortunately, this age of bliss could not last forever. On the 10th of April 2015, Pixeltail Games as they had come to be known, revealed their next big project: Tower Unite. This was to be a standalone version of GMod Tower, no longer bound by the limits of the Source Engine, new and improved in the well-known Unreal Engine. The creators pleaded for people to donate to a Kickstarter, and later an Indiegogo when that didn’t reach its set goal. Sadly, with the creation of Tower Unite came the consequence of having to say goodbye to GMod Tower forever. Hosting all the servers was expensive, and Maclin D. Guy said that if they allowed it to continue running, it would be a direct competitor to their new, standalone game. And so, a year later on the 9th of April, after 7 years, GMod Tower closed its doors forever to make way for the release of Tower Unite. Thus ended an era.
The Future and Tower Unite
You may be asking yourself “Well, why is it such a big deal if it was adapted into Tower Unite?”. Well, while I have a lot of respect for the developers of Tower Unite in their choices, Tower Unite just isn’t GMod Tower. It’s missing that nostalgic, authentic Source Engine feel, that sense of community that made it so special. The release of Tower Unite seems to have torn the community apart rather than have brought it together like the developers intended. For a start, there’s the obvious separation of a price tag. While you did need to own a copy of Garry’s Mod to play GMod Tower, the mod itself was free and Garry’s Mod is much cheaper than Tower Unite. I backed the game on Indiegogo so I received a copy of the game through code but here’s where the next problem comes in. A toaster could run the Source Engine, but you need an absolute beast of a computer to run the Unreal Engine, especially considering the game isn’t very optimised in its current state. Even on my new, more powerful computer, on the lowest settings, the game is barely playable, often going no higher than 15 FPS.
Finally, there’s the fact that people can make and host their own servers now. While it’s a nice feature, it means players are more likely to just create a server and play with a few friends rather than join an official server meaning the servers are sparsely populated. On top of that, all the player models, items and posters that belonged to game or movie franchises are now gone because of copyright. It just doesn’t feel the same any more, it feels like an artificial copy of its former self. I may not like Tower Unite, at least not in its current state, but don’t let that deter you from playing it. The developers are very active and dedicated and the game is updated quite often. If you’ve never played GMod Tower and have a good computer, you’ll probably like it a lot more than me.
So that was an overview of the amazing Garry’s Mod server that was GMod Tower. If you’ve never played it, then now you know just how unique and awesome it was. I hope you enjoyed this post and don’t mind something a little different from what I usually post. If you can, I recommend you support the creators of Tower Unite by purchasing it, as they have put a truly massive amount of work into it. You can buy it here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/394690/Tower_Unite/