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Getting Started

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This article covers the basics of getting started with BZFlag. It is intended for new players who have just found the game and require assistance. More detailed help can be found on our Getting Help page.

Getting Started

These simple steps have been designed to allow new users to begin playing the game as quickly as possible.

Downloading and installing the game

The main thing users need to play is the game software. Users can Download the software for a number of different systems.


The most common operating system for players is Microsoft Windows. A simple installer can be found at, . Simply Double click the downloaded file to install the game.


The next most popular system for players is Apple's MacOS X for the Macintosh family of computers. The version for macs can be found at, . Simply drag the BZFlag icon from the extracted DMG to your Applications folder to install the game.


The project does not distribute a premade binary package for linux, but many linux distrobutions have BZFlag in their package management systems ( APT, YUM, emerge, etc.. ). Linux users can always build the game from the source code. Please see the downloads page for more information.

Registering a callsign(Optional)

It is not mandatory to register a callsign ( the name a player uses in-game), but it is highly recommended.

A few of the benefits of registering are:

  • The callsign is reserved, and can not be used by any other player.
  • Registered users post on the BZFlag forums
  • Registered users can join global groups, and leagues.
  • Many servers require registration to play.

Users that wish to register can simply do so on the BZFlag forums at

Running the game

Once the game is installed, it must be run to play.


Windows users that have installed the game with the provided installer will find a shortcut to the game in the start menu, under program files. Users simply have to click this shortcut to start the game.

Mac OS X

Macintosh users simply have to double click the BZFlag icon that they dragged to their Applications folder to start the game.


Linux, and other unix based platforms can start the game by typing the command bzflag in a terminal.

Joining a game

When the game is first started it will show the main menu screen. Users navigate the menu by using the Up and Down arrow keys to highlight a menu item, and using the enter key to select and activate the highlighted item.

Main Menu

The main menu includes a number of menu items that lead to sub menus. The most important menu for new players is the Join Game item.

The Main Menu

Join Game Menu

Users wishing to join an internet game in progress should choose the Join Game item from the main menu.

On the first run of the game software all the fields in the Join Menu will be empty. Players need to use the arrow keys to highlight the Callsign item and input a player name. This name will be how other players see the user. Registered users should use the same callsign that they registered when playing. Registered users should also enter in their password into the item marked password. This password is only used for to verify your identity and is NEVER sent to the game server.

The e-mail string is optional and usually left blank by many users.

Once this information has been entered, the user must choose a server to play on. Servers are games of BZFlag that are hosted on the internet. There are over 200 servers to choose from. A listing of all the servers can be found by highlighting the Find Server menu item to bring up the server list.


Server List

The server list menu shows a listing of all publicly available internet games. The list is sorted by the number of players on each server at any time, and will dynamically change over time. The servers with the highest player counts will always be at the top of the list.

The various servers can be highlighted using the arrow keys, and additional information about the highlighted game will be shown at the top of the screen. Once the user has chosen a server to join they must hit the enter key to select the server and return to the Join Game Menu.

The Serverlist

Entering a Game

When a server is choosen from the Server List, it's information will be automatically entered into the appropriate fields in the Join Game menu. The user may then choose a team color, or leave the setting on automatic if they wish the server to assign them to a team.

When all the information is entered, the user simply has to choose connect menu item, and they will join the game. If additional textures or resources are needed to join the game, they will be downloaded automatically.

Playing BZFlag

Once the user has joined the game they will be able to enjoy the gameplay that has made BZFlag one of the most popular open source games in history.


The basic controls for the game are rather simple.

By default the mouse is used for movement. Moving the mouse up and down will move the tank forwards and backwards, while moving the mouse left and right will cause the tank to turn in that direction. Returning the mouse to the center of the screen will cause the tank to stop moving.

The left mouse button is used to fire the tank's weapon.

Optionally the keyboard can be used. The arrow keys control movement in the same way as the mouse, and the space bar is used to drop the flag you are carrying. The 'enter' key is used to fire the tanks weapon

Some servers offer a feature that allows tanks to jump. The tab key is used to start a small jump into the air. When jumping a tank normally can not change its speed or direction until it lands. Depending on the map, it may be possible for tanks to jump and land on various world objects and continue to fight.


BZFlag is a team game, and has various objectives depending on the game type.

The default game type is Free For All, commonly abbreviated as FFA. This mode is similar to a team death match in other first person shooting type games. The objective is to destroy as many tanks as possible on other teams, while minimizing your own losses. Tanks are destroyed by being shot, in most cases one shot is all it takes to kill an enemy tank.

Capture the Flag is another common game type. Its objective is to pick up the flag from an opposing team and return it to your base. Tanks are destroyed the same way as in FFA games.

The least common type of game is Rabbit Hunt. In this game mode, one user is a white-colored rabbit tank, and everyone else is a orange-colored hunter tank. The hunter tank(s) must chase and kill the rabbit tank. The hunter tank which kills the rabbit tank then becomes the rabbit tank.

Non-Standard Teams

Usually, you may not shoot members of your own team. But, there is one exception to this rule, called the rogue team. Rogue tanks are black in the view window, and yellow on the radar. They may shoot their "teammates", and gain points for it. This is because rogue tanks are each on a one-man team of their own. Rogue tanks are usually found on Free For All maps, but are occasionally found on CTF maps.


There are four different kinds of flags on an average server:

  • Team flags are colored to correspond with the teams on the map. The idea is to grab the other team's flag and bring it back to your base.
  • Superflags are "power ups" for your tank. Some examples of superflags can be Guided Missile (Allows your tank to lock onto and shoot others), laser (Allows your tank to shoot an infinitely fast and long laser beam), and Stealth (Your tank does not appear on radar).
  • Bad Flags restrict the movement or actions of your tank. Some bad flags are 'No Jumping, Obesity, Trigger Happy, and Left turn only.
  • Antidote flags are flags that appear only when you have a bad flag. Driving over an antidote flag removes the bad flag from your tank.
Customizing Controls

You can alter most of the controls in the menu (or, if you prefer, by editing the BZFlag config file.) In the menu it is located at Options > Input settings > Key mapping

To assign a keystroke, mouse button or joystick button to a particular command select the command with Up or Down arrows, press Enter and press the keystroke or button you wish to associate with that command. You can assign two different keystrokes/buttons to a given command, by repeating the assignment process.

Note: you can assign a keystroke or button already in use for a different command, but if you do remember that the old command will be unmapped..

To delete an assignment select the command with Up or Down arrows and press Delete. If the command has two assignments, the first (leftmost) assignment is deleted, and the second (rightmost) assignment takes its place.

Interface Elements

Most of the interface elements can be changed in the GUI settings, or by editing the config file.


Once a player has joined a server, they should notice a number of things, including the scoreboard.

Internet games commonly feature between 5 and 20 players. The names of these players will be listed in the scoreboard on the left hand side of the screen. The scoreboard can be hidden and shown by using the S key. The scoreboard is usually set up to show a players name, score, teamkills, email string, flag, kills/deaths, and the amount of kills/deaths you have scored against that player. For example, in this scoreboard, player "Andrey" has a score of 2, 0 teamkills, and email string of "Andrey@andreypc", has the SW (shock wave) flag, has 8 kills, 6 deaths, and has been killed by player "me1" 0 times, and has killed player "me1" once. Flags whose names are in white are powerful flags. Team flags are always the color of that team on the scoreboard. Other flags are just the same color as the player using them.

The Scoreboard
Team Scoreboard

There is also a scoreboard for team scores. In FFA this shows the kills, deaths, and overall score. In CTF this shows the amount of flags that team has captured, and the amount of times their flag was captured, and the score. Also, to the right is the amount of players on that team. The rogue team is never included on the team scoreboard.

The Team Scoreboard

The Radar (In the bottom left), shows a bird's eye, 2d view of the map. This is useful for dodging bullets, and seeing where other players are in relation to the users' tank. The user's tank is displayed in the center of the radar, in white. Two lines from the user's "blip" on the radar represent the user's FOV (Field of view). The user's bullets are also displayed in white. Other teams are shown on the radar in their respective color, red shown in red, green shown in green, etc. The rogue team is shown in yellow. Flags are shown as little x's, and team flags as colored x's. A square is also around each radar "blip." This represents height. The larger the square, the higher something is. If a "blip" has an X through it, that tank has a flag.

The Radar


When playing BZFlag, it is important to keep a few simple rules in mind:

  • Players should never shoot tanks on their own team (except for the rogue players).
  • Players should be civil to other players in all respects.
A Screenshot of a standard 2.0.9 client playing on Missile War 2