Ace of Spades was a voxel-based FPS first released in 2011. Advertised as ‘Minecraft meets Team Fortress 2‘, it was free to play, and took very little requirements to run (spawning the slogan ‘runs on your grandma’s rig!’). While earlier revisions of the game only had one weapon, some tools for construction, and randomly generated terrain it’s later versions had things such as different primary weapons (SMG, Rifle, and Shotgun), custom maps, and more. What separated Ace of Spades from your the more generic, ‘Minecraft-with-guns’ type shtick is that not only did Ace of Spades pre-date a good number of them, it’s mechanics led to genuinely tense trench warfare (I’d recommend watching early beta footage circa .75~) Ace of Spades slowly grew a community throughout it’s years, and it’s creator Ben Aksoy maintained a great relationship with his audience. Many of the forums were community-run, and since pretty much every single visual in the game could be easily modified there was also a huge modding scene. It hit 2 million downloads during it’s beta run, and won game of the month on MPOGD.
Jagex saw the game’s success fairly early on in the beta. They had their eyes on it, and finally approached Aksoy on purchasing the rights to the game. Aksoy was in a poor financial state at the time, and agreed with a catch; that Ben would be allowed to continue to stay involved with the project. Jagex agreed, but didn’t publicly announce their involvement until late 2012, when they really took control over development. Until then, they used a fake name to maintain the indie image (SoCa studios, which you will see at the bottom of the archived website).
The OpenGL build comes in here. It was established by one of the game’s original programmers, ‘Mat^2’ as the client for 1.0. It’s usage of OpenGL would be what separated the final versions to the open betas. When Jagex took over development, they decided to just take this build and used it as the basis for their version. According to a developer who worked on the JAGEX version of the game (may not seem verifiable, but I talked with a friend of Ben’s when I first researched this and they directed me to it) it was given to Blitz Games Studios to be completed. The developer did a Q&A on the Ace of Spades reddit, and revealed a lot of very pretty telling things about the development. The game had apparently been re-written in only 8 weeks, from November to December 2012. The game was not ‘professionally’ coded (spaghetti coding) and their goal was to appeal to a wider range of players vs the niche, original audiences.
The developer also off-handedly mentions a handful of maps, and a cancelled mobile application. As you noticed, they were appealing to a wider audience; as in, they completely changed it in an attempt of making it more streamline. This did not work. The game got horrible reviews, and it’s release split the community in half. It’s nearly dead, and barely has any players on it. It pretty much killed any steam Ace of Spades had. I don’t think I’d be able to tackle into it’s game play unbiasedly, but you can just read reviews from the like of Eurogamer if you’re able to… even people outside of the community called the open beta version the ‘superior’ version.
So what is the ‘Unseen64’ part of this? Well, before Jagex took over development, Ben and Mat had been working on 1.0 to their own liking. A version that wasn’t so heavily changed, but added things like helicopters, RPGs, and more! This is referred to as the Ace of Spades OpenGL Build, but it’s pretty obscure due now due to similarly named fan projects. A full changelog in its attachments includes things like new weapons, and tampering things based on the community’s response. When Jagex took over, they had already been slowly decreasing the input Ben could have on the game. A beta version known as “.76” was completed, but it was never officially released because Jagex refused to sign it off.
Ben was working from Jagex’s Cambridge offices as a part of the deal, and by mid-late 2012 was extremely unhappy with the game’s direction. He put in his final notice, and left to get lunch. When he came back, his laptop had been destroyed, and numerous items in his workplace had been shifted around by a system administrator.
[21:02] <bcf> sysadmins broke my laptop today, then denied it :( so im on a company laptop today without skype/mumble
[21:04] <bcf> i came back from lunch, my screen was BSOD’d
[21:05] <bcf> i thought ‘okay’
[21:05] <bcf> i restart it, hard drive is clicking like mad
[21:05] <bcf> i notice some stuff shuffled around, skateboard toppled over
[21:06] <bcf> i ask jamie, next to me, if he saw anything
[21:06] <bcf> and he saw the sysadmins working on something
[21:06] <bcf> when i was out
[21:07] <bcf> i confront the exact guy he saw, and he denies ever being near my desk
[21:08] <bcf> my hard-drive was physically damaged and had to buy a new 1 today(BCF = BCoolface = Ben Aksoy’s Username. Ben has since wiped nearly all activity under this account, but references to it still remain)
Some have speculated that this event is connected to a vague message in the credits, that read:
“Even in the darkest days when one of our best men, the lead programmer, proved to be a double agent and attempted to leave the building with sensitive intel! Fear not the cops always get their man.”
This message was quietly removed in an update after various members of the community pointed it out. Ben has not spoken to the community since leaving in 2012, likely due to a NDA.
Article by Bedhead Bernie