Xbox

Dragonkind [XBOX/PS2 – Cancelled]

Dragonkind is a cancelled fantasy action adventure game developed by TriLunar for Xbox and PlayStation 2, around 2002.

Set in the fantasy world of Vermilion, Dragonkind follows the adventures of a young man named Grail who has the mysterious ability to control the power of dragons. This ability causes problems as well as provides great benefits, and launches Grail on a series of escapades that carry him across the world. The game story evolves as Grail journeys into and out of adventures and to a final conclusion that answers questions about his past and his role in the future of the world…

The game was officially revealed in April 2002. Worthplaying wrote:

TriLunar, LLC announced today their newest game title, Dragonkind. Combining the action and exploration of classic platform games with the depth of story and character found in console role-playing games, Dragonkind promises to deliver a unique experience that is only possible with the power and flexibility of today’s newest generation of console platforms.

Set in the fantasy world of Vermilion, Dragonkind follows the adventures of a young man named Grail who has the mysterious ability to control the power of dragons. This ability causes problems as well as provides great benefits, and launches Grail on a series of escapades that carry him across the world. The game story evolves as Grail journeys into and out of adventures and to a final conclusion that answers questions about his past and his role in the future of the world… or does it? In the spirit of classic comic book tales, things in Dragonkind are not always as they appear to be.

“I’ve always been fascinated with video games,” says Joe Madureira, President of Creative Development, “and I had been looking for the opportunity to express myself creatively in real-time 3D. Our goal is to make Dragonkind feel like a real-life comic book with all of the great characters, story and action found in today’s best comics. With today’s technology, you can create fantasy worlds of unprecedented depth and detail.”

Game play in Dragonkind will feature a mix of action and adventure. Key features in the game include:

  • Stunning 3D world featuring the art, look and feel of noted comic book artist, Joe Madureira.
  • An epic tale of good and evil; of love, honor and destiny! (With a little humor squeezed in when you weren’t looking)
  • Unique friends and enemies, each with their own roles and personalities. Crafty rogues, roguish sea-pirates, piratical warlords – you get the idea.
  • Extensive 3D lands of mystery and adventure to discover and explore. Secret areas and special locations will keep you searching for more.
  • Run, jump, climb, swim, ride, sail and fly your way to success. (And even go on a train ride or two).
  • Devious enemies and nefarious traps that require timing and strategy to defeat. Race across a field of ice floes with a sea serpent at your heels, ride an avalanche, wrestle a dragon, and much more!
  • Story driven quest objectives and open game world allow a high degree of non-linear game play.
  • Great battles of swords and strategy that increase in difficulty as you yourself become mightier. Summon the power of dragons to your aid with lava rain, ice comets, and earthquakes!
  • Thrilling music and thundering sound effects.
  • Cinematic camera control heightens the sense of adventure.
  • Simple, intuitive interface keeps you focused on the game, not the controls.

“Today’s video game fan demands great story in addition to great game play,” says Greg Peterson, TriLunar’s CEO. “With Dragonkind we are taking the best aspects of console platformers and blending the best aspects of console role-playing games. We will know we’ve created a hit when people will be able to walk up to our game and start playing immediately, and still be hooked days later. Our story, game play, and technology will all support one another, so that the final package will take people on a journey of entertainment that remains fresh and engaging all the way through the game finale.”

Dragonkind is being developed for the Sony PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Xbox. Scheduled release date is 2004.

However, the project was quickly cancelled after its announcement. It was announced in August 2002 on the now-defunct website of TriLunar:

TriLunar Shuts Down Operations – August 27 • 2002

We have a disappointing announcement. Due to lack of resources, we have had to cease development of the game Dragonkind as well as close down TriLunar. The company was funded 100% internally, and without access to an external source of capital, we are unable to continue operating. This decision disappoints us as much as it probably disappoints all of our fans and supporters.

TriLunar has ceased all internal development. Work on the game Dragonkind has stopped and will not be starting up for the foreseeable future. Additionally, we are no longer accepting solicitations or employment applications.

We at TriLunar appreciate the unprecedented level of support we received over the course of development. We know it has been a tough road for our friends and fans as well as ourselves.

One thing which never failed was our team’s unflagging enthusiasm which was buoyed by support from the fans, the press and our families. We would like to thank all of you. We hope one day to return to you as much as you gave to us.

Take care and continued success.

-The TriLunar Team

In March 2003, it was revealed that Joe Madureira was working on another game, Exarch, which will become Dungeon Runners.

In November 2009, French website Gameblog got in touch with Joe Madureira. Dragonkind was briefly mentionned:

G.B.: Did you immediately experience the same success in video games?

J.M.: No, not at all. But do you really want to talk about this?

G.B.: Yes, of course! It’s interesting to know what that might have brought you…

J.M.: In fact, my first attempts at video games were horrible. I created a game called Dragonkind, but our previous company (TriLunar) lost too much money and we went bankrupt. The game was never finished. Today at Vigil Games, we work with people I met through Dragonkind. So this experience finally allowed me to meet the right people. It’s still very important.

Article by Daniel Nicaise

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Citizen Zero [PC/XBOX – Cancelled]

Citizen Zero, also known as Identity Zero and formerly known as BigWorld: Citizen Zero, is a cancelled futuristic sci-fi Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game developed by Micro Forté, with the support of sister company BigWorld Technology, from 2000 to 2004, for the PC and the Xbox.

As we can read on the old Micro Forté website, Citizen Zero was set in the future, on a distant solar system:

Welcome to Typhron

The Setting – Citizen Zero is set on Typhron, a penal colony established by United Military Industries. Contact with Earth has been lost, leaving the colony in permanent lock-down and trapping the inhabitants in a few enclaves. Life on Typhron is tough, but the possibilities are endless for the strong.

Live as a Team, Die as a Team – Work as a team, deploying special class abilities, devastating combo attacks and multi-stage takedowns to defeat a wide varity of deadly AI enemies with their own special attacks and powers.

Find a Faction that suits your style – From the battle-hardened Marines to the brutish, streetwise Syndicate, the 5 NPC factions provide a look and a hook for every player, creating instant online community.

Although apparently revealed before this date, the first glimpse of information that are still available for Citizen Zero dated back from February 2000 on IGN:

(…) For gamers though, the most interesting announcements from MicroForte at AGDC were regarding their Big World project.

What was confirmed was that the project is currently being pitched as both a PC and PS2 title, with the ability for players from both systems to play together. Other lofty technical design goals were floated such as 100,000 players per shard, a low 33kbps upstream requirement for best play, and a realistic and scalable indoor/outdoor 3D engine.

Everything sounded fantastic, but with a Beta-test date of mid-2001, it would be some time before we would be able to see anything more to evidence on how work is progressing towards those goals … or so we thought.

After the AGDC official program had concluded we were able to get a first hand look at how Big World is shaping up graphically. What we saw was quite amazing. Steve Wang took us through a demo level set inside a major metropolis that had a very Blade Runner feel to it. The graphics looked great inside and out with highly detailed environments that created a great atmosphere even with no music or sound effects. The characters that we saw have some wonderfully detailed bodies and faces with a good variety of human and alien models. Some of the alien models looked particularly special. The animators had also done a great job at bringing all the models to life when moving around and when interacting with each other. The screenshots we have seen so far do not really begin to do the engine justice.

While the look of the engine was indeed impressive, our enthusiasm is tempered knowing how much work is still to be done on the multiplayer code and on refining the content to fill the massive environment. We did get a quick glimpse at the work already completed in the content department and could see evidence of detail and a lot of volume already. (…)

More about its background and gameplay was published shortly after on the now-defunct official website of the game:

Citizen Zero is set in the isolated Ulruan solar system, containing four planets with possibility of habitation – only three of which are currently known to be habited. Thanks to one of the many mysterious machines to be found on the planet, travel between the inhabited planets is achieved via teleportation devices, whose workings are still little understood.

The Planets

Neo-Eden

First coined by prisoners of NE6744 as an ironic name for their home, Neo-Eden has become the focus of the system and the base of operations for most citizens. Its capital, DeMannon’s Ladder, has emerged from its humble origin as a stark and utilitarian prison building to become a bustling modern metropolis. Neo-Eden is also home to Portal Town, the majestic, crumbling folly built by the greed of humans but now occupied by the Cybrids. Outside, Neo-Eden is a desolate but not inhospitable wasteland where many have made their home as Frontier settlers.

Ulrua
Ulrua is a tropical swamp world, filled with vegetation, marshes, and vast oceans. After emerging from slavery at the hands of the Guardians, the amphibious Beziel race adopted Ulrua as their ideal home a short time after the Great Riot. Ulrua attracts hunters and explorers, and is the site of a long-running conflict between the Beziel tribes and the less accommodating mining companies of Neo-Eden. Despite this, Ulrua is generally a peaceful planet in which the Beziel race live their tribal lifestyle and are most accommodating of human and cybrid visitors.

Trinn
Trinn is the most arid and ravaged of the habited planets, its surface little more than desert. Its capital Purgatory-Central – a sarcastic riposte to the name `Neo-Eden’ – is notorious as the home of prospectors, spies, smugglers, renegades and those seeking to escape the law. Its surface is littered with the ruins of an alien civilisation, and is the site of the most advanced manufacturing plants. It has become the base of operations for the much-despised Technical Houses, made up of citizens who use their control over the advanced technology to support a decadent lifestyle.

There is a fourth planet in the Ulruan system, for which habitation is a possibility. However, its gravity is only two-thirds of normal and little is known about its surface. Decades ago, it was visited briefly by a Guardian exploration team and a gateway portal was built. However, the research team subsequently vanished and the gateway has stubbornly refuses to activate ever since. For the moment, it exists only as an image in a telescope. Even then, its surface is obscured by thick clouds, which seem a metaphor for its mysterious nature.

The Cities

DeMannon’s Ladder

The town of DeMannon’s Ladder was originally the main jail building that housed the inmates of the prison settlement. After the Riot, it was entirely reclaimed, and is now an enormous enclosed city comprising some 1.9 million residents. It is fully climate controlled and contains ample facilities to contain its 1.9 million residents – a prime concern for its rulers, the DeMannon’s Ladder Council. Having quietly discarded the concept of democracy some time ago, the DLC aim to keep their residents docile, comfortable – and devoid of the desire to divest them of their considerable power. Therefore, most residents wholly believe the myths (and sometimes, the truths) about what lies outside the high walls of the city – the dangers of Portal Town and, worse still, the Frontier. These rumours are increasingly being ignored.

Despite the general push by citizens to make Neo-Eden a planet worthy of its name, no number of neon lights and chrome can completely obliterate the dark past of DeMannon’s Ladder, and it remains a town, where darkness is always just around the corner from light.

Portal Town
Before the great Riot that ended Neo-Eden’s tenure as a prison planet, a number of prisoners staged a daring escape from the main building, headed by the humanitarian scientist Benito DeMannon. The masterly jailbreak involved thirty prisoners. The Guardians, lazy and corrupt as they were, either did not know, or did not care. Besides – no one could possibly survive unprotected on Neo-Eden for long. Or so it was thought.

Outside, the escapees decided to build an extravagant town to which they planned to smuggle the entire population of Neo-Eden. However, they were soon torn apart by infighting, and DeMannon realised with horror that they had become no better than the Guardians. The Great Riot occurred soon after, and it was he who established the idea of a fair council to run the city that came to bear his name. Meanwhile, the buildings, wrought of poor, cheap materials, soon began to literally crumble into dust. Portal Town, as it was eventually named, became a Cybrid ghetto, and an odd and sinister place where structures that were intended to gleam simply sink into their own rust.

Purgatory-Central
Purgatory-Central, while small, is a hotbed of activity. Established by the corrupt Technical Houses, it is protected from the savage sandstorms by atmosphere shields. The DLC pays little official attention to the governing of this shameful place, therefore most justice meted out there is of the renegade nature, regulated to a small degree by the aforementioned Houses. Naturally, it has become a magnet for ruffians and desperados of all kinds. In particular, it has recently become the base of operations for spies for hire, mistrustful of the conventional avenues towards work. Intrigue and grey morality form the mainstay of the city.

Purgatory-Central is also the centre for trade in rare earths and other minerals, which are extracted by automated robotic machines. The machines are hunted and captured (often at great risk) in order to steal their precious cargoes of minerals. It is also the home of the notorious Dune Races, a favourite pastime and entertainment for the gambling-mad inhabitants of the city.

The Gameplay

Career, job, or hobby … it’s your choice

Missions of any sort may be found via the Continuum or your personal CommuniPanion, However, the big rewards come via game organisations called the Overarchy who conduct their own missions to promote their goals or sabotage their rivals.

Earn Valuable Rewards

The Overarchy can provide you with specialist training, money, resources, cool equipment and extra perks you cannot gain elsewhere.

Build your skills

A persistent record of your growing character skills and experience are kept on the server, along with your personal affiliations and grudges. With 46 different skills, there’s always something new to try out.

A Mission Tailored for You

The Mission Generator looks at your personal history of contacts, affiliations and grudges, your mission preferences and skills, and your standing within a faction – and offers a choice of missions that are specifically tailored to your needs and level of experience. Locations, items, and characters involved are all dynamically generated.

Real motivations, Real friends and enemies

As the game progresses, characters will begin to appear repeatedly in your quests. A cast of sworn friends and bitter enemies will soon grow in your personal history.

Sophisticated NPC Reactions

Form valuable alliances with realistic NPCs, whose attitudes towards you will change for better or worse, depending on your standing, and your treatment towards them.

Work your way up the ladder to success

As your skills and experience increase, so will your standing in the Overarch – and so too will the attitudes of your superiors warm towards you. You will gain access to new and exciting areas, equipment, and experiences. You may even start your own Overarch, to devise and distribute missions to others.

Deal with your past

As your pre-mind erasure memories begin to return, you will learn of relatives and friends from your former life. Will they be a part of your new life or are you content to let bygones be bygones? The answer is up to you.

Further details was shared in February 2001, this time by Gamespot:

(…) Characters can choose one of three playable races: humans, biomechanical cybrids, or the beziel, an athletic alien race. As former members of the penal colony, characters enjoy certain advantages, including complete freedom of travel. This freedom makes them valuable to the Overarchy, a group of powerful organizations that will assign missions to those who show the greatest potential to help advance their particular interests. Players will find one of the organizations, known as an Overarch, that will match their playing style.

BigWorld: Citizen Zero is scheduled to begin beta testing at the end of 2001, and it is expected to be released sometime in mid-2002.

In the spring of 2002, the project was showcased at the Game Developers Conference. Both Gamespot and IGN wrote previews on the game. IGN wrote:

From what we saw of the very basic frame of Citizen Zero, the game will be focusing much more on action and adventure than most of the other massively multiplayer games we’ve seen so far. Combat is handled by locking a target on to whatever it is you’d like to shoot or kill with whatever weapons you might have. At that point, you can fire at whatever rate you like and try to dodge whatever attacks come back at you. Unfortunately, that’s mostly what I got to see in the way of ranged gun combat. The melee combat was a bit more interesting. Lead Designer Paul McInnes set up a little bit of a sword duel between himself and another and what ensued was pretty interesting to watch. Animations will fit together so that it looks as though you’re actually fighting a duel. Swords clash together at the right spot and animations blend together well.

Political factions in the game are divided up into the Overarchy. This Overarchy has the different factions inside of it. Hooking up with one of these guys will be how you get your missions. Depending on the faction you work for, you’ll receive different orders regarding different things. So you may end up making hits on certain NPCs or PCs depending on if they’ve pissed your faction off in any way. The political situations in the game will not only show in terms of what these groups think of you, but also what the groups think of each other depending on how you act.

These missions will also take into account your skill set and how you might be able to help out your faction more efficiently. The game lets you “unlearn” a skill so that you can master a new one, letting you reinvent your character over time as your interests change. Just because you’re good at one thing or another doesn’t mean you have to take certain missions, they’re just suggested to fit your playing style and wants.

This fits in perfectly with the team-based missions that will be built into the game. These sound particularly fun and will work in ways that those in EverQuest and games of that ilk can’t pull off. This is for a couple of reasons. The game will generate missions that take specific example of some of the long list of skills available in the game. One particular example that fits well, which also happens to be on the game’s website is a mission where you’ll need a hacker to open some doors, a demolitionist to blow up the contents in a building, and a couple of snipers hanging out to cap any guards that come along in the meantime. Coordinating efforts towards a common goal instead of everyone just hanging out in the same place waiting for an unsuspecting creature to spawn so you dog pile it before it can clear the sleep from its eyes is appealing.

Along this teamwork focused line are features that will literally allow for helping hands. Some points in the game will not be accessible to the lone gunman. So if you have a friend to bring along, you can actually kneel down and give a player a boost up to a ledge and wait for him to give you a helping hand up. The animation for this sequence was a kick to watch and should definitely add even more helping and social aspects to a genre that has already really blossomed in those areas.

Of course, if you don’t necessarily want to be involved in the sticky politics of one of these groups, it seems that you won’t necessarily need to get involved. You can just hunt a little along the lines of what you do in EverQuest, killing and looting as you go. You can go freelance as a bounty hunter, you can just adventure, or you can even give it all up to get really good at racing. That’s right, racing. I think I forgot to mention it, but the BigWorld tech also comes with vehicle physics. There will be several vehicles in the game itself, including the Ripper hoverbike that looked like a hoot to pilot. Citizen Zero will have leagues just for racing these things. So really there’s a wide variety of stuff to do even if you don’t go on missions constantly.

Gamespot added:

Though we didn’t see too much of the game’s ranged combat, we did see that Citizen Zero’s melee combat will actually let you parry your opponent’s attacks and even break your opponent’s guard with a forceful blow. But since Citizen Zero will also be an action game, it’ll let your characters fight against each other and the game’s sci-fi enemies (we saw a tribe of nomadic humanoids and a herd of human-sized, dinosaur-like reptiles) in real-time, as well as do other things you might expect from a 3D action game. For instance, players will be able to make their characters climb onto ledges and scale walls. Micro Forte’s developers actually approached an exceptionally high wall with their characters, and had one receive a boost from the other, then reach down from the wall to help his companion clamber up.

While it would seem that the attempt to also code the game on the Playstation 2 had been dead and buried for a long time, Microsoft announced that an agreement with Micro Forté had been concluded in October 2002, without further information:

Microsoft has signed a first-party publishing agreement with Australian developer Micro Forte for an upcoming Xbox online game. At the game’s foundation will be Micro Forte’s BigWorld technology, which is an online engine and toolset that’s designed to smoothly scale up to include many more players than is possible in current online games. While BigWorld’s practical player limit won’t be known until there’s a final game to test, the number may be up to the millions, according to Micro Forte’s estimates earlier this year, or at least hundreds of thousands, as Microsoft has specified.

A Microsoft representative declined to comment on the specifics of the Xbox game or to say whether it’s related to Micro Forte’s online action game, BigWorld: Citizen Zero , which was revealed earlier this year as an example of the BigWorld technology.

After going silent for a whole year, the title resurfaced at the Game Developers Conference 2004, with, from this point on, an additional Xbox version also planned:

Citizen Zero is played from an over the shoulder perspective where the main character takes up roughly 25 percent of the screenspace on the left side. It borrows a ton of conventions from the almighty Halo, including two weapons per character, two grenade types and separate shield and health meters; which make the whole thing feel like an online massive multiplayer version of Brute Force. It’s class-based so you’ll see a variety of weapons like a .44 magnum pistol, scorpion energy weapon, sniper rifles and rocket launchers designated for different types of characters. The biggest departure from the Halo/Brute Force convention is the selection of “powers” different classes will have available to them. There are also specialized weapons that mimic some of the super powers different characters.

In the demo we saw, one character had the ability to heal both the shield and the super power reservoir for his teammates while another character could turn invisible at will for a short period of time. The healer also has the ability to jumpstart deceased troops on the battlefield who haven’t disintegrated. Yet another character has the ability to fire a slowing shot that will incapacitate the legs of human enemy soldiers. There was also a “draw fire” super power that allowed an extra durable “tank” type character to get any enemy he targeted to turn and engage him automatically. This would allow teammates to easily dispose of those enemies, yet it has to be quick enough before the character drawing fire draws too much heat and dies. If he survives, it’s no problem for the healer to replenish his shields and super powers quickly.

The whole concept would be to have dozens of players (we hear 40 per game is the goal) having to work together as a team to accomplish goals. In the mission we saw three characters assaulted a futuristic prison taking on increasingly difficult waves of enemies until they confronted the all-powerful warden. You capture spawn points along the way so players won’t have to start way back at the beginning should they die. But it’s still about watching each other’s backs and using your special abilities intelligently to assist your comrades and assuming they’ll do the same for you. The intention is for the action to be fast paced yet still require the player to use some smarts and some strategy to get the most out of the gameplay system.

In July of the same year, it was Xboxworld.au who managed to detail some playable weapons in the game:

There are 27 types of weapon in the game, with hundreds of major variants in each category. A big part of the game is unlocking better weapons, and better versions of your current weapons, as you progress in the game. The game mixes some classics like the sniper rifle, assault rifle and shotgun with a few new weapons as well. The planet is home to alien ruins, and humanity has adapted alien devices to their own end, which make some pretty vicious energy weapons and weapons with all sorts of exotic effects.

Remote detonation mines – drop, run, detonate, a wide variety of effects (damage, acid area attack, EMP blast, disrupt invisibility shield).

Orbiter – Launches a target-seeking drone that can be detonated for happy gibbing mayhem.

Viper – A close range “backstab” weapon that does massive damage and sets the victim on fire.

Acid Grenade – A nasty illegal weapon that incapacitates while it kills.

IGN, for its part, got a 3 parts long interview with additional background:

What are the important events in the backstory that brings us up the beginning of the actual gameplay?

Paul McInnes: Typhron is established as a penal colony by United Military Industries (UMI), a tough-minded mining and aerospace corporation, with the aim of exploiting enigmatic alien ruins called the Machina using prisoners as free labor. They establish a classic “prison without walls” by fitting all prisoners and colonists with a security chip inside their brain that limits where they can go and what they can do. As part of the process, they wipe the personal memories of all the prisoners. The colony progresses for 30 years, and during this time, rumors start spreading through the penal colony of secret experiments and alien ruins. Eventually, a special investigations team supported by elite marines is sent to explore.

Shortly after they arrive, the interstellar beacon that allows faster than light travel is sabotaged, and the main colony control center destroyed. The colonists and prisoners find themselves cut off from Earth, with no chance of rescue for decades, the automated security systems in permanent lockdown and under attack from Black Ops troops, monstrous robotic creatures (called automata) and struggling to survive without the supply ships from Earth.

Luckily for the inhabitants, a few prisoners start to regain memories and find that their colony designation has changed to zero. Not only can they elude the security systems, they can tap into secret facilities that allow teleportation and revification. The Zeroes are the only free agents in a world in lockdown, a world that is in desperate need of their services.

What means of travel will be available to move around, and how quick and easy will it be for players to do so?

Paul McInnes: Travel times are a big issue in MMOG design. We want players to have fun exploring and traveling through an exotic world without feeling like they are “treading polys”. We also want travel to be interesting, even a bit dangerous. Players get around the world with a mix of walking (well, running), rippers (speed bikes) and teleportation.

Rippers – rippers are small speed bikes used as patrol craft by the authorities. They run on broadcast power so they are restricted to areas between broadcast towers. This gives players a chance to race against each other and rip around the world but still limits the bikes to a fun form of transportation. Expansion packs will add ripper-based missions and additional vehicle-based content, along with regions suited to vehicle-based activities.

Walking – outdoor adventurers are mostly on foot. The travel distances outdoors are carefully chosen to keep most journeys brief while allowing longer treks if required. Most importantly, traveling on foot keeps the game exciting by exposing players to the dangers of the wilderness.

Teleportation – as a Zero, your character can hack into the teleportation system. You can teleport from the wilderness back to the nearest town and from town to town (once you have unlocked the teleporter in the town). This isn’t free, but it allows players to move around quickly and use towns as bases for their forays into the wilderness. For example, you can travel outwards on foot, go hunting or foraging then recall back to the nearest town to sell your goods without having to worry about the slow journey back.

How many factions are there, and in what ways do they differ from one another?

Paul McInnes:

UMI: the amoral character working for the amoral organization. Suits the mercenary style of player. Lots of elite equipment and a mixture of espionage and military style missions.

The Syndicate: prison gang turned professional, ruthless and rather brutal in their efforts to dominate the urban sectors of Typhron. They have sneaky equipment designed to intimidate.

The Marines: the square-jawed military types that arrived just before the crisis, they have the best standard military gear and do missions that involve special forces operations and direct military conflicts.

The Smugglers: the loveable rogues who steal anything that isn’t bolted down. Stealthy and have access to illegal items and the best survivalist style gear. Missions tend to involve stealing, collecting intelligence and the occasional lightning raid.

The Nokturnals: part spy ring, part resistance movement, part X-files investigation, the Nokturnals are dedicated to learning the truth about Typhron and mastering the Machina technology. This secretive faction has access to the most esoteric Machina technology devices.

How did you go about creating and implementing the kind of combat system you wanted to have? What features and elements did you decide to focus on and emphasize?

Paul McInnes: We took a very hands-on experimental approach and tried a variety of different formulas before we found the Citizen Zero model. I should add that this part of the game is fully playable right now.

Enemy groups – Most of the time, you are fighting a mixture of enemies at the same time. This is the strategy used by games like Doom or Diablo II; you need to know which enemy to tackle first while avoiding the attacks of the others. This has all sorts of good consequences. It means that the mixture of enemies is more interesting than the individual opponents. Try fighting a room full of guards while dealing with a sniper and a pair of assassins, and you’ll soon get the idea.

Character classes – There are six classes in the game based on three basic roles of attacker, defender and commander / support. Attackers have strong attacks and weaker defenses, and can finish off damage-based combos. Their role is to take down the biggest enemies as quickly as possible while staying alive. Defenders have strong defenses, medium-range attacks and various abilities for rescuing teammates and interfering with enemies. They provide a mobile “front line” that protects their team mates. Their ability to push deep into a battle and disrupt the enemy gives them a key role as crisis managers. The commanders have medium defenses, weak attacks, the ability to set-up combo attacks, revive team mates and various abilities for buffing.

Special attacks and abilities – You can deal with the weaker opponents using basic weaponry, but the tougher ones need to be managed and defeated using various special attacks and abilities. For example, an enemy officer trying to activate an alarm panel can be stunned (interrupting their efforts), slowed before they reach the alarm panel or gibbed using an explosive orbiter combo attack. Victory depends on deploying the right ability at the right time against the right enemy in the midst of a fluid, fast-changing battle. This is where the character class roles really become important. It also makes combat far more tactically varied than a standard shooter. Players also need to manage a finite (recharging) power supply. Run out of power and your abilities are useless. In abstract this isn’t very different from classic fantasy MMOGs, but in practice, the fluid nature of the battles, the emphasis on ranged attacks and the speed with which the abilities need to be deployed makes the special abilities feel more like an extension to a shooter than a classic MMOG.

Combos – The most powerful attacks and abilities are deployed in the form of combos. One class initiates the combo (e.g. a commander sends a target-seeking orbiter to the target) and another class finishes it off (e.g. an attacker detonates the orbiter). Some of the sweetest moments in the game happen when a combo is used at just the right time to avoid a crisis or to take down a boss monster. Combos really reward team play, and in a tangible and incredibly satisfying way. We know that cooperative action games are extremely popular (if rare), but by adding explicitly cooperative actions, we take that team play to the next level.

Enemies with abilities – Enemies can do more than just do damage. The more interesting enemies have special attacks, defenses and moves that require different counter abilities or tactics to overcome. For example, some can use a reverse teleport ability to move a character closer to their location, forcing the team to adapt to the new situation. You don’t want your commander standing in the middle of the enemy’s ranks.

Structured combat environments – You can fight enemies outdoors, but Citizen Zero really shines in more structured combat settings. For example, you will encounter alarm panels throughout most enemy bases. If an officer activates the alarm, doors slam shut, turrets activate, reinforcements are summoned and interception squads are added behind your team. The team can usually deal with this, but it slows them down, costs them team lives and in some cases, puts the whole mission at risk. Weapon emplacements can be used by enemies, but can be turned against their owners. Snipers tend to lurk in hidden and inaccessible places. This means that players need to use the mission layouts to their advantage, find cover, and be aware of tactically important points during a battle. It also means that the same enemies will play in very different ways if the environment is arranged differently.

When we team up and head out on missions, how diverse a range of computer-controlled opponents will we have to fight? What are some examples of different ones?

Paul McInnes: The game features a wide variety of opponents that are each designed to have a strong “personality”, work well as part of a mixed group, adapt to different settings (e.g. use alarm panels), and move and act in a way that keeps the firefights fluid and exciting. The most obvious difference is that enemies are mobile and often elusive, will hide behind cover and move around to outmaneuver the players. This is a game where the combat is a firefight, not a melee.

Assassins are acrobatic enemies with the ability to turn invisible and do heavy damage from behind. More advanced versions can use grenades and mines, heal themselves while invisible and use fast regeneration shields.

Shocktroopers are enemies with medium armor and a powerful directional shield that protects them from most attacks from the front if they are crouched behind the shield. This means that players need to use grenades, anti-shield weapons or get behind the troopers in order to defeat them.

Walkers are mech-like bipedal security robots. They are the least mobile of all enemies, but make up for it with heavy defenses and various weapon systems. The strongest walkers can dominate a room, forcing players to use cover and indirect attacks to bring them down.

Missions in online worlds are often seen as repetitive. How do you intend to make and keep them fresh in your game?

Paul McInnes: There are hundreds of mission layouts in the game based on five outdoor settings and four indoor styles (military, research, machina and urban). The enemies and other elements (e.g. alarm panels) are dynamically selected and positioned based on the defending faction, mission level and difficulty.

The different mission types play quite differently (e.g. rescuing hostages versus killing a VIP). Players can tackle missions of different difficulties, ranging from easy to legendary, providing a range of challenges to suit all levels of player skill.

Shifting the discussion away for topics directly related to combat, what kinds of major activities will there be aside from fighting?

Paul McInnes: Each character has its main class, which determines combat abilities and sets of skills that give access to RPG or non-combat roles. The “secondary classes” include:

Survivalist: expert in outdoor adventuring, dealing with HKs, locating and extracting resources and stripping extra loot from enemies defeated in the wilderness.

Splicer: expert in stripping security protection from loot items and creating computer “scripts” for tweaking performance of machine parts, character implants and some items.

Crafter: expert in refurbishing and upgrading game items of various kinds.

Blackmarketeer: character has access to fences and other dodgy NPCs, allowing them to find and sell illegal and proscribed items.

What is the status of development at the moment, and which aspects if any have received particular attention and emphasis?

Paul McInnes: The game is in early alpha. We have been developing the technology for over five years now. We have been developing the game itself for two years on the Xbox, but we maintained the PC client as part of the BigWorld technology program and the game is fully playable on PC.

What plans do you have for public beta testing? What is your projected release date and how confident are you of meeting it?

Paul McInnes: There will be an open beta in the middle of 2005, with a closed beta some months before.

The PC version of the game will ship late 2005, with the Xbox version to follow in early 2006. 

Afterwards, Citizen Zero fell completely into oblivion. It was only revoked in February 2007, more than 2 and a half years after the IGN interview, in a press release, relayed by Gamesindustry, announcing its cancellation and the announcement of another MMORPG project titled Super Spy Online:

Micro Forté, a leading Australian developer of MMOs, today announced that it has cancelled development on the “Citizen Zero” project, with internal development now focused on a top secret spy-themed MMO.

Steve Wang – Head of Studios for Micro Forté commented, “Although we were sad to stop working on CZ, we are extremely excited about the progress of our spy project.”

The top secret project has been in production since mid ’06 with a core development team working out of Micro Forté’s Australian studio.

“We’re not giving too much away at this stage,” commented Micro Forté Lead Designer, Paul McInnes, “Obviously our new project is a spy-themed MMO, but it incorporates new game-play elements and technologies that we are really looking forward to delivering to the public.”

Steve Wang added, “We are at an exciting crossroads where many new game-play styles and experiences have become possible in virtual world environments. This is a great opportunity for us to leverage our 7 years of development in the MMO space to bring the social MMO experience together with game-play that has been traditionally the domain of single player games.”

It is unclear why Citizen Zero was cancelled after more than 4 years of development. During the GDC 2002, Gamespot revealed that the BigWorld engine required a budget of about $8 million dollars alone:

Micro Forté, the developer of Fallout Tactics, has announced an early-access program for its BigWorld game engine. The program will let developers license the engine, which is the result of an investment of some three years of development and about $8 million dollars.

After the cancellation of Super Spy Online and the failure of their multiplayer Arena Shooter Kwari, both critically and financially, Micro Forté and BigWorld were sold to Wargaming.net in August 2012 for $45 million, becoming Wargaming Australia. In October 2022, the development studio was acquired by Riot Games, and rebranded as Riot Sydney. Wargaming has retained the technology that powered their games, on which Citizen Zero was based, alongside the publishing arm of the company.

Article by Daniel Nicaise

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Trinity: The Shatter Effect (Gray Matter Interactive) [PC/XBOX – Cancelled]

 

Trinity : The Shatter Effect, also simply known as Trinity, is a canceled First-Person Shooter published by Activision and developed by Gray Matter Interactive for the PC, and Vicarious Visions for the Xbox, from January 2002, until, at least, Summer 2003.

Using a heavily modified version of the ID Tech 3, the game was revealed in spring 2003, and Gamespot was one of the first media to get information regarding this title:

“Activision announced today that development has begun on Trinity, a new first-person action game for the PC and Xbox platforms. Gray Matter Studios, the creator of Return to Castle Wolfenstein, is developing the PC version, while Vicarious Visions, which is known for porting Jedi Knight II to the Xbox and GameCube, will be handling the development of the game for the Xbox. The game is set in New Orleans in the year 2013, when a virulent plague is sweeping across the city. New Orleans’ only hope to find the source of the virus and stop it from spreading further is the Nightstalker, a biologically enhanced hero who possesses superhuman powers. At the Nightstalker’s disposal are weapons ranging from pistols and shotguns to grenade launchers and sniper rifles.

Additionally, Trinity includes a feature called “FlashTime” that will allow players to dodge enemies or execute special attacks. “Trinity brings an all new intensity and cinematic quality to the first-person action genre,” said Larry Goldberg, executive vice president, Activision Worldwide Studios. “Run-and-gun gameplay takes on a whole new dimension when players can warp around the map in the blink of an eye, see through walls, and tackle enemies with deadly acrobatic maneuvers.”

Following it’s announcement, information about the background were spread right before E3 2003. For example, Gamespot wrote:

“The game is set in New Orleans in the year 2013, when a virulent plague is sweeping across the city. New Orleans’ only hope to stop the virus from spreading further is the Nightstalker. This biotechnically enhanced vigilante possesses superhuman powers and must single-handedly take action against an evil company known as the Silmara Corporation.

As the Nightstalker, you’ll follow a story of conspiratorial intrigue. You’ll get some help from the Caretaker, who you’ll be able to talk to directly through a brain implant. The Nightstalker has had his abilities enhanced by an array of biotechnical and neurological implants that grant him superhuman strength, special vision powers, and the ability to warp time and space–a power known as Flash. Flashtime will allow you to slow down time to dodge enemies or execute special attacks. Flash can also be used to jump higher, move enormous objects, and survive falls from great heights. Special thermal-vision and night-vision modes will give you the chance to get the drop on enemies.

A potent arsenal is the key to your survival as you face down Silmara. You’ll have a range of small arms to choose from, including machine guns, shotguns, sniper rifles, and grenade launchers, plus the more futuristic laser rifles and liquid nitrogen cannons. As a change of pace, you’ll man turrets, ride gunships, hack into installations, and solve a variety of puzzles.”

IGN managed to get further details about the story, the main character and some concepts and ideas thanks to an interview with Drew Markham, game director at Gray Matter:

“When the game begins, our character has been dubbed the Nightstalker, he’s more of the anti-hero kind of guy with darker qualities. When you begin the game we have a guy waking up with no memory of how he got there. But we immediately establish the facts through this sidekick that’s called the Caretaker. This a guy that you see constantly through the game and he’s even in your heads-up display. Basically, the Nightstalker wakes up thinking the Caretaker character has kidnapped him. But the Caretaker has a video tape that was made before the Nightstalker lost his memory because he knew he was going to lose his memory. The tape pretty much explains that he went into this knowing that it was part of the process and that he’s going to know, as events progress, why things had to be done this way. So even though he has this video of himself explaining why he’s there in some small way, he’ll still have this nagging doubt about the validity of that. So essentially we begin the game with this mystery and we go into training immediately because you have this guy waking up not knowing about himself not to mention that he has all of these incredible physical abilities. All of this has been part of this process and procedure that has happened to him in the intervening months that have gone on since he recorded the tape to himself. That’s where you’re going to go in and learn about these physical abilities that he has called Bio Augmentation.”

“A key part of the game is you being upgraded. You start with lower level abilities but will be able to improve them during the game. So we establish something that allows you to learn a certain play type and then upgrade that for you. You start with abilities in the game that seem to give you quite a big edge, but as the enemies are reacting to that, they’re developing ways to thwart these powers. Your edge will start to get duller and duller till a couple of levels down the line they might have a very effective countermeasure to your ability. But then you’ll get another upgrade that will put you back up in another way.”

“You’ll really feel like your enemies are reacting to you, that they’re developing things around you. It really keeps you on your toes and as we introduce you to new types of enemies, they’ll be vulnerable to certain things you have at your disposal and other things that aren’t. By the time you’re fighting enemies, you’re at that point where you’ve just become more than a nuisance. You have all this wild rumor speculation about what you can do. The beginning of the game as you’re using your powers, enemies will react in awe sometimes where they’ll sit back and say “what the hell?” So they’re physically reacting to what you’re doing. But that’ll change as time goes on and everybody becomes more aware of you.There’s a strong emphasis on the tactical nature of what you’re supposed to use when you go up against the enemies in the game. We wanted players to have to be smart about how they approach certain situations.”

“You have hard-points on the body for one heavy weapon, two pistol slots, and a couple more. But you have to pick up weapons and drop weapons as you move through the game and there’s many more weapons than you could possibly take with you. As you encounter these situations, you’ll have to be aware of how certain enemies react to different weapons and abilities.There are two areas of abilities. One is the pure bio-augmentation abilities, which are physical abilities that allow him to jump higher, run faster, and to jump off of buildings and not take significant damage. But your bio energy used to power the augmentations will be taken off for the damage that you would normally get from a fall like that. So if you decide to jump off of something very high, then you’ll be leaving yourself with less energy should you decide to use another one of your skills. All of these bio moves that he has are individually accompanying defensive postures. For example, there’s a burst back move where you’ll jump back and project out a magnetic deflection in front of you that causes bullets to deviate. The other side of your abilities is called flash power. They’re based on this temporal field generation technology that an ex-Silmara scientist came up with. This is a guy, by the way, that’s been missing for months before the game starts and everybody is trying to find this guy so he obviously has a lot to do with the stuff going on. Anyway, the flash abilities basically allow you to advance your metabolic and perceptual rates in time. The world to you might slow down by 25% while it slows down for the enemies by 75% so you can aim and move better, but still have a significant speed advantage. This allows you to dodge bullets and all that kind of groovy stuff.There are a tremendous amount of moves between the bio augmentation and flash moves. So you have your pure bio and flash moves and then you have those that use both.”

“The bio-mods are always active, but you use a double tap scheme that makes them work or different combinations of keystrokes to invoke them. But you only have a certain amount of energy on tap, so the player won’t be able to just burst around like a super strafe, because you’ll use energy up quickly. Another interesting thing is the inhibitors that have been placed on the augmentations to keep you from damaging them. One of the things I like about this is that at a certain point in the game, you’re going to have the ability to go in to your internal systems and turn the inhibitors off so you can run in the red. But if you go over the threshold completely, you’ll shut down, which can be bad in the middle of a battle. It’s all about giving players the choices to how they want to play but we didn’t want to go the RPG route and we didn’t want this to be a heavily managed character. You’ll head back to your regen pod, which acts as a home base of sorts, where you’ll get new implants. The mods occur at intervals during the game, however there are certain mods and abilities that can be received prior to their pre-ordained time to be given. If you dig hard enough in a certain level to find something that will allow it, you might get an augmentation you would normally at level 10 while you’re still in level 7 or 8.”

The game was showed at E3 2003, where both IGN and Gamespot wrote previews. Thus IGN told:

“The long and detailed single player game takes place in and around New Orleans, a location not often utilized in the video game world. Taking the product into this area meant designing a different type of city than was usually seen in shooters and games in general. Different architecture means different gameplay opportunities. Outside of the city areas in the game, Trinity will also bring players out into swamps and inside high tech labs as we were shown in the demo.

The outside levels are pretty crisp in color and it’s easy to tell that this game was built around the Quake 3 architecture. It’s also pretty easy to see that it has been improved on immensely. AI, physics, rendering, and pretty much everything else has either been upgraded or completely replaced by the programmers at Gray Matter.

As you move through the game you’ll be able to upgrade your character with new parts and increase the power of existing enhancements. This is a good thing as the AI in the game is adaptive to your powers. What will work in the beginning of the game won’t towards the end as develop technology to counter your abilities.

Using the Nightstalker’s abilities is easy enough for the pull off. Some can be triggered by the press of a button, such as the time bending ability, which slows everything down to the point where you can see bullets coming towards you. You can perform physical feats such as flipping around and twisting in the air during a jump. Some of the abilities can be used in concert with one another for different effects.

Your vision augmentations are pretty useful as well. They’re a pretty interesting interface when you use them, with your entire field of vision changing dramatically. Your different modes allow you to see heat through walls and in the dark, night vision makes everything brighter when heat signatures won’t do the trick, and in another mode you’ll be able to detect structural weaknesses that you can use explosives on to open up new paths or solve puzzles.

With around 40 hours of gameplay on an engine that should run well on most low-end systems, this might be a game those of you just looking for a single player experience will want to keep your eyes on.”

For it’s part, Gamespot said:

“The game’s hook is much the same as that of Max Payne, except here it’s called “flashtime.” Sure enough, in flashtime you can dodge bullets and move at unnaturally fast speeds, as the whole world around you seems to slow to a crawl.

You of course have limited access to flashtime and must use it when you wish to take out a number of enemies quickly, make a hasty retreat, or get out of harm’s way. While everything is slowed down, you can jump extra far, perform sideways flips (your whole view rotates as you launch yourself in midair), and even use close-ranged kicks to thrash your opponents.

The action has a pretty good dynamic to it already, even though the game is a ways off. Much like in Max Payne, in Trinity, when the action is slowed down, you can clearly make out individual bullets flying through the air–and you can even see Matrix-style contrails behind them. The game apparently takes place in and around New Orleans, and the level we tried out seemed to be a bayou of some sort–nothing too futuristic about it, except for the high-powered assault rifle at the Nightstalker’s disposal and the weird uniforms of the enemy troops.

The main character’s remarkable powers should allow for some action sequences that are highly challenging. Aside from the flashtime thing, Trinity’s mechanics are pretty standard for a first-person shooter, but just as bullet time did a lot to distinguish Max Payne from other third-person action games, flashtime does much to give Trinity a rather unique style to it. The experience reminded us of using the Force speed ability in Jedi Knight II, only here we could also jump superfar and kick people in the face, and shoot them too.”

While it seemed to be well advanced, the game was unfortunately canceled during the fall of 2003, when Activision lost over 30% of its revenue, during the fiscal year, as we can read on Gamespot again:

“Today, after the financial markets closed in New York, Activision reported its fiscal second-quarter results. The bullet points are as follows: Compared to last year’s second quarter, revenue decreased by 31 percent; the company reported a net loss for the quarter of $10.1 million, compared with last year’s income of $9.1 million; and revenue for the quarter fell to $117.5 million, from $169 million a year ago. Activision attributed the results to the quarter’s “significantly smaller release schedule.”

Activision’s second quarter ended September 30.

The company said it would take a one-time, pretax charge of $23 million in the third quarter–this is due to it’s slashing of 10 products from its current release calendar. The titles affected are Trinity, Shaun Palmer’s Pro Snowboarder 2, and Street Hoops 2.”

On his now defunct blog, former developper Nikolai Mohilchok wrote:

“Trinity was the first game I worked on as an industry professional at Gray Matter Studios. This shooter was ahead of it’s time and could have gone toe-to-toe with Monolith‘s soon to be released “F.E.A.R.” title, but sadly, marketing didn’t quite know how to sell this title, and Activision (who owned Gray Matter by that time) had bigger plans for our little studio. Those plans would change the world of games forever.”

After the cancellation of Trinity, Gray Matter will meet the same fate as many other studios owned by Activision after them, forced to work on the expansions of their brand new golden ticket back then, Call of Duty, with United Offensive, before being merged with Treyarch in 2005.

Article by Daniel Nicaise

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Hollow (ZootFly) [PC, Xbox – Cancelled]

Hollow is a canceled First-Person Shooter developed from January 2003 to October 2004 by ZootFly, for the PC and Xbox systems.

Officially revealed in September 2003, Hollow was quite ambitious for its time. The game had a pretty original story and background as we can read on the now-defunct official website of the game:

It’s 1978 in a country, called Centrope. The Great War raged for 38 years and left the world devastated. After the war, the Central Powers formed a single, giant state of Centrope. The vast territory is governed by an Orwellian off-beat Disco-totalitarian regime.

During the war, an advanced physics experiment went wrong somewhere in Ural, and created the Time Distortion Territory. Later, Centrope’s scientists invented a way to record time fragments that escaped the Territory. The fragments are thoroughly scrutinized for clues of the future. To the horror of the Centropean oligarchy, one of the fragments shows the Territory expanding all over Europe.

The oligarchy is convinced that the Territory is controlled by the Rebels from the Mirror City, which lies under the capital of Centrope and that they will use it to destroy Centrope. The Rebels are a powerful paramilitary group that controls a vertically mirrored replica of the capital – among other misfits, dissidents and criminals.

Conversely, the Rebels are certain that the State is controlling the Territory and will use it to destroy them. A grave misunderstanding: the Territory is controlled by neither side. In this tragic ignorance, both sides strive to save their skin: the oligarchy is planning a massive evacuation, while the Rebels are fiercely attacking State’s vital institutions.

In the middle of this maelstrom, Tyler Kilmore, a former US reporter who was expelled from Centrope five years ago, is brutally awakened the next morning after his return, as he came back from the US to reunite with his fiancée. He is arrested and charged with her murder – the murder of his fiancée Aiko Bronte. The Chief of Police suggests him to finish his life to spare everybody a painful investigation and save Aiko’s family, since she was a Rebel collaborator. Relentless to end his life, Tyler Kilmore is thrown out of a window in 87th floor by the helpful hand of the Police.

Luckily, Tyler lands on an airship and gets to see another day. Or does he?

Pursued by the Police, Tyler Kilmore must find out what happened to his fiancée. The search leads him through the perils of Centropolis, the giant capital of Centrope. Tyler gets to use many sorts of weapons, takes hostages, assassinates VIPs, drives vehicles, flies airships and executes audacious missions. The clues lead him to the chaotic underground Mirror City, packed with criminals, gangs and outlandish assignments, such as a spectacular car chase on the methane dump fields under inverted skyscrapers, hanging off the Firewall that separates Centropolis from the Mirror City.

All this to get the doctor that worked with Aiko, Tyler’s fiancée, and may know where she is. And she knows where Aiko is!

As the plot thickens, Tyler will make way into the impenetrable Time Distortion Territory, where a remote lake guards a submerged entrance to a primeval Underworld.

The hellish Underworld holds the key to saving Tyler’s fiancée and the world, and keeps the answers to many questions of ancient history.

The whole story of the game can be read here, thanks to Wayback Machine.

 

In addition to its original background, ZootFly promised several features never seen in video games before, or, at least, back then, which took the form of gadgets, weapons and powers:

The PolyVisor, which is used similarly to night vision goggles, is a breakthrough feature that enables Tyler Kilmore to see how dangerous the opponents actually are before engaging in a fight.

As Tyler switches the PolyVisor on, a display of tell-tale auras will encircle each opponent, singling out the most dangerous individual. Whether that is the most aggressive, intelligent or important individual in a group, Tyler will be able to plan his strategy using this information. The strength, direction of flickering and color of auras will tell him who to eliminate first to leave the rest of the group in disarray. Collective aura of a group will tell Tyler how the group is organized. Do they have a chain of command, do they attack in packs, or are they an amorphous group of one-track minds?

For example, Tyler will be able to eliminate the commanding officer first, leaving the rest of the troops in confusion for a while. Using PolyVisor, Tyler will be able to single out undercover agents in a group of civilians. He’ll be able to predict how cops will react when he takes a hostage: will they shoot to kill or will they let him bluff his way past them with an empty gun? And much, much more: in the multiplayer mode, the PolyVisor will show health and armor of other players and their skillfulness, based on their previous actions.

The HoloSnoop is a highly visually attractive feature that will enable Tyler to control a holographic image of himself in third person view and walk it around the level to a limited distance.

Consequently, Tyler will be able to inspect some of the level without being exposed to immediate danger, and trick NPCs into believing the hologram is Tyler himself. This opens a whole new aspect of, for example, planning diversions.

By using the HoloSnoop, a hologram of Tyler will detach from the first person camera and seamlessly blend into the third person view. The hologram can perform all actions except engaging in a fight, but its range of operation is limited to about twenty yards.

ChronoFreeze is a feature that enables Tyler to freeze time for resolving most complex situations, or to reverse time for a couple of moments and undo mistakes.

Tyler can, for example, throw some crates off a skyscraper rooftop and use ChronoFreeze the next moment to freeze time. He can then jump off the rooftop and land on the crates that stopped a couple of floors down frozen in time, break a window on that floor and jump into the building. Of course, time is of the essence: ChronoFreeze works only a couple of moments and Tyler must be as quick and agile as possible to complete a feat like this.

The alternative usage will enable Tyler to rewind time a couple of moments back, making it possible to fix mistakes or undo wrong moves. Tyler will thus be able to try the most daring stunts without the danger of dying instantly, relieving the player from the hassle of quick saving and loading.

Many other features were planned for the single-player campaign as well as the multiplayer, alongside various characters. Multiplayer info are available here and other features alongside characters and enemies can be view here.

Using a proprietary engine called Xubl, Hollow was planned for a release between Christmas 2004 and Spring 2005, and ZootFly made multiple comparaison with other famous FPS games such as Doom 3, Halo and Battlefield 1942. In March 2004, GenGamers was able to get an interview with CEO Bostjan Troha, who shared some more information about the title:

G.G. Have you been inspired by other games or movies?

B.T. Sure. Brazil, one of my favorite movies, was the top inspiration; Delicatessen for bizarre environment; Kafka with his oppressive and intolerable situations; the Brady Bunch with their upbeat approach to living in the Disco-ridden seventies; plus the Italian Carabinieri with their Village People uniforms… Then there is Half Life 2 which we all want to get close to as far as gameplay and graphics is concerned.

G.G. Is Hollow a typical shooter or will you implent interesting gameplay variations?

B.T. We have some quite cool features that will rock the gameplay.

One is what we call ChronoLeap. The player is able to fast rewind time for up to 15 seconds and redo their actions again as the second embodiment of Tyler. The first Tyler will exactly recreate actions from the initial attempt, while the second Tyler will be fully controllable by the player. Thus the player will be able to act as his own buddy, helping himself progress through the level with double power.

The number of rewinds, and consequently embodiments of Tyler, is limited by the player’s health. With each rewind, the player’s Tyler will get only one half of the original Tyler. Thus, the third Tyler will get one half of the second Tyler.

Another nice feature are objects with flammable liquids. For example, you’re able to pick up a gasoline canister and spill the liquid on the floor, creating a trail of gasoline, and then ignite it with a bullet. With this you can prevent AIs from advancing, explode oil barrels from safe distance and much more.

We want to create the ultimate emergent gameplay. Gamers are able to use different global paths (e.g. get to the B by driving through highway barricades or shooting your way through the subway), local paths (e.g. sneak through back rooms on a silent kill spree, or blast the way through the station), and use any object in the environment to their advantage.

G.G. How many weapons will appear, and what´s up with the equipment? Will we see some helpful goodies?

B.T. For example, the player has a navigable pill bug robot, equipped with a camera, incapacitating spikes and a self-destructing bomb that can crawl on walls and ceilings. Weapons include all the comfortably known guns, plus wicked weapons, such as the DeBoner that instantly decomposes calcium in bones and reduces the opponent in a boneless chicken.

G.G. Will you include different endings? Is there any replay value?

B.T. There will be three different endings, determined by the psychometrics engine.

User’s inputs can tell everything we need to know about the player. How they react in a tight situation, how they use resources, how they interact and communicate, how they deal with challenges. What is their sequence of keys pressed, how jerky are movements of the mouse. What do they do when they enter a new space: do they go in the middle of the room and look around or do they explore details first? What is the average speed of their movement?

Based on such information the engine will build a psychological profile of the player and adapt the game accordingly. Based on this, the game will have three distinctively different conclusions. The game will branch at two thirds of the story to three distinctive resolutions, and the psychometrics engine will pick the right one for the player.

The immediate reaction of the game works on the principle of positive feedback. If the player is cerebral, they will get more cerebral puzzles; if the player is violent, they will get more violence. The immediate response works for the benefit of the player on the usability/learning curve level as well. How often does the player quick-save? Maybe the game is too difficult. How many new rooms do they discover in a specific time? Maybe they are lost and need additional stimuli to proceed, maybe they are too fast and the game is not fun anymore and they need more interesting obstacles.

G.G. Are there any plans for a multiplayer part?

B.T. Multiplayer side of Hollow will run on broadband PCs and Xbox Live for up to 64 players and will feature 10 different multiplayer maps and various vehicles.

There are three opposing teams instead of two to add a different dimension to multiplayer first-person action gaming. It is sure interesting to engage in a fight against two other teams; each team will have to plan and coordinate their actions more carefully in order to win. It definitely adds an element of forging alliances and – surely enough- backstabbing. However, those three teams won’t have to stay each on their sides the whole time, since two teams will be able to form alliances and fight the third team.

Hollow Multiplayer will have all the usual modes (such as capture the flag, team deathmatch, co-op, POW rescue), plus some unique such as racing. However, there will also be some additional features that are worth mentioning. Players will be able to infiltrate any of the other two teams by taking the role of a spy and by performing undercover actions. Other cool features that will completely change game tactics are the options to take prisoners of war and taking hostages. You’ll also be able to increase your chances of survival by playing dead and sharing ammunition and health with other players.

However, in October 2004, Hollow was put on-hold due to lack of publishers interested in the project, as we can read on GenGamers again:

Zootfly Software´s Bostjan Troha let us know that their first person shooter Hollow is “on hold” now. They didn´t find a publisher yet.

We can speculate that the overambitions intended for Hollow was what which pushed the publishers not to sign a deal with ZootFly, of which it was also the very first game.

Hollow wasn’t the only cancelled game made by ZootFly. Years after that, the studio also had another new IP named Time0, developed from the remnants of a Ghostbusters prototype, which was cancelled for the same reason as Hollow. There was also a mysterious prototype codenamed World War 3 developed around 2005-2006 and their last game, Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death, began as a Mr. T video game, back in 2009, before being reworked, as Bostjan Troha pointed out recently on Twitter:

It was rather redeveloped as Marlow Briggs. The reason was that Mr. T’s agent offered us a blank slate for the IP. However, they later decided that the Mr. T’s game character mustn’t ever hurt anyone, be violent, only do good stuff, etc. Which makes it a hard game to develop.

ZootFly was acquired in 2013 by casino company Interblock.

Article by Daniel Nicaise

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Plague of Darkness [XBOX/PS2/PC – Cancelled]

Plague of Darkness (also known as The Plague) is a canceled action-adventure game developed by Widescreen Games and published by Namco Hometek for Playstation 2 and Xbox around 2003-2004.

The game was announced during the ECTS 2003 for a release planned in the summer of 2004 as we can read on Gamezone:

“Gamers Beware: Namco to spread gaming fever next summer with Plague of Darkness title to infect action adventure genre on PlayStation®2 and Xbox®.

Leading video games publisher Namco Hometek Inc. promises intense, nonstop action in its newest thriller, Plague of Darkness (tentative title), announced today.  Scheduled for release on the PlayStation®2 computer entertainment system and the Xbox® video game system from Microsoft, Plague of Darkness will ship in the summer of 2004.  Developed by Widescreen Games in Lyon, France, Plague of Darkness will feature Xbox Live functionality, complete with downloadable content, as well as PlayStation®2 online support with exclusive extras.

“Plague of Darkness will raise the bar in the action adventure genre through its haunting original storyline, close combat elements, stunning graphics and intense action,” said Jon Kromrey, Producer at Namco Hometek Inc.

“We think gamers will be infected with its immersive and addictive gameplay.”

In Plague of Darkness, Namco transports players to ravaged Medieval Europe during the time of the Black Death. Eight brooding environments with 58 sub-locations will put players to the test, each containing new objectives, enemies and obstacles. A linear storyline with deadly puzzles, fascinating characters and chilling discoveries allow players to experience unique game play mechanics and participate in over-the-top fantasy combat. In a time where advanced weaponry doesn’t yet exist, players have a multitude of basic weapons, special tools and magic at their disposal. Over five weapons are featured in the game, including a variety of swords, crossbows, daggers and the ability to cast magic spells. The game’s outstanding cinematic effects set an additional ambient tone for Plague of Darkness, immersing players deep into the dark world environments.

The game’s story features a Knight of the Order, Douran, who sets out on a mission to bring down a terrible demon.  The demon has been haunting the land of the living by feasting on the black souls of the dead, in order to bring about its own resurrection. During the course of his adventure, Douran encounters other characters that may hold answers to the mystery behind the demonic plague, but can he trust them? In the course of the story, the hero fights the omnipresent evil demon by using the game’s sacred relic in a quest to spread peace throughout Europe.”

In December of the same year, Gamekult revealed a little more about the game:

“In a medieval Europe ravaged by the Black Plague (1348), the young knight Douran sets sail for the island of St. Angui, to join Jacques de Villemort, the head of the Order, and his father, whom he has seen attacked by an evil spirit in a recent nightmare. Offshore, Douran sees a thick dark fog with a Death’s face, which quickly takes the form of a claw to trap the ship and capsize it. At the back of his cabin, our hero hears the horrified laments of the members of the crew, before seeing the strange tablecloth rush under his door … Small peculiarity, the combat system will propose to assign tarot cards to get special spells. Equipped with an online function on Xbox as on PS2 to obtain new equipment, Plague of Darkness is scheduled for next June in the United States.”

In April 2004, Sliced Gaming Australia shared a bit more about the game design:

“As you progress through Plague of Darkness you’ll be able to upgrade Douran’s weapons, magic and armour Role-Playing Game-style. As the game has an emphasis on action and combat, Douran will have more combat-based moves than simply attacking; he’ll also be able to block enemies’ attacks and even grab them to execute throw moves. Twenty-five enemies will be featured in the game, some with non-magical attacks and some with magical attacks.”

However, Plague of Darkness quietly vanished without a trace after this. We can speculate that something went wrong during it’s development process and Namco decided to pull the plug. Oddly enough, a partnership between Widescreen Games and Namco will eventually come to fruition with the making of Dead to Rights 2, released in the end of the 2005 year, after a troubled development.

Article by Daniel Nicaise

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