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.
Survive is a First Person shooter that started development as a simple game created in ray casting game maker. The game was planned for release only on pc and Linux. As development went on the game kept getting sequels until I was bored of Ray casting game maker and started to look for more powerful game engines. The new engine chosen was FPS Creator.
This version was created in late 2014 and was completed within a month. As a result this build was very buggy and crashed upon walking down a corridor. It was a corrupt video file in the game that needed to be removed for the game to work. The game was uploaded to mediafire in that same month and only got 20-30 Downloads. The video (Including the download) was removed a year after. After this the game started development again in a different game development software called Game Guru. This game was called Survive: What lurks Around. This version of the game was made after a line said by DR. Trugar in the Late 2014 build of the game in which he said “For what lurks around won’t be around for much longer”. Creating the game was easy and with help from my friend I managed to get the game off the ground. But this game never got that far and got canceled shortly after.
The game was once again reworked to make it more of a horror game. This is the build of the game that is still in work to this day in the FPS Creator Engine. You can download the early prototypes from here.
If we reminisce about the popularity musical games enjoyed roughly ten years ago, we cannot stress enough the role of Massachusets-based developer Harmonix Music Systems, creators of the popular Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises. Of course, for those who have been in the videogame scene for some time, it is well known that other studios had delved in the music genre long before them. However, we cannot deny that Harmonix and by extension their distributors, first Red Octane and shortly afterwards Activision, were the first ones to appeal the interest of the US and European mass markets by filling up their titles with a wide selection of mainstream rock and pop music tracks. Where Konami’s Guitar Freaks had always remained a niche title, Harmonix established a new franchise that attracted both seasoned and casual players alike with its simple, yet progressively deep and challenging gameplay, greatly cementing videogames as a social experience to be enjoyed with groups of friends.
Harmonix’s existence has been closely tied to music and rhythm games and even after the hype surrounding Guitar Hero – not anymore in Harmonix’s hands after three titles – and Rock Band faded away, the developer kept experimenting with the concept of music applied to other genres. Given the massive popularity of the first person shooting genre, it must have been a quite logical leap to combine both concepts, giving birth to the initial idea of Chroma.
First announced on the seventeenth of February 2014, Chroma constituted a collaboration between two developer teams: Harmonix itself, bringing their expertise in musical games and Hidden Path Entertainment, known for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Defense Grid: The Awakening among others. Chroma was simply put, an on-line Arena FPS that heavily relied on music and rhythm as an integral part of the experience. Harmonix co-founder and CEO Alex Rigopulos declared upon Chroma’s announcement that it had been “a dream project (…) for some time”.
The game was first launched at the end of February of the same year on PC via Valve’s Steam platform as a closed Alpha available on a limited basis to those who had requested an access code. This early Alpha included a two-part tutorial and an on-line Deathmatch, with the latter not playable anymore as its servers have been taken off-line. The game’s aesthetics evoke a futuristic virtual world, with vivid plain colors, neon lights and techno music, which easily remind of either Tron or SEGA’s Rez, another title that, while being a one-player on-rails experience, also fused shooting and music.
A newbie in Chroma would probably jump straight into the training mode upon launching the game for the first time. This tutorial covers the somehow familiar but also unusual gameplay and it immediately introduces the concept of the metronome, represented as an on-screen bar that signals the music beats. The metronome offers an essential help to the player, since most of Chroma’s controls are influenced by the music beats. A robotic narrator simulating an AI guides the player through all the available actions, which include jumping, fast traveling between portals, shooting and reloading. All those revolve around the concept of rhythm and reward the player for triggering the actions in sync with the music.
The second part of the training introduces the different classes and their weapons. Chroma has five classes with different gameplay possibilities:
Assault. Equipped with a submachine gun and a grenade launcher, the Assault class provides good offensive capabilities, specially with delayed grenade detonation by using the music beats to its own advantage.
Engineer. Relies on a set dual pistols (which display an additional HUD that will be familiar to Guitar Hero players and indicates whether to shoot the left or the right hand pistol) and a shotgun. The Engineer also offers some additional strategical possibilities by deployment of sentinel turrets.
Sneak. Combines the stealth granted by a sniper rifle with the power of the “Streak Pistol”, whose damage multiplier gets increased by successfully syncing the shoots with the beats.
Support. As its name implies, this class has limited damaging abilities but it can heal other players and deploy “healing stations”, that can also be targeted and destroyed if considered a menace.
Tank. The heavy hitter of the bunch. It uses a rocket launcher, whose projectiles can become heat-seeking at any time after firing by mouse-clicking on the beat, and a shotgun that can be used as a melee weapon as well.
Chroma offered an innovative approach to a genre that has dominated the videogame scene for some years and while many players appreciated Harmonix’s ambition of expanding music games into new horizons, the general consensus regarding the closed Alpha was quite mixed. Some players described the connection between music and shooting as clunky and uninteresting, adding little to none to the overall enjoyment of the game and even making it a tad frustrating, as for instance some weapons could only be shot at a very specific instant marked by the musical beats.
Beyond personal tastes, the concept behind Chroma seemed to need much more than debugging and rather was relying on core mechanics that were not working that well. Probably aware of this, Harmonix shut down the closed Alpha just a few months after its initial launch, in June 2014. The developer sent a communication to all players appreciating the extensive feedback received and announcing that the title would, in their own words “need some substantial retooling to be the game we want it to be”. They even claimed that “the team has, in fact, already started prototyping new directions for the game based on those successful mechanics.” Promising as this might have sounded, this was the last time players heard of the ill-fated Arena FPS and the lack of subsequent information could only point out to a permanent cancellation.
Involved with different publishers and franchises after their time with Activision had come to an end, it is not like Harmonix put all its eggs in one basket, so even with Chroma canned, they still released other entries of their Dance Central series and one year later players would see another landmark release: the fourth entry in the Rock Band series, attempting a comeback of the music genre and ultimately underperforming in terms of sales. This hinted a general decline of interest in what once was a beloved genre that provided huge amounts of revenue to those who had bet on it at the right time.
Wuppo is a 2D platforming action-adventure game with RPG elements. You play as a little Wum who is just clumsy and who has no special skills or powers. The protagonist gets kicked out of the Wumhouse, where most Wums live together, so the adventure starts with looking for a new home. While searching for that new home, the Wum gets into a lot of exciting adventures for which wit and charm are used and many puzzles will have to be solved.
The developers Lars Korendijk and Thomas de Waard have been friends since highschool and they have worked together on short movies, animations, stories and games since then. After high school both guys went to college and Lars graduated as an animator and Thomas as a composer. Wuppo started as a fun project to work on outside of school/college, but after both guys graduated, they started to work on the project fulltime, using Knuist & Perzik as the name of their indie team.
You can definitely see that these developers have been gamers for a while and they had many sources of inspiration for Wuppo. The first inspiration would be ‘An Untitled Story’, which made Lars start on his own platformer in the first place. The Rayman series was a shared inspiration for both developers, as they look back on Rayman 2 & 3 with much nostalgia. Other games that helped shape Wuppo to the game it is now were:
The Mass Effect-series – influence on the interaction with NPC’s, who all have their own stories
Undertale – a more personal touch in the relations with NPC’s
Paper Mario – the humor in dialogue and questions were inspired by this title
Banjo Tooie – inspired to make a world that feels unique and ‘real’ and to make locations that have a real function in the world.
Differences to the final game The game has changed a lot during the 7 years it was in development! The entire world has been deleted to start over from scratch once, and the story has been rewritten multiple times. Wuppo’s development could be roughly divided into three phases.
Version 1 was called “Wubblyking”, made in Gamemaker 6.1 ~ 8. The story was about the Wums, then called Wubblies” whose king disappeared. Every Wubbly wanted to be the new king. The developers called this version very ‘random’ – there was no real connection between the different locations and characters.
Version 2 was also made in Gamemaker 6.1 ~ 8. This version already contained parts that stayed in the final game like an early version of the “Wumhouse” and “Wumgarden”. The story was again very different – the protagonist was a world-famous plumber whose wrench got stolen. Still there were no other races than the Wums and the lore/history of the world wasn’t in the game either.
Thomas and Lars were very perfectionist about the game and especially the last area changed a lot. It has been changed completely from the beta and that had a big influence on the story as well! The ‘Fnakkers’ were originally going to build a big machine in an underground factory to kill off the Wums, but Knuist & Perzik decided that the ‘fnakkers’ shouldn’t portray Evil itself. They were much more interested in challenging the player to feel empathy for its archenemy. The end result is a game with no clear line between good and evil. Every person and end-boss has its own story and motives, which might be wrong or bring others in danger, but they never do so on purpose/for fun.
Tough choices The toughest moment for Knuist & Perzik was to decide to delay Wuppo to make it better. The last area of the final game was one of the things that slowed down the development. It took a couple of months before they felt like the concept was refined. This was also the time they started to look for a publisher – which they found in SOEDESCO, also a Dutch company. They finally released the game on September 29th 2016, to great joy of their fanbase.
In the future Knuist & Perzik would like to make new games if possible, but for now they will keep supporting Wuppo and create additional content for it.
Thanks a lot to Lars Korendijk, Thomas de Waard and Esther Kuijper for their help in preserving these memories from the beta development of Wuppo!
Route 66 is a cancelled point and click adventure game that was in development in the early ‘90s by Disney Software/Buena Vista, initially planned to be released for 386 (or 286) PCs with 320×200 VGA cards. The game was formatted onto 2 or 3 floppy disks that would play on these computers. The team behind this lost game was composed of talented developers, artists, and designers, such as Darlene Waddington (game design), Jeff Hilbers (art and graphic design), Sue Chow (game design) and Jimmy Huey (programmer). At this time, Disney Software was just a small division of Disney Consumer Products, but they were working hard to create games based on new and existing IPs.
Route 66 was intended to be an interesting mix of adventure and survival gameplay. The main protagonist was a young man named Dart Stranger who was busy hitchhiking from St Louis to Santa Monica along Route 66, a world-famous series of highways in America. Dart’s grandfather (or another distant relative) had died in LA, and had supposedly left some much needed money to Dart. Since Dart lived back in Chicago, players had find a way to get to LA within a certain amount of time in order to be there for the reading of his will. The player would start the game with only a few dollars, not enough for a bus ticket, so the only way to reach Santa Monica was through hitchhiking on Route 66. Getting to Santa Monica alive was the main objective of the game.
Hitchhiking revolves heavily around the drivers who pick you up, and the development team wanted to focus on that aspect of it. There was an interesting gameplay mechanic where each of the drivers had a special personality and the player would have to figure out how to respond to them correctly while in the car. Some want to talk and tell jokes, hear your stories, or maybe they just want to remain quiet. Players could gauge how well they were doing by the driver’s expressions. If handled correctly, they’ll drive you to the next city. If you don’t, they would boot you on the street and force you to find another ride. Just like classic point and click adventures from the ‘90s (Monkey Island, Day of Tentacle, Full Throttle, Sam & Max, etc.), Route 66 was full of humor and weird characters that added charm and funny dialogue to the game.
While traveling on Route 66, Dart would reach several main cities, and the gameplay would become more like a side-scrolling exploration survival game. Players had to look for a place to stay and eat, and hopefully finding some money to survive until you arrive in Santa Monica. During the game, Dart would get good rides and bad rides, make good decisions and bad decisions, meet with good folks and crazy folks, get thrown in jail and beat up by cops, eat bad food, sleep in the rain, get robbed by fellow travelers, become sick and held in hospital, and so on and so forth. This was an original hitching simulation in which strange things could happen, including your own death, all depending on how much attention you pay to the NPC’s behavior.
The flow of all these gameplay segments was controlled by a simple but detailed decision tree, reminiscent of a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. The team’s goal after all was to achieve some semblance of interactive fiction. Darlene and Sue were busy writing stories and lines for all these diverse eventualities, while Jeff was creating sprite artworks/animations and Jimmy created all the code that made the game run, coming up with a lot of inventive techniques and tools to overcome the restrictions of their target platform (such as a conversation editor tool). They were able to develop some nice playable demos for Route 66 and everybody at Disney Software liked them; all that was left for them to do to complete the game was keep creating new content.
Unfortunately, internal issues among Disney killed Route 66 before more content could be made. The business world became fascinated with “multi-media” and the new “CD Revolution” in 1992 and 1993. Disney’s management also fell into this hype-disease and suddenly Disney Software wasn’t just an uninteresting division of Disney Consumer Products anymore, but a potential cash cow. High-rank producers at Disney wanted a piece of the multi-media gaming pie and the new political environment in the company led to a lot of nasty fratricide among producers, all of whom were looking to improve the status of their own projects by killing somebody else’s. Even with a fun and interesting playable demo, Route 66 was doomed.
After Route 66 was cancelled along with other titles in development (“Jungle Cruise” and “Dog Eat Dog”), the team was fired. They tried to pitch these concepts to other companies, but were turned down time and time again. Luckily, Dog Eat Dog was greenlighted by Trilobyte, the studio founded in December 1990 by Graeme Devine and Rob Landeros (known for such games as The 7th Guest and The 11th Hour). The team was able to keep working on Dog Eat Dog, an original policemen simulator, until its second cancellation in mid/late ‘90s.
Thanks to Jeff and Chris for the contribution! Article edited by Ryan DePalma
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