PC / MAC

Trade Wars: Dark Millenium [PC – Cancelled]

Trade Wars: Dark Millenium is a cancelled Massively Mutliplayer Online Real-Time Strategy game developed from 2000 to 2003 for the PC, by Realm Interactive, and published by NCSoft. It was based on the video game serie of the same name.

Trade Wars: Dark Millenium was set in a universe made up of planetary and space environments. Players would have controlled different cultures, and established trade routes, formed corporations, and built empires. It would also have involved mining resources, waging war against enemy empires, and engaging in piracy. It was going to feature four different races as we can read on this site:

1. Imperial Corporations – The social order of this culture is roughly designed around the imperialistic Japanese culture, in that they started out as an empire composed of individual houses, with one house being the “imperial” house. The houses evolved into corporations, with the imperial house only serving as a figure head for the “imperialists.” Their units are the most weapon laden in the game, with brute-force and overwhelming arms being their central advantage.

2. Cultists(Name Still Pending) – This is a culture of religous fanatics. They worship “Those who are beyond time,” or the Ja’Kaal. This entire culture is an advent of a secretive order in the universe known as the Melah’Teh. The cultists worshiping the Ja’Kaal (a group of 10 entomed prophets, who dwell within a Melah’Teh temple that is outside the flow of time) create a great deal of psychic energy that the Melah’Teh are able to use to communicate with the Ja’Kaal. The only people the cultists hate more than eachother, are outsiders. Many of the leaders of this culture, over the centuries, have been fallen Melah’Teh. With them, these fallen Melah’Teh have brought forbidden technology, and for that reason the cultists are endowed with certain technologies that no one else in the game is. Their primary mode of attack is stealth and suprise. They can cloak, move fast, have strong shields that can regenerate quickly (there will be other types of units).

3. Clans(Name still pending) – The clans are a mysterous group of humans that were discovered living on the borderworlds thousands of years ago by the empire. The empire launched a campaign to conquer the borderworlds, but the Melah’Teh interfered with the invasion for their own mysterious reasons. In the end, the Melah’Teh were able to negotiate a treaty between the Clans and the empire. Clansmen are marked by the fact that almost all members of their society are infected with a symbiotic host. This host, among other things, allows them to communicate with animals/creatures. They are going to be sort of like beastmasters, calling in creatures from the map to fight on their side (yes, even space creatures).

4. Neophytes – Neophytes are a bizarre mix of man/machine/death. They were started by an insane empress who ruled the imperial throne thousands of years ago. She was obsessed with the notion of immortality, and was convinced that through a merging of man and machine it could be accomplished. In time, she was able to develop the Anathasia device… A device that could be implanted into the human body and allow them to live an extended life. After ordering all citizens of the empire to be implanted with an Anathasia device, which her brother later discovered allowed the individuals mind to be controlled, her brother overthrew here from the imperial throne and banished her. A strange side effect of the Anathasia device was that it allowed recently deceased human beings to be re-animated. Neophytes are like the borg meets undead. They are a matriarchical society in that women are more responsive to the anathasia device, and live longer than men do. Their special is in their versitility… The ability to combine certain types of unit to form other types of units. The ability to transfer “abilites” from one unit to another… and the ability to get killed, and then be regenerated by the anathasia device.

The game was officially revealed in 2001 by Gamespot:

Realm Interactive, a new online game developer based in Arizona, has announced the production of Trade Wars: Dark Millennium. The massively multiplayer real-time strategy game is a modernized version of the popular online bulletin board system (BBS) game Trade Wars 2002. Realm recently purchased the rights to the Trade Wars name from Epic Interactive Strategy, and it plans to release Trade Wars: Dark Millennium in late 2001.

Trade Wars: Dark Millennium will be set in a persistent 3D universe made up of planetary and space environments.

In April 2001, Gamespot got in touch with Game Designer David Adams:

GS: Will Trade Wars Millennium restrict the player to a single ship, like the original game, or will the player be able to control multiple ships and units?

DA: Unlike the original, Dark Millennium will allow the player to control multiple units. The combat is real-time tactical combat. Because it is more tactically oriented, the amount of units that a player can effectively control is much less than in a traditional RTS. Currently, the max number of units a player is allowed to control at one time is 20.

GS: Describe some of the main tasks for the player in the game. Will the balance of space trading, combat, and planet building be similar to that of the Trade Wars BBS game?

DA: The balance of these different activities will be shifted in Dark Millennium, with more emphasis on combat and empire building and less emphasis on those activities that are often redundant. One example is trade. In the original, trade was one of the primary sources of growth and expansion. However, trade wasn’t very entertaining. Players wanted to trade so that they could do the things that were entertaining, such as building planets, corporations, and sector defenses. In fact, players eventually created helpers to automate the task of trading so they could concentrate on the fun stuff. As a result of this, trade in Dark Millennium will be highly automated.

In addition to combat and empire building, players will be concerned with customizing units, harvesting resources (some hostile–for example, harvesting creatures for resources), diplomacy, growing their heroes and avatar, and of course etching their names in the annals of history.

GS: Tell us a little about how the game universe is organized. Will it be divided into distinct sectors of space or zones, or will the player travel continuously across the map?

DA: The universe will be divided into sectors, similar to in the original Trade Wars, with jump gates connecting the different sectors together. In addition to this, there will be planets in the universe, and when players are in the orbital sector of a planet, they will be able to go to the surface of that planet. Because we have sectors that exist both in space and on land, there will be two different theaters of combat in the game, each with its own units. In space, the player will be in control of dreadnaughts, cruisers, fighters, and other ships, while on land, the player controls titans, tanks, hovercrafts, marines, and so on. There will be some crossover of units, meaning that the smallest units in space (such as fighters) will also be able to fight on land.

GS: When will the game be complete? Do you plan to have an open beta test?

DA: Our current target date for completion is Q1 2002. The beta test will be toward the end of the summer and beginning of September. We currently plan to have a closed beta consisting of approximately 1,000 testers.

After that, the project went silent for almost a year, before another interview of David Adams, this time by IGN, was published in February 2002:

As an introduction to Trade Wars: Dark Millenium, please give our readers a summary of how you see it. How would you categorize it in terms of its genre or mix of genres?

David Adams: Dark Millenium is a massive online science-fantasy role-playing game. It combines Diablo-like gameplay with the persistence of EverQuest and a dash of StarCraft. The player assumes the role of hero extraordinaire in a dark futuristic world where technology and mysticism intertwine. The hero’s adventures will take them to alien planets, uncharted sectors of space, deep into the bowels of ancient catacombs and through the ruins of derelict space hulks.

What kind of backstory have you developed to set the stage for players as they begin? And what are your plans with respect to the storyline within the game itself?

David Adams: Nine millennia ago, there was a cataclysmic event that plunged mankind into a massive dark age. For thousands of years there was chaos and anarchy until mankind finally united under an imperial banner. For nearly seven millennia, the empire ruled mankind, maintaining relative stability, and allowing it to grow and prosper among the stars. Now the empire has crumbled, leaving Terra in ruin, and leaving mankind in utter strife and chaos.

Somewhere in the midst of all this, a pesky little prophecy was brewed up which said that another cataclysm would come at the end of the tenth millennium. It is towards the end of the tenth and final millennium in which we place our scene, fondly referred to by some as the Dark Millennium.

The story of mankind’s final hour will be played out over the course of several years. We plan to integrate the story into the game as much as possible through player prophecy, in-game events, story line driven quests and missions, etc… Of course, fate holds no assurance, and that which drives men to ruin can easily drive them to greatness. The cataclysm may not be a certainty after all…

Will it be possible to play characters of different races and classes? What are the primary character attributes, and can they be modified or customized to any extent?

David Adams: We currently have four different playable races in the game, and plan to add more as time permits. Each race has four unique character classes, for a total of 16 different character classes.

The primary attributes for a character are Strength, Agility, Toughness and Power. The character class dictates starting values for these attributes.

Please tell our readers about spaceships. What types will there be, and in what ways will players be able to customize and upgrade them? How expensive will they be?

David Adams: The player starts the game on their race’s home planet. At some point, they will earn enough money to purchase a space ship, which can be used to explore space as well as other planets. Each race within the game will have a number of space ships available exclusively to them, in addition to a number of generic ships that are available cross-race.

Players will be able to get a bare bones ship pretty early in the game, since much of the universe is in space and on other planets. As they progress, they will be able to purchase ships of varying size and power, selling their old ship at a substantially discounted rate. Ships also have pre-requisites that prevent players from cruising around in spaceships that are out of their league.

Equipping a spaceship with custom components is almost identical to equipping your avatar. Weapon Systems, Shield Generators, Power Cores, can all be purchased and equipped. In addition, multiple hull-upgrades exist for each ship, which increase armor points, equipment slots, and cargo holds for the ship.

How much variety are you planning in terms of different weapons, armor and other equipment, and will there be any rare or unique items? And how will such apparatus come into players’ possession?

David Adams: There is going to be a wide variety of equipment available to the players, both non-magical and magical. Since Dark Millennium is science-fantasy, these items will range from swords to power armor, from magical staffs to cybernetic implants. Items will also vary in rarity, from common to artifact (artifact is our version of super-rare).

Much of the equipment in Dark Millennium is power based (power armor, power sword, laser rifle) and requires energy to operate. The player will equip cybernetic implants to power these devices, and will have to manage energy much like a spell-caster manages mana.

What range of computer-controlled adversaries can players expect to face? Do you have any plans to vary the AI or to do anything else to reduce or prevent camping of specific opponents?

David Adams: There will be several NPC races in the game, which you can kill for experience and treasure. One advantage of building RTS game play into our world is that we are going to reuse the RTS AI to control the creatures in the RPG world. Creatures will have their own private agendas, and goals that will drive their actions. Through the course of carrying out these objectives, the structure and location of these NPC races will dynamically change. If you wander through a zone and find a Whisker camp (Whiskers are one of the NPC races in the game), proceed to slaughter the whiskers, burn their camp to the ground, and salt their fields (ok, maybe a little over dramatic), there is no guarantee they will be in the same place next time you return.

After entering beta, it was announced in July 2002 that an agreement with publisher NCSoft had been signed:

NCsoft Corporation, the world’s largest independent online game company announced today that it will publish Trade Wars: Dark Millennium (working title) from Realm Interactive.

Trade Wars features a fast-paced action RPG combat experience set in an enormous virtual world where players are able to explore the vastness of space as well as mysterious uncharted planets, a first for the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) genre.

“Trade Wars: Dark Millennium is set on both planetary and space environments that look as if they came straight out of a science fiction movie,” said NCsoft President Kim Taek-Jin. “Gamers who are used to fantasy online games will soon be able to experience a new form of entertainment with Trade Wars. With its unique action oriented role-playing style and heavy emphasis on player questing, we believe it will significantly grow the online game market.”

“We’re thrilled to be part of the NCsoft publishing family,” said Salvatore Sferlazza, COO of Realm Interactive. “NCsoft has a proven track record in publishing subscription-based online games. We can’t imagine a better partner for helping us launch Trade Wars to a global marketplace.”

Unfortunately, this was the last time that Trade Wars: Dark Millenium was mentionned in the press. In March 2003, NCSoft announced that the game was rebooted into another MMORPG named Exarch:

Trade Wars: Dark Millennium, from Realm Interactive by way of NCsoft, once promised to transport players to an online world where science and fantasy meet. But although the title still promises to deliver a healthy mix of lasers and longswords, it will do so under a different name. Now known as Exarch Online, the game will still feature androids and dragons, as well as the titular Exarchs themselves. The game will feature the work of comic artist Joe Madureira, creator of Battle Chasers and former artist for The Uncanny X-Men.
Exarch was also canceled, in July 2004. The development team of Realm Interactive, which was primarly established in Phoenix, Arizona, was relocated to Austin, Texas, by owner NCSoft, and some of the work done was used in MMORPG Dungeon Runners, released in 2007. Both Joe Madureira and David Adams left the company and formed in 2005 Vigil Games, well known for the Darksiders franchise. Later, with the shutdown of Vigil Games, David Adams is now at the head of Gunfire Games, while Joe Madureira lead Airship Syndicate Entertainment.
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Super Spy Online [PC – Cancelled Prototype]

Super Spy Online is a cancelled futuristic spy-themed Massively Multiplayer Online game prototype developed around 2006-2007 by Micro Forté and BigWorld Technology, for the PC.

Not much is known at the moment on Super Spy Online. The game was first revealed in February 2007 when Micro Forté and BigWorld announced the official cancellation of their previous title, Citizen Zero:

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.

Stephen 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.”

On the official Micro Forté’s website, we can still find some details about the project, alongside a couple of artworks:

With MMOs moving beyond their fantasy RPG origins there are new business opportunities and new development challenges ahead. Super Spy Online is a prototype of this new kind of MMO; a futuristic spy-themed action game that mixes stealth and intense shooter gameplay with the progression and teamplay of a MMO.

The brief was to create a working prototype of a spy-themed MMO. Micro Forté Studios’ greatest achievement in this project was in smoothly combining fast paced gun-play with the stealth style game play of an espionage agent, in a massively multi-player environment. The end product proves that true action gameplay can work in a powerful combination with the deeper persistent world elements of character progression and social interaction, and is to be showcased at future tradeshows that BigWorld attends.

Despite this, Super Spy Online very quickly disappeared from radar screens, and, to this day, we do not know the reason for its cancellation. After discarded both Citizen Zero and Super Spy Online, Micro Forté/BigWorld developed Kwari, a multiplayer Arena Shooter in which you could earn real money based on the frags the player made. The title, however, quickly closed its servers following its critical and financial failure. In August 2012, BigWorld and Micro Forté were purchased by Wargaming.net for $45 million, and renamed Wargaming Australia. In October 2022, the development team was sold to Riot Games and became Riot Sydney. To this day, Wargaming still owns the publishing team and technology that powered Citizen Zero and Super Spy Online.

If you know someone who worked on Super Spy Online and could help us preserve more screenshots, footage or details, please let us know!

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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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Enemy Infestation 2 [PC – Cancelled]

Enemy Infestation 2 is a cancelled futuristic Sci-Fi Strategy game developed around 1998-1999 by Australian company Micro Forté, for the PC. It was the sequel of the strategy game of the same name.

The first game was set in the 24th century, where a group of colonies are attacked by a swarm of aliens who want to preserve their race. Your mission is to save the colonists and stop the aliens from taking over the planet.

Few information are available on this sequel. Fortunately, former art director Delaney King shared on her personal website some details about its background and why it was quickly cancelled:

Stephen Wang and I wrote the story of Enemy Infestation 2. Salis is found in a cryo bed early in the game and released. An alien hybrid, she begins to grow extremely fast- becoming adult sized by the end of the game. One nice touch was the level after Salis is freed from the lab, an unspoken change to the sprites showed one of the marines has given her his jacket. As the game would have gone on, all the sprites would have evolved until all the characters where blooded, sweaty, stripped down and patched up. We had Raelee Hill from Farscape lined up to voice her. (…)

About its cancellation, she explained:

(…) We actually started pre-production on the game, but then Fallout Tactics came along and it was too sweet to miss out on.

If you know someone else who worked on Enemy Infestation 2 and could help us preserve more screenshots, footage or details, please let us know!

Thanks to Delaney King for sharing this!

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Youngblood: Search and Destroy [PC / PSX – Cancelled]

youngbloodbetalogo.jpg

Youngblood: Search and Destroy is a cancelled action/Role-Playing game published by GT Interactive Software and developed by Realtime Associates around 1997-1998, for the PC and the Playstation. It was based on the comic-book of the same name.

The game featured in various magazines from the Summer of 1997. Electronic Gaming Monthly #97 wrote:

Based on the popular comic book, Youngblood uses the power of the Playstation to give gamers a title that looks similar to Crusader: No Remorse. (…) Control one of the main characters from Youngblood in an isometric view. (…) Pick one character to control or form a group of two to four.

Game Informer #52 told us:

While most would think this title should be strictly action, GT is filling the game with less action and more RPG elements. (…) At times, the game does resemble Project Overkill, but otherwise, you’ll be controlling a party of characters, and the battles will be turn-based.

GT Interactive’s former producer Kurt Busch explained in the issue 31 of Next Generation that they initially planned to make the title a First-Person RPG, before trying a 3rd person action game, somewhat similar to Tomb Raider, and finally taking an approach much more similar to Diablo:

Initially, I felt very strongly we should do this as a first-person RPG (…). But the more we thought about it, the more we realized it would be very difficult to do it because you want to show off the characters, and in first-person we couldn’t work out the right set of views so players could see who was beside them. In the end, it just wasn’t very satisfying. (…) The problem with doing a Tomb Raider-style, third-person game, was that the main attraction of the license was not in any single character, but in the interaction of the team, and at the time trying to do it with six people on the screen all running around just wasn’t appetizing – the interface was just very, very difficult to design. I think the best way I can describe this is as a Playstation version of Diablo, except you control more than one character. You have a team, and you build your team up.

On Playstation Museum, we can read more details:

Get Ready To Rage!

Enter a radical gaming evolution blending a full-on assault of real-time combat action with elements of strategic role-playing. Badrock, Diehard, Riptide, Battlestone, Chapel… Youngblood takes on the most grotesque gauntlet of abominations a DNA experiment ever spewed out. Guide 11 heroes on a series of complex, real-time missions from secret labs to the depths of hell itself! Counter Giger. Find the Drachma codex. Oh yeah… and save the world!
Features:
  • Guide the Youngblood team through 11 real-time missions that combine pulse-pounding action with strategic role-playing elements.
  • Battle through dense jungles, parched deserts, and smoldering volcanoes to the very pits of hell as mutant enemies grow more bizarre and violent.
  • You must destroy them before the evil Giger and the traitor, Dr. Leviticus, finds the Drachma Codex, the secret to global domination.
  • Players can build, train, and hone the skills of the team members.
  • Take direct control of any hero or command an entire squadron.
  • Employ R&D to create powerful, new super weapons.
  • 2-player cooperative option, real-time combat action, and more.

Still according to Playstation Museum, it seems the game was cancelled due to major technical issues, as late former programmer Eric Peterson wrote:

There were three things that really killed it. One was the AI, and one was memory. They had a fairly cute system for pathfinding, but they ran out of memory and made the pathfinding map one-fourth the resolution of the displayed landscape, botching it. Basically no AI movement worked, after that. It would have been a huge task to carve it out and put in something that worked, and I was steeling myself up for it when, mercifully, the end came. Fixing the AI would have meant fixing the memory management, which was huge and hideous. For example, the audio system used 1/8 of the PlayStation’s memory just for its data structure — that’s with no audio samples loaded.
Another, more technical problem, was the cavalier attitude that was taken with handling global variables in the code. All the character code modules were just copies of each other with minor changes, so global variables were declared many times. The worst side effect of this was when global pointers came into play — the very first example I looked at had a global pointer declared six times with four different data types, which was then referenced (extern-ed) in twelve more modules in six different types. The poor compiler didn’t know which one you were talking about, so it just used (I believe) the last one processed as it worked its way through a build. This means that any of the declared variables could be the one used in any particular build of that code module, with no way to tell which it was. General instability and hard-to-find bugs were the result. Trying to chase down the thousands of global variable collisions were what took all the time.
Remember, this monstrosity was nine times the size of the biggest thing I’d ever worked on, Mechwarrior 2. The sheer amount of code made any major surgery a monumentous undertaking. The way it was written made practically everything major surgery.
He added on Lost Levels forums:

Youngblood was something like 2 years in development when the lead programmer quit. I was brought in to salvage the project.

I designed and wrote most of MechWarrior 2. Youngblood, a 2D tiler, was nine times the size and had six times as many modules. There was one spot where there was an “#ifdef Playstation”, followed by a bunch of code, and then an “#ifdef Macintosh” (ditto), and an “#ifdef Saturn” thrown in there somewhere, and SIX THOUSAND LINES DOWNSTREAM was the “#endif” with no comment.

It probably took months to do, and none of it was even getting compiled.

I did a quick couple of tests. At least ninety percent of the comments were wrong, because all the modules were just copied from one another. He’d write some horrible buggy thing, and then (this is not an exaggeration) make 27 copies of it, one for each character.

When I first tried to compile it, MSDev gave 3500 warnings.

Youngblood originally took a minute and a half to load to the title screen, and would leak several tens of megabytes. Pro Tip: don’t null a pointer before you free it. Especially in 27 different modules.

A former animator corroborated:
I think Eric already addressed this issue in his assessment. Like he said it ran out of memory in the pathfinding for A.I. and the resolution of the environment maps suffered for it.
A demo for the PC was made available in some video games magazines, and is still playable today. You can download it here.
Article by Daniel Nicaise

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