Twilight War : After the Fall is a cancelled futuristic post-apocalyptic Massively Multiplayer Online First-Person Shooter developed by Smiling Gator Productions, then General Computers Inc, from 2003 to 2007 at least, exclusively for the PC. As we can read on the old defunct website, the game took place in 2296 after a cataclysmic catastrophe called “the fall” by the survivors have wiped out most civilizations from the planet. It was pretty similar to the Fallout series.
Twilight War: After the Fall is an Extreme Online Roleplaying Game (XORG): a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) with an integrated First Person Shooter (FPS) style combat system, where thousands of online players come together in an expansive and immersive three dimensional world. Twilight War takes place on a unique world where vast areas of the planet have been reformed following a catastrophe of cataclysmic proportions called The Fall by survivors.
Some areas of the World remain relatively untouched, but the ravaged areas are mixtures of wastelands, wilderness, mutant and alien biology. Nomad tribes, lawless brigands, and mutants roam the ruined Outlands, and in the darker places twisted animals and horrible creatures prowl. Bioengineered creatures and mutants resulting from radiation make the world dangerous to traverse. The remnants of Human civilization are scattered and divided both by vast stretches of wilderness, and by ideological rifts.
Another race lives alongside the remaining Humans, a dying alien race desperate to find a new home world. The Skel came with advanced technology, genetically manipulated warriors, and the will to conquer. These aliens lurk in the wilderness, adding to the danger.
Seek shelter and a more orderly existence in the pockets of civilization that remain, or explore kilometers of wild Outlands and ruined cities. Find, buy, or create a vehicle to suit your needs – but remember that fuel and spare parts are rare. Find and train, or purchase, a mount – more vulnerable than a vehicle but more affordable and nearly self-sustaining. Think you have the perfect high tech rifle? It is the bullets that are sometimes hard to obtain. Battle among the ruins against creatures and brigands. Scavenge Pre-Fall materials and sell them for a profit. Join an allegiance and fight against their enemies, or remain neutral and indifferent to everyone but yourself.
There are four types of character associations in the game – factions, alliances, allegiances and clans.
Factions refer to in-game groups of associated characters, such as the Silics or the Hell Riders. Factions are not player-controlled entities, though player activity can influence them. Every character has a faction rating with each of the factions, based on many factors such as race (Human or Mutant), how many of the faction members they have slain or wounded, and the results of faction-based missions that they choose and complete. How other characters react to you is based on your faction rating with them, as well as on your actions (if you shoot a friendly character, you take negative faction hits and the character may defend themselves or run away).
All characters start the game “neutral,” though faction ratings are adjusted based on whether or not the character is a Human or Mutant. Characters can eventually join an alliance, if they like. To declare allegiance to a faction, characters work toward the common goals of the faction. For example, to become a member of the Silic Republic, one would take Silic missions, hunt down and destroy Silic enemies, or exterminate local nuisance creatures. Once a character declares an allegiance to a faction, they can gain faction ranks, which in turn allow the character to use special faction items, take special faction-only missions, provides access to faction-only areas, own property on faction land, etc.
Characters can only join one faction at a time, though you can nullify your allegiance and join a new one after a period of time – but beware! Leaving a faction will to some degree hurt your faction rating with your former friends. Also, if your faction rating drops below a certain point, you may find yourself forcibly removed from your faction!
Clans are player-created and controlled entities like you find in any MMORPG. A clan can be formed by player characters wanting to make their own in-game community. The clan leader’s character determines what kind of other characters can join the clan. Members of enemy or warring factions will not be able to join, and if an existing clan member’s faction rating drops far enough, they could be automatically ejected from the clan. Though clans are player-created and controlled, they still have to abide by faction restrictions. If your faction ratings are neutral enough, you will probably be able to join any clan. If a clan becomes large and influential, they may have an impact on the in-game factions and story plot.
Using the Source Engine, development was progressing quite well during the first two years and Smiling Gator’s members Matthew Simmons and Kingsley Montgomery were interviewed on RPG Vault:
R.A.: What is the game’s basic underlying concept or premise, and what are the core gameplay elements we can expect?
K.M.: Twilight War takes place in Earth’s future, with a virtual environment encompassing over 1,000 square kilometers of total terrain on release, with plenty of expansion space. In the late 21st century, a recently united Earth is devastated by a war with an alien race called the Skel, a war that, over the course of several years, utterly destroys civilization and most of Earth’s inhabitants. Two centuries after this Doomsday War, remnants of humanity, a new breed of biogenetically and radioactively altered mutants, and the descendants of the Skel fight to survive in a hostile world. Skirmishes are fought over scavenging rights in the skeletal remains of once great cities, and over the limited resources and remaining technology that litter the landscape. Exploration and scavenging will be a large part of the game. There will be far fewer resources compared to most games, so in many ways the game will be a quest for resources.
R.A.: How much of a backstory and story element are you planning, and to what extent will the latter be ongoing?
K.M.: The setting takes place in 2296, 200 years after the Doomsday War and The Fall destroyed human civilization. A number of survivor factions have emerged to stake their claims on the remaining resources and hidden technology left behind. Player characters can join many of these factions, and fight for their supremacy, or choose to remain aloof and forge their own destiny in the wastelands.
R.A.: Aside from post-apocalyptic settings being relatively uncommon, how do you intend for Twilight War to differ from other upcoming online worlds?
K.M.: First, the combat system will be a true merging of RPG and FPS – you will point and shoot, and move more like you do in a shooter game, but the effectiveness of your attacks will be partially based on your character’s skill with the weapon. We are also going for realism and depth – there will be complete systems for encumbrance, item decay, economics, item modification and exploration.
R.A.: Will the gameworld be varied in terms of having different types of terrain and architecture? And what means of travel will be available to cover long distances?
M.S.: The world will be large and diverse, with areas of alien forests, volcanoes, seas, wastelands, old battlegrounds and ruined cities. Travel and exploration will come in many forms. Players will be able to train and own mounts, and find and modify vehicles, each with advantages and disadvantages. Driving an armored buggy may be superior to riding a destrier, until you run out of gas or blow a tire in the middle of the wastelands! Most long distance travel is expected to involve mounts and vehicles, since there will be encumbrance restrictions placed on carrying items. But there are also skills that allow the adventurous types to live off the land and explore areas inaccessible to vehicles and most mounts.
R.A.: Just how combat-oriented will the gameplay be, and what are your primary goals what will obviously be a pretty major element?
K.M.: The game is highly combat-oriented. The future is all about survival. This also plays into the FPS-style combat system, which will make combat very intense. There are many reasons to fight other than outright survival. You may choose a faction and fight for its ideals. You may fight over scavenging rights, fuel, ammunition or that fine-looking, partially rusted 2291 model year sedan that still has a working fuel cell engine. You may fight over drugs, or you may fight to destroy a nest of energy vipers to make the nearby village a safer place. You may also take bounties out on Outlaw player characters.
R.A.: What kinds of computer-controlled enemies will players encounter? Will they face a large assortment, and what are some interesting examples?
K.M.: Outlander vagrants, biker gangs, wasteland wanderers, bandits, brigands, slavers, drug runners, cannibals and faction soldiers will be some of the main challenges you will meet. There are also many creatures, most of which are either alien in origin or the descendants of 21st century genetic engineering, which was all the rage before The Fall. One such creature is the Colossus, which is about the size of a house. Another is the Smilodon, one of several prehistoric animals recreated originally to entertain the masses but who now more often prey on the masses!
R.A.: At this point in development, what can you tell us about weapons, armor, items in general, how they” be acquired and how important they’ll be?
K.M.: Weapons and armor are very important. There will be everything from scale mail to advanced composite power armor, from crossbows to plasma weapons, as some of the survivor cultures have more tech capability than others. Most equipment will be usable halfway up the skill progression tree. Most of the advanced equipment will be rare, and it will need expensive maintenance. Equipment can be acquired many ways – through spoils of combat, scavenging in ruins, rewards for completed missions, trading with other characters – player characters and NPCs – and as a reward for faction service.
M.S.: Also, all items will degrade with use. Keeping the game world from filling up with tens of thousands of items is one of our goals, and maintaining equipment to keep it from falling apart fits with the genre. This will also help to maintain a realistic in-game economy, so there will never be a glut of something and most everything will have some value.
Unfortunately, troubles occured on January 3rd, 2006 with the closure of Smiling Gator:
Unfortunately, the end of 2005 is also the end of SGP’s development effort for Twilight War. Our committed funds have run dry and we were not successful in the hunt for additional investment. Thanks again to our fantastic forums community for all the support and contributions! We hope you find another project and give them the devotion and incisive comments we’ve enjoyed reading for the past 17 months.
Only a month later, a new developer was found to help completing Twilight War, the Chinese studio General Computers:
We are very pleased to announce that Smiling Gator has concluded an agreement to license the Twilight War concept and sub-license Valve’s Source engine to a new partner company, General Computers, to fund and continue development on our behalf.
General Computers is an independent information technology vendor with offices in Long Island, NY and Beijing, China. Founded in March 2001 to build customized IT products, it is rapidly growing and expanding into new areas. The agreement with Smiling Gator marks the company’s entry into the gaming world.
Following this announcement, Gamecloud got in touch with General Computers president Junhua Chang in order to know a bit more:
GC – How did the deal to continue work on Twilight War come about?
J.C. – After we have made the decision to enter the area of game development in early 2005, we have investigated several ways to start our new business. One of the first thoughts came to our minds was to develop a MMORPG using Valve’s Source Engine. Since Valve’s huge success with Half Life 2, a new MMORPG employing Valve’s technology would be a natural choice for Half Life 2 fans if they want to meet lots of people and play large-scale online games. We wanted to be the first company in the world to make this happen. However, after some closer investigation, we were very frustrated that somebody else (Smiling Gator Productions) already had the same idea (Twilight War: After The Fall). However, things totally changed when the year 2006 came, and SGP announced the discontinuation of Twilight War. We made the decision the same week to partner with SGP and continue the original idea.
GC – Does General Computers have plans to change the game play of Twilight War or does it intend to continue to stay the game’s course?
J.C. – Smiling Gator Productions has contributed many original ideas and content to the project, and we certainly want to continue to stay on the game’s original course. However, because of the dynamic nature of MMORPG, there will be some modifications and we will implement some new features when it’s necessary.
GC – When does General Computers plan to announce more about their plans for Twilight War?
J.C. – We are currently investigating the existing content and source code, so it will be about 1 or 2 months before we can get up to speed and contribute any original work. We plan to push a playable version monthly for internal testing purposes once we start to add more content, so there will be monthly updates and new screenshots starting from as early as April 2006.
But the game still went silent for a whole year, and it seems from this point on, that a closed beta was launched around 2007. However, Twilight War quietly vanished and was never mentionned again thereafter. We can speculate that something went wrong during the development, and General Computers had to take the decision to cancel the title. The very short gameplay sequence available below was from 2008, the beta could have been playable at least until that year.