New Cancelled Games & Their Lost Media Added to the Archive

Six Days in Fallujah [X360/PS3/PC – Cancelled]

Six Days in Fallujah is a modern military tactical first-person shooter video game developed by Highwire Games and published by Victura, that was released in Early Access exclusively on PC, in June 2023, with future versions planned for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One.

The game take place in the infamous Second Battle of Fallujah of the Iraq War. It follows the United States Marine Corps‘ 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines as they fight the Iraqi insurgency in the city of Fallujah. It contains two different campaigns, one when you play a squad of Marines who have to battle the insurgents, and an Iraqi family trying to escape the city in the midst of the battle.

But before being known in this form, Six Days In Fallujah was a very different project having experienced a very chaotic development which aroused controversies, the departure of its first publisher, and ultimately, the closure of its original developer, all the way back from 2009.

Initially, Six Days in Fallujah was a Third Person Shooter developed by Atomic Games and published by Konami, for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. The background of the title was already identical to the final product. It was officially revealed in April 2009 by Konami, and Joystiq managed to get an interview of some people involved in the game:

Six Days in Fallujah is clearly a very big deal for the publisher. Light on actual footage, the segment was focused on the high level of realism and accuracy its developer hopes to instill the title with. Just how accurate? That’s what we wanted to find out, so, along with fellow bloggers, we sat down with Atomic Games president Peter Tamte, creative director Juan Benito and US Marine Corps Corporal Michael Ergo, a veteran of the battle and adviser on the game.

You’ve said you have Marine veterans who fought in the battle actually working on the title. How exactly?

Tamte: It’s important for us to say, you know, that there are actually three communities that are very affected by the battle for Fallujah. Certainly the Marines. Certainly the Iraqi civilians within Fallujah, and the insurgents as well. We are actually getting contributions from all three of those communities so that we can get the kind of insight we’re trying to get.

When you say insurgents are “contributing,” what do you mean, exactly?

Tamte: I need to be careful about the specifics that I give. There’s a much broader context to that. I should answer it this way: I think all of us are curious to know why they were there. The insurgents [came from] different countries. And I think we’re all kind of curious about you know – they went there knowing that they were going to die, many of them knew that they were going to die, and they went there to die. And I think that that’s a perspective that we should all understand.

Have you actually spoken to insurgents?

Tamte: They’re involved in the creation of the game as well, as are Iraqi civilians. That’s important to us. It’s true. The game — the influences for the game came from the Marines that returned from Fallujah. But quite frankly in talking with them, it’s um, many people would just like this to be a recreation and we can’t recreate that without getting the perspectives of all the people who were involved.

How exactly are the soldiers contributing to the game? You’ve mentioned maps and battle plans, but do they point to a place on the map and say, “This went down right here?”

Benito: Absolutely. In certain cases we’ve recreated the battles and engagements of the Marines involved to an extremely high level of detail. Including incorporating some of the Marines who were there at the time during the operation in the location that they were in. And you as a Marine can experience an interact with them and fight right alongside them in the actual event in which they were fighting in the battle of Fallujah.

So the actual troops who are advising you will be in the game? 

Tamte: You will interact with Marines who were in Fallujah in those particular locations.

Benito: We’ve scanned and recreated their faces and replicated [them] and put them in the game.

Would you say the game is actually going to be “fun”?

Tamte: The words I would use to describe the game — first of all, it’s compelling. And another word I use — insight. There are things that you can do in video games that you cannot do in other forms of media. And a lot of that has to do with presenting players with the dilemmas that the Marines saw in Fallujah and then giving them the choice of how to handle that dilemma. And I think at that point, you know — when you watch a movie, you see the decisions that somebody else made. But when you make a decision yourself, then you get a much deeper level of understanding.

Benito: And that’s a really important point because we recreate the events as factually and as accurately as we possibly can. And there will be a broad range of reactions and opinions on the experience itself. And for some, they may have fun. They may enjoy it. We are recreating and presenting these events and people, I think, will have their own individual reactions to it and those will be across the board. And that’s what we want. We want people to experience something that’s going to challenge them, that’s going to make them think and provide an unprecedented level of insight into a great military significance.

Will players encounter situations like friendly fire or accidentally shooting civilians?

Benito: We wanted to recreate the pressures and conditions the Marines faced and that includes adhering to the proper rules of engagement. So for example, as you may have seen in the demo, there’s an unarmed individual at the start and the Marines didn’t fire on him because he was unarmed and that was in accord to the rules of engagement at the time.

Further details were shared in the Issue # 248 of Gamepro Magazine in May of the same year, but as I was unable to find it on dedicated website nor Archive.org, I decided to take the following information on the dedicated Wikipedia page of the title:

The team at Atomic Games interviewed over 70 individuals, composed of returning U.S. Marines, Iraqi civilians, Iraqi insurgents, war historians, and senior military officials, and learned the psychological complexity of the battle. The game’s director, Juan Benito, elaborated that “Through our interviews with all of the Marines, we discovered that there was an emotional, psychological arc to the Battle of Fallujah.” According to one of the developers who worked on the game, the development team also consulted non-fiction books about the battle as part of their research, such as Patrick K. O’Donnell‘s We Were One: Shoulder to Shoulder with the Marines Who Took Fallujah, incorporating their recollections into the game’s events and story-line.

Atomic Games described Six Days as a survival horror game, but not in the traditional sense: the fear in Six Days comes not from monsters or the supernatural, but from the irregular tactics and ruthlessness of the combatants in Fallujah. Benito stated that “Many of the insurgents had no intention of leaving the city alive, so their entire mission might be to lie in wait, with a gun trained at a doorway, for days just waiting for a Marine to pop his head in. They went door-to-door clearing houses, and most of the time the houses would be empty. But every now and then, they would encounter a stunningly lethal situation… which, of course, rattled the Marines psychologically.” GamePro stated that for Benito, depicting the fear and misery of the battle was a top priority: “These are scary places, with scary things happening inside of them. In the game, you’re plunging into the unknown, navigating through darkened interiors, and ‘surprises’ left by the insurgency. In most modern military shooters, the tendency is to turn the volume up to 11 and keep it there. Our game turns it up to 12 at times but we dial it back down, too, so we can establish a cadence.”

Atomic Games stated that Six Days would feature destructible and degradable environments using a custom rendering engine, which they claimed surpassed the destructible environments of the Battlefield series, let alone any game released or in development at the time. Atomic Games clarified these destructible environments were not a “goofy, out-of-place marketing gimmick”, but a deliberate feature to reflect the actual Battle of Fallujah, during which U.S. Marines used explosives to breach buildings and demolish structures insurgents were hiding in. Tamte stated the game would feature “a meticulously recreated in-game version of Fallujah, complete with real life Marines lending their names and likenesses, as well as recreations of specific events from the battle. It’s almost like time travel. You’re experiencing the events as they really happened.”

Only two days after its announcement, project was already met with controversies as we can read on Gamesindustry:

Six Days in Fallujah, has drawn in calls for its ban by British military veterans, family members of soldiers and anti-war groups.

“Considering the enormous loss of life in the Iraq War, glorifying it in a videogame demonstrates very poor judgement and bad taste,” Reg Keys, whose son Thomas was killed by a mob in Iraq while serving as a Red Cap, told the Daily Mail. “It is particularly crass when you consider what actually happened in Fallujah.”

“These horrific events should be confined to the annuls of history, not trivialised and rendered for thrill-seekers to play out, over and over again, for ever more. Even worse, it could end up in the hands of a fanatical young Muslim and incite him to consider some form of retaliation or retribution. He could use it to get worked up and want to really finish the game.

“I will be calling for this game to be banned, if not worldwide then certainly in the UK,” he said.

Tim Collins OBE, a former colonel famed for an eve-of-battle speech in 2003, agreed.

“It’s much too soon to start making videogames about a war that’s still going on, and an extremely flippant response to one of the most important events in modern history,” he said. “It’s particularly insensitive given what happened in Fallujah, and I will certainly oppose the release of this game.”

Best-selling author and former SAS soldier Andy McNab, however, defended Six Days in Fallujah. War, he said, has been peddled as entertainment by the media for years.

Furthermore, he argued that the UK does not understand the Fallujah conflict in the same way as the Americans – a nation that lost “more soldiers [in Fallujah] than the whole of the British Army has in Iraq and Afghanistan combined”.

“Culturally it is totally different in the US,” McNab told TechRadar. “In America it is not as if this is ‘shock horror’ – everybody has been watching it on the news for the last seven years. The hypocrisy is in the fact that when the media wants a ‘shock horror’ story they will focus on something like this.

“In America a 90-year-old and a 12-year-old will know what happened at Fallujah. It’s on the TV, there are books about it. The game is a natural extension to that; it is folklore. The only difference being that it is presented in a different medium.

“If the game stands up and offers Americans those soldiers’ stories, then, why not?” he said.

Plus, added McNab, America’s Army has been simulating real-life events for years, and really this is no different to “killing Nazis or drug dealers” in other games; games that he has seen soldiers playing on laptops while on tour in Basra. “Culturally they are more up for it,” he concluded.

In direct contrast to his approach, however, was the Stop the War Coalition peace group, who said glorifying the Fallujah “massacre” is “sick”.

“The massacre carried out by American and British forces in Fallujah in 2004 is amongst the worst of the war crimes carried out in an illegal and immoral war,” spokesperson Tansy E Hoskins told TechRadar.

“It is estimated that up to 1,000 civilians died in the bombardment and house-to-house raids carried out by invading troops. So many people were killed in Fallujah that the town’s football stadium had to be turned into a cemetery to cope with all the dead bodies.

“There is nothing to celebrate in the death of people resisting an unjust and bloody occupation. To make a game out of a war crime and to capitalise on the death and injury of thousands is sick.

“There will never be a time when it is appropriate for people to play at committing atrocities,” added Tansy. “The massacre in Fallujah should be remembered with shame and horror not glamorised and glossed over for entertainment.”

Vice president Anthony Crouts told the Wall Street Journal that Konami was “not trying to make a social commentary”.

“We’re not pro-war,” he added. “We’re not trying to make people feel uncomfortable. We just want to bring a compelling entertainment experience… At the end of the day, it’s just a game.”

All these reactions pushed Konami to officially leave the project on April 27, just 21 days after its announcement:

According to an article out of The Asahi Shimbun, Konami has dropped out of publishing controversial shooter, Six Days in Fallujah. The article blames Konami’s decision on the overwhelmingly bad reception the title received from Western audiances after its announcement.

“After seeing the reaction to the videogame in the United States and hearing opinions sent through phone calls and e-mail, we decided several days ago not to sell it,” a public relations official of Konami said. “We had intended to convey the reality of the battles to players so that they could feel what it was like to be there.”

Although Atomic announced that it would not give up on the development of the game, things did not improve as the months went by. So, in August 2009, we learned that Atomic was laying off its entire workforce:
We recently reported on layoffs at Atomic Games, which followed after Konami pulled out of its partnership with Atomic Games for Six Days in Fallujah. The company blamed its inability to secure full-scale funding for the project, which forced a reduction in size at the studio.

Atomic did not comment on the number of affected employees, simply stating that development would continue with a smaller team funded by sister company Destineer Inc., which purchased Atomic in 2005. However, IndustryGamers has heard from an anonymous source who claims, “Out of 75 people, less than a dozen are left and about a third of that isn’t even developers.  The remaining team is basically a skeleton cleanup crew that will be gone soon too.  They are trying to downplay the extent of these layoffs, but the reality is that Atomic is pretty much dead.”

We’ve put in an inquiry with Atomic Games to find out about the current state of their business but have not heard back yet.

Strangely enough, contrary to most of people thought back then, Atomic wasn’t still dead, and some more information was shared by IGN in March 2010:

A source close to the game’s development confirmed to IGN this morning that Six Days in Fallujah is still planned for release, though no expected release date or publisher was named.

“I can promise you that game is still coming out and it is finished,” the source said.

Six Days in Fallujah got off to a rocky start last April when then publisher Konami dropped the title just weeks after revealing it to the press. Our source said Konami was “too scared” to publish the title after the negative reaction the title garnered.

In August, Atomic Games suffered layoffs due to the studio’s inability to secure a funded publishing deal. While the total reduced headcount was never confirmed, reports at the time suggested nearly 80 percent of the staff was let go with only a skeleton crew remaining.

The fate of the studio was very much left up in the air, but this news seems to indicate Atomic Games is still open in some capacity.

During the PAX East that took place in the same month, Atomic revealed a totally new game, Breach, which was a team-based first-person shooter multiplayer game that featured destructible environments, just like Six Days in Fallujah. It was released in 2011 but sold poorly and definitely killed Atomic Games and Destineer a few months later. In the credits of the game, 23 people worked on it, counting Human Resources. A special thanks section dedicated to people who worked on Six Days in Fallujah can be found. That section contained a total of 51 persons, including former Creative Director Juan Benito.

In the following years, Six Days in Fallujah occasionally came to our memory here and there in the press. Thus, in August 2012, more than a year after the closure of Atomic Games, we could read on PlayStation Lifestyle that at some point, SIE Santa Monica Studio could have been implicated in the game as it was hinted by David Jaffe:

Sony might have once considered publishing Six Days in Fallujah (…)

The reveal comes from David Jaffe, who tweeted about Sony developer Allan Becker, saying [emphasis added]:

Very proud this week of Allan Becker, my former Sony boss and the man who started Sony Santa Monica.*

He toots his own horn so damn rarely I bet the man doesn’t even know he has one to toot! So allow me to do it for him:

A few years back, Allan left Sony Santa Monica to take over Sony’s Japan Studio after a very, very successful run as the SM studio head. When he was at Santa Monica he spearheaded a lot of amazing games, (…). He also was the guy who funded and supported L.A. NOIRE for a long time before that game left Sony and went to RockStar, along with SIX DAYS IN FALLUJAH and bunch of other very imaginative, cool games that never came out but clearly carried the banner for ‘games as art/games-being-more-conceptually-meaningful-than-games-as-action-movies’. (…)

Jaffe’s language isn’t totally clear that Becker funded Six Days while at Sony (hence this being a rumor), but considering Becker joined SCE in 1997 and hasn’t worked anywhere else, it’s unlikely he meant otherwise.

That information was eventually confirmed, nearly 10 years later, in April 2021, by the way.

In September 2012, Peter Tamte was reached by Gamespot and shared some more information about what was going on back then:

Tamte’s vision for Six Days in Fallujah remains unchanged. (…) Authenticity comes in the form of video interviews of Marines recounting their experiences of the battle, interspersed throughout the game, as well as near-perfect re-creations of Fallujah neighbourhoods using satellite photography.

Atomic wants everything in the game to be destructible, from individual bricks to entire buildings, in order to accurately re-create the intensity of urban combat and the complications that arise from situations that involve fighting in close quarters in a civilian-heavy environment. To achieve this, the development team built the game on a new game engine designed to handle realistic structural damage to infrastructure. (However, this engine was built for the current generation of hardware, which Tamte said will end before Six Days is ready. Atomic said it is not yet ready to reveal how this will affect the game’s design.)

Three weeks later, Konami cancelled its publishing deal with Atomic. Tamte said that the decision came as a shock to Atomic, which up to that point had received nothing but support from the publisher.

“There were literally no disagreements between Atomic and Konami’s American team. We all saw Six Days in Fallujah the same way. It was the board of directors for Konami’s parent company in Japan who just got freaked out about the controversy.”

Tamte said that the board of directors of Konami’s parent company in Japan ordered the US unit to pull out of Six Days because Konami “didn’t want its brand associated with the controversy”. He still believes this was a mistake.

“I think if they had waited longer to let our story be heard, they would have benefited from the outpouring of support we’ve received for Six Days in Fallujah as people began to understand more about what it really was contemplate new ideas about what a video game could be. This takes time. Unfortunately, Konami’s board of directors didn’t seem to understand.”

More surprising than Konami’s decision to walk away from Six Days in Fallujah was the amount of encouragement and feedback Atomic received following the loss of its biggest financial backer, including more offers of help from Marines who were eager to take part in the game’s development. The challenge that Tamte and his team now face is gathering the money needed to finish the game, although not necessarily from another publisher.

“I would not say that we’re focused on finding a publisher. Our focus is on finding adequate funding. The rest can get worked out.”

Last year, Tamte started a new company, Theory.io, specialising in productivity software for tablets, mobile phones, and computers. While Theory.io won’t be involved in Six Days in Fallujah, Tamte will still be involved with the project until its release, for which there is still no set time frame. While Tamte recognises that there will always be some people who don’t want to see Six Days in Fallujah get made, the outpouring of support that Atomic has received has convinced him that the team’s efforts will not go to waste.

“I know that the story we’re going to help people experience is compelling. And, ultimately, this is what matters the most.”

The game resurfaced in April 2018 when former Level Designer Nathan Cheever shared his work on Gamedeveloper. We learned that development began in 2005 and that the project had to be reduced in scope. In his personal website, we also can read:

I didn’t originally join Destineer to work on Six Days in Fallujah (SDIF). After Turok I wanted to contribute to projects that had a longer shelf life than two months. I found that with Destineer’s new sister studio in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was focused on Serious Games.

The first project was Judgmental Shooting Simulator (JSS) — a program used to help government agencies like the FBI and CIA deal with dangerous situations. The second project was code-named Magic Bullet — a fictional espionage game, but grounded in reality with assistance directly from the CIA for authenticity.

The experience of our Raleigh team was getting noticed by Destineer’s home studio near Minneapolis. At first, several of our senior members were flown there to consult, support, and become familiar with SDIF. The title had been in production for two years already, building technology from the ground up. SDIF eventually eclipsed Magic Bullet when the company President transferred the project to the Raleigh studio. The majority of Minneapolis studio was asked to move to Raleigh and join the JSS team to complete SDIF. (…)

(…) As with any game production, the original goals evolve over time.  These typically involve some form of scope-reduction to help focus the project and elevate quality over quantity.  Over the course of four years, SDIF went from 30 missions to 8.

2005 Version

The original campaign for SDIF had 5 missions for each of the 6 Days — 30 levels total. The game world was based on the actual city, so each gamespace was huge, at roughly 40,000 game units (most tactical shooters feature less than half of that).

Vehicles were the remedy for this scale. My impression was a game that rivaled GTA in scope and complexity.

2007 Version

Reality checked in and the campaign was reduced to 19 missions. With the exception of the 1st Day, each Day now featured 3 missions each. Vehicles were relegated to special cases or as backdrop. No freeform driving allowed.

The gamespaces themselves were reduced in size as well, shrinking down to a manageable 12-20,000 game units (the size of an Uncharted Level if folded into a sandbox). This change allowed the team to have more control with moment-to-moment action. At the original scale, the only way to populate non-critical areas would’ve been procedurally, which risked being repetitive and uninspiring.

2008 Version

The third iteration occurred when the project moved to Raleigh. The total missions were only reduced by one, but the scale of each gamespace was downsized to 10-12,000 game units (somewhere in the ballpark of a Gears of War level). The change was due to technical reasons. With all of the sheer destruction we were estimating, anything larger wouldn’t fit in tech performance or memory.

2009-Q1 Version

When Konami entered the picture in early 2009, the project was now bound to a schedule. To ship in 2010, SDIF was reduced to 12 levels. Their physical size remained the same. Each Day had 1-3 missions.  Each mission was to be introduced and/or followed by an interview with a Marine who was there.

Previously scope-reduction hadn’t disrupted the highlights, events, or people met in the game. During this last change however, I had to start picking the best events and put aside less dynamic ones. Like previous versions, the experience featured 2 Fire Teams (mixed with real Marines) the player switched to depending on the location and event.

This campaign happened to be my favorite version. It had the right amount of distinctive events and variety to make the experience dynamic and memorable. One thing that set it apart from the other versions were several detached sequences that took place before each Day began.  The player was thrown into the middle of intense situations lasting 60-120 seconds, playing a different Marine each time.

In contrast to regular Campaign pacing, there were no tutorials or forgiving second-chances, no reloads.  Experienced players would be quick on their feet, recognizing their position and gear.  Inexperienced ones would be caught in the chaos and fear of the moment. You dealt with whatever the outcome was.  Did you survive?  Were you wounded? Did you save your team?

Order Revealed

When players began the final level of the game, they would realize those sequences were flash-forwarding to this final location. Familiar buildings, sights, and sounds from those frantic moments were now all connected.

Several Fire Teams were present during Hell House.  Each flash-forward recorded your choices and assigned them as goals to supporting AI Marines.  They now retraced your decisions while your own Fire Team attempts to suppress the conflict.

In a multiplayer session, each player would experience these flashes individually.  The game would randomly choose which “recording” to use, based on the number of participants in the final level. When the game was complete, players were allowed to replay these series of events and attempted a different outcome.

Like the rest of SDIF, this feature was not meant to trivialize the tragedies or heroism of the Marines who were there.  It was developed to teach players the choices and reality of war.  Training simulations have been doing this for quite some time.  SDIF was an attempt to add an emotional narrative within in a high-quality product.

The Action and Fear chart was something I learned from Turok. It helps the story arc maintain a rhythm of emotional highs-and-lows. The remainder of the information pictured was how real events were applied to each mission. They either directly influenced the encounter(s) or provided bookend moments between them.

2009-Q3 Version

The last change reduced the game to a total of 8 levels, with only 1 Fire Team. The individual scenarios would be based on the real events, but the transitions between them would be an mixture of anecdotal moments from interviews and written accounts. The player would continue to meet real Marines throughout the game, but they wouldn’t be playing with them.

Conclusion

When SDIF was first announced, modern warfare in mainstream games were still relatively new. Since 2009, it’s been full embraced (some would say exploited to sell more games). I hope the stories behind SDIF are presented in some meaningful way in the future. If production was restarted, technical concerns and controversial issues would be less of an issue now. SDIF was always about the real people and their stories, rather than flashy explosions and body count.

 

In June 2018, Variety wrote an article summarizing several development anecdotes and possible problems encountered by the team:

(…) “The idea started with a Marine sergeant who had been medevaced out of Fallujah during the battle. I knew him well because he was one of the Marines who had been sent to our offices to help us build training systems. He called me just a few weeks after the battle and told me stories from Fallujah that were just incredible. … Then, he asked me whether we could build a game to recreate these stories,” Destineer and Atomic Games founder Peter Tamte told Variety.

(…) With the primary platform being PC, an Xbox 360 port and later PlayStation 3 edition were planned. “Six Days in Fallujah” would carry the Atomic Games brand, not Destineer. “Peter [Tamte] was telling the team, ‘Look, this is a very powerful brand and web address because it was really desired. We’re going to bring this brand back to life and we’re going to use this brand for a big AAA commercial game,’” says Nathan Cheever, lead campaign designer.

Self-funded development began in early 2006.

(…) Initial design opened to a square mile of city space, around four to five blocks. Faced with combat uncertainty, players would need to make snap decisions as to how, where, and when to attack as the urban scenario made it difficult to separate enemy from civilian. Key to this endeavor was destruction.

“There were options that the marines themselves faced and utilized because they have this concept called shape the battlefield where they don’t really care about walls. They want to get the best tactical position so walls come down all the time. We wanted to give the player the opportunity too,” says Creative Director Juan Benito.

“The engine could destroy everything. It was beautiful. Everything could fall apart almost down to the brick,” says producer James Cowgill.

(…) Destruction, however, is difficult to display in video games. This involves physics, graphical changes, processor horsepower, and other complications. While “Six Days in Fallujah” did progress, many of the issues faced by the team stemmed from this destruction, leading to a development that lasted years with slow progress.

“Nobody had done destruction to this extent and still hasn’t. … Unfortunately, this decision inadvertently caused us to spend the first three years building an engine instead of a game. Building the technology or a fully destructible game world created all sorts of complications that are hard to see until you’re very far into development. Everything falls out from this one decision to create a fully destructible game world, and I’m the one who pushed for it and authorized it, so it’s my fault,” writes Tamte.

Consider the location: Alongside destruction, cultural concerns enter the discussion, particularly religious sensitivities. “Even though it was a fully destructible game, we’re not going to allow anyone playing the game to destroy mosques. We don’t want that to be recorded, videoed, and then put on YouTube and it shows people laughing. Suddenly, you’d trivialized a nation’s culture,” says Cheever.

“Everything around [the mosque] can be destroyed except that. Then it looked like we were almost making a religious statement. The power of that structure and that religion,” says Benito. We had a cutscene that was based on a real video clip that we had where Marines had destroyed a mosque and a tower was falling. Very dramatic footage. We recreated it with motion capture and animation. That had to be cut because it was seen as too religiously sensitive,” referring to a decision made by unspecified higher-ups at Destineer/Atomic.

Another level involved a firefight inside a cemetery. Although finished, that level was cut because of potential insensitivity toward grave sites. Other changes became necessary for the format.

“In the real world, you might have 200 meters of flat ground to get to the next building. In a game, that’s a lot of nothing. We shrunk things and shaped things a little bit, but they’re all based on the original locations and condensed into a game,” says Cheever.

Accuracy was tantamount to the team. Benito stated he collected over 80 hours of interviews with Marines who fought in Fallujah. Infantry Officer Read Omohundro came on as a consultant. “I started talking with the software engineers and the other programmers that were making sure some of the city aspects as well as the architecture as well at movements and behavior characteristics for the weapon systems, as well as some of the marines behavior characteristics, were in line with reality of the events,” says Omohundro.

Cowgill explained a basic scenario set-up in “Six Days in Fallujah.”

“The example we used quite a bit was you’re a squad leader and you’re clearing the left side of the street down Fallujah. You see civilians on the other side of the street in their house as you clear houses. Later, you start taking fire from that house. You have three options. You can turn around and clear that house, kick down the doors and do what you need to. Maybe get some marines injured, maybe injure some civilians, but you’re taking fire from the house. The second option is to leave it for the next squad behind you to clear so that they take the risk. The third option is to call in an airstrike. Of those three bad options, which do you choose?” says Cowgill.

With technical burdens building, a decision was made to bring “Six Days in Fallujah” entirely to Destineer’s Raleigh, North Carolina location. Cheever remembers four or five levels in an alpha state after a year or more of development, and once the Raleigh team was set, “Six Days in Fallujah” underwent a reboot.

Gone was the open approach and levels condensed into tighter designs, both for the sake of destruction and scheduling.

“At the end, because the events happened on different phase lines that happened north to south, we decided to have two different fireteams [of four marines],” remembers Cheever.

In addition to a shift in focus, Cheever recalls a “death by demo” process, where the team is pulled off the main game to develop demos or proof of concepts for trade shows or potential publishers. “That halts development of the complete game because people keep getting sucked into expressing things that will not be done in the full game,”he says.

“The view at the time was always to put the best foot forward. …. that drains away resources from the main development. We’d often find ourselves creating an important demo for a specific aspect of the project, but it created quite a drain on the team,” says Benito.

Tamte disputed this schedule, however. “The game was self-funded for the first few years and then found funding very quickly the first time we needed it, so there were only 3-4 times during 4 plus years of development that we built a one-off so we could market the game to someone.”

Those someones varied over the years. Destineer/Atomic Games sought a variety of publishers, from industry giants like Electronic Arts (who potentially viewed “Fallujah” as an extension of its Medal of Honor series) or Bethesda Softworks. Atomic even approached console makers Microsoft and Sony. None of their pitches were successful. “The biggest challenge was that most of the ones that could afford to publish ‘Six Days’ already had their own military shooter franchises either in development or on the market,” says Tamte.

EA, for instance, did reboot its Medal of Honor series but did so on their accord in 2010. Others were concerned by the content and how this could impact their market share outside of the U.S.

“Some of these publishers were headquartered in Europe or Asia that have completely different geopolitical frames of reference on the Iraq war,” says Benito.

One publisher did take on “Six Days in Fallujah.” That was Japan-based studio Konami who signed on in 2008. For a year, Konami supported “Six Days in Fallujah’s” development, if not in the way the developers hoped. Announced at Konami’s Gamer’s Night in 2009, “Six Days in Fallujah” featured alongside the likes of horror games Silent Hill and Saw: The Video Game. Konami brought out a Fallujah veteran to speak, then pushed out a sizzle reel of real-world Iraq war footage combined with run-and-gun gameplay footage, muddying the message.

Basing “Six Days in Fallujah” in reality brings up a number of difficult questions. In a hunt for accuracy, a debate began internally regarding the depiction of actual soldiers. The answer was not to include real named soldiers as playable characters, although this didn’t end the debate.

“Would there be support characters that were real characters in the game? And if they are there, how do you deal with them being killed or is it just a game situation where they don’t die? Or, everyone is made up and it’s just the interviews that express the idea with the real people,” explains Cheever.

“We eventually arrived at a place where we had all of the reality in the book-ended video documentary pieces and we had it in the reality of a tactical situation, but the marines themselves were somewhat abstracted. … We worked with over a dozen marines during the entire phase of development. They inspired marine characters in the game. We didn’t show any real individual or simulating them losing their life. That would have been beyond the pale,” says Benito.

For full accuracy, Destineer’s team asked an American Iraq-based journalist to interview people in Fallujah, to hear their side, even some insurgents.

“I probably had sixty hours of marine interviews and another 20-25 hours from Iraq itself. … the real problem was we were going for a real documentary which meant more than one viewpoint in trying to get the whole story, being real journalists,” explains Cowgill.

That job, of an Iraqi reporter, was not an easy one and put some people in real danger. “Iraqis in Fallujah assumed he was CIA. He couldn’t go back into the city after helping us because they thought he was a spy. He had hired a couple of Iraqi journalists to get the stories and talk to people but it became dangerous for all of them after that because of that environment,” explains Cowgill.

Between a failure of pre-release marketing to tell the public about the documentary approach and the idea of insurgents being involved, “Six Days in Fallujah” came under fire. (…)

The general public’s perception of a video game, along with the content of “Six Days in Fallujah,” made marketing problematic.

“Everybody had some form of Call of Duty in their head of just a run and gun shooter, nothing but fun. The storytelling and documentary aspects were completely lost in the messaging,” says Cowgill.

“It felt like a siege. We knew what was happening in the studio. We knew the validity of the content we were making, and the vision around it. I was convinced and I think the team was as well. We weren’t able to articulate that to the outside world in the way we wanted to. It all felt like a big, unjust misunderstanding,” says Benito.

Development continued until late April 2009, the same month as the Gamer’s Day demo. On a day when Benito completed negotiations with Evan Wright, writer oof the book Generation Kill, to pen the story, the phone rang. “I had just started lunch, then I got the call that Konami was pulling the plug. Then I had to go back in and finish lunch.”

“I got a phone call from the EVP at Konami who oversaw our project to explain that Konami of Japan was going to announce it was pulling out and that it would be in the next day’s Tokyo newspapers,” writes Tamte.

Fear over “Six Days in Fallujah’s” real world content and media coverage scared Konami higher-ups. “Basically, once Konami Japan realized they had a controversial game on their hands, everything just went quiet from Konami. The support just dropped,” says Cowgill.

This did require Konami to renege on their contract, using a ‘termination for convenience’ provision. “This allowed them to pay us a fee to terminate the agreement, in which case 100% of the rights to the project would revert back to us,” explains Tamte.

Back into the publishing waters Destineer went, funded by the termination agreement, and on another hunt for a potential publisher. However, by this time, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare turned into a blockbuster, and publishers had their own counterparts already in development. Destineer even sought a studio in Russia. “Fallujah” didn’t fit their schedules, and Destineer was denied.

“After it became clear that none of the big publishers could do ‘Six Days,’ we wound down the team to just a core group and created a new game called Breach with our game engine,” writes Tamte.

“Breach was essentially the multiplayer child of ‘Six Days’ in the effort to save something,” says Cowgill.

“Breach” debuted on the Xbox 360’s digital Xbox Live Arcade service in January 2011, breaking even financially, not enough to sustain the studio. Destineer shuttered in May 2011.

With the advancement of technology and distance from the Iraq war, something like “Six Days in Fallujah” might carry market value today.

“I think now enough time has passed and people have seen the diversity particularly with virtual reality games and how that technology is so different. I’m hoping one day we’ll be able to get to a point where this documentary type video game, or this reenactment through gaming technology, will allow people to experience something that wasn’t physically possible 10 years ago,” says Omohundro.

“You would have learned something. That was the biggest thing I was excited about. If people played through it, they would have realized wow, military, war is not something to be completely trivialized,” says Cheever

To Tamte, not all is lost. Atomic Games is still a brand and he holds all of the necessary pieces.

“I archived all of the assets for ‘Six Days in Fallujah,’ including the interviews we conducted with Marines just weeks after the battle, terabytes of video, photos, and documents from the battle, as well as all the game code and art assets,” writes Tamte.

“Someday,” he said, “we are going to finish what we started.”

In February 2021, the game was officially back on track. It was released in Early Access in June 2023, exclusively on PC, with a Roadmap and future releases planned for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One.

Article by Daniel Nicaise

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Dragonkind [XBOX/PS2 – Cancelled]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TriLunar Shuts Down Operations – August 27 • 2002

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

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

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

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

Take care and continued success.

-The TriLunar Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article by Daniel Nicaise

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Exarch [PC – Cancelled]

 

Exarch, also known as Exarch Online, is a cancelled futuristic fantasy Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game published by NCSoft and developed by Realm Interactive around 2002-2004, exclusively for the PC.

The game took place in the far future where the galaxy is in turmoil after the collapse of the Great Empire. The player must choose a side whether it’s helping the governors, called Exarch, rebuild civilization, or choosing another faction seeking anarchy and chaos.

It was build and partially based on another cancelled game which was Trade Wars: Dark Millenium.

Exarch was officially revealed in March 2003 by IGN, after the cancellation of previous Realm Interactive’s project, Trade Wars: Dark Millenium, in which several design ideas were going to be placed back:

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.
In May of the same year, the project was showcased at E3. Both IGN and Gamespot wrote articles, sharing information on it. Thus, Gamespot wrote:
Exarch, a massively multiplayer online RPG based on the classic BBS game Trade Wars 2002, is currently in development by Realm Interactive. The game will be set in a universe that blends mystical, futuristic, and medieval elements together to create a unique aesthetic. Realm Interactive has enlisted the help of comic book artist Joe Madureira, whose past experience includes Uncanny X-Men, Battle Chasers, Excalibur, and Deadpool Limited, to conceive the look of the characters, creatures, and environments that will make up Exarch, in hopes of giving the game a distinct, well-defined sense of style.The game will take place far in the future, shortly after the collapse of the Great Empire, which had up until then benevolently ruled the known galaxy for nine millennia. Now, the galaxy is in turmoil as the remaining governors, known as Exarchs, scramble to salvage what is left. You’ll have to choose sides and either help the remaining governors rebuild the empire, or go the other way and help bring total chaos and anarchy to the galaxy. The developer claims that the different factions will play a big part in shaping the different social classes in the world of Exarch.The gameplay will be more akin to action RPGs like Blizzard’s Diablo series than your standard MMORPG. You’ll be fighting large swarms of monsters at a time, such as mutants, robots, dragons, and the undead, using a streamlined battle system to keep the pacing of the game at a good clip. There will be four different playable races and twelve different character classes for you to choose from and you’ll have ranged weapons, melee weapons, and magic attacks at your disposal to fend off enemies with.
They also added:
The game sets itself apart with fast-paced combat mechanics that give it a very Dungeon Siege-like feel. Like in a standard action RPG, you move your character around using the mouse and simply click on enemies to attack them, making Exarch very easy to pick up. The game’s 3D graphics feature impressive detail in the character models and environments. Currently, the developers at Realm Interactive plan on including four races in the game: wraiths, humans, gnomes, and golems. Each of the races will have three unique classes, but details are sketchy on the classes at this time.
Exarch mixes fantasy elements with technology and sci-fi, so expect a nice mix of medieval-style weapons like swords and axes along with firearms, cyber implants, and powered armor. The character demonstrated to us was a male wraith, with both a sword and a shotgun (which was used to nice effect against the mechanical skeletons in the caverns–each blast knocked the skeletons to the ground in a satisfying manner). The developers will encourage grouping by allowing each player in the game to have an aura effect. These can either bestow benefits on the party or inflict penalties on nearby enemies. Obviously, larger groups can enjoy the benefits of multiple overlapping auras.The game’s questing system also sets it apart from other massively multiplayer games. All the quests are instanced, but instead of having strictly scripted missions, the developers are allowing for a number of different options to play out in each quest. For example, you and a friend could play the same quest–an old man asking you for help rescuing his daughter from a dungeon–separately. Your quest might play out in standard fashion, with you working your way through a cave and rescuing the girl. In your friend’s version, the girl might end up transforming into a Succubus, forcing him to kill her at the end of the quest. In yet another version, the cave entrance could collapse, necessitating that you find an alternate exit from the dungeon. Or any number of different permutations of the mission’s optional parameters could occur, further adding to the variety.The game is still early in development, but the developers of Exarch are aiming to create a game that will be among the easiest massively multiplayer role-playing games to pick up. Its mix of fantasy and technology should also help set it apart from a genre that is getting more crowded by the day.
For its part, IGN said:

Exarch is a massive online game that eerily resembles a popular single player game that has a multi-player component – Diablo II. It is a fast paced action role playing game where players will enter this beautiful fantasy world rich with lore and battle their way through hundreds of enemies and take on numerous tasks. There are no tradeskills, as this is a very combat oriented game.

When I first sat down to view this game, my initial impression was that this was a fantasy game with typical fantasy elements, that being swords, staff, old fashioned armor and the traditional monsters. I did a double take, though, when I noticed one of the characters pulling out a gun and shooting an monsters head off. Guns, I asked? That is when I discovered that while this area they were showing me had a distinctly fantasy feel to it, the game as a whole has a futuristic setting.

During the demonstration, one level 5 character took on about 15 monsters at a time and was one hitting them all over the place. We were told this won’t be typical, but it will happen. The combat was very fast paced to watch and it seemed like the character was always moving, with very little down-time.

Exarch is scheduled for release in 2004, so look for a beta around then as well.

After E3, the title, however, faded into total obscurity and was only mentionned when its cancellation was confirmed on Blue’s News, in July 2004, more than year after its last and only presentation:

Word from NCsoft is that Exarch, the MMORPG previously known as Trade Wars: Dark Millennium, is “on hold.” Noticing that www.exarchonline.com and www.realminteractive.com are both out of commission, Frans wrote to NCsoft’s David Swofford asking about the game’s status, receiving the following reply: “The current situation with Exarch is this. The Exarch project is currently on hold here at NCsoft. At the present time, NCsoft is still determining how, when and if Exarch or any of its technology will be utilized in the future. For now the Exarch team, that was based in Phoenix, AZ under the company banner of Realm Interactive, has relocated to Austin, TX and is working on other projects at the NCsoft office.”

In 2005, NCSoft announced Dungeon Runners, another MMORPG which used some concepts and gameplay originally intended for Exarch, but without the futuristic setting. It was released in May 2007, but shutted down on January 1st, 2010, less than three years after its release. Joe Madureira left NCSoft, somewhere in 2005, during the transition between the cancellation of Exarch and the beginning of Dungeon Runner’s development. Some of his work for Exarch was retained for Dungeon Runners, alongside brief work on Tabula Rasa, although no credits is given by NCSoft.

Joe Madureira’s debut in video games was tumultuous, to say the least. After participating in the creation of artwork for X-Men: The Ravages of Apocalypse, Marvel Super Heroes and Gekido, he founded TriLunar in 2002 with Greg Peterson and Timothy Donley and worked on an action-adventure game called Dragonkind, which was quickly canceled, due to a lack of publishers, before joining the development of Exarch. He subsequently founded Vigil Games with other former Realm Interactive employees, including David Adams, and enjoyed success with the Darksiders franchise. Today, he is at the head of Airship Syndicate Entertainment.
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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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