Elixir Studios

Republic Dawn: Chronicles of the Seven [PC – Cancelled]

Republic Dawn: Chronicles of the Seven is a cancelled sci-fi futuristic Massively Multiplayer Online First-Person Shooter developed around 2004-2005 by Elixir Studios and Nicely Crafted Entertainment exclusively for the PC. It was supposed to be a sequel to the strategy game Republic: The Revolution, released in 2003.

Few information are currently available regarding this project. The game was announced by its developer in February 2005 with a press release containing some info about its background:

The Dawn of a New Republic.

“We, the governments of the Seven Republic, will defend the republic and our freedom with all force. We will put aside our differences to rebuild the life that we have lost. We will seek out the reasons for this loss and exact revenge on those responsible. This is the covenant of the Seven Republic, this is our task.”

-The Covenant of the Seven Republic

London, England 22 February 2005 Elixir Studios today announced that their much anticipated sequel to Republic: The Revolution, is underway as a joint venture with Cambridge based MMOG specialist Nicely Crafted Entertainment with the working title of “Republic Dawn: The Chronicles of the Seven”.

The game, due for release in 2007, is set around a rich storyline based in a distant galaxy and will give players access to a living, breathing universe created using Nicely Crafted’s proprietary AliceServer technology. Elixir will be providing their world-class graphical technology and both companies will be working on a new ground breaking Artificial Life engine.

“Teaming up with Elixir for Republic 2 is a fantastic way to start 2005. With Demis and his team’s experience in creating outstanding triple-A games, Republic 2 is going to provide great gameplay and visual experiences – offering players freedom and flexibility that is unparalleled in today’s MMOG marketplace”, commented Toby Simpson, managing director of Nicely Crafted. “With our server technology, we’re creating a world where hundreds of thousands of people will be able to take part in building a republic.”

“Nicely Crafted is at the forefront of MMOG gaming technology. I’m really excited that my vision of thousands of players building a Republic together is finally going to happen”, said Demis Hassabis, Elixir’s creative director. “This is the perfect way for Elixir to enter the MMOG arena.”

Republic Dawn is a vast MMOG first person space game based around an embryonic society devastated by a sudden attack. The players must rebuild the Republic facing tough political, economic and military decisions along the way. During this time a deep story of human struggle will be acted out with the players challenging every decision. With a progressive and immersive gaming environment of unique depth and detail, Republic Dawn promises to be a definitive MMO game.

Republic Dawn will allow players to dictate the future of mankind. Will they rise up as one in the name of revenge or will they let the already unstable Republic fall?

Shortly after, Computer Games Online managed to get an interview with Ben Simpson from Nicely Crafted:

Elixir Studios’ 2003 released debut game Republic: The Revolution was a ambitious and different look at an urban-political sim game. Now the company is teaming up with Time of Defiance developer Nicely Crafted Entertainment for Republic Dawn,  a space based MMO “sequel” to the original game.

Computer Games – First, how did the idea for making a MMO sequel to Republic come about? Was it Elixir’s idea or Nicely Crafted?

Ben Simpson – Well both companies had separate long term visions for games that, when discussed were very similar, with further creative brainstorming it became obvious that both ideas would easily fit together and thus Republic Dawn was conceived.

Computer Games – From the brief description in the press release, it sounds like Republic Dawn is keeping some aspects of the original game in term of game-play goals. Is that a fair assessment?

Ben Simpson – Yes that is a fair assessment – In the Revolution you were tasked to overthrow a regime and establish a Republic.  In Dawn the Republic already exists but will need to be maintained.

Computer Games – How will players compete against each other in the game? Are there a number of different people in the human empire that are fighting against each other for complete control?

Ben Simpson – Players can choose to PVP (Player Vs Player) in either combat or in business or to band together and tackle the games PVE (Player Vs Environment) aspects.  It is completely feasible that players could come together, create a new political movement and ascend to the Senate and attempt to influence the running of the republic and therefore its actions…

Computer Games – What is the current status of the game’s progress and when will it be released?

Ben Simpson – The game is currently at an advanced design stage and work on a prototype is underway.  We are aiming to release the title Q2 2007 with closed Alphas being available prior to the main release to ensure that specific aspects of the game are as refined as possible.

However, in April 2005, Elixir Studios shutted down following the cancellation of a two years development project with a “perceived financial high-risk” and the poor sales of both Republic: The Revolution and Evil Genius as stated by Gamesindustry.biz:

British independent developer Elixir Studios has announced that it has commenced winding down its operations after a key title was cancelled, but efforts continue to rescue some of the firm’s projects.

“The important thing to us is that we’re in control of our own destiny,” Elixir CEO Mark Hewitt told GamesIndustry.biz this morning. “We won’t just run up against a brick wall like some developers have. We’ll still have money in the bank when we close, we’ll treat our staff as they should be treated and help them to find new jobs.”

The closure of the studio should also have no bearing on Republic Dawn, the massively multiplayer title which was being co-developed by Elixir and Cambridge-based Nicely Crafted Entertainment, according to Hewitt.

“We were giving technical advice to them on their project, as opposed to any other support,” he explained. “We’ll still be able to provide that technical advice, and that project should be unaffected.”

“I’m very proud of what all the staff at Elixir have achieved and the games we produced,” Hassabis said in a statement this morning. “We gave it everything we had but ultimately it wasn’t quite enough. It seems that today’s games industry no longer has room for small independent developers wanting to work on innovative and original ideas. Perhaps there is no longer any need for them.”

After the closure of Elixir Studios, Demis Hassabis left the video game industry, becoming an entrepreneur and researcher in the Artificial Intelligence domain and joined the UK government as an advisor.

It wasn’t clear what happened to Republic Dawn after Nicely Crafted completely took over the project. The studio only released another game in 2011, Picaroon, just a few months after the servers of Time of Defiance were shutdown, which didn’t have a huge success. We can speculate that development didn’t go as planned, and the developers had to cancel the game and refocused on more economically viable projects.

If you know someone who worked on Republic Dawn: Chronicles of the Seven and could help us preserve more screenshots, footage or details, please let us know! 

Blue Vault (Elixir Studios) [PC – Cancelled]

Blue Vault is a cancelled sci-fi strategy game similar to Syndicate / X-Com, that was in development in 2004 by Elixir Studios, the team lead by Demis Hassabis, a skilled programmer who co-created Theme Park and worked with Peter Molyneux during their Bullfrog and Lionhead days. Players would take the role of a secret team of agents with the mission of stopping aliens from invading our planet, while hiding their existence from the population.

At the time Elixir Studios had released two interesting but ill-fated games: “Republic: The Revolution” (2003) and “Evil Genius” (2004). Blue Vault would have been their third project, offering players more than 30 missions to resolve using strategy combat, managing the squad’s finance, keeping up the team morale and upgrading their skills. During missions civilians must have been protected but at the same time you had to not let them know what was really happening. As we can read from IGN:

“Blue Vault’s strategy element involves the usual research, resource-gathering, unit recruitment and skill advancement, but the team is going into a lot of detail that’ll be “almost to an RPG level” according to Sutherland. There’ll be 40 unique unit characters, each with their own features, toolset, stats and hopefully, voice. “X-COM missions were quite similar with very little characterization. We want to push the character element further, so you really care about your teams. Imagine each Blue Vault operative shouting orders or screaming in agony with a different voice.”

Some more details were published in PC Zone Magazine (issue 141, May 2004):

“[…] tension is the crux of the gameplay, so  even if you manage to deal successfully  with an interplanetary nuisance, if you  scare the bejesus out of too many people  – what Elixir is calling ‘culture shock’ –  you’ll fail the mission

Ops are your standard tactical soldier,  whereas Indigo Ops are your elite  troopers that utilise alien technology.  Obviously, the latter are more adept at  dealing with space tourists, but you have  to be careful not to freak out bystanders,  who will notice their strange uniforms and  hybrid weaponry.

Engineers, on the other hand, repair  stuff, allow you to recover valuable alien  artefacts, hijack cars to build barricades  and also reinforce any cover-up with  visible evidence, such as releasing  weather balloons to explain that bizarre  ‘meteorological event’ annoyingly  witnessed by dozens of people.

Finally, there are your Conspirators –  the ‘Men in Blue’ who’re crucial for crowd  control and ensuring that you protect the  populace from mass panic caused by first  contact. This is where Elixir’s ‘stimuli system’, also used to a certain extent in  Republic, comes into play, where  individual Al-controlled characters react  to things they see and hear. So, if a member of the public has a  glimpse of alien technology, for example,  or is confronted by a Blue Vault soldier  pointing a gun at them, they’ll become  fearful, but this will soon recede if you  manage to tell them to move out of the  danger zone. However, if the person is  left in the vicinity of an alien visitor, they  will go into culture shock, meaning they’re  so scared and irrational that they  become a danger to themselves. In this  case, you quickly have to use your  Conspirators’ special persuasive powers  to calm people down, or you’ll quickly fail  your objectives. Up to 1,000 people can be rendered on screen, with up to 3,000 polygons each.

Blue Vault has a total of six alien races  and 15 different model types with  emergent behavior, so it’s extremely  important how you deal with the  combat and containment of these  creatures. “If you get it wrong, say a  friendly alien race comes along and you  decide to blow them back to the Stone  Age, the next time they appear, they’ll be  aggressive,” says Hewitt,  “take the time to find out about them, work with them, then next time  they’ll be more helpful.” Elixir is working towards a total of  more than 30 scripted missions, ranging  from rescuing and escorting a stranded  alien so it can repair its vehicle and  launch, to a spaceship full of warlike  alien convicts that crashes in a  downtown leisure zone on a  Saturday night. There’ll also be  random spanners in the  works, such as an  epidemic of  intergalactic  spores that bury  themselves in  human skin.”

Unfortunately in 2005 Elixir Studios was faced with serious financial problems. Their publisher abandoned Blue Vault, possibly because Republic and Evil Genius did not sell as expected. It seems the team tried to pitch the game to other publisher, possibly using a possible “Men in Black” license, but without any luck. With no money to keep the studio alive, Elixir had to close down: Blue Vault and all of their other planned projects (Republic Dawn: The Chronicles of the Seven , Evil Genius 2) were canned and lost forever.

Thanks to Ross Sillifant and Josef for the contribution!