FPS

Ace of Spades [PC – OpenGL Build Alpha / Beta]

Ace of Spades was a voxel-based FPS first released in 2011. Advertised as ‘Minecraft meets Team Fortress 2‘, it was free to play, and took very little requirements to run (spawning the slogan ‘runs on your grandma’s rig!’). While earlier revisions of the game only had one weapon, some tools for construction, and randomly generated terrain it’s later versions had things such as different primary weapons (SMG, Rifle, and Shotgun), custom maps, and more. What separated Ace of Spades from your the more generic, ‘Minecraft-with-guns’ type shtick is that not only did Ace of Spades pre-date a good number of them, it’s mechanics led to genuinely tense trench warfare (I’d recommend watching early beta footage circa .75~)  Ace of Spades slowly grew a community throughout it’s years, and it’s creator Ben Aksoy maintained a great relationship with his audience. Many of the forums were community-run, and since pretty much every single visual in the game could be easily modified there was also a huge modding scene. It hit 2 million downloads during it’s beta run, and won game of the month on MPOGD.

Jagex saw the game’s success fairly early on in the beta. They had their eyes on it, and finally approached Aksoy on purchasing the rights to the game. Aksoy was in a poor financial state at the time, and agreed with a catch; that Ben would be allowed to continue to stay involved with the project. Jagex agreed, but didn’t publicly announce their involvement until late 2012, when they really took control over development. Until then, they used a fake name to maintain the indie image (SoCa studios, which you will see at the bottom of the archived website).

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The OpenGL build comes in here. It was established by one of the game’s original programmers, ‘Mat^2’ as the client for 1.0. It’s usage of OpenGL would be what separated the final versions to the open betas. When Jagex took over development, they decided to just take this build and used it as the basis for their version. According to a developer who worked on the JAGEX version of the game (may not seem verifiable, but I talked with a friend of Ben’s when I first researched this and they directed me to it) it was given to Blitz Games Studios to be completed. The developer did a Q&A on the Ace of Spades reddit, and revealed a lot of very pretty telling things about the development. The game had apparently been re-written in only 8 weeks, from November to December 2012. The game was not ‘professionally’ coded (spaghetti coding) and their goal was to appeal to a wider range of players vs the niche, original audiences.

 

Survive: What lurks Around [PC – Cancelled]

Survive is a First Person shooter that started development as a simple game created in ray casting game maker. The game was planned for release only on pc and Linux. As development went on the game kept getting sequels until I was bored of Ray casting game maker and started to look for more powerful game engines. The new engine chosen was FPS Creator.

This version was created in late 2014 and was completed within a month. As a result this build was very buggy and crashed upon walking down a corridor. It was a corrupt video file in the game that needed to be removed for the game to work. The game was uploaded to mediafire in that same month and only got 20-30 Downloads. The video (Including the download) was removed a year after. After this the game started development again in a different game development software called Game Guru. This game was called Survive: What lurks Around. This version of the game was made after a line said by DR. Trugar in the Late 2014 build of the game in which he said “For what lurks around won’t be around for much longer”. Creating the game was easy and with help from my friend I managed to get the game off the ground. But this game never got that far and got canceled shortly after.

The game was once again reworked to make it more of a horror game. This is the build of the game that is still in work to this day in the FPS Creator Engine.

Article by Thelighgod

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Chroma (by Harmonix) [PC – Alpha / Cancelled]

Chroma (by Harmonix) [PC – Alpha / Cancelled]

If we reminisce about the popularity musical games enjoyed roughly ten years ago, we cannot stress enough the role of Massachusets-based developer Harmonix Music Systems, creators of the popular Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises. Of course, for those who have been in the videogame scene for some time, it is well known that other studios had delved in the music genre long before them. However, we cannot deny that Harmonix and by extension their distributors, first Red Octane and shortly afterwards Activision, were the first ones to appeal the interest of the US and European mass markets by filling up their titles with a wide selection of mainstream rock and pop music tracks. Where Konami’s Guitar Freaks had always remained a niche title, Harmonix established a new franchise that attracted both seasoned and casual players alike with its simple, yet progressively deep and challenging gameplay, greatly cementing videogames as a social experience to be enjoyed with groups of friends.

Harmonix’s existence has been closely tied to music and rhythm games and even after the hype surrounding Guitar Hero – not anymore in Harmonix’s hands after three titles – and Rock Band faded away, the developer kept experimenting with the concept of music applied to other genres. Given the massive popularity of the first person shooting genre, it must have been a quite logical leap to combine both concepts, giving birth to the initial idea of Chroma.

First announced on the seventeenth of February 2014, Chroma constituted a collaboration between two developer teams: Harmonix itself, bringing their expertise in musical games and Hidden Path Entertainment, known for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Defense Grid: The Awakening among others. Chroma was simply put, an on-line Arena FPS that heavily relied on music and rhythm as an integral part of the experience.  Harmonix co-founder and CEO Alex Rigopulos declared upon Chroma’s announcement that it had been “a dream project (…) for some time”.

The game was first launched at the end of February of the same year on PC via Valve’s Steam platform as a closed Alpha available on a limited basis to those who had requested an access code. This early Alpha included a two-part tutorial and an on-line Deathmatch, with the latter not playable anymore as its servers have been taken off-line. The game’s aesthetics evoke a futuristic virtual world, with vivid plain colors, neon lights and techno music, which easily remind of either Tron or SEGA’s Rez, another title that, while being a one-player on-rails experience, also fused shooting and music.

A newbie in Chroma would probably jump straight into the training mode upon launching the game for the first time. This tutorial covers the somehow familiar but also unusual gameplay and it immediately introduces the concept of the metronome, represented as an on-screen bar that signals the music beats. The metronome offers an essential help to the player, since most of Chroma’s controls are influenced by the music beats. A robotic narrator simulating an AI guides the player through all the available actions, which include jumping, fast traveling between portals, shooting and reloading. All those revolve around the concept of rhythm and reward the player for triggering the actions in sync with the music.

The second part of the training introduces the different classes and their weapons. Chroma has five classes with different gameplay possibilities:

  • Assault. Equipped with a submachine gun and a grenade launcher, the Assault class provides good offensive capabilities, specially with delayed grenade detonation by using the music beats to its own advantage.
  • Engineer. Relies on a set dual pistols (which display an additional HUD that will be familiar to Guitar Hero players and indicates whether to shoot the left or the right hand pistol) and a shotgun. The Engineer also offers some additional strategical possibilities by deployment of sentinel turrets.
  • Sneak. Combines the stealth granted by a sniper rifle with the power of the “Streak Pistol”, whose damage multiplier gets increased by successfully syncing the shoots with the beats.
  • Support. As its name implies, this class has limited damaging abilities but it can heal other players and deploy “healing stations”, that can also be targeted and destroyed if considered a menace.
  • Tank. The heavy hitter of the bunch. It uses a rocket launcher, whose projectiles can become heat-seeking at any time after firing by mouse-clicking on the beat, and a shotgun that can be used as a melee weapon as well.

Chroma offered an innovative approach to a genre that has dominated the videogame scene for some years and while many players appreciated Harmonix’s ambition of expanding music games into new horizons, the general consensus regarding the closed Alpha was quite mixed. Some players described the connection between music and shooting as clunky and uninteresting, adding little to none to the overall enjoyment of the game and even making it a tad frustrating, as for instance some weapons could only be shot at a very specific instant marked by the musical beats.

Beyond personal tastes, the concept behind Chroma seemed to need much more than debugging and rather was relying on core mechanics that were not working that well. Probably aware of this, Harmonix shut down the closed Alpha just a few months after its initial launch, in June 2014. The developer sent a communication to all players appreciating the extensive feedback received and announcing that the title would, in their own words “need some substantial retooling to be the game we want it to be”. They even claimed that “the team has, in fact, already started prototyping new directions for the game based on those successful mechanics.” Promising as this might have sounded, this was the last time players heard of the ill-fated Arena FPS and the lack of subsequent information could only point out to a permanent cancellation.

Involved with different publishers and franchises after their time with Activision had come to an end, it is not like Harmonix put all its eggs in one basket, so even with Chroma canned, they still released other entries of their Dance Central series and one year later players would see another landmark release: the fourth entry in the Rock Band series, attempting a comeback of the music genre and ultimately underperforming in terms of sales. This hinted a general decline of interest in what once was a beloved genre that provided huge amounts of revenue to those who had bet on it at the right time.

Thanks to Robert for the contribution!

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Attack of the Killer Rabbids from Outer Space [Cancelled – PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U]

Attack of the Killer Rabbids from outer Space, later retitled Killer Freaks from outer Space, was a first person shooter developed by Ubisoft Montpellier that would eventually become ZombiU for the Wii U.

Originally planned as an untitled horror shooter for the PS3 and Xbox 360 in 2010, the game was already intended to be a part of the Rayman spinoff series Raving Rabbids wherein earth was attacked by a much more frightening “cousin” of the Rabbids. Early concept art depicts them as being very similar looking to the Rabbids but with sharp teeth and, in some instances, missing their eyeballs. Also revealed in concept art were designs for different types of enemies such as a basic trooper, a shield trooper, a giant Rabbid, UFOs, and a variety of other alien vehicles.  Multiple soldiers can be seen fighting the Rabbids in some of the art, suggesting that would the player would not only be taking the role of one of these soldiers, but there would be co-op multiplayer as well.

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This more “mature” tone and the level of violence in the game began to cause concern among the game’s developers as they felt it was begin to stray too far from the child friendly franchise.  “We thought about making them cousins to the Raving Rabbids,” designer Jean-Karl Tupic-Bron stated in in an interview with Polygon, “but quickly decided to split [it off]- This is not what Raving Rabbids is all about.

In response to the issue they changed the invaders from “Killer Rabbids” to “Killer Freaks” and officially revealed the game under that title at E3 2011 as a launch game for the Wii U.  While the Freaks remained very similar to the Rabbids in size and stature they were given a much more reptilian appearance to differentiate them from their earlier counterparts. Set in a post-apocalyptic London, the game pitted 1-4 players against hordes of the Freaks with an arcade run n gun style of gameplay complete with a point system. An early trailer and gameplay video revealed a variety of weapons that could be used against the Freaks ranging from handguns and shotguns to a buzzsaw launcher and electricity gun.

Despite the early footage getting a positive response the team still wasn’t satisfied with what the game was turning out to be.  The driving force behind this was their desire to create an experience tailor suited for the Wii U, something that the fast paced shooter that they had made didn’t deliver on. Another reason was that the Freaks, despite being well liked by the team, were too small and forced players to look towards the ground for a majority of the game.  It is because of these pacing and gameplay issues that the team decided zombies were the next logical step.

Many of the aspects were completely overhauled in the transition to ZombiU, with Tupic-Bron citing the one vs many book and film I am Legend as a major inspiration towards the change.  First and foremost the pace of the game was significantly slowed down, hence the change to zombies as they are generally depicted as being slow and stumbling.  They introduced a focus on preparation, patience, and inventory management as opposed to the frantic gameplay in the previous installment.

This allowed them to utilize the Wii U pad more effectively, as it was now used for vital gameplay features such as displaying the map and organizing the player’s inventory.  They also abandoned the more comical aspects of the game in favor of a darker and more serious toneCo-op was also removed and instead was replaced by a unique “one death” in which every survivor the player controlled only had one life, and the next survivor the player controlled would have to make their way to the now zombified previous survivor and kill them for their supplies.  One of the only aspects that remained relatively unchanged was the vs multiplayer in which one player would control an army of aliens/zombies with the game pad, while the other would try and survive as long as possible with a Wii-mote and nunchuck.

ZombiiU was released on November 18th, 2012 and ports for the Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC were released on August 18th, 2015.  News of a sequel in development began to spread when creative director Jean-Phillipe Caro mentioned working on a prototype, but It has since been 100% denied by the Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot as the game was not financially successful for the company.  It has been more recently revealed that this proposed game would have re-instated co-op gameplay like in the previous installments.  Ubisoft Montpellier continues to work on big franchise games such as the next Ghost Recon and the sequel to their cult hit Beyond Good and Evil.

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Prax War 2018 [PC – Cancelled]

Prax War 2018 was an ambitious FPS that was in development in late ‘90s by Rebel Boat Rocker and would have been published by Electronic Arts, but it was cancelled in january 1999 when the publisher pulled the plug on the project because “things were not progressing as quickly as they would have liked”. The project was quite hyped at the time, because Rebel Boat Rocker was composed of former 3D Realms developers (such as Billy Zelsnack, Jason Zelsnack, Lee Kime, James Storey, Dirk A. Jones, Brian Martel, James Storey and Randy Pitchford), a team that previously created such classic FPS as Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior and Blood.

The game was being developed using a Java 3D engine, to permit a different number of polygons shown depending on the distance of the player from the enemies and enviroment:

“As players pull back from an adversary, the polygon count will go from a high of 1,000 up close to 150 at a distance. This will allow RBR to “bring back the mow-down,” according to Pitchford, where you’ll face a platoon of up to 50 soldiers at a time.”

Gameplay would have been somehow similar to Half Life, with players being sent to the field to take out a terrorist menace:

“The story for Prax War was this. In 2032 the megalomaniac known as Dante takes over Prax Industries using Nikki Praxus, recent inheritor of the company, as a pawn. He is now using the power source Praxium to create an army of mutants and you, along with your military squad known as the Eclipse Team, must stop him from causing global havoc.”

The story would have unfold through a quite open-ended series of areas to explore, with players being able to interact with the environment and vehicles, for example by stealing a mech from enemies to gain more firepower. Online multiplayer with classic modes such as Capture the Flag and Rocket Arena was planned too.

Prax War’s cancellation became quite infamous because it was announced through Randy Pitchford’s .plan file (a system used at the time to log a developer’s task list, notes and future plans):

“The word from EA that’s out there about why Prax War was cancelled just about sums it up. “EA’s reasons were that they missed their technology window on this product and that things were not progressing as quickly as they would have liked.”

I need to mention, however, that the RBR content team was working closely with the on-site EA director of development on tight content schedules and milestones right up to the end. This includes all game art, models, levels, animation, artist objects, sound effects, etc.

[…] I am truly sorry that the gaming public will never get to play Prax War, for it was truly becoming something remarkable.

It was with sad but optimistic fever I cleaned my office yesterday, I am proud of my work on Prax War and am rewarded by the respect it had received from those who had the almost unique pleasure of being exposed to what we were creating. It should’ve been revolutionary for single-player gaming.

But, alas, “our game is but a dream“.”

The last sentence from Randy’s .plan file is a reference to something wrote a few weeks before by Apogee / 3D Realm’s Scott Miller, still angry with Rebel Boat Rocker because they left 3D Realms. After the early rumors of Prax War’s cancellation, Miller celebrated / joked about it saying “Row, row, your boat, Our game is but a dream”.

Some more details about Prax War 2018 were shared by Pitchford in an article on Loonygames:

“Some interesting things were happening in the industry that influenced us two years ago when we were designing the game. The third person 3D game was evolving and it was exciting a lot of people. We had played Tomb Raider and Mario 64 and were taken by some aspects of what those games provided. I concluded that it wasn’t the third person perspective in itself that was so great. After all, we (like everyone else) had difficulty adjusting to the problems of the control interface for both Tomb Raider and Mario 64. It seemed to be consistent that every third person game was much more difficult to control than the first person games we were used to. However, the thing that was uniquely cool about the third person game was that you could witness your character up-close performing cool moves and displaying animations and behavior that were fun to watch. That perspective was impossible, by definition, in a first person game. Our solution was to add several characters that were partners with the player that could exist in the game with the player and give us all the cool advantages of a third person game without the disadvantages of an indirect interface. It just looked cool to see a guy back flip off a wall or something. Since you’d never see your own character perform the act (as your eyes are in his head), we used the other friendly characters to show off the cool animations. The key to this would be hundreds of custom scripted animations and some good friendly partner AI.”

“Prax War was becoming a first person shooter with a squad, but I wouldn’t call it a squad based game. “Squad based game” implies that the player must give commands to the other members of the squad. In Prax War, the friendly characters would act on their own. Our player wasn’t required to command the other teammates any more than Luke commanded Han Solo in the movie.”

“In addition to developing an amazing 3D rendering engine, the Zelsnacks were big fans of physics. The content developers had just come off working on Shadow Warrior, which was one of the first 3D shooters to feature vehicles that the player could jump in and out of. The game didn’t do vehicles realistically because of the limits of the sector based engine, but it was still fun. And, we were seeing how vehicle combat gaming with more realistic physics could make a really fun deathmatch in I-76. Our engineers were sure they could outdo the physics in I-76 (which they did) so vehicles became a big part of Prax War.”

“Finally, most of us knew that the future of the 3D shooter was going to finally have to take the player outdoors. Attempts at outdoor areas within engines designed for corridor shooters up that point had been not believable, at best. But, fortunately, the engine that was being constructed at RBR was based around the concept of arbitrary polygons. This would allow us to have small and detailed geometry for complex indoor environments and have huge polygons that could build a vast terrain mesh. We were going to be the first 3D shooter that did outdoor environments in the quality of a racing game or military sim.”

“[…] another game appeared that made extensive use of scripted animations and presented friendly characters. Half-Life turned out to be a huge success which begged questions from our publisher about whether or not we could compete. Considering that at the time of Half-Life’s release, we had tons of quality content and some great rendering features, but no actual game, I must assume that some worried that we could not.”

After Prax War 2018 was cancelled, Rebel Boat Rocker was closed down but a few members lead by  Randy Pitchford went on to fund Gearbox Software and created popular Half Life expansion packs Opposing Force and Blue Shift. In Half Life: Blue Shift, there’s an easter egg about Prax War: “In the laundromat, a scientist and a security guard are playing a fighting arcade video game, named Prax Wars 2: Dante’s Revenge; the security guard eventually loses the game.”

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