Origin Systems

Frontier (Origin Systems) [PC – Cancelled Pitch]

Frontier is a lost PC game pitched by Warren Spector  to Origin Systems with a planned to ship date of Q2 ’94, and was described as a system simulation of the taming of the old west. The high concept of this game was that the player would be a pioneer and they would have to explore and settle a new nation. The player would have to choose what route they would take, the Oregon Trail, the Santa Fe Trail, what time of the year they would travel, how many settlers would travel with them and where they would eventually stop.

Origin systems logo

Once the player had decided where to settle they would then choose what they would like their settlers to specialize in like farming, mining or becoming a rancher. The player would then have numerous natural disasters they would have to deal with like earthquakes and floods, natural predators, “Indians” (Native Americans), and what is described as “bad men”. There would also be NPC players that would be direct competition to the player.

The players initial goal was to attract new settlers to their settlement so that they can start a community and make a prosperous new town, this would lead to trains stopping at the town, mail routes, and banks. Ultimately the goal was to attract the county seat and then the state capital so that your settlement could request to become a state, but the player could decide how they would get there, striving to keep their settlers happy or becoming a rich tycoon.

Interestingly this game was pitched as more of an educational game that was akin Civilization, Sim City and Railroad Tycoon, they were looking to attract the audience of these games but were also looking at it being utilized in schools. This would have been Origin’s first simulation, and as far as I can see this game went no further than this pitch document.

Many thanks to Joe Martin for the document.


Gladiator 3000 (by Ion Storm) [Cancelled Pitch – PC]

Gladiator 3000 was a pitch from Ion Storm (the team behind such titles as Daikatana, Deus Ex and Anachronox) to Origin for a 3D man-to-man RPG combat simulator that would have been developed for the PC. Ion storm were looking for a budget of around $500,000 depending if an engine was already available for them to use. Ion Storm were awaiting concept approval so they could start development.

The game was going to use the ancient lore of Gladiatorial battles from ancient Rome and put them into the future on a very inhospitable planet in the farthest reaches of the Galaxy. There would only be one complex on this planet and it would be solely use for gladiatorial combat. Players would have taken the role of a warrior who had been enslaved by an alien race and the only way to win his freedom was to fight for it. This would have been against other gladiators, robots, animals and alien monsters.

The game was going to utilize a very popular RPG system where players would allocate points to their warriors in different stats that they would want to excel in, they would also have the option to pick a pre-generated warrior or randomize them. Many different alien races would have been available for the player to choose and each of these would have different strengths and weaknesses. The arena that the player would fight in would have different scenarios and landscapes and was described in the document as infinitely variable. There would have been water, fire, ice pits and mazes included, and the player would have to change tactics depending on the arena they were going to fight in.

The other main features that were to be included in the game were limbs that could be chopped off, dozens of weapons from primitive to advanced alien technology, numerous different combat manoeuvres, three levels of difficulty, head to head combat online. Graphically Ion Storm wanted to use bitmapped images over rendered 3D skeletons.

Described as the main risk for the game, was the actual 3D figure technology that would be used to animate the characters in the game. Ion Storm wanted to minimize the risk by utilising technology that Origin had already started developing, such as the corridor rendering technology form Bounty Hunter, Ion Storm thought that if they could not utilise the technology the risks would greatly increase in developing this game.

This game does not look like it was taken any further than the initial pitch and so there is not much more information that can be found on this game, if you do have any please feel free to contact us.

Many thanks to Joe Martin for the document.


Ultima IX (9) [PC – Beta]

Ultima IX (9) is a RPG in the Ultima series, developed by Origin Systems and released for PC in 1999. Ultima 8 was released in 1994 and in those 5 years between the 2 titles, the “Ultima IX project” had a long and troubled development. As we can read on Wikipedia, there have been at least 4 distinct beta versions of Ultima IX, with different storyline and technological implementation.

The first version was already conceived by Ultima creator Richard Garriott when Origin began to work on Ultima VII, but this early concept was soon canned. The second version was developed between 1995-1997, following the feedback received by fans of the series.

By late 1995 or early 1996, the first beta screenshots of Ultima IX appeared in gaming magazines: it had a 3D graphic engine in which the camera appeared locked into an overhead view that approximated the isometric point of view of Ultima VIII, but could be rotated about its vertical axis and zoomed in or out. The game was planned to have a party system with multiple characters and pre-rendered cutscenes.

With the unexpected success of the beta phase of Ultima Online in 1996, Origin moved most of the Ultima IX team to work on that game. By the time work was resumed on Ultima IX in late 1997, corporate interest in Ultima IX had greatly diminished, many of the original team members had left Origin, and the 3D engine was already becoming out of date.

The third version of the game was developed between 1997 and 1998. The Ultima IX team experimented with different camera angles in a new 3D engine and decided that a third-person over-the-shoulder perspective, would have been more immersive. The game would no longer have a party of companions for the Avatar and would once again be a single-character game.  In early 1998, several designers of Ultima IX left Origin.

In early 1999, Electronic Arts set Origin a deadline so that the game HAD to be shipped for Christmas. However, Ultimaa IX was still notoriously bug-ridden and it was impossible to implement the scale of the world and the big story in the given time. Trying to rescue what they could, they shrinked Britannia considerably, rewrote the plot to make it much more simple. In the final version of Ultima IX: Ascension, some elements of the previous  beta storyline were kept, presumably to make use of the existing (and expensive) pre-rendered cinematics, but most of them were either heavily edited or used in a dramatically different context than originally intended.

In the gallery below you can see many screens from Ultima IX 1995 / 1997 beta version, so much different from the final 1999 version that it could be considered as a cancelled game of its own. You can find more info at Ultima Wiki!

Unused maps and models in Ultima IX: Ascension were found still hidden in the game’s code, as we can read from Hacki’s Ultima Page and Ultima Wiki:

  • Useable Halberds
  • Gremlins
  • Red Moongates
  • A Keyring
  • Asylum
  • Cove
  • Several islands
  • Britain Catacombs
  • Several dungeons

Thanks to Celine for the contribution! Scans from Edge magazine #41


Here’s a video from the final version of Ultima IX:

Prowler [PSX – Cancelled]

Prowler (also know as Storm Troop and Prawler) is a cancelled sci-fi action game with mechs, that was in development at Origin Systems (the team behind the Wing Commander series) in 1994. Initially the project was meant to be released for the 3DO, as their Super Wing Commander remake, but with the failure of the console the game was soon moved to the Playstation. As we can read in an interesting article written by Sean Murphy (former Origin Systems designer) on the Wing Commander News website, the project had many problems right from the start:

Team communication was poor. Leadership was iffy. There was almost no dialog between the art staff and the programming staff. I remember one day, months into the project, sitting in a meeting and hearing the programmers drooling about how cool the game was going to be, how “dark…and gritty…and dirty, and oily and all mechanical and functional and stuff!” Clearly they had not gotten the memo about our grand notions of Neo Victorian design…

And some time later – as little as three months, possibly as long as six months – sure enough, EA pulled the plug on Prowler and let most of the team go.

You can read the full article from Sean Murphy in here. Some early concept videos from the game were preserved by the Origin Museum in 2008, and they will be shared with the community sooner or later. For now you can see some concept arts in the gallery below.

Celine was also able to find an in-game screenshot of Prowler, from TopConsoles #4 and CD Consoles #4 magazine (the same screen was in the 2 magazines).

Thanks to OMJoe for the contribution!



Ultima 8: The Lost Vale [PC – Cancelled]

Ultima VIII: Pagan is the eighth part of the computer RPG series Ultima: it was developed by Origin Systems and released in 1994 for the PC. Dominus sent us a couple of links (here and here) in which we can read some informations about the cancelled Ultima 8 expansion, that was called The Lost Vale. It seems that:

The Lost Vale was planned to be an add-on for Ultima 8, but it was never released. Sources seem to suggest that the add-on was fully made and ready for release, but was not released because of Ultima 8’s relatively poor sales […] The Lost Vale would have been accessed from the locked double-doors at Bonecrusher’s cave on the Plateau […] This Vale would apparently offer an additional adventure for the Avatar during his stay in Pagan, featuring the other three Zealan gods and a shield with their symbols, broken in two. […]

We can even read some more infos on PC games That Weren’t. If The Lost Vale was really finished, we can hope that one day it could be leaked and preserved somehow.

Thanks to Dominus for the contribution!



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