In the late ‘90s Microprose UK was working on a Battletech real-time strategy game for PC, based on the official license by FASA Corporation. FASA’s own development team (FASA Studio) was probably still busy working on their first MechCommander video game (published in 1998), so we can assume the company asked Microprose to work on a different game in the meantime. In the end Microprose’s Battletech was cancelled, but thanks to game designer Terry Greer we know a few details about this lost project:
“Battletech (based on a license from FASA and set in the Battletech universe and with lead designer Richard Bakewell) was in relatively good shape when I started as Head of Game Design at Microprose UK, so I really had very little to do with it – apart from working on creating the cutscene scripts, and overseeing it until its untimely cancellation.
Battletech had its own engine, a basic terrain editor, and the beginnings of control mechanics. It was also very extensively documented with a detailed GDD and specification, along with lots of artwork and models – and was fully thought through (the Battletech license was owned by FASA).
The game was based around controlling a small squad of mechs (basically big power suits) with just a single operator across a height-based map with deformable terrain. Tactics and squad formation and use were to play a large part in the gameplay.
Unfortunately the game was canned a short time later for reasons that were out of our control and which involved FASA suddenly reversing their decision to continue. I still have some artwork from the game – but can’t get the demo to run any more, it required other installed files which I no longer have.”
“Sierra Studios proudly announces Orcs Revenge of the Ancient, a fantasy strategy game developed by Berkeley Systems set in the world of Middle-earth from J.R.R Tolkien’s internationally acclaimed trilogy The Lord of the Rings. Cast as an Orc chieftain who has been assigned command of an elite group of fighting Orcs by Sauron, the Dark power, your group is charged with keeping the peace between the many evil factions of his army using whatever brutal means necessary. However, two other evil powers have emerged from the past to vie with Sauron for your aid in their respective quests and you must choose your alliances carefully to survive.
Orcs Select up to four common Orcs and transform them into brutal fighting machines, each with a unique fighting style created by you. Customize your Orcs’ fighting skills through intense training in which you build the best combination of killing moves suited to your Orc. Each Orc has its own specific personality and characteristics. For example, an Orc who is prone to violent outbursts may be difficult to train but ferocious in battle. Develop your Orcs’ Statistics such as intelligence, strength and dexterity in arena and field combat and sustain these skills with training exercises.
You will command your Orcs in real time 3-D combat, choosing their armor and weapons and suggesting fighting moves. Pit the Orcs under your command against over 30 enemies before taking them online to match skills with other Orcs in multiplayer mayhem.
As the original story of Orcs Revenge of the Ancient pulls you deeper into Tolkien’s Middle-earth, you will find yourself trapped in a deadly conflict of interests between the three dark powers. Your Orcs’ survival within this violent power struggle will determine whether they are capable of self-determination or merely servants of the Darkness.
+ Original and rich storyline based in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth + Open-ended gameplay + Customizable training and fighting + RPG-based skill system + Combo builder to create custom moves + Multiplayer online component”
Unfortunately the game was canned in late 1999 due to an internal reorganization, as we can read on IGN:
“What we do care about is the fact that due to this reorganization, Sierra has cancelled four of their upcoming titles including Desert Fighters and Pro Pilot Paradise (for which we shed no tears), and, more seriously, Babylon 5 and Orcs: Revenge of the Ancients. Worse news still is that the company has laid off more than 100 people who were working on those titles.”
Fleet: Shiva’s Gate is a cancelled real-time strategy space-sim that was in development by Waboo Studios (?) for Playstation 2. It seems the game was never officially announced and we cannot even find any details about the team behind it. An early prototype was found by collectors and sold around, until it was dumped and shared online in 2019.
Next Generation magazine wrote a nice preview of the game in their May 1997 issue, but even if Impressions and Sierra are still quite loved by PC gamers, today Captives is mostly forgotten by everyone. Only a few pages about the game can still be found online in some old websites and Sierra fansites.
“It could be argued that the action/puzzle genre, which took off with the publication of Lemmings in the early ’90s, has languished since the advent of real- time strategy games like Warcraft II and Command & Conquer. Now developer Impressions is trying to remedy that with Captives, a new spin on the formula. The game takes place in a far-off planetary colony, under attack by some decidedly unfriendly aliens, who have taken numerous hostages.
The player takes the role of Dak Ransome, a professional hostage rescuer, who enters the domed city in his combination rescue wagon and tank. Gameplay resembles a combination of elements from Lemmings and the classic Apple II game Choplifter.
The main idea is to locate a group of hostages, free them using the firepower of the tank, and then use the skills of the rescued captives to open up new areas and free additional prisoners. The four types of captives are civilians, engineers, scientists, and soldiers; only a limited number of each can be found in each of the game’s 25 to 30 levels. The developers are quick to point out, however, that like in Lemmings, many levels will have multiple solutions.
The most noticeable break from the tried and true is the use of a three-quarter, isometric perspective, as opposed to the side-scrolling, 2D which has been the norm, even for such recent action/puzzle releases as Lost Vikings II. While not yet fully 3D, the perspective still manages to open up the playfield considerably, giving a sense of scale and size often missing from the more simplified graphics of a Lemmings or Humans.
Overall, the game should combine a fast pace with humor and an easy-to-use interface. Multiplayer support is planned, and a level editor should be released sometime shortly after the game itself hits the shelves. With its high-res graphics and new approach, Captives could fill a niche the computer game industry hasn’t really seen in a while.”
It sounds like this could have became a fun and fascinating cult-classic, but unfortunately something went wrong during development: Captives was never released. By looking at the screenshots and short trailer available, it looks like the game was quite far in development: maybe one day someone could find a playable beta to share it to the world? It would be great to preserve this lost piece of PC gaming history.
Codename: Xtreeme Forces was a squad based real-time strategy action game, combining elements of fast-paced first person shooter with wide perspective and worldview of a RTS. Development started off in November 2003 by Raptor Entertainment, with a release scheduled for 2005 on PC. A playable demo was also made available for gaming journalists. Raptor Entertainment developed their own 3D engine from scratch called “XF Engine”, to use for their commercial projects.
Gameplay was described as anything but a typical shooter. It was planned to have players interact and talk with many different characters and objects during their missions. All of this was to have a somehow realistic gameplay and different characters relationships.
Squad-control and RTS-based mechanics were to be implemented too. Additionally, the game’s advanced A.I would have helped to carry out realistic dialogues with NPCs. Missions would open out as you play along, alternating between parts of break-necking action and intense strategy planning.
“The Soviet Union was born in violence. The bitterness of its birth left behind a hankering for peace. This drive for stability was subverted by the still nascent Communist government into its own ends. A comprehensive effort was made to institutionalize the rule of the party and to centralize it. The economy was nationalized and a virtual one- party rule was established. A centralized bureaucracy was entrenched within all organs of the state and eventually within all facets of life. The revolution then turned stale and became exactly what it professed to abhor.
The builders of the soviet empire had systematically destroyed any semblance of self expression and will the populace might have had, making them dependant on the state for everything. Central dependencies were actively created and imposed on the people with ruthless brutality. The empire was thus tragically flawed and when it collapsed under its own ideological discrepancies, it left behind a vacuum. And chaos quickly slipped in to take control.
The Soviet Union had stood for years as a bulwark against ethnical and regional strife. The dissolution of the empire let loose the tensions and discord which had been simmering for centuries and had been controlled with swift and brutal repressions of a police state. Added to the potent mix were the legitimate aspirations of the people which had been denied for so long under the soviet empire.
As the state started to collapse itself, it became increasingly difficult for whatever little structures of authority that were left, to accept the voices of independence. Wars erupted and the years of perceived or real slights and differences erupted out into the open.
The joker in the pack was of course the Mafiya. For years the ‘vor y zakone’ had been the lubricant which had kept the state machinery humming. It thrived on chaos and began to move in where the state left off. The Mafiya networks transcended all boundaries and permeated all walks of life. Ruthless and armed with purpose when no one around them had any, it became strong and firmly entrenched within the fabric of all that had once been Soviet. And then there is you……”
A whole range of different vehicles (such as trucks, jeeps etc) and a wide collection of weapons would have been available in the game. A multiplayer mode was in development as well, but it was set to come out at a later point of the games lifespan. Xtreeme Forces contained a custom level-editor as well. Finishing the story-mode would have taken about 12-13 hours of gameplay.
Due to the lack of support from publishers, the team had to give up on Xtreeme Forces in 2004. A new design document was written in 2008 in an attempt to revive the game, but unfortunately they still did not fund a publisher interested in funding their project. By then, the game was fully abandoned.
Initially Raptor Entertainment started working on Xtreeme Forces in order to test out their 3D engine, possibly to use it for other, following games. In the end it seems the team never released any commercial project and they soon vanished without traces.
Article by Vipaah, thanks to Raupidu and Dan for the contribution!