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.
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.”
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.