XL Translab

10th Planet (Bethesda) [PC – Cancelled]

10th Planet was an ambitious space combat simulator in development as a co-venture between Bethesda Softworks (you know, the studio that published The Elder Scrolls series) and Centropolis Production, two names that in the mid / late ’90 meant an high value game and lots of hype. Centropolis is a film production company founded in 1985 by Roland Emmerich, behind such popular movies as Stargate and Independence Day.

Another small company named “XL Translab” was hired to create high quality cinematics for the game’s intro and the story that was handled by the same Hollywood team that produced ID4. Here’s a short teaser from the game’s auto demo:

Somewhere beyond the orbit of Pluto, a planet full of aliens is waiting. In a centuries long orbit, this 10th planet is heading toward earth. Only your brilliant strategies and expert piloting can destroy the alien invaders. Based upon the Xngine, which provides a true 3D environment for real time space combat.

10th Planet was in development at least since 1995 and Bethesda acquired XL Translab in December 1997, possibly because they were impressed by the FMV they created for the game. The project was briefly shown in Next Generation magazine on February 1997, were they called it “the coolest space combat sim since TIE Fighter“. Bethesda planned to recreate space battles against large sci-fi armies and huge alien ships, similar to the ones seen in Independence Day, but unfortunately something went wrong and 10th Planet had to be cancelled.

A former Bethesda developer remember that the cinematics created by XL Translab were beautiful for their time, but costed a lot of money and made the real time game on the Xngine to look ugly in comparison :

yeah I remember sitting in the Bethesda theatre and seeing what you produced. It looked great if we were going to produce a new TV show but unfortunately it probably killed the product. How on earth were we ‘the game artists’ supposed to recreate the world you were selling. Too much time and money was wasted on this trailer.

At the moment we don’t know how much of the game was completed before the cancellation, if you worked on this lost project, please let us know!

Thanks to Sam Jones for the contribution!