Hollow is a canceled First-Person Shooter developed from January 2003 to October 2004 by ZootFly, for the PC and Xbox systems.
Officially revealed in September 2003, Hollow was quite ambitious for its time. The game had a pretty original story and background as we can read on the now-defunct official website of the game:
It’s 1978 in a country, called Centrope. The Great War raged for 38 years and left the world devastated. After the war, the Central Powers formed a single, giant state of Centrope. The vast territory is governed by an Orwellian off-beat Disco-totalitarian regime.
During the war, an advanced physics experiment went wrong somewhere in Ural, and created the Time Distortion Territory. Later, Centrope’s scientists invented a way to record time fragments that escaped the Territory. The fragments are thoroughly scrutinized for clues of the future. To the horror of the Centropean oligarchy, one of the fragments shows the Territory expanding all over Europe.
The oligarchy is convinced that the Territory is controlled by the Rebels from the Mirror City, which lies under the capital of Centrope and that they will use it to destroy Centrope. The Rebels are a powerful paramilitary group that controls a vertically mirrored replica of the capital – among other misfits, dissidents and criminals.
Conversely, the Rebels are certain that the State is controlling the Territory and will use it to destroy them. A grave misunderstanding: the Territory is controlled by neither side. In this tragic ignorance, both sides strive to save their skin: the oligarchy is planning a massive evacuation, while the Rebels are fiercely attacking State’s vital institutions.
In the middle of this maelstrom, Tyler Kilmore, a former US reporter who was expelled from Centrope five years ago, is brutally awakened the next morning after his return, as he came back from the US to reunite with his fiancée. He is arrested and charged with her murder – the murder of his fiancée Aiko Bronte. The Chief of Police suggests him to finish his life to spare everybody a painful investigation and save Aiko’s family, since she was a Rebel collaborator. Relentless to end his life, Tyler Kilmore is thrown out of a window in 87th floor by the helpful hand of the Police.
Luckily, Tyler lands on an airship and gets to see another day. Or does he?
Pursued by the Police, Tyler Kilmore must find out what happened to his fiancée. The search leads him through the perils of Centropolis, the giant capital of Centrope. Tyler gets to use many sorts of weapons, takes hostages, assassinates VIPs, drives vehicles, flies airships and executes audacious missions. The clues lead him to the chaotic underground Mirror City, packed with criminals, gangs and outlandish assignments, such as a spectacular car chase on the methane dump fields under inverted skyscrapers, hanging off the Firewall that separates Centropolis from the Mirror City.
All this to get the doctor that worked with Aiko, Tyler’s fiancée, and may know where she is. And she knows where Aiko is!
As the plot thickens, Tyler will make way into the impenetrable Time Distortion Territory, where a remote lake guards a submerged entrance to a primeval Underworld.
The hellish Underworld holds the key to saving Tyler’s fiancée and the world, and keeps the answers to many questions of ancient history.
The whole story of the game can be read here, thanks to Wayback Machine.
In addition to its original background, ZootFly promised several features never seen in video games before, or, at least, back then, which took the form of gadgets, weapons and powers:
The PolyVisor, which is used similarly to night vision goggles, is a breakthrough feature that enables Tyler Kilmore to see how dangerous the opponents actually are before engaging in a fight.
As Tyler switches the PolyVisor on, a display of tell-tale auras will encircle each opponent, singling out the most dangerous individual. Whether that is the most aggressive, intelligent or important individual in a group, Tyler will be able to plan his strategy using this information. The strength, direction of flickering and color of auras will tell him who to eliminate first to leave the rest of the group in disarray. Collective aura of a group will tell Tyler how the group is organized. Do they have a chain of command, do they attack in packs, or are they an amorphous group of one-track minds?
For example, Tyler will be able to eliminate the commanding officer first, leaving the rest of the troops in confusion for a while. Using PolyVisor, Tyler will be able to single out undercover agents in a group of civilians. He’ll be able to predict how cops will react when he takes a hostage: will they shoot to kill or will they let him bluff his way past them with an empty gun? And much, much more: in the multiplayer mode, the PolyVisor will show health and armor of other players and their skillfulness, based on their previous actions.
The HoloSnoop is a highly visually attractive feature that will enable Tyler to control a holographic image of himself in third person view and walk it around the level to a limited distance.
Consequently, Tyler will be able to inspect some of the level without being exposed to immediate danger, and trick NPCs into believing the hologram is Tyler himself. This opens a whole new aspect of, for example, planning diversions.
By using the HoloSnoop, a hologram of Tyler will detach from the first person camera and seamlessly blend into the third person view. The hologram can perform all actions except engaging in a fight, but its range of operation is limited to about twenty yards.
ChronoFreeze is a feature that enables Tyler to freeze time for resolving most complex situations, or to reverse time for a couple of moments and undo mistakes.
Tyler can, for example, throw some crates off a skyscraper rooftop and use ChronoFreeze the next moment to freeze time. He can then jump off the rooftop and land on the crates that stopped a couple of floors down frozen in time, break a window on that floor and jump into the building. Of course, time is of the essence: ChronoFreeze works only a couple of moments and Tyler must be as quick and agile as possible to complete a feat like this.
The alternative usage will enable Tyler to rewind time a couple of moments back, making it possible to fix mistakes or undo wrong moves. Tyler will thus be able to try the most daring stunts without the danger of dying instantly, relieving the player from the hassle of quick saving and loading.
Many other features were planned for the single-player campaign as well as the multiplayer, alongside various characters. Multiplayer info are available here and other features alongside characters and enemies can be view here.
Using a proprietary engine called Xubl, Hollow was planned for a release between Christmas 2004 and Spring 2005, and ZootFly made multiple comparaison with other famous FPS games such as Doom 3, Halo and Battlefield 1942. In March 2004, GenGamers was able to get an interview with CEO Bostjan Troha, who shared some more information about the title:
G.G. Have you been inspired by other games or movies?
B.T. Sure. Brazil, one of my favorite movies, was the top inspiration; Delicatessen for bizarre environment; Kafka with his oppressive and intolerable situations; the Brady Bunch with their upbeat approach to living in the Disco-ridden seventies; plus the Italian Carabinieri with their Village People uniforms… Then there is Half Life 2 which we all want to get close to as far as gameplay and graphics is concerned.
G.G. Is Hollow a typical shooter or will you implent interesting gameplay variations?
B.T. We have some quite cool features that will rock the gameplay.
One is what we call ChronoLeap. The player is able to fast rewind time for up to 15 seconds and redo their actions again as the second embodiment of Tyler. The first Tyler will exactly recreate actions from the initial attempt, while the second Tyler will be fully controllable by the player. Thus the player will be able to act as his own buddy, helping himself progress through the level with double power.
The number of rewinds, and consequently embodiments of Tyler, is limited by the player’s health. With each rewind, the player’s Tyler will get only one half of the original Tyler. Thus, the third Tyler will get one half of the second Tyler.
Another nice feature are objects with flammable liquids. For example, you’re able to pick up a gasoline canister and spill the liquid on the floor, creating a trail of gasoline, and then ignite it with a bullet. With this you can prevent AIs from advancing, explode oil barrels from safe distance and much more.
We want to create the ultimate emergent gameplay. Gamers are able to use different global paths (e.g. get to the B by driving through highway barricades or shooting your way through the subway), local paths (e.g. sneak through back rooms on a silent kill spree, or blast the way through the station), and use any object in the environment to their advantage.
G.G. How many weapons will appear, and what´s up with the equipment? Will we see some helpful goodies?
B.T. For example, the player has a navigable pill bug robot, equipped with a camera, incapacitating spikes and a self-destructing bomb that can crawl on walls and ceilings. Weapons include all the comfortably known guns, plus wicked weapons, such as the DeBoner that instantly decomposes calcium in bones and reduces the opponent in a boneless chicken.
G.G. Will you include different endings? Is there any replay value?
B.T. There will be three different endings, determined by the psychometrics engine.
User’s inputs can tell everything we need to know about the player. How they react in a tight situation, how they use resources, how they interact and communicate, how they deal with challenges. What is their sequence of keys pressed, how jerky are movements of the mouse. What do they do when they enter a new space: do they go in the middle of the room and look around or do they explore details first? What is the average speed of their movement?
Based on such information the engine will build a psychological profile of the player and adapt the game accordingly. Based on this, the game will have three distinctively different conclusions. The game will branch at two thirds of the story to three distinctive resolutions, and the psychometrics engine will pick the right one for the player.
The immediate reaction of the game works on the principle of positive feedback. If the player is cerebral, they will get more cerebral puzzles; if the player is violent, they will get more violence. The immediate response works for the benefit of the player on the usability/learning curve level as well. How often does the player quick-save? Maybe the game is too difficult. How many new rooms do they discover in a specific time? Maybe they are lost and need additional stimuli to proceed, maybe they are too fast and the game is not fun anymore and they need more interesting obstacles.
G.G. Are there any plans for a multiplayer part?
B.T. Multiplayer side of Hollow will run on broadband PCs and Xbox Live for up to 64 players and will feature 10 different multiplayer maps and various vehicles.
There are three opposing teams instead of two to add a different dimension to multiplayer first-person action gaming. It is sure interesting to engage in a fight against two other teams; each team will have to plan and coordinate their actions more carefully in order to win. It definitely adds an element of forging alliances and – surely enough- backstabbing. However, those three teams won’t have to stay each on their sides the whole time, since two teams will be able to form alliances and fight the third team.
Hollow Multiplayer will have all the usual modes (such as capture the flag, team deathmatch, co-op, POW rescue), plus some unique such as racing. However, there will also be some additional features that are worth mentioning. Players will be able to infiltrate any of the other two teams by taking the role of a spy and by performing undercover actions. Other cool features that will completely change game tactics are the options to take prisoners of war and taking hostages. You’ll also be able to increase your chances of survival by playing dead and sharing ammunition and health with other players.
However, in October 2004, Hollow was put on-hold due to lack of publishers interested in the project, as we can read on GenGamers again:
Zootfly Software´s Bostjan Troha let us know that their first person shooter Hollow is “on hold” now. They didn´t find a publisher yet.
We can speculate that the overambitions intended for Hollow was what which pushed the publishers not to sign a deal with ZootFly, of which it was also the very first game.
Hollow wasn’t the only cancelled game made by ZootFly. Years after that, the studio also had another new IP named Time0, developed from the remnants of a Ghostbusters prototype, which was cancelled for the same reason as Hollow. There was also a mysterious prototype codenamed World War 3 developed around 2005-2006 and their last game, Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death, began as a Mr. T video game, back in 2009, before being reworked, as Bostjan Troha pointed out recently on Twitter:
It was rather redeveloped as Marlow Briggs. The reason was that Mr. T’s agent offered us a blank slate for the IP. However, they later decided that the Mr. T’s game character mustn’t ever hurt anyone, be violent, only do good stuff, etc. Which makes it a hard game to develop.
ZootFly was acquired in 2013 by casino company Interblock.