Meantime

Interplay

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Meantime was a new RPG being developed by Interplay for the Apple II and PC, with a view to porting the Apple II version to the C64, like with Wasteland which was released in 1988 by Electronic Arts.

The plot involved stopping a set of bad guys from screwing up time by changing important events throughout history. A kind of a "Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure" style plot in many ways (It certainly inspired this RPG.)

The game was not a sequel to Wasteland, but used the very same engine. Overall the game was worked on for over 4 years and in that time there were a large amount of levels for the game. Unfortunately during the long time period of constructing the game and using the 1987 Wasteland engine, by 1992 the game was looking very dated, and Ultima VII had just been released (Blowing Meantime completely out of the water). The Apple II was also at the end of its life, and this was the main development version before later porting to C64 and PC. To bring up to scratch, the game would have had to have been redone to complete against the latest titles of the time. As a result the game was sadly cancelled.

When asked about the game’s existance, Bill Dugan sadly didn’t have any of the source disks. The remains are likely to reside in an old desk somewhere that Interplay once owned. Maybe Alan (If he was involved on the game) still has something of it left?

Additionally – The C64 version would likely have been ported from the Apple II version once the Apple II version was complete. There is a small possibility that a test port was done, and we hope to find out soon if this was the case.

For now, check out Creator Speaks to hear what Bill Dugan and Becky Heineman had to say from their own point of view about the game.

Will anything ever be uncovered of this?…

Contributions: Bill Dugan, Becky Heineman, Agustin, Seth of 8 bit Weapon

Supporting content

Bill Dugan speaks to GTW about Meantime...

"My job on Meantime changed over time. I worked on Wasteland in 1986 and 87, and Wasteland was published at the beginning of 1988 after a pretty lengthy QA period at EA. Alan Pavlish wrote a level editor for the same engine at, I'd say, the beginning of 1988, since in Wasteland the levels had been written out on pencil and paper by the designers, and then they had to be coded and rewritten by us scripters and some programmers by typing in a bunch of bytes using the Merlin assembler. The editor was really important for us all. An editor! The designers could directly place icons on the map and directly edit the scripting data, type in the text like, "Ouch! You just walked into a door", the skills that were supposed to be tested, enemy units and their stats, and all the other stuff that was needed; and then they could build the map and play the game. My memory on the dates is vague, but I believe it was in mid-1989 that I worked on Meantime as sort of a map wrangler.

The designers had used this editor to code a lot of levels, and there were many problems with the levels - the editor made the production cycle a lot tighter because the designers themselves could at least detect all the bugs they were creating, and let us know. But the production of levels still took a long time. One of the main (contracted) designers quit in the middle, leaving us with a number of partially designed maps, and that hurt. Most of the levels were designed and at least mostly coded in 1989. Then I was off the project entirely in 1990, and then in 1991 I came back to the project to be the producer on the DOS version - the bottom had fallen out of the Apple II games market around 1988 or so, and Interplay had decided to try to redo the art for 320x200, 256-color VGA (if I remember correctly), and port, finish, and ship the game with one contract programmer, one artist, and one designer. We worked on it in 1991 and then in 1992, I believe it was, we killed it. The actual thing that got it killed, I will say, was the release of the game Ultima VII. I looked at that game and said: The world has passed us by. Ultima VI we could have competed with, but not Ultima VII.

At the time it was finally killed, the game was playable on DOS machines, still needed a lot of work to complete the port and get all functionality working, and I will guess that something like 3/4ths of the maps were complete or mostly working; but even those maps were not actually polished enough to be shippable. That editor was never ported to DOS, and part of the problem of the port, aside from lack of staffing resources, was that all the maps still had to be created and edited over on an Apple II, and then built, and then the built game files had to be moved over to a PC and tested there, and the Apple II version of the game code itself was not maintained while those maps were being worked on. In general I think we needed triple the staff, and more producer attention would have helped.

[QUESTION] Are there any working floppies around or screen shots?

Um, I don't have any. Interplay has the archive disks somewhere, if it hasn't sold off the physical floppy disks.

[QUESTION] Why didnt interplay do a true sequel to Wasteland, why did they decide to do meantime?

EA owned the name "Wasteland" and the IP. Some other developer apparently created a sequel of sorts for EA, called "Fountain of Dreams", which I didn't ever play - I'm not even sure if it was actually a sequel or if it existed in the same game universe.

GAMEPLOT FROM BILL

The plot was that there were bad guys that were trying to screw up time by changing many important events throughout history. (A few years later, Homer Simpson did this when he swatted a mosquito and accidentally made Flanders the unquestioned lord and master of the universe.) Your mission was to go back to each instance where the bad guys visited, and thwart the bad guys by making sure that the important local event occurred the same way that it was supposed to in our timeline. As a reward in most of these scenarios, the player got to recruit a famous historical figure into the party.

The famous-people angle worked really well with the skill-based RPG system that Meantime inherited from Wasteland - you got to encounter and impress Cyrano de Bergerac by jumping onto a chandelier, swinging across the big tavern room, and kicking down the mean guy who had started the tavern-fight, and if you were to then pick Cyrano up into the party you'd find that he had an immense Sword skill; you had to make sure Wernher von Braun went to the US instead of the Soviets, and you'd then benefit from his engineering skill; you could find Amelia Earhart in a Japanese POW camp (mystery solved) and recruit her into the party. I don't think we had a Piloting skill in Meantime, so I'm not remembering what Earhart's super skill was.

You'll notice similarities to "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure", the "Time Patrol" stories by Poul Anderson, and of course that Simpsons Halloween episode. I think it bothered us all when we went to the movies some Friday night and watched Bill and Ted with its whole angle of picking up famous people throughout history - we were sure we'd all get ragged on for plagiarizing Bill and Ted.

I think the concept was really great and there was a ton of flavor in having a historical party with these amazing strengths that your characters couldn't ever develop yourself. Need a really high Sword skill? Go get Cyrano from the 1600s. One weakness in the game design that was not solvable, though, was that if this game were a movie instead of a computer game, and you had Cyrano, Amelia Earhart, and Wernher von Braun in an adventuring party, you'd want these people to have lots of little conversations, and see the mindset of the medieval age clash with the modern mindset in different ways, for drama and humor and a bit of depth. You'd also want to ask them all the obvious questions about themselves. How do you design a game where this angle is at all satisfactory? How many times have you played a game where a character answers a couple of canned questions, and then tells you "I don't feel like talking any more right now"? I don't think you can do a satisfying famous NPC unless the game has a conceit that people are mostly mute for some reason - hey! I picked up P.T. Barnum into my party, but the bad guys have set off a secret weapon that destroyed every human's voice box! - or if the game is set up like the interactive primer in "The Diamond Age" by Neal Stephenson, where the game is an MMO and the parts of the famous characters are played by hired human actors over the net. Then you could have all these famous people finish a quest, head over to the bar, and have a giant argument over beers (and, I guess, mead for the medieval Europeans in the party).

(also)
Let's see. The end-of-world-war-two mission was that the bad guys tried to kidnap von Braun and bring him to the Soviet Union, which would have hurt American rocket research a lot and would have changed the course of the Cold War. The Soviets would have landed on the Moon instead of the Americans. I don't remember the broader implications beyond that for the bad guys. In this mission, you would arrive at about the same time as the bad guys and I think you were supposed to get into a gunfight with them, stopping the kidnapping. Or you could recruit von Braun into the party and run to safety, and when you dismissed him from the party, dropping him off into the hands of the US Army, it completed the mission.

Can't remember what we called the Ranger Center in Meantime.

I'm kicking myself that I can't remember what the tutorial level was centered around, because I seem to remember spending a lot of time on it, but can't remember!"

Bill Dugan.

Becky Heineman speaks to GTW about Meantime...

"I’ll start off in saying that Mean Time was not a sequel to Wasteland. It was a game that was started right after Wasteland shipped using the same engine that created Wasteland. The project didn’t have a strong leader so it was worked on for over 4 years.

After that time, they had a pretty decent first few levels of the game, but the engine was showing it’s age. Also, the lead version was the Apple ][ and in 1991-1992, the Apple ][ was already on it’s way out. It was decided that they would almost have to start over from scratch if they wanted to make the game competitive against titles in the PC shipping in 1992, so they decided to cancel the project.

The plot was about the party having to travel through time and having adventures in periods like Chicago in the 30’s (Al Capone) etc, but the game only exists in the memories of some game designers."

Becky Heineman.

This is an adapted review from Just Adventures, which reviews this entry quite perfectly, with a few additions from Frank. We could not contact Agustin - but full credit has been given. This used to be the original writeup.

Around 1988 was the Golden Age of RPG's. Excellent titles based on AD&D filled the shelves but one stood out from the rest: Wasteland.?

It made a 180 degrees turn from other fantasy RPG games by taking the storyline to a post-apocalyptic future. The merely functional graphics didn't turn away a lot of people who were captivated by this game for months. The innovations it contributed to the genre are countless but, in particular, the character creation system was copied in many other games. It is to this day one of the most respected RPG games ever.? It would be a full ten years before a sequel in spirit only was released:

Fallout.? But the real sequel, a very promising one, got lost in time.

Meantime became a kind of a myth among Wasteland fans. There was lots of speculation about how the story would continue, what new ideas it would present, the new engine, etc.? But the popular consensus was that Meantime was going to be a great game; a great game that no one would ever see.

Over the course of the years, small glimpses of the Meantime premise were revealed: it would involve time travel and some exciting figures would join the party like Cyrano de Bergerac, Werner von Braun and, possibly, Albert Einstein. This party would then fix glitches found through History caused by other
historical bad guys.

After the project was discontinued, Electronic Arts, who owned the rights to Wasteland, released a semi-official sequel - utilizing the same engine - by the name of Fountain Of Dreams. It was a complete fiasco.

Why was Meantime cancelled? It was being developed in Apple II and a beta was in progress when the 8-bit game market started to decline rapidly. The official excuse was that there weren't enough resources to port the game to DOS. This is actually the only information available for this game and there aren't existing screenshots.

Check out the Archive Info page for more snippets of information, as found at: http://wasteland.rockdud.net/meantime.html
Additional to note is that Computer Gaming World Magazine listed Meantime in its Vaporware top 15 in an issue several years ago.

The game itself will be a very tough cookie to find... The developers have spoken to various sources in the past (as you can see in "Archive Info"), and they are very protective of any source code for Meantime. We are still hopeful though.

What needs to now be found is the C64 developers of this game to see if anything can be found of the code or if indeed anything actually exists on the C64. We believe that its very possible that it never got ported from the Apple beta which was created. We believe there is at least the box-art to find, so we'll do whatwe can!..

Various bits of archived info from the web:

"If you've played Wasteland, then you know that it foretells a sequel. You'll find this information on Faran Brygo's computer screen. Why was this sequel never finished, instead turning into "Vaporware," as the industry calls such products that were in development but were never published? Below I present the scoop as I dug / learned it, from its origins on an old Interplay F.A.Q., to newsgroup posts, to the sequel that finally did see the light of day, albeit in much different form, and finally, to interviews of Interplay staff, which yielded the official and final word on what Meantime was and wasn't going to be.

Interplay FAQ -- early 1990s:

Here is an excerpt from an old version of the Interplay Frequently Asked Questions document. When I write "old," I'm referring to early 1990s. This document no longer exists that I know of online, and therefore no longer contains the below Questions and Answers, but I managed to swipe the section on Meantime before they deleted the relevant parts.

::: Historical Products :::

Q: What is the deal with Interplay, EA and the Bard's Tale/Wasteland series?

A: Interplay was the developer of the Bard's Tale series and Wasteland for Electronic Arts (EA). EA has the rights to those titles. Now that Interplay is a full-blown developer/publisher in our own right, whenever we want to do something with those games (like the 10th Anniversary CD-ROM or the Bard's Tale Construction Set) then Interplay must license some of these rights on a per title basis from EA.

Q: Will there ever be a Bard's Tale 4? A Wasteland 2?

A: Contact Electronic Arts. Some people consider Dragon Wars, an early Interplay developed and published CRPG to be BT4. EA put out a game called Fountain of Dreams, which used the Wasteland engine and was very similar in setting. Many people at Interplay would love to do a sequel to either of those games, but we don't have the rights.

Q: What happened to Meantime?

A: [Wow, you've been around a while if you know what Meantime is.] Meantime, a sort of sequel to Wasteland, was in development for a long time. A beta version was actually up and running on the Apple // when the 8-bit market took a nosedive. Interplay attempted to update and upgrade Meantime for the MS-DOS market, but after several attempts (contractor problems and other minor details) the project was scrapped. It occasionally rears it's head, but the project is currently not in development.

Chris Taylor speaks -- 1996:

So what would Meantime have been about? Not so much a sequel, Meantime would have been another installment in the post-nuclear war setting that Wasteland created.

For an insider's look at the Meantime project. Here are some electronic mailings and some postings from an Interplay designer, as well as some comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.rpg postings, which talk about Meantime.

Here are some words from Chris Taylor (whose posting address at the time was: anarchy@netcom.com), Interplay designer and also principle programmer of Fallout.

Wed, 6 Nov 1996 18:14:22 GMT

We tried about four years ago to hire a contractor and finish Meantime. The whole thing fell through. Basically, the game is so ancient that it would cost too much money, time and resources to finish it
properly. Basically, we would have to start a whole new game.

Wed, 6 Nov 1996 18:23:16 GMT

The CGW story about Meantime is mostly true. We did have a very nasty problem that stopped the 16-bit version of Meantime from seeing the light of day. Finally, here are some short answers on the subject I gathered in a personal e-mail exchange with Chris:

Me: "How protective are you guys of the Meantime source code?"
Chris: "Very."

Me: "I mean, is it forever lost to the archives?
Chris: "Yes."

Me: "Does EA have any rights to it?"
Chris: "No."

Me: "Even though the Apple ][ platform died, why didn't Interplay rework it for IBM-PC platform?
Chris: "We tried." (see above reasons...)

Fallout -- 1997:
As you may know, Interplay never picked up the Meantime project, but their Fallout project, released in
October 1997, was an unofficial sequel to Wasteland. In fact, the inside flap of the Fallout game box begins by writing "Remember Wasteland?" In the autumn of 1998, Interplay released Fallout 2. Obviously they know that a sequel to the award-winning Fallout would be a sure-hit among fans of the genre. If only they could rescue the Meantime project from its Vaporware status! I'm sure they'd have another best-seller!

The Final Scoop! -- 2002:

In September of 2002, I received an e-mail from fellow Ranger Ausir (stationed at fallout.scifi.pl), withmore news about Meantime. This would prove to be the most fruitful scoop of them all, and it has at its origins the "Fallout Bible" project that was written as a super FAQ for the Fallout series of games, by some of the guys who worked on Fallout 2, in an attempt to answer questions about the Fallout world, explain irregularities, answer general questions from the fans, so on, so forth.

Here is the e-mail and the scoop it delivered:

Ausir:
I asked recently Chris Taylor (who doesn't work at Interplay anymore) and Chris Avellone (one of Fallout 2 devs), if they have any info about Meantime. Here's what I, and J. Mical, who asked about it, too, got:

Chris Taylor: Hmmm. Lots of Meantime questions lately.. :) I just sent this to St. Proverbius:
Chris Avellone just asked me the same thing. I don't think I'm under NDA about it. I just don't know a lot of the details. It was originally an 8-bit game (Apple //e and C64). It was put on hold before I joined
Interplay. Around 1991-2 it was restarted as a PC game under the production of Bill "Weez" Dugan. The project was eventually cancelled due to problems with the contract programmer.

All of the design had been done (IIRC, it was mostly the Wasteland design team). There was an early Alpha running on the Apple // (using the same basic engine as Wasteland), but it was not complete. That's pretty much all I remember.

pax,
-Chris

There was a disk of source code running around, but it was on an Apple // 5.25" and was bad. I'm pretty sure that most of Meantime is lost to the ages. I don't have anything. Nothing from Meantime was used in Fallout. I never had a chance to read the Meantime design documentation and none of the MT designers worked on Fallout.

pax,
-Chris

Chris Avellone:
All right, you two crazy Mean Time guys, I'm still checking with the technology guys about the Mean Time code. I wouldn't get your hopes up. I did contact one of the old Mean Time producers, however, and he had an amusing spiel on the game that I thought you might like to see. It's too bad the game never saw the light of day - it sounded damn cool.

BTW, you can almost hear the Buggles singing "Video Killed the Radio Star" in the second to last sentence.

Bill Dugan:

Yeah, I worked on Meantime. Alan Pavlish was the lead on it while it was on the Apple II. Mark O'Green and Liz Danforth [Chris A says: Liz also worked on Wasteland] were designers on it. I produced the DOS version for a while. It was based on the Wasteland code. The great new thing was that Alan created a map editor (!), and the scripters/designers could actually create maps in it instead of having to know assembly language and use graph paper like on Wasteland.

The plot was that you would go all through time and pick up exciting personages throughout history with their own specialties. Clearly it was the inspiration for Bill & Ted's Big Adventure. Most of them ended with questionable fates and you had to rescue them, so you didn't mess up time by taking them along with you. You got to rescue Amelia Earhardt from a Japanese POW camp. There were plenty of characters who were just cool;

Cyrano de Bergerac had maxed out Fencing skill. There was a group of bad guys trying to screw up time by slightly influencing various events, and you had to leap in and fix things. In one scene, Werner von Braun was about to be captured by the Soviets at the end of WWII and you had to get him into the party and help him escape. As I type this it reminds me of GURPS Time Travel.

There was a great piece of box art that was created, I remember. It had Albert Einstein on it; you got to
recruit him into the party at some point, I think. So the whole thing was built for the Apple II. If I remember correctly, probably 75% of the maps were done, then Liz Danforth quit, and then the Apple II and C-64 markets fell enough for Brian to cancel it. Then he had me try to bring it over to the IBM. We hired a contractor to port it from the Apple II to DOS, and had an inhouse artist do EGA graphics for it, and it went pretty slowly, and then Ultima VII came out with its 3D characters and lush graphics and I recommended we cancel Meantime with its top-down, non-animated graphics.

It wouldn't really have had a chance.

Ausir:
So, it looks like Meantime wasn't a Wasteland sequel after all - it was just another game using its engine, like Foutain of Dreams. But, unlike FoD, i think it would be a great game."

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