1993 Empire / Oxford Digital Enterprises
Platform: Commodore Amiga and PC (DOS)
Thanks to @nearvanaman for the heads up. An entry has been available for some time over at the Hall of Light. Due for release in late 1993, this was to be a game based on the table top role-playing game by Iron Crown Enterprises and partly on the William Gibson novels. Viewed within a fully 3D perspective with an adjustable head-up-display that you view the world through.
The game was to be a mixture of role playing, puzzle and live action, controlled completely through the use of a mouse. Sort of a mix of Mercenary and Cybercon III at the time. Cyberspace was previewed in many magazines of the time, and looked incredible. A game that was potentially ahead of its time and which excited those who got a glimpse of it in action.
Plot was kept fairly close to Empire’s chest, but you play the innocent member of society who, while visiting a friend in Boston, gets involved with something very sinister and dangerous. There would be a number of twists and turns, and various subplots throughout the game. One magazine did later suggest that you have to ultimately try and rescue your friend, who has been abducted by one of the mega corps and his secret plans stolen.
A City full of life
The game itself would be set within a City environment in 2090 with a staggering 1 million people, all going about their work across 100,000 different buildings. You would be completely indoors and only see outside briefly according to producer Rik Yapp. As well as walking around buildings, you can also hack into them by logging into “Cyberspace”, all represented in a cool Tron/Battlezone-looking polygon way, where you have to bypass, destroy and access viruses, defence programs and data.
Characters would have a good variety of different looks and actions based from a library of bitmap and vector options. You would interact with characters via a list of questions or by showing objects, building up enemies or alliances. Interestingly you could set the level of contempt/flattery in your response, as well as if you answer with a strong or weak “Yes” or “No”.
Regarding your own character, you would have the choice of six possible pre-generated characters to choose from. Net Junkie, Sleaze, Sneak, Killer, Tech Rat or Jockey – each with their own set of capabilities. Alternatively, you can create your own from scratch.
The game had a pretty sizable team at the time, consisting of John Wood and Champie Horrocks on programming and design, Ade Barritt on programming, Walt Bayer on graphics/programming, Graham Rice on graphics and James Butler on script. Due to the ambitious nature of the game, it was started in late 1991 and was going to take almost 2 years to complete. The team had built their own custom written game editor, to help design/script the plots and sub plots with the 3D characters, a system that could be used in other productions potentially.
However, although magazines stated it was only months away from release in 1993, it just disappeared without a trace. There was a 1994 magazine feature talking about the game still, so clearly it had been delayed given how ambitious a title it was.
We got in touch with Rik Yapp in October 2020, who just stated that the game never got off the ground fully. It seems that it was much further away from completion than anticipated, and was felt wouldn’t be completed for some time yet – maybe perhaps too long for Empire to feel it would make back its money with a shrinking Amiga market at the time.
Below you can find lots of development screenshots, showing the construction of the characters and their world, as well as the magazine articles shown at the time, which go into great detail about how the game was going to work.
In May 2021, Amiga Games That Weren’t and Adrian Simpson carried out a huge investigation into the game, getting in touch with those involved and delving into the history of the game. Adrian was very kindly provided a copy of the DOS game (not allowed to be released unfortunately), to take screenshots for the piece – so you can see proper digital screenshots of the game for the first time. Rather than replicate information here, check out the AGTW pages at http://www.abime.net/articles/view/article/id/11
Hopefully some day something of both games can be released for all to see what could have been.
With thanks to Ross Sillifant for the extra scans.