DHU Origins #1 – In the beginning

This blog will cover the creative journey of the Dark Horizons Universe from its beginnings as a text-based MUD, the release of several indie mech games, the D20 Campaign settings, and today’s revitalization of the universe.

Years ago, I created and ran MUDs (Multi-user Dungeons) with my brother. Realms of Destiny was the largest of these during that time. MUDs were the precursor to graphics MMOs and allowed many people to enjoy the same virtual world in a text-based format. While the MUDs I worked on were all fantasy-based, I was a sci-fi person. I started to write down the framework for a science fiction universe called Critical Subterfuge (now Dark Horizons Universe) and build out a prototype world in CircleMUD.

In the beginning

Inspired by space operas on film and in anime, I started to craft a story whose timeline would take the human race into a dark and turbulent future. At the heart of this universe was a myriad of secrets that built up over centuries and fueled the development of humankind and their cybernetic creations, “Cygen.” With this, I crafted a timeline from 2010 through the 24th century, where my game would take place.

That is as far as I got in 1995… Critical Subterfuge would be placed on hold as I got into 3D game modding with Shogo Mobile Infantry and Unreal. But the journey was far from over, and by the late 90s, a couple of talented folks I met online through my modding started to create a vision for the universe, both around the story and visual style, a universe set in the SOL system, with space travel, space stations, power armors, and several factions and races.

The problem we were running into was that our vision was massive, and since our focus was on video games, we started to look at how we could introduce smaller parts of the universe through video games at a scope we could handle.

If, at first, you don’t succeed…

Our first run and pitching a video game around the ‘Critical Subterfuge’ universe focused on a competitive, persistent game focused on power armor combat in the Midpoint Station Arena(Midpoint is halfway between Earth and Mars). Over a year, we worked closely with a publisher we met at a conference and thought we were well underway to get funding and make our first game! But in the end, the publisher decided the project was too ambitious for a starting studio and walked away, crushing our dreams…

After this, we took a step back and reevaluated what our next steps were to be.

After being told we were not ready for funding, we looked deep. We couldn’t afford to keep our engine license with Lithtech. I had gotten to build Arena, and we were searching for a new engine and idea. Enter the Torque Game Engine and the addition of mechs into the universe.

One of the game genres everyone on the team loved was any simulation to do with mechs, but the question was how to do them differently and infuse them into a universe that had not had mechs in the plan initially.

Join me next time when I discuss the creation of Dark Horizons: Lore.