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Origin Systems Pitch Documents

When writer and editor Joe Martin went delving into the treasure-trove of archived documents housed at the Dolph Briscoe Centre For American History at the University of Texas, he came back with a clutch of "rejected pitches and unmade games which [Warren] Spector’s group was working on at Origin Systems". 

You can see most of these in Martin's article for Eurogamer, Origin Systems' unmade games and rejected ideas, but he was kind enough to pass the documents not used in the Eurogamer piece over to me, including a pitch sheet for Ultima Underworld III. I've also included the pitch for a game called Sci-Fi, a copy of which does appear alongside the Eurogamer article, as it's of special interest to Ultima fans due to plans to use the then-incomplete Ultima 8 engine to produce it.

You can see all of the sheets in full via the links below, but here's the full text of the Ultima Underworld III and Sci-Fi documents. Based on the time-frames described in the documents, the Ultima Underworld III pitch looks to have been put forward in early 1993, shortly after Origin was acquired by EA. The pitch highlights risks relating to securing a developer and the time-frame for the project, and is one of the shortest docs we have, without a product overview of any kind.



Underworld III

IBM PC

WHY ORIGIN?

1.0 High Concept: 
State of the art first-person adventuring in classic Underworld style, but with all-new technology that sends the competition back to the drawing board.

2.0 Why this is an ORIGIN product:
Underworld I was the standard by which all 3D, first-person games were judged. Underworld II was a minor improvement. Sales of both were strong and we now have a loyal following. We don't want to desert them or the category and we don't want to leave the competition with leadership in a field we pioneered.

3.0 Product Overview:
To come...

4.0 Technical Overview: 
IBM PC 486, 4 Megs RAM, 320x200 VGA, full sound board support. Mouse, joystick and keyboard supported.

5.0 Audience:
Existing fans of Underworld l and II plus new buyers interested in exploring the wonders of virtual reality on their home computers.

6.0 Deal: 
$500,000 Budget. 
Planned ship in Q3 (November '94).

7.0 Risks:
Moderate to high – If anyone other than LookingGlass does it, we have to ramp somebody up on 3D technology AND on the Underworld "style." Even if LookingGlass does it, we have all the risks involved in a ground-up technology project and a short timeline. (By the time they start, it'll be late fall, leaving a year to finish the game.)

8.0 Status:
Looking for concept approval so we can Go For Script.



The pitch for Sci-Fi is interesting enough due to its content: a description of a puzzle- and action-oriented game based on an Ultima 8 engine that immediately brings to mind the massively successful Crusader: No Remorse, released in 1995. Of added interest to Ultima fans is the commentary on both Ultima 8's development status and the lack of success of the Worlds of Ultima games, Savage Empire and Martian Dreams. The notes on U8 code status would again seem to place this document at some point in 1993. Note the description of it as "an Ultima 8 technology game with even less emphasis on roleplaying" - which (perhaps inadvertently) implies that Ultima 8 has little enough of a role playing emphasis to start with. The reference to 1993 Mindscape release D/Generation, by Robert Cook, is also interesting, as the game shares a number of elements with Crusader, although its plot and setting are on a far more modest scale. 


Sci-Fi

IBM PC

WHY ORIGIN?

1.0 High Concept: 
An Ultima 8 technology game with even less emphasis on roleplaying and more emphasis on arcade style, puzzle-solving action.

2.0 Why this is an ORIGIN product:
Assuming we think is a viable project for any reason other than the trademark, this should be a sure thing. It's got the same kind of graphic and gameplay appeal as in a proven genre -- no funky SF or pulp adventure this time, just good, old fashioned science fiction.

3.0 Product Overview:
Imagine Prince of Persia or DGeneration on a space station and on the surface of another planet. There's no design here yet (obviously), but reusing the Ultima technology (without the Ultima trademark or any connection with the Ultima universe or storyline) in a science fiction setting seems like a natural.

4.0 Technical Overview: 
IBM PC 486, 4 Megs RAM, 320x200 VGA, full sound board support. Mouse, joystick and keyboard supported.

5.0 Audience:
The traditional ORIGIN audience expanded to reach fans of more action oriented games like Prince of Persia 1 ad 2.

6.0 Deal: 
250,000-350,000 Budget (depending upon size and scope).
Planned ship in (depending upon resources and state of U8 code).

7.0 Risks:
Medium to high. It'd be a tight timeline. No experienced resources would likely be available. The code isn't finished (and there's no telling when it would be. The project is potentially a simple one, but a lot of unknowns and a necessarily short timeline increase the risk. From a marketing standpoint, you have to wonder whether the failure of the Worlds of Ultima line is cause for concern here...

8.0 Status:
Looking for concept approval so we can Go For Script.


The remaining pitch documents, which add to Eurogamer's publication of design docs for Carl's Crazy Carnival, Gladiator 3000, Death & Destruction, Frontier, Space Race and Citadel are:

Tales of the Arabian Nights
A part-finished "electronic storybook game" from an out-of-house developer, aimed at children - not a market anyone's ever associated with Origin.

Off-Road
A proposed use of the Strike Commander technology to produce a game involving "high-speed, off-road driving, probably involving guns of some kind".


You'll find links to JPEG copies of the documents I've mentioned below. It's worth highlighting Joe's project to unearth the video game history housed at the Dolph Briscoe archive and bring it to the public eye. Although the individual documents in the archive aren't available online, the archive's index provides a tantalising glimpse of what it holds, including huge collections of documents from Ultima creator Richard Garriott, as well as papers from Warren Spector and, on a more tabletop-oriented note, Steve Jackson. Those last three links all go to the archive's index pages for those papers, and I strongly recommend taking a look at them.

Between the files I've put up here and those at Eurogamer, we have pitch docs for ten games. I asked Joe about the contents of the remaining 62 pages, which include material he's used in other instalments of his lost games series: Ion Storm's lost Deus Ex Sequels and The deleted scenes of Deus Ex. That means we're still looking for any concrete trace of the other unmade games Warren Spector mentioned:  "Arthurian Legends, Transland, PassTimes, Operator..."

I hope you find all this as fascinating as I have.

Xaronzon Dragon

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K.G. Orphanides,
17 Feb 2015, 10:58
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K.G. Orphanides,
17 Feb 2015, 10:58
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Sci-Fi.jpg
(619k)
K.G. Orphanides,
17 Feb 2015, 10:58
ą
K.G. Orphanides,
17 Feb 2015, 10:58
ą
K.G. Orphanides,
17 Feb 2015, 10:58