Excalibur: Morgana's Revenge

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Excalibur: Morgana's Revenge
Emr-merlin.jpg
Merlin in Excalibur: Morgana's Revenge
by Richard Bushey
Developer(s) ExcaliburWorld Software
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, Linux, OS X
Release date(s) June 1997
Genre(s) First-person shooter, action-adventure
Distribution Download

Excalibur: Morgana's Revenge is a video game involving the Sword of Power, Excalibur, the wizard Merlin, the sorceress Morgana, and the United Earth Federation (UEF). This is an expansion story based upon the legend of Arthur and Excalibur. The story takes places across three time periods.[1] During the fall of Arthur's kingdom, Morgana had used the Charm of Making against Merlin and imprisoned him in ice. During the battle for Camelot, an electrical storm erupts, and Merlin disappears from Camelot.[2]

The Excalibur: Morgana's Revenge story is created and owned by ExcaliburWorld Software.

Excalibur: Morgana's Revenge uses the Aleph One open-source game engine, and is available on the following computer platforms: OS X, Windows, and Linux.

Synopsis[edit]

Plot[edit]

The electrical storm represented a break in the space-time continuum, and Merlin was thwarted into the future, becoming part of the UEF computer system on the Starship Kronos. At first introduced to the Federation as an unusual artificial intelligence of unknown origins, Merlin the A.I. helped the Federation Marines take on the space pirate raids of 2289. Fighting against the pirate starship Diablo, the Federation put a stop to the pirates in a battle known as "Devil in a Blue Dress".

Following this battle, the hero of the Federation battle took rest on the Starship Kronos, where he learned the secret of Merlin. Merlin explained that Morgana was behind the pirate raids, and that she had learned how to time travel. Using the unstable time travel technology developed on Kronos, this Federation marine begin a journey to stop Morgana and her diabolical plot to control mankind's destiny. Hunting down Actinium crystals in the Jurassic time period, freeing Quest Knights and hunting down Mordred in the Camelot time period, and having a final showdown with Morgana and her evil minions in the future time period, this brave marine sets forth on an epic journey through untamed raptor-infested jungles, castle arenas, and war-torn streets of the future.

Charm of Making[edit]

A central theme to the Excalibur: Morgana's Revenge story is the "Charm of Making", a special incantation spell that Morgana had stolen from Merlin. This was used to freeze Merlin during the Arthurian period, and it is also a spell the Morgana used to control a lot of her forces, both during the Camelot period as well as the Jurassic and Future time periods. In the EMR story, the hero eventually discovers the spell during the final battle with Morgana. An audio of the Charm of Making can be found in the movie Excalibur by John Boorman.

Merlin's Charm of Making[3] incantation is spoken as such:

"Anal nathrach, orth' bhais's bethad, do che'l de'nmha."

The English translation of the spell is:

"Serpent's breath, charm of death and life, thy omen of making."

Development[edit]

The roots of the MMMG can actually be traced back as far as Wolfenstein 3D for the Mac. After searching for countless secret doors, players discovered WolfEdit, a program which allows you to create custom levels in Wolfenstein 3D (WolfEdit was written by MMMG member, Greg Ewing). In 1994, Bungie Software released Marathon. Running through dark corridors with eerie background music, going up and down on stairs and platforms, confronting strange aliens, and interfacing with terminals as the Marathon story unfolded, the Marathon experience was unique on the Mac. To add to the excitement, along came Pfhorte, a Marathon map editor.

With Pfhorte, swarms of Marathon players made the leap from player to map maker. Marathon map editing had its challenges, and the internet was the best place to turn for help, and thus began the Marathon Map Makers Guild.[4] Questions, answers and ideas were flying through the MMMG mailing list on a daily basis, and eventually led one MMMG member, Craig Durkin, to bring up the idea of a group project. The concept stirred a lot of discussion in the group, and these discussions eventually led to the Devil in a Blue Dress project. From this collaborative group effort evolved the Marathon Scenario Devil in a Blue Dress, spearheaded by Claude Errera.[5]

As the positive feedback poured in for Devil in a Blue Dress, the ambitious members of the MMMG decided to start a new project, this time to incorporate distinct textures, sprites, sounds, weapons, and anything else that was possible to change. This project began in November 1995, and after 10 months map making blood, sweat and tears, the first demo for Excalibur: Morgana's Revenge (EMR) was released to the public. While work continued on EMR, Bungie released Marathon 2: Durandal. This sequel incorporate some cool new features such as ambient sounds and liquid media. Claude Errera decided to direct the porting of Devil in a Blue Dress (DiaBD) to the Marathon 2 engine to take advantage of these features.[6] Meanwhile, Bill Catambay continued with the efforts of completing the EMR project under the Marathon engine.

Simultaneously, we both began to realize that neither of our projects were easy nor trivial tasks. Contributors often came and went through the process, and completion of the project was sometimes a questionable goal. DiaBD 2.0 was completed first, and was a bigger success than the original DiaBD. Meanwhile, progress on EMR began to lag. With all the physics, sounds, graphics and music needs of EMR, the work that needed to be completed seemed endless. Miraculously, the MMMG persisted. During the final months of EMR, new contributors appeared out of the blue, such as Jim Bisset who wrote original music for EMR,[7] Candace Sheriff who created the Archer and Cavebob sprites, and Jeremy Dale who created the EMR player sprite. Finally, in June 1997, EMR v1.0 was released to the public.[8]

As fate would have it, Bungie then came out with Marathon Infinity, with an extra texture collection, new weapons slots, and a new physics and shapes editor called Anvil. Map makers drooled over the added features and expanded capabilities of the new engine, and the MMMG imagined what EMR could become with these new features. Understanding the complexity and time involved for such an undertaking, Bill Catambay resisted the temptation for a short while. However, less than a month later, work began on the EMR port to Infinity with Bill leading the way.

Two years later, the EMR Infinity port was still not completed. As anticipated, the amount of work required to do this port was enormous. There would be over 50 levels in the final product, with most of the ported levels enhanced greatly, and the addition of many new levels. There were more graphics, both new ones and improved old ones, a physics model was needed for every level, new sounds and music, new images, new story additions, and the countless terminal graphics. The complexity had increased 10x, and so the amount of fine tuning and beta testing had also increased. Once again, the work seemed endless, but finally, in April 2000, EMR 2.0 was released using Marathon Infinity's engine.[9]

A few years later, Bungie released the source code of Marathon Durandal to the public, and so began the Aleph One open source project.[10] In 2004, Glen Ditchfield approached Bill Catambay to convince him that Aleph One was now stable enough to port EMR. Considering all of the new features in Aleph One, including The Marathon Markup Language(MML) and Lua scripting languages, it was likely that this port would become another 3 year project. With Glen's encouragement, the fact that Loren Petrich had already initialized a starting point for EMR MML, and the temptation of all the new features, Catambay gave in to the addiction, and work began on EMR 3.0 in the Autumn of 2004.

While previous EMR projects engaged over 40 volunteers around the world, the number of volunteers in the Marathon world had significantly dwindled over time, for various reasons. The port of EMR to Aleph One started with about 5 people, ending with a total of 15. Fortunately, a lot of the work from past contributors could be re-used, but there was still an immeasurable amount of work required for this new rendition of EMR. Work was needed for upgrading every texture to high resolution, converting every sound to 16-bit, completely revamping the music and creating new music, intense editing and expansion of maps, and hours upon hours of MML and Lua coding. Once again, the work was daunting, and the project trudged on for years. Finally, in May 2007, EMR 3.0 was released to the public.[11] Unlike its predecessors, EMR 3.0 requires no installer to run. Users would download the package and be able to run EMR immediately. Also, because Aleph One had been made a cross-platform endeavor, EMR 3.0 could now be run on Windows and Linux machines, as well as Mac PPC and Intel machines.[12]

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