Driller (video game)
Driller (also known as Space Station Oblivion in the United States) is a 1987 puzzle video game. It was written by British developers Major Developments and published by Incentive Software for the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, Commodore Amiga, Atari ST and DOS. The game was notable for its early 3D game engine, Freescape.
The game requires the player to maneuver the excavation probe, through a first-person view, through eighteen regions (in the shape of a rhombicuboctahedron) of the moon Mitral, and place a drilling rig in each of them to allow a minimum of 50% of the gas to escape. The position is established by a mixture of clues from the landscape (including an "X marks the spot" in the first zone) and trial and error. The security systems will attack Lesleigh upon sight, and he must disable or avoid them by any means possible. Only a few can be destroyed by shooting, the rest must be dispatched by mechanical means through switches or similar.
The eighteen regions are actually platforms above the true surface of Mitral; the excavation probe cannot fly or hover (although it can rise and lower itself slightly on hydraulics), and moving off a platform causes the player to fall onto the surface, where he is marooned. However, in one area the player can find a garage containing a hovering vehicle that can be used to explore and attack security systems, though not to place drilling rigs.
In the far future, the human race has abandoned Earth for the reaches of outer space, having ruined the planet in the relentless quest for resources and in endless conflict. In a desperate search to find a new home, they found Evath, a life-sustaining planet with two moons, Mitral and Tricuspid. They sent a ship, named "Exodus" to colonize this new planet with explorers, embryos and supplies. Generations passed, and the colony on Evath was formed. Without the rule of law, the oldest members of the Exodus' crew, the Elders, were forced to take control, form an army and bring the rule of law to Evath.
Lesleigh Skerrit aspired to work for the Driller Federation. His grandfather had been a member of the Federation, but he was falsely accused of murder and banished as a Ketar. Only later did the evidence contesting his guilt surface, but it was too late - the law did not allow someone banished as a Ketar to return to Evath. Lesleigh was not bitter and did not seek retribution. He wanted to study law to prevent this kind of mistake happening again.
Called in by his superior, Montigue Yarbro, he is offered a lifetime opportunity - to complete his training and gain a promotion to Elite within the Driller Federation in one fell swoop. His experience on Mitral bore him well - he was to go to Mitral and attempt to avert the coming catastrophe. Mitral, having been abandoned in its unstable state by the Ketars, was going to explode within four hours, and the explosion would take Evath with it. Skerrit's mission was to use the excavation probe "Last Hope" to place eighteen drilling rigs around Mitral to allow the gas to dissipate harmlessly into space and prevent this disaster. Things are not so simple though, with the security systems activated prior to the Ketars' departure.
Driller was lavishly packaged compared to much game software available at the time. As well as having a large box, it also came with an instruction manual, a novella detailing the game's plot and background and a cardboard "map" of Mitral that could be folded into a 3D representation of the eighteen platforms around the moon, and used by the player to mark successful drilling locations.
Driller was the first game to use the Freescape engine, which allowed the production of full three-dimensional environments using filled polygons in which the player could move around freely. It also gave the player the ability to look up and down, as well as rotate left and right, something which was rare amongst 3D games of the time. The same engine was used for Driller's sequel, Dark Side, as well as Total Eclipse, The Sphinx Jinx, Castle Master and Castle Master II: The Crypt. In 1991, Domark released 3D Construction Kit which allowed games to be produced based on the Freescape engine with no programming knowledge. This was then followed by 3D Construction Kit II.
The game received positive reviews from several sources. CRASH awarded the game 97%, stating that "with a stunning use of 3D graphics, very challenging gameplay, and the fascination of exploring a FreeScape world, Driller is one of the best games CRASH has seen." The magazine's readers voted it the best overall game of 1987. Your Sinclair gave Driller 9/10 with reviewer Phil South stating "The game took a year to build, and it shows in the quality of the workmanship and the gameplay. I can tell that people are going to be sending in tips for this for months to come. Superb!" Zzap!64 awarded the game 96%. Amstrad Action reviewed the game in the January 1988 issue with an overall rating of 96% and earned the AA 'Mastergame' accolade. Is joint 3rd highest rated game in Amstrad Action's run. Orson Scott Card wrote in Compute! that "the lame science fiction story ... is a thinly veiled excuse for what's really a programmer's exercise in 3-D graphics. But once you stop expecting the story to make sense, this is a fun game, as you explore a strange world ... a fascinating exprience".
- Amstrad Action magazine, issue 28, Future Publishing
- "Reviews: Driller". Computer and Video Games (75): 24.
- "Driller". CRASH! (47): 25.
- "Arcade Review: Driller". Sinclair User (69): 61.
- South, Phil (January 1988). "Driller". Your Sinclair: 25.
- "Zzap!64 100th Issue Pull-Out Special". p. 5. Retrieved 2012-02-25.
- "Driller". ACE (4): 76.
- "Driller". The Games Machine (2): 39.
- "CRASH review of Driller from 1987". Retrieved 2007-01-27.
- "THE 1987 CRASH Readers’ Awards". Retrieved February 25, 2012.
- "Your Sinclair review of Driller, Jan 1988". Retrieved 2007-01-27.
- "Lemon64 Driller entry". Retrieved 2007-01-29.
- 'Amstrad Action', issue 28, January 1988, pages 50-51
- Card, Orson Scott (June 1989). "Light-years and Lasers / Science Fiction Inside Your Computer". Compute!. p. 29. Retrieved 11 November 2013.