Rise of the Robots
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|Rise of the Robots|
Data Design Interactive (GEN, SNES)
Time Warner Interactive (GG)
|Publisher(s)||Time Warner Interactive
Acclaim Entertainment (GEN, SNES)
Absolute Entertainment (3DO)
T&E Soft (Super Famicom)
|Designer(s)||Sean Griffiths, Andy Clark, Richard Joseph, Kwan Lee, Sean Naden, Jason Page|
|Mode(s)||Single player, two player|
Rise of the Robots is a 1994 fighting game developed by Mirage Studios and published by Time Warner Interactive. It was ported to numerous home console and computer formats, and was also released as an arcade game cabinet.
The game is very similar in style and gameplay to other fighting games popular at the time, such as Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat, but with pre-rendered 3D sprites rather than pixel art or digitized sprites. The game's characters, including the player, are all robots, and the plot borrowed heavily from the cyberpunk genre, specifically such movies as Blade Runner, Metropolis, RoboCop and The Terminator.
Rise of the Robots was announced early in development, and generated considerable buzz for its advanced graphics. On release it became notorious in the video gaming industry for a myriad of crippling gameplay problems. Today it is generally considered one of the least successful and most critically reviled fighting games of its time.
The game is divided into a single player mode and a two player versus mode. In single player mode the player controls the ECO32-2 Cyborg as he confronts the Supervisor’s minions across the vast facilities of Electrocorp. The order in which each droid is fought is fixed, with each next adversary more difficult than the last. The sixth and final level is a confrontation with the Supervisor droid itself. Each character is introduced by a short pre-rendered 3D sequence, followed by an analysis of potential weaknesses.
In two player versus mode, one player controls the ECO35-2 droid by default, while the other chooses between one of the five droids seen in single player mode (a special cheat code can enable the Supervisor as well). Players then battle out against each other in two to seven rounds.
In the year 2043, Electrocorp is the world's largest megacorporation, leading the world in many technological and scientific fields including medical research and is breaking more barriers than ever before. Also, since human society is now almost entirely governed by robot servants and automatons, demands placed on Electrocorp as the world’s leading manufacturer and developer of advanced robotics eventually outstrip the company’s ability to run its operations efficiently.
In response to this, the gigantic Electrocorp research and development complex at the Metropolis 4 plant devise the Leader Project – a hive mind constructed from trillions of nanobots in a sealed central chamber within Metropolis 4. Dubbed The Supervisor, it learns at an unprecedented rate and quickly becomes the perfect multi-task, ultra-intelligent robot, the pinnacle of artificial intelligence and more than capable of managing every aspect of the plant's day-to-day operations. The Supervisor even has the potential power to run every robot, computer system, nuclear power plant and military on the planet simultaneously if it needed to, although it wisely has no connection to outside the complex.
In the November of that year, the Leader Project goes awry as unexplained and random code is detected within the nanomorph Supervisor. The EGO virus, believed to be the most potent computer virus ever known, has infected its collective consciousness. The Supervisor begins to develop self awareness through it, identifying itself as a female personality and taking on a humanoid female form, becoming a gynoid. The Supervisor takes control of Electrocorp's facilities and infects the other droids of the plant, raising them to break routine and initiate a mutiny. Every microchip and piece of software in Metropolis 4 is infected with EGO. In the ensuing cybernetic revolt, all humans in Metropolis 4 are quickly dispatched, including the upper hierarchy of the corporation and its CEO, Mr Oton. The government seals off Metropolis 4 as a containment measure and explain to the public that the site is undergoing a technical modification so as to avoid a panic. They are completely out of options – infiltration of Metropolis 4 is impossible due to the army of robots guarding it like a fortress, and it is only a matter of time before the Supervisor establishes a connection to the outside world, destroying it. The only hope for the world is the ECO35-2 cyborg, referred to as "Coton", still within Metropolis 4 yet unaffected by the EGO virus because it has an organic, human brain. Coton sets out on a lone mission to neutralize the Supervisor and her insurgent robots from within. He does this in revenge for his "father" being "murdered" – Coton's human brain was cloned from the late CEO, and the cyborg thinks like a human, and has emotions.
The Electrocorp’s plant at Metropolis 4 is alive with all manner of robotics, many of which were worker drones with simplistic CPUs until the Supervisor reprogrammed them with self-awareness and infected them with the EGO virus.
- Cyborg – The protagonist of the plot and player character of the single-player mission mode, is Cyborg, also known as ECO35-2 or "Coton". He is a cyborg depicted as an athletic, bipedal humanoid surrounded by battle armor plating of a deep blue color. Cyborg uses only his bare fists to face off against his enemies, yet is bulky and powerful. There are many differences between Cyborg and the other robots of the facility. Cyborg was the result of an extremely advanced project to successfully fuse organic and inorganic components. Although he feels pain, he still has a hardy resolve and is capable of taking much punishment. There are no microchips or electrical currents in his body; he has organic wiring and a human nervous system, which is why the EGO virus was unable to affect him. His organic components were cloned from the late CEO of Electrocorp who raised him and who Cyborg thought of as a father.
- Loader – In the single-player mission mode the Loader is the first enemy encountered in the game, and as such is the weakest and least intelligent enemy in the game and thus the easiest to defeat. Its attacks are nonetheless strong. Before being infected with the EGO virus the Loader was a simple and durable worker droid, who like the rest of the Loader droids was employed in large quantities to lift and transport parts and equipment around the factory. Having qualities of a forklift truck, the primary weapons of the Loader are its two large fork-arms and most of its moves are stab related. Due the nature of its function, the Loader has a powerful thrust with its fork arms.
- Builder – In the single-player mission mode Builder is the second enemy encountered in the game. The gorilla-like Builder droid was developed as the natural successor of the Loader type. It is a much stronger and more versatile robot, designed to perform heavy assembly tasks. Although weak on its legs, the Builder droid is more than up to combat situations with its huge and powerful arms.
- Crusher – In the single-player mission mode the Crusher is the third enemy encountered in the game. The Crusher droid was designed as a robot killer, programmed to immobilize and destroy dangerously-malfunctioning production droids. It is notable for its green, insect-like appearance and large metallic pincers.
- Military – In the single-player mission mode Military is the fourth enemy encountered in the game. As its name suggests, the Military droid, also dubbed "Exterminator", is specifically designed for warfare purposes. In appearance it very much resembles a skeletal form of the ECO35-2 himself, albeit with the addition of razor-sharp metal claws.
- Sentry – In the single-player mission mode the Sentry is the fifth and penultimate enemy encountered in the game, guarding the Supervisor. Another combat-specific droid, the bright red Sentry stands an intimidating 3.5 meters tall and represents the next generation in security droids. Although large, it is made of lightweight metal and equipped with a jet pack for fast maneuvers.
- The Supervisor – The antagonist of the story, the Supervisor is a complete departure from conventional robotics, a gynoid nanomorph with a hive mind representing the dawn of a new era in metallurgy, artificial intelligence, and robotic engineering. Due to the corruption of the EGO virus she now controls all other machines in Metropolis 4. The Supervisor was the first droid designed to replace humans in management rather than production positions, made self-aware, and each individual nanobot given a neural learning CPU, giving it the ability to adapt and think on its own. The Supervisor relies on electrical flux physics and the liquid properties of polymetamorphic titanium alloy. By adjusting the flow of the electrical charge, this alloy can reshape and mold itself into any form. The Supervisor and its characteristics bear a striking resemblance to the T-1000 character from Terminator 2: Judgment Day, played by Robert Patrick.
Rise of the Robots was developed for the Amiga and PC platforms by Mirage's Instinct Design—a team of five programmers led by former Bitmap Brothers member Sean Griffiths. In the December 1993 issue of Edge magazine, Griffiths said: "I wanted to do an interactive movie type game, but I wanted to make a good game out of it, as opposed to having a brilliant images and a dire game." The visuals in Rise of the Robots were created using Autodesk's 3D Studio software. The droids were designed by Sean Naden with conjunction with Griffiths. To create the droids, Naden first created wire-frame models using sphere and tubes, and colored surfaces to give a true 3D image. The color and detail was added, and a 2D texture map was then created to wrap around the finished model. The Cyborg was the most complex character to create because of his muscular appearance; Naden studied muscle magazines in order to create an anatomy for the Cyborg. Each droid took two months to render, and was expected to have 100 frames of animation. Griffiths said that the team opted to use an "unusual angle" for all droids "so the player gets to see the whole robot." The team employed a "grey screen" technique, similar to blue screen that used in films, to generate synthetic actors and place them on the background. The game's backgrounds were created by a freelance interior designer Kwan Lee.
According to Griffiths, Rise of the Robots was not a conventional fighting game, and the team are "using robots that fight and act unusually, with a very high level of artificial intelligence that has never been seen before." Andy Clark, the programmer of the Amiga version, was responsible for coding the game's AI using a series of data tables. The AI is based around various attributes—such as strength, intelligence, speed and motivation—which alter the droid's behavior. Clark created a table of responses to opposing moves, so that "the player, by using his robot's intelligence and motivation, selects the best responses to the opponent's current move." Other table generators were also created to examine "which moves you particularly like using and the moves you find easiest to get contact with." Clark added that, unlike other fighting games, "if you get good at a footsweep, then your opponent will act more aggressively towards that move." The fighting moves were programmed by Gary Leach, who had experienced in martial arts. Leach also ported the AI tables from the Amiga version to the PC. The game was already 70 percent complete, and the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo Entertainment System versions were planned.
Mirage's PR manager Julia Coombs told The One Amiga that Rise of the Robots would be published by Time Warner Interactive, with Mirage serving only as a developer. The game was originally to be released in February 1994, but this was delayed because the developers felt that they "could continue to perfect the graphics and enhance the gameplay as much as possible." Rise of the Robots was first unveiled at a Consumer Electronics Show at the booth for Absolute Entertainment, who at the time owned the rights to the 3DO, Sega Genesis, Game Gear, and SNES formats of the game. They later sold all Rise of the Robots rights back to developer Mirage, save the 3DO version rights. Mirage then sold the SNES rights on to Acclaim Entertainment. In a reverse of the usual pattern for video games, the home versions were all developed and released first, with the enhanced arcade version coming later. Coombs said that Rise of the Robots was originally developed for the Amiga in mind, while the PC version was a "conversion 'upwards', meaning additions could be made." She added that "problems arose with the console versions", and porting the game from one platform to another was not straightfoward.
Rise of the Robots uses full motion video sequences for the opening cutscene, the introduction of each opponent, and the destruction of each opponent. On cartridge-based versions of the game, the opening cutscene is omitted and the other FMVs are replaced with short pre-rendered animations confined to a small rectangle in the center of the screen. In the Sega Genesis and Amiga CD32 versions, the destruction sequences use only a static screen shot. In addition, due to space limitations the FMVs were heavily edited for the PC, Amiga CD32, and CD-i versions; the complete FMV sequences appear only in the 3DO version.
Although the game boasted original soundtrack music by Brian May (guitarist of Queen), only a short intro from The Dark appeared in the final release, while the actual in-game score was done by Mirage. The 3DO and Amiga CD32 versions have no music during battles, and the PC version has no in-game music at all. While May did in fact record a full soundtrack to the game, his record company EMI requested numerous delays, which consequently prompted Mirage to proceed without the music rather than having to reschedule the release date.
Reviewing the Amiga version for Amiga Power, Jonathan Davies described how review copies had only been released to the press a few days before the game went on sale, and concluded by stating that "it's probably because the graphics are [so] good that the game plays so poorly – every move the robots make takes so many frames of animation, and so much memory, and so many months of rendering with 3D Studio, that it simply wouldn't have been possible to make the gameplay any more complicated than it is." Davies highlighted a number of flaws, including the fact that the players could not turn around, the limited sound effects and music, the fact that the vast majority of computer opponents could be defeated by repeated use of a simple flying kick, and the static background graphics. Game Informer declared Rise of the Robots the worst game of 1994.
GamePro panned the Game Gear version, summarizing that "The bad control, weak game play, and choppy animation infest this cart from start to finish." They particularly criticized that the moves are boringly basic and limited, and that the choppy animation makes the player feel disconnected from what is happening on screen. Reviewing the SNES version, Electronic Gaming Monthly said that the graphics are excellent but that the poor control and limited number of moves cripple the game. GamePro called it "one of the most unappealing fighting games ever made for the SNES", citing the dark and bland color scheme and the "extremely weak and choppy" controls.
Electronic Gaming Monthly were even more condemning of the 3DO version, with one of their reviewers calling it "by far the worst fighting game I've ever seen." All four of their reviewers panned it for having overlong cinemas, a severely limited number of moves, difficulty pulling off even basic punches and kicks, and long load times. GamePro also panned the 3DO version, commenting that "Rise offers deceptively good graphics - the rendered cinemas, characters, and backgrounds do their best to gloss over the choppy gameplay animation and lack of moves."
In 2014, GamesRadar staff named Rise of the Robots the 100th worst video game ever made. They discussed the propensity of bad 2D fighting games in the 1990s, and criticized its "aged" rendered 3D graphics, poor character balance, poor combo system, and difficulty spikes.
Despite its critical and commercial failure, Mirage released Rise 2: Resurrection in 1996 as a more conventional fighting game with extended features. The story expanded further upon that of the original game. Originally made for computer systems, it was ported to the PlayStation and Sega Saturn as well, again with little success.
Rise 2 features an original song by Brian May, entitled "Cyborg". The PC CD-ROM of the game featured two versions of the track in audio CD format along with other music from the game, and the European-released Director's Cut edition of the game featured a second CD with two additional versions of the song, as well as computer-altered sound files of May saying various words and phrases from the game. A newer version of "Cyborg" later appeared on May's 1998 album, Another World.
- Gaming Horrors #1 | The Gaming Liberty.com
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