Reopening The Battlezone – Bionite: Origins

By Adam Smith on April 10th, 2012 at 12:30 pm.

At this time of resurrection and rebirth, it seems apt to look at yet another Kickstarter project that aims to roll back both a stone and the years in order to bring glories from the past to walk our digital hallways once more. Bionite: Origins, already two years in the making, is an attempt to revive the play style of Battlezone ’98, a hybrid of first person hovercrafting and strategic base building. I’m sure there are other much-loved properties in need of a successor, spiritual or otherwise, but I reckon by summer, Kickstarter will have them all covered. What makes Bionite a little different to many projects is that funding isn’t being sought to begin development, but to continue it. A working alpha of the game already exists and the beta testing phase is imminent. Video evidence of the team’s work is nestled below.

That’s not a slow pan and zoom across some concept art, or a video of a man politely asking for your money, it’s an actual game in motion. Admittedly, it’s hard to gauge the depth of strategic involvement, the detail of construction and defense or the quality of the action, but such is the nature of trailers. The Kickstarter page itself contains plenty of information, along with another video that I’ve also posted below for convenience.

The $15,000 that Platoon Studios are looking to raise will go toward finishing off their work, hiring texture artists and server costs. As always, the fact that I’m writing about this doesn’t mean I’m recommending anybody throws their bank account at it. However, it has the potential to be the kind of game I haven’t played in a good while and, if Bionite is executed well, it could fill a gap in my gaming diet that I’d all but forgotten existed. I’ll take a look at the beta as soon as it’s available and report back with some thoughts on that.

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40 Comments »

  1. Moni says:

    I like that they managed to make a UDK game look like a game from 1998.

  2. Tael says:

    I like the concept, the original games might be up there with Thief and System Shock in terms of immersion and unqiueness. But I notice that the graphics of this look somehow far worse than the original.

  3. Dan Griliopoulos says:

    Ooh, Battlezone 98 was one of my formative games. I’m going to have to fund this one.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Same. Incredible game.

      • Dan Griliopoulos says:

        We should go back and do something on that. IIRC, the multiplayer in it (or in the sequel) was pretty strange.

        • Ringwraith says:

          Don’t make me dig out my copy of the those two games!
          As I’ll undoubtedly spend ages trying to get them to work on my computer.

          • Surlywombat says:

            There is a version of Battlezone on the net that works on windows 7 (one of the original devs patched it). Not sure of the legality of it, so won’t link it here. (Hint: battlezone1)

            One of the developers of Battlezone 2 has also released a patch which gets the game running fine on win7 with extra resolutions and other fancy options – it is here = http://matesfamily.org/bz2/. One problem however is that the battlezone 2 installer refuses to work on Win7 for some reason. However, if you run the installer in at a windows xp virtual machine (or indeed a real XP machine!). Then you can simply copy the install directory to your win7 system, patch it with the 1.3.6 patch and off you go.

            I ran through these games recently, and they really hold up very well. The alternate history storyline is a very good.

            Also! The Thumper! When you smack that thing and the wave of earth rolls out.. is still a bit of a jaw dropper, deformable terrain… coming soon in 1998!

          • NathanMates says:

            Surlywombat – thanks for linking to my site, http://matesfamily.org/bz2 . Ken (who’s patching BZ1) and I (patching BZ2) hang out on the forums there, and provide links to our latest patches, which include DX9 for both BZ1 & 2, lots of stability fixes, Win7 compatibility, new features, and more. It’s been really hard to get any links from news sites or wikipedia, even though it’s a free labor of love patching the Battlezones.

            As to installing BZ2 on Win7, odds are, you’re running a 64-bit OS, and the BZ2 CD installer was coded up as a 16-bit application using DemoShield. If you read the 1.3.6.2 readme (linked from the site above), I note there’s a trivial workaround. Here’s the instructions from there:

            1. Insert BZ2 CD. Do not run anything if prompted
            2. In Windows, go to ‘My Computer’ (Windows XP), or ‘Computer’ (Windows 7)
            3. Find the BZ2 CD entry, click on it
            4. Go to the setup directory in the BZ2 CD
            5. Run the setup.exe (shown simply as the application called ‘setup’ if you use the Windows default of hiding file extensions)

            The above steps bypass the 16-bit installer wrapper, and go straight to the actual installer that works on 64-bit machines.

            And, if I may soapbox one last time, please go vote on gog.com for them to carry legal copies of BZ1 & 2. Thanks.

    • P7uen says:

      I came here to write the same thing, only in caps. After watching those though, the multi-player seems to be the focus. Anyone know any more about that direction?

      I’ll drop a few quid anyway, but if it’s more multi-player oriented I’ll go back and play the first moon mission 32 times in a row, which is how many times I can play it before I even begin to get bored.

      • Ringwraith says:

        Shame the second wasn’t as good, but it might be because it went for a more standard humans vs. aliens story than the mostly ‘Cold War in SPACE’ the first had, which was certainly something you don’t see often.

        That and the random disco-ball weapon of doom thing on the first mission.
        What was that about? Although it was still awesome.

        • Nielk1 says:

          With BZ2 everyone always assumes its Humans vs Aliens and never bothers to finish the actual story.
          Spoiler: They aren’t aliens.

          BZ2 actually has a pretty good story about the opposite side of the coin of BZ1′s furies and community made mods have extended this storyline by a factor of 5 so far and hope to extend it further.

          I almost got involved in this project. I was a little turned off that it entire disregarded BZ2 even though BZ2 is actually quite good, most ppl just never bother to find out (example above). I have enough commitments already though with college, work, and my ever dwindling involvement in BZ2 patch betas so instead of joining a project that at the time was destine for failure (to the point it refused to relinquish the name Battlezone despite trademarks) I stayed back.

          Its good to see they got somewhere but I am a bit worried about the physics on the ships and the degree of command given over the AI units. The base building has me concerned too since I haven’t seen any working buildings other than props yet.

          I wonder what it would cost to outright buy the BZ IP and go on with the name ‘Combat Commander’.

    • loud says:

      Heck yes! I currently have BZ1 installed on my system and recently did a playthrough again and I still love it. I was super into the multiplayer and did quite a few online tournaments… ah those were the days.

  4. Mitch says:

    I really love the original gane. I’m looking forward to playing this game.

  5. august says:

    The action on the moon got intense. The Russian offensive caught us all with our pants down. But it was only a hint of what was to come.

  6. Artist says:

    YAY, BATTLEZONE! Please do it right!
    Nuff said.

  7. Vraptor117 says:

    I loved, loved, loved the original Battlezone (the 1998) one. Played that thing to death. The whole concept of fighting a secret Cold War in space was just the coolest thing to me. In retrospect, the gameplay was mixed. I remember the controls being difficult and trying to place buildings from the first person perspective was a pain. That was fucking hard, too. Anyone remember the 2nd Mars mission where you had to defend the volcano, or the venus one where you had to take out artillery emplacements, or when you first fought a Golem? Man, if they can recapture even a tiny bit of that terror, tension and excitement, it’ll be worth the money.

  8. Hentzau says:

    Battlezone! Man, now there’s a game crying out for a GOG release.

  9. Danny252 says:

    “That’s not a slow pan and zoom across some concept art, or a video of a man politely asking for your money, it’s an actual game in motion”

    Well, it’s a video of some vehicles moving around, with “we invented the term ‘extended FPS’! We must be awesome!”. But close enough.

  10. mollemannen says:

    yes and god yes. battlezone is in it’s own genre much like twisted metal. there should be more fprts.

  11. sneetch says:

    Hmmmmmmmm…. I’m a bit unsure about the rewards on this kickstarter… the $5 reward allows you access to all the betas but not the full game, the $12 one gives you “one copy of the BIONITE: Origins Single Player Mission pack and the Multiplayer Maps” which I assume is for the full game… but it’s strangely worded.

    • danrhodenizer says:

      Sorry for the confusion. We are not allowed to edit the pledge description after a pledge has been made, but yes, for $12 you will get the full game digitally.

  12. ShowMeTheMonkey says:

    OH MY GOD. If there was anything I would want kickstarter’d it would be this.

    I loved absolutely everything about Battlezone ’98. The lore, the mechanics, the strategy, the atmosphere… Everything.

    Especially the manual. The manual was like a small book done in the style of a CIA intelligence briefing. Including every fact about every US tank. For the Soviet ones it has “expert estimates”. It kept the Soviets so mysterious until you completed the main campaign and could play as them. I have no idea if that was intentional, but it made me feel right in the middle of the cold war. In space.

  13. JackDandy says:

    Well, I’ll be.
    I loved the 98′ Battlezone.

    This is a very interesting project. I’m kind of iffy about the reward tiers, though. What does “For one year” mean? After a year, I’ll have to pay again to play online?

  14. cptgone says:

    “I’m sure there are other much-loved properties in need of a successor, spiritual or otherwise, but I reckon by summer, Kickstarter will have them all covered.”

    Master of Orion I and II could use a proper sequel.
    Also, Alpha Centauri.
    And a Theme Hospital that offers more than a single campaign.
    Oh, and Motor City / Detroit, done proper.

  15. matrices says:

    /curmudgeon spectacles on

    Don’t know what you guys are on about but Battlezone 2 was terrible. The SP missions were such a disaster for 2/3 of the game, like the team thought they were making a Doom game.

    The first one, though…yeah, that was amazing.

  16. liq3 says:

    You guys are all crazy. Battlezone 2 was the one with good MP and gameplay. I played that thing for years. Dueling in BZ2 was just a MP experience that has yet to be replicated.

    I do hope this game succeeds in reviving the feel of Battlezone.

  17. Tokamak says:

    Only remember playing a bit of the Battlezone (or was it Battlezone 2) demo when it came out with the PC Gamer demo disc. But I did play a lot of Uprising and it’s sequel, which were somewhat similar to the Battlezone games. I’ll be keeping an eye out.

  18. cassus says:

    I will give a helping hand. Battlezone 1 is one of my absolute favorites. In addition to some of the best gameplay in any game ever (even by todays standards, which, while I’m typing this, is an idiotic statement seeing that gameplay has, in most respects, deteriorated the past ten years) but the story and setting was also amazing. I love cold war style stuff, and Battlezone had the most fantastic setting in that regard. I love it, and I really REALLY want this game to become a reality.

  19. JerreyRough says:

    I… Thought about funding it, but not with the past a few members had. I love how they don’t post their history anywhere.

    Originally this project began as a game within the Battlezone universe and was called Battlezone 3. I came across it a while back and really liked the idea. However at least one of the project leaders thought they could sell it as Battlezone 3, disregarding copyrights. I voiced my opinion and shortly after I was banned and my account deleted. Surprisingly nothing happened when I re-registered to ask for the reasons why. My guess is my account was deleted because I was sent a rather unprofessional private message from that project leader, though the message is in my email inbox anyway. Now, that is just one guy; the others are fine and just regular good joes on the internet.

    Though I’m also cautious to join in because of the unclear nature of where the team is located. Last time I checked they accepted people from all over and this team has no real basis of operations. As for gameplay, I hope they include it soon. The last few alpha videos before the Kickstarter page still used the default character controller/weapon/display after so very many months of work. What I’ve seen from those videos is just a big sack of art assets.

    Don’t get me wrong, I would like to see this project prove me wrong and turn out to be awesome. But I just can’t support it with that kind of history behind them, especially for the amount of time its taking them.

    • BZROM says:

      Did you check the archives?

      It has always been our goal to create a spiritual successor to Battlezone 1.

      It would be fair to add that that most of our assets are from voluntary membership and have improved consistently with time.Within a voluntary time scale context, things inherently take longer.
      Folks, this game is going viral ! This is just the beginning.

  20. wouldestous says:

    im holding out for a remake of battlezone ’80

  21. Red_Devil says:

    If you want the authentic Battlezone™ and Battlezone II: Combat Commander™ experience on your current Windows 7 or XP PC, all you have to do is install them using the technique above scribed by Mr. Mates, then install the current (2012) patches linked to above.

    You’ll also find links to current mods like Forgotten Enemies, G66, The Uler, Fleshstorm, ZTV, and a bunch of other mods.

    I wish Bionite: Origins much success.

  22. Syra says:

    Battlezone is one of THE great games for me.

    Unfortunately this looks worse than the original =/

  23. aukondk says:

    Nice idea, shame about the UDK, it means no matter how much money is thrown at it there won’t be a Linux port. Might dig out 98 and see if it runs under wine tho.

  24. rocketman71 says:

    Yay!. Both Battlezones where fucking fantastic. Even Activision was moderately good back then.

    God damn, yet another kickstarter. At this rate, I won’t have anything to buy food at the end of the month!.

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