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Project: Origin (No, Not That One)

Gaming archaeology: now there's an idea. It can only be better than Bonekickers, anyway.

Upon hearing that EA Mythic had received several crateloads full of Origin Systems (the long-dead studio behind the Wing Commander and Ultima games, plus System Shock, and once home to the power duo of Warren Spector and Richard Garriot) archive materials, a group of fans arranged to catalogue the treasure trove. It turned out that EA seems to have hung onto an incredible amount of stuff, making this find perhaps the PC game equivalent of discovering all those fossilised folk in Pompeii. Best of all, there's a good chance all these historical goodies will be released to the public.

The total trove so far is, apparently:

CD Images: 708
SyQuest Images: 25
Photographs: 3,390
3.5″ Disks: 274
Optical Discs: 2
DAT Tapes: 36
8mm Tape Images: 8
Scans: 8,225
VHS Tapes: 101

As well as a ton of design documents, concept art, tchotkes and interviews for at least two of the PC's most respected series, they've discovered what may be code for several unreleased games: Bioforge Plus, Technosaur, Ultima IX (I'm presuming that means a different draft of U9). Technosaur's the one to really get excited about, a lost project that Harvey Smith, later Lead Designer on Deus Ex, was working on shortly before Origin dissolved. Its splendid concept was this:

The high-tech future collides with the prehistoric past in Technosaur, a real-time, networkable strategy game featuring the cybernetic augmentation of dinosaurs for mission-based combat. Present day forces clash with armies from a decaying future who have traveled back in time seeking vengeance and a new lease on life. The invaders bring a terrifying contingent with them--including raptors, tyrannosaurs, stegosaurs, and many other prehistoric engines of death and destruction. Players control the forces of either side, rising in rank from squad leader to war chief as they develop new military technologies, design cybernetic dinosaurs, and manage critical resources. The setting for this terrible conflict is a living world; rain falls at random intervals, day shifts to night, and the fires of war spread through fields and forests, making up the elements of the most realistic world simulation ever created in a strategy game.

(from Smith's former personal site here. Also see artwork here).

Could there be a chance we'll finally get to see some working Technosaur code? Ooh, that'd be quite the thing: the lost RTS from the lead designer of Deus Ex. With robot dinosaurs!

Mythic's Paul Barnett has much to do with the project: "he wants to see it preserved and available for people quickly–perhaps this may get to users' hands!"

Thanks to the ever-cheerful Diogo Ribeiro for tipping us off to the story at the Artful Gamer, which in turn has links to photos of the colossal archiving project.

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