Enter the world of CyberSpace with Amiga Games That Werent...
In December 2020 the much anticipated and delayed Cyberpunk 2077 made its difficult entrance into the world. Based on a tabletop role-playing game, Cyberpunk 2077 is a grand vision of a dystopian future.
Nearly 30 years before, a much smaller team began to create a science fiction game called CyberSpace. Based on a tabletop role-playing game by Iron Crown Enterprises (I.C.E.), it would feature a massive city of a million inhabitants, a first-person 3D engine, an advanced interface and a whole other cyberspace realm that could be used to affect changes in the real world.
CyberSpace was widely previewed in the major Amiga magazines from March 1993 as well as the first issue of PC Gamer. Amiga Power was impressed with the game's scale and open-ended approach. Amiga Computing saw an early demo and noted the game's cinematic feel. CU Amiga was struck by the expressive conversation system and speculated that the developer's own in-house game design tools might herald the end of programmers.
By October 1994, the release was promised for the end of the year but never materialised. What happened to this hugely ambitious game?
The CyberSpace development team was Oxford Digital Enterprises (O.D.E.) which was part of a publisher called Empire. The team consisted of programmers Walt Bayer, Richard Horrocks (Champie), Adrian Barritt (Ade) and John G. Wood (Elv), artists Graham Rice and Chad Schofield and musician George Villiers. Rik Yapp was the project manager and James Butler wrote some of the text.
Walt took a traditional approach to joining O.D.E: “I studied maths & computing. In my third year, I saw an advert for a summer job with ODE and thought itd be fun. Plus is was nice to stay in Oxford. I stayed well beyond that summer!”.
Richard joined O.D.E. after he “saw a classified advert from them in ‘Daily Info', a poster sheet put up around colleges and bars etc, whilst visiting some friends a few months after leaving university.”
John got a job at the company alongside Richard albeit through a less direct route. After another friend was not able to attend the interview, “he let me know, and I just turned up for the interview in his place, bringing a version of laserbikes Id written for the Spectrum. They gave us both a job, even though Id never actually applied...”
Adrian was at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) when he followed up a job advert in Popular Computing Weekly. Adrian remembers that “I sent off an ST scrolling shoot'em up demo I'd written, which led to an interview and then to a job.”
Graham secured a job after mastering the classic Amiga art program Deluxe Paint. He had been “looking for a job with an arty element & my partner saw an advert for a local computer games company who needed an artist, I'd loved games as a kid, so thought I'd give it a go. My interview was set for early January, so I borrowed a friend's Amiga, which had D-Paint on it, taught myself how to use it over the Christmas holiday and luckily enough, got the job at ODE.”
At the age of fourteen, Chad was even younger than the rest of the team. After turning down some tedious work experience with another company, Chad knew that he wanted to work at a game company. He says that “knowing that the school would now probably line me up with a couple of weeks following the caretaker, I went through every computer games magazine Id ever bought looking for a company either nearby or close to anyone I knew. I phoned up a few without much luck and wrote to about 30 companies. Two got back to me, one with a firm ‘no', but the Rik Yapp from the nearest company asked me to send in my CV. I quickly put one together (hardly extensive!), and much to my and the schools amazement they asked me to come in to play test their latest game!”
Chad remembers the work environment: “On my first day I turned up at 8:55 in a mustard-coloured shirt, trousers and a Loony Toonz tie. At 9:40 the first person turned up wearing jeans and a death metal t-shirt (Champie).”
O.D.E. had created games such as the Galaxians-inspired Better Dead Than Alien, the fantasy adventure Sleeping Gods Lie, the coin-op conversion Volfied and tank simulations Team Yankee and Pacific Islands. CyberSpace would be the team's most challenging project yet.
The original CyberSpace is set in a futuristic San Francisco Sprawl although the video game adaptation relocates the action to New Boston in the year 2095.
New Boston is a world taken over by MegaCorporations following overpopulation, fuel shortages, pollution, thermonuclear warfare and civil unrest. National boundaries have vanished and corporate cities have risen. As well as the corporate cities and business parks, there are corporate suburbs, inner cities and sprawls, where cities have met each other. Outside the urban areas are resource and refining zones, wilderness preserves, wastelands, arcologies and aqualogies. There are many homeless as well as large off-planet populations in space colonies.
The online domain is called The Net and is an information-rich domain with detailed records of every person apart from “Blanks” who were born without files or have erased them.
An animated introduction shows a ship flying into the city, Blade Runner style, which is presumably carrying the player's character.
CyberSpace is centred around a menu system which is used for character creation and management as well as loading or saving of games. It's possible to have multiple saved characters at the same time.
Before entering the game world, the player must create a character. The comprehensive character creator allows customisation of attributes and skills.
John recalls that CyberSpace "had a faithful character generator; you could have taken PCs generated in the CRPG and used them in the tabletop RPG.” John was a “tabletop RPGer at heart, and that was one of my favourite bits (though I didnt write it). How we used the stats and skills fluctuated as the game went on, but we had a kind of head-up display interface and you could use tools as well as weapons, which would automatically apply your appropriate skill level. I ran a couple of sessions of the RPG so that we could get a feel for the rules, so technically Ive been paid to be a GM!”
There are two main screens for character statistics. The first defines the character class or profession, fundamental characteristics and the social class. The second allows detailed allocation of development points.
CyberSpace bases its six pre-defined player classes or professions on the role-playing game: Sleaze, Sneak, Killer, Net Junkie, Jockey and Tech Rat.
You rely primarily on social skills to perform your job. You often gain information through interaction or manipulating others with your sharp conversational abilities. Although you excel in the development of these skills, you have a rather difficult time learning many others. Examples of Sleaze include corporate and governmental administrators, salespeople, teachers, entertainers, and theologians.
Society Dude or Babe, Slime, Reagan, Socializer, Politico, Suit, Media Bum, Schmoozer
You focus on the hands-on aspects of crime and security and may be either a cop or a criminal. You are generally concerned with crimes of a physical nature rather than the high-tech computerized exploits of the Net Junkies. Your skill development opportunities are quite broad, although they centre on subterfuge skills.
Security Man, Prowler, Eye, Hood
This profession covers all manner of fighters, from Sprawl thugs to corporate assassins. Regardless of group affiliation or social class, if your training is primarily concerned with weaponry, combat, military tactics and/or warfare, you are a Killer. Your primary areas of skill development are weapon and manoeuvring skills. It is relatively difficult for you to learn social or scientific skills, as you have little use for such pursuits.
TriggerBoy/Girl, Scrapper, Punk, Jason, BrawlBoy, Thug, Fighter, Strongarm
You are one of the feared and renowned Neural Interface specialists, utilizing your specialised machines (called CyberDecks) to move through the abstract dimensions of the Global Telecommunications Network (i.e., Cyberspace) and infiltrate security systems. You are quite good with cyberspace skills and fairly good with technical skills but have a hard time with the more physical pursuits (since you spend a lot of time in another world).
Net Jockey, Nethead, Brain, Bryce, Deck Jockey, Decker, Hacker
You are an individual whose specialised professional skills have to do with the operation of equipment; including your personal equipment. You specialize in manoeuvring skills and general skills. You are one of the citizens who make sure civilization keeps running: drivers, pilots, communications personnel, paramedics, etc. You also have knowledge of basic computer operation (conceptually very different from the intuitive world of Cyberspace) and you use your understanding of computer/user interface to perform the more mundane operations in the Net (accessing satellite links, etc.). You do not necessarily know how your equipment works, you just know how to use it.
Fly-Boy, Controller, Fingers, Console Jock, Operator Keyboard Cowboy
This profession covers a wide variety of character types, ranging from R&D scientists to simple mechanics, including maintenance workers, free-lance special device-riggers, engineers, physicians, scientists, cyber-designers, weapon makers, etc. They are often employed by one of the world-powerful mega-corps; many are attached to CorpMerc teams or political military forces. You might even be a Wormtech practitioner, creating unauthorised works of genius for sale on the black market. You fare well with technical skills, but generally shun the more physical pursuits. You will usually have your own particular field of expertise (one of the technical skills).
Mr. Science, Handyman, Fixer, Toolie, Techie, Plumber, Repairman, Grease Monkey
Fundamental characteristics can also be customised using sliders to assign scores within a limited number of points.
General health and well-being.
Manual dexterity and physical litheness.
Control of body and mind.
The ability to retain what you have learned.
The ability to comprehend and categorize data for further use, and to draw logical conclusions from it.
The ability to use existing muscles to their greatest advantage.
A measure of reflexes and conscious reaction speed.
Control of mind, self-image, bearing and charisma.
A combination of wisdom, luck, insight, and “the favour of the gods”.
Personality and communication.
Society comprises of different social/family classes.
Corporate Upper Class (UCorp)
Your family is made up of high-ranking Corporate Officers. You will have easy access to company resources and vehicles.
Corporate Middle Class (MCorp)
Your family is made up of mid-level Corporate Executives and Directors. You have limited access to company resources.
Corporate Lower Class (LCorp)
Your family is made up of low-level Corporate Administrators, Clerks, Researchers, etc. You have contacts in service levels of the corporate structure.
Sprawl/Inner City Upper Class (USprl)
Your family is a well-known Merchant or Tradesperson. You know many sprawl dwellers as clientele.
Sprawl/Inner City Lower Class (LSprl)
Your family is urban poor. You know many sprawl dwellers as friends or associates.
Resource & Refining Zones Worker (RRWrk)
Your family consists of laborers and drivers, possibly itinerant. You have a small circle of loyal friends or co-workers.
Your family is an enclosed community. You will always be welcome back (unless you are outcast for some reason).
Wilderness or Wastelands (Wilds)
Your family is outcast or reclusive, subsistence very poor. You are familiar with the topography and inhabitants of the wilderness area you hail from.
Urban Homeless (UHmls)
Your family is made up of beggars and criminals. You are familiar with other street people from the same general area, may have knowledge of the sewers, etc.
Nomadic Homeless (Gypsy)
Your family is a Gypsy clan. You have a clan of comrades who will welcome you back at any time and do favours for you if asked.
Space Colony (SClny)
Your family is made up of Explorers, Astronauts, and Colonists. You are often able to obtain interest or favours by speaking of your origins.
The three sections on the first screen affect the skills that can be developed in the second character generation screen.
For example, the Net Junkie profession will start with a higher level in Cyberspace skills and a Killer a higher level in Weapon skills.
Increasing or decreasing specific characteristics affect corresponding skills. Increasing Reasoning will improve skills in the sciences and decreasing Strength will affect the ability to wear armour.
Within the social classes, a corporate type will have had more education and start with more money than a worker but will be less physically able than a Resource & Refining Zones Worker.
Development points can be assigned to broad skill areas with limits based on the choices from the previous screen. Additional development points are achieved within the game at each new experience level.
Customisation of skills areas is possible using a pooling system. The minus button moves development points to the pool. Primary skill areas can be increased based on the initial total. If the total is zero then four pooled points are required for each single point and if the total is more than zero then two points are required for each single point. Special Skills, Secondary Skills and Languages only require one point from the pool.
Points can only be assigned at most twice to a particular skill.
This is an overview of the different skill areas:
These skills determine how quickly your character can move, particularly in unusual circumstances or stressful situations (such as combat).
These skills determine how effective your character is in combat. The skills must be developed separately for each of the four weapon types: Melee, Missile, Fire and Mounted.
These skills cover specialised personal manoeuvres as well as the ability to operate vehicles and equipment.
These skills determine how well your character sneaks, tracks, backtracks, and gains entry into secure places.
These skills determine your characters ability to interact with and influence other people.
These skills determine your characters ability to interact with Cyberspace.
These skills are used for the application of technical skill and knowledge to real world situations. The appropriate skill can affect repairs, construction and modification of materials and equipment.
The following skills are listed in this section because they function in ways which are unlike the other categories.
Secondary Skills are not used as often as the other skills during play. They are often tied to, or indicative of, a characters background or trade.
English, Japanese, Cantonese, Mandarin, French and German.
Here are all the skills within each skill area and which characteristics affect each one:
Light Body A.
A. Body Suit
Adds to Offensive Capability. The fire weapon type covers all handheld energy and high-speed projectile weapons (i.e., guns). Such weapons include: lasers, pistols, rifles, shotguns, and the like.
Adds to Offensive Capability. This covers the use of all weapons in hand-to-hand combat, including archaic weaponry, such as daggers, swords, axes, maces, morning stars, etc. This skill may also be used for such modern-day equivalents as pipes, chains, switchblades and trench knives. This category also includes forms of unarmed combat like brawling and the martial arts. Brawling in the world of Cyberspace is often the dirtiest form of fighting. Normally, the only weapons used are objects close at hand. This is the skill of bare-fisted street fighting, but at its highest levels it may include many advanced martial arts moves.
Adds to Offensive Capability. This weapon type covers thrown and bow/sling weapons which can attack from a distance. Such weapons include: long bows, short bows, composite bows, crossbows, daggers, throwing knives, javelins, shuriken (throwing stars), thrown grenades, etc.
Adds to Offensive Capability. The mounted weapon type covers all mounted weaponry (i.e. on vehicles and platforms), support weaponry and weaponry that fires explosive missiles. Such weapons include: grenade launchers, rocket launchers, recoilless rifles, machine guns, cannons, bombs, torpedoes, etc.
Covers the operation of all the ground and water-going vehicles. One skill rank allows basic understanding of the controls, while further ranks reflect increased ability and quickness in manoeuvring the vehicle. Possibilities include: wheeled vehicles, GEM/hover vehicles (i.e. Ground Effect Machines), tracked tanks, sailing vessels, ships, etc.
Covers operating all aircraft and spacecraft. One skill rank allows basic understanding of the controls, while further ranks reflect increased ability and quickness in manoeuvring the craft. Possibilities include: helicopters, prop planes, jets, orbital shuttles, and the myriad of starcraft (i.e. spaceships).
This skill is primarily a measure of the characters ability to deal with the physical environment and with relatively mundane aspects of negotiating that environment. It covers several subclasses of manoeuvres and activities such as: climbing, swimming, practicing first aid, coping with alien environments and surviving the adverse effects of unusual environments.
Covers the operation of all normal equipment. One skill rank allows basic understanding of the controls, while further ranks reflect increased speed and aptitude in operating the equipment.
This skill covers neutralizing and bypassing electronic locks, electronic taps, surveillance systems, and a host of other high-tech security devices.
This skill covers neutralizing and bypassing mechanical locks, and traps and other similar security devices.
This skill governs your ability to manoeuvre behind an opponent and remain undetected before making your attack. When used with a missile or firing weapon, this skill is called Sniping. When used against a vehicle, this skill is called Mounted Weapons Ambush.
Stalk & Hide
Stalking is the ability to move using camouflage and shadows to conceal your presence. Hiding reflects the skill in using camouflage, shadows, etc., to remain absolutely hidden while immobile.
Governs attempts to operate within upper-level society situations. Useful for dealing with the "movers and shakers" of the world: politicians, aristocrats, corporate bigwigs, movie stars etc.
Governs attempts to locate illicit/unadvertised persons, drugs, services, technology, or rumours. Useful for locating "black market" sources and catching up on the latest buzz around town.
Applies to functioning successfully in any environment where record keeping, personnel interaction, and bureaucracy are pertinent considerations (such as government agencies or corporate offices).
Applies to attempts to manipulate individuals and to take advantage of "social" situations. It covers several subclasses of manipulation such as: Acting: The use of the Exploit skill for all manner of acting attempts including: impersonating others, devising false identities, playing for sympathy, etc. Conning: The use of the Exploit skill to create a false impression of a situation or attitude in the mind of a target individual. Interrogation: The use of the exploit skill to extract information from others. Seduction: The use of the Exploit skill to manipulate someone emotionally, sensually, or sexually.
Affects the use of a CyberDeck when attempting to enter and "travel" through the Global Telecommunications Network, into distant databanks or other reaches of The Matrix.
This skill affects a characters combat programs skill ranks while operating in Cyberspace. The skill rank of each Cyberspace combat program that a character has operating is increased by his or her rank with this skill.
This skill affects a characters intrusion programs skill ranks while operating in Cyberspace. The skill rank of each Cyberspace intrusion program that a character has operating is increased by his or her rank with this skill.
This skill affects the characters utility programs skill ranks while operating in Cyberspace. The skill rank of each Cyberspace utility program that a character has operating is increased by his or her rank with this skill.
Covers research, design, construction, repair, and modification of "biological" systems and entities. This skill may also be used with medical equipment for relatively minor operations, for genetics alterations, for cloning attempts etc.
Covers research, design, construction, repair, and modification of mechanical devices and systems (e.g. mechanical weaponry, engines, power systems, etc.).
Covers research, design, construction, repair, and modification of electronic devices and systems (e.g. computers, "crime tech" devices, radios, etc.).
Covers research, design, construction, repair, and modification of computer programs. Each skill rank allows the character to "learn" one Programming Language. Alternately, the character may wait until two skill ranks have been learned in order to master one Machine Language.
Governs design, construction, implementation, and repairs of Cyber Systems within a living "wearer".
This skill determines the characters ability to gain information and clues through observation. It may be used to spot traps, to observe stalking or hiding characters, to notice a concealed microphone or electronic eye, etc.
Allows a character to consciously control an implanted Cyber System.
This skill represents a characters ability to withstand pain, shock or bleeding.
This skill is used for in-air manoeuvres or swinging from objects. Helps reduce the effect of falls.
A pure science that covers knowledge of geometry, trigonometry, calculus, differential equations, basic relativity, etc. All characters are assumed to understand basic math; addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, etc.
This skill is used for determining or estimating the value of goods: e.g. gems, jewelry, electronics, programs, etc.
This skill is used to ascertain the correct course for all inter-planetary journeys.
A pure science that covers stella and planetary composition, orbit theory, cosmology and all related "space sciences".
A pure science that covers biology, botany, zoology, etc.
A pure science that covers elemental particles, molecular structure, compounds and all reactions, both organic and inorganic. It can also cover metallurgy, biochemistry, etc.
This skill is used for manipulating ones body through small openings or absorbing sudden crushing impacts (other than falls). Helps escape from bonds, etc.
A pure science that covers cybernetics.
This skill is used for resisting the effects of intoxicants, poisons, or other chemical substances.
This skill is used for creating false but believable manual writings or illustrations (e.g. forging, counterfeiting, etc.)
This skill is used for finding any local source of edible food and/or drinkable water in a rural environment; e.g. fishing, gathering nuts, etc.
This skill is used for finding any local source of edible food and/or drinkable water in a an urban environment; e.g. finding edible food in garbage cans, restaurant waste, and water pipes, etc.
This skill is used for entering into a state of single-minded unpredictable rage.
This skill is used for playing any game which involves a significant amount of luck and/or bluffing.
A pure science that covers the knowledge of history, races, religions, governments, etc.
This skill is used for use of large-scale media resources, techniques and equipment; e.g. radio, television, cable television, newspaper, FAXpaper, computer networks, etc.
This skill covers surgical procedures, medical diagnostics, and the use of any operating room equipment. This skill also covers research of genetic strains and recombination DNA experimentation.
This skill is used for music appreciation, theory and performance.
A pure science that covers force, energy, atomic structure, etc.
A pure science that covers geology, meteorology, geography, etc.
This skill is used for drawing or changing weapons.
This skill is used for playing games primarily involving agility, coordination and motor skills.
Skill used to immobilize a foe by delivering a sharp blow to a precise point on the victims upper body. In order to use this skill, the character must be able to approach the victim undetected and be able to strike before the foe can react. Subduing attacks can only be made against characters in No Armour or Light Body Armour.
Skill used for any manoeuvre involving sleight of hand; picking pockets, confusing sight tricks, and other prestidigitations.
The character's clothes, possessions and weapons are selected next. There is an extensive list of items that can be purchased immediately for your character although limited funds constrain the initial loadout.
The different types of items that can be purchased initially are as follows:
Neonike street treads
Klein II Suit
Klein II memory cloth dress
Claiborne Business Suit
Lesser Italian Suit
diMedici Mens Eveningwear
Cleopatra Evening Gown
Klein II T-shirt
Eros Flynn Coverall
Gianfranco Leather Jacket
Planetary Light Duty
Planetary Heavy Duty
Deep Space Light Duty
Deep Space Heavy Duty
Light Body Armour
Extended Flak Vest
Reinforced Flak Vest
Reinforced Flak Armor
Pliable Half Plate
Pliable Full Plate
Full Armoured Exoskeleton
Bone Bonding Solution
Auto Tab Applicator
5mm Light Machine Pistol
10mm Medium Machine Pistol
H&K VP70 Z
10mm Submachine Gun
Ingram MAC 10 B
Mini Uzi IV
Mirage S10 Rapier
5mm Light Rifle
10mm Medium Rifle
12mm Heavy Rifle
5mm Lt Assault Rifle
Mirage R5 Spear
GRU S5 Soldier-5
Steyr AUG C
10mm Medium Assault Rifle
Mirage R10 Lance
GRU T10 (Trooper-10)
10mm Light Machine gun
10mm Medium Machine gun
12mm Heavy Machine gun
15mm Sawed-off Shotgun
20mm Sawed-off Shotgun
H&K Pulsar 10
H&K Pulsar 100
H&K HK MA 41
H&K HK MA53
Mirage XR 12
H&K/B&L RB 25
Colt/Corning Mark One
Mirage XR 22
H&K/B&L RB 50
Colt/Corning Mark Two
Mirage XR 32
H&K/B&L RB 75
Colt/Corning Mark Three
5mm GP Ammunition
5mm AP Ammunition
5mm HE Ammunition
5mm HEAP Ammunition
10mm GP Ammunition
10mm AP Ammunition
10mm HE Ammunition
10mm HEAP Ammunition
12mm GP Ammunition
12mm AP Ammunition
12mm HE Ammunition
12mm HEAP Ammunition
Needle Pistol Magazine
Needle Rifle Magazine
15mm Shotgun Shot
20mm Shotgun Shot
15mm Shotgun Slug
20mm Shotgun Slug
Taser Pistol Cartridge
Taser Rifle Magazine
Most effective against spiders
Most effective against shockers
Generic ICE disabling program good all rounder, but not great at any one.
Most effective against canons
Designed to bypass Security Coded Datawalls but very poor against most other ICE (see RPG manual)
Most effective against bullets
The final step is to determine your appearance. Facial details can be fine-tuned or randomised.
There are four difference areas that can be customised on this screen: eyes, nose/mouth, face and hair. The position of the facial features can be adjusted slightly and palettes allow for colour choices.
A button alternates between male and female versions of the character. Another button selects left or right handedness. It's even possible to use sliders to alter the height and girth as well as the size of the face.
Once a new character has been created it's time to enter New Boston. A 3D in-engine cutscene shows the player's arrival at New Boston Station 11, passing through an identification check, stopping at a vending machine and visiting an information desk.
A message arrives on your communication device from a friend called Raymond Clark, who would like a chat at the Uniqorn Club after six.
At this point we gain full control of the game. The 3D engine uses texture-mapping on the PC DOS version but it can be turned off by launching the game with a special parameter. Flat, filled-colour walls appeared in the magazine preview screenshots and is most likely how the Amiga version would have looked. For example, this is another location without the texture-mapping:
Walt remembers that “this was in the days before 3D graphics cards. My memory is hazy, but I think we used integer maths as it was faster than floating point, with lookup tables for the sine & cosines needed for the rotations. Development started in the days before textured polygons, so we just projected the corners and rendered filled shapes. The hand-crafted machine code did a pretty quick job of that! We added the face textures part way through development.”.
The game begins at the entrance to the Uniqorn Qlub where a bouncer called Harvey Parker demands $10 for entry into the venue. This can be achieved in multiple ways from paying the cash to attacking the bouncer. This freedom to choose different paths is a key feature of Cyberspace's gameplay.
Inside the club we're approached by Raymond, who has hacked some systems and discovered the player on a passenger list. He reminisces about the old days, earning cash together, and now has a job that involves selling data to a buyer called Viney Reeves. She lives on the corner of 426th Street and 488th Avenue on the 2nd floor. The exact building and room is not yet clear.
Conversations are started using the information icon which looks like a magnifying glass. Clicking once on a character shows their name and address and clicking twice initiates the conversation. The system is nuanced and includes two sliders which determine the response. The first scale decides the negativity or positivity of the response. The second scale governs how deferential or contemptuous the reaction is.
The view is overlaid by a thin, green display that Richard explains “was to build on some of the UI tech we had developed for the Team Yankee games, and to use a HUD style display to try and stand out from other games at the time and to give a more immersive experience.” Adrian explains that “the HUD was a cybernetic implant, rather than UI as such.”
In Pacific Islands multiple tanks could be controlled on a single screen using multiple windows:
The CyberSpace HUD is made up of four windows: Combat (top-left), Use/Tasks (top-right), Inventory (bottom-right) and Information (bottom-left) plus a rectangle used to crouch (bottom-middle). The top two windows are also used to show the items held in each hand. Each window can be switched on, off or expanded to fill the whole screen. The interface can be dimmed to make it less conspicuous.
There's a key distinction when using the mouse. The left mouse button is used to interact with the real world and the right mouse button controls the HUD, as well as movement. Overall, the system takes a little getting used to but allows for advanced interaction with the world. For example, a weapon can be held in your right hand and a key in your left hand.
It's not clear which of the four possible buildings the buyer Viney Reeves is living in, so it's necessary to search all four or to retrieve the information from cyberspace.
Adrian recalls that “completing tasks in CyberSpace would enable you to access new areas in the real world. You could also find information that could be sold or traded.”
Entering cyberspace is achieved using a CyberDeck, which is a portable hacking device common in cyberpunk fiction. When the CyberDeck is activated the view changes to map of the city.
Residents of the city can be targeted for a hack with a cost associated per second and a maximum time allowed in cyberspace. The costs and time limit presumably depend on the player's proficiency in cyberspace skills. Time is cyberspace is slower than reality and is counted in milliseconds so the limits aren't as severe as they seem.
After selecting a person, the view changes to a stylised wireframe portraying the Net. The interface is similar to the normal game view except with a special information panel at the top right showing the CyberDeck rating, CPU strength, integrity, the player's remaining cash and the time left.
The net is made up of local area networks, with each one representing a security system in the real world. At the centre of the local network is a Central Processing Unit (CPU), surrounded by a ring with sub-networks on spokes. The subnets contain sub-systems or data that can be accessed with the correct security level or hacking programs and sufficient time.
A CyberSpace design document shows the types of sub-systems that would be included in cyberspace:
Names (lower security)
Details (higher security)
Tax records (lower security)
Complete accounts (higher security)
Database (lower security)
Research files (higher security)
Camera (criminality monitoring)
Lift Access System (enable access to restricted areas)
Lift access data
Door locks data file
Alarm data file
In additional to security levels there are other, more mobile, defences. There are three types:
Passive defences. No shield.
Reduces the player's Power. May have a shield
Reduce the player's Hit Points. May have a shield.
Non-shielded defences are hostile but weaker and shielded defences are less hostile but stronger. Each defence has a rating number and the player's own rating is calculated from relevant skills and weapon ratings. Attacks are less effective over greater distances.
The Names data file is identified by a face icon in its middle or by using the magnifying glass on it. The “Data Copy” Utility program is required to access data from the file.
According to the Names data file accessed in cyberspace, Viney Reeves is living in apartment 202 at 426A, 488th Avenue North, W26.
After leaving a building the game changes to a flat 2D map view. There is no exterior 3D view of the city and navigation is via the map with four different zoom levels.
The lowest zoom level shows the different areas of the city with The Sprawl in the middle surrounded by Milton Heights, New Hampton, Youngstown, Eastside Malls, Manchuria, Chinatown, Automatica and Howard.
The next level provides a guide to each sector with the value (low to premium) and type (residential vs commercial) of each block.
The third level helps to identify building types. Individual building types can be highlighted by selecting a category button and choosing a type.
Upper Corporate, Middle Corporate, Lower Corporate, Upper Sprawl, Lower Sprawl, Labouring Class
Food, Hot Food, Drugs, Clothing, Footware, Specialist apparel, Software, Tools, Weapons
Restaurant, Gymnasium, Brothel, Museum, Bar
Hotel, Bank, Library, Software, Broadcasting, Delivery, Pawnbrokers, General Services
Subway Station, City Hall, Military, Airport
The highest zoom shows a street-level view. This map is used to interact with individual buildings.
There are four methods of transportation: foot, bus, taxi and subway. Each method has a different cost and duration. Walking is free but takes a long time, buses are inexpensive but slow and taxis are expensive but quick. The subway is cost-effective and fast but it's necessary to travel to a station before the option is available.
Upon reaching Viney Reeves' apartment building the view changes back to the 3D mode. Access to the second floor is via one of two lifts. Clicking the left mouse button with the “use” button displays a number pad and clicking the right mouse button on the number two and the tick button operates the lift.
Viney can be found inside apartment 202. The trade can be completed using the conversation system and by showing the datacard to Viney.
The design documents for CyberSpace give some hints about the game's plot. The plot outlines start in a similar way to the game itself, where a meeting with an old friend Mitch kicks off the story.
The characters were referred to by internal dummy names during development with official versions for the game itself.
The player's old friend
Mitch's friend and bar propper
Mitch's friend and bar regular
Mitch's nosey neighbour
Mitch's party animal neighbour
Mitch's mysterious neighbour
A sinister mafia type
A provider of cyberspace jobs
An email acquaintance
A space sleaze
A tech rat who wants tools
A smooth talking sleaze. See Simon
A smooth talking sleaze. See Ian
A hopeless private detective
A killer working for Bungle
Company B Head
Company B Scientist
Company B Receptionist
A mole within Mikura
Identikit execs at Mikura
The Mikura receptionist
A mysterious scientist
An officious TRAIL man
The church leader
The church second-in-command
In love with Bob
Executive from Company B
Uncover agent from TRAIL
There is a lot of dialogue for all the characters. Here's a sample:
Nervous, jittery, hi-tech computery, nerdy. Talks techie all the time. Was at school with Bod?
It seems that Mitch has become involved in something nefarious and requires cash.
Mitch: Good. Sorry to be so jittery but I'm in something pretty heavy. I'll get straight to the point. I need $1000 fast or I'm a frozen turkey – you twig?
Mitch reveals more about the situation that he has got himself into:
Mitch: Heres the sitch. Im doing some running for a big company. I cant say who but if I tell you theyve got a big A in their logo I think youll know who I mean. I desperately need some more progs and this should cover me for now. Can you wait till next week for the money back?
The situation deteriorates further:
Mitch: Things just got a whole lot worse. I need 40000 dollars. Please help!
If the player manages to get the money then Mitch is happy but evasive:
Mitch: Orgasmic! I could just hug you and... well anyway. I promise you Ill give it back tomorrow with a full explanation. Just dont ask for one now.
After this Mitch disappears!
Mitch has a number of friends, including drinking pals Bud and Norm, who is a Cheers-like bar regular.
Norm: A man came in looking for Mitch yesterday. Ride, I think he was called. A nasty piece of work. Mitch could be in some kind of trouble.
Bud: Mitch used to be good for a laugh. Hes stuck up his own NACJack these days.
One of Mitch's neighbours is Ann who is Mousey & nosey. Knows fuck all but pretends to know everything.
Ann: I expect you want to know whats been going on next door just like the other man?
Another neighbour is Randy who is: Very outgoing. Has parties all the time and invites Mitch. Mitch secretly tells her stuff that she is too good a friend to pass on. Appears loud and uninteresting but has hidden depths.
The player attends one of Randy's parties.
Randy: If you want my opinion hes gotten caught up in some corporate feud. See that guy in the corner? He tries to be friendly with me but I know hes just keeping tabs on Mitch. I think this could be worth a shitload of money to some fat sleaze, but this isnt really the time or the place to discuss it.
The party lasts when the player leaves or until 4am. Unfortunately, Randy is killed after the party.
Mitch's third neighbour, Skippy: really works for company B. Has FCI stuff in his room.
Skippy: Youve probably heard about Randy. If you don't wanna end up the same way, then I suggest you stop snooping around in something that isnt your business.
The player's profession determines their acquaintances.
Uncle: Has a job for you to do. Very mafia like and over-friendly but sinister.
Uncle: There is a woman. Lily is her name. She is not good. She hurts me. Here is her address. Make sure it is her last.
Uncle: Hah. It is funny. As one person shuffles off, so another appears. Somebody else has upset me. I hope that you understand what I am saying. They must not upset me again. His name is Mitch.
Zak: Another killer who knows Mitch.
Zak:Hot shit. You must be filling the morgues quicker than bubonic plague.
Zak:I think Mitch is in some deep shit. He called me last night to try to persuade me to make a hit on some sleaze called `BB. I dug around a bit and found out that this guy is level 12 security. Ive got about as much chance of hitting him as the pope has of having triplets again. He must be in big trouble.
Bill: Has some net-running for you. Simple stuff.
Bill:Right on. What were doing is plucking all the level 8 and above data from Mikura and Austin. This company is paying big, big bucks for it. Just cruise the net and pluck away - bring anything you get here and I'll pass it on.
Bill:Wow. You must be pretty shit hot at poking pixels. Im dead impressed!
Susan: e-mail acquaintance. Falls for player.
Susan:You really should take up the offer. Its not often were short staffed on a job that pays this well.
Susan:Its quite simple. Plug your trodes into your deck and pluck, pluck pluck. All the Mikura and Austin data you can lay your paws on. OK? remember. Level 8 and above.
Carol: Astronaut. Possibly thinking of you for next shuttle. Remote poss.
Carol:Looks like itll be just you and me in that old rust-heap. M.O. Pauwels is yet to announce the launch date, since Im told it will be dependent on the arrival of our primary cargo. I suspect it will be soon, however. That aside, there should be no real problems. As you know, we are to deliver a cargo that is very sensitive. Well have to smuggle the medical supplies past the station security, and I don't need to tell you what will happen to us if we are caught. M.O. Pauwels did explain we were smuggling medical supplies, didnt she?
Carol: Anyhow, youll need to be here at 1100 hours sharp on launch day. Dont bother coming too early. The techies like us out of the way when they prep the shuttle. Meet me here, and well program the navigational routes, calculate the flight plan based on the latest weather reports and prep for launch at 1400 hours. It will be a short 50 minute flight to Aldrin II.
Carol: Once weve got past station security, were to meet our contact and deliver the payload. Next youll have to navigate us to your best estimation of MikiSat 7s position. Always a shitty job trying to find satellites in unstable orbits. Then its E.V.A. time. OK. Report to the M.O. and shell inform you of the launch date as soon as she knows.
Marisa: Friend of Carols. Sleaze with connections in space!
Marisa:You must be the applicant for the astronaut position. I was expecting someone taller, but never mind. We need someone with your skills for a delicate mission. Im told you have navigational experience on OTVs and youve worked in zero-G. Is that correct?
Marisa:You imbecile! You total cretin! We had to send one of the office cleaners up in your place, because you missed the launch. Why do I have to live in a world of incompetent morons? Get out of my sight. If I ever see you here again, Ill have you killed.
Tony: Sends you out for tools all the time. Completely mad.
Tony:Am I glad to see you. We need [a standard toolkit | an electronics toolkit | a mechanics toolkit | a set of electronic lockpicks], and we need it fast. I did ask Andy but he never seems to do anything I ask.
Tony:Youll never believe that job I did. I got 20G just for cutting someone into little pieces. Its a shame he wasnt dead to start with, of course. But someone had to do it. They say I could get more work along the same lines if Im lucky. These Megacorps are mad. Heres your cut.
Andy: Works with Tony. Very quiet. Can help if persuaded to speak.
Andy:Tony and I have got lots of work to do.
Andy:Weve got everything well in hand. Were working really hard.
Ian: Thinking of grooming you for Simons job. Very smooth.
Ian:I need a deal negotiated with Fitzways to secure the rights to some compression software. They have been in touch with us, and have agreed in principle to sell to us. If you visit them and discuss the matter, Im sure that there will be no problem in sealing the deal. Hence, Id like you to arrange the final contract and complete the purchase. Heres an advance of $5000. Call in when youve got it sorted.
Ian:It appears we have a vacancy. `Simons position is, how shall I say, horizontal. You now have the opportunity to take on some of the workload which my permanently absent associate won't be completing. Are you willing to be of service to me?
Simon: Thinking of grooming you for Ians job. Very smooth.
Simon:That would be so kind. You see, I am so busy these days. I dont have time to arrange all those little jobs that need doing. I would like to create a new post; a sort of executive runner, if you like. Cant trust it to a courier company as theres negotiation and responsibility involved. I think youve got the qualities Im looking for, and I can offer you attractive financial rewards for completing the tasks I set. Does this sound like the kind of thing youre after?
Simon:Ah. Good to see you again. I must pass on the sorry news that my wonderful partner, `Ian, has been horribly killed. He was shot by a hired gun, apparently. What barbaric times we live in! It is a terrible tragedy. Never mind.
Bungle: Hopeless private detective with work for you.
Bungle: You bet. OK. What we do here is like we say, find-em-and-shoot-em. Trouble is, Zippy is none too good at finding em and I dont have the time. What youll have to do is track these people down, pull the names data file of the building from Cyberspace and give it to Zippy and hell do the rest.
Bungle: Bad news. Zippy hit the wrong person. Oh well...
Zippy: Killer who works with Bungle with often disastrous consequences!
Zippy: Give names data.
BB: Head Man. Supremely confident. Sort of Alan Rickman Die Hard character. Very calculating and hard.
BB:Your friend, Mitch, was doing a little job for us and we want you to take it on. Have you heard of Mikura Biolabs? They are a friendly rival of ours. They have a rather powerful AI known as Interfactor which has about 16 billion times your brainpower and quite a lot more than mine. This AI has developed a splinter program that has the potential to be even more powerful. Are you following this?
BB:As you can see it is all very simple. I should warn you that Mitch was helping us with this little scheme and appears to have been picked up by Mikura. If he is not dead already then I am sure that he has been, how shall I say, discouraged from living. I do hope that he does not tell them anything about you. It might be wise to move hotel quite soon, dont you think?
Brains: Techie. Matter of fact. Data from Next Generation.
Brains:It is straightforward. We are scientists. We have implanted a piece of wormtech in your head that contains a viral bomb. This bomb must be downloaded directly into the splinter console, which we know is located within one of Mikuras buildings in this city. This will destroy the splinter. You understand?
Brains: Good, you will need to understand. We have also implanted what we call a STTB or Software-triggered Time Bomb in your head. A small charge sufficient to blow your head off quite cleanly. You understand?
Brains: On downloading the wormtech VB into the splinter, half of the encryption program will be decoded. Log back on to the net from your personal terminal and the other half will be decrypted and the Time Bomb will be deactivated. You understand?
Brains: But you must log on to the net within 30 minutes of downloading the wormtech or else you will have no need for any of your [necklaces | neckties]. You understand?
Brains: It is simple. You will comply. I will maintain contact with you through the net. If I can help you I will. But dont count on it. I am only a scientist. You are a [woman | man] with a bomb in [her | his] head.
Sandy: Receptionist. Appears very nice and welcoming. Is definitely arranging to have you killed as you speak to her.
Sandy:Oh, hello there. We were wondering if youd ever show up. How nice to see you. Can I help at all?
Sandy:No. I didnt really think so. Being pumped full of lead isnt much of a help is it? You have 10 seconds to get the hell out of here. Have a nice day.
Mikura is a biolab research and development company.
Monty: Mole. Flowery person. Sort of hippy - anti-establishment. Very friendly - almost worrying.
Monty:I hear youre after Interfactors splinter. That thing is a bad-assed piece of code. Id go after it myself if I knew anything about tech-shit. Ill do what I can to help though. To get to at the splinter console, youre also gonna need to get past Mikuras high security locking mechanisms. Word is, the lock control mechanism can be deactivated by a multi-part software sequence. Your friend discovered evidence of this so called Gregorian code. I have access to a decryption program from deep inside Mikuras file system, and he discovered one of the keys in the net by using it. You may find it useful to own a copy, but be careful with it. If it is traced back to me, then well both be feeding the trees. I can give you the one piece that Mitch found before his luck ran out, OK?
Monty:I have access to a part of the security subsystem, so I can grant you security access at Mikura up to level 2 from my personal terminal. It would definitely be noticed if I tried to go any higher, and youre gonna need a lot higher than that. I dont know much about overriding the security for company visitors. There is one group who regularly get access to secure areas of companies, and thats T.R.A.I.L. Weve been assisting them, since theyre very keen to see Interfactors baby terminated, too. If you can provide them with evidence, you may be able to negotiate assistence from them. Have you met up with TRAIL yet?
Executives A-Z: Identikit execs with hard smiles and no hearts. Will arrange to have you killed if they suspect anything at all.
Krissy: Receptionist. Seems hard but has a soft spot for you for some unknown reason. Very important.
Doctor X: Scientific. Hard. Mercenary. Will remove bomb for massive fee.
Ride: TRAIL man. Sort of FBI, slightly stupid but very officious.
Ride: Good. In that case, Ill give you a full run down on the situation. Interfactor is illegal - we know that but we cant prove it. We also know that interfactor is planning a splinter program. We can't disable interfactor at this time, but it is essential that we prevent the splinter program from establishing itself. Potentially we have several means to achieve this, but the important point is that we have no evidence, and thats where you come in. Once we have that, we can obtain funding and recources and begin to restrict Interfactors activities. For your part, you need access to get deeper into Mikuras high-security areas. We, as a United Nations backed organisation, have certain access rights, but that usually takes months to sort out - time we don't have. What is much easier for us is to increase a clearance level that we already have. We can usually get that rubber stamped in a few hours, if we can provide what they call sufficient justification. Do you have any clearance at all
All are sort of red-neck stupid people. Very enthusiastic but idiotically stupid.
Bob:The leader of the particular meetings that you attend.
Bob:Caution! I warn thee - do not falter, for truly shall the hesitating man fall prey to the temptation of domestic appliances. In the days to come, many shall be troubled, but only the faithful shall not need to call the maintenance man who doth overcharge.
Bob:What is this? A sacred sign from Interfactor Himself. You are truly the chosen one. You must come here every day and celebrate with us.
Harry: Bobs second in command - phenomenally stupid!
Harry:Halt in the name of the FCI. Do you know the secret password?
Harry:Bob says that Interfactor is the cleverest thing that ever was.
Harry:I dunno how clever it is. I had a cousin called Mary-Belle who was darned clever and stuff. But when she married Billy-Joe she went kinda funny. Interfactor dont do anything like that.
Louise: In love with Bob. Vacuous.
Louise:I dont know how much more hip-hop I can take.
Louise:If youre not completely pure then... oh never mind.
Sally: Louises sister. Not really interested but cannot think of anything better to do.
Sally:Did Louise tell you what she wants to do with you?
Sally:Well I think its disgusting.
Doug: Company B executive. Pretends to be impressed with Bob. Really just reporting back to BB.
Doug:I come here all the time. Interfactor sure is holy, oh yes.
Doug:Interfactor, we love you.
Knife: TRAIL undercover man. Sticks out like a sore thumb.
Knife:I dont think you oughta have given that data to Bob. I can think of more deserving people. Just dont think about doing it again, do you understand?
Knife:Its quite simple. These people are pawns in a game, expendable. Most of them dont have a clue whats really going on. I shouldnt be telling you even this much, so naturally this conversation never took place.
New Boston has plenty of hotels to suit all budgets. After checking in, the hotel receptionist will provide a room key. Checking out can be done by speaking to the receptionist and handing back the key.
Hotels are required to read emails. A computer in each room displays the latest communications.
Rooms have beds which can be used to sleep and advance time.
Bathrooms may contain a toilet, sink, mirror, shower and bath although in some hotels the rooms are not en-suite.
Computers in hotel rooms are used to access emails and to communicate with shady characters.
Richard explains that “the plan was to include a large number of NPC characters, potentially hundreds of thousands, which would be pseudo randomly generated, so that if you went to a particular apartment say, the character living there would always look the same, have the same job etc., very much like some modern games like Watchdogs.”
WELCOME TO THE NEW BOSTON ELECTRONIC MAIL SERVICE.
HILARY AXIAQ HAS ASKED ME TO CONTACT YOU. MEET ME AT THE ATTWOOD GALLERY, N23, TOMORROW AT 2PM. CODE IS: PINK AND GREEN DAFFODILS, TO WHICH YOU MUST REPLY YES CONTEMPTUOUSLY. BE THERE.
WELCOME TO OUR CITY. IT IS ALWAYS A PLEASURE TO ACCEPT SOMEONE WITH YOUR REPUTATION. DROP IN SOME TIME TO DISCUSS BUSINESS.HSIAO@UNCLES BAR
HEY, BUDDY. RAYMOND TELLS ME YOURE IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD. YOU HAVE SOME REPUTATION IN THESE PARTS, LET ME TELL YOU. DROP BY AT GERALDINES BAR ANYTIME TO TALK ABOUT OLD TIMES./NTREVOR@GERALDINES BAR
New Boston is a big place and the game box would have included a separate fifty page guide to the city with an introduction by the mayor.
Here's a design document that sketches out the contents of the guide.
This is an overview of some of the different places that can be visited in New Boston.
Bars are busy places with plenty of opportunities for interaction.
Drinks are ordered from a terminal on the wall rather than from the bartender.
Brothels are made up of a number of rooms, including some with cameras and kinky items like stocks.
Diners include tables and chairs as well as side rooms with ordering terminals.
Factories contain workers and various pieces of industrial equipment.
Galleries provide for the cultural needs of the population.
Gyms provide individual sessions for a price.
Pawnbrokers are available for some illicit items.
Shopping malls sell a variety of items, like clothes.
Warehouses are dotted around the city.
For a game like CyberSpace one of the significant development tasks is world building. In addition to using standard programs like Deluxe Paint, the team built their own development tools to create both the real and cyberspace realms.
For example, CPAINT is used to construct and view objects by placing vertices. This is a model of a robot:
This is a full screen view of a defence program within cyberspace:
There is also a program used to edit room maps:
Another tool edits floors:
Richard believes “we were probably still less than 50% away from something that could have been released as a coherent game, and probably way less than 10% away from the full game we had envisioned when we started” and Adrian reckons “75% maybe”. John says that the game “had been stuck making little progress for quite a while before I left (US Independence Day 1994), and it dragged on for some time afterwards, but Id say it was still a long way from being a commercial possibility by then.”
The main reason that CyberSpace was unfinished comes down to its ambitious scope coupled with a lack of a singular vision. Richard thinks that “the main reason for its failure was probably that there was not one person who was in charge of the project and who had a clear vision as to what the game should be. With hindsight I think we were all aiming for a game that had a much larger scope that could be done by such a small team and with the tech that as available at the time. I think if we had focused on a smaller game with more fixed elements, we might have been able to publish something that we could have expanded on with future games.”
The open-ended design caused a lengthy development period which led to some burnout in the team. John remembers that “all the more experienced developers were getting tired, and a bit old for the kind of hours we were working. The atmosphere bled weariness, and because nobody felt the project was really theirs the enthusiasm to counteract that was missing. There was also a lack of leadership.”
Four team members made the decision to leave but two were persuaded to finish the game. John says that “I was making myself ill with the stress; letting them persuade me to stay was probably one of my worst decisions. Development dragged on. One day I put in a bit of code to make the doors open automatically when people approached, which took about five minutes, and everyone gathered round and said how fantastic that was. I realised then that thered been no positive comments for months. Eventually my wife-to-be and my mother persuaded me to get out, and I moved into the far less stressful field of medical software.”
Time was an enemy. When CyberSpace development started in late 1991, it was the kind of unique, but relatively uncommon game, that the Amiga excelled in. The mid-1990s saw a general move from 2D to 3D graphic engines, especially with the release of the first PlayStation in Japan at the end of 1994. On PC DOS, cyberpunk games like System Shock were appearing.
A schedule of remaining work on the 30th November 1994 shows that, excluding playtesting and subsequent fixes, at least 61½ man-days were required for the team to finish the game. If completed, the release would probably have been in the first half of 1995.
This schedule is a brief summary of the parts remaining for Cyberspace to become a working product. This does not include the main playtesting and debugging that will inevitably follow. An overall time plan is included in a separate document.
Currently, storylines exist for five keys with two fully implemented so far. Your character possesses one key to begin, leaving six keys to be obtained directly. ( 4 days )
Total 23 1/2 days
Total 10 days
Total 8 days
Total 1 day
Total 12 days
Total 7 days
In a wayCyberSpace was in the tradition of virtual world games like Elite, the Mercenary series, Midwinter, Cybercon III and Hunter. However, even in its incomplete form there are significant innovations for the genre, such as an advanced character creator, a nuanced conversion system and an integrated HUD-based interface.
It's a game that was genuinely ahead of its time and it's likely that it would have been more at home in the second half of the 90s when 3D games took over the gaming world and with more advanced 3D tools available. It would have perhaps worked well as an online multiplayer game where each character in the world was a real person.
CyberSpace was likely to reach an audience in the 1990s due to widespread coverage in gaming magazines and a general interest in cyberpunk and virtual reality. However, it was the ambition of the game that held a special fascination for gamers at the time, with a massive, futuristic world to explore.