Beneath a Steel Sky

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Beneath a Steel Sky
Image:Beneath a Steel Sky Coverart.png
Developer(s) Revolution Software
Publisher(s) Virgin Interactive
Designer(s) Charles Cecil
Daniel Marchant
Dave Cummins
Dave Gibbons
Tony Warriner
Engine ScummVM/Virtual Theatre
Platform(s) DOS, Amiga, Amiga CD32
Release date(s) March, 1994
Genre(s) Adventure
Mode(s) Single player
Rating(s) ESRB: T (Teen)
USK: 12+
ELSPA: 15+
Media 15 for Amiga 6 for PC 3½-inch Floppies, 1 CD-ROM, download
System requirements PC: 386, DOS 3.3+, 2 RAM
Talkie: CD-ROM & Sound card, Amiga: 1 RAM
Input methods Mouse

Beneath a Steel Sky is a British 1994 science fiction point and click adventure game in the cyberpunk genre. It featured comedy elements and was developed by Revolution Software and published by Virgin Interactive Entertainment. It was initially released for DOS and Amiga. Underworld was its working title.


[edit] Plot

The game takes place at an unknown point in a dystopian future in Australia, where the Earth has been significantly damaged by pollution or nuclear fallout. The game's backstory is introduced via a comic book, drawn by well-known comic artist Dave Gibbons, that tells the story of a young boy called Robert who is the sole survivor of a plane crash in "the Gap" (the name applied to the Australian Outback at the time of the game). Too young to fend for himself, Robert is adopted by a local group of Indigenous Australians, who teach him the skills he needs to survive in this harsh new environment; they name him Robert Foster, partly due to him being fostered by them and also because of the discovery of an empty can of Foster's Lager, an Australian beer, found near him at the crash site. Foster even learns engineering and technology and builds a talking, sentient robot called Joey.

After Foster has reached adulthood, he is kidnapped and his tribe annihilated by storm-troopers sent from Union City by its all-powerful computer LINC. Interestingly, Union City mentions prominent suburbs and train stations found within Australia's largest city, Sydney, leading some to speculate that Union City was once Sydney. This was confirmed in a 2005 interview with the Australian gaming magazine, PC PowerPlay.

Foster manages to escape from his captors as the helicopter transporting him back to Union City crashes just after entering the dome, leaving him and his robot friend, Joey, to find out why they were brought there and where to go next, while security continues to search for him.

Joey's personality is stored on a small circuit board, which can easily be inserted and removed from many types of robot bodies. This allows Joey to change bodies as the situation requires, provided his circuit board is not damaged. Joey, however, is not always happy about Foster's choice of body for him.

[edit] Background

Screenshot of Robert Foster being taught to hunt kangaroos.

In the future world of Beneath a Steel Sky, the six states and two territories of Australia have been consumed by their respective capital cities and are described as "city states".

Union City is the second largest of the six remaining city states after the acquisition of Asio-City. Notably ASIO is Australia's national intelligence agency.

After the 'Euro-American War' all participants agreed upon a set of ideals described as the 'neo democratic principles' which removes all labour representation and social benefits. Ironically, those that subscribe to these principles are called 'Unions' contrasting the real world definition of what a Union pushes for. Those that oppose the Unions' ideals are called 'Corporations'.

All of the City States are described as either being Corporations or Unions.

The back-story involves a conflict between Union City and the Hobart Corporation fighting over 'market' dominance by the use of sabotage which is used as a common theme throughout the story. Hobart is the capital city of the Australian state Tasmania.

[edit] Development

The game's story was scripted by Dave Cummins with graphics and artwork done by Dave Gibbons, Paul Humphreys, Steve Ince, Stephen Oades, Les Pace and Adam Tween. Design was done by Charles Cecil, Dave Cummins, Dave Gibbons and Dan Marchant, while the Virtual Theatre (VT) design was done by Tony Warriner. Programming was carried out by James Long, David Sykes and Tony Warriner.[1]

Despite its status as one of the classics of adventure gaming, Beneath a Steel Sky suffered a troublesome production. The small team at Revolution found the size of the game a daunting task, resulting in long, stressful hours of programming, leading to tension within the company.

Because of the scope of the game -- being four times the size of its predecessor, Lure of the Temptress -- the programmers couldn't implement their Virtual Theatre system of independently roaming NPCs as effectively. Characters instead follow very simplified routines, as opposed to Lure where their freedom of movement was much greater. The design of the game was also simplified and greatly altered from its original design, according to Warriner.

The working title for the game was Underworld[1] and was the second to use Revolution Software's Virtual Theatre engine, the first being Lure of the Temptress.[2] The game's backgrounds and introduction sequence were designed by Dave Gibbons.[1] The introduction sequence was also included as a separate promotional comic book in some releases of the game.[2]

[edit] Reception

The game's initial release in the UK was met with critical acclaim, reaching the number one place in the GALLUP charts and receiving 95% from CU Amiga, 94% from Amiga Format and 93% from The One. The release in the USA was met with almost equal success with 4/5 from Computer Gaming World and 91% ('Editors choice Award') and ('Best Dialogue') from PC Gamer in 1995. In May 1995 Beneath a Steel Sky was awarded the prestigious Golden Joystick Award for 'The Best Adventure'.

Since its initial release the game has received glowing reviews from various websites. Adventure Classic Gaming gave the game a 4/5 rating and stated that the game was ahead of its time and "despite its gloomy and serious storyline, Beneath a Steel Sky is a game filled with humor and warm characters."[2] The review at Quandary gave the game a 3.5 out of 5 overall rating, stating that "there are many newer games with infinitely superior graphics and sound that are inferior experiences to this."[3]

[edit] Legal status

In August 2003, the game was released as freeware and support for it was added to ScummVM, allowing it to be played on Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Windows CE and other compatible operating systems and platforms.[4] The data files for both the disk and CD version are available from the ScummVM website. The files on the ScummVM website do not include the original program executables since they are not needed by ScummVM.[5]

[edit] Notes

The three different beer labels used. Top: UK release, middle: US release, bottom: promotional comic
  • The society of the city is a cross between many futuristic, 'dystopian' stories, including George Orwell's 1984, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. The game's introduction was likely influenced by the film Mad Max, also set in a post-nuclear Australia. Another dystopian movie influence is Fritz Lang's Metropolis. The setting is similar to that of Beneath a Steel Sky, though in Metropolis the upper classes live in the skies and the poor on the ground, while in Beneath a Steel Sky it is vice-versa.
  • The game came either on a set of floppy disks, or on a CD-ROM with full speech (the 'talkie' version). The dubbed version of the game uses actors sporting a variety of British accents, despite the game being set in future Australia. One character, Eduardo the gardener, does have an Australian accent. Robert Foster himself has an American accent, making some of his British English phrases sound incongruous. At one point the subtitles say "JUMPER" but Robert does say "sweater". At another, a dialogue choice is a distinctly British "it's well smart!" but the voice actor says "It's totally cool".
  • The first two games in the Broken Sword series, also by Revolution, feature many references to BASS. BASS and Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars both include a character called Mrs. Danielle Piermont, who, in both cases, is voiced by the same actress. In the Security locker, Robert discovers a locker for a man named Ultar; this is also the name of a character in BS1 (it presumably took its name from it). Robert Foster appears in a comical Easter egg in Broken Sword: The Smoking Mirror (though voiced by a different actor). Finally Broken Sword II includes a puzzle which involves dunking a dog, a ploy also used by Foster.
  • In some countries (such as the USA), due to copyright issues, the beer label displayed in the introduction is altered to show a generic beer brand in place of the Fosters label. One of the brands read "SS IPM (RAW)", which is "warm piss" spelled backwards.
  • When he first gets his welding body Joey cries "Exterminate!" a reference to the catchphrase of the Daleks from the BBC show Doctor Who.
  • In the Anchor Insurance shop, a partially visible wall mural reads: "Don't be a w| Just use an|" -- i.e. "Don't be a wanker. Just use anchor."
  • Also in the Anchor Insurance Shop, "Billy Anchor" would be short for "William Anchor." W. Anchor (wanker) is the reason Foster asks if his name caused problems in school.
  • In a travel agency, Foster sees two posters of foreign locations: one of them he dismisses as a "dump" (it is Big Ben); and the other he believes is a giant female android with a welding torch (the Statue of Liberty).
  • Programmers of the Amiga version left the following information in the main "exe" file. The information describes big problems the programmers had with deficient Amiga hardware when developing the game:
At the beginning the programmers were happy and did rejoice at their task, for the Amiga before them did shineth and was full of promise. But then they did look closer and did see'th the awful truth; it's floppies were tiny and sloweth (rareth was its hard drive). And so small was it's memory that did at first appear large; queereth also was its configuration(s). Then they did findeth another Amiga, and this was slightly different from the first. Then a third, and this was different again. All different, but not really better, for all were pseudo backward compatible. But, eventually, it did come to pass that Steel Sky was implemented on a 1meg os-legal CBM Amiga. And the programmers looked and saw that it was indeed a miracle. But they were not joyous and instead did weep for nobody knew just what had been done.

[edit] Sequel

"Beneath a Steel Sky 2 is a project Revolution has been considering for a while, and has started to move forward on, but we are unable to comment beyond this,” company boss Charles Cecil said in 2004. On March 4, 2004, Revolution purchased the domain name, although this has now seemingly been sold.

However, in September 2005 Tony Warriner stated in Revolution’s forum that the game wasn’t cancelled, and that he would not lose hope that there would be a Steel Sky 2 at some point in the future. More recently, Charles Cecil spoke in an interview dated August 10, 2006 on Eurogamer of his admiration for the work done by Scumm VM and the resulting interest in a sequel. He also stated that if he were to make the game he "would dearly love to work with Dave Gibbons again.[5] In a February 20, 2009 interview with IGN UK about the Wii and DS versions of Broken Sword: The Director's Cut, Charles Cecil and Dave Gibbons re-iterated their interest in a sequel to Beneath a Steel Sky.[6]

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c "BASS at Moby Games". Moby Games. Retrieved on 2008-04-29. 
  2. ^ a b c "review at adventure classic gaming". Adventure Classic Gaming. Retrieved on 2008-04-29. 
  3. ^ Ramsey, Steve (2002). "review at Quandary". Quandary. Retrieved on 2008-04-29. 
  4. ^ Revolution Software Ltd. "Revolution website". Revolution Software Ltd. Retrieved on 2008-04-29. 
  5. ^ a b Cecil, Charles (2006). "Live by the Sword". Eurogamer. Retrieved on 2008-04-29. 
  6. ^ Charles Cecil, Dave Gibbons (2009). "Broken Sword: The Director's Cut First Look". IGN UK. Retrieved on 2009-02-23. 

[edit] External links

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