||Game is listed as a CD game due
for December 1995 in the Atari Dealer Price List Q3/1995.
After two years of work the game was roughly 80% done. The game engine was
nearing "first playable" state and was very slick (considering the platform),
allowing for seamless, delay free travel through the city on foot or by cab, and injection
into cyberspace. All game video had been shot and processed, with just a few special
effects shots to finish. All the sprites were shot, processed and in the game.
There were negotiations to have Nine Inch Nails do the soundtrack, with a strong interest
from Trent Reznor himself. But Atari was cheap and tried to drive the price insultingly
low and the deal fell apart.
The movie company which shot the game video footage was interested in a motion picture
adaptation of Black ICE\White Noise but Atari demanded insane amounts of money for the
movie rights and negotiations died quickly.
Some game documentation and the latest build of the code were saved but Atari destroyed
(Email interview with B.J. West, 1999)
CR: How about Black ICE\White Noise?
FT: Well, that was meant to be kind of the big Atari internally-produced big, big-effort
game that was going to put Atari back on the map. It basically started from Sam Tramiel,
the president of Atari mandating that we create our own Sonic, Mario, iconic character and
basically what happened was we went through many iterations of these kind of really lame
mascot-characters, from ducks to alligators to armadillos to
it was all very
ridiculous. I dont think anybody was ever terribly enthused by all these
pre-mascot-things so we wanted to do something a little bit edgier. So we came up with the
concept Black ICE\White Noise which was, you know, a very innovative concept at the time,
in many aspects it was like The Matrix before that ever came out. It more or less embodied
that Cyberpunk-hacker archetype that Keanu Reeves played in the movie, we had another guy
whose name was Chris Hudak, a video game journalist, he writes for like Next Generation
and Wired. So basically we had created this whole world which involved hacking and
infiltration and going into cyberspace, very much like The Matrix. Its probably
scary how similar the two actually are, it was all based on William Gibsons
Cyberpunk. We had done a lot of film production on that in terms of shooting people on
blue screen and treadmills and basically it was a game that incorporated driving,
fighting, exploration and all kinds of things like that into one big package. It was a
third person game, one of the things we didnt want to make was a first person
shooter because we want the character to come out and the best way to do that was third
person. So basically it was going to be a third person game before third person games were
big like Tomb Raider and still embodied a lot of those types of elements in the game. So
you would be able to walk down the city street and if you wanted to hijack a car you could
get in that car and start driving through the city and maybe the cops would chase you. Or
if you needed to hack into some place you could hack into something and you would be in
cyberspace. So it was
way too ambitious for the
limited resources that we had but it was very good to give it a try, it had a lot of
cutting-edge techniques in terms of integrating 3D and video and digitized graphics into a
game. And in theory it would have come out pretty well. It was a very big project for
Atari at the time.
CR: I assume it was CD-based? And what happened to it?
FT: Yeah, CD-based. I think basically towards the end, I dont really have a time
line there, but there was a certain point in time when things were just kind of spiraling
downhill, you know, a lot of cost cutting, layoffs and this desperate attempt to really
get into the PC market which never really took off or happened, you know, the bulk of the
projects, all really cool stuff that I was working on, most of those fell by the wayside,
it was pretty unfortunate. Some of the easier projects like Bubsy and NBA Jam, those
things actually came out OK but the more ambitious projects were just dropped.
CR: Bummer! The screenshots Ive seen of Black ICE\White Noise looked very good.
FT: Yeah, you know, hindsight is 20:20 but when you look at some of the stuff it was
a lot of the concepts that we had thought of are now the concepts of today. So, yeah, in
many ways we were really ahead of our times but, you know, didnt really do us any
good. But it was fun! A lot of fun to fly down, do the video shoots, and just kind of
learning that whole process of integrating digital video into computer games, it was very
educational, so, you know, from a learning experience standpoint and from a fun standpoint
I really have very few regrets if any. There were a lot of difficulties, you know, but the
knowledge and the experience was great.
CR: Where was Black ICE\White Noise shot?
FT: Basically we went down to Los Angeles and just rented a studio and just kind of
cranked out all of the preset motion patterns that we needed. Like walking forward,
walking backward, left, right, up, down, climb, duck, shoot, punch, kick and just plowed
through it on treadmills and blue screens.
CR: So similar to the Mindripper project?
FT: Well, we would shoot against a blue screen and then we would cut out those patterns
and make our sprites based on those actions. So basically it was like Mortal Kombat, kind
of the same thing except we went for more of a 3D feel, so clearly we had to shoot all of
the rotations, so that it appeared that you existed in this 3D world. Chris Hudak was kind
of the star of the whole thing and we actually hired Michiko Nishiwaki (female martial
arts artist from Hong Kong, recently played in 'Man On The Moon'). Ironically a lot of
these things are interconnected, the people that put us in contact with the Mindripper
people were also some of the people that shot the video for Black ICE\White Noise and they
had a contact with
actually what we did was in many ways a very open casting call
because a lot of these things were
not only was there basic motions and combat and
running and walking but a lot of it was actual video so the character could come up to
somebody and you could have a conversation and you could play that conversation and
respond positive, negative or neutral. And based on that youd get different
responses and the person would actually respond so we needed actors and some of them
we never got anybody huge but we got kind of a cult martial artist from Hong Kong that had
been in a few big martial arts movies out in Hong Kong and she was basically just trying
to break into the US market, thought it would be fun, you know. It was a neat process to
have the auditions and get a, you know, not really big name but semi-big name at least to
a few hard-core martial art film fans, you know. Like I said before, the experience was
great and I got really good broad insight into producing a huge expensive product that
involved a lot of different elements.
(CyberRoach Magazine #9, 2/2000 - Interview with Faran Thomason)
We are also working on Chaos Agenda, the game where you
play a government operative that must walk the fine line between loyalty and doing the
I'm a sucker for cyberpunk, I guess. This adventure takes place 40 years in the future
on city streets where everything has a price, even your reputation. The two words
associated with this game should be, "Merry Christmas." Out around then.
The game takes place in a very large virtual world, I believe about 40 or 50 game
miles. Everything is nicely texture mapped and has a very realistic look to it. The game
engine is in 3D, but the player is visible on the screen, the effect looks very nice. The
player walks around the city, and is capable of entering some of the buildings. Along the
way the player encounters various people, each represented through a FMV conversation. The
player can choose attitudes to hold during the conversation, similar to Return to Zork.
Many different types of guns are available at the weapons shops scattered around the city
for the player's use. The game has a very Cyberpunk feel to it, and that's just the
impression it wants to make. The player can choose how to live his or her life in the
game, if the player takes on good missions he won't have a wonderful
"reputation", if the player chooses assassination type missions, many civilians
won't want to deal with him or her. The whole game will have an imbedded plot that will be
uncovered as the player takes the various missions. This looks to be a very, very hot
No Respite. No Rails. No Rules. In Black ICE\White Noise players take the role of a
street-level cyberpunk in the urban blightscape of New San Francisco, walking a barbed
wire tightrope between the cysta line informational world of C-Space and the grimy reality
of The Street and The Meat. Gameplay features include point-of-view C-Space hacking,
full-motion video encounters, and digitized video sprites of gangs, crazies, cops,
Corps... and corpses. Play a good guy who fights the good fight...or a bad girl who left
her heart in San Francisco a long time ago. Ooops--your mission went bad and you just blew
away a cop. Now here come allllll his friends. Make a note: Better do some creative
hacking on that lengthy police record of yours, after you get out of this alive. If you
get out of this alive...
Meanwhile, at the same conference, our good friend Pradip at Atari, who previously
wrote Atari Works for the TOS series of Atari computers, handled test routines for the
CD-ROM, and developed the CD+G capabilities for the Jag CD, gave the goods on what's
becoming one of the most highly anticipated Jag releases, the ambitious Black ICE\White
It seems that the newest hobby for Jag programmers is to completely rethink the 3D engine,
and this game is no exception to the rule. This new 3D engine written specifically for the
game operates at 30 fps at a resolution of 320x200 - on the fly with no prerendering - and
is capable of full motion in all directions (which should answer some questions as to
whether the Jag is capable of such a thing); it is especially good, reports Pradip, at
depth cuing. The game itself operates in a window of 224/180, with the rest of the screen
being taken up by control panel operations.
Black ICE/White Noise will make good use of Jag peripherals such as the generic NVRAM save
carts [Ed: Memory Track carts.] that are on the way, as well as the six-button controller.
(Which will be especially good for the fighting sequences in the game.) The team for the
game consists of 3 programmers and 3 full time artists (as well as contract artists), who
each put in 50 hour weeks. Still, Pradip says that it's not much more difficult to produce
a CD than a cart; the only real differences are the sheer volume of data, plus the lack of
Jaguar onboard memory.
As for the game itself, it's a cyberpunk adventure set in future San Francisco (which
should be interesting to compare to LucasArts' upcoming Calia 2095, which is also a first
person adventure in the same setting). It will be a non-linear game, which though it
features one main plot, will also be threaded with various subplots along the way which
will lead you on different directions along that main plot. One of the most unique (and
RPG-like) aspects of the game is that you will be able to interact with characters, and
gain reputation in this way that will affect how you move along the main story. Some
people have asked about comparisons to the game Virtuoso, based on some early screen shots
of BI, but Pradip couldn't comment as he hasn't seen the earlier game.
This looks to be one of Atari's best in-house efforts to come along in some time.