The Dark Project article by Al Giovetti


By Al Giovetti
Genre: role playing adventure
Release: October 1997
Developer: Looking Glass,
Lead Artist: Steve Cannif
Lead Programmer: Tim Stellmach
Project Leader: Greg Lo Piccolo
Music Composer: Jeff Yauss
Producer: Warren Spector
Publisher: Eidos
Phone: 617-441-6333
Website: www.eidosinteractive .com

The Dark Project


Five years ago, Looking Glass revolutionized the first-person role-playing game with Ultima Underworld. The Underworld team brought a background in military simulators to bear on the turn-based, square-by-square model of role-playing games which was popular at the time, and established a new standard of freedom and realism. Despite the advances in technology since those days, there are still some ways in which the examples of Underworld (and its follow-on System Shock) have never been equaled.

"We on the Dark Project have decided that it's time to exceed them. Our goal is a fantasy action/adventure game in the Underworld tradition, which draws on our experience as game developers and players; which merges the lessons we've learned from "paper" role-playing games, from the development in the computer game industry since System Shock, and from our own previous first-person games; and which charts a course to the future of adventure role-playing in virtual fantasy worlds."

Company Line

The extraordinary talents at Looking Glass Technologies, creators of such hits as the Ultima Underworld series, System Shock and Terra Nova, today unveiled their previously top-secret "Dark" project, which will produce a revolutionary CD-ROM role playing game set for release in early 1997.

Dark will transport players to a magical age via a next generation 3D engine that combines lightning fast frame rates with advanced texture mapping to create a true "6D" world. The game will feature Act/React technology to produce a uniquely immersive environment in which objects will react as you intuitively expect. Dynamic lighting and interactive water, a realistic weapons interface, mission-based gameplay and an in-depth storyline all enhance the game experience.

"We pioneered immersive reality on the computer with our Underworld series," said Paul Neurath, president of Looking Glass Technologies. "The ‘Dark’ project will take the roleplaying genre to a whole new level, and demonstrates our commitment to lead the industry."

Looking Glass’ unique level editors allows designers to build intricate areas, from sloping passageways and underwater tunnels to arching cathedrals. Each environment that the player explores will be rich in object interactions beyond that ever seen in a computer game.

Joining the "Dark" project team is renown computer game producer Warren Spector. Spector, who will serve as executive producer and general manager of Looking Glass’ Austin office, produced Ultima Underworld and Ultima Underworld 2, as well as the science fiction adventure, System Shock. He joins Looking Glass after seven years with ORIGIN Systems, Inc.

"The ‘Dark’ project is one of the most exciting endeavors I’ve embarked on in years," said Spector. "Looking Glass has been waiting for the right time to get back into RPGs, and the time is now. We’ve revolutionized computer roleplaying games once before. Now we’re really going to blow people away."

Looking Glass Technologies, Inc. is a leading developer of entertainment and simulation software distinguished by its expertise in 3D technologies. Headquartered in Cambridge, MA, the talented team at Looking Glass has created some of the best-known, best-selling titles in the interactive entertainment industry, including the Ultima Underworld series, System Shock, Flight Unlimited and Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri.

Game Play

The role playing adventure game incorporates what Looking Glass calls a "next generation 6D engine." Six D is really six directions or another aspect of three dimensions which allows full freedom of movement in all six directions: forward, back, right, left, up, and down.

The game incorporates Looking Glass' proprietary "act-react environment simulator" which assigns multiple properties to objects and non player characters (NPCs). This allows each object and NPC to have multiple reactions to your actions making the objects and NPCs more dynamic and responsive. Items do not just respond to shooting by blowing up or dying, they can have multiple interactions with the game player and still retain the three dimensions and six degrees of freedom of movement in the game engine.

An essential part of role playing games has always been the volumes of statistics. It is felt by most that the more statistics the better. Looking Glass does not feel this way and will not allow the game player to access the statistics in any way save through the way the environment reacts to you, as was seen in System Shock. This is one role playing gamer (RPGer) who will lament the loss of statistics in the game and felt that while System Shock was an excellent game, it would have been better with statistics.

Thankfully, the world of Dark Project will be limited and defined, as opposed to the Arena and Daggerfall type of open ended world where you wander around in an infinite environment with little or nothing to do. The scripted type of adventure is the best kind with a careful design and written script that insure the story will keep the action going and the game player on the edge of their seat. In the battle between scripted and open ended, the best answer is to give the gameplayer both as Privateer did.



The game engine is a volumetric renderer with ray-cast lighting. The game has multiple resolutions starting at 320x200 and 640x480 pixels and photo-realistic textures with Direct3D and 3D board support including MMX.


The animation was enhanced by motion capture of actual human subjects with realistic physics modeling for all objects. The motion capture was used for bipedal movement and other motion.

Voice Actors

Human Speech is used throughout. For example, you can hear the guards humming and grumbling when they are searching for you. The guards also react to you as you move around; if they only sort of detect you, they'll mutter something like "what was that?", and make sharper shouts up to when they detect you and raise the hue and cry.

Music Score

Sound Effects


Compare to

Multi-player Features

Cheats, Hints, Walkthrough



Looking Glass' The Dark Project Web Site
Editors, Boot, volume 2, number 8, April, 1997, pg. 67

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