Today we’ll be covering a somewhat forgotten gem, called Eradicator, that was released back in 1996 to some varied reviews and almost complete overlook. A science-fiction first-person action game that took place in the future. Essentially the game was slated to be Acclaim’s answer to the sudden popularity of the FPS genre that was occurring at the time, however it ended up essentially flopping; either due to failure in marketing or heavy competition. It’s also worth mentioning that the game was released in the same year as both id Software’s Quake and 3D Realms’ Duke Nukem 3D, which essentially likely contributed to its poor performance.
With that history out of the way however, I’m happy to throw up a bit of information about the game that was shared by one of the developers. This is directly from the emails that were shared, albeit cleaned up and cut a little bit just to ensure the information is shared in as clear as form as possible. Grab the popcorn folks!
The project that eventually became Eradicator was originally conceived as “Marble Madness with a 3rd-person view”. Development began at a start-up company called Creative Insights, located right across the street from Apple HQ in Cupertino. Joe Ybarra, originally of EA fame, was one of the executives. He had merged his old company, Ybarra Productions, into the new venture. Creative Insights’ first product was a set of screen savers that came with plastic toy-like devices you hooked up to your keyboard with a pass-through cable. You could hit a switch or a button on these devices to trigger various screen saver animations. When this product failed, the company couldn’t stay afloat.
By this time, the games division had a working prototype of a game. The design had become character-based. The main character was now a frog that could toggle between walking around on 2 legs or rolling up into a ball and rolling. This would allow sections of gameplay that involved walking/jumping/shooting along with the original rolling concept. The technical design had changed from being tile-based to using BSP trees. We had a game engine capable of rendering texture-mapped walls & floors, even sloped floors. We had a working level editor and a tool chain that enabled us to import renderings of 3D models from various angles into the game to become Doom-style sprites. Everyone felt we had the solid makings of a game and were nervous the whole thing was going to end up getting scrapped through no fault of our own.
When Creative Insights finally folded, our games group was “purchased” by Accolade. I was among several team members who were offered jobs with Accolade. The others were let go. Once we got to Accolade, the design was pushed more toward the FPS model that was enjoying tremendous popularity at the time. Games like Doom, Shadow Warrior, Hexen, Duke Nukem 3D and Rise of the Triad were the popular games of the time. Accolade wanted to get in on the action. We were assigned a producer & an executive producer to oversee the game’s development. At first, the team wasn’t too enthusiastic about changing the design to something more mainstream, but many of us were just happy to still be working & we felt the game had a good chance to get to market. We were all well aware that most games were cancelled before they could be finished.
So, we ditched the cartoony comedy flavor we originally wanted and went for a more hard-edged, darker (but less original) tone. We put in a first-person mode, which became the default. We created an entirely new set of characters to populate the game. Along the way we managed to innovate a few things. The feature I’m personally most proud of was the ability to swap between controlling different objects/characters using a picture-in-picture display. This was used in gameplay puzzles & extended to remote-controllable weaponry – and we managed to get all those features to work in multiplayer deathmatches. During the final months of development the team played a LOT deathmatches together and had a great time. We were all very happy we had created a game that we could enjoy so much.
Here’s an interesting tidbit: the game wasn’t actually named until the final few months of development. The marketing department solicited names from the development team, but promptly ignored all the team’s suggestions and went with “Eradicator.” I don’t remember anyone on the development team being happy about that choice, but it was beyond our control. There were a few Kids In The Hall impressions (look it up on YouTube) going on after that.
Looking back, I think the reality was that Eradicator was about 8 months late to the party. I remember we were about to ship & Duke Nuke’em had already been out for several months & offered hi-res graphics. We could not. As we released, the Quake Test multiplayer demo, the first true-3D FPS, was getting widespread play. (Actually, now that I think about it, I learned to use ”mouse-look” controls playing Terminator: Future Shock before Quake ever came out. That game is the reason why, to this day, I still have to set Inverse Y-axis to true in the options menu of any game I play.)
I seriously doubt Accolade was willing to spend the kind of marketing money it would have taken to attempt to compete with the likes of Quake. That was probably a wise decision as Eradicator clearly didn’t quite measure up to the competition. We released a free demo, tried to get some buzz, but it just never took off. The game, frankly, was a dud. Sadly, it was in the bargain bin within a few months’ time. I really have no idea what impact it had on Accolade’s trajectory as a company. From a business standpoint, Eradicator was almost certainly regarded as a failure. Accolade did manage to stay around for a few years after & many members of the Eradicator team went on to create Slave Zero (although I did not).
I am happy to see that some people enjoyed playing Eradicator & that it is still remembered. I am personally very proud of what our team was able to achieve, given the circumstances. It was the first game I ever worked on & I have very fond memories of being involved in its development.