The Wasteland Ranger HQ-Grid
|page update: April 16, AD 2012|
Meantime: The Unfinished Official Non-Sequel to Wasteland
If you've played Wasteland, then you know that it foretells a sequel. You'll find this information on Faran Brygo's computer screen. Why was this sequel never finished, instead turning into "Vaporware," as the industry calls such products that were in development but were never published? Below I present the scoop as I dug / learned it, from its origins on an old Interplay F.A.Q., to newsgroup posts, to the sequel that finally did see the light of day, albeit in much different form, and finally, to interviews of Interplay staff, which yielded the official and final word on what Meantime was and wasn't going to be.
Interplay FAQ -- early 1990s:
Here is an excerpt from an old version of the Interplay Frequently Asked Questions document. When I write "old," I'm referring to early 1990s. This document no longer exists that I know of online, and therefore no longer contains the below Questions and Answers, but I managed to swipe the section on Meantime before they deleted the relevant parts.
::: Historical Products :::
Q: What is the deal with Interplay, EA and the Bard's Tale/Wasteland series?
A: Interplay was the developer of the Bard's Tale series and Wasteland for Electronic Arts (EA). EA has the rights to those titles. Now that Interplay is a full-blown developer/publisher in our own right, whenever we want to do something with those games (like the 10th Anniversary CD-ROM or the Bard's Tale Construction Set) then Interplay must license some of these rights on a per title basis from EA.
Q: Will there ever be a Bard's Tale 4? A Wasteland 2?
A: Contact Electronic Arts. Some people consider Dragon Wars, an early Interplay developed and published CRPG to be BT4. EA put out a game called Fountain of Dreams, which used the Wasteland engine and was very similar in setting. Many people at Interplay would love to do a sequel to either of those games, but we don't have the rights.
Q: What happened to Meantime?
A: [Wow, you've been around a while if you know what Meantime is.] Meantime, a sort of sequel to Wasteland, was in development for a long time. A beta version was actually up and running on the Apple // when the 8-bit market took a nosedive. Interplay attempted to update and upgrade Meantime for the MS-DOS market, but after several attempts (contractor problems and other minor details) the project was scrapped. It occasionally rears it's head, but the project is currently not in development.
Chris Taylor speaks -- 1996:
So what would Meantime have been about? Not so much a sequel, Meantime would have been another installment in the post-nuclear war setting that Wasteland created.
For an insider's look at the Meantime project. Here are some electronic mailings and some postings from an Interplay designer, as well as some comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.rpg postings, which talk about Meantime.
Here are some words from Chris Taylor
(whose posting address at the time was:
Wed, 6 Nov 1996 18:14:22 GMT
We tried about four years ago to hire a contractor and finish Meantime. The whole thing fell through. Basically, the game is so ancient that it would cost too much money, time and resources to finish it properly. Basically, we would have to start a whole new game.
Wed, 6 Nov 1996 18:23:16 GMT
The CGW story about Meantime is mostly true. We did have a very nasty problem that stopped the 16-bit version of Meantime from seeing the light of day.
Finally, here are some short answers on the subject I gathered in a personal e-mail exchange with Chris:
Me: "How protective are you guys of the Meantime source code?"
Fallout -- 1997:
As you may know, Interplay never picked up the Meantime project, but their Fallout project, released in October 1997, was an unofficial sequel to Wasteland. In fact, the inside flap of the Fallout game box begins by writing "Remember Wasteland?" In the autumn of 1998, Interplay released Fallout 2. Obviously they know that a sequel to the award-winning Fallout would be a sure-hit among fans of the genre. If only they could rescue the Meantime project from its Vaporware status! I'm sure they'd have another best-seller!
The Final Scoop! -- 2002:
In September of 2002, I received an e-mail from fellow Ranger Ausir (stationed at fallout.scifi.pl), with more news about Meantime. This would prove to be the most fruitful scoop of them all, and it has at its origins the "Fallout Bible" project that was written as a super FAQ for the Fallout series of games, by some of the guys who worked on Fallout 2, in an attempt to answer questions about the Fallout world, explain irregularities, answer general questions from the fans, so on, so forth.
Here is the e-mail and the scoop it delivered:Ausir:
I asked recently Chris Taylor (who doesn't work at Interplay anymore) and Chris Avellone (one of Fallout 2 devs), if they have any info about Meantime. Here's what I, and J. Mical, who asked about it, too, got:Chris Taylor:
Hmmm. Lots of Meantime questions lately.. :) I just sent this to St. Proverbius:Chris Avellone:Chris Avellone just asked me the same thing. I don't think I'm under NDA about it. I just don't know a lot of the details. It was originally an 8-bit game (Apple //e and C64). It was put on hold before I joined Interplay. Around 1991-2 it was restarted as a PC game under the production of Bill "Weez" Dugan. The project was eventually cancelled due to problems with the contract programmer. All of the design had been done (IIRC, it was mostly the Wasteland design team). There was an early Alpha running on the Apple // (using the same basic engine as Wasteland), but it was not complete. That's pretty much all I remember. pax,There was a disk of source code running around, but it was on an Apple // 5.25" and was bad. I'm pretty sure that most of Meantime is lost to the ages. I don't have anything. Nothing from Meantime was used in Fallout. I never had a chance to read the Meantime design documentation and none of the MT designers worked on Fallout. pax,
All right, you two crazy Mean Time guys, I'm still checking with the technology guys about the Mean Time code. I wouldn't get your hopes up. I did contact one of the old Mean Time producers, however, and he had an amusing spiel on the game that I thought you might like to see. It's too bad the game never saw the light of day - it sounded damn cool. BTW, you can almost hear the Buggles singing "Video Killed the Radio Star" in the second to last sentence. Bill Dugan:Ausir:Yeah, I worked on Meantime. Alan Pavlish was the lead on it while it was on the Apple II. Mark O'Green and Liz Danforth [Chris A says: Liz also worked on Wasteland] were designers on it. I produced the DOS version for a while. It was based on the Wasteland code. The great new thing was that Alan created a map editor (!), and the scripters/designers could actually create maps in it instead of having to know assembly language and use graph paper like on Wasteland. The plot was that you would go all through time and pick up exciting personages throughout history with their own specialties. Clearly it was the inspiration for Bill & Ted's Big Adventure. Most of them ended with questionable fates and you had to rescue them, so you didn't mess up time by taking them along with you. You got to rescue Amelia Earhardt from a Japanese POW camp. There were plenty of characters who were just cool; Cyrano de Bergerac had maxed out Fencing skill. There was a group of bad guys trying to screw up time by slightly influencing various events, and you had to leap in and fix things. In one scene, Werner von Braun was about to be captured by the Soviets at the end of WWII and you had to get him into the party and help him escape. As I type this it reminds me of GURPS Time Travel. There was a great piece of box art that was created, I remember. It had Albert Einstein on it; you got to recruit him into the party at some point, I think. So the whole thing was built for the Apple II. If I remember correctly, probably 75% of the maps were done, then Liz Danforth quit, and then the Apple II and C-64 markets fell enough for Brian to cancel it. Then he had me try to bring it over to the IBM. We hired a contractor to port it from the Apple II to DOS, and had an inhouse artist do EGA graphics for it, and it went pretty slowly, and then Ultima VII came out with its 3D characters and lush graphics and I recommended we cancel Meantime with its top-down, non-animated graphics. It wouldn't really have had a chance.
So, it looks like Meantime wasn't a Wasteland sequel after all - it was just another game using its engine, like Foutain of Dreams. But, unlike FoD, i think it would be a great game.
So there you have it, the scoop from top to bottom.
Press for Meantime:
There's a bit more about Meantime out there than I've posted here. Specifically, Computer Gaming World Magazine listed Meantime in its Vaporware top 15 in an issue several years ago. I have the issue but it's not high on the priority list of things to scan/process for the HQ-Grid.
In November of 2002, Agustín Cordes of "Just Adventure +" wrote an article about vaporware, which contains a section about Meantime. (Web archive link.)
Well enough about Meantime, go back to Wasteland! (That's where all the fun is!)