The remastered version of the classic Ukrainian shooter Chasm: The Rift has become complete disappointment for Ukrainians. As it turned out, the game was updated by a Russian studio, and published by a company created by Russians in Great Britain. In the ninth month of a full-scale war, this is not even treason, it is complete disrespect for Ukrainians on the part of a supposedly Ukrainian company. But in reality, everything is not so simple.
As far as Mezha editorial staff know, most of the developers behind the original Chasm: The Rift have a negative attitude towards this release. We hope to be able to tell readers more details about this case someday, but for now, we assure you that the real developers of Chasm: The Rift have nothing to do with the game’s 2022 remaster.
And today we want to remind you how Chasm: The Rift started. This is an important game for the Ukrainian market, the third video game developed in Ukraine and the second published in the West. Without Chasm: The Rift and the opportunities this game opened up for domestic enthusiasts, Cossacks, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and Metro would appear much later, or perhaps not at all.
We bring to your attention the translation of the article (with comments from 2022), which Oleg Danilov and Serhii Svitlychnyi (at that time the authors wrote under the pseudonyms Oleg Nilov and Serhii Moiseyenko) prepared after communicating with the developers from Action Forms in the spring of 1997, that is, in three months before the release of Chasm: The Rift, which took place on September 30, 1997. An article called On the Edge of the Abyss was published in Computer Review No. 18 (91) dated May 30, 1997. Scans of the original article are below in the gallery.
Disclaimer. Today it seems that this article is too positive and its authors are too excited about the project they are writing about. But please note that this is the authors’ first article about Ukrainian game developers (and any developers in general), at that time they had not seen anything like this and did not even imagine that somewhere in Kyiv video games were being created. In addition, in the mid-90s of the last century, before social networks, before mobile phones and even before the full-fledged Internet, video games were not yet something common and were perceived in a completely different way.
The article uses screenshots from the site Moby Games in the original size of 640 × 480 pixels.
Oleg Nilov, Serhii Moiseyenko
On the Edge of the Abyss
Chasm – an abyss, a gap, a deep opening
I saw it and my mind was clouded.
On the Edge
In the January issue of the Moscow magazine GAME.EXE (by the way, they never paid one of the authors a fee for the article from 1998 – comment from 2022) the article “Over the Abyss with a Shotgun” was printed about game Chasm: The Shadow Zone – 3D-action, which is being prepared for publication by Megamedia Corporation. The developer of the game was the Kyiv firm Action Forms. We had a desire to get to know the developers, and this is where the real detective story began. No one in the Kyiv firms we interviewed had heard either the name Action Forms or the name of the game itself. The questioning took two days.
Looking at Megamedia’s web-cap, we saw three or four references to Chasm, but unfortunately the developer’s address was not there. We copied the demo version from the server, but again, unfortunately, when transferring it to another computer, one of the floppy disks crashed. On the fourth day, we sent a letter to Megamedia with a request to provide us with the Action Forms address (the very fact of sending a letter to the other side of the world seemed fantastic at the time and we did not really expect a response – comment from 2022). Six hours later, the reply came – all press contacts are made only through Megamedia as the game’s publisher (this is actually the standard answer, but we didn’t know it at the time – comment from 2022).
In the meantime, we have heard rumors that Action Forms is a group of students of KPI (that is, the National Technical University of Ukraine Kyiv Polytechnic Institute). As graduates of this university, we became even more interested. The next day, we sent a second letter in which we announced our intention to interview the first Ukrainian game developers of this class, promising not to touch other interests and copyrights of Megamedia. Five hours later, the answer came: the first game developer in Ukraine is the Luhansk company Meridian-93, which has already released the game Admiral Sea Battles. The e-mail addresses of both companies were finally found in this letter. On the sixth day, we sent a letter directly to Action Forms. Four hours later the phone rang. The detective finished…
Perhaps Moscow journalists, gamers and publishers are already spoiled by a large number of such games, but we… To be honest, we were not ready. What we saw exceeded our wildest expectations by an order of magnitude.
Humanity faces an incomprehensible phenomenon – the destruction of the normal sequence of time from the past to the future. Time Channels are formed in the Earth’s atmosphere, which lead to the combination of different periods of social development (strange phrase, but it is written that way – comment from 2022). Through these Channels, the most aggressive creatures begin to penetrate from the past into the future. You are a special forces soldier who must destroy these Time Channels and eliminate all alien life forms. In the process of transition, all living creatures undergo mutations that turn them into wild and aggressive monsters.
A few years ago, two students of KPI encountered the legendary work of id Software – DOOM, and got excited. But something in the game does not suit them. Many can criticize other people’s developments, find their weak points, but few will dare to make a game to their taste – for this, you need to be really enthusiastic. Yaroslav Kravchenko and Oleg Sliusar turned out to be just that. At first, they created Chasm only for themselves – a kind of “home” project, many of which probably exist in Ukraine and which few people probably know about. When Igor Karev and Denis Vereshchagin joined Yaroslav and Oleg, the guys realized that the project could turn out to be commercial. The problem was that few people in our country would dare to invest money in a long-term project that does not bring immediate profit.
At the beginning of Action Forms, cooperation with Global Ukraine and personally with Oleksandr Soroka, who became interested in the project, helped a lot – it was at this time that they brought the game to the presentation level. And then they started looking for investors using the Internet. The search resulted in cooperation with Megamedia Corporation, which at that time was already working with the Luhansk company Meridian-93. So in this case, the opinion about the unreality of doing business using the Internet turned out to be wrong, to put it mildly. Competition with competitors began, primarily with DOOM and Quake.
According to the authors themselves, the Chasm engine is weaker than the legendary Quake engine. First of all, due to the lack of multi-story levels in the game. But, to be honest, we noticed it only after fifteen minutes – the game takes away from others. In the Western press, as well as in the Russian press, it was repeatedly said that the Chasm engine is “very fast and mirror-smooth” (it is implied that there are no lags and slowdowns – a comment from 2022),which is a bit outdated information. At 640 x 480 resolution, the game will lag slightly in some particularly difficult places, but even on a DX4-100, 8 MB RAM, it looks generally acceptable. At least faster than its “older brothers” (implying that Chasm produces more fps – comment from 2022). The soft movement of monsters built using polygonal technology is simply mesmerizing. All character movements are very naturally animated and look quite realistic.
Of course, the creation of the game takes place with the help of licensed software only – the developers cannot afford to screw up, because the game will be published in the West. Action Forms believes that this is normal, although it is probably difficult to find completely “clean” companies in Ukraine today.
Graphics means style. Let’s remember what Quake brought to 3D-action – gloomy dungeons that evoke real horror, excellent level design, water, etc. (and what Duke Nukem 3D took from the genre) (now we don’t even remember what’s this Duke Nukem 3D mention s for – comment from 2022). Chasm has style. Although levels are not multi-story, the carefully drawn details create an impression similar to the Quake game. As project manager Yaroslav Kravchenko says: “The game should be dark and brutal: blood, dark and nothing visible.” Even the color scheme, the color of the sky, dark corridors near broken lamps – the mood creates everything.
Unlike Quake’s item-free corridors, there’s (at least in the first episode featured in the demo) plenty of objects – tables, army beds, computers, etc. – and much of that variety can be broken by gunfire. The change of lighting when destroying light sources gives the game a special authenticity (it seems that this feature first appeared in games in Chasm – comment from 2022).
And, of course, monsters. There will be about 20 of them in the game – from the usual zombies to dinosaurs, wild boars, Vikings, etc. The scenario involves levels in different historical eras – in total, the game has four episodes with 16 levels. Our time has a military base, the Middle Ages has a castle, ancient times – the pyramids of Egypt and the Aztecs, and the last episode is inside the main monster. To create monsters and levels, the guys had to develop their own editor with an interface similar to 3D Studio. Each part of the monster has its own degrees of freedom, the textures are drawn very realistically, they stretch during movement, creating the illusion of muscle movement. Moreover, since Motion Capture is difficult for us (and it is not easy to get a live boar, for example), all this had to be animated manually, and we would not say that it turned out worse, probably on the contrary. Also the main enemies at the end of each episode are impressive (bosses, it’s called bosses, but the literary editor was categorically against this word – comment from 2022) and very spectacular explosions and death of monsters, which, depending on the weapon and the place of impact looks different.
Remember the classics, playing Quake without sound is simply impossible. The sound of drops, the growling of monsters behind the walls, the splash of water. Playing Chasm without SoundBlaster is not fun. The noise of rain, fans, transformers, the sounds of shots of various weapons, the growling of monsters, the rattle of shattering glass, the roar of thunder – all this gives the game a unique charm. Moreover, there are practically no “no sound zones”, as was the case in the already mentioned Quake (was there really such a thing? – comment from 2022), here there are practically no. The final release is expected to include music on CD in the form of soundtracks.
Of course, as in all similar games, DeathMatch for eight people via IPX, Serial Link, modem and TCP/IP could not be done here. That is, we will be able to play both on the local network and on the Internet. The introduction of a larger number of players into the game is associated with the problems of transferring large data packets, because in Chasm, unlike other games, there is a lot of information: about body parts, what was shot, broken objects and light sources, etc. – because a person, that enters the game must see the same as the others.
For the DeathMatch mode, there are arenas specially designed by the authors of DeathMatch. According to the developers themselves, the testing process, especially the network version, brings them special pleasure. It should be noted here that the game supports a lot of different multimedia equipment – joysticks, MMX processor, sound cards, including devices that are difficult to find in our market (why this fragment is in the section about network play, is not clear now – comment from 2022).
As it is not surprising for a game of this genre, humor is also present in considerable portions. It’s just a pity that the majority of users, especially American users the game is aimed at, will not understand half of these jokes, and the second will simply not be seen. But Norton Commander on the monitor screens, red carpets in the headquarters, rows of beds in the barracks, flies in the lamp shades and much more should be close to our hearts. Even monsters behave in an unusual way, after all during the fight, they change their tactics and each of them has a “victory expression” – when he “kills” you, he sends an air kiss, shakes an ax, and so on.
True, sometimes the humor in the game is a bit black in relation to the player: for example, the beginning of the level is knee-deep in lava; the false exit ahead is within sight, and the real passage is behind you; but it’s still fun and interesting, unlike many western DOOM clones.
I want to give the impression of someone who played Chasm. “Scary,” said a person who had played Quake three times before. “Hard,” they said as they finished the first level of the Chasm demo. “Awesome,” they added, shooting off the monsters’ arms and heads, extinguishing the lightbulb with shots and stepping out into the downpour. “More,” they requested when the demo level ended.
And indeed, the game is difficult. Even the first level, which is supposed to be easy, makes you sweat. A lot of switches, some monsters are simply impossible to kill with weapons. A zombie, for example, needs to shoot off its head, while a skeleton can fight without its head. The need to aim vertically complicates the game. It must be said that the aiming procedure in the game is very complicated, Chasm implements the technology of point shots promised by id Software, that is, you can shoot off the enemy’s arm, leg or head. Moreover, with the loss of limbs, the nature of the monsters’ behavior changes – when they find themselves without weapons, they go hand-to-hand. As the creators say, they are sure that only a few players will be able to make it to the end of the game. The latest episode of Chasm is just beyond the realm of possibility. Of course, it was not without secret levels and other gloomy surprises.
The final release of Chasm is scheduled for September this year (remember, this is 1997 – comment from 2022). Publisher – Megamedia Corporation. A possible distributor in Russia is the Buka company. The CEO of Action Forms Igor Karev does not believe in the idea of publishing the game in Ukraine at the moment – there is no publisher, no market, little purchasing power – the list is known. I would like to talk about the prestige of the country, but, we think, it is useless. The aforementioned Luhansk Meridian-93 is also not looking for a publisher in Ukraine (a Ukrainian publisher has not appeared even after 25 years – comment from 2022)
The attitude of the developers towards their own game can be judged by the following fact: of the games on their computers, only Quake and four versions of Chasm. In general, Action Forms are very enthusiastic people, true 3D-action fans, and fans in the best sense of the word. Now the company is going to start work on a new project – a 3D fighting game with a medieval plot. The project is still at the stage of initial development. We will wait for news (unfortunately, this idea was never implemented – comment from 2022).
A few words at the end. We believe that with the appearance of such firms as Action Forms, our country will finally have the prospects of the long-promised, but unfortunately, still only promised, rise of the software market. I really want to hope for that.
Chasm: The Rift on Moby Games.