Monolith Productions

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Monolith Productions (also called Monolith, MP, or just Lith) is a video game developer, responsible for developing the Blood series. It also created the LithTech engine which was used in Blood II: The Chosen and its sister game Shogo: Mobile Armour Division. Development of this engine was later split off to be handled by a subsidiary called Touchdown Entertainment. In 2004 it was acquired by Time-Warner. Its most recent popular title is the science fiction horror shooter F.E.A.R. and its expansions (and sequel in 2009). It was founded in 1994 and is based in Kirkland, Washington, United States of America and currently employs over one hundred people.

Contents

[edit] History

[edit] Beginnings

Early Monolith Staff

Monolith Productions was founded in October 1994 in Kirkland, Washington, nearby the headquarters of Microsoft. It specialized in Windows 95 computer gaming technology, particularly with DirectX and ActiveX. The company was founded by employees from many notable gaming companies such as 3D Realms, Sierra Entertainment, Strategic Simulations, Inc, and Square Co..

Monolith was founded on the focus of multiple media entertainment such as software, music, movies, etcetera. The company was also founded on a philosophy of "creative freedom", where employees could make suggestions in any field of a product's design and contribute any of their ideas - and at heart still be gamers. The first release Monolith created was the "Monolith CD", which was a demo disc of games, soundtracks, and other random efforts. This was followed with the popular Windows 95 Game Sampler that Monolith had created for Microsoft.

This funded the two year development of their first game, a first person shooter called Blood, which they released in May 1997. Blood had started out as "Horror 3D" and was being developed by QStudios for 3D Realms; QStudios was merged into Monolith (probably due to people in the company's ties to 3D Realms) and they finished the game.

Blood became an instant cult classic and is known as one of the big three Build engine games (the other two being Duke Nukem 3D and Shadow Warrior; sometimes Redneck Rampage is included as the big four), noted especially for its inspiration and references to gothic and slasher horror films. Sunstorm Interactive then created an expansion pack for Blood called Cryptic Passage, while Monolith released their own expansion called the Plasma Pak.

Monolith also developed a platform game called Claw, set in a cartoonish parody of pirate films, which also became a cult classic, and was the first game to be self-published by Monolith. With its foundations laid, Monolith was ready to try and expand into the mainstream.

[edit] LithTech

Monolith Promotional Art

After the development of its early titles such as Blood and Claw, the company began working on a true 3D game engine component for DirectX on behalf of Microsoft, known as the "Direct Engine". They also began to work on a first person shooter game known as "Riot" for it, inspired by anime mecha science fiction.

Later the deal with Microsoft fell apart and Monolith decided to develop the engine on its own, and so they had to purchase the intellectual property rights for it back from Microsoft. It was around this time that the development of Blood II: The Chosen began in 1998, inspired by the original title's gothic horror as well as dystopian films such as Blade Runner, the Hellraiser series, and The Crow.

The "Direct Engine" became LithTech and "Riot" became Shogo: Mobile Armour Division. A promotional video for LithTech was released that showed scenes from Blood II and "Riot" as well as scenes from two never released titles called "Claw 3D" and "Draedon". The former appears to have been a third person puzzle game based on the earlier Monolith title, and the latter appeared to be a third person medieval fantasy fighting game.

The development of Blood II was remarkable due to the amount of community involvement, with the developers polling the previous game's fan base on various issues. However, the year 1998 was a very busy year in the first person shooter industry with titles like SiN, Half-Life, and Unreal coming out during the same year as Blood II and Shogo. Due to this the two games, which were both highly ambitious, were rushed out to market, which caused vast amounts of content to be removed from the games' designs, most notably Blood II which suffered from never receiving the planned development support of "team Shogo" following the other's release.

Shogo received overall positive reviews in the video game press (being praised for its unique style, influences, and narrative style, though criticized for its weaker multiplayer aspect) and Blood II received mixed reviews (praised for its homage to traditional shooters, dark humour and multimedia but criticized for its changes in style from Blood and differences from other successful shooters of the time), but both did not sell as well as hoped.

This was due to a number of reasons, the amount of competition, the the company's obscurity compared to Epic or Valve, the amount of bugs due to the rushed releases (which led to the necessity of many patches) and the lack of a strong marketing campaign. Monolith is still noted in computer gaming history for its development of its own in-house engine and two games for it developed together during the same time period.

Having self-published Claw and Shogo, Monolith also published Rage of Mages by 'Nival Interactive in the West that same year. It also was the Western publisher of that game's 1999 sequel Rages of Mages II: Necromancer. Some sources say it published the game Maabus in 1994/5, but the Blood Wiki can not confirm this. Monolith expanded its publishing operation further with titles like Septerra Core: Legacy of the Creator and Gorky 17 (aka Odium).

They also developed and self-published a Gauntlet-like action game called Get Medieval in 1998 which was a well received, if considered a little derivative, but moderately purchased game. Monolith also developed and published the puzzle strategy game Gruntz which was published in February 1999 and was a moderate success.

Two expansion packs for Shogo and one for Blood II were under development by three different groups, but all never reached completion (though all released raw files). Monolith created an expansion pack for Blood II called The Nightmare Levels, which it released in August 1999. This continued a trend started with the Plasma Pak, which used development ideas from Blood, by implementing many unfinished or discarded elements from the Blood II development. Despite considerable demand from fans, Monolith has not made any sequels to its 1990s titles, though many of them remain cult classics.

[edit] New Decade

Craig Hubbard's Monolith office around 2005

Monolith ceased to publish games after this point, possibly originally a short term decision but currently largely because publishing is dealt with by its new parent company. During February 2000, whilst in the middle of a a corporate reorganization, the development of LithTech was split off into a subsidiary called LithTech Inc., which was later renamed Touchdown Entertainment in March 2003.

The end result for the main company is basically unchanged, though it has helped license the engine out to other developers and handle porting the engine to different platforms. The new company even released a game dubbed Mob Enforcer in singe play and Chicago Enforcer in multi-play on July 13, 2004 for Windows and the Xbox. Though Mob only got so-so reviews and Chicago was largely despised.

After the 1990s, Monolith developed the No One Lives Forever series of comedic 1960s-style spy genre video games, starting with The Operative: No One Lives Forever in 2000, which was based on the new second version of LithTech ("Talon"). This game proved to be a better seller than earlier LithTech titles and won several "Game of the Year" awards, leading to a special "Game of the Year" version of it to be released. 2000 also saw Monolith develop the top-down shooter game Sanity: Aiken's Artifact, which met with generally positive reviews.

In 2001, Monolith developed and released a title called Tex Atomic's Big Bot Battles, a third person shooter published by Real Networks (LithTech "ESD"). It was created as a launch title for the fledgling RealArcade service, an early online-only game distribution model. The game went live on May 31, 2001.

That same year Monolith began its history of making games based directly on movie franchises with Alien versus Predator 2, a sequel to the earlier Aliens versus Predator computer game, which again received decent reviews. A third-party expansion pack for the game was released in 2002 but received an extremely tepid response.

Monolith released No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy In H.A.R.M.'s Way later in 2002, powered by LithTech 2.0 "Jupiter", which met with the same success as the first game in the series. Despite its success with this series, fan demands, and the open ended nature of No One Lives Forever 2, no new games have been produced (similar to the fate of Shogo and Blood II). Monolith did however release an expansion pack called Contract J.A.C.K. in 2003, which followed a contract killer for the main game's enemy, however it failed to receive the acclaim of the main series.

Also during 2003, Monolith made another movie derived game called Tron 2.0, based on the famous 1980s science fiction film. Despite positive reviews, the game did not sell as well as hoped and thus plans for an expansion pack and sequel were dashed. Possibly due to this and other reasons, Time Warner purchased the company through its Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment division in 2004.

In 2005 Monolith made yet another movie game, this time a massively multiplayer online role-playing game called The Matrix Online (LithTech "Discovery"); later that year management of this game was transferred over to Sony Online Entertainment, and the game was eventually killed on July 31, 2009. Monolith also reached a landmark success in its original first person shooter field with F.E.A.R. (LithTech "Jupiter EX"), a suspense horror action shooter that cemented the company's fame as a developer and received two third-party expansion packs.

Monolith released another popular first person title Condemned: Criminal Origins on November 15, 2005, which was notable for being more console-oriented than previous Monolith titles. This process was continued in its 2008 sequel that lacked a PC port, which did not stop it from receiving favourable reviews, though not rated as highly as the original. That same year the company launched the Monolith Forums which replaced old and broken individual forums for their legacy titles.

Monolith also began working on a sequel to F.E.A.R. called F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin which, after a lengthy development cycle and some legal issues, was released in February 2009 to mixed reviews. A short direct download add-on, Reborn, was released on September 3, 2009. Monolith took down its website and marked it as under "quarantine", sparking much speculation as to what its next project would be. The Touchdown Entertainment website also disappeared.

[edit] Recent History

The Monolith website returned in February 2010 and revealed some interesting clues towards the company's next projects. The site mentioned two new projects in development, with rumours and then hard evidence showing that one is a third F.E.A.R. title. Speculation continued on what the other one could be, with some such as Nickolas Palsmeler noting that titles whose intellectual property was thought to be previously held by others are now being listed as copyrighted by Warner Bros.

This was further confused by Good Old Games getting the rights to sell Blood and Blood II from Atari, the inheritors of GT Interactive (via Infogrames). Whether this would indicate the possibility for any new instalments in any of those franchises was unknown. Also, since F.E.A.R. 3 was developed by Day 1 Studios, developers of the console versions of the original F.E.A.R., with only supervision from Monolith, it was not clear whether or not it counted as one of its two projects. Evidence was also there that the other was a third Condemned title.

On May 16, 2011 the company released a press release announcing they were returning to their previous trend of making licensed games with a new first-person shooter called Gotham City Imposters; featuring the ability to play as the Batman protagonist or his arch-villain The Joker. The game was released in 2012 as a digital download with a strong multiplayer focus and heavy amounts of character customization. It is available for Microsoft Windows, XBox 360 and Playstation 3. That same year they also released Guardians of Middle-earth, a similarly team-based action game, in the form of a MOBA, but set in the The Lord of the Rings universe instead and launched only for the PlayStation Network and XBLA.

Monolith released another title within Tolkien's legendarium, an action role-playing game entitled Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, on October 7, 2014. The game is set between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. It is powered by LithTech and is launched on Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and the Xbox One, bridging both present and next-gen consoles.

[edit] Notable people

[edit] Monolith Productions games

[edit] Developed

[edit] Published

[edit] Third-party expansions

[edit] Combos

Monolith games have appeared in some third party game combo packs:

[edit] External Links

[edit] Articles

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