Back in 2001, Midway made a decision to dump their long standing coin-op division in favor of focusing developments on console gaming. When that decision came down, there were still some arcade games floating around in the development cycle, which were subsequently canceled and were lost to the knowledge of the public. Fortunately, there are a number of ex-Midway employees who still work in coin-op development and one of them wanted to get the word out about Midway Chicago’s last game to have work done on it, a unique shooter called RIP SQUAD. Many thanks to Scott Pikulski for all of this information, including the pictures and the video. Scott is currently employed with Play Mechanix and has worked on a number of their games, including the recent Terminator Salvation Arcade and the upcoming Wheel of Fortune video redemption title.
UPDATE (3/26/15): While at Amusement Expo 2015, I was talking with George Petro, formerly of Midway and the current President of Play Mechanix. RIP Squad came up and he explained that he helped Scott get the game running for this article a few years back. He mentioned that it was a real challenge to pull off since the hardware was custom-built around Windows 98 – close to some old 3DFx hardware they were using back at the time, but they weren’t able to simply take something like Arctic Thunder hardware and just have it work. He had to re-code some things to get it running on XP so it would work to show you the content below. He also stated that the motion tech that they worked on with this ended up being used as an early basis for the brand new Jurassic Park Arcade motion version, which launches the first week of April 2015. It is interesting how these canceled projects still end up contributing to games down the road!
UPDATE#2 (3/27/15): Scott P. found this photo recently which shows the programmer Sam Zehr (who also coded for CarnEvil) giving the game a spin:
ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Rip Squad began development in 1999 shortly after Carnevil had been released. The team had a couple of ideas they were trying to get started but management shot those ideas down so they had to try something else. At this point, Jack Haegar came up with the idea of creating a game based upon an old TV show called “Rat Patrol”, which idea was partially influenced by the success of the first Call of Duty PC title. The idea grew from there into what we see here, a unique on-rails shooter that gave the player a full 360° view of their surroundings.
The story behind the game goes as follows: “You are a member of RIPsquad. This was a small team of elite soldiers who’s mission was to infiltrate the enemy and carry out specific missions. The weapon of choice was the 50 .cal machine gun. RIP squad stood for relentless independent and proud, it also meant these guys were on the edge with one foot in the grave.” Basic, but effective to setup what the game was going to be.
The game was started on the Hydro Thunder hardware(Quicksilver II) with plans to upgrade that hardware with a faster CPU and graphics card by the time the game shipped. When it came to getting the game put together Scott states: “It was challenging from the start. There were internal political challenges just keeping the team together and getting the project approved. Then Midway had a big push to get all games on a universal 3D engine, which made sense, but it wasn’t written yet, and we didn’t have time to wait around. So we had to develop our own 3D engine, tools, and technology to do the game, without any support.
We all heard rumors that they were getting out of coin op. It was hard to rally the troops, but at some point we started making the game for ourselves. Pete Actipis was a new programmer at the time and he had a lot to do with us coming together and working hard on the game.”
In addition to featuring 360° of on-screen movement, there were a couple of other features that were going to help the game stand out from the competition. These include a mounted gun(which was supposed to simulate a .50 cal rifle) with force feedback provided by an air piston inside of the cabinet, a seat with a shaker beneath it to simulate the motion of the jeep driving over different types of terrain and to give you a strong shake when you were hit. The handle on the gun was going to be used to cycle through power-ups although they never made it that far in actually implementing the feature. The game also made use of generous amounts of environmental destruction, according to Scott, “…[we]made every vehicle such that each piece, panel, and plane of glass on it could be damaged, and blown off. We wanted the player to feel like they had a super-powerful gun that could blow the crap out of anything, and we were well on our way to achieving that.” They were also
working on making the enemy AI stand out as “since it was a mounted gun, we knew where you were pointing, whether you were firing or not, so we had guys that would duck when the gun swung their way.“
As for basic features, the plan was to have various power-ups spread throughout the game to enhance the action, including different kinds of missiles and grenades, and a power-up to keep the barrel cool. As there was no reloading, you had to watch the temperature gauge often. To help compensate for the camera movement there also was a radar to help you find enemy targets in the area and the game would show red arrows on the sides of the screen to point at where to look next. There would have been a total of four levels implemented in the game, with two having been started before the project was canned. Scott describes the levels that didn’t make it as follows: “We were going to let the player be a tail gunner in a B52 and there was an Italy level planned. There was talk of a level full of top secret Nazi weapons like Nazi Jet packs and the saucer shaped jets.”
I asked if the game could possibly be resurrected for a modern outing but as Scott states: “I am the only one left here[at Play Mechanix] from that team. The game continues to inspire people here but there are no plans to resurrect it.“
Credits for the core team: “Jack Haeger(Team Lead), Sam Zehr(Lead Programmer), Sam Crider(Lead environment), Scott Pikulski(Lead Character and Vehicle). Later we expanded the team and adding Dan Markham, Pete Actipis and Patrick Lynn on the programming. Jeff Baker, Joe Stinchcomb, Jan Sjovall on Art. Paul Fasshauer was our Programmer intern at the time.
Bob Yoest was the mechanical engineer and designed the 50 Cal. and the vibrating seat.“
Scott would also like to thank the following individuals:
George Petro: The owner of Play Mechanix and the man instrumental in saving the game from the crusher and getting it to me.
Brian Eddy: My former boss at Midway, who stumbled upon the game in a warehouse when Midway was in the process of shutting down last year.
Matt Booty:CEO Midway, gave us permission to have the game from storage.
A few more related pictures
Now for some videos!
The game in action (part 1)
In action part 2
Thanks again to Scott and the Play Mechanix team for sharing this info with us. What do you think – could RIP Squad be a game that they could resurrect for a modern audience?
Great article! Too bad this game never came out. It looks like it would be a fun one.
What I would like to see is someone take a crack at a similar concept. If not like a WW2 shooter then a space combat one like Starblade but with the free movement. Either way would be fun.
Yeah, this is sorta-kinda like RE: Umbrella Chronicles (albeit REUC had more limited camera movement), something I felt was sorely lacking from its sequel but a new Starblade or, hell, anything with this style of gamepaly would be great–it’s breathe new life into the increasingly-stale rail shooter genre, though you’d have issues w/ local MP.
Great article, tho!
Speaking of Starblade, it’s a real shame Namco canceled the arcade sequel of that back in 2002. And Starfox arcade in 2003. I wonder if now that they are sort of a kick, resurrecting some old game concepts (Deadstorm Pirates sort of being like Lucky & Wild; TTT! sort of being like Tokyo Wars) there is still some hope yet.
A B52 over Italy? What – to drop nukes? A plane from 1955 in WWII? Cool! Did you have laser-guided smart weapons and drones too? Perhaps a B17 would be more realistic – but hell, let’s carpet bomb like NAM.
Probably best to keep in mind that as the game was a ways from finished that they could have certainly corrected that (or the plane was just some leftover object used as a placer for the time)