Big Brother (lost build of cancelled PC game based on "Nineteen Eighty-Four" novel; 1998)
Big Brother was a video game developed for the PC by American company MediaX sometime in the late 1990s. Based on George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, it was to be a sequel to the book. Set in the first perspective, it was showcased at E3 1998 and was originally given a fall 1998 release date. For unknown reasons, the game was quietly cancelled. A build of the game has not resurfaced, leaving only a few screencaps.
Plot and Gameplay
The game's premise is based on George Orwell's 1948 novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, though the plot is "slightly different from that of 1984, with a corrupt regime that’s crumbling even more than in the book". Taking place where the book left off, players control the character Eric Blair tasked with rescuing their fiancee from the Thought Police through 12 levels, each one apparently "5 hours" long, cut down from an original count of 60 levels. Blair could interact with different characters, enemies, and puzzles and later on join the "Hacker Underground" group, who are intent on overthrowing Big Brother.
The published information in Next Generation Magazine describes Big Brother as an adventure game that uses a modern interface, real-time graphics, advanced facial animations, and environmental puzzles to deliver a fresh experience in the fatigued adventure genre of the late 1990s. The game was set in the first-person perspective.
Big Brother was developed by MediaX. They had bought the rights to use the Big Brother name to make a game in its universe. At that point, the company was two and a half years old and this was their first game. The game was first announced in a press release on May 28, 1999, saying it would release in late summer to early fall. MediaX described the game as a combination of the "detail of Riven into the real-time world of Quake". Company president Nancy Poertner told GameWeek that they had planned to keep original content, development, marketing and distribution in-house to reduce cost. They had also said the game was 70% complete. The game was also said to be based on a design by Douglas Gayeton.
Big Brother was showcased at the 1998 E3 trade show, expected to be released in September 1998 with a $29.95 retail price. The game won "Best Interactive Product / Cd-Rom Entertainment" at the 1999 Satellite Awards.
Next Generation Magazine seems to be the last time Big Brother or MediaX was ever mentioned. The release date was later pushed scheduled to the first quarter of 1999. However, the appears to have been cancelled. As late as 24 September 1999, the game was in its final stages of production, according to the company's financial reports. According to Media X's Quarterly/Transition Report on 15 November 1999, the company spent $240,160 in investing activities primarily due to "the increase in deferred software development costs for 'Big Brother' and purchases of fixed assets." This would be the last time Big Brother would be mentioned in their reports. At the end of 1999, an audit was done on MediaX.
Despite a claim that its release was pushed to early 2000, MediaX would sometime later lose the rights to the Big Brother title. It rights holder Newspeak attempted to find other publishers to pick up the game, claiming it was in its alpha state.
The game's build hasn't surfaced and the only visual evidence of it is screenshots and concept art.
In 2021 user SixtyFours attempted in contacting MediaX founder Matt MacLaurin about the game through email. MacLaurin responded by stating he would answer SixtyFours' questions, though after a long period of time of not coming back to answer them and SixtyFours sending a couple follow up emails, nothing came from this encounter.
Recently, user Ziggy attempted in contacting both Matt MacLaurin and Mark Gilster (art director) by phone. After not receiving a response after two messages over a few weeks as well as emails, it's looking like this is a subject that many may not care to talk about or even may not be comfortable to cover.
- Another page from the December 1998 issue of Next Generation Magazine on Big Brother. Retrieved 08 Dec '19
- GameWeek article on Big Brother Retrieved 01 Mar '22
- A page from the December 1998 issue of Next Generation Magazine which has an article on Big Brother. Retrieved 08 Dec '19
- Press Release announcing the game Retrieved 01 Mar '22
- Licensing history Retrieved 01 Mar '22
- Happy Puppy E3 coverage of Big Brother Retrieved 01 Mar '22
- 1999 Satellite Awards Retrieved 02 Mar '22
- Corp 1999 Security Offering and Investment Prospectus Retrieved 28 July 1999
- Mediax Corp 1999 Quarterly/Transition Report Retrieved 28 July 1999
- Mediax Corp 2000 Current Report Retrieved 28 July 1999
- Licensing as of June 2000 Retrieved 01 Mar '22