What feels like a long, long time ago, I hung out on the message boards of the Mac shareware company Ambrosia Software. I talked with like minded kids about things like games and movies and tech. The Ambrosia forums must have been my first real push out into the world of internet friends.

Along the way I did my first coding/hacking/game design by making levels and missions and even an interesting Star Trek themed total conversion for the hybrid space action / real time strategy game Ares.

Later, as I got sucked into the world of the space action RPG Escape Velocity: Override, I began my earliest fray into writing and fan fiction. You can still find my series of short stories of Captain Ragashingo and the crew of the heavily armed cargo transport the Indigo Star over at fanfiction.net. I still write to this day because of those early stories I shared with others on the Ambrosia boards.

A few years later, the third game in the Escape Velocity series, Escape Velocity: Nova, came out and a year or two later this secretive group of mission editors, 3d graphics experts, and storyline writers in our little Ambrosia community started posting the smallest teases of something they called Aftermath. It’s wan’t quite a Total Conversion where the ships and planets and universe were replaced by a different one, instead it was a surprisingly high quality continuation of the 3rd game’s universe set some decades later. It was one of the most anticipated EV:N project going, but very few people knew anything about it.

Around that time I had gotten into making landscapes with a free program called Terragen. It had a Mac version and I got somewhat decent at it. Even won a weekly challenge over at the company’s web boards for best landscape created without all the fancy add-ons the PC version supported! Then, one day, out of the blue, someone from this hush hush Aftermath team approached me. They’d seen my work on the Ambrosia boards (I think we had a Just Graphics sub forum or something) and they invited me to join.

Aftermath was even cooler than it seemed. We had so many ship and planet graphics that we were pushing the limits of what the Escape Velocity engine could handle. We had so much story and so many complex missions planned that we were far and away past the limits the engine could support. We got the engine changed and updated to support some of the stuff we wanted to do, but our project was still so big that we figured we’d need to split the experience up into several different parts based on which storyline and faction a player wanted to play.

My poor 400Mhz Indigo iMac DV and later iBook G4 spent night after night rendering for upwards of 24 hours for each individual landing picture. I completed hundreds of them, one for each planet you could land on. I also convinced the other Aftermath team members that I could be a story / mission writer, too. I had a neat plot line called Detective Story in mind where the player could become something of a upstanding bounty hunter and could, with a bunch of tricky behind the scenes scripting, build their own fleet of allies that they could send on missions to help them hunt targets. It would have featured a lot of writing, a strong plot, and, my favorite part, you could also play the same story from the point of view of the bad guys. You’d have to play the storyline twice, once from each point of view, to truly understand everything.

The Aftermath team was spread out across the US with at least a couple of us even further away. We chatted on IRC and AOL Instant Messenger and on our own private boards. We encouraged each other and nagged each other and sometimes had little arguments about the direction of the project. We even once got social engineered into accidentally letting someone into our hidden forums where they stole some of our in-progress work and tried to show it to the Escape Velocity community! Fortunately we had some friends in high(er) places who helped shut that down.

Eventually, the Aftermath project died out. Honestly, most of us were just high school students making our way toward college. Lots of other things became more important. That, and the scope of the project was legitimately quite large, at least as large as any of the Escape Velocity games that sold for $20 or $30 back in the day, and few of us had any real experience managing something that big.

Still, we produced a bunch of cool stuff that never really saw the light of day, and we hand some grand plans to produce even more. A couple of the other team members have revisited their memories of Aftermath in the past few weeks, so I thought it would be fun to join in. Sadly, I don’t think I have any of my actual landing pic renders (though maybe one of the other members does? I believe they were integrated into the playable version of our work…) though I do have a few of my best pics that I rendered at a larger size for my 1.2Ghz iBook G4. I’ll throw up a gallery later to show those off.

I also have some of the world building short stories and some of the early missions of Detective Story. I’d love to share those and some of the larger concepts of what I was wanting to do with my slice of Aftermath’s very ambitious narrative and gameplay goals.

Aftermath may have fizzled, but it was a fun time, and if just a few more things had gone right or even if the internet was a more common medium like it is today, we might have all be paid game developers back then! We certainly generated a lot of interest and respect from our peers in our community. So, here’s to Aftermath, by far the biggest and most ambitious of the EVN community led projects!