Developer: Capstone Software
Publisher: Capstone Software
- 8MB RAM
- MSDOS 5.0 or higher
- VGA Compatible video card
Where to purchase?
- TekWar is not available in digital form anywhere so check Ebay or Amazon for original hard copies.
TekWar is a FPS game developed and published by Capstone Software in 1995 that is a tie-in to thespian and national treasure William Shatner's TekWar universe. Besides this game, the TekWar universe spans 9 novels, 4 TV movies, a TV series, and a comic book series. Given this extensive background from which to draw lore and the pedigree of William Shatner's genius and Capstone's stellar track record of PC game development in the 1990s, I fully expect this game to be a milestone in PC game history, taking a place alongside other greats like Doom, Civilization, Command and Conquer, and Operation Body Count.
I remember playing the demo of this game off a PC Gamer demo disk when it originally came out in 1995, but other than that I have no experience with the game. I also know nothing about the TekWar universe, so I'll be experiencing the rich and nuanced stories that make up the tapestry of legends that is the TekWar lore for the first time as well. I am excited to get started, so let's fire up William Shatner's TekWar and get going!
Despite Capstone being a relatively large developer in the 80s and 90s, there is not a lot of information out there about them and even less about TekWar, but I'll try to cover the basics. Capstone Software was created in 1984 from its parent publishing company IntraCorp. Capstone was primarily known for two things: Licensed games and low-quality FPS games. Some of their licensed games include Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Waynes World, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Surf Ninjas, and Zorro. I've played Zorro and it was one of the worst video games I have ever experienced. It is essentially a copy of Prince of Persia, but even more frustrating and much less fun.
Capstone's first FPS games used the Wolfenstein 3D engine licensed from id Software. At the time, id Software was beginning work on Doom so they were motivated to sell the Wolfenstein engine to squeeze as much money out of Wolfenstein 3D as possible before the release of Doom made Wolfenstein 3D out of date. id Software actually reached out to Capstone and offered the use of the Wolfenstein engine for around $50,000 per game, which really doesn't seem like much. Capstone used the engine to create their first two FPS games: Corridor 7 and Operation Body Count. Neither of these games is considered a "classic". While the former is a decent early FPS game, the latter is pure garbage.
|Operation Body Count|
By 1994, Doom had been released and the Wolfenstein engine was outdated. It is hard to believe when compared to today's relatively stagnant state of PC technology, but in the 1990s computer technology progressed so fast that one year was all it took to make a game engine become woefully out of date. Seeing the capabilities of Doom, Capstone decided they needed to license a new engine for their next FPS games. Since the Doom engine was either not available or too expensive, they decided to use Ken Silverman's Build Engine, of Duke Nukem 3D fame. To read more about the Build Engine, I covered it in a bit more detail in my playthrough of Blood. Two Capstone FPS games, Witchaven and TekWar (both in 1995), were actually the first commercial products released that used the Build Engine and came out a full year before the release of the ground-breaking Duke Nukem 3D.
Switching to the Build Engine gave the Capstone developers a huge new arsenal of tools to create a more interactive, living world. Instead of mindlessly moving through a single story maze shooting anything that gets in the way, TekWar worked to create a more realistic portrayal of a future Los Angeles. Cars and city buses move around the city streets, a commuter train moves from station to station and can be boarded, and civilians and police move about the city minding their own business. The player can holster their gun to move about without drawing attention, but drawing your weapon and firing will cause police officers to attack. Capstone and lead programmers Les Bird and Jeff Shultz really tried to maximize what could be done with the early Build engine to create a realistic city environment. Whether that translated to a good game is debatable...but I'll cover that a bit later.
William Shatner was very involved in the development of TekWar. He apparently played a bunch of contemporary games like Doom, Myst, Magic Carpet, and...Johnny Mnemonic(?) to prepare for working with the Capstone developers in making TekWar. He and Capstone even had plans to create a sequel, tentatively called TekWar: New York, but Capstone folded before that could come to fruition. In 1996, shortly after the release of Witchaven II, Capstone was struggling financially and was trying to take the company public in an effort to save it. This failed, and their final game, Corridor 8, was cancelled before it was finished and the company dissolved.
It is a sad ending to a truly strange developer. As I said before, Capstone was known for some really low quality movie/TV licensed games, but they were also known for their eclectic and weird FPS games. In 2006, Les Bird released the source code for TekWar, along with some other Capstone games. The code can be found here.