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Looking Glass Studios was a revolutionary computer game development company during the 1990s that created numerous influential titles and series.
Inspired by the 1987 hit RPG Dungeon Master, Neurath and his team of ex-Origin employees and MIT graduates began work on their first project, an RPG called Underworld. This would later be renamed to Ultima Underworld, after publisher Origin suggested using Richard Garriott's Ultima franchise. Finally released in 1992, Ultima Underworld was instantly viewed as a landmark title for its advanced engine and immersive, extensive gameplay. After the success of their first game, Blue Sky changed their name to Looking Glass Technologies, which would be renamed again in a few years to Looking Glass Studios. Working from the acclaim garnered from their first success, Looking Glass released two more titles the next year, Car and Driver (an open-ended driving simulation) and Ultima Underworld II, a larger and even more impressive sequel to the original.
The studio's next big break came in 1994 with the industry-renowned System Shock. The game was critically-acclaimed, and was heralded as a revolutionary game for its time. Unfortunately, like many similar historic pieces of software, its affect on the industry and its overall impressiveness were not fully realized until many years later.
Over the next 3 years, Looking Glass released 3 more games: Flight Unlimited, Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri, British Open Golf, and Flight Unlimited II. Terra Nova, in particular, was quite popular and continued the studio's tradition of breaking boundaries in the software industry.
Looking Glass' pinnacle arguably came in 1997, with the title Thief: The Dark Project. For the first time in its history, Looking Glass not only shocked the industry and stunned its fans, but created its own genre, the self-dubbed First-Person Sneaker. The game has influenced countless successive designers, and opened the way for games like Splinter Cell.
1999 was a busy year for Looking Glass; they released an additional version of Thief, called Thief: Gold, ported a popular Westwood game Command and Conquer and another title Destruction Derby 64 to the Nintendo 64, and released Flight Unlimited III. Looking Glass also created a sequel to the System Shock series, entitled System Shock 2, assisted by Irrational Games, a company consisting partly of ex-Looking Glass employees.
The highly-successful sequel to Thief: The Dark Project was released in 2000, called Thief II: The Metal Age, building on all the strong points of the original while continuing to expand the storyline and the technological feats of the game. This would be Looking Glass' final, full release.
Looking Glass Studios began having serious financial troubles, due to many differing factors. The unstable and often risky software market, the high cost of development of software, timing problems and outside influences, were all contributing factors in Looking Glass' demise. Three games, Fight Combat, Mini Racers, and Deep Cover were all in development when Looking Glass Studios received word from its parent company Eidos that it would be closed.
Today, the influence of Looking Glass can still be seen, as many of its original employees now work for many of the very popular, ground-breaking software companies in the industry today. Companies like Ion Storm, Irrational Games, Harmonix and Arkane Studios all have ex-LG members working for them.
Chronological Titles List
- Ultima Underworld (1991)
- Car and Driver (1992)
- Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds (1992)
- System Shock (1994)
- Flight Unlimited (1995)
- Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri (1996)
- British Open Golf (1997)
- Flight Unlimited II (1997)
- Thief: The Dark Project (1998)
- Thief Gold (1999)
- Command and Conquer for the Nintendo 64 (1999)
- System Shock 2 (1999)
- Flight Unlimited III (1999)
- Destruction Derby 64 for the Nintendo 64 (1999)
- Thief II: The Metal Age (2000)
- Flight Combat (cancelled)
- Mini Racers (cancelled)
- Deep Cover (cancelled)