The avalanche of announcements (so many that it literally broke our website) makes it easy for cool things to fly under the radar. Which is why I wanted to just briefly call out that on Monday, a piece of Australian gaming history became a little more accessible.
Under everything that dropped during the Xbox-Bethesda conference was the news of all the games being added to Xbox Game Pass this week. All Xbox first-party titles are coming to Xbox Game Pass, obviously, but not everything gets added to Game Pass in one giant chunk.
As part of the completed Bethesda acquisition, these games are now part of Xbox Game Pass, although not all are available across all platforms:
- Arx Fatalis (PC)
- Dishonored: Death of the Outsider (PC, Cloud, and Console)
- Doom 2016 (Cloud and Console)
- Fallout (PC)
- Fallout 2 (PC)
- Fallout 3 (PC, Cloud, and Console)
- Fallout: New Vegas (Newly added for PC, Cloud, and Console)
- Fallout: Tactics (PC)
- Rage (Cloud and Console)
- The Evil Within 2 (PC, Cloud, and Console)
- Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (PC, Cloud, and Console)
Fallout: New Vegas being available through Xbox Game Pass on PC is neat — it was only for console before — but what’s extra cool is the inclusion of the one Aussie game in the Fallout franchise. And to be clear, Fallout Tactics has been available before — it was one of the earlier games added to GOG, and it’s frequently available on sale for a decent price. But the beauty of Game Pass is how it gets people playing titles they wouldn’t normally take a punt on, even if the barrier to entry is only a fiver or so.
Fallout Tactics’ Australian roots are sometimes a bit forgotten. While Black Isle Studios and Feargus Urquhart — who’s still under the Microsoft umbrella today, being the CEO of Obsidian Entertainment (The Outer Worlds, Grounded, Avowed) — worked on the original two games, the third isometric spin in the Fallout series was actually made by a group of Australians.
The company was Micro Forté, a developer founded in the mid ’80s by John De Margheriti, who would later found the Academy of Interactive Entertainment, the Australian Game Developers Conference and the Game Plus co-working space in Canberra.
Fallout Tactics was the biggest title Micro Forté worked on, although they also created the underrated gem Enemy Infestation in 1998. But towards the turn of the millennium, more developers were looking at the success of MMO games like Ultima Online and the upcoming Everquest, and Micro Forté received government grants and external funding to build technology specifically for the genre.
Micro Forté still exists today — albeit under a very different name. And chances are you’ve heard of them, or at least heard the games they’re responsible for:
That’s right: World of Tanks. And all the other World games. Micro Forté used their expertise and funding to create a separate company called BigWorld, which focused exclusively on engine technology for MMO games. (It’s now called Wargaming Sydney.)
Well before it was absorbed into Wargaming’s World of Tanks orbit, however, the Australian studio powered a ton of MMO games — most of which never really saw an Australian release:
- Moego (Userjoy)
- Kingdom Heroes 2 Online (Userjoy)
- VIE: Virtual Island of Entertainment (enVie Interactive LLC)
- Heroes: Scions of Phoenix (Userjoy)
- Tian Xia II (NetEase)
- Tian Xia III (NetEase)
- Grandia Online (Gung Ho Online)
- Secret Kingdoms Online (Globex Studios)
- States at War (Sunhome Entertainment)
- Kai Xun (Zhejiang Kai Xun Technology Co., Ltd.)
- Twinity (Metaversum GmbH)
- Genesis: Journey to the West (Netease)
- Legendary Champions (Aeria Games)
- Hokuto no ken ONLINE (Gung Ho Interactive)
- Floral Fire Online (TianCheng Interactive)
- House of Flying Daggers (T2CN)
- Interzone Futebol
- Kwari (Kwari Ltd)
- Storm Hawks MMO (Bitcasters, Inc.)
- SZone Online
(An exception here is Interzone Futebol, an MMO game which would later become the centre of a massive tax scandal that resulted in the sudden closure of its Perth-based studio.)
These days, it’s all about World of Tanks/Warships/Warplanes/World of Tanks Blitz. But you can still see some trinkets of the Sydney-based studio’s former life. Before COVID, I visited Wargaming Sydney’s offices for a test of a new World of Tanks mode, and on the walls was a homage to Fallout Tactics. (Another fun fact: one of the lead designers was Ed Orman, who would go on to join Irrational’s Australian studio, before founding Uppercut Games, the developers behind Submerged and the excellent City of Brass.)
So it’s nice that those with Xbox Game Pass can access a piece of Aussie history from today. It’s also recommended playing for any Fallout fans: Fallout Tactics, while no longer canon, absolutely still holds up. It’s a more linear than Fallout 1 or 2, but beyond that, it’s still a bonafide classic.