Considering how much I’ve read in my life and how much I love science fiction, you might be surprised to hear it took me until my junior year of college to finally read Ender’s Game. Of course, once I did, I was instantly enamored with the fictional world it contained. As an avid gamer, though, I was intensely interested in both the learning, adaptive game Ender played on his desk and the Battle Room. Apparently, Chair Entertainment was as well, because soon after word came that a movie based on Ender’s Game was in the works, it announced plans to release a game based on that very part of the book.
Ender’s Game: Battle Room
What It Was: A game based on a squad-based tactical sport in Ender’s Game
What Happened: Canceled after Epic acquisition, Infinity Blade success
Why We Wanted It: It was the battle room! If you’ve read Ender’s Game, that’s reason enough
For those who may not have read Ender’s Game yet, I highly recommend you do. But before you go, I’ll go ahead and explain the battle room for you. Earth is in a war with an alien race and has opened a military training academy for promising children in space, to hone their tactical and strategic skills for the war. The battle room is a large zero-G space where teams of these children work together, to either incapacitate the entire other team with laser pistols or reach and activate a marker on all four corners of a goal simultaneously while a fifth person flies into the goal. Now, while reading that sentence, you probably thought of about a dozen ways that would be awesome or maybe a few strategies for it, and you wouldn’t be alone. I do that every time I discuss Ender’s Game with anyone (which probably happens more often than you’d expect).
As described by the creative director, it would have been a shooter, interlaced with heavy strategic elements and some sports game influences as well. Due to the nature of the game and the state of the industry in 2008 when it was announced, it would likely have had a major online multiplayer component built into it. Who knows? If done well, it’s entirely possible it may have eventually ended up on the pro gaming circuit, as heavy tactical shooters are a popular focus for many tournaments.
Unfortunately, almost as soon as it was announced, circumstances changed for Ender’s Game. Chair was hard at work finishing off an expansion to its XBLA game Undertow when Battle Room was announced, so work was put off for a few months. However, only a couple months after the expansion, Path of the Elect, was released, Chair Entertainment was purchased by Epic Games and its efforts were redirected toward a little Metroidvania title called Shadow Complex. Once that was finished, Chair would be free to work on Ender’s Game though, right? Not quite. Impressed with the team’s work on Shadow Complex, Epic directed Chair to work on an ambitious iOS title called Infinity Blade, using a newly-created iOS port of Unreal Engine 3.
Infinity Blade was a massive success almost instantly. Just a week after its release, Chair finally officially canceled Ender’s Game: Battle Room, acknowledging that under the helm of Epic Games, it simply didn’t fit in with the mission of the company to create original and unique games. This means that, unless it sells the rights to Ender’s Game, we’ll likely never see any games based on the series. Despite the checkered history of licensed games, there were high hopes for this due to the established aptitude that Chair Entertainment has shown over the years.
There is a small ray of hope that something comes out of this collaboration though. Shadow Complex actually serves as a prequel to the Empire series, with books penned by Orson Scott Card based on Chair’s own IP. Work is underway on a game adaptation of the first book of the series.