In continuing our ‘Mire Mare’ retrospective we will be examining the rumours that the game was ‘nearly completed’ and looking at what a rather enterprising group of coders have done to bring the dream alive.
In the early 2000’s a claim made by a mysterious ex-employee of Ultimate stated that he was employed in marketing in the late 1980’s and that ‘Mire Mare’ had indeed existed, that he had actually played it and that it was fantastic!
If this was true why wasn’t it released? The source revealed that apparently the Stamper Brothers (owners of Ultimate) were really unhappy that US Gold simply wanted Ultimate for its back catalogue. When they found out that ‘Mire Mare’ (their grand finale title) would have simply been released on the Kixx budget label, they were so disappointed they simply lied and said that it was incomplete.
So far, all of this seems very plausible and very exciting.. ..as it implies that there could well be a near complete copy of the game somewhere in the Rare Ltd. archives or at least held by the Stamper brothers!
Unfortunately, the story had plenty of anomalies.. ..particularly in relation to some of the time-lines described by the source for various games development; they were either simply wrong or implausible. Indeed this ‘former employee’ seemed to be very hard to identify, even by his former colleagues; Leigh Loveday (who worked at Ultimate at the time) confirmed it.. ..he had never heard of this mystery colleague.
So, unfortunately, the existence of a partially working version of ‘Mire Mare’ seemed to be nothing but a hoax.
The Stamper brothers are renowned in the games industry, not only for developing fantastic games, but also because they have rarely given interviews or speak of their work. It seems we will never hear from them if ‘Mire Mare’ did exist in some form.
However, over the years reporters have spoken to various employees at Rare Ltd. (especially after the Stampers left) and inquired if anything was ever revealed about the game. The story is always the same.. ..the artwork had been completed, but nothing else.. ..no game. It seems unlikely that the Stampers would continue the pretence for so many intervening years, so it seems the story ends here – there is no elusive copy of ‘Mire Mare’.
But, the story doesn’t completely end here – firstly we can speculate (excuse the pun!) what the actual planned version of ‘Mire Mare’ might have looked like. We will never know for sure, probably only the Stamper brothers know.. ..but there are clues. The cover art work for the game features a fire pit/volcano with flames and a phoenix type creature, but the name suggest a swamp environment. There are other clues.. ..included in the now very rare ‘Ultimate a Collected Works’ is an often missing map.
On that map, the ‘Land of Ultimatum’, all of the Sabreman games are fully referenced. However, there are also fire pits which do not feature in any of the released games and must therefore relate to ‘Mire Mare’. Around these fire pits are several areas; ‘Dark Mountains’, ‘Mount Sol’ and ‘Stone Hills’, maybe these were to be zones within the final game?
Secondly, the desire for ‘Mire Mare’ is so strong that a group of fan’s have even coded their own homebrew vision of the game, entitled ‘Land of Mire Mare’.. ..and it’s OK, not up to Ultimate standards, but hey.. ..at least Sabreman finally gets his last adventure!
‘Land of Mire Mare’ is clearly inspired by the Sabreman series and features many recognisable locations and enemies, giving the series some ending justice. Maybe taking the hint from Loveday’s comments on the game, it plays more like ‘Sabre Wulf’ than Ultimate’s later isometric games.