4th March 2024

A Virtual World of Live Pictures

Technology and Computer

A quick look back at Microsoft’s first person game Hover that launched with Windows 95

A screenshot of the Hover game from Windows 95

A few months ago, we wrote about the launch of Windows 95 and all of the promotions that Microsoft did to push their next-generation PC operating system to the masses. One of the things that the company tried to do in its marketing was to push it for gaming.

One of the ways that Microsoft tried to make the OS appeal to gamers was to create a small game on its own that used the graphical and multimedia aspects of Windows 95. It was called Hover (or, more accurately, Hover!).

Microsoft didn’t really promote the fact that it added Hover to Windows 95. Indeed, the game was somewhat hidden inside the CD-ROM editions of the OS. You had to go into the “Fun Stuff” folder to discover that it was there.

However, it didn’t take long for people to find it and play it. Hover was a single-player first-person game with a sci-fi setting. Unlike FPS games like Doom, however, Hover was meant to be non-violent. The game had you inside a futuristic hybrid of a hovercraft and bumper car. Your goal was to collect all the blue flags in the level before the AI-based opposing team in their own hovercraft collected all of the red flags in the level.

There were also special objects in the levels that, when the player ran over them, offered some special temporary abilities, such as going faster in the game or even cloaking the hovercraft from the AI enemies.

Not only was Hover a fairly good game but it was included free with Windows 95. It definitely offered up something different to play than, say, Solitare or Minesweeper. Indeed, it has generated something of a cult following over the years since the launch of Windows 95.

Years later, Microsoft was trying to promote the WebGL graphics platform and how it could be used to make higher-end games that would run on a web browser like, for example, Internet Explorer. That got the attention of a game developer named Dan Church, who happened to be a big fan of Hover.

Hover 2013

Indeed, as Geekwire reported in 2013, Church remembered playing Hover when Windows 95 launched in 1995 when he was just 6 or 7, and being highly entertained. He stated that the game “just kind of drew me in . . . It really sparked my imagination.”

Church grew up to become a software engineer. When he saw that Microsoft was trying to promote the use of WebGL to game programmers, he got in touch with the company with a proposal. He would use the platform to bring back Hover so it would run again on any web browser.

The end result was that Church, with some help from a Seattle-based software company called Pixel Lab, not only recreated the Windows 95 version of Hover, but made a full remake with updated graphics, multiplayer support, touchscreen support, and more.

Microsoft launched the Hover.ie website with the new version of the game in October 2013. While officially the site was taken down in 2019, you can go to the Wayback Machine Internet Archive so you can at least access the single player version of the title.

Hover was designed to be a simple game to just jump in and play, in both its original Windows 95 incarnation and in its more recent web-based version. It’s a small bit of Microsoft gaming history that, while perhaps not as well known as Solitare, Minesweeper, Age of Empires or Halo, deserves to be remembered on its own. Perhaps Microsoft will go back sometime and relaunch Hover for the next-gen Xbox console.