Playstation 2 (PS2)

Skate or Die Reboot [Xbox, PS2 – Cancelled]

In 2002 Electronic Arts commissioned Criterion Games (the team mostly known for their Burnout series) to develop a 3D reboot of Skate or Die, the popular skateboarding game published by EA in 1988 for many home computers and the NES. Unfortunately this Skate or Die sequel for Xbox and Playstation 2 was cancelled after just 1 year of development.

Skate or Die “reboot” was in development by the same team that also worked on TrickStyle and AirBlade, two games very similar to the Tony Hawk’s videogames, but with hoverboards. Thanks to an article dedicated to Criterion Games published in Games TM Magazine (issue 100, September 2010) we can read that:

“Criterion started talking to EA in 2002 and they asked if we’d be interested in doing a remake of the old C64 and NES game, Skate Or Die. These guys wanted to make a skateboarding game, so we did it.”

It seems that after Acclaim filed for bankruptcy, Criterion approached EA as a possible new publisher for Burnout and in the end they also pitched a new racing game titled “Need for Speed: Split Second”, that EA greenlighted along with the new Skate or Die project.

“[After Burnout 2: Point of Impact in 2002], we were talking to EA Canada about doing a Need For Speed game, so we put together a pitch to do a stunt racing game called Need For Speed: Split Second.“

Criterion had an interesting concept for Skate or Die, to let players to freely move around the levels on foot, choosing the best spot to start doing tricks on the skateboard, entering into shops to buy new boards and interacting with NPCs. In 2002 this was quite a new way to conceive a skateboarding game, when most Tony Hawks games still had the same gameplay mechanics as the first one.

“In Tony Hawk you were always on the board and it was all about tricks and high scores, but I wanted to explore what it was like to just go out for a skate and have that feeling of just doing whatever you want, […] I wanted to be able to get off the board”

skate or die cancelled sequel

Unfortunately EA had even more ambitious plans for Skate or Die (it seems they also proposed to make it a tie-in for Jackass or Dogtown and Z-Boys), not only they wanted to enter in competition with Tony Hawks, but even against such as massive game as GTA 3:

“But the project was apparently subject to all kinds of pushing and pulling at the behest of the publisher. We were told ‘you can’t just make a Tony Hawk game – it’s got to be like Grand Theft Auto,’ and that was the first time we were like, ‘Really?’ ‘It’s got to be open world.’ Well, what does that mean? Nobody really knew.”

The team at Criterion knew that it would have been impossible to meet EA’s demands, so they decided to quit the project before it would became a development hell:

“We watch as the game changes direction before our very eyes, from classic skating game to GTA-inspired open-world ideas through to an ingenious skating evolution concept but the simplicity with which the various videos flow onto the screen belies the confusion and trauma the team went through in trying to score when the goalposts were moving so quickly and so frequently. Sullivan tells us of a number of serious illnesses he went through as a result of the constant stress, and he wasn’t alone – the team was in turmoil.”

“We called a meeting with the EA guys, told them we were walking away [from the Skate or Die sequel] and they went mad, threatening to sue us, put us out of business… there was a lot of anger and frustration, […] then we got a call from the Need For Speed guys and they said ‘we can’t work with you guys any more; you just walked away and there’s a shame on your company, so we can’t talk to you. […] I remember coming back to my desk and there was a folder on my desktop called EA and I just clicked delete. We learned a lot about how a game should be made, and we learned a lot about working with an external publisher – how we had to get our shit together earlier but also how we had to stand our ground.“

In the end Criterion and EA signed a new agreement and they started working together on Burnout 3: Takedown, released in September 2004 for PS2 and Xbox. In august of the same year Electronic Arts acquired Criterion and they became one of their internal development team that later create such titles as Black, Need for Speed and new games in the Burnout series.

If you own issue 100 of Games TM, let us know if there are more screenshots from the cancelled Skate or Die sequel in the magazine!

skate or die cancelled sequel 

Shadow of Memories / Destiny (The Day of Walpurgis) [Beta]

Shadow of Memories” is a 2001 released Visual Novel by Konami in guise of a Third Person Action Adventure for the PS2. Set in the fictive German town of Lebensbaum, the game combines solving a murder case (the protagonist’s very own) with a time travel element and gothic fantasy elements. Like Visual Novels, the game did not offer many possibilities to stray from the predestined path(s), which baffled a portion of its players and reviewers at the time as well as its total lack of action elements in any form. Yet, like Visual Novels, its strengths are its setting, atmosphere and story, which branch into not less than half a dozen different endings. Known as “Shadow of Destiny” in the US, the game was ported to several other platforms: in 2002 it was released in the EU for the original XBox, a short time later a PC version was produced for the west and finally in 2009/2010 it came out for the PSP in Japan and North America.

 

(b)Last (quantic dream) [PS2, Xbox – Cancelled]

Before to became a hugely popular studio among Playstation fans thanks to successful games such as Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, Quantic Dream was a somewhat obscure French studio mostly known for their cult adventure games Omikron: The Nomad Soul and Fahrenheit.

In early ‘00s Quantic Dream was trying to expand their portfolio with many different projects for the 6th generation of consoles (Dreamcast, PS2, Xbox, GameCube), announcing a few titles that never seen the light of day: Omikron 2, Quark and (b)Last.

(b)Last is for sure one of their most obscure and mysterious project, with only a few details and low-quality images to remember its existence. As far as we know it was meant to be an action game / beat ‘em up in a sci-fi / fantasy setting mixing together Lovecraft tales and the Matrix movies, with weird tentacle monsters, laser weapons, super powers and many different characters to interact with.

While Omikron 2 was probably Quantic Dream’s major focus at the time, only a small team of artists and developers were working on (b)Last: unfortunately the project was soon canned for unknown reasons, but we can speculate the studio fell into some issues while developing so many different games at the same time, making it hard to create a quality, fun game.

As we can read in an old interview with David Cage:

UL: Does QD canceled projects live in this new project? bLast, Quark… other?
DC: We usually start several projects at the same time. Over the last years, one of them get so much interest from publishers that we had to cancel or at least postpone the others. Each Quantic Dream’s project requires up to 80 people and all our attention. It is difficult to start several original project with the same ambition in matter of quality…

At the moment only a couple of images are preserved from (b)Last, we hope to be able to save many more artworks in the future with the help of former developers who worked on it. If you know someone who worked on (b)Last, please let us know!

Thanks to Maik for the contribution!

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Swords of Yi [PS2 – Cancelled]

There is scant information about Swords of Yi. The game was co-created by Artoon and Melbourne House around 2002, planned to be published by Atari as a PS2 exclusive fighting game. Players would have been able to use weaponry, which likely judging by the title would have included swords. The game is also reported to have utilized story-based themes, which was not a very common element in fighting games at the time. Expected to launch sometime in mid to late 2004 initially, Swords of Yi was canceled early in its development and never made it past internal testing phases before being work on the project ended.

Unfortunately neither Artoon or Melbourne House ever released any images from Swords of Yi, but we hope to find some screenshots in the future, maybe with the help of former developers.

In the end Artoon only published two games for the PlayStation 2: Ghost Vibration in 2004 and Swords of Destiny in 2005.  In April 2011 Artoon merged with their parent company “AQ Interactive“, along with Feelplus and Cavia. In June of the same year, AQ Interactive merged with Marvelous Entertainment and Liveware, closing down their original studios. Melbourne House released Transformers and Test Drive Unlimited on the Playstation 2, before being sold to Krome Studios and renamed Krome Studios Melbourne.

Article by Blake Lynch, thanks to Tim Reimer for the contribution!

 

 

Project Carbondale (Sega) [Xbox, PS2 – Cancelled]

Project Carbondale is a cancelled survival horror game that was being development by SEGA in 2003 for Xbox and Playstation 2. While the game was never officially announced, the public found out about its development thanks to a few articles published online by various websites, including The Southern Illinoisan, in which they wrote about Sega employees exploring the city of Carbondale (Illinois) to take inspiration and capture reference for the project.

“CARBONDALE – Aliens have landed in Carbondale and they are killing anything that moves. Your natural instinct is to flee, but a severe mid-winter blizzard has cut off all hopes of escape. Quick! Grab a gun, a sledgehammer, a scythe, any weapon you can get your hands on. Your only hope for survival is to stand your ground and fight – in the mall, the old Carbondale high school, city hall, even the sewer system if you have to. This is a fight to the death and it’s going to be bloody.

The battle isn’t real, though. It’s one of the biggest video game releases of 2004 being developed by Sega. Thousands of people, maybe even millions, will be fighting to save Carbondale from alien beasties next year. “Initially Sega said ‘We want to place this game in a small town,'” said Cord Smith, product manager for Sega of America. “Initially they said an East Coast town, but they just wanted something that wasn’t the West Coast. (The Japanese game designers) are familiar with San Francisco and California culture, but to them, that’s not America. America is what’s between the two coasts.”

carbondale sega game cancelled

Smith is now spending nine days leading a team of eight game designers from Tokyo around key Carbondale locations, including University Mall, the old high school central campus, the police station, city hall, water treatment plant, local homes and apartments, and yes, even the sewer system. “They’re soaking all this in, with the biggest smiles on their faces,” Smith said. “They keep saying this is kind of what they imagined, but they’re blown away that everyone has a yard, everything’s beautiful, everything’s so lush and green.”

The game’s designer, Shinichi Ogasawara, says bringing the design team all the way from Tokyo to see the Midwest for themselves is the best way to create a realistic small-town environment. The team is shooting digital videotape and still photographs that will be used to provide the textures of the games’ three-dimensional environment. Some team members photographed close-ups of anything that could be interactive, such as light switches and the weights used by Carbondale firefighters. Other team members photographed walls, ceilings, floors and artwork hanging on walls.”

Shinichi Ogasawara had previously worked on many different light gun arcade games, such as “Gunblade NY: Special Air Assault Force”, “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” and “The Maze of the Kings”, but it seems this would have been his first console project.

At the time, Cord Smith was resigning from SEGA and about to join Ubisoft, but his sister was the acting City Attorney of Carbondale, and – through her many city contacts – he was able to grant unlimited access to many locations that could have been used in the game: the abandoned high school, hospital, shopping mall, fire station, police station (and armory and shooting range), water treatment plant, and even the underground waterways & sewer system. The team met in Illinois and toured together for multiple days at the various sites.

carbondale-sega-game-cancelled-3

As far as we were able to gather, Carbondale was being developed for Playstation 2 and Xbox, but at that time, many devs were also looking into next-gen tech. We were told that the early prototype of Carbondale seemed to be on the PS2. Unfortunately it appears that this early prototype simply wasn’t of high enough quality to receive the green-light for its next milestone, but there is not enough info available to know exactly what happened to the game, and additional details about its gameplay mechanics are scarce.

It seems that the game was meant to be a traditional survival horror with moments of more “bombastic action”, potentially through the invasion of alien enemies. People who talked with Ogasawara at the time got the sense that they wanted it to be SEGA’s answer to the Resident Evil franchise, featuring a much more realistic Western setting (hence the research), but also SEGA’s leanings towards action and arcade-like fun factor.

We were able to exchange a few emails with Cord, who shared a few memories about this lost game and their Carbondale exploration:

“One of my favorite locations was an abandoned high school. The city had built a new one and left the old in an eerie state, with lots of books, equipment, and other items left behind. We visited it at night, so it was as if a apocalyptic event had occurred and everyone evacuated in a hurry. In other words: perfect video game reference.

The mirrors behind the theater stage still had cosmetics nearby, the cafeteria had trays out on the tables, and textbooks were strewn about the classrooms. We split up into two teams, each with cameras and flashlights, and in one area I found a CPR dummy, which amounted to a dressed male mannequin torso. Without hesitation, I took it and returned to the main stairway near the school’s foyer. I could see the other team’s flashlights scanning the walls along the distant hallway, and faked a scream before sliding the torso along the floor towards them. As the seemingly severed body moved into the beams of their flashlights, the school erupted with the other groups’ terrified screams. And we laughed, and laughed. So much fun!”

We hope to be able to preserve more details and footage from the game in the future.

Thanks a lot to Mortimer for the contribution!

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