Microsoft

Darkborn [PC, Xbox One, PS4 – Cancelled]

Darkborn, previously known as Archenemy and Project Wight, is a canceled medieval fantasy First-Person Role-Playing Game developed by The Outsiders from 2015 to 2020, and published by Private Division, for the PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4.

Darkborn was set in the medieval time where vikings shared the world with a forgotten species of creatures. Player embodied one of these creatures named Darkborn, whose purpose was revenge against a band of vikings marauders known as The Pale Enemy, after the latter have slaughtered its species for blood rituals. Over the course of the game, you would play multiple generations of these Darkborn as you learn the motivations for their bloodshed.

First information regarding this game were hinted in February 2015 during the announcement of the creation of The Outsiders:

Former Battlefield developers David Goldfarb and Benjamin Cousins today announced a new game studio, The Outsiders, which is working on a PC role-playing game. (…)

(…) In a separate interview, he told Eurogamer that the company’s first game will be an RPG. “I’ve loved RPGs all my life and have been shoehorning elements of them into games I’ve made over the years with lesser or more success,” he said. “I’m interested in systemic story stuff. I know Ken Levine has recently been talking about this. I have another way I want to try and do it. But I think it won’t be a game of cut scenes.”

It wasn’t until November 2016 that Project Wight was officially unveiled by its developers, showing a short gameplay video of the game:

“There are currently 12 people working at The Outsiders,” says co-founder David Goldfarb. “Our background is a pretty broad mixture of experience. Ben Cousins (co-founder) and I come from DICE, as do the other two founders.

Wight is a low fantasy RPG set in the Dark Ages, and the twist is that you play as a creature that would usually be the enemy in another game. “The player will experience life on the other side of the sword as a creature attempting to survive the extermination of its species by humanity,” says Goldfarb. “The creature starts out young and extremely vulnerable, but will eventually grow strong enough to turn the tables on its persecutors.”

One of Wight’s biggest inspirations is a book by John Gardner called Grendel. “I read it a long time ago,” says Goldfarb. “It’s Beowulf, but written from the perspective of the villain. That inversion was interesting, but it also meant something. I was always siding with the outcast.”

“There was some kind of dislocation in me it spoke to, I guess. That feeling of not understanding the world you were in, why you were there, or why things were cruel in it. And as time wore on it became clearer and clearer that there was a game there, and maybe the time had come to make it. So we did.”

Project Wight, which doesn’t even have a name yet, has a long way to go. But I’m already sold on the idea. As for what the moment-to-moment play will be like, Goldfarb stresses that team is still working hard to figure this out. “It’s too early to say, but we are definitely not making a linear experience. But how exactly that takes shape is still years away.”

Thereafter, the project became more silent. In December 2017, we learned that it would be published by Private Division, a new label from Take-Two Interactive, supposed to fund independent titles from small studios made up of industry veterans:

“We didn’t want to cede control of this thing, essentially,” says The Outsiders co-founder David Goldfarb, whose studio is publishing its first game with Private Division. “You always hope for the best, but maybe in some cases, and I know from talking to friends of mine, you lose control of the thing that you spend an enormous amount of energy and time on.” For The Outsiders, controlling its IP is essential for its other business endeavors.

After being silent throughout the entire 2018 year, the game resurfaced as Darkborn in April 2019. Gameinformer wrote a preview about it:

(…) The Darkborn may not deserve persecution, but judging by their bloodthirsty battle skills, you can see why the humans fear them. In the few fights we see in this demo, the Darkborn exact revenge on The Pale by eye-gouging, severing limbs, grisly decapitations, and even a ripping a still-beating heart from the ribcage of one unfortunate grunt. Many of these gruesome attacks are earned via Darkborn’s “death gift” system.

No matter which age your Darkborn may be, you can earn new death gifts by interacting with the dying kin you encounter in the world. In this demo, we see a few of them in action. Deep Sight operates like an investigative mode that highlights your path forward and any enemies in the vicinity. Stealth Bite gives the whelp a powerful stealth takedown. Thorn Throw gives the Darkborn a ranged attack, and the Whip Attack is an effective tool for stunning enemies before going in for the kill. (…)

However, troubles occured for the game as we learned from Gamespot in July 2019, that Private Division parted ways with The Outsiders in the end of 2018:

The game, which was re-revealed as Darkborn in April this year, is now moving ahead with a different publisher. Private Division confirmed to GameSpot that it ended its publishing arrangement with The Outsiders in 2018.

“Private Division ended our publishing agreement with The Outsiders at the end of last year,” reads a line from Private Division’s statement. “We supported the studio financially for several months after ending the deal, and we wish David Goldfarb and the rest of the talented team the very best with the game and their future endeavors.”

It is not immediately clear why Private Division and The Outsiders split up, or what financial considerations might have been in place related to the business separation. Private Division declined to share further insight on the matter, while The Outsiders CEO Anders Pettersson tells GameSpot that the Swedish studio plans to share more details “after the summer.” Also unknown is if The Outsiders will or already is seeking a new publishing arrangement, or if the studio will self-publish Darkborn.

Unfortunately, Darkborn was officially canceled in April 2020 as stated by The Outsiders on their official Twitter account:

Over the past four years we have been working on a game property we loved very much. This was once called Archenemy, became Project Wight, and finally, Darkborn.

Last April we released a gameplay trailer for Darkborn, knowing that it might be our final release. In spite of our best efforts to continue, ultimately we had to make the difficult decision to halt development on the project. Perhaps one day we will return to it: we all hope so and genuinely appreciate the support of everyone who followed us over the years.

But one door closes and another opens.

We have been working on something else.

On something new. Something awesome. Something we really love.

We look forward to being able to share it all with you.

That new project was Metal: Hellsinger released in September 2022. The Outsiders was acquired in June 2021 by Funcom. In August 2022, David Goldfarb explained a bit what went wrong during the development of Darkborn:

Speaking to NME in a recent Boss Level profile, Goldfarb said that Darkborn – which was cancelled by The Outsiders in 2020 – suffered some major issues in the development cycle, including a big change to the game’s structure.

“It didn’t start as an open world game,” shared Goldfarb. “It became one, and that’s why we got fucked. If we had done it another way, maybe we would have been okay.”

Goldfarb added that Darkborn was cancelled due to publisher Take-Two deciding to part with The Outsiders, which “couldn’t get anyone to pay what it would have cost to continue, because of a lot of complicated legality around IP ownership and the publishing rights to the game.”

“A lot of people think we made this decision to abandon that project. That’s not true, okay. We really wanted to make that game,” added Goldfarb.

Beyond publishing issues, Goldfarb said the team “never really cracked” first-person melee combat, and described it as “probably the hardest thing in the industry.”

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Raiders of the Deep (Xbox One – Cancelled)

Raiders of the Deep (codenamed Project Submarine) is a canceled futuristic military Free-To-Play multiplayer First-Person Shooter developed around 2013-2014 by Spark Unlimited for the Xbox One.

Information about this game are pretty scarce as it was never announced. Following information about the story, game design concepts and features were shared in a PDF file by former Spark’s developer Sam Wey:

I was given the responsibility to compose a game design pitch document and PowerPoint presentation for a triple A title to be pitched to Microsoft. I managed the support of two artists and was able to bounce ideas off of the veteran designers around me. Now that Spark doesn’t exist anymore, I think it’s safe to show this.

In the near future ice caps have melted and most of the earth is covered in water. National governments have been rendered powerless in the face mega corporations that violently battle for power. These corporations store and transport valuable data caches in offshore submarines piloted by bands of “deep sea raiders”. Corporate espionage has taken the form of violent confrontations between these underwater pirates. They plunder each other for these valuable data caches, risking life and limb for wealth, power and prestige. The aesthetic of this near future is sleek but grounded in a gritty realism of believable, familiar technology.

Raiders of the Deep is a free-to-play, competitive multiplayer, first-person-shooter that utilizes ship customization, level orientation changes and free flowing water simulation to dynamically change map layout and combat strategy. This will be a uniquely next gen experience only made possible by the next generation console technology, the incredible FX capabilities of Unreal 4 Engine and Phys-X GPU water simulations. It is a game about assembling your level from pre-made rooms, customizing them with items bought and earned, and then squaring off your ship against your opponent’s – creating an online arena that’s always half familiar, half unknown. It’s a game about assuming the role of a mercenary on a submarine of your own design or fellow clan member’s vessel – giving orders or executing orders while leveling up distinct character classes. It’s a game tailor made for league play, one that allows for true leadership and teamwork, raiding-like rewards, side “bets” before matches, taunting and bribing – it’s perfect for eSports or competitive gamers of all skill levels. Most of all, it’s a game that will start small, focused and fun, and can expand – based on player feedback – in a variety of exciting directions.

Key Features

  • Your Ship, Your Way: Submarine customization – Choose from predesigned ship layouts or swap and rotate rooms, then add decorations and themes. Tons of customization options to buy or earn to make your level truly reflect your personality and strategic approach.
  • Truly Dynamic and Interactive Backgrounds – As your submarine sinks, damaged rooms will flood and the whole environment will turn on its side and even flip upside down. This will instantly change map layout and as a result map strategy changes. Destroy ship systems to cut lights or overtake the command center to gain control of auto-turrets. Use the level itself as a tool and a weapon to overcome the odds.
  • Free Flowing Water Simulation Gameplay – This will define the next generation gaming experience with water simulations only possible on the Xbox One with the help of Unreal 4, Phys-X, and Thunderhead cloud computing. Flood compartments to change the playing field. Force opponents to surface for air to setup a headshot. Lurk under the water surface and take the enemy by surprise. As the submarine tilts, water will flow from one compartment to the next.
  • The Madden of Shooters: Playbook System – Play like a well practiced clan even with complete strangers. Setup custom or use pre-loaded context-sensitive “plays” before breaches and give on-the-fly orders or follow the orders of your teammates for bonus XP. Plan your own sequences on Smart Glass and share them with friends. Use teamwork, fake-outs, traps and advanced tactics to outsmart and outgun the other clan.
  • Free to Play / Free to Win – A fully featured shooter with no entrance fee. In-App-Purchases for extra in-game currency or specialized costumes / items are available, but everything is based on Pay to Enhance (and show off), not pay to Win.
  • Knowing is Half the Battle – Each time you play, one half of the multiplayer online battle arena will be yours (or your clan’s), the other half will be a mystery until you board your enemy’s sub. Bazillions of possible combinations.
  • Clan Classes – Cloak yourself as a Saboteur and map out the enemy’s ship for your team, quickly hack equipment or find shortcuts as an Engineer, go guns blazing and lay traps as a Raider or stomp through corridors slowly as an armored Deep Diver. As the game grows so will the number of Classes…
  • Level Up and Collect – Advance in four different classes, unlock tons of weapons andabilities, and personalize your character’s look to a staggering degree.
  • A True Team Sport – Fully supports Tournament Play and eSports with optional clan rooms, specialized leaderboards, pre-set play times, uniform elements, league web pages, and recording and uploading match videos to brag and review replays to sharpen tactics.

At its core, Raiders of the Deep is a version of capture the flag enhanced with point control. Before a game begins, players will enter a lobby where each team will vote on a map layout for their respective team as well as what room to place the data cache (flag) in. When the conflict begins, the two teams’ ships dock with one another. The ships will be connected through airlocks. The goal is to board the enemy’s ship through these airlocks, find “data caches”, hack them, and return to the command room of your ship with the data. These data caches could be anywhere the opposing team voted to place them, so no two games will ever be the same. The control points will enable or disable defense systems; easing access to the rooms that contain the data caches. This will be the main gameplay mode but it will only be one of many types of gameplay offered.

Breach or Be Breached:

  • Battles will begin with you either assaulting the enemy’s ship or defending your own, but the gameplay then stretches between the two sides.
  • Set up Breach Plans as the Attack – Select where to enter. Set up fake outs. Try to bribe members of the opposing ship.
  • Set up Traps as the Defender – Determine where the opposing team will breach. Place traps. Take cover.

Attack and Defend:

  • The heart of the gameplay is the gathering of data caches from the opponent’s ship.
  • Combat – Battle opposing team crew members.
  • Find Data Caches – Various rooms have different amounts of data, hack the systems or defend hackers while they collect the data.
  • Return Enemy Data to Your Command Room – Take the data back yourself or guard the data carrier.
  • Complete Side Objectives – Some rooms are connected with ship systems, hack these for various bonuses (cut out lights, turn off / take control of auto defenses, etc).
  • Defend Data Caches – Try to keep the opposing team from hacking your ship’s systems by laying traps and taking defensive positions in key rooms.
  • Eliminate Data Carriers – Take out the enemy carrying your data before he is able to upload it in their Command Room.

Collect Winnings:

  • Overcoming the other team isn’t just for bragging rights…
  • Earn XP and Cash – These are used to level up your character class and buy new character and ship items.
  • Roll for Rare Goods – When you win your team will get a variety of rare items, which can be “rolled” to see who gets them.

 

Ship Customization

The player will be able to build his ship in an offline mode on the XBox One or by using their Smart Glass app on a phone or tablet. The player will be able to move each of the ships rooms where he feels is strategically the best. He will then hide his Data Cache in a safe in one of these rooms. The player will be able to save out different ship load outs that he can then access during online play. This customization will enable each match to be different depending on how the Clan would like to defend or attack.

Point Control

While the core of the gameplay is capture the flag with data caches, it is the Point Control mechanic that will keep map strategy dynamic and interesting. The Point Control element will have different strategic effects on gameplay. The defending team will have many defensive features on their ship which will be countered by the difficulty of defending so many vital systems rooms. Attacking teams will have the benefit of quickly changing targeted rooms. Attacking rooms in a strategic sequence will cause a cascade of chaos that will win the match.

For example, taking out an opponent’s reactor will take out command center functionality which weakens the defense turret systems. The weakened defensive systems will give the attacking team access to assault the medical bay which slows reinforcements which in turn, buys them time to find and decrypt the data caches.

Water Core Game Mechanic

Water will be the wild card in every firefight. It can be your savior in one battle only to suffocate you in an icy death in the next. Water will dynamically change level layout and strategy through both changes in orientation of the whole submarine and water levels of each compartment.

Example Gameplay Beats of Action:

When the firefight began, the pump room was dry. As the gun battle rages, the hull is damaged and water begins flooding into the room. A thousand pounds of pressure forces water through the hull of your submarine and is altering the layout of the arena. Soldiers on the low ground begin wading slowly in the waist deep water and being picked off by the enemy in the high ground. As water overtakes the high ground, troops resort to diving deep and sneaking up on the enemy with combat knives. Water fills the compartment to the ceiling and the few survivors are now clustered at and gasping for air in the few air pockets where they can keep their heads above water. Reinforcements breach a blast door and water flows into and floods the other compartments while drones seal the damaged hull.

Water mechanics:

  • Water’s effect on players

○ Knee high water slows down players

○ Waist deep water slows players more; crouching allows you to hide under water.

○ Fully flooded compartments will only have a few air pockets above water and most combat will take place under water.

 Water’s effect on the environment

o Damaged rooms start flooding, flooded areas of the ship will start sinking and the whole ship will start to tilt effectively changing the layout and strategy of a given arena.

  • Natural Water Simulation Behavior

○ The flow of water from one compartment to the next will cause players to slide.

○ The volume of water is maintained when water flows from one compartment to the next.

○ If both compartments have the same level of water:

■ then no water level change will occur.

○ If one compartment is filled to the ceiling and then the hatch is blown open to an empty compartment:

■ then players in the empty compartment will get knocked off their feet from the flooding water and the players in the full compartment will be pulled into the empty compartment.

■ active stand up minigame- after being thrown off their feet, players will scramble to get up again to continue combat. Skillfully using the two analogue sticks to rebalance and orient yourself quickly will allow you to shoot or find cover first. It’s the difference between a quick jump up on to your feet (best) and a hobbled slow stand up(suboptimal).

 Different character classes and loadouts will favor dry room fighting versus wet room fighting.

  • Example of wet loadout

○ wet suit

○ rebreather

○ gas powered harpoon

■ most ballistic weapons will not fire underwater. the harpoon gun provides superior underwater ranged combat. It impales players and pulls them in for a brutal melee kill.

  • Example of dry loadout

○ heavy armor

○ thermal vision

○ freeze grenade

■ a well aimed and timed freeze grenade will freeze your opponent in the water, float them to the top, making them vulnerable for execution.

Playbook System

We all wish we could be as coordinated as a clan but most players never have the opportunity to have this experience because most just jump into public matches. The playbook system will come with proven “plays” that will automatically delegate responsibilities to team members. Instructions and timings will appear on their HUD and waypoints will appear in the world. The following are example plays:

  • Offensive Plays

○ Breach and Clear

■ Player A begins torching the airlock hatch to breach it.

■ Players B and C gets in position to cover angles on airlock hatch.

■ Player D primes flash grenade to be tossed in the second hatch is breached.

■ Players E, F, and G prepare to rush in.

■ 3, 2, 1… BREACH!

■ Player D tosses in flash grenade which promptly explodes.

■ Players B and C provide cover fire while Players E, F, and G move in and clear the room.

  • Defensive Plays

○ Ambush

■ Players A, B, and C hide behind columns

■ Players D, E, and F hide behind supply boxes.

■ Player E provides sniper cover from above.

■ Wait for breach and wait for all players to commit to entering the room.

■ Fire!

In other competitive multiplayer games this level of teamwork and coordination is out of reach for 99% of players. This system of automated delegation and timing system will give players a sense of cohesion even on public matches. The XP and in-game currency rewards for good execution will incentivize teamwork. Any team member can call plays but players of higher level will overrule lower level players.

Secondary Game Mechanics

Classes

The player will choose to play as one of the following classes. Each will have distinct weapons and abilities to suit different play styles and counter enemy tactics. Some classes will be inherently better at wet or dry combat. The wet and dry loadouts will modify these characteristics so players can adapt to the current state of the battlefield.

Saboteur – This light class will be a master of speed, stealth and reconnaissance. When cloaked, enemies will only see a faint distortion at regular intervals. Saboteurs will provide vital information to fellow teammates by removing the “fog of war” from the minimap for their teammates. While too weak to stage an offensive alone, by employing the cloak and infiltrating rooms before breaches they will provide spotting of enemy locations for their teammates.

Raider – This heavy class will be the bread and butter of combat providing both defensive and offensive firepower. If a lighter class opponent does not use the environment to their advantage, the Raider will dominate in a head to head firefight.

Engineer– This medium class is vital in his support of the team through his mastery of structural, electrical and software engineering. The engineer can hack enemy turret systems, decrypt enemy data caches faster and find shortcuts for the saboteur. When divers damage the hull and compartments start flooding, the engineer deploys drones to repair it.

Diver– As the most adept swimmer and demolitions expert, this medium class is vital to any boarding party. The diver can set charges to destroy a ship’s hull and vital systems. Destroying a ship’s hull causes flooding which alters the environment in the diver’s favor. The diver is also fastest at breaching but requires the support of other divers and raiders to survive a firefight.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Sam Wey left Spark Unlimited in July 2013, just after the release of Lost Planet 3. He is credited in the ‘special thanks’ section of Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z, the last game released by Spark, in March 2014.

In May 2015, Spark Unlimited ceased any activities in game development. As we can read on Polygon, it seems Raiders of the Deep might have been canceled in the process:

Los Angeles-based Spark Unlimited, the developer behind Lost Planet 3, Legendary and Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z, is no longer making games and has laid off all of its employees, a former employee of the company told Polygon today.

John Butrovich, Chief Technical Officer at Spark Unlimited, confirmed to Polygon that “it’s the end of Spark as a game developer.” Principal members of the studio “have decided to move on to other things,” Butrovich said, and confirmed that Spark Unlimited co-founder Craig Allen resigned as president and CEO from the company late last year “to pursue other ventures and interests.”

Butrovich said that Spark’s in-development free-to-play game was canceled, as were other projects at the studio, leading to the company shutting down game development.

If you know someone else who worked on Raiders of the Deep and could help us preserve more screenshots, footage or details, please let us know!

Images:

Some pages from the PDF file

TimeShift/Chronos [Beta – Xbox 360, Xbox, PS2, PC]

TimeShift is a futuristic First-Person Shooter released in 2007 for the PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, developed by Saber Interactive and first published by Atari, then, by Sierra Entertainment.

TimeShift‘s plot revolves around a secret program aimed at designing two time shifting suits. One is stolen by the doctor Aiden Krone, the main villain, and you, wearing the other, must go find it. Following him backward through time to 1939, player discovers a dystopian sci-fi alternative past with Krone as the supreme ruler.

Its key feature is the player’s ability to control time: slowing, stopping and rewinding it. This allows many possibilities during gunfight as well as solving specific puzzles.

The game’s development was pretty messy. It was first revealed in February 2004 under the title of Chronos, and was planned for the PC, Xbox and Playstation 2, using the in-house engine of Saber Interactive, the Saber3D Engine. As we can see on the screenshots for this version, it was using the same HUD as previous Saber’s game: Will Rock. Here is what we could read on French website Jeuxactu:

Known for having developed Will Rock, Saber Interactive is currently working on a new project called Chronos. This will be an FPS based on the same engine as Will Rock’s (which is also a homemade engine). If we don’t know anything at the moment about the scenario and the gameplay of the game, Saber Interactive has nevertheless shared some images on their official site. Planned on PC, Xbox and PS2, Chronos should probably be released later this year in the United States, as soon as a publisher is found.

The project resurfaced in October of the same year when HomelanFed announced that Atari was going to be the publisher:

A check of Atari’s official web site reveals some titles of games that have not yet been officially announced. The PC section shows a listing for Civilization IV, which is most likely the next game in the long running and popular strategy game series. Other unannounced games listed include three identified as “action” titles with the names Chronos (PC-Xbox), Enemy In Sight (PC-Xbox) and Rat Race (PC). Besides the titles and the game platforms there is no other info available on these games.

In January 2005, Atari renamed Chronos as TimeShift and shown it to Gamespot. Throughout the entire 2005 year, the project was showcased here and there at various occasions. However, in April 2006, Atari sold the game to Vivendi Universal Games, owner of the Sierra Entertainment’s brand, as we can read on Gamedeveloper:

Officials from Vivendi Universal Games have confirmed, via a pre-E3 press showing, that time-bending PC and Xbox 360 first person shooter title Timeshift will now be published by VU Games, rather than original publishers Atari. Although representatives from Atari have not commented on the change, the game was initially scheduled for a May release by the company, but no longer appears on Atari’s schedules. Vivendi officials were unable to provide further details at time of press, indicating only that the game currently does not have a scheduled release date.

The storyline alongside various characters were rewritten or removed, the only exception being the doctor Aiden Krone, formerly named Ivan. Here is what we can read about these former characters on GameGossip:

Colonel Michael Swift

Colonel Michael Swift (recently retired) has a unique combination of brains and brawn that have helped him to rapidly rise to the top ranks of the Air Force. An all-state running back in high school, Swift passed up on athletic scholarships from some of the country’s best universities to join the Air Force Academy where he majored in military strategic studies. After graduating from the Academy at age 21, Swift spent ten years as a combat and recon pilot, flying thousands of sorties. In the year 2004 during a secret mission he was shot down over hostile territory. He spent three months navigating the treacherous terrain of the enemy’s land, avoiding capture and battling the elements before successfully reaching the border of an ally. His resurfacing became the stuff of legend and the Air Force soon promoted him to the rank Colonel. He soon became a specialist in the research and development of advanced weaponry for future combat. Upon the death of his wife he retired from active duty and became a full-time father.

When a government agency initiated the testing of the Quantum Suit and the Chronomicon – a highly publicized event – they chose Swift to perform the experiment as he was the only candidate with the proper mix of DNA, brains and strength to perform he job. After initially declining the offer, the tragic death of his daughter Emma causes him to reconsider.

Professor Ivan Krone

Professor Ivan Krone was born in 1947. Krone’s father, Nicholas, was a scientist who worked in the US Patent Office in Washington DC.

In 1955 Krone’s parents were killed in an accident. With no known relatives Krone was transferred to an orphanage where he spent the rest of his youth. He became highly anti-social and isolated himself from the other children in the home. Krone escaped reality by embracing the study of science. For the next decade he devoted all of his time poring over the works of the world’s great physicists, from Newton to Einstein to Feynman to Hawking. Krone soon began to see himself as the next in line among the kings of physics.

By the age of 17 Krone was accepted into the Technology Institute where he studied for the next 10 years before receiving his doctorate in Applied Physics at the age of 27. Upon graduation he took a position in the Institute as an associate professor. He began to delve seriously into the study of time travel and time control. By the turn of the century, Krone had developed a device that he was convinced would allow for limited time control functionality. He sought out students interested in participating in an experiment to test the device. One student volunteered. The test proved disastrous – the device exploded during the experiment and the student was killed.

An investigation followed the tragedy and Krone was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide. He was sentenced to an unusually harsh prison sentence. For the next decade-and-a-half Krone’s obsession with time control grew even stronger. He feverishly devoted himself to its study during his long tenure in prison. Upon his release he had a host of ideas ripe for testing, but he couldn’t find a way to get them funded. He was rejected and shunned by the academic community and mocked for his obsession with the study of time. Krone was left to find a way to fund his studies on his own.

For the next decade Krone worked zealously. He spent days working as a janitor in a local college and nights secretly working in the school’s labs. By the turn of the century Krone had made a startling breakthrough. While he had not yet discovered a way to travel in time, he created a device that allowed for limited control of time. Word leaked to the public of this invention and the government quickly assumed control of the device in the name of the national interest. Krone was devastated. He had worked his entire life to come to this moment and now the government had usurped control over his project. The government promised him compensation and guaranteed him the right to continue to develop the project. He reluctantly agreed, all the while resentful of the government for scorning him and then assuming control over his life’s work. It was in this environment that Swift was chosen to test the Quantum Suit in November of 2007.

Jasmine Lin

Jasmine Lin is Ivan Krone’s assistant on Project TimeShift. She has a passion for what she does, and it has taken complete priority in her life – above family, a vacation, or a relationship. She is especially optimistic about Krone’s project…but she has a chip on her shoulder due to having been passed over multiple times within her career progression because of both the male-dominated nature of the military and the innate bureaucracy of the government itself. Additionally, she has been given the awkward and stressful task of gaining the commitment of the notoriously obstinate Colonel Swift, who is ironically the ONLY man found within the military (past or present) to be able to take part in the project due to his unique DNA.

General Bruce Mitchell

General Mitchell is Project TimeShift’s military overseer. While Professor Krone is the director—and the brains—behind the project, Mitchell unquestionably holds the purse strings. It is Mitchell who suggests Swift’s involvement in the Project, as his ex-superior. Enormously competent and meticulous to a fault, Mitchell cares only for the men under his command and his duty to his country.

Emma Swift

Emma is Swift’s 5 year-old daughter. She is the only family he has, and is the reason he initially turned down the chance to be involved in Project TimeShift in the first place. Her death in an accident that destroyed her school bus haunts Swift even as he agrees to take part in the Project.

Some famous actors were initially going to voice characters in the game. Revealed in July 2006 by Gamespot, Dennis Quaid was the voice of Michael Swift and Michael Ironside voiced Dr. Ivan Krone:

Today, Vivendi Games announced that Michael Ironside has joined the voice cast of TimeShift, the sci-fi shooter the publisher recently acquired from Atari. Ironside will play Doctor Krone, one of the scientists developing the time-travel technology at the center of the game’s storyline.

Joining Ironside is one of Hollywood’s more recognizable leading men. Dennis Quaid, whose 20-year career has spanned the 1980s, ’90s, and ’00s, is also joining TimeShift’s cast. It will be his first game project and will see the aging heartthrob play Colonel Michael Swift (Ret.), a former test pilot who becomes the world’s first “chrononaut,” or time traveler.

Rounding out the cast is character actor Nick Chinlund, who will play General Mitchell, director of the game’s time-travel project. Though not a marquee name, Chinlund has appeared in many movies familiar to gamers, including Chronicles of Riddick and Training Day. Chinlund has had guest spots in several high-profile TV series, including The Sopranos and Desperate Housewives.

In the final game, none of the work done by these actors were retained, as characters Michael Swift and Bruce Mitchell were both entirely removed, and character Ivan Krone rewritten. Storyline was also a bit modified, but remains the same in general:

The storyline basically was as follows: Michael Swift, the protagonist, volunteers for a time-travel experiment, under the direction of scientist Dr. Ivan Krone. Swift travels back to 1911 and tampers with the past in some way. Upon returning to the present day, the entire world has changed and Krone is now an evil dictator ruling over a 1984-but-cartoony-esque United States.

Following the acquisition by Vivendi Games, TimeShift was pushed back for the end of 2007 and decision to make a complete overhaul of the project was taken. In April 2007, director of product development Kyle Peschel, explained everything that happened on Shacknews:

“So Sierra pulled me in the office last year–with seven bugs left to fix on TimeShift–and said, ‘If we gave you a year, what would you do with that?’

I said, ‘Are you fucking kidding me? I’ve got seven bugs, let’s put the fucking thing out tomorrow. I’m sick and tired of fucking crunching. I can’t handle hundred hour weeks for another year.’ And Martin Tremblay, who had recently arrived, said, ‘No, Kyle, I really believe we can do something greater than what we’re doing now. What would you do?’

“Well I said, ‘I’d scrap the physics system, get rid of this Meqon and put in Havok. I’d kill off the first four levels of the game, because we made the classic video game mistake of doing the beginning first and the end last, and the end is great and the beginning is weak. All these Full Motion Videos we paid for, I want to get rid of them. I want to get rid of the story, I want to get rid of the style guide, I want to get rid of the weapons, I want to get rid of the menus, I want to get rid of the HUD, I want to get rid of the suit. I want to get rid of the main character; people aren’t identifying with him.’ I just went down this list. I was kind of going after that list so aggressively that I was kind of hoping people would say to just release the game tomorrow, and then I could be done with it. But he goes, ‘Okay. Let’s do that.’

TimeShift has switched publishers (from Atari to Vivendi subsidiary Sierra), switched platforms (from Xbox and PC to Xbox 360, PC, and PS3), switched visual styles (from steampunk to gritty oppressive future), and switched innumerable control- and design-related decisions, but it has not switched its producer. Peschel described to me how he started on the project back at Atari, and how he managed to stick with it when it was dropped as a result of that publisher’s well-publicized tumultuous financial situation.

TimeShift was picked up almost four years ago almost as a value title,” he explained. “When it was originally picked up by Atari, I had just come off of some other first person shooters. It was kind of opportunistic–let’s take a chance on these guys in Russia. So I sat down and started looking at the game said, ‘You know, I think we could really do something with this,’ provided we really built the mechanics and made it not gimmicky, focused on an interesting art style like steampunk–set it apart from the myriad of things. So we started rolling with it, and got about done with the Xbox [version], and I sat down with [then Atari CEO] Bruno Bonnell and all the execs at Atari, and they said, ‘So, Kyle, can you make this game for 360?’ I’m like, ‘What, am I a fucking genie now?’ They say, ‘No, seriously, it’s for 360 now.’

“I say, ‘Okay, I’m sure we can get that out.'”

That was to be the first time the game would undergo large-scale redevelopment. Soon, however, Atari’s funding started to dwindle in the face of falling revenues, and in January 2006 the team was pressured to get a demo released quickly. Internet response illuminated some of the game’s major issues, some of which were a result of the game being quickly ported up to target then-current hardware, and some of which went as deep as the game’s perhaps poorly planned visual style.

“When you get something in that many hands, you listen to the feedback. I’m making games for guys like me, not for corporate America. I mean, I work for corporate America–I don’t want to sell it like I’m the fuckin’ hero of gamers everywhere–but I’m cognizant of what people are saying. I was on Shack reading the comments and, reading between the lines, people were saying basically, ‘I really like some of what they’re doing, but this steampunk shit is ass. Look at this fucking knuckleduster thing, what the fuck is that? It’s all confused.'”

Soon after, Atari announced that it would be shedding much of its development to help reduce expenditures. TimeShift was put up on the auction block, and Peschel quit his job to go work for Vivendi’s Sierra Entertainment label. “Within a day,” he recalls, he was approached by management with the possibility of Vivendi acquiring TimeShift from Atari and reassigning him to the project. At the time, Peschel was working under industry veteran Drew Markham, who founded Gray Matter Studios, designed Xatrix’s Kingpin: Life of Crime, and produced Gray Matter’s Return to Castle Wolfenstein. Markham saw, as Peschel had when the game was first signed by Atari, that TimeShift had more potential than it was demonstrating, so Peschel went back and started rethinking major aspects of the game.

“I changed the storyline up at the last minute, and that’s when we brought in [voice actors] Dennis Quaid and Michael Ironside and all those guys,” he recounted. “A funny thing happens when you rewrite the story: you pay attention to everything. I was thinking, ‘Fuck, X isn’t working, Y isn’t working, I wish I could do this.'”

That was when, at seven bugs away from completion, Peschel was called into Sierra’s offices and was told that he had another year. The original steampunk theme was dropped and replaced by a grittier, darker, more desolate future. The main character was redesigned from a muscle-bound action hero to a more faceless protagonist in a full body suit, into which Peschel hopes players will project themselves.

It must be stated that TimeShift’s visuals have come a long, long way since the game was shown in demo form last year. Since that point, it went through an overhaul to bring it up to speed for Xbox 360, but Peschel noted that even then the game had a great deal of legacy geometry and textures, and did not feel up to par with modern shooters. It was not until development was revamped again and the entire visual style scrapped that the game began to look truly new.

After its release, TimeShift has received mixed to positive reviews by the press. In December 2017, VentureBeat revealed during an interview of Matthew Karch, Saber’s CEO, that a spiritual sequel called Timebender was in development:

As Saber continues to work on Quake Champions, it’s also working on other projects, most notably a follow up to its 2007 time-manipulation shooter: TimeShift. Saber hasn’t officially announced it yet, but it’s in development. It’s something of a passion project for the studio. (…) Of course, it can’t be called TimeShift 2, since Activision still owns the rights, so instead it’s a spiritual successor. It will be a new story with a new name, but the most important elements, like the time manipulation, will be returning. (…) As for the new name, nothing is set in stone, but Karch has already registered ‘Timebender’.

According to some information made available from the e-book Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology: 14th International Conference, Timebender was going to be multiplayer only. However, according to this site, it seems that the project could have been dropped as the use of the Timebender trademark entered in the status “abandonned” in November 2018.

As noted by Liqmatrix the Atari PC seven level single player beta is available at this link: https://archive.org/details/TimeShiftAtariDemosDJXavieRO

Thanks to John Paul, Liqmatrix and Gerror for the contribution!

Chronos images:

TimeShift Atari’s version Images:

Gameplay videos from the 2006 demo:

Michael Ironside’s interview:

Nick Chinlund’s interview:

 

Failsafe (Game Over LLC) [PC, PS4, Xbox One – Cancelled]

Failsafe is a canceled parkour adventure game developed from 2014 to 2016 by Game Over LLC, planned to be released on PC first, then could also have been released on Xbox One and Playstation 4.

Failsafe followed Isra and XJ, her robot companion, as she accompanied her uncle on a journey outside of their village set on a wasteland of a planet.

The game was first mentionned in December 2014 on the official Twitter account of its developer as Project Johannesburg, before an early build was shown at the Penny Arcade Expo East in March 2015. Two months later, Polygon interviewed Daniel Lisi, managing director of Game Over LLC:

Failsafe is a first-person adventure puzzle game starring a young girl named Isra (voiced by Ashly Burch) and her robot companion (voiced by Dante Basco). The game, which poet Beau Sia and former Gearbox writer Anthony Burch are penning together, takes place in the distant future, where Isra is charged with completing a sacred ritual. Much of the game’s narrative will be driven by the development between Basco and Burch’s characters, Lisi said.

During the brief interview with Polygon, Lisi and creative director Seiji Tanaka — who previously worked on thatgamecompany‘s Journey — said that the game is intended to be simple, but also emotionally complex. Although Anthony Burch’s work has primarily been more comedy focused, as in Borderlands 2, Lisi said Failsafe will explore something more serious in terms of its tone. Isra and the Bot find themselves trapped within an ancient underground facility. Although the two are natural enemies, they must learn to overcome their differences and work together.

“As they travel through this treacherous environment together, they realize that the roles they’ve been given are not really how they want to be toward each other,” Lisi said.

Tanaka said that much of Failsafe’s gameplay will revolve around mastering and combining the capabilities of the girl and her robot. He compares it to games like Ico and The Talos Principle, with a bit of Portal and Mirror’s Edge mixed in.

“It’s really about understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each character,” Tanaka said. “Isra is a very capable acrobat. She can run really fast, jump really high and climb onto ledges very quickly, but she just doesn’t have the understanding of the environment she’s in, where the robot is very capable as an interfacing to the world around him.

“But it’s kind impeded by a lot of physical obstacles that he just can’t get across because of his physicality. It’s about understanding how these two can interact to enable each as a unit.”

Failsafe is currently being developed for PC platforms and “possibly PlayStation 4,” Lisi said. The studio expects to release it in summer 2016.

In November 2015, the project was launched on Kickstarter. Here was what we could read: 

Zombies : The Awakening (Krysalide) [PC/XBOX/PS2 – Cancelled]

Zombies : The Awakening is a canceled survival-horror first-person shooter developed by Krysalide for the PC, Playstation 2 and Xbox around 2003-2004 for a release planned in the beginning of 2005.

Using the Unreal Engine 2, Zombies : The Awakening was the first game from a small team composed of 15 people. Few is known about the game itself apart from the official announcement on the old website that we can now find everywhere on the Internet:

“Mix of FPS and survival/horror. Balance between action and adventure to offer a varied experience to the player.

Interactive use of the surroundings in order to survive in the besieged town : find objects to block paths, use electricity or gaz to forge a path to freedom. Find food and medication to save your skin and that of other survivors.

Beware the contamination… zombies attacks will slowly turn you into one of them… See your body changing, becoming slow and clumsy, but also more resistant to bullets and other attacks. But will you find a cure in time ? Find medikits, ingredients to a serum and use the sickness to your advantage.

Find other survivors. Each will bring new skills in medication, combat, electronics… and each one will have a different personnality and weaponry.

When ammo is sparse, use other mayhem devices : electric drill, molotov cocktail, and many more…

Half of the city is plunged in darkness. If you want to avoid surprises, find reliable light sources.

20 hours of intense gameplay, 11 levels to test your survival instincts, 20 weapons and 12 sidekicks.

Various and dangerous enemies, with different behaviors and intelligence. Hordes of living dead, squad based military, zombies, and bikers from hell ready to plunder town…”

On December 2003, a developer from Krysalide was interviewed by Ownt and shared more about the game:

“Zombies is a first-person shooter created to replicate the vibe of Resident Evil while offering the freedom of movement of a first-person game. Krysalide hopes to avoid the heavyweight competition of FPS by standing out for the gameplay peculiar to any good survival horror game.

The game will last about 15 hours and will be a series of missions and puzzles placed on a linear frame. Each mission will allow you to meet a new secondary character with his own weapon and special skills.

The project is ambitious, especially since it is planned to integrate into the game a substantial multiplayer part that the developer of Krysalide compares to Counter Strike with zombies in the center and on each side of the character classes (bikers, soldiers, police officers, survivors).”

However, after some gameplay was revealed initially on February 2004, the game vanished before French website NoFrag was informed from the CEO of Krysalide himself, Loïc Barrier, that it was definitely canceled due to lack of publishers interested in the project:

It’s been a year since we last talked about Zombies: The Awakening, and for a good reason: today I had confirmation from Loïc Barrier, the boss of Krysalide, that the game will never be released. It was canceled, apparently a while ago, when Krysalide realized that no publisher would accept the project as the developer had designed it.

We can speculate that it was too ambitious for a first game from a small team of 15 people that had never made before their own game.

After the cancellation of Zombies : The Awakening, Krysalide would still work as an outsource company on various projects made by French developers such as The Crew and Dishonored 2 before disappearing.

Images:

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