Microsoft

Gun Runner [Cancelled – Xbox 360/PS3]

Gun Runner is the cancelled sequel to John Woo’s Stranglehold game from 2007; which was, in turn, a follow-up to the action movie, Hard Boiled. It was being developed by Midway’s Chicago studio and was slated to be released on the Xbox 360 and PS3 in late 2009.

The title entered pre-production in May 2008, shortly after Stranglehold’s release in September 2007. It was planned to continue the ongoing story of Hard Boiled and Stranglehold. Chow Yun-fat was down to reprise the lead role of the gung-ho Inspector “Tequila”, lending again both his likeness and voice to the character.

A New Identity

Gun Runner was proposed as the start of a campaign to rebrand Stranglehold, in order to increase its mass appeal. Despite taking place after the first game, its story was going to be completely self-contained, one developer told us.

A key aspect of this new direction for the series was the introduction of Vin Diesel. The actor would have voiced another character, alongside Tequila. A former member of the team we got in touch with described Midway’s idea for the two as “a buddy cop story“. Full multiplayer co-operative support was planned for the story mode, wherein players would have each controlled of one of them. 

Saints Row: The Cooler [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3]

Saints Row: The Cooler is a cancelled fighting game, which was in development for the Xbox 360 and PS3. It was being created by Heavy Iron Studios in Los Angeles and was funded by THQ.

“It was a brawler game. Go to a bar, pick a fight, smash a bottle over someone’s head” – Former Heavy Iron Studios artist

Work began on the title in March 2010 at developer, Heavy Iron. In partnership with THQ, the company sought to create the first Saints Row game controlled entirely by motion; a ploy to capitalise on the rising industry trend at the time.

Two versions of the game were planned initially: an Xbox 360 game using Microsoft’s Kinect peripheral and a PS3 port with Playstation Move support. The Xbox 360 was the lead development platform for The Cooler, as the team’s creative focus was very much on Kinect.

A team of around 40 people were put on the project, while the rest of the studio was occupied with another Kinect-centric project for Disney called ‘E-Ticket’.

We were able to get in touch with several people, a mix of both former and current employees at the developer, who shared some details with us on the game’s lifecycle. According to these sources, the title was a brawler set in the Saint’s Row universe and was, in contrast with the rest of the series, not an open world game.

“It was a ton of fun to work on because we got to use the original Saint’s Row locales as concept art, basically, and give them a redesign and a highly upgraded art treatment (since Saint’s Row was open world and our game was not, we could afford to devote more time and engine resources to artwork)”

Saints Row The Cooler

One of the gritty environments of Saints Row: The Cooler

Kinect lap dancing

Despite it ditching the free roaming traditions of the previous games, The Cooler apparently offered a myriad of activities to experience. Its main premise was of motion-controlled fighting in various parts of the Saints Row universe, but players would have also been able to compete in poker tournaments and other miscellaneous mini-games. 

Disney’s E-Ticket [Xbox 360 – Prototype]

E-Ticket was a prototype pitch for a cancelled interactive tour game developed by Los Angeles-based Heavy Iron Studios Inc., which was commissioned by The Walt Disney Company in 2010. The corporation was looking to create a new game using Microsoft’s Kinect peripheral for the Xbox 360 that would allow players to explore a virtual interpretation of Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Although a completed version of this concept would later be developed by Frontier Developments and released under the name of ‘Kinect Disneyland Adventures‘ in late 2011, E-Ticket represents an early, alternative iteration of the project that took different creative liberties with the setting.

E ticket 1

According to three former Heavy Iron Studios employees we spoke with, E-Ticket was conceived when Disney funded the development of a number of prototypes for a Disney World Kinect game at several different studios. Each team was assigned to work on a separate section of the Disney World park. The project, as a whole, was both a technical experiment, as well as a test to see which developer would perform best and be rewarded with a contract to work on the full game.

The original premise was to build a virtual Disneyland that kids could walk through from the comfort of their own living room.

 

Splinter Cell: Blacklist [Beta – Xbox 360, PS3, PC]

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist is an action / stealth game developed by Ubisoft Toronto, Ubisoft Montreal and Ubisoft Shanghai, published for PlayStation 3, Wii U, Xbox 360 and PC in 2013. As we can read on Wikipedia, in November 2010 Jade Raymond from Ubisoft Toronto announced that the studio was developing a new Splinter Cell game.

During the Microsoft’s press conference at E3 2012, Splinter Cell: Blacklist was officially revealed with a beta video that you can see below. One major difference is the plot and interactive torture sequence in the beta. After a major uproar from critics, it was announced by the creative director of the game, Maxime Béland that the now dubbed “interrogation” sequences are rendered cutscenes and the only choice made by the player is to either let the target live or die.

Ubisoft responded with an official statement regarding the removal of the controversial scene:

“As with other game features, the storyline evolves as part of the standard development process. Based on how the game has progressed, we felt that this scene no longer fit in the context of the game, so we decided to remove it. Splinter Cell Blacklist, like previous Splinter Cell titles, has always tried to keep the topics and themes relevant and current. Splinter Cell Blacklist explores moral choices and dark themes through the concept of the Fifth Freedom; a recurring theme in the franchise.”

“Definitely we are not going to see when the game’s coming out that there are torture scenes in it. That scene is not there any more,” said producer Andrew Wilson “The first thing I’d say about that is that possibly there was missing context – and in an unabridged snapshot, it seemed like pretty tough material.”

The second major change is the plot: in the beta the group known as The Engineers are a quasi-league of nations rather than a borderless terrorist group that has the national backing of twelve unnamed nations found in the final game.

The level itself was unchanged during development other than who inhabits the camp and level introduction. The camp in the beta was labeled as “ Jadid Basecamp”. In the final game, only the location is given: Mirawa, Iraq. The introduction of the level in the beta has Sam Fisher wearing an enemy uniform and carrying a body into the camp. In the final product, Sam Fisher is air-dropped into the level after enemies near the LZ (landing zone) are eliminated by sniper support.

  • Some minor changes between the beta and final game are:
  • The level’s name colors are changed: green in the beta, white for the released game.
  • Changes in the HUD (heads up display) such as weapon icons.
  • The choice to either kill or spare Jadid Haidos isn’t in the beta.
  • Jadid Haidos’ model is changed between the beta/ released game.
  • Icons for the mark and execute are changed.
  • Sounds for in the process of being detected and finally being detected are changed. Also, the words “Warning” and “Detected” do not appear in the final game.
  • The icons for the three play styles: ghost, panther, and assault are not in the beta.
  • There is no ability to call in an air strike from the Paladin as shown in the beta is not available in the final game.
  • There is no ability to use explosive breaches as in the beta.
  • Drone strike are not as readily available as in the beta.
  • The mission’s endings are changed between the beta and the final game.

Jeff Wheaton noticed a number of notable differences (in chronological order of the video):

  • The level shown is not in the final game. No exact designs are taken from it, though many of its assets do appear.
  • Sam is never wearing the enemy uniform in the final game, nor are there any player-driven animations of him carrying an unconscious or dead character.
  • At no point in the final game do button prompts appear in any language other than the selected localization
  • The animations for most of the stuff in the cutscenes are absent from the final game.
  • The icons for marks in the final game are slightly different.
  • A lot of cutscene dialogue never appears in the final game.
  • A lot of HUD differences
  • Several plot differences. In the final game, the Blacklist is masterminded by a borderless group of individuals calling themselves The Engineers, not a group of nations.
  • Different sound for being detected. The final game also does not feature a “Warning” message.
  • The Ghost, Panther, and Assault point indicators are absent from the entire demo.
  • There is no instance of being able to trigger a UAV strike in the manner shown in the demo in the final game.
  • Jadid’s dialogue is different than it was in the final game, and no Spare or Kill option is given.

Very interesting nonetheless! Thanks a lot to Jeff and Matt Redmond for the contribution

Beta Video:

 

Earth No More [Cancelled]

Earth No More is a cancelled FPS that was in development from 2007 to 2009 by Recoil Games (a studio based in Finland and founded by Remedy Entertainment co-founder Samuli Syvahuoko), using UE3 game engine, and it would have been published by 3D Realms / Radar Group for Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and PC. Earth No More would have been set in a small New England town quarantined due to a mysterious environmental apocalypse. Sadly the development had to be stopped because Recoil Games had some financial problems. After a while, they were able to create a new game, Rochard, that was released as a digital title for PC, Mac and PS3, but it’s currently unknown if Earth No More will ever be resurrected for current-gen consoles. You can find more about Earth No More on Wikipedia, IGN and Gamasutra.

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