Dark Matter: The Baryon Project is a cancelled sci-fi shooter RPG that was in development by Pixelcage, planned to be released for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3. The project was quite ambitious for a rather small and obscure team, promising to offer both on-foot first-person shooting and third person spacecraft combat.
In their old – now closed – website, we can read they wanted to create a vast universe in which to freely fly around, inspired by such games as “TIE-Fighter” and “Freespace”. You would fight in space against huge spacecrafts planned to be up to 100 km (62 miles) in size – something that would be considered a massive open-world even by today’s standards (SKYRIM’s world is about 5 km wide), gigantic spaceships-worlds in which you could also break-in to continue attacking your enemies on foot.
“When playing such games in the past, I always wondered how it would be to just ram one of that bigger vessels and just “clear the bridge manually”. With today’s hardware capabilities, we now do a swing on it. – Marco Sobol, former Pixelcage developer”
If this was not enough to hype up the project, they also wrote about “graphic details up to a grade of millimeters!”, “experience speeds of up to 3000 km/h!”, “have a million polygons on your screen – in realtime!” and “can you handle hundreds of enemies?”. For sure the team had big dreams for their first project.
Thanks to an old interview with Pixelcage by Gengamers, we can read that work for the game began in 2003 with a core team of only 7 people, with plans to expand the studio to more than 40 people when they would finally find a publisher.
“Dark Matter is a first person shooter/ space shooter with some RPG elements, such as an inventory and improving skills, but without the flaws of pondering about tables and character sheets. It will feel much like a common FPS when it comes to game controls and speed, but comes with hours of dynamic scripted scenes, a non-linear storyline and state-of-the-art sound effects and music.”
Not only gameplay and huge environments would have been quite ambitious for its time, Dark Matter: The Baryon Project was also planned to have a open-ended storyline with different endings. Pixelcage wanted to have several playable characters appearing in the game and time travelling would have played an important role, featuring morphing aliens and fierce “time warriors”.
If such an immense game like this was not complex enough to develop, the team also wanted to add online multiplayer:
“We will put much efforts in the multiplayer part. There will be several deathmatch and teamplay modes, we even plan to include a mode in which you can play the single player campaign together with your friends. This is generally possible because there is more than one prime character in the game.”
It’s easy to see how Pixelcage were a passionate team with many ambitious ideas for their project, but unfortunately it seems they never found a publisher interested in funding it. In the end they had to abandon Dark Matter: The Baryon Project to work on other, simpler games such as Switchfire (published in 2006) and Jekyll & Hyde (2010), before to close down the studio.
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HiTech is a cancelled action / stealth game that was planned for Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and PC in 2006 / 2007 by Illusion Softworks (now known as 2K Czech), the team mostly known for the Hidden & Dangerous and Mafia series. The project was still in early development and without a playable prototype when it was canned. Only a concept video was created to pitch the game to publishers, but unfortunately they did not find any company interested and had to cancel it. Instead, they continued working on Mafia II, later released in 2010.
The project was lead by Daniel Vávra, game designer who worked at Illusion Softworks since 1998 on Hidden and Dangerous and Mafia I & II. Vávra shown the HiTech concept footage in 2007 during his presentation titled “How to make a game” and the video was later uploaded on Youtube. From what we can see in this pitch video, HiTech’s gameplay could have been similar to other action / stealth games such as Metal Gear Solid or Splinter Cell, but in a sci-fi setting.
As we can read in the video intro:
“Year 2025. A group of terrorists sabotaged military robot tests inside Adler Group production facility. The robots went out of control and slaughtered AG staff. Terrorists provided media with video footage of this massacre. The facility has been evacuated and the nemesis team has been called in. The objective is to regain control and cover up the incident.”
Unfortunately D4 was meant to be divided into different “seasons” (with a few episodes each), as a TV series. Only the first two episodes (Season 1) were ever released, while D4: Season 2 was sadly cancelled when Swery65 had to take a break from Access Gamesin November 2015 to recover from a serious illness and then definitely left the company for internal reasons in October 2016.
We should also consider that D4 did not sold much on Xbox One (and neither on PC) and that’s probably the major reason why Season 2 / Episode 3 was canned. For sure Access Games and Microsoft would have developed other episodes without Swery if the first one would have been a huge success.
Season 1 of D4 is still an original – short – game full of strange characters and it’s worth playing if you love weird games, but it ends with a huge cliffhanger that will probably never be resolved. Swery and Access Games had a few months to work on the sequel, but unfortunately we don’t know how much was ever done on it. Only a single scene of D4: Season 2 was ever shown, thanks to an interview with Swery by Gamasutra:
“D4 sells well on PC, can we expect future episodes?
Swery: It’ll be a little longer until I can start talking about new episodes, but I’m doing my best. The next season will be even better than you’re all expecting, so please keep cheering me on.
…You can’t accept that answer?
Okay, then. Just this once, just for you, I’ll show you a single picture.”
Horror films directorJoerg Buttgereit, who worked on such movies as Nekromantik and Schramm, was the one who created Game of Death’s concept and characters, a psychological horror game with an original gameplay mechanic.
The game’s protagonist is a young man sent to a hospital after a lethal car accident. While doctors try to save him, he dreams of a strange world in which you have to defeat evil serial killers to survive. Each homicidal maniac must be killed by their own method – choked, cut to pieces with a chainsaw, shot with a shotgun, crucified and so on.
You had to obtain the right weapons able to kill each boss by taking them from the less powerful monsters found in each level. It was necessary to learn and exploit the bosses weaknesses to survive, otherwise it would have been impossible to beat them. Players would have been able to read through the case files for those serial killers, to find clues about their modus operandi and weakness.
At the same time players should try to not became a murderer themselves, by killing bosses only during special circumstances, for example for self-defense, through the release of their kidnapped victims and so on. This would permit to eliminate the serial killers without losing your “innocence”, otherwise you could also lose your life at the end of the game.
More than 40 maniac bosses were planned for the game, each on with their own level accessible from a HUB zone, a giant bone cathedral.
Thanks to an interview with Burns Entertainment by Golem.de (in german, translated with Google Translate) we can learn some more details about this lost game:
Golem.de: How did the cooperation between BURNS and Jörg Buttgereit come about?
Winkler: I thought you’d have to do a horror game, in which you would like to go to bed after a gamble, but not in the basement. But this is hardly feasible as a pure game developer. Since you have all sorts of experiences, but none in terms of horror dramaturgy, effects and suspense. That’s why I contacted Jörg, who in Germany is something like the grandmaster of the horror and trash movie. I knew his necromancy films and the reviews he published in the Berlin press about movies. He has a wonderfully laconic writing style, I immediately liked that. Jörg found the idea exciting to play a game and immediately pledged.
Golem.de: Where do you see the most serious differences between Game Of Death and current action titles?
Winkler: Most action games are in fictitious worlds. The player fights against fantasy monsters or anonymous mercenaries. In Game Of Death, however, the player encounters negative characters in contemporary history who are firmly rooted in the memory of their nations. Many Germans know Fritz Haarmann, and many Americans know who Charles Manson or Jeffrey Dahmer is. Dealing with the abysses of the human psyche is exciting for most people, whether they admit it publicly or prefer to watch “The Silence of the Lambs” at home alone, and we are openly dealing with that. Another difference is the awareness of physical decay. The hero is not a superman. If he is injured, the player can actually see the consequences of this injury. The hero loses physical substance with each injury until he becomes disabled as a skeleton. Of course, he can regenerate his energy and his physical substance during the game in various ways.
Golem.de: Do you think that Game of Death is at risk of being indexed?
Winkler: No. The game definitely will not be a splatter orgy and will not provide any instructions to finally get rid of your unloved neighbor, who has always annoyed you. It may of course be that someone alone calls for the keyword “serial killer” after indexing. This happened only recently before the cinema start of “Hannibal”, and that will happen again and again. But we aim for a USK release from 16 years. This is far from an indexing game.
Golem.de: Where do you set the limits with regard to the biographies of serial killers? What will you learn about the characters in the game, what will you be able to re-enact?
Winkler: In the game every mass murderer and serial killer dies according to the method with which he has killed his victims. As a result, the player becomes a hero and avenger on behalf of the defenseless victims. In order to fulfill this role, the player learns the most important information about the killer’s deeds and psyche in a “Serial Killers Dictionary” (SDK), which is constantly available as an inventory component. Not every detail of the life of mentally disturbed child molesters is spread in it. The SDK limits itself to key data relevant to the game.
The historically accurate course of the murders is not reconstructed in the game. This is not necessary for the gameplay. I also do not think anyone is really interested in slicing up the guts of a highly pregnant woman like the Manson gang did with Sharon Tate. That’s where we set very clear limits.
As far as we know, Burns Games were not able to find a publisher for Game of Death, maybe because of its settings. In the end the game was cancelled and the company vanished forever after a few years. Game of Death’s soundtrack would have been composed by Rod Army.
Conker’s Bad Fur Day was one of the most fun and original games ever released on the Nintendo 64, a funny and “mature” game featuring cute characters survived from the cancelled Conker: Twelve Tales. After the first game was published in early 2001 the team started working on a sequel, at the time probably still planned to be released on the Nintendo Gamecube.
Image from “Conker’s Big Reunion”, a Project Spark DLC
Conker’s creator Chris Seavor and other former members of the Conker Team revealed the existence of their Conker sequel in many interviews, as in this old article from Mundo Rare:
“So we asked Chris Seavor what ever happened with Other Bad Day and why the hell is that we are not playing that game if everybody seems to want it. He answered that not only did they start working on a sequel with that title, they also had a full storyline ready to be depicted on the screen and many new movie references in mind: “We actually started on a direct sequel which was going to be called ‘Conker’s Other Bad Day‘ which dealt with Conker’s somewhat unsuccessful tenure as King. He spends all the treasury money on beer, parties and hookers. Thrown into prison, Conker is faced with the prospect of execution and the game starts with his escape, ball and chain attached, from the Castle’s highest tower.”
Thanks to an interview by Gamer Québec with Chris Seavor we know some more details about the planned story and characters in Conker’s Bad Fur Day 2:
“GQ: People want to know more about The Other Day, rightfully so. Rare had trademarked the name, but the sequel never happened. More than 10 years later, can you spoil what we were going to see as far as the story goes? Did it ever make it to a prototype?
CS: It had some graphics and concepts done for sure, but didn’t really get much further than that. As for what happened to Conker in OBD, well he became Emperor of the Known Universe, got a new girlfriend, and lost an old one (again). There was also a massive space poo: The Cthulpoo, the main baddie. Lots of other stuff happened, with some new characters appeared and old favourites returned. We got to find out about Greg’s childhood and why he hated cats, there were tons and tons of parodies of the more contemporary movies, and an evil doppleganger version of Conker that you got to play for a while. And Beardy (Birdy) died. That kinda stuff…
As with the original, it ended on a bittersweet note. I did actually do an act by act summary for you and the fans, but it was twice as big as the rest of the interview so i took it out… sorry. As consolation here’s a piccy of some early designs for the first level, just to prove we actually did do some work on the bugger.”
We also know that some unused scenarios planned for Conker’s Bad Fur Day were meant to be re-used in Conker 2:
“As for features, I don’t think anything we really wanted to do didn’t end up in the game. There were a few levels that only existed on paper, for example one where Conker had to inflate a giant, fetish themed female pig by sticking a bellows up her arse. She then became a floating dirigible which you used to fly around the level dropping anvils on Cows to make them shit in the trough which then weighed down a lever and opened a door. This would have eventually leaded to the Bull Fight sequence. It got cut to save some time.
There were a few of these “linker” levels. Some eventually ended up in the design for Other Bad Day, but that’s never gonna happen so i guess you’ll never know…”
Unfortunately it seems that Microsoft was not interested in a Conker Sequel and soon the team dropped Other Bad Day, to work instead on a remake of the first Conkerwith major focus on its online multiplayer mode. We can assume Microsoft though the Xbox market would have been more interested in another multiplayer game, and a bonus remake of Bad Fur Day would have been less expensive to create than a full sequel.
In June 2005 finally Conker: Live & Reloaded was published but it seems that since late 2004 the team was already trying to return to work on Conker’s Other Bad Day, without success. In November 2005 Microsoft would release their second console, the Xbox 360 and they asked Rare to move their projects to the new console, as it happened with Kameo. As we can read on another interview by Eurogamer with Chris:
“Chris Seavor: I started designing it [Conker 2] and we were going to do it. They just wanted it quickly. It was coming to the end of the life cycle of the Xbox, and there was talk of them going, look, can we just shift this over to the 360, which was a year away? I was really against that because I just couldn’t face spending another two years on a game we’d already spent a year and a half on. So I guess it was probably my fault.
Now, I would have gone, absolutely. Let’s take a step back and make the graphics look as good as we can. It would have done all right I think. From the amount of messages I get every day saying please make Conker 2 I’d say it would have been a better move, but hey. There you go.”
At the same time Rare started working on another multiplayer focused Conker titled “Gettin’ Medieval” as a sequel to “Live & Reloaded”, re-using some of the art and assets from the cancelled Conker’s BFD 2. Chris revealed during an interview with Rarefandabase:
“CS:Erm, well it was pretty much designed in outline…. The story, the levels, some of the gameplay (loosely) which movies were ripe for parody, and general tests for the graphics. A ton of artwork was done, which spilled over into the multiplayer only game called Getting Medieval, based in the Conker universe with Gregg the Grim Reaper as the principal protagonist rather than Conker.. It all got a bit messy and tbh I couldn’t face another 3 years of the squirrel and gang. Summat like that…. Not really sure when it stopped exactly, we just kinda moved onto something else. Looking back, probably should have stuck with Other Bad Day, but hey ho, we live and learn. What would I have expected? Erm… it would have been fucking brilliant and JK Rowling would definitely have sued… :)”
In the end even Conker: Gettin’ Medieval was cancelled, along with many other canned projects designed by Chris Seavor, such as Arc Angel, Quest, Urchin, Perfect Dark Core, and Ordinary Joe. After so many failed attempts to create new and original games, Chris left Rare in January 2011 when the company did not renew his contract. Later in 2012, Seavor finally opened his own indie studio called Gory Detail.
Fans of Conker the squirrel got a bit excited when Microsoft announced a DLC campaign titled “Conker’s Big Reunion” for their game-tool Project Spark. Even if Chris reprise his voice for Conker, only the first chapter of Big Reunion was ever released, as Project Spark was soon discontinued and the whole campaign failed to be completed.