Microsoft

Dead Justice (Cat Mother) [PC, Xbox – Cancelled]

Dead Justice is a cancelled third person shooter that was in development by Cat Mother between 2001 and 2003, planned to be released on PC and Xbox. As far as we know the game was never officially announced, but after the team closed down for lack of funds they decided to release online the full Dead Justice source code and prototype PC demo. While this is just an early demo for a linear shooter, it’s cool that Cat Mother decided to share it online, huge props to them! Just think about how many lost games we could preserve if every team could do something like this.

Before closing down they were also working on another project titled “Bladeball”, but it seems only a few, tiny screenshots remain in their old website.

Thanks to Piotr for the contribution!

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Gravity Kings [Xbox – Cancelled]

Gravity Kings is a cancelled overboard / overbike racing / skateboarding game that was in development by Microsoft Game Studios for the original Xbox. Unfortunately there are basically no details on this lost project, but just a few images from an early prototype: by looking at these we can speculate it could have been similar to the Tony Hawks’ Pro Skater games (exploring the levels, doing tricks), but with an alien twist. The game was set in a modern-looking city, but with strange, orange-skinned aliens.

Images from this early prototype are preserved below, to remember the existence of this cancelled game. If you worked on this lost project and could help save more details, screenshots or videos, please let us know!

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Dwarfs (Obsidian’s Snow White RPG) [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3]

Dwarfs (also known as “Seven Dwarves“) is a canceled action adventure game from Obsidian Entertainment, once planned for the PS3 and Xbox 360. The game was intended to be a tie-in to a Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs prequel that was in development at the time. Both the game and the movie were planned to be cornerstones to a new franchise aimed at boys to go alongside its other properties.

This wasn’t Disney’s first attempt at expanding the Snow White story. Walt Disney himself had considered it due to public and internal popularity of the characters despite his own dislike of sequels. However nothing ever came of them until the mid 2000s when Disney’s home video department DisneyToon Studios decided to work with the story. Their idea was a prequel with a darker tone intended to explain the origins of the cast, taking inspiration from The Lord of the Rings. The plot would have been about the seven dwarves journeying together with a young girl to stop an evil wizard finding an ancient dwarven power. However, things are not what they seem as it is revealed that the dwarves have been manipulated by the young girl who is the daughter of the wizard. She betrays the dwarves and curses her father, proceeding to take over the kingdom and thus setting up the original movie.

Soon after the project started, it began to develop an internal following. Many saw Dwarfs as the seeds to a new franchise to go alongside Disney’s Fairies and Princess lines. In order to get the fledgling franchise off to a good start, a video game was proposed. Obsidian was approached due to their history and skills developing deep RPGs, such as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II and Neverwinter Nights 2. The game, known as “Project New Jersey” internally, was intended to be a third person action adventure with a much darker tone than even the prequel movie. Kevin Saunders (game designer at Obsidian for such titles as KotOR2 and NN2) was the Lead Designer on Dwarfs, and he gave a short description of the opening of the game on his Formspring account:

“This wasn’t a happy-go-lucky Disney game. Disney’s Buena Vista Games wanted dark and I gave them dark. In the opening sequence, for example, you, as a teenage prince, awake in your bed to haunting sounds. Exploring the dark castle, you come across a terrifying shadowy creature that you kill in a desperate struggle – its cries shifting from a supernatural shriek to that of a human woman’s bloodcurdling cry of death. The illusion is then dispelled, and your mother, the Queen, lays dead before you, the bloody knife that killed her in your hand. This wasn’t a cinematic – it was all a gameplay sequence that you’d actually play out“

Saunders’s Formspring post also names some of the proposed team. Obsidian built a team of veterans for this project. Josh Sawyer (who was the lead designer for Icewind Dale 2 and later director for Fallout: New Vegas) was picked as the systems / combat lead. Brian Menze, a longtime artist for both Black Isle Studios and Obsidian, was doing the concept art for Dwarfs. Saunders described Menze work as “So much personality and character, reminiscent of Disney’s classic characters, but weathered by the grim realities of a dark fantasy world”. Brian Mitsoda, known for being a Writer for Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, worked as the creative lead on the project and along with Kevin Saunders on the story. When asked about Dwarfs, he said:

“If I could resurrect any project that I worked on, it would be this one. This was essentially our action-RPG version of a Pixar movie crossed with a first-party Nintendo game. I don’t know how much is still covered by NDA, but it was obviously inspired by Disney’s classic movies artistically, although script-wise we definitely wanted to capture the characterization and emotion of Pixar films. Conceptually, it was a darker fairytale type of story, but it was mostly focused on the journey of the teenage protagonists as they journeyed around the land meeting up with these eccentric little men and using their unique powers to advance through the plot. It had a lot of heart, great monster and character concepts by Brian Menze, and very interesting level potential.”

With an enthusiastic and experienced team coming together and a plan set in place, things looked set for work to begin on a great new game. However, things weren’t looking so good for the movie, with difficulty for Studio Executives and their desire to add their own touches to the film. Having to constantly fight to keep the movie true to its original vision, director Mike Disa (who previously worked on such titles as Pocahontas, Fantasia 2000, Atlantis: The Lost Empire and The Origin Of Stitch) felt burnt out with the project.

In particular, a repeated insistence by studio executives of having the character of Dopey to talk in the movie and then to explain his mutism in the original movie as trauma from watching his mother die. As Mike told during an interview with Integratedcatholiclife:

“Essentially the studio executive wanted Dopey to talk! [Laughs in disbelief.]  It just comes down to my respect for great films.  Snow White is today still the best animated film ever made. Those characters are spectacular.  It’s a sad statement on our industry that the best film was 80 years ago, but it’s still the best film.  I would never walk into a sequel and do anything to disrespect the core of the characters like making Dopey talk.”

Around this time, Pixar’s creative director John Lasseter took over Disney’s animation departments and was reviewing the current projects. At first it seemed like Dwarfs would be safe but as the executives pushed for more influence, Disa’s confidence on his project dropped. Not wanting to pitch an idea that he didn’t believe in, Disa left the project and Dwarfs was canceled as soon as Lasseter got a look at the new script. This was also the end for Obsidian’s game.

Many of the team who worked on Dwarfs were sad to see it go. Brian Mitsoda described his feeling as: “I think if it had come out, it would be considered a classic today. It still hurts to know we’ll never finish it. If DoubleBear (Mitsoda’s own company) ever gets big enough, I would totally do something similar to it”. His wife, Annie Mitsoda, described the game as her “One that got away”.  Feargus Urquhart, Ceo of Obsidian, talked about the game in an interview with Kotaku: “It was a lot of fun, we feel we turned in a really cool prototype. We worked on it for about a year. It’s one of the games here that the team just loved working on. And unfortunately – which, it happens in this industry – you have changes of focus at a publisher.”

Since Dwarfs’ cancellation, Obsidian has moved on to other high profile projects like Fallout: New Vegas, and other licensed games like South Park: The Stick of Truth. However this wasn’t the last time Obsidian had a licensed game canceled on them: you can check out the article on Aliens: Crucible. Other lost projects conceived by the team were Futureblight, a post-apocalyptic RPG for Take-Two Interactive, a couple of pitches for EA and Ubisoft, and “Project North Carolina”, an open world adventure to be published by Microsoft for their Xbox One.

After so many canned games Obsidian’s future could have been bleak, but in 2015 they finally released Pillars of Eternity thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, and it was welcomed by gamers as one of the best RPGs of the last decade.

Article by Philip Dempsey, originally published in 2016 in our book “Video Games You Will Never Play” 

To End All Wars (Chemistry) [Xbox 360, PS3 – Cancelled]

To End All Wars is a cancelled FPS that was in development in 2007 by Chemistry (AKA Kuju Sheffield), planned to be published by Ghostlight on Xbox 360 and PS3. It was conceived as a realistic shooter set in the first World War, focused on defending trenches and planning attacks against enemy bases. We imagine it somehow like a FPS – Tower Defense hybrid.

The game was briefly mentioned on such gaming websites as Gamespot, IGN, GamePressure and VideoGamer:

“Powered by Epic’s Unreal Engine 3, To End All Wars is an all-new World War One first-person shooter in development at Kuju’s newly appointed Chemistry Studio. Set in the war-torn trenches of WWI Europe, To End All Wars promises to deliver unrivaled atmosphere and realism. Authenticity of conflict is high on the agenda, with period locations recreated in lavish detail, weaponry of the time and character designs which reflect the uniforms and style of the era.”

“Crucially, the experience of the gritty combat in the trenches, the fear of charging across No Man’s Land, deadly secret excursions to enemy outposts in the dead of night, and the heart-stopping terror of pounding artillery guns will be central to the gaming experience. Ghostlight also told GameSpot how the AI will play a big role in the game, reacting to every decision the player makes, meaning that strategy and tactical warfare elements will be crucial to winning the game.”

“There are many different missions awaiting us, during which we participate in various combat activities. The players will defend their trenches to the last drop of blood, to venture into no-man’s land under the cover of night, to charge heavily defended fortifications of the enemy, and to pray for survival under heavy artillery shelling. The scriptwriters tried to include the most characteristic motifs of the European theater of warfare during the single-player campaign and to show the enormous tactical and technological progress that took place during the conflict in question.”

To End All Wars was never shown again to the public and a couple of years later parent company Kuju Entertainment closed down the Chemistry studio.

Thanks to Dan for the contribution!

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Indiana Jones Trilogy (The Collective) [Cancelled – Xbox, PS2]

A cancelled Indiana Jones video game based on the original trilogy was in development around 2003 – 2004 by The Collective (who also worked on the cancelled Executives / Career Criminal for Midway), after releasing “Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb”.

In 2008 a former developer shared some details about this canned project on CG Society:

“So… this image is 5 years old, low poly realtime model created for a project that could have been. No photos were used in the creation of the textures and the render was not retouched.

This was done at Collective Studios, now known as Double Helix, sometime after Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb shipped. Hoping to work on another game, we did some R & D for a possible sequel. New, polished character models were created and the Indiana Jones model completely redone.

There was an amazing prototype that was up and running with updated gameplay, but unfortunately this project never happened. Probably could have been the greatest Indy game ever. Unfortunately due to things out of the hands of the studio and surprisingly, even the publisher, nothing came about.”

In 2012 a show reel that contained footage of this canned Indiana Jones game was found online (and then taken down, but the video was preserved by Indiana Jones Brasil) showing Indy and Satipo maneuvering through environments similar to that of Raiders of the Lost Ark, with gameplay elements similar to Emperor’s Tomb. (This demo reel also contained footage of the project known as Prince of Persia: Assassins).

In 2010 now-vanished gaming website 1UP also published some information:

“Six or seven years back, I won’t say who I was working for, but we were working on an Indiana Jones trilogy game based on the first three movies,” says Rex Dickson, lead single-player level designer at Kaos Studios (Homefront). “That game ended up not coming out for whatever reason — I can go on a long diatribe about why — but it was just really cool, because we had the full Hovitos temple built out with the rolling boulder, and it was all awesome. That would’ve been Xbox/PS2 — that generation.”

If you know someone who worked on this lost game and could help preserve even more screenshots or footage, please let us know!

Thanks to Duarte and Indiana Jones Brasil for the contribution!