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BackSpace (Obsidian) [Cancelled – PC, Xbox 360, PS3]

BackSpace is a cancelled sci-fi RPG that was in early development by Obsidian Entertainment from January to April 2011 (around the same time they were finishing Dungeon Siege III), to be published by Bethesda on PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. The project was pitched as “Sci-Fi SKYRIM with Time Travels” and it was led by Jason Fader (who also worked on Obsidian’s cancelled Aliens RPG, Fallout: New Vegas, and the System Shock remake at Nightdive Studios).

While the game was quickly canned by the studio and it was never officially announced, Kotaku published a short article on the game in 2013, showing off remaining concept art created by Obsidian and sharing a few details on its gameplay:

“BackSpace is a single-player action-RPG set in a scifi space environment with simple elements of time travel. The combat is paced similarly to Skyrim, but slightly faster since there is no concept of blocking. The easiest way to look at it is a mix of Mass Effect, Borderlands, and System Shock 2 for gameplay and setting.”

“It was to be developed in some sort of partnership with Bethesda, I’ve heard, and it’d use the same engine as their ridiculously-successful role-playing game Skyrim. Although BackSpace wasn’t an open-world game, players would be able to travel between a number of planets as well as one large space station.”

“This station is huge,” a BackSpace design document reads. “It can be compared in size to The Citadel of Mass Effect [or] Babylon 5. The station has several locations devoted to diverse research fields which would allow us to have vegetation overgrowth, high-tech disasters, and mutations of science as visual themes.”

“[…] a technical error would fling your character ten years into the future, and you’d spend a bulk of the game hopping back and forth between the time of the attack and a dismal, alien-occupied future. Quests in the game would task you with hopping between timelines in an attempt to save humankind.”

In 2017 Jason replied to a few questions on Reddit, sharing even more details on what happened to BackSpace:

“I was working closely with Bethesda on BackSpace. Since there were no other projects lined up after the Old World Blues team finished their work, I took it upon myself to try to find another project for the company. I reached out to Bethesda and directly asked them what type of game they’d be most interested in publishing next. From there, I started working on a pitch based on a prior game I made, ThreadSpace: Hyperbol (story only, not gameplay). The gameplay was something designed around Bethesda’s interests at the time. No other publishers were pitched on it, to my knowledge, but there was interest from a 3rd party in creating a TV show based on it.

I actually started working on the project a bit before that by myself after hours. Probably as early as October (2010). It was an “after school project” for a very long time, and after a few months, more and more folks would join me after hours to volunteer their time to help. I don’t think we actually worked on it by day until the final month for the prototype. Then the layoffs happened. Then I stuck around for a few more years. Then the big layoffs (including me this time).”

In April 2011 Obsidian had to lay off part of their team, including many of those developers who were working on BackSpace. With financial difficulties in keeping the team active they worked on South Park: The Stick of Truth and many cancelled ventures (such as Stormlands for Microsoft), until they found success on Kickstarter with Pillars of Eternity.

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Max Blastronaut [Xbox 360 – Cancelled]

Max Blastronaut is a cancelled beat / shoot ‘em up that was in development by Coin App, planned to be released on Xbox Live Arcade. In 2009 the game won Microsoft’s Dream-Build-Play contest, giving the team more funds to complete and publish the project. It was even previewed by a few gaming websites, such as IGN, Co-Optimus and Destructoid:

“Coin App’s submission is Max Blastronaut, an action game where players protect distant planets from “dredge miners.” Melee combat takes place on a planet’s surface, but Max can also hop into a space ship and take part in zero gravity gunfights. There are 24 planets to be defended with varying challenges.”

“I only played the first few stages, but the game seems to advance through a series of progressively more difficult planets that you must clean out, each with its own gravitational field. When Max reaches a new planet, he descends onto the surface in order to collect fuel to power his jetpack. Eventually, Dredge Miners attack, and Max is presented with two options: stay on the ground and brawl, or take to the air and shoot.”

“By way of features, Max Blastronaut supports drop-in/drop-out co-op for up to four players, twenty-four different planets, and a challenge mode.”

“While we only played through one level that was pretty much a tutorial level, I was told that future levels would feature power-ups for the blastronauts, new blaster weapons, and even vehicles.”

While it looked like a fun arcade game to play with friends, as far as we know (and by reading former Coin App developers resume) Max Blastronaut was never released on the Xbox 360, nor any other platform or PC.

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Vampire Hunter (Square Enix + Digital Extremes) [Cancelled – PS3, Xbox 360, PC]

Digital Extremes is a Canadian video game developer founded in 1993, best known for creating Warframe, Dark Sector, The Darkness II and co-creating Epic Games’ Unreal series. Around 2012 the team was working with Square Enix to develop a new action adventure set in a fantasy vampire world, possibly to be published for Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC.

Unfortunately the project was never officially announced and they cancelled it in the end: we don’t have any more information about how it would have been played nor why it was never completed. Some concept art from this Vampire Hunter game is preserved below, to remember the existence of this lost project.

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Ninth Doctor Who (2005 Video Game) [Cancelled / Tech Demo]

A Doctor Who video game, based-off the science-fiction series of the same name, was being developed by Australian developer IR Gurus Interactive (later rebranded Transmission Games). The game would have coincided with the first series of the revived 2005 tv-show starring Christopher Eccleston as The Ninth Doctor and Billie Piper as Rose Tyler. Development lasted half a year and was funded through substantial government subsidies. The reason for its cancellation according to Paul Callaghan who worked at the studio was simply “It’s complicated”.

“I’d wanted to work on a Doctor Who game since I was about 11 years old, so this was kind of a dream project for me,” said Callaghan. “When it was cancelled, I had to take a step back to work out whether or not this was the career I wanted to pursue.”

As to the plot for the game, it is vague whether the details given by Callaghan are what was planned for it. From the Sydney Morning Herald article:

“He conceived a plot around aliens modifying the human race with airborne nanobots, allowing companion Rose Tyler to undergo some changes: “We could give her some cool alien powers!””

According to Andy Widger, then head of communications for BBC Worldwide, there were no intentions of releasing it as he told website GamesRadar:

“The news of a Doctor Who game is a little premature. At present the only work being done is on an interactive demo for internal evaluation. There is no firm proposal for a game and no commitment to particular formats or an idea of a potential release date – and no screenshots.

Article by Vitas Varnas 

Battle Rigs (Rage Software) [Xbox, PC – Cancelled]

Battle Rigs (AKA Construction Derby) is a cancelled vehicular combat game that was in development by Rage Software Sheffield around 2000 – 2001, planned to be released for the original Xbox and PC. At the time the team was mostly known for their work on Gun Metal and Incoming, proving their skills with first person and third person shooters. In Battle Rigs players would have been able to build their own sci-fi tank / spaceship to fight in single player and online multiplayer deathmatches.

While Battle Rigs was never officially announced before being canned, former Rage developer James Sutherland found a playable prototype of their lost project and shared one screenshot on Twitter.

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