Moscow Rhapsody is a canceled First-Person Shooter published by D3 Publisher and developed by Illusion Softworks, between 2006 and 2008, for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles.
For several years, little information was available regarding Moscow Rhapsody, until August 2019, when the Czech website Visiongame.cz interviewed Marek Rabas, who was lead programmer on the game, in order to learn more about its concept and the origin of its cancellation:
VG: So you mentioned that you left after the unannounced Illusion Softworks project was canceled. We have it in the archive, it’s Moscow Rhapsody. Could you tell us more about this game? Apart from a few pictures, not much can be found about it. So was it’s cancellation a reason for you to leave?
Marek Rabas: “Moscow Rhapsody was a First-Person Shooter that had some interesting inspirations. The first was Rainbow Six : Vegas, which combined 1st person and 3rd person cameras. So it was the FPS where you used the covers, and when you were in the cover, the camera just switched to 3rd person. The story took place in Russia and was inspired by the book Icon, which dealt with the coup. When some people go crazy and shoot the president, creating total chaos in the country. The player then had to move in this situation and try to solve it. It had a very interesting concept. I think that the game had hope of success and we worked on it for two years, helping to make the engine on which Mafia runs. Unfortunately Moscow Rhapsody was made for publisher D3 and not for 2K Games. So when 2K bought us, they canceled the project and moved people out of it to complete Mafia II. So it was an impulse for us to leave. They took our project and the relationship between the Mafia II team and the Moscow Rhapsody team was not entirely good.”
After the release of Mafia II, Illusion Softworks (then renamed 2K Czech) was merged with another internal studio at 2K Games, Hangar 13, to continue developing other games based on the Mafia license.
In Demonik, the player assume the role of Volwrath, a demon who is summoned to Earth by humans seeking revenge against those who’ve done them wrong in some way. To do so, Volwrath has multiple supernatural powers such as telekinesis or even the possession of spirit’s human being.
The game was first announced as a brand new IP in May 2005, when an agreement between Tiger Hill and Majesco was reached. Horror master Clive Barker was attached to the project as writer and director of the game:
“Demonik is set to launch in 2006 on next generation consoles and is being developed simultaneously as a feature film by acclaimed filmmaker and writer Clive Barker. Barker is set to oversee the story, character designs, cinematics and voice talent for the game.”
“Clive Barker adds “Demonik will be an intense gaming experience. I’m having a lot of fun enriching the game’s mythology and polishing the characters till they shine. And, of course, adding a little bit of Barker darkness.”
“Demonik is the latest game from award-winning developer Terminal Reality, creators of Majesco’s hit BloodRayne series. Demonik is a detailed third-person action game that allows players to control the ultimate bad guy — wreaking havoc with a variety of innovative and spectacular powers and abilities.”
The game was shown at E3 2005 where IGN and Gamespy were able to unveil further details. Gamespy was writing a short preview:
“In Demonik, players take on the role of a powerful vengeance demon named Volwrath, who is summoned to Earth by humans seeking revenge against those who’ve done them wrong in some way. Although bound by his human masters, Volwrath gets stronger and stronger with each summoning, ultimately becoming powerful enough to break the chains that bind him and take over the world of those he once served.
Volwrath faces off against a variety of opponents, both human and supernatural. Luckily, Volwrath has more than a few otherworldly tricks up his sleeve. Volwrath has the ability to jump from body to body at will, corrupting those he controls in the process. Volwrath also has access to a total of twenty five different demonic powers, allowing him to do everything from spreading a lethal plague to flash frying anyone in sight.
I had the chance to check out a hands-on alpha preview of Demonik during a behind closed doors session at Majesco’s E3 booth. I was thoroughly impressed by what I saw. The game uses a dynamic multipass lighting system and a realistic physics engine that work well together to bring the world of Demonik to life.
Other key points highlighted during the presentation included details on the game’s single-player and multiplayer capabilities. The game will include 10-12 single-player summoning missions, as well as a few missions in Volwrath’s Underworld home. For the multiplayer side of things, gamers will be able to compete against each other in one-on-one demon combat, or in five-on-one human versus demon battles. It was also pointed out that the game is still in the early stages of development, and that more multiplayer options could be added prior to the game’s release.”
“Volwrath has immense power, which you’ll need to grow and harness throughout the adventure. While lighting strikes and plague-infection powers come later in the game, the two key abilities are Volwrath’s Devil Hand and possession ability. The Devil Hand looks a lot like Psi-Ops, where Volwrath can lift objects and enemies and toss them around like dolls. The 360 difference is that everything in the environment can be interacted with. Everything. At a chemical facility, Volwrath can pick up humans and toss them into acid vats and watch them bubble and vaporize. Throw crates, toss barrels. Consider it your innate gravity gun.
Possession allows Volwrath to enter human hosts and assume their identity. The longer Volwrath stays in a host, the more powerful he becomes as he slowly feeds on the host’s lifeforce, but this also slowly turns the human form more and more demonic. Stay long enough and Volwrath will fully emerge from the host. You can leave a host at any time, which instantly places you in a first person “Redeemer” cam. As a spiritual entity, you can’t go through solid objects and the further you get from your previous host, the weaker you become.
The applications of possession are pretty awesome. You can possess a security guard and start shooting your buddies then leap out and head into another area of the room to take over a scientist. As the scientist scurries away, the other guards start attacking their brother in arms, who has no idea why everyone is suddenly taking shots at him. Let chaos reign. Run into an enemy who can see your demonic form emerging from a host and you can leap right into the enemy as he sprays the first bullets at your former host.
Demonik features eight different powers (plus the devil hand). Each power can be upgraded three full levels and you can choose which powers to upgrade first. Powers can also be chained, so if you curse an enemy with the Plague, you can then use the Devil Hand to throw them into another group, infecting the whole lot.
You can affect every human in the game, except for the Demonic Hunters. This special group of humanoids hunt your peeps and are immune to all of your powers. Fortunately, they aren’t immune to bullets. And Volwrath has no problems bustin’ a cap in people or opening up with a few powerful fist blows. And don’t forget that you can chuck objects at enemies and cause mass destruction to the environment.
Though the framerate’s a little shaky at this early stage, Demonik shows the power of the 360. Everything is normal-mapped, has dynamic lighting and looks fantastic.”
However, after it’s presentation at E3, the game was canceled in the beginning of 2006, alongside Martin Scorsese’s movie tie-in video game Taxi Driver, after Majesco ran into big financial trouble as we can read on Engadget:
“Majesco is “shifting its product strategy away from the premium console game market” to focus primarily on value and handheld games. As a result, expected high-profile titles such as Taxi Driver and Demonik have been cancelled. This follows the sale of the rights to The Darkness and Ghost Rider back in December.
Losing $70 million in a year can be tough on any publisher, but it can be crushing for a struggling one like Majesco. The commercial failures of the trumpeted sci-fi epic Advent Rising and the Schafer-produced gem Psychonauts did nothing to help things as the company only made $4.6 million in revenue (not profit) in the 4th quarter of 2005.”
Demonik was featured during a scene in the 2006’s movie Grandma’s Boy.
The story would have been simple enough. Protagonists Jack and Samuel are two loose-cannon cops in an unnamed metropolis, hell-bent on taking down a occult-obsessed gang that has added voodoo magic to their arsenal of weapons. The look and attitude of these two characters seemed like it would have been highly inspired by 1970’s cop and blaxploitation films.
Gameplay would have featured simple orders for the AI-controller character (such as movement and asking for covering fire), the ability to switch between characters at any time and a picture-in-picture view, allowing players to see what our partner was up to at all times, making the use of tactics easier. Another feature, called DeadTime, was a basic bullet time mechanic that would slow down time during the action. With a fully destructible environment and plenty of cinematic effects thrown into the mix, GameSpy would describe the gunfights in a demo of Voodoo Nights they played as “like the opening ten minutes of any given John Woo flick”.
The cops would eventually learn how to use the black arts against their enemies by using a voodoo doll and this would take form as a selection of different powers available to the player, such as telekinesis and physical possession, which could, for example, be used to have one cop either levitate an enemy while the other eliminates him or take control of someone and turn him against his allies, respectively.
Occasionally, Voodoo Nights would offer some variety by introducing a puzzle element. For example, the enemies were not the only ones that could be targeted by telekinesis. The player could use it to get his partner across large gaps as well and, while it’s not certain if this would have been included, Voodoo Nights was to feature an advanced physics engine so we could speculate that object manipulation would have been used for this purpose too.
What ended up happening with the game is unknown. Voodoo Nights was announced in 2005 but had no release date nor a publisher at that point in time. Unfortunately, it seems that it was quietly cancelled soon afterwards, most likely due to a lack of money and interest from publishers. Mindware Studios went on to release two more games: Painkiller: Overdose, a stand-alone expansion for the First Person Shooter Painkiller, in 2007, and Dreamkiller, another FPS, in 2009. Dreamkiller was a critical failure and the czech studio went silent soon after that, finally closing their doors in 2011.
Article by thecursebearer, thanks to Dan for the contribution!
Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned is a canceled action-adventure role-playing game that was developed by Propaganda Games for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC platforms and published by Disney Interactive. It was an open world game based on the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise.
Set before events of the first movie, the game was to follow James Sterling, a pirate captain whose main mission was to travel across the Caribbean Sea to make a reputation for himself. Although little was unveiled about the story, it was intended to be independent from the films’ main arc and included new characters.
The game was first revealed before E3 2009 with an interview of Alex Peters, game director from Propaganda, thanks to IGN:
“Disney Interactive Studios and Propaganda Games are working on Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned, an action RPG set in a huge open world. The story takes place before the Pirates of the Caribbean movies with an original plot where players step into the shoes of a new pirate beset with all manner of nasty enemies. Moral choices, character building, and a supernatural world await. We’ve got the first details on the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC game, courtesy of Alex Peters, Game Director for Armada of the Damned.”
IGN: Can you tell us a little bit about the plot? Who do you play as and what is the overall goal of the game?
Alex Peters: “The story of Armada of the Damned takes place before the events of the Pirates of the Caribbean films, so we have a great opportunity to expand on the rich and diverse history and mythology that already exists in the universe. The character at the start of the game is a young pirate setting out on his maiden voyage with the goal of becoming the most respected — or feared — pirate captain in the Caribbean.”
IGN: Are you set to play as a specific character with a predetermined look or is there going to be a character creation system so that I can make my own unique pirate?
Alex Peters: “The current plan is that the character initially has a predetermined look, but throughout the game the choices the player makes during gameplay will change the character’s appearance. Some of these changes will be story-related and quite drastic and some will be much less serious, allowing the player to create a more unique character.”
IGN: Is the bulk of the game on sea or are there significant portions of exploration on land?
Alex Peters : “The exploration will be a mixture of both land and sea and it’s up to the player to choose how much time they spend in each.”
IGN: Since this is an open world, I’m assuming that exploration will be a big part of the game. What sorts of things can I do when veering away from the main quest?
Alex Peters: “We want to entice players to explore hidden coves, mysterious inlets and intriguing islands. The people of the Caribbean have their own stories and while their lives are certainly affected by the events that transpire in the main story, they often have more immediate or personal concerns. Since the player is cast in the role of a pirate, they may choose to involve themselves in situations that pique their interest or serve their own purposes.”
IGN: The film is set in a sort of pseudo-reality. But obviously during the time of pirates, the sea was a warzone for a variety of nations. How are those nationalities playing a role in this game and will you be free to pick you allegiances?
Alex Peters: “Throughout the course of the game, the player will interact with the nation powers who inhabited the Caribbean at that time and their loyalties will change based on the choices made over the course of the game.”
IGN: The press release says there are moral choices to be made. How extensive is this and how does the morality system work?
Alex Peters: “A major focus for this game is choice. Players will have to decide how they interact with non-player characters, what they decide to do and where they travel. Morality in the pirate lore is a bit of a gray area and our game will take advantage of the various choices the player will have to make.”
IGN: How important is your crew and what goes into assembling one to take your ship to sea?
Alex Peters: “A pirate captain is only as good as his ship’s crew. With that said, we will allow the player to personalize their crew. These choices will affect their character’s success or struggle.”
IGN: One of the key elements to any RPG is having a good dialogue system. How will this work in Pirate of the Caribbean? Are there multiple dialogue choices or is it more traditional?
Alex Peters: “We’re committed to making conversations in the game entertaining. We’ve created a script that takes advantage of an entirely new story set within the world of the Pirates of the Caribbean and wholeheartedly embraces the tone and humor players expect. RPGs are all about choices. Players that want to cut to the chase are able to do so, and those who wish to explore every angle can weave their way through the dialogue, pursuing areas that interest them.”
“The game is an action RPG on an epic scale. Alex Peters name checks games like Oblivion, Dragon Age, and Fable, saying that Armada of the Damned definitely fell on that end of the scale, through not quite as action-oriented as Lionhead’s game. The game of course features a great deal of sea combat as well, allowing the player to sail from island to island, building their crew and taking on other ships in dynamic combat.”
The following year, the game was the subject of numerous previews by various media which had the opportunity to play the title, scheduled for February 1, 2011. For example, Gamesradar wrote:
“The combat and land exploration looks uncannily similar to Fable II. The swordfighting has been designed to be as accessible as possible, allowing you to mash at buttons, but also to create unique combos by adding flintlocks and magic attacks to the mix. The main story quest has an obvious path to follow, but there are also loads of side missions which introduce you to the likes of voodoo priestess Tia Dalma, long before she joined Jack Sparrow’s crew.
But what sets Armada of the Damned apart from other action RPGs is the ability to sail the high seas. There’s a huge area of the Caribbean to explore, and you directly control your ship the Nemesis, just like you would a boat in GTA. You’re free to travel almost anywhere in the world right from the beginning. We’ve seen the pirate city of Tortuga and it looks great. You’ll also be able to visit the merchant outpost Port Royal, and Alex Peters also hints that no Pirates game would be complete without supernatural locations like Fiddler’s Green and Davy Jones’ locker.
Captain Sterling certainly comes close to ending up there at the start of the adventure. On his maiden voyage to the Caribbean, the young pirate is sunk and all but drowned by the insane Spanish admiral Aldonado. However, he miraculously survives and vows to strike back. How you wreak your revenge is a matter of many important choices, and this will eventually decide the fate of Sterling’s soul.
Rather than going down the old route of making ‘good’ or ‘evil’ decisions, there are ‘Legendary’ or ‘Dreaded’ acts. Legendary acts involve stuff like swinging on a chandelier to escape a mob of guards while delivering one-liners and grinning through your sparkly gold teeth. Basically, anything that Jack Sparrow would do will also enhance your reputation as a pirate lord.
Dreaded acts are based on double-crossing, choosing not to help people and general acts of violence and cruelty that would make most people shiver their timbers. They’re also the kind of thing that could earn you a skeletal face like captain Barbossa.
Actions influence your character’s appearance as well as his fighting abilities. At his most ‘legendary’ Captain Sterling is decked out in gold finery and sports a dashing haircut. The most dreaded Captain Sterling is covered in barnacles, has a skeletal frame and uses the anchor that dragged him to his drowning place as a weapon.”
“Although the game is set in the Pirates of the Caribbean universe, the events of the game transpire well before the first film and revolve around a new hero: Sterling. This young adventurer had dreams of fame and fortune — having been raised by a poor father — but Sterling is, surprisingly, killed on his first voyage through the Caribbean. Through the intervention of certain supernatural forces, Sterling is brought back to the world of the living and is given a second chance to fulfill his fate.
The idea of “choosing your fate” takes center stage in Armada of the Damned. Early on in the game, players will decide if they will play as a legendary hero, or a dreaded one, but the gameplay will remain flexible. In other words, players can still make the occasional “good” or “evil” decision, even if that decision opposes their original selection. But Sterling will ultimately end his journey as a legendary captain or a dreaded one.
This defining choice extends into several aspects of the game — it doesn’t just influence the story. Sterling’s appearance, personality, weapons, attacks, quests, and even the game’s endings are all affected by the player’s choice. The legendary Sterling is a showboating, handsome adventurer, while the dreaded Sterling is haunted, dark, and uses supernatural power to decimate those that stand before him.
The dynamic between these two paths was demonstrated perfectly in a set of two trailers, where Sterling narrates his experiences after he wakes up on a beach. In the first legendary trailer, Sterling’s voice grows richer over the course of the video, building up confidence and momentum until he announces himself as the legendary Captain Sterling. The second trailer starts the same way, but the moment that Sterling regains consciousness after his fatal accident, his voice sounds unsettled. Vengeful. You can slowly detect a haunting echo in his voice, which becomes more guttural and menacing over time.
Seeing trailers is good fun, but seeing the game in action is what it’s all about. The first part of my extended demo covered the land battle portion of Armada of the Damned, which looks a little bit like Fable. Sterling has a light and heavy attack, and he can string a series of four strikes together to form a basic combo. Timing the button presses accurately will cause Sterling to end the combo with a powerful bonus strike, which plays out in slow-motion (for the win). This adds a bit of a timing game to the combat, which is a welcome feature. Sterling can also grab his opponents and infect them with a curse, which is basically a weakening spell. This curse can then be transferred to all the other enemies in the area if Sterling performs a finishing move on a cursed opponent.
Of course, all of Sterling’s various attacks, special moves, and animations change depending on if the player selected the legendary path or the dreaded path. The special moves were of particular interest to me, as they play on the nature of Sterling (be it legendary or dreaded) and they look sweet in the process. Legendary Sterling can perform a technique, for example, where he tosses a jug of rum into the air and shoots it, causing flames to pour over the baddies underneath. On the other hand, the dreaded version of Sterling uses a giant anchor as a special weapon and can smash it down to the ground, causing ghostly waves to erupt from the earth.
To make this intriguing system even more appetizing, players will be able to upgrade these skills in a number of different ways, tweaking their version of Sterling to their liking. If players want to use a very specific set of skills, they are free to pour experience into just those techniques and maximize their efficiency.
The second section of the demonstration focused on sea combat. It is another fundamental element of Armada of the Damned. Players can view the action from a distant perspective (with the camera hanging a ways back from your ship) or from right behind Sterling’s shoulder as he mans the wheel.
When it comes to the actual combat, players can attack an opposing ship’s hull, sails, or crew. By balancing these three attack types together, players can sink a ship, disable its movement or weaken its crew to ease the process of boarding. This seemed like a great way to set up the battles, and with a Gears of War style reloading mechanic which rewards players with accurate timing, there’s going to be a lot of skill and strategy to employ when fighting on the high seas. Sterling will even be able to use special techniques while sailing — similar to the ones he uses on foot. During my demonstration, the dreaded Sterling summoned a massive tempest above the enemy ship and called forth a tremendous bolt of lightning that split the hull clear in half.
Sailing isn’t all about blood and steel, though. Players will be able to explore almost all of the Caribbean, filled with hidden caves, trade routes, bustling towns and more. According to the developers at Propaganda, Armada of the Damned could last up to 100 hours if players decide to tackle all the available side quests.
The final two sections of my tour of the game were shorter, but still just as interesting. I had a walkthrough of Tortuga, where the day/night cycle was shown off, and I also met with one of the developers behind Armada of the Damned’s sound design. Propaganda wants to make sure that the musical themes from the movies are treated tastefully and only used on occasion. There’s plenty of stirring original music to be found in Armada of the Damned, with special markers built into the system to allow the tracks to transition seamlessly from one section to another.”
Sadly, on October 2010, Disney Interactive took the decision to cancel Pirates of the Caribbean : Armada of the Damned, reducing the staff at Propaganda Games from two teams to only one. It was relayed by Kotaku:
“Disney’s upcoming action role-playing game Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned has been canned and that the studio behind the game are laying folks off today, Disney confirmed to Kotaku today.
“Disney Interactive Studios confirms the cancellation of the Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned video game which was scheduled to be released in 2011,”Angela Emery, Disney Interactive Studios’ vice president of communication told Kotaku today. “As a result of this decision, Disney Interactive Studios completed a restructuring of Propaganda Games, affecting one of the studio’s two development teams. The studio is still in active production of TRON: Evolution, the video game, which will be released on December 7, 2010 with additional DLC (downloadable content) support following the game’s release.”
We’re told that Vancouver-based Propaganda Games, which is also working on Tron: Evolution, let as many as 100 people go this week, including most of the Pirates team and some of the Tron team. The remaining team members from Pirates were shifted over to help put finishing touches on Tron, we are told.
This latest news seems to back up rumors we’ve been hearing since early September about turmoil at Propaganda Games surrounding disagreements with upper management at Propaganda and their parent company.”
After the release of Tron : Evolution, Disney decided to shutdown permanently Propaganda Games in January 2011. Some musical scores initially written for the game were implemented in LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean. To this day, the license is still dormant after this huge debacle and we were only able to get some mobile phone games. Eventually, players who are fans of piracy can nevertheless still try to console themselves with Assassin’s Creed IV : Black Flag, which shares some game design ideas that should have been implemented in Pirates of the Caribbean : Armada of the Damned.
Little information exists on Turok 2 since the game was canceled before its official announcement in January 2009. As indicated by Kotaku, it seems that it was the economic crisis of 2008 which was the reason of it’s cancellation when Disney Interactive, owner of Propaganda Games and the Turok’s license, decided to lay off 70 Propaganda employees and cancel the game:
“Sources tell us that Vancouver based Propaganda Games is in the process of laying off approximately 70 employees. That reduction in workforce is likely closely tied to the cancellation of Turok 2, a title never officially announced by Disney, but one of two projects that Propaganda was working on, we’re told.”
“As you can imagine, given economic conditions, every industry has been impacted on a global scale. In response to this challenging business environment, we have examined ways in which we might be able to work more efficiently. The elimination of existing positions that we communicated today was a necessary step that we had hoped to avoid.”
We can speculate that the gameplay would have been similar to the 2008 reboot with some never-before-seen additions, like new environments (swamps, desert areas) or new enemies in the series like renegade soldiers named Savage or creatures called Ork, as can be seen from the many concept arts that subsequently leaked onto the net, and hosted by the Turok Wiki Fandom. Another novelty would have been the addition of new firearms like the assault rifle, apparently already planned in the 2008’s game before being cut in the end, and the Jak, a modified version of the well-known cerebral bore, firing this time projectiles allowing to control for a certain period of time the enemy in order to be able to neutralize other threats, as we can see it in action on a raptor on one of the rare in-game screenshots. A multiplayer mode was also planned.
In June 2015, Tim Lewinson, who was senior designer and associate game director at Propaganda until his departure, spoke briefly about the game during an interview for duke64nukem.com:
D64: In percentage how far along was Turok 2 before being canceled?
T.L.: “Without putting too fine a point on it, we were moving out of pre-production and making significant headway on a vertical slice. In development terms, that refers to a small level that provides a polished core gameplay experience. The expectation is that a tiny portion of the game is brought to as near a ship state as possible to properly demonstrate how new features will work, etc.”
The same month, director and animator Jeremy Brown posted on his Vimeo account a short teaser for the game as he himself explained under the video:
“Years ago I worked on a game that was canceled. This is the trailer I had in mind for it while we were working on the game, and nearly a decade later, I made it for fun.”
On the 25th June 2022, Youtuber Matt McMuscles was able to get in touch with former Propaganda’s art director Daryl Mandryk, who shared some new information about the game and what precisely happened during that time:
“The basic idea for Turok 2 was that it took place some time after the events of the first game, on the same planet. But now the human elements had all gone feral and crazy for some reason. It mainly took place in a badlands/desert area environment. I think the team had learned a hard lesson about how difficult it was to pull off a jungle environment on the Xbox 360. So it had a sort of Mad Max meets Jurassic Park feel. The big hook was going to be the return of the cerebral bore, which would allow the players to control dinosaurs and wreak havoc. We had this prototyped and it was awesome! The project was basically put on the back burner when Disney needed a studio to develop the movie tie-in game for the new Tron. I don’t think Turok 2 was officially cancelled, but after Tron : Evolution was shipped the studio was really focused on its other project : Pirates of the Caribbean : Armada of the Damned. And many people were moved over to work on that. I think Disney felt this was a better financial bet than the Turok sequel. Regardless, within a few more months the studio was shut down and that was that.”
Since the cancellation of Turok 2, the series has stalled, although we were able to see remasters of the first two games by Nightdive Studios, released in 2015 and 2017 respectively.
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