Xbox

Banjo X (Threeie) [Xbox – Cancelled]

Banjo X was to be the third installment to the Banjo Kazooie franchise, slated to be released for the original Xbox. Initially the game was being developed in 2004 by Rare as a straight remake of the first game, with enhanced graphics and gameplay for the new console.

Supposedly, the characters in Banjo X were to break the 4th wall, so to speak, and gradually become aware that the game was a remake of the original Nintendo 64 version.  The farther along the player got in the game, the more things would shift directions from the original Banjo Kazooie.  It would have been at this point when the characters would become aware that they were in a remake of the original game and attempt to alter the plot in a different way. Rare had already experimented with the remake of Conker’s Bad Fur Day, adding a few different situations in the early parts of the game to surprise players who knew the original version, it seemed only right to expand a similar concept in Banjo X.

The world found out about this lost game in late 2011 / early 2012 when Xbox executable files (dated June 2004) for a title named “Banjo X” were found by PtoP Online on an old Xbox development kit. These files were missing many of the characteristic that would have been needed to run the prototype, but someone managed to break them open and find some clues. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t do much when attempting to access it.

Depending on the file launched, a black command screen will pop up, showing files missing and an error message. It was expected that the game wouldn’t work due to these missing assets, but the fact that it boots shows that something was being worked on at some point. One user was able to extract an early 3D model of Mumbo.

Names for new Banjo abilities and items were also discovered in these executable files. Some of these include: Springy Shoes, Rocket Sneakers, Metal Feathers, Aviator Goggles, Invisibility Chocolates, Big Feathers, Bag of Eggs, and Diamond Beak.

During Banjo X’s development, the idea of having Gruntilda and Banjo attempting to accomplish the same task at the same time was attempted. Gregg Mayles wanted Gruntilda to interfere with Banjo during gameplay and make things much harder for the player.  However, the team at Rare thought the idea would have required a very complex AI in order for it to do what they wanted.  This concept was quickly scrapped after this realization.

Even though the game supposedly didn’t get very far into development, Steve Mayles tweeted out early character models he made for Banjo X. One was Mr. Termite, and the other was Conga.

Designer Ed Bryan also tweeted out a rendition of a reimagined Mumbo and Tiptup, made around 2004 .

Steve Mayles also confirmed in a twitter response that he remembers seeing a 4 player co-op mode during Banjo X’s development. It was during this time that a separate team at Rare began working on a Mario Kart style game with the Banjo Kazooie IP, under the name “Banjo Kazoomie”.  The major concept that made it stand out was the fact that the player was able to build their own vehicle to use.

Banjo Kazoomie didn’t get very far in development but many of its ideas were later reused in Nuts & Bolts. According to designer Gregg Mayles, “Rare thought this would be a “hard sell,”, and that “players would expect a whole new game”.  It was clear that there were not many reasons to continue working on Banjo X for the original Xbox and the team soon moved their plans to the new Xbox 360.

The new Banjo game would have been a completely different game and Rare began brainstorming ideas of how players traveled in platformers. They wanted to make the trip to the overall objection as fun as possible. This is when they decided to combine the Banjo Kazoomie idea with the worlds for Banjo X.  The team only got as far as the first level and as soon as vehicles became incorporated with the game, Mumbo’s Mountain had to be altered to a much larger size in order to have proper usage of the vehicles.

Unfortunately, the interesting idea of a breaking-the-4th-wall remake with multiplayer coop for Banjo Kazooie never saw the light of day. But in the end, Rare was still able to release a third entry in the Banjo series with Nuts & Bolts, even if feedback from the fans was mixed.

Article by Karl Gutierrez & monokoma

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Farnation (Sega) [Dreamcast, Xbox – Cancelled]

Farnation (sometime spelled Far Nation) is a cancelled online RPG that was going to be published by Sega, initially for their Dreamcast and later for Xbox. The game was somehow announced in mid 2000, when its title was found in a document released by Sega Enterprises discussing the company’s overall business strategy.

Some more details about the game were published in December 2000 by Gamespot:

“With its upcoming massively multiplayer network RPG, Farnation, Sega plans to take the first step in introducing the concept of persistent online worlds to the console market. Farnation gives a nod to such successful PC games as Ultima Online and – more recently – Everquest by letting players interact with other human players across a large universe.

Farnation contains five different terrains, and in these areas, you will have the ability to cooperate with other human players in building towns – complete with casinos, libraries, restaurants, hospitals, banks, and residences. Of course, you aren’t limited to these towns. You can build stations that house airships, boats, and stagecoaches so that you can travel around the entire Farnation world to advance the game’s story arcs and events. In fact, there are several special events that occur throughout the game for plot advancement and, according to Sega, to make the game easily navigable for beginning players.

However, Farnation’s emphasis is on human interaction. Communicating through the use of the game’s chat function, you can buy, sell, and trade items with others. You can also form parties and head out in search of battles and adventure. In total, the game’s play modes include party battles, simultaneous online battles, weapon and item creator, town development, and story elements.

Aside from its gameplay features, Farnation looks to be one of the most visually impressive massively multiplayer online RPGs on the market. After briefly seeing the game in action, we came away thoroughly impressed with the amount of detail in the characters and environments, particularly in the towns. In one scene, there were at least a dozen generously modeled polygonal characters onscreen at once, and the environments were cluttered with several building structures and residences. Graphically, Farnation is favorably comparable to the currently available online RPGs for the PC platform.”

While the Gamespot Staff was able to take a look at the game, unfortunately Sega never officially released any image or footage to the public. From what we can read in this preview, it sounds the game would have been an original mix between Sim City and a traditional MMORPG.

In February 2001 on Dreamcast Magazine Issue 19 Farnation was named again in a list of future Dreamcast games. On March 2001 Sega discontinued the Dreamcast, restructuring itself as a third-party publisher. Many Sega games in development were then moved to Xbox, GameCube and Playstation 2. In May 2001, Gamespot kinda confirmed that Farnation was then in development for Microsoft’s Xbox.

Still Sega did not shown anything from the game, not even officially announce its release. After a while Farnation vanished forever and the only proof we have of its existence is a prototype seen at the Sega of America office, in a photo they published on Flicker in July 2008.

farnation dreamcast sega of america prototype

Between many other Dreamcast games, released and unreleased, we can see a jewel case labeled “Farnation, PT-ROM 1/12/01”. This could have been an updated version of demo that Gamespot seen in December 2000.

We can only hope someone at Sega of America saved this Farnation prototype, to release it online in the future. If you know someone who worked at Sega in 2000 / 2001 and may have more details about Farnation, please let us know! 

Serengeti [Xbox, PC – Cancelled]

Serengeti is a cancelled adventure / simulation game originally in development for PC and Xbox in 2001 by Masa Group, a small French company focused on AI-based modeling & simulation software for defense, public safety and games-related markets.

This was an ambitious game that would have been played somehow like Afrika for Playstation 3, but conceived 7 years before Rhino Studios’ own project. You would play as a photographer and wildlife specialist, working in an African natural reserve set in the plains of Serengeti.

Serengeti was about exploring the African savanna, discovering its wildlife and preserving it from dangers (such as illegal poachers). The animal simulation was groundbreaking for its time, using an innovative AI engine that would fully simulate a complete ecosystem, with animals having up to 7 “motivations” (hunger, thirst, territory, mating, etc.). You could sneak on a cheetah and see it start chasing a gazelle, then resting and heading back to the shade. Every time the animals would move and react in a different way, following their “motivations” and creating a living environment to explore.

After a while Masa Group moved its gaming development team into a subsidiary named “Oiko Entertainment”, to expand their video game projects while the main company would continue working on simulation softwares.

More details about Serengeti were found in an old press-release by NatFX, a dynamic 3D plant modeling software that would have been used by the team to generate the game’s savanna with realistic african trees and plants:

“Serengeti’s numerous missions intertwine the player with the life of the park, from capturing sick animals, to recuperating the park’  tourism industry, to tracking rare animals and neutralizing poachers, mercenaries and even kidnappers.

Serengeti’s gameplay is essentially founded on the near-perfect representation of the natural world. The ability to hide behind bushes, tall grass, to take cover in groves and behind tall trees demonstrates the vital importance and direct implication vegetation plays in Serengeti. The vegetation is more than just scenery,  it’s really something that serves a purpose in terms of gameplay.

Set to release in the beginning of 2004 on PC and Xbox, Serengeti will certainly be a first of its kind. Set in Africa, it is an opportunity to use an original universe, different from the usual ultra-realistic war games  which typically occur in similar settings.”

Serengeti’s gameplay and AI-simulated wildlife was way ahead of its time on many aspects, and today it would probably be recognized for its interesting mechanics. Unfortunately in the early ‘00s it was hard to find a publisher for the game.

In the end Serengeti only reached an alpha stage before the team had to stop working on it. It seems Masa Group later closed Oiko Entertainment and Serengeti’s concept could have been sold to Atari / Infogrames, but nothing ever come out of it. The only released game by Masa / Oiko was Conflict Zone, a war-themed RTS published by Ubisoft for Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, and PC.

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Alone in the Dark 5 [PS2, Xbox – Cancelled]

Alone in the Dark 5 is the cancelled, fifth chapter in the cult-classic Alone in the Dark series that was in development by Atari / Infogrames Lyon House Studio in 2002, planned to be released on Playstation 2 and Xbox. One year after Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare (developed by Darkworks) and six years before the Alone in the Dark 2008 reboot (developed by Eden Games), AitD 5 was in development directly by Infogrames Lyon as one of their major internal projects.

In early ‘00s Infogrames had already a few economic problems: in 2002 they had a loss of $67 million and things would only get worse during the following years. While Alone in the Dark 5 was never officially announced by Infogrames it could have been a successful game for them, bringing in some good sales. Unfortunately this never happened.

Alone in the Dark 5 was soon cancelled, possible because of quality issues or because the series and the classic survival horror genre were not as popular as before among gamers. The project could have been seen as a risk to complete in such an unstable market.

In 2003 Infogrames renamed all of its brands into Atari (after they bought out the name from Hasbro) and heavily re-organized the company and their projects. During the early ‘00s Infogrames canned many more interesting games, such as La Femme Nikita, Urban X-Tribe, Ghostbusters Academy, Riders and NetLife.

Only a few images from Alone in the Dark 5 are saved in the gallery below, to preserve its existence.

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Game of Death [PC, PS2, Xbox – Cancelled]

Game of Death is a cancelled survival horror / action game that was in development for Playstation 2, Xbox and PC by german team Burns Entertainment Software in 2001. It would have been somehow similar to Shadowman, players would take the role of a dying (?) man who would try to kill down the most notorious serial killers of the 20th century (for example Fritz Haarmann, Charles Manson or Jeffrey Dahmer).

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Horror films director Joerg 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.

Thanks to Massimo Carlone for the contribution!

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