GameCube

Flesh & Wire (Running With Scissors) [Cancelled – PS2, Dreamcast, GameCube]

Flesh & Wire is a cancelled action adventure that was in development by Running With Scissors (of Postal fame), announced in 1999 and planned to be published by Ripcord Games for Playstation 2, Dreamcast and GameCube. It would have been and over-the-top shooter where you could control an alien blob to explore the world and resolve environmental puzzles. As we can read on IGN:

“The game follows Angus, a sleazy, slimy cop who wakes up one morning with an alien amoebae-like creature noshing on his legs, and his city has been engulfed by a bio-ship by the name of the Nulloid. Rather than worry about what the heck the thing’s doing to his lower half, he comes to the realization that he can control the gelatinous blob, and uses this newfound power to move around and utilize special abilities, sloshing around the levels. He’ll also utilize massive amounts of firepower, so expect over-the-top violence […]”

In 2016 Running With Scissors CEO Vince Desi talked about Flesh and Wire in an interview posted on their official website:

Robin TGG: I had almost forgotten that you once worked on a title called “Flesh and Wire”. What was that game all about? And why was it canceled?

Vince RWS: Yeah that was after POSTAL got cancelled, we actually had 2 other original games in development, but financial reality simply didn’t allow us to continue. It was a sci-fi based game that had a blob as the main character, I really liked it, who knows maybe someday we’ll take another look at it.

The game was somehow similar in concept to a more violent “A Boy and His Blob”, as you could transform the blob into different forms, such as a ladder to reach high places, a bungee to get down and a shield to protect the protagonist from bullets. Some more details on its development can be read on the March 1999 issue of Game Developer magazine:

“According to Randy Briley, the soft-spoken art lead for the project, the development process for FLESH & WIRE (FW) has always been a little bit different. For starters, the publisher (Ripcord Games) has been very hands-off, letting the development team drive the development. This uncharacteristic display of trust has as much to do with RWS’s track record of getting products out the door on time as it does with Ripcord Games’ relative newness to the gaming scene. And although the style of game play has some basis in currently released titles (the game is some-thing of a cross between RESIDENT EVIL and THE THUNDERCATS), the look of the game is anything but conventional. From character design and animation to background generation, the unorthodox look derives from equally unorthodox production methods.

When RWS finally settled on the game spec, they realized that from a resource production standpoint, they had bitten off more than they could chew. In addition to the standard budget of special effects, GUI art, and several minutes of cut scenes, the spec called for over 200 static screens of game play with in betweens, and a set of enemy and player characters’ 300+unique animation sequences. With a production cycle of just under 18 months, no budget for outsourcing, and an extremely small art team, the task seemed pretty daunting. It was time to improvise.”

[…] rotoscoping could be done largely in-house with little or no overhead, the production time compared to hand animation was much faster, and although it required the talents of a skilled animator to implement, it provided a cheap, efficient method to complete the animations on schedule. The team went down to a local gymnasium and interviewed several martial arts students. Then, working closely with the art lead (a martial arts expert himself), the actors were mocked up to look like the characters in the game. Several sets of motion shots were taken, using two synchronized digital cameras set 90 degrees apart (front and side). After digitizing these images and importing them into Softimage, the result was a sequence of images. The Animator then animated the characters by hand, using the images as a guide. […]

Compared to the mammoth task of generating over 200 hundred in-game background scenes, the character animation problem looked simple. With only a handful of 3D artists on staff, the team had to make some tough decisions. As the project evolved through its initial stages, it became clear that the art direction was evolving towards the techno-grunge look typified by such industry standards as The Crow and City of Lost Children. The level of detail the team wanted would require hours of tedious texture and modeling work using classical CG methods. Given the size of the team and the allotted time, this simply would not be possible. Rather than cut the design or ask for more time, the team resolved to find a solution that would allow them to maintain the scope of the project while holding true to the artistic vision. They Took a gamble, and decided to build the entire game using miniatures.

“Near the end of the planning phase of the project, RWS presented the publisher with a proof of concept for the process. For the first test, the team put together a town from a model railroad set and digitized it into the POSTAL engine. In short, the result was a huge success.

Put simply, the sets for the game were built with “anything we could get our hands on,” says RandyBriley. Basically, the team would just bring stuff in: PVC piping, copper tubing, old VCR’s, and so on, and the pieces were glued together and painted using a hot glue gun and standard modeling paints. Most of the back-drops for the game were created using Styrofoam panels, which proved easy to get hold of and standardize.  “Once we got an assembly line going with a certain panel (background piece), we could crank each one out in a matter of a few hours.”

By far however, the biggest advantage of the process is the lack of any requirement for CG expertise on the part of the artists. Consider that with a single trained 3D artist to guide the process, the bulk of the artists can be classically trained with little or no industry expertise. This means that production costs go down for any given piece of work or, you get a lot more resources for a lot less money.”

As said by Vince, in the end they were not able to keep up development for 3 different projects at the same time, so Flesh & Wire had to be canned. We hope someday to be able to see some more images from this strange and original video game.

Thanks to Josef for the contribution!

Images: 

Iceman (Datura) [GameCube, Xbox, PS2 – Cancelled]

Iceman is a cancelled puzzle game that was in development for GameCube, Xbox and Playstation 2 by forgotten studio Datura, formed in 2003 by former Infogrames developers. Up to 4 players could compete together in small arenas, but it’s not exactly clear how it would be played. By looking at available screenshots it seems you could collect crystals and possibly moving blocks / parts of the scenario.

Unfortunately Datura never found a publisher interested in Iceman: in the end they had to close down and cancel development of their game.

Images:

  

Buciyo 5 (The Bumbling 5) [GameCube – Cancelled]

In only about 4 years of existence, United Game Artists managed to become one of the most original and beloved Sega teams ever existed, especially for Dreamcast fans. Originally founded as Sega AM9 and led by Tetsuya Mizuguchi, they had a portfolio of released games composed of just 2 new Dreamcast titles and a sequel (Space Channel 5 – 1999, Rez – 2001, Space Channel 5 Part 2 – 2002). UGA were for sure a talented and inventive studio.

Blending catchy music with beautiful, sometimes abstract 3D visuals, both Space Channel 5 and Rez are now considered cult classics and often used as examples to show how games can really be art. Synesthesia, the phenomenon felt when multiple senses are activated after the stimulation of a different one, was an inspiration and a game design objective for the United Game Artists team, mixing graphic, audio and gameplay so as to suscitate an abundance of feelings and sensations.

It’s easy to imagine how new games from UGA would have been acclaimed by their fans, but unfortunately things didn’t go as planned. After Sega discontinued the Dreamcast in March 2001, United Game Artists and the other Sega teams started working on the competitor’s consoles, creating new titles and porting their old classic or unfinished games to Xbox, Playstation 2 and Gamecube. In the following months some members of UGA worked on ports of Rez and Space Channel 5 for PS2, while the rest of the team started developing  two new projects: Rez 2 and Buciyo 5.

Buciyo 5 (somehow translated as The Bumbling 5) was the new, original project by UGA planned to be a Gamecube exclusive, but not much was ever revealed about it. Sega quietly announced the game in January 2003 as a “New Project by United Game Artists” along with other titles such as F-Zero GX by Amusement Vision and Skies of Arcadia Legends by Overworks. At the time Jake Kazdal was the only American working directly at UGA on Space Channel 5 and Rez as an artist, animator and designer, and he was one of the few members of the original group behind Buciyo 5.

Jake was featured in an article published in January 2014 by Edge Magazine: “After completing Rez, Kazdal worked on a GameCube adventure for a year, a prototype that was never released”. Still without knowing much more about Buciyo 5, in 2016 when we were working on our book we got in contact with Jake, who helped us to preserve some more memories about this UGA’s lost masterpiece. He told us that:

“After Rez shipped, the rest of the Rez team went into a sort of discovery mode on what they would do with a Rez 2, and if that was even going to happen, they wanted to wait a bit and see how sales were. I was a big fan of my first director at Sega, Takashi Yuda, who was the creator and director of Space Channel 5. I had worked under him for my first year at Sega in Tokyo on that project and was just a big fan of his game design theory and style in general.  He was starting a small team to prototype an idea for an action / adventure on Gamecube, so I asked to join him for a time, while the Rez team figured out what they wanted to do for the next project.”

According to the information we managed to gather, we imagine Buciyo 5 (which roughly translates to “The Bumbling 5”) as a mix between Mega Man, Metal Gear Solid, Pikmin and Ape Escape 3. Sounds interesting? It sure does.

Players would have been able to choose between 5 red robots, visually somewhat in the vein of Mega Man in terms of cute robotic characters with human-like faces. Each robot had a different peculiarity: voice, eyes, nose, ears, and brain. This would have allowed different gameplay mechanics and approaches to the game’s levels, as explained by Jake:

“So one [robot] could mimic voices exactly, one could see really well, one could smell really well, one could hear really well, and one was a genius. You would use these 5 together to infiltrate enemy bases and take on the enemies as carefully as possible. They also had plungers on their heads, and you could jump on an enemy head-first, and flip him around with your plunger head! Or jump onto the ceiling and hold still as enemies walked underneath you, etc. It was pretty slapstick, and really cute, had a jamming soundtrack and was Yuda-san’s brainchild that we cranked on for a while”.

The Buciyo 5 team first created a concept video to internally pitch the game to Sega HQ – and it was a success: the project was greenlighted and they started working on a prototype. Once Rez 2 was officially abandoned – as the first one didn’t sell enough to warrant a sequel – more developers switched to Buciyo 5 and in about a year they were able to create an awesome playable demo, showcasing all the main features of the game and its unique style. Jake remembers:

“[…] working late nights, putting together a badass gameplay demo that was beautiful, super interesting and quirky, and designed by a bunch of *really* intelligent, talented game designers who really believed in the project. “ […] “It was at this time that I decided to move away from animation and really start focusing on environmental art, and Yuda-san had worked on all these Genesis era classics like Castle of Illusion and others, and I was stoked to be able to study with someone of that pedigree. We looked at a lot of classic Disney films for lighting and composition reference, and I fell in love with pre-production and concept painting during this project.”

Unfortunately, as it often happens with the most original and interesting games, marketing decisions were going to kill off the project. Mike Fischer, VP at Sega America at the time, went to Japan to evaluate new Sega games for the American market and was not interested in a quirky, cute adventure game, like Buciyo 5 definitely was. Sega Japan said they would have stopped financing the project if the American branch wouldn’t publish it in that area. So the plug was pulled: Buciyo 5 became another unseen game we’ll never play.

Of course United Game Artists were crushed when their last dream game was canned too. Rez 2 never made it past the pitch video phase, but Jake remembers “It was *sick*. Yokota-san, the art director of Rez, (and Rez 2, and Panzer Dragoon Saga) is a genius and it was an evolution of Area 5 from Rez. Insanity.” It seems that, at the time, there was no place for such avant-garde, experimental games at Sega.

Not long after Buciyo 5 was cancelled, Tetsuya Mizuguchi, Katsumi Yokota, Ryuichi Hattori, Jake Kazdal and other key staff left the studio, and United Game Artists quickly ceased to be. Those that remained at Sega, merged with Sonic Team (and ended up working on the stylish DS games Feel The Magic: XY/XX and The Rub Rabbits!), and many of them are still there.

In October 2003 Mizuguchi founded Q Entertainment along with Yokota and other former Sega developers to keep working on interesting music game hybrids and creating projects such as Lumines, Meteos, Every Extend Extra and Child of Eden. In 2009 Jake Kazdal founded his indie studio 17-BIT (formerly Haunted Temple Studios), releasing cult-following games such as Skulls of the Shogun and Galak-Z: The Dimensional. United Games Artists will always be remembered for having continued – till the end – to create original games following their own creativity: today their unique style is still kept alive by UGA’s former members.

This article was originally published in our book “Video Games You Will Never Play

 

Tremors: The Video Game [Cancelled – GameCube, Xbox, PS2, PC]

Around 2001 – 2002 Rock Solid Studios were working on a tie-in video game based on the Tremors series, planned to be published by Conspiracy Entertainment for GameCube, Playstation 2 and Xbox. The project was officially announced in August 2002, but the team never shown any media from their game, before it was quietly cancelled and vanished forever.

As we can read on their old website and in following press-releases:

“Tremors is based on the successful Tremors movie franchise, created by Universal Pictures and Stampede Entertainment. The game is a third person action adventure set in the desert around the town of Gold Rock, where Graboids – gigantic landsharks threatens mankind as we know it.

Players will experience an immersive storyline, filled with surprises and challenges in combination with high-octane action. The game is scheduled for release during the fall of 2003.”

“A few years have passed since the first wave of monsters shook the grounds of Nevada. Burt Gummer has kept himself busy investigating Graboid activity and repelled the threats when needed, but business is going slow.

Strange disappearances are investigated by Gold Rocks sheriff, who makes a horrifying discovery – the Graboids are back. The investigations leads to a recently built plant and research center outside the town. The mystery unfolds and turns out to be more of a “normal bug-problem”.

At the same time, unknown of the two heroes above the ground, a heroine fights the source of the monsters from heart of the top-secret underground facility. Tremors is a game of monsters threatening mankind, corporate cover-ups, betrayal and three heroes that simply refuse to surrender against any threat.”

  • Based on the Tremors cult series of movies and the upcoming SciFi Channel TV-show.
  • Three characters – three agendas that ties into one, immersive story. Play as Burt Gummer from the movies.
  • Fight the Graboids, Shriekers and Assblasters – for a start. You’re up against evolving monsters.
  • State-of-the art enemy AI that plans and thinks. Monsters reacts after your actions.
  • Blow the monsters to pieces of goo with a wide range of weapons; revolvers, rifles, SMG’s and the classic Barrett .50.
  • Fluent and extensive movement with the help from +500 motion captured movements.
  • Powered by the RSSTech – one of the most powerful rendering systems ever.

In 2003 fansite UK Tremors posted an interview with Rock Solid Studios about their game:

UK: 1, So how long have you been working on the game? is there anything to see yet?.

CS: We are still quite early in development, many details are still confidential. Including planning and design, we have worked on this game since April/May 2002. Even though we cannot show anything officially yet, we are playing the game internally and there are both Graboids and Shriekers in the game at this point.

UK: 2, Will the game be based on any of the films or just the upcoming TV series?

CS: The game is an independent story, but with tie-ins to the TV series and the movies.

UK:3, Is there any details of the game that you can let us in on? E.g. storyline, structure, gameplay, multiplayer etc

CS: The game is a single-player action-adventure in line with the Resident Evil series of games, but cross-overs to games such as Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell. As players are partly dealing with monsters hunting on heat or vibrations, there will be different ways to move around in the environment.

UK: 4, Is it still set to be released on all the major gaming systems? Do you have any kind of release date set at the moment?

CS: Still to be determined.

UK: 5, you must have seen the films a lot of times by now. Has Stampede/Universal supplied you with much information and help? 

CS: They have been much helpful.

UK: 6, For our readers, will this be a game they will be playing into the small hours? 

CS: Definitely. As there are many different ways of defeating the monsters, players will come back to try different solutions to various problems.”

In the end Rock Solid Studios closed down for bankruptcy before releasing any game and was later reboot as Avalanche Studios, finally finding success with the first Just Cause. As we can read on Wikipedia:

“During that period, another Stockholm-based video game development studio, Starbreeze Studios, announced that they would acquire Rock Solid. The agreement between the two companies was ultimately broken by Starbreeze, and the acquisition was stopped. In addition, Universal decided to cancel Tremors: The Game, which led Rock Solid to declare bankruptcy. With the failure and collapse of Rock Solid, Sundberg and Blomberg became unemployed and in debt. They eventually decided to start over in 2003, establishing Avalanche Studios with six other employees.”

A few 3D models from this lost game are preserved in the gallery below, to remember its existence.

Images: 

Metroid Prime 1.5 [GameCube – Cancelled Pitch]

Metroid 1.5 was an undeveloped new game in the Metroid Prime series, internally pitched at Retro Studios between the development of Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. This lost project was found in 2011 thanks to online research by Mama Robotnik on the NeoGAF forum, who unveiled the Metroid 1.5 design document written by former Metroid Prime designer:

“This adventure would take place immediately after Samus takes off from the surface of Talon IV. Upon exiting the planets surface, Samus decides to take a long rest in her Cryo chamber as her ship autopilots home. However, something goes wrong and Samus’’s ship computer hones in on a distress signal. The distress signal is coming from a huge alien vessel (huge, like the size of several Star Destroyers) that is drifting out in space. As Samus’s ship approaches the alien craft, a tractor beam activates and the Ship is pulled into one of the gigantic docking bays. As the ships doors close, the gigantic vessel folds and enters a parallel dimension, thus begins Samus’’ new adventure…

Upon awakening, the ship appears to be abandoned, there is no power except for auxiliary lights and telemetry from computers. It is up to Samus to unravel this mystery. The mystery being that the ship’s AI has gone mad and the ship is actually a war vessel that is on a collision course with a peaceful planet. It’s goal? The entire enslavement of the race of beings on said planet as well as natural resource stripping as its (the planets) destruction. So in essence, the ship AI has split into several different personalities, and is playing a deadly game with Samus. The Alien inhabitants of the ship are also in a state of suspended animation because as the ship travels through the parallel dimension, the alien inhabitants are being created and refined for warfare until the ship arrives at its destination and assaults the planet…. However, the robotic and automated entities are not, these will be the primary enemies that Samus must deal with. In addition, Samus must also deal with the ships cunning AI, who will all the while be taunting her and trying to trick her at every opportunity.”

“The Main reason Samus and possibly other Bounty Hunters are being pulled into this ship is to assimilate their best and most deadly abilities into the personality construct of not only the ships AI, but also into the actual Alien Inhabitants in order to further their quest for perfection. As the ship reaches its target, it will unfold into this dimension and begin its attack. This has what the ship and Alien race who created it has have been doing for past thousand or so years, going from planet to planet, assimilating the most violent parts of a culture and asserting it into its own being.

The main goal for Samus is to disable the engines of the ship, destroy the AI, and eradicate all life forms on the ship. The catch is that even though Samus is all powerful from her previous item acquisition on Talon IV, she will be limited to use them in certain areas of the ship due to the containment matrix that the Rogue AI has set up all over the ship. This will force the player to handle situations differently than expected, and once the containment matrix is disabled, Samus will be free to use all of her abilities. Due to being in a parallel dimension, there are areas within the ship where floors may become ceiling due to gravity being reversed, Time may run backwards, (illustrated by creatures and machines moving in reverse, water moving up into a faucet) and other sorts of environmental weirdness, that Samus as well as other Bounty hunters will have to learn to adjust to in order to survive.”

“Mad AI, the central computer of the ship has gone crazy, it sees inviting Samus onto the ship as a game for its amusement. Will taunt and try to trip Samus up at every move. The Mad AI has four distinct personalities…: The Child, The Killer, the Martyr, and the Fool… each one is deadly and utilizes different tactics and techniques.”

This cancelled project was meant to have a short development time, to release it shortly after the first Metroid Prime while the main team would take their time to develop the true sequel:

“So this is pretty much what I think we could crank out in a year, A Smaller Adventure with expanded mechanics and a few new ones thrown in. The beauty of spaceship design is that a lot of corridors and hub rooms can be reused over and over again, with minor variation; it also lends itself well to our room/door/hall layout. Plus, we can make the world denser by exploiting the super structure of the ship using morphball mechanics. Even though the idea of an AI gone mad has been used before in games as well as films, I feel that we could put a unique twist on it. And by allowing Samus to use only certain abilities in certain parts of the game, we can get a fair amount of replay value by offering the player different solutions to a single problem. This I feel would satisfy gamers who completed Prime and are hungry for something more with a few new mechanics and ideas thrown in.

With the addition of the co-op multiplayer components I have noted in the previous paragraphs, I feel that we would still have a game that feels like Metroid, albeit the feeling of Isolation would no longer be there, at the expense of the multi-player experience. However, I think the by unlocking the additional multi-player modes, after the actual game is completed, it won’t detract from the experience. Unlike TimeSplitters 1 and 2, we can keep the player focused on the main portion or adventure of the game which is what Metroid is all about.”

Concept art was also found in the design doc and on the websites of other former Retro Studios developers. You can find a deep-dive into the document’s details on Wikitroid.

Images: