The original Metal Arms: Glitch in the System was a third-person shooter developed by Swingin’ Ape Studios and published by Vivendi Universal and Sierra Entertainment in late 2003, for Playstation 2, Xbox and GameCube. While the game did not sold a lot, it soon became a cult classic and many loved its fun gameplay in the story mode and multiplayer. The game story ended with a cliffhanger and the team did start on Metal Arms 2 soon after the first game, but unfortunately the project was stopped when they were signed to work on Starcraft Ghost for Blizzard Entertainment. StarCraft: Ghost was initially in development by Nihilistic Software, but in June 2004 they were removed from the project and Blizzard gave it to Swingin’ Ape Studios to continue.
Swingin’ Ape were just a small team and to assure quality work on such an important and hyped game as StarCraft: Ghost they had to use all of their resources and were not able to continue their Metal Arms sequel. Only a few concept art and early ideas for Metal Arms 2 were conceived before the cancellation of the game. One of the developers remember a few details on the characters that you can see in the gallery below:
Goliath: The next-generation Titan, designed for crushing/smashing Droids like ants.
Pinto (pictured here after one has been captured and repurposed by Droids): A light, fast hit-and-run buggy that can carry 4 grunts (1 driver, 1 gunner, 2 clinging desperately to the sides).
Commando: An elite Mil shock trooper, similar in abilities to the Droid Commando but more heavily armored.
Corrosive Suit: Krunk was going to turn the wrecked shell of General Corrosive into a mech suit that Glitch could jump into and use like a vehicle.”
ATAB: I don’t remember what it stands for, but it’s an armored Droid troop carrier. Troops can ride on top, and the shields on the legs allow them to use it for advancing cover in combat.
Droid Explorer: An old, battered robot that’s been off exploring Iron Star for years. For so long, in fact, that he completely missed that whole Mil/Droid war thing.
Droid Engineer: Mister Fixit, able to build/repair just about anything.
Droid Trooper: The first Droids actually designed for combat, rather than re-purposed from some other job. Fairly effective grunts.
Droid Commando: Elite combat troops (or at least as “elite” as Droids get). Faster, stronger, smarter, and more heavily armed than the Troopers.
While work on StarCraft: Ghost proceeded, in May 2005 Blizzard Entertainment decided to acquire Swingin’ Ape and they became part of the popular company. After a while StarCraft: Ghost was also put on indefinite hold and never completed.
Silent Hill: Cold Heart was a pitch for a new Silent Hill game that eventually became Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. This pitch came to light when the developers Climax Studios held a competition to give away eight copies of the document to fans, who since have uploaded it to the Internet so that other fans can enjoy it. Cold Heart was planned in 2007 by Climax for the Wii and would have been published by Konami.
Cold Heart would have followed Jessica Chambers an athletic but emotionally vulnerable college student. The protagonist would have recently being talking to a psychiatrist after being plagued by horrific nightmares and being unable to sleep. These distressing circumstances lead to Jessica leaving her college town and going on a road trip to go back to visit her parents, on the way back Jessica becomes caught in a blizzard and so follows an ambulance that leads her to the town of Silent Hill. This is where the game would begin with Jessica stranded and needing somewhere to stay the evening: she explores the town, but now her nightmares start to become real.
The game would contain the usual elements of a Silent Hill game but would use features of the Wii such as the Wiimote to control where the player shines the flashlight. The Wiimote was to be used for a large number of controls in the game, in combat the player would swing the remote to enact the actions on the screen, it is also noted that the sound of hitting an enemy would play through the speaker on the remote. The remote would also be used for when puzzles needed to be solved, using push, pull and turning motions. Also for puzzles certain audio cues would be played through the remote that would hint on how to solve them. The remote was also going to be used for interactions with other characters, allowing you to point, nod or shake your head.
The “world’s first real psychological horror” is how Silent Hill: Cold Heart is described in the pitch, this is because of the ways in which the game would tailor itself to the individual, creating unique experiences for different players. These experiences that would change would be story events, dialogue, sound cues, monsters and even camera field of view. Profiling was one of the ways this would be done when certain questions were asked by Jessica’s psychiatrist, the players answer would be logged, also your response to events would also be tracked, thus building up a psychological profile for the player. Climax also wanted each player’s psych profile to be shared and compared to friends over Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.
Climax also wanted to change the way that the player can use their inventory, rather than being able to collect many items, it would be restricted to what could only be worn or stored on the body of Jessica, or in a small backpack the player could use. This was because Climax wanted to have survival type elements to the game, with the player having to find new clothes to protect themselves from the blizzard that would rage through Silent Hill. The player would also have to eat food and drink water to maintain their health. These items would not just maintain the health of the player though, it would also maintain their body heat and stamina.
There are a few puzzle examples also noted in the pitch document, such as the metal detector, the player would have to slowly move the Wiimote and use the audio cues of beeps from the remote to find hidden objects in the snow. “Sewer Fishing” is also another puzzle noted, this is where the player would have to try and collect a key while using rumble and audio cues to fish it out.
The main technical features that are mentioned in the document are that the game would have dynamic weather, mentioned are updated fog effects from Silent Hill: Origins, these would allow the fog to react to the different shapes of the environment. The variables of the weather would also change so that the player would have different intensity of the blizzard.
Climax also wanted the game to be seamless, to do this they were going to “stream” content ahead of the player by anticipating where the player would guide Jessica, this would mean that there would be little to no loading times in the game. They also wanted to push photo-realistic graphics on the Wii and were confident that they could “redefine” what people could expect from real-time graphics on the WII.
One other feature that was mentioned, pending talks with Nintendo, was the integration of players Mii, their local weather and news. Climax wanted to be able to quote this in the game so that it would “spook” the player. With the Mii integration they wanted to use certain aspects of the user created Mii such as hair colour and project them on to the main characters in the game.
Ultimately, Cold Heart was never realized but a few details were used in Silent Hills: Shattered Memories as the cold and harsh environment, the use of a psychological profile to change some situations and parts of the plot. This pitch is however a really interesting look into how a different version of one of the top rated survival horror games could have looked like. Shattered memories was released for Wii in 2008 which was essentially a reimagining of the very first Silent Hill game, and it reviewed fairly well, it does however leave questions of how well a different story and character would have done.
If you have any more information on this game or any questions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.
Switchblade 2 is side-scrolling action title originally developed by Core Design and published by Gremlin Interactive for Amiga in 1991. A Famicom / NES port of the game, created by Kemco, was slated for release in november 1992. The player controlled a soldier, nicknamed “Switchblade”, who had to save planet F-S5 from an alien invasion. As in similar action titles, he was able to double jump, use blades, guns, and collect power-ups for the latter. More weapons and upgrades could also be bought in the store.
It’s unknown why Kemco never released their version of Switchblade 2 or if it had any major difference compared to the original Amiga version, graphics aside.
Game Zero (later known as Project Z3796WP) is a cancelled sandbox action platformer that Zoonami has been developing from 2000 to 2002 as an exclusive game for Nintendo’s Gamecube. The project became popular in 2000 as one of the early games announced for the – at the time – new Nintendo console, when former Rare employee Martin Hollis opened his own software house. Unfortunately Game Zero was never shown to the media and it was quietly canned after about 3 years of development.
Martin started working at Rare in 1993 when he was hired to work as a programmer on Killer Instinct. After KI was completed he found out that Nintendo was about to acquire the license to develop a game based on the new James Bond movie – at the time still without an official name. It seems that Rare’s founders Tim and Chris Stamper were initially not sure about working on a James Bond tie-in, but Martin successfully offered himself to direct the project. In 1997 Goldeneye 007 was released for Nintendo 64, becoming one of the most popular titles ever produced for the console.
A game more different than the others
After Goldeneye, the same team started working on Perfect Dark, but in 1998 Martin left Rare with the project still unfinished. He wanted to explore the world and to work on something more exciting and original than a sequel. As we can read from an interview with Gamasutra in 2007:
Gamasutra: Why didn’t you do another Bond game?
Martin Hollis: We were offered the sequel. The rest of the team were keen, and in one respect, out of all of them, I was the one most likely to say, ‘Yes’ because I loved Bond. But I was able to say, ‘No’ in a second. A lot of the high level decisions on Perfect Dark were made to try and be different to GoldenEye but still reuse some expertise and engine. Really though, I needed to work on a game more different than Perfect Dark for it to be interesting.
After leaving Rare, initially Martin traveled to South East Asia for half a year and then went to America to collaborate with Nintendo Technology Division. They were busy working on the new “Project Dolphin” 128 bit console, only later renamed as GameCube. As he still wanted to work on innovative games, in 1999 Martin went back to Cambridge, United Kingdom, to set up an experimental indie studio, named Zoonami Ltd. The original Zoonami team was composed just of a few people: Martin Hollis, David Jones, Edward Sludden, Gareth Rees, Paul Hankin and Richard Tucker. Zoonami soon created their first concept, an interesting and mysterious game that was internally nicknamed as “Game Zero”.
An exclusive game for Gamecube
Thanks to Martin’s good relationship with Nintendo, Zoonami signed a collaboration with them to develop this concept into an original GameCube exclusive title. As soon as gaming websites and magazines found out about the deal, rumors started to circulate about a possible new GameCube first person shooter, authored by the lead director of Goldeneye and Perfect Dark. That was so far away from the truth.
Probably most journalist did not know the main reason why Martin decided to left Rare in 1998, or they would have easily debunked such rumors. Zoonami wanted to create something original, not just duplicate Goldeneye. To give their fans some hints about what they were really working on, the team published a curious “censored pitch letter” on their official website in 2002, with a short description:
“We are currently working on a game, but we’re not at liberty to reveal very much about it yet. You might want to check out some of the unfounded rumours about it. Meanwhile here is the project proposal, from our files”
There are some key concepts that should be noted in this image: esoteric taste, small planet, telescope, device. After this letter, nothing more was announced about Game Zero, no screens or videos were ever released and Zoonami has gone quiet for a few years. Then in 2004 they announced another pitch named “Funkydilla”, an original one-button music game – that unfortunately never found a viable publisher.
In July 2004 they updated their Website posting a placeholder image with a “spy-themed” desk, showing a gun, a pair of glasses, a briefcase and some top-secret documents. This rendering fueled rumors about Game Zero being a new espionage or hitman-themed FPS for GameCube, but both the press and gamers did not know that the project was already been canned since 2 years at that point.
Zoonami disappeared again until 2006, when they finally released their first commercial game, Zendoku, for Nintendo DS and PSP. The studio only released 2 other games before closing down in 2010: Go! Puzzle for PSN and Bonsai Barber for WiiWare, both in 2009.
Game Zero, finally unveiled
What exactly was Game Zero, how would have it been played and why was it cancelled? The main cause for its cancellation was that the concept they were trying to develop was too complex for its time, due to technical and marketing reasons. Game Zero would have been an original sandbox action platformer set in destructable voxel levels: players would have been able to mine rocks and terrains, gaining items and resources to build new structures.
Does it sound a bit like Minecraft? We asked to Martin if Game Zero could have been a sort of ancestor for Notch’s popular sandbox game:
“Ancestor isn’t quite the right word. After all I believe nobody connected to Zach of Zachtronics (Infiniminer) and to Notch of Mojang saw any part of GameZero. There’s a connection. Minecraft has created its precursors.”
In early october 2015 Martin even discussed about the similarities between Game Zero and Minecraft at the “[Select/Start] PLAY” event at Viborg, Denmark, during his talk titled “How to Succeed at Designing GoldenEye. How to Fail at Designing Minecraft“. Unfortunately the destruction and building of voxels in Game Zero were too RAM-intensive to be suitable for consoles or PCs hardwares at the time. Zoonami did not want to continue working on something that was not keeping pace with their plans. The console gaming market was also one of their concerns as the most popular GameCube titles in 2002 were examples of traditional gameplay experiences (Resident Evil, Eternal Darkness, Super Mario Sunshine, Metroid Prime and Star Fox Adventures) in contrast with the sandbox, open-ended gameplay design planned for Game Zero. In 3 years Zoonami did many experiments and created a playable prototype, but in the end they decided to cancel its development: it was not the right game and not the right market.
“At the time we stopped the project, we had developed a handful of levels with something of a platformer feel. The avatar and vehicles had antigravity movement mainly constrained to the ground, and the player discovered their goals were to navigate, to rescue a few characters from the level, and to collect items partly from the rock. The levels were fairly tightly circumscribed in space, much more like Mario 64 than an open world game.”
As it happened with Perfect Dark, Game Zero’s protagonist would have been a female character. But this time the game was set in a fantasy alien planet inhabited by strange yellow creatures. Players would have been able to explore different areas of the planet using vehicles and laser guns, in a cartoony graphic style created with simple voxel geometries. As they wrote in Zoonami’s original company profile:
“We know that the key element of a video game is fun. The most important thing for a game is not the number of features or objects or weapons or levels, or the special effects, not story, not sound, not graphics, not even characterization. All these are important and crucial to success, but subordinate to fun. We think it is important to provide new experiences for the player. Old games don’t get played much, not because they are bad games, but because they are old. To fulfil the player’s desire for variety we strive for creativity and originality.”
Unfortunately players never had a chance to have fun with Game Zero on GameCube and the project was later forgotten with the release of the new Wii console. When asked if it wasn’t “a bit depressing only to have released one game in seven years” in that same Gamasutra interview from 2007, Martin replied:
“If some of your projects don’t fail, that’s evidence you’re not taking chances. We are taking chances and a lot of our projects end up being cancelled or put on the shelf. I make the decision in most cases. Not every daring idea can be bought to fruition. […] This sort of thing happens in movies and TV all the time, although they don’t call it research. For every movie that comes out, there are hundreds of scripts. There’s a lot of work goes on behind the scenes that no one ever hears about.”
Although Game Zero was never released, we are happy we had the chance to hear a bit more about this interesting lost project and we could take a look at a few images of the unfinished prototype. Today Martin Hollis is still working on experimental concepts, as in 2013 when he designed an interactive project called “Aim for Love“, available to be played during GameCity festival of that year. Using cameras and big screens set in Nottingham’s Market Square, people from the crowd could play by “aiming” at other people and interacting with each other, in a strange mix between an alternative reality game and a social experiment.
Thanks a lot to Martin Hollis for his help to preserve more info and images from this lost project in the Unseen64 archive.
Zenith (also known as Climber in its early days) is a cancelled action / racing game hybrid planned for Nintendo 64 that was in development by DMA Design, the studio that created such popular games as Lemmings and the first Grand Theft Auto, other than cult titles as Space Station Silicon Valley and Body Harvest. Before working on the new 64 bit console, DMA already had a successful collaboration with Nintendo on the SNES with Uniracers, an original racing game in which players use unicycles to compete in high-speed tracks while doings tricks to gain more acceleration. In 1995 DMA pitched a new ambitious sandbox project to Nintendo for the yet-to-be-released Ultra 64: Body Harvest. Nintendo were quite interested in such an interesting concept, so they worked together with DMA for 2 years, before to split up because of delays and different views on how the game should have been played.
While Body Harvest was heavily publicized by Nintendo as one of the first games for their new console, another mysterious project was also in development at DMA for the Ultra 64, with a work-in-progress title of “Climber”. Climber was never shown to the public in any form but it quietly popped up in some early N64 release list, also to be published by Nintendo like Body Harvest. Without any more info about the project, some magazines even speculated that the game would have been a N64 version of Ice Climber, sometimes referring to it as “Ice Climber 64”.
Only many years later we found out that Climber was not related to Nintendo’s Ice Climber and DMA even changed the name of the project to Zenith after a while. The Zenith team was composed by a few young members of DMA Design: Andrew Eades, Andrew West, Richard Ralfe, Frank Arnot, Gary Thompson, Doug Smith, Paul Reeves, David “Oz” Osborne and John Gurney.
As it happened with Uniracers, Zenith was going to have an original twist to the racing genre, in which players were able to choose among a good number of characters to combat and run to the top of various towers with different themes (for example medieval and wild-west levels), avoiding obstacles and fighting against other competitors. There was a wide variety of available characters in the early prototype of Zenith, such as humans, strange creatures and aliens. Characters were able to walk, run, jump, climb, hang and swing through the different hazards of the levels and had different combat moves, a few simple punch and kick moves plus a unique special attack.
We had a really innovative split screen effect that showed the leading player on top but as the follower caught up the split would start to rotate until it was vertical as they were side by side. The effect of an overtake was really awesome as the split would turn upside down as the bottom player became the top player. It’s hard to describe in words. I left DMA to go to work for Virgin Interactive but I think you can see the ideas of Climber in the agency towers of Crackdown. – Andrew Eades, Climber Lead Programmer
In this old photo of Richard Ralfe (Body Harvest level and game designer) taken at the DMA offices during the development of Body Harvest and Zenith, we can see on the wall what could be a group image of some of the characters from the game.
This seems confirmed thanks to an hidden Easter egg: on the walls of one of the ancient buildings in the Java level on Body Harvest there is a texture that show characters from Zenith, hidden in there by a former Zenith dev. Thanks to JaytheHam who found this texture, we can notice how the characters from the poster in the photo are quite similar to the ones on the texture:
From the few info available we can speculate that Zenith would have been a more complex and “mature” version of Iggy’s Reckin’ Balls (a rather obscure racing / action game with tower-based levels developed by Iguana Entertainment and released for N64 in 1998), mixed with a little of Super Smash Bros.
Zenith was basically a vertical obstacle course racing game – first to the top wins. [below] is the original concept image for the Zenith project. Drawn by David “Oz” Osborne – Head of Art at DMA… this is currently on the wall of his office. – Frank Arnot
Unfortunately because of the many problems and delays with the development of Body Harvest, DMA Design decided to cancel development on Zenith and to move that team to help finishing their most important project for Nintendo. As we can read in an old article published on Edge Magazine issue 121:
On its return home, DMA noticed a distinct pattern emerging – more bad news. Body Harvest was being developed alongside another game called Zenith – an original mix of platform and racing action. Zenith was to be canned and several people were given the unpleasantly singular option of joining the Body Harvest project. It was a difficult situation and White found himself “trying to motivate people who didn’t want to be motivated.” When tensions reached breaking point, about ten people decided to leave en masse. White describes the episode as “a lot of fun,” in the same way that crashing your car is a lot of fun. It is easy to imagine that Body Harvest may never have reached completion without White’s intrinsic skills of diplomacy.
We tried to get in contact with people from the original Zenith team and they were able to share a few more memories about this lost game with us, but unfortunately they were not able to find any screenshots left from the project. If you worked on this game and still have images left from the project, please let us know!