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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.

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Baldur’s Gate 3: The Black Hound [Cancelled – PC]

Black Isle Studios, a divison of Interplay, was an RPG power-house in the late 90’s, being responsible for developing Fallout 1 & 2, Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale 1 & 2, as well as publishing BioWare’s Baldur’s Gate games. Sadly, it also became known for its cancelled games, such as Torn, Stonekeep II, Fallout 3 “Van Buren” and, the subject of this article, The Black Hound.

First announced in 2001 and commonly known as Baldur’s Gate III: The Black Hound, the game actually bears no relation to the plot, location or characters of the previous Baldur’s Gate game. It wouldn’t even be developed by BioWare, or use the famous Infinity Engine. In fact, the name “Baldur’s Gate III” was a legal trick, as during its development Interplay lost the Dungeons & Dragons license to Atari but could still develop D&D games under the Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale brands.

Under code names like “FR6” and “Project Jefferson“, The Black Hound began as its own game in late 2000, being developed by a small team as a side project. Full development would only begin in 2002, after Icewind Dale 2 was released. The team was led by Josh Sawyer, a History Major, and while it would still use the AD&D ruleset and be set in Forgotten Realms (like Baldur’s Gate), it would be a more grounded, low-level adventure, with a heavier focus on role-playing.

What is known of the original plot is that you would be set in the Dalelands region of Forgotten Realms. There you would create a new character – not a child of gods or special in any way – that would run into the eponymous black hound being fiercely hunted by a cleric named May Farrow. More than just a mere animal, the hound was a physical manifestation of her guilt for allowing her husband to die and then failing to properly resurrect him. She would kill the dog, but it’s spirit would bound to you, allowing you to see and interact with the guilt of others. The cleric would then begin to hunt you as well, and the game would be centered on your journey to understand what happened to you, interacting with factions like the Archenriders, the Church of Lathander and the Red Wizards of Thay, until eventually confronting May Farrow’s husband – now a powerful abomination which feeds from guilt.

Not much is know about the gameplay, other than it would be based on the previous Infinity Engine games – with multiple party members and real-time-with-pause combat – but updated to the recently released D&D 3rd Edition ruleset. Karma would be a central part of the game, as players would be able to explore the game’s world in a non-linear way, but would face the consequences of their actions, including failed and incomplete quests. To ensure this, a robust reputation system was devised, which would track your relationship with individual factions and locations, as well as your overall fame/infamy.

Thinking the Infinity Engine to be overused and inspired by the Aurora Engine that BioWare had developed for Neverwinter Nights, Black Isle decided to create a new engine as well, code named the Ferguson Engine. This new engine would be built from the ground with the D&D ruleset in mind and would allow for 3D character models, instead of Infinity Engine’s sprites. Unfortunately, the only two games designed with said engine were The Black Hound and the original Fallout 3 (codenamed Van Buren), and both never saw the light of day. Still, a tech demo of Van Buren was leaked in 2007, allowing curious souls to play a bit and imagine how these games would feel.

While there were plans for a full trilogy of games, The Black Hound was cancelled in 2003, reportedly about 80% complete, when Interplay lost the rights to the Baldur’s Gate brand as well and could not release a D&D RPG anymore. Suffering from financial issues, Interplay would close the Black Isle Studios shortly after.

However, that was not the end of The Black Hound. Black Isle Studios` former manager, Feargus Urquhart, gathered a few key developers, such as Josh Sawyer, Chris Avellone, Chris Parker, Darren Monahan and Chris Jones and founded a new studio: Obsidian Entertainment.

Focused on RPGs, Obsidian would then develop titles such as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2, Neverwinter Nights 2, Alpha Protocol, Fallout: New Vegas and Dungeon Siege 3. Neverwinter Nights 2 came with a toolset for creating modules and in 2007 Sawyer began using them to work on a personal project: a The Black Hound module. He posted about the project for a few years, sharing screenshots and discussing his views on mechanics such a damage resistance, feats and classes, but the module was never finished.

Another attempt at resurrecting the game would occur in 2008, when Obsidian pitched Baldur’s Gate III to Atari, holder of the Dungeons & Dragons license at the time. Negotiations went far and designers worked for months on the project, but Atari was suffering financially, didn’t have the money required and the game was abandoned as well. In September 2012 Obsidian would crowdfund a spiritual successor the Infinity Engine games, a 2D isometric RPG titled Pillars of Eternity. The Kickstarter campaign was a success, raising $4,163,208 dollars, and the game was eventually released in March 2015 to critical acclaim.

While Pillars of Eternity isn’t The Black Hound nor uses the D&D ruleset, it has Josh Sawyer as its director and features many similarities, being a party-based RPG with real-time-with-pause combat system and sporting a distinct visual style that combines 2D backgrounds with 3D character models. It also featured a nice Easter Egg to the days of Black Isle Studios, with one of the cities featuring an inn named The Black Hound.

Meanwhile, Trent Oster, a former BioWare employee, founded a company named Beamdog and developed enhanced editions of the Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale games, adding features such as widescreen support and tablet ports. After the success of the re-releases, the company began working on Siege of Dragonspear, an expansion to Baldur’s Gate, and mentioned many times their ambition of one day developing Baldur’s Gate 3.

In 2019 a new version of Baldur’s Gate III was formally revealed both for Microsoft Windows and Google’s Stadia, developed by Larian Studios (Divinity series). We can assume this version of BG3 will not be related in any way to the cancelled ones.

Article by Felipe Pepe, originally published in our book Video Games You Will Never Play.

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Shadowrun: Assassin (FASA Studio) [PC – Cancelled]

Shadowrun: Assassin is a cancelled stealth action RPG set in the popular fantasy sci-fi universe, that was in development for PC by FASA Studio around 1997 – 1998. While today it’s mostly forgotten by fans, Assassin would have been the first 3D PC Shadowrun video game, and the fourth Shadowrun tie-in after the previously released SNES, Genesis / Mega Drive CD projects.

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Some details were published by NEXT Generation magazine (issue 42) in June 1998:

“And yes, Virginia, there will be more Shadowrun titles. Currently scheduled for an early ’98 release is Shadowrun: Assassin, a 3D action/adventure title that is the first of a planned series of Shadowrun games, each of which will detail a different archetype from that universe. Assassin features Solitaire, a high-tech contract killer with a twist. According to producer Vijay Lakshman, “Her job is not to go out and kill business leaders or politicians. Her job is much tougher – she is trained to hunt down and terminate other assassins.”

“Again, as in Mech Commander, the means of accomplishing each mission or assignment is open-ended. The Assassin team is designing each mission from the inside out, placing guards and security systems to genuinely protect the target, not merely to serve as obstacles for a player to overcome. “We’re taking the idea of an action game and moving it more into the area of a kind of sweaty-palmed nervousness,” Lakshman says. “Not like running in and shooting everyone in this room, but in constantly having to watch out how much noise I make — I’m this badass assassin. I’m supposed to get in as a ghost and get out as a ghost. My mission is only 50% complete once I take the target out — that’s when all the shit really hits because then I still have to get out alive!” The idea of stealth is so integral to the game’s mechanics, the eventual release will even feature a noise meter.”

“All the cybergoodies one could expect from a Shadowrun game will be at Solitaire’s disposal, including cyberware dermal sheaths, shock pulse hands, cyberlimbs, and hand razors. In all, the game will feature 25 weapons, 10 unique to Solitaire, and all pulled right out of the Shadowrun books.  But what makes FASA Interactive a company to watch are the tantalizing hints about what it will be up to in the future. According to Lakshman, “The whole ultimate goal is to have this online, persistent universe where people come in and get contracts from another human player and go on runs against corporations being led by humans. That’s our ultimate goal.”

In 2019 MrTalida shared on Twitter a previously unseen Shadowrun: Assassin’s Fact Sheet and a PowerPoint presentation which was used by FASA to pitch their project to potential publishers like EA and Hasbro. In this document we can find even more details about FASA’s ideas for their unreleased game:

“In Shadowrun: Assassin you are a covert specialist trained to eliminate targets sanctioned for termination. You will accept a contract, analyze strategic data, and then exercise your contract. You will become known as a deadly operative able to accomplish missions others consider impossible.  You will compete in a world of lethal assassins, one-shot one-kill scenarios, and no second chances…”

“High Concept: 007 meets Blade Runner, Action/RPG based on the top-selling Shadowrun franchise”

“You are an assassin, with access to over 20 hi-tech weapons and 15 deadly spells. You will be tested by over 40 different enemies, from huge Troll warriors to elite corporate mercenaries. You will journey through 30 missions spanning 10 unique environments that test your skill and courage. You will hunt down and terminate 25 targets of opportunity. Failure is not an option.”

  • Producer: Vijay Lakshman (The Elder Scrolls: Arena)
  • Technical Director: Eric Huffman (Age of Empires, BattleTech LBE series)
  • Art Director: Brennan Priest (Wing Commander IV, Privateer, Septerra Core)

In the end Shadowrun: Assassin was canceled when Microsoft purchased FASA Studio in late 1998 / early 1999 and moved them from Chicago to Seattle, to focus their resources on MechWarrior. Many years later FASA Studio worked again on a different Shadowrun multiplayer FPS (using the Halo engine) for the original Xbox and on Shadowrun Awakening RPG for Xbox 360, both cancelled. They had to wait 2007 to finally release a Shadowrun team-based FPS for PC and Xbox 360, just before closing down forever.

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Cloak: the Naked Mind (Sierra) [Cancelled – PC]

Cloak: The Naked Mind is a cancelled adventure game that was in development by Sierra Entertainment around 19961997, to be published on Windows 95 PC. It was conceived as an ambitious (for its time) spy-fiction, sci-fi adventure, mixing thriller investigations with space-mind-travels.

You would have been able to project your consciousness into a robot on an alien planet to resolve many different situations at the same time, using its multitasking skills. Some more information can be found in old gaming magazines, such as Interaction Magazine (holiday 1996 and fall 1996 issues):

“Imagine an alien race with telepathic  powers so strong that none of your secrets can remain hidden  from their probing. You’ll find them in Cloak: The Naked Mind, a new  kind of adventure game coming from Sierra in early 1997.”

“With Cloak, Sierra has  taken its trademarked adventure game interface  and revamped it from the ground up. Everything you see and do is completely new, seamless, and  phenomenally lifelike. The point of view is first-person — through your character’s eyes — with breathtaking,  animated sequences and cutaways. Game play and puz- zles are integrated into a seamless experience. And the story reaches beyond adven-  ture into the realms of science fiction and spy thriller.”

“In Cloak, you take the role     of a secret agent on the planet Altopia.  You’ve been strapped into a telepres- ence pod — a kind of virtual reality  environment — and linked to a highly developed, bipedal robot code- named Cloak.   After you’ve bonding to the Cloak, the robot is transported to a trading world where humans and the mysteri-  ous, alien Bulbs interact to trade human-manufactured robots for Bulb technology. There, you must find a way to the Bulb’s forbidden home planet,  where no flesh-and-blood aliens are allowed. Your mission is to delve into their mysterious way of life and discov- er if they are building a secret weapon  to use against humankind.”

“The Bulbs can read any biological  mind. Fortunately, they cannot read your mental signature inside the Cloak     robot. Because you will stay bonded to the Cloak until your mission is complete,  you are safe as long as you stay undis- covered. Remember that if the robot is destroyed, there will be no way to  retrieve your consciousness. You will be — in every sense of the word — dead.”

“The Cloak robot you occupy is an  extraordinary device that not only conceals your consciousness, but  contains tools that give you super- human abilities. Bipedal and roughly humanoid,  this type of robot is highly valued by the Bulbs both for its versatility and for command over  other robots. Operating its many sensors and attached devices allows you to do several things at once,  such as monitoring a security camera you planted in an abandoned ore mine, while using your command influence  to interrogate a robot bartender.”

“Cloak pioneers  new game technolo-  gy that takes advantage of the  Windows 95 multi- threading technique Multi-threading is a clever 32-bit way to make a computer do many dif-  ferent things at once, so you can play one aspect of the title while another loads. There is no waiting on game play.  (Utah sports an exciting new triple- window interface that lets you engage in three distinct activities at once. You can, for instance, spy through a  camera you’ve planted while explor- ing the abandoned mines of Baccos and consulting a map.”

Gameplay could have been quite interesting with these multitasking puzzles, and by reading previews it sounds like Sierra had at least a playable prototype in their hands. We hope one day someone could find a copy and share it online to be preserved by fans.

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Seeker (Headstrong Games) [Cancelled – PC, PS4, Xbox One]

Seeker is a cancelled top-down action RPG somehow similar to a sci-fi Diablo, that was in development in 2014 – 2015 for PC and unannounced consoles (possibly PS4 and Xbox One) by Headstrong Games. The project was officially announced in February 2015 on their blog, but the game soon vanished with no explanations.

“We’re very proud to announce our new game, Seeker. It’s an action RPG set in space with lots of tech, aliens, plasma weapons and, of course, loot! It’s been a manic few weeks getting it ready to show at GDC but we’re finally there and it feels good to be heading out to the show with something we really believe in. There’s a video and some screen shots here to give you an idea of the game-play and setting. We’ll be updating the blog regularly with more info as the development progresses.

Choose the Class that suits your style. Customise your character, Drone and Starship as you progress. Each mission draws you further into unknown star systems. Fight your way through crystal caverns, alien hives, ruined starships and robotic planets. Every destination is an opportunity to salvage alien artefacts, precious minerals and weaponry. Swept up in an epic saga, you will be called upon to occupy a pivotal role in the fate of the galaxy.”

Headstrong were mostly known for their Art Academy series and Battalion Wars series published by Nintendo, but around 2017 Kuju Entertainment (their parent company) dissolved the team to incorporate their employees directly into Kuju.

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