Reverence is a cancelled FPS that was in development around 1996 by TSI (Three Space Imagery), planned to be published on PC by Cyberdreams. The game looked like a mix between Duke Nukem, Hexen and Exhumed (PowerSlave), with a strange blend of tibetan – gothic – egyptian – norse mythology settings. Luckily a playable alpha of the game was preserved in 2015:
“You have been chosen by the gods themselves to determine the future of the human race. According to them, humans are weak and pathetic and don’t deserve to exist anymore. You need to pick up a bunch of guns and energize yourself with a wide array of spells and defeat them one by one.
The leaked alpha version can be considered almost a full game. It appears to have all levels with most of the graphics, music and sounds. The game is divided into four big realms, each with its own theme. Realm of Osiris, an Egyptian god of underworld full of lava lakes and fire demons; Kokyangwuti, Hopi goddess of life, desert-like world; Frejya, Norse goddess of love whose realm lies under the vast waters and last but not least, Manjursi, Tibetan god of wisdom, who has a vast dominion in mountains.”
TSI was founded by Alberto Menache in the early ’90s, creating innovative motion capture software for games and computer graphics. Their collaboration with Cyberdreams covered at least two games, one of which was the released Noir: a Shadowy Thriller, but then the publisher had to cancel most of their projects. As we can read on Mobygames:
“In 1995 an “internal shake-up” had taken place at Cyberdreams: the investors removed management and installed a “turnaround management team,” that would make a transition to 3rd party publishing. It wouldn’t help. Cyberdreams only managed to publish one more title, Noir: A Shadowy Thriller (1996). In the meantime a lot of projects (almost all action games) were announced / taken into development: Species, Reverence, The Incredible Shrinking Character, Blue Heat, Ares Rising, and Wes Craven’s Principles of Fear. Sometimes they had been in production for years.”
Reverence was canned and TSI moved to other projects such as TV commercials.
Prince of Persia: Redemption is a cancelled reboot of the classic series, that was internally pitched at Ubisoft Montreal (FoxTeam) around 2010 – 2011, just after the release of The Forgotten Sands. The project was mostly unknown until May 2020, when fans finally noticed a video uploaded on Youtube in 2012 by an anonymous user. By looking at this footage, the game looked like a mix between 3D Prince of Persia, God of War, Uncharted and Assassin’s Creed: a cinematic adventure game with huge monsters and time-rewind mechanics.
“Wow – haven’t seen this in ages. Amazing work from animation director Khai Nguyen (For Honor) and team. This target game footage (pre-rendered game pitch) inspired our own pitch for Assassin’s Creed 3 as they did such a great job making it look like real gameplay.
Sadly Ubisoft are generally quicker to cancel Prince of Persia games than others IPs because AFAIK original creator Jordan Mechner still holds license rights so the profit margins are lower. Would love to see a new one though. I’ve always wanted a PoP set in contemporary Iran.”
We can assume The Forgotten Sands did not sell enough for Ubisoft to invest more resources on another title, preferring to focus on the more profitable Assassin’s Creed series.
Splinter is a cancelled Six-Degrees-Of-Freedom shooter that was in development around 1998 – 2000 by Stromlo Entertainment, planned to be published on PC by Electronic Arts. While the game is basically forgotten today, it was quite hyped at the time by gaming websites and magazines, with journalists seeing it as the next Descent mixed with Half Life, offering complex story and interesting game mechanics.
“When we highlighted this aspect of the game as well as the combination of organic enemies (e.g. wasps) and manmade adversaries (e.g. flying drones) and compared it with similar elements found in Half-Life, Greg Paltra was quick to add his thoughts: “Half-Life was a really great game. We were already well into development when it came out and we had our first look at it. We could really appreciate what it had to offer. Anyone who played Quake or something and then played Half-Life would realize the difference in the world they had created. I think we have tried to do the same sort of thing with Descent or Forsaken — we’ve got their basic game mechanic, but we’ve added the whole richness of the world and a believable story and a sense of character to really bring that genre to life. I think Half-Life really set the standard for what a game should be for the next generation of software that is out there.”
Players would take the role of a US military trying to retrieve a secret weapon called MERC, a sci-fi craft which can miniaturize itself to go undetected in restricted areas. It seems you would also find yourself miniaturized, exploring such places as ants-nests and shooting down huge insects. As we can read on IGN:
“Splinter is set in present day Blount Island, Mississippi at a secret government laboratory that is home to The Roanoke Project. It is a highly classified attempt by military scientists to perfect the science of nanotechnology and miniaturization. Research has led to the development of molecular robotics, self replicating manufacturing systems and the crowning glory, the Micro Emergency Response Craft now known simply as The MERC. It is a craft with the most advanced weapon systems ever produced and it can be miniaturized to the size of a quarter. Its ability to penetrate the most secure facilities ever devised has made it the most valued piece of military hardware on the planet. One little problem has come up though… it’s missing. “
“The cinematic background and relationships of Stromlo are very obvious in the character driven storyline but perhaps is most visible through the cinematic cutscenes that appear throughout the game. The movie scenes are done completely in CGI by visual effects house Animal Logic. The Sydney based company has worked in television and film with credits including The Thin Red Line and The Matrix.”
“Across the five levels, there are between 5 and 10 sections within each mission. The environments vary a lot, from very organic environments like the ant’s nest to man made environments like munitions factories. The diversity in the architecture, lighting and even the gameplay changes across each mission and within each mission. It’s something that people have responded to very strongly. We’ve got very favourable reports especially compared to something like Descent and some of the other games that are out there where its all been seen and it’s all been done and I think what we’ve got is very new and it’s very diverse within its own content.”
“The range of weapons gains some flexibility with secondary fire for all of your armaments. You start with a basic mini-gun that has a secondary fire like a shotgun all barrels fire together. The strategy of laying a stream of fire into an approach ant followed up by a close-up all barrel blast seems like fun. Other weapons include a heavy cannon, rocket launcher, grenade launcher and flamethrower. The secondary fire of the flamethrower (a big fire ball) and the rockets were probably our favourites in terms of visuals and ant killing mayhem. “
“There will be no floating weapons, or powerups in the game at all. Resources will be collected from organic and man made sources using the ‘Resource bot’. Organic sources such as fungi or dead insects can be converted into fuel for the flamethrower. Man made enemies may have ammunition you can use as well. Your prototype MERC is also fully equipped with all the weapons you will need in the game ¿ however the weapon system has been code locked by Trilling. You will need to link with other crafts you down to upload the codes to unlock your weapons. “
The team was also working on another game for EA, titled “Hydra”, which was also canned in early development:
“We were very lucky that Tony had an existing relationship with EA and we were fortunate at the time that EA Australia were looking to do some work with Australian developers so we had an introduction which led to a co-publishing deal for our first two projects. Stromlo’s second title Hydra will be based on a completely new engine and it will also have a strong focus on characters. It will be a different sort of game. We’ve done quite a bit of work on the new engine and some preliminary work on the concepts and characters but we’re really not ready to talk about it — you’ve really got to get your first one out there and keep your focus on that!”
Unfortunately EA killed the team when pulled the plug on Splinter, as we can read on PC Powerplay magazine (issue 054, 2000)”
“Melbourne-based developer, Stromlo Entertainment, has closed its doors following EA’s withdrawal of financial backing for the Descent-esgue shooter, Splinter. EA allegedly felt that Splinter too closely resembled Forsaken, which sold poorly worldwide. Despite the fact that Splinter was nearing completion, EA pulled the plug, forcing the company to undergo liquidation. Several former Stromlo employees have now moved on to other local companies including Auran and Blue Tongue.”
We don’t know how much of the game was completed before the cancellation, but we can hope someone could find a playable proto in the future as it looked like it could have been a cult-classic if only released.
Dungeon Hero is a cancelled hack & slash / dungeon simulator that was in development around 2006 – 2008 by Firefly Studios, the team mostly known for their Stronghold series. The game would have been published by Gamecock Media on PC and Xbox 360, but in October 2008 the publisher was bought by SouthPeak Games and the new managers abandoned the project.
“Their latest project is called Dungeon Hero and features as the main character a human mercenary with some combat experience and little left in the way of a moral compass. To make matters even worse, said mercenary is now employed by a pack of goblins, those little charming creatures everyone remembers from any old generic role playing game with a fantasy setting. These goblins are rather upset with another goblin tribe and the mercenary player is there to get the job of leveling goblin cities done.”
It seems Dungeon Hero would have had an comical approach to the genre, with funny situations, unexpected moments and a pinch of goblin-life simulator. As described by Wired and Destructoid (E3 2008):
“Firefly Studios’ upcoming Dungeon Hero, for the PC and the 360, will be different from other dungeon crawlers because, they say, it’s the “first dungeon-based game to realistically depict underground life.” Players will prowl through a remarkably realistic subterranean community, complete with goblin cheese merchants and troll miners.”
“Firefly Studio’s Simon Bradbury wants you to know that like all of us, goblins sometimes have to take a leak. – We wanted to create a world where the enemies wouldn’t just stand around. Why is there a chest of gold there, and why is this goblin waiting for you to kill him? It doesn’t make any sense.” This is the peculiar premise behind Dungeon Hero – a believable world, where believable goblins and trolls do believable goblin and troll-like things. The game shuns the hack-and-slash genre’s clichéd dungeons populated by groups of enemies who live for nothing more than to get slaughtered at the end of a hero’s blade. In Dungeon Hero, everything has a purpose; it’s a game set in a completely fictional world that attempts to be grounded in reality.”
“The area we see at first appears to be a goblin hospital, with wounded goblins lying on cots, and others crying out in pain. Goblin doctors stitch up wounded goblin soldiers and goblin citizens. One goblin looks like he’s preparing for surgery as he readies a crude looking drill. Deeper in the trenches, we see more goblins engaging in other, more leisurely activities; one is sitting relaxing on a bench and playing a guitar.”
“As the boat moved through the canals of the city’s underground, goblins on either side went about their daily business. Firefly are trying to convince gamers that goblins (in a sense) are people, too; they’re not simply waiting in dungeons to be hacked and slashed to pieces. Based on what I saw, I’m sold — some were doing laundry, others were dumping buckets of water from the top floor of their goblin homes.”
“In the demo, we only saw what looked like a handful of moves (mostly different types of slashes), but we were told that there are over 300 different types of upgradeable moves. The skill chart we were shown looked like a map of the human nervous system; it was ridiculous enormous, with dozens of paths breaking off from dozens of paths.”
“Seven years and seven games later Firefly, having felt the effects of the 2008 credit crunch which caused funding to disappear for their ambitious hack-and-slash RPG Dungeon Hero, decided a change was needed. Working with a skeleton team of four the developer quickly prototyped, iterated and released a closed Alpha for Stronghold Kingdoms, Firefly’s first foray into free-to-play, without a publisher. Over the course of the next two years the Kingdoms player base grew from tens to hundreds of thousands. The game entered open beta in 2010 and launched on Steam in early 2012. It would remain in the Top 10 Most Popular free-to-play games on Steam for two years”
Inevitable Evolution was the name of a GeForce3 Tech Demo created by Inevitable Entertainment (AKA Midway Studios Austin) in 2001, to pitch their skills to publishers. At the time it was quite impressive, with detailed 3D models and light effects, and by today’s standard it still has that “early ‘00s 3D aesthetic” look that somehow makes it fascinating for us.
As wrote at the time by GeForce:
“Inevitable Evolution showcases the amazing power of the GeForce3, using the nfiniteFX Vertex and Pixel Shaders to achieve some of the most complex real-time character generation seen to date. The Vertex Shader provides skinning with up to 9 matrices per face, more than double the number previously available in hardware. The Vertex Shader also assists geometry and texture decompression. The Pixel Shader helps bring life to the character by providing multiple layers of per-pixel lighting effects, including: base, dot3, anisotropic and specular layers. The GeForce3 offloads all of these tasks from the CPU, leaving it free to run other tasks such as calculations necessary for the real-time self-shadowing seen in the demo.”
As far as we know this was just a tech demo and not a full video game, but we can speculate Inevitable Entertainment could have been pitching it as a possible project to publishers. In the end their first commercial game was “Tribes Aerial Assault” for Playstation 2, released in 2002. Two years later the team was acquired by Midway Games and developed such titles as Area 51 and BlackSite: Area 51, before being closed by their parent company in 2008.
This tech demo was also shown in real-time on the original Xbox at the Tokyo Game Show Spring 2001 (as seen in the second video below):
This is the four-minute Xbox graphics presentation that Microsoft Japan director Naoto Yoshioka presented at the Tokyo Game Show Spring 2001. First the original video from Inevitable Evolution is shown (actually developed for the NV20 hardware from Nvidia), after a short break you can see the smooth implementation on the Xbox graphics engine with effects and detail zooms.
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