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Winterheart’s Guild (Sonata Arctica Video Game) [PC – Cancelled]

Winterheart’s Guild is a cancelled post-apocalyptic action-RPG that was in development by Zelian Games Studio around 2007. The project was mostly known for being a collaborative project between Zelian Games and the power metal band Sonata Arctica, as much as the game’s title was taken from the band’s 2003 album of the same name.

As we can read from their old website:

“Winterheart’s Guild is a post-apocalyptic action-RPG. The setting is a harsh, brutal Earth, after the destruction of civilization at its technological peak. In this world, resources are scarce, and the environment is as dangerous as the enemies that the player must face. The world is mostly covered in snow and ice. It’s not only the health of your character that matters, but also warmth and energy. Valuable items are hard to come by. In this world, you truly feel the value of finding a good weapon and a reasonable stash of ammunition.

The game draws from various genres. The gameplay is action based, with RPG elements that give the game depth. In terms of actual gameplay, we have several corner-stones that come together in the final experience: Combat (action), Travel (exploration), Trade (loot, buy/sell, trade), Conversation (info, receive items, other game state effects) and Character Management. All these things take place in a very physical world – we are using Ageia PhysX (with hardware support) to bring the world physically to life. Don’t have the key to open the wooden door? Just bash it in if you have the right weapon and enough strength.

The band members feature as the main characters in this alternate futuristic world. There is no connection between the in-game characters and the real-world band, other than looks and voice. We are also trying to bring across distinct characteristics for each main character that may or may not match their real-world personalities.

Sonata Arctica is also providing the instrumental music (in-game and other) for Winterheart’s Guild, as well as one or more bonus tracks (full songs). Furthermore, many of the story, character and other elements of the game subtly draw from Sonata Arctica song lyrics, including albums other than Winterheart’s Guild. Sonata Arctica also has some input in terms of gameplay ideas and features.”

In 2008 the game was officially put on-hold due to lack of interest and funding from publishers. Zelian Games tried switching their resources to a Bejewelled clone titled “xOrbic”, which saw a public alpha release but in the end it was also canned and the team vanished.

Thanks to AeonicButterfly and António for the contribution!

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The Dark Half: Endsville [Playstation, PC – Cancelled]

The Dark Half: Endsville (also known as The Dark Half Interactive) is a cancelled survival horror / adventure game based on the homonymous book by Stephen King. It was officially announced in early 1997, in development by Bits Studios and to be published by THQ and Orion Interactive for Playstation and PC. Unfortunately it seems they never released any screenshot from the game, but details about the project can still be found online in various forms.

In April 1997 IGN wrote:

“T-HQ announced today that it has signed an agreement with Orion Interactive to jointly publish The Dark Half, based on the novel by horror writer Stephen King. The game will be developed by the UK’s Bits Studios.

Also involved in the development of the game will be writers Matt Costello and Paul Wilson, who previously worked on PC titles The Seventh Guest and The Keep, respectively.

Revolving around protagonist Thad Beaumont’s struggle with his evil alter ego, The Dark Half is promised to be a 3D, third-person adventure game, “that will accurately reflect the Stephen King novel,” a T-HQ spokesperson said.”

During their E3 1997 report IGN also wrote:

“A new game for the PC and Playstation will be based on the King novel The Dark Half. The game will be based on Stephen King’s novel about a writer who must struggle with his evil alter-ego. It will be a real time, 3D adventure that contains 28 levels in seven different worlds. The Dark Half: Endsville is forecast for a 1998 release.”

GamePen’s E3.NET published another press release for the game:

“Stephen King, master of disturbing prose, is coming to the PlayStation and the PC next year in fiendish style with “The Dark Half.” The game will be based on King’s eerie tale of writer Thad Beaumont’s struggle with his murderous alter-ego, George Stark. The novel will be transformed into code through the use of two different game engines, one for the pre-rendered world of Beaumont, and one for the rendered-on-the-fly nightmare world of killer George Stark.”

We also know that Jeffery Lieber (mostly known for co-writing the Lost series) would have been the game’s producer, thanks to an old blog post by Paul Wilson:

“I was delighted to see “story by Jeffery Lieber” in the opening credits.  Jeff and I go back to the mid-1990s when Matt Costello and I were scripting the “Dark Half Interactive” project for Orion Interactive; Jeff was acting as producer.  He’s not the least bit squeamish but Matt and I managed to gross him out with our “Birthing Woman” interaction (don’t ask). The project was orphaned and became vaporware when MGM bought Orion.”

More memories about working on the game can also be found in Paul Wilson books “Repairman Jack, and More” and “Aftershock & Others: 16 Oddities”.

If you know someone who worked at Bit Studios in 1997 and could still have some images from this lost game, please let us know!

Thanks to eSpy for the contrbution!

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Ground Effect (Angel Studios) [PC – Cancelled]

Ground Effect is a cancelled hovercraft racing game that was in development by Angel Studios (the modern Rockstar San Diego) around 1996 1997, planned to be published by Inscape for PC.

A short preview of the game was published in PC Powerplay magazine (issue 18):

“It’s about bloody time that there was a hovercraft racing sim out there for us to go crazy with. The whole idea of being propelled on a cushion air seems to have universal appeal. Not only that, but it makes a great kind of racing game too. Gone are the traditional and familiar physics of a road based racer, or even a straight water based racer, as the hovercraft is an interesting mode of transportation altogether. The development team spent a lot of time with hovercraft enthusiasts to get the feel of the thing just right. With 3D accelerator support, this is looking good.”

The game silently vanished after Inscape was acquired by Graphix Zone in early 1997. We can speculate Ground Effect was reconsidered by the new company as a niche racing game that would have not sold enough to spend more money on. Other lost games by Angel Studios are titles such as X-Girl, Sofa Kingdom, Shatterman and Buggy Boogie.

After releasing other games such as the Resident Evil 2 port for the N64, the Midtown Madness series, and Smuggler’s Run, Angel Studios was bought by Take-two in 2003 and renamed Rockstar San Diego. They then moved on to work on such popular titles as Red Dead Revolver, Midnight Club and Grand Theft Auto V.

Thanks to Xanarki for the contribution! 

Timeless: Chronicles of Atlantis [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3, PC]

Timeless: Chronicles of Atlantis is a cancelled action adventure that was in development by Dubai-based Vertex Studios around 2009, planned to be released for Xbox 360, PC and Playstation 3. You can imagine it somehow similar to Uncharted (2007): a cinematic action adventure, but set in multiple timelines (from modern day Dubai to a Spanish village in 8 AD.) and with multiple playable characters.

As we can read at Emirates247:

“It is based on time travel where you can control a local character who goes back into time and into the future. There are multiple characters and environments.”

More details can still be found in a 2009 article from Arabianbusiness:

“Timeless: Chronicles of Atlantis. Timeless is set to be a next generation action adventure game in which gamers play a character from Dubai who travels through different settings and different time periods. The game is being made for the PC and next-generation consoles such as the Xbox and Playstation 3 and whilst Chronicles of Atlantis will include multiple playable characters, multiple weapons and multiple enemy types; the game’s settings will also vary from an apartment in modern day Dubai to a Spanish village under Muslim rule in 8 AD.

Timeless could have 8 or 9 levels with around ten hours game-play and three difficulty levels. The game will include multiple approaches to different puzzles; so, one player might progress through a stage by adopting a stealthy approach, while another player might want to fight their way through a stage.

Once Timeless has gone through the whole production process, it will undergo localization and focus group testing, and once it has a publisher, the game will be released worldwide, with Vertex Studios saying that the release date is predicted for some time in 2010.”

By reading this we can assume the team never found a publisher for their game and in the end they had to close down after releasing just a few smartphone Apps. Footage and screenshots from an early Timeless: Chronicles of Atlantis demo are preserved below, to remember the existence of this lost project.

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Project Revolution (Cauldron) [PC – Cancelled]

Project Revolution is a cancelled third person action RPG in development around 2008 by Cauldron, a small slovak team mostly known for Soldier of Fortune: Payback, Gene Troopers and the Cabela’s Big Game Hunter series. Gameplay could have been somehow similar to Fallout + Gears of War + FarCry: a post apocalypse shooting adventure, exploring its big sci-fi world filled with scary robot-monsters called Cerberus.

The game was canned in early development and never went past pre-production phase, but we can still find some interesting details with Cauldron’s hopes and ideas for Revolution in a 2013 article published on a slovak website:

“Marián Ferko, one of the co-founders of the oldest game development studio in Slovakia, once told me that archiving is extremely important. He told me in their server they still have the source code of their first game Quadrax (1996). I trust him. […] Every single piece of code, illustration, idea, everything that has not been used in their final games is stored and cataloged on the Cauldron server. […] Long ago, Cauldron became an expert in hunting games while working on their Revolution project.

Revolution was a 3rd person action RPG set in 2272. The earth is destroyed after a series of cyber-wars and machines took control over the world. The whole Earth is infected with a nano-virus that turns everything into cyborgs. There are only a few clans that resist machines, but have no future themselves because the nano-virus is gradually making them slaves. The rest of the human race resides at the orbital station in space. Food supplies are diminishing and the only chance of survival is to find a way to effectively combat the nano-virus.

The struggle of the human race lay on Ellie Whisboorn‘s shoulders. Her task was to find data cubes holding information needed to make a vaccine to stop the spread of the nano-virus. However, as a human Ellie was not powerful enough to survive post-apocalypse earth: she is forced to accept cyber-technology. By changing her appearance and cyber-implants when starting the game you would have been able to directly impact the gameplay. Ellie could thus be an open-combat fighter with heavy armor,  a stealthy assassin with invisibility or using nano-magic and relying on hacking.

Unfortunately for Cauldron, by the end of 2008 popular post-apocalyptic RPG Fallout 3 was released: publishers rejected their Revolution pitch, saying that it would have been too ambitious to try something similar to Fallout 3. Work on Revolution stopped before full production. Two Czech authors Kantúrek & Žamboch were involved, working on background for the story and the world.”

In 2014 Bohemia Interactive acquired Cauldron, changing their name into Bohemia Interactive Slovakia.

Thanks to Chris for the contribution!

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