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Project: Advena [PC – Cancelled]

Project Advena is a cancelled sci-fi, survival adventure game that was in development by Illfonic and Psyop Games around 2015 – 2016. The game was officially announced by the team and a short description was available on their old website:

“Alone, and marooned on an alien world, a humble space freighter pilot must face dwindling resources, a hostile environment, and his own internal demons to make his way toward his only hope for rescue, a flickering beacon forgotten on a precipitous mountainside. Each step on his journey threatens to bring him face to face with his imminent mortality, dwindling supplies, strange creatures, and the deepening shade of his own solitude.”

Venture Beat also published an interview with Illfonic in late 2015:

“After THQ shut down, we started doing work for hire putting our CryEngine knowledge to good use, and we worked on Star Citizen, Evolve, Armored Warfare, Sonic Boom … the Team Challenges … a tech demo with AMD, Crysis 3, and some other really cool unannounced projects.

Currently, besides Friday the 13th: The Game, we are working on Moving Hazard and Project Advena — a working title — with Psyop Games, along with relaunching Nexuiz real soon. In addition, we are continuing working on our MMO Revival, which is build in stages and has a pretty cool update coming to Phase 1 real soon.”

Nothing more is known about Advena’s gameplay. Only a few promotional images are preserved below, to remember its existence. After a while the game quietly vanished, while Illfonic switched their resources on different projects. We can speculate Advena was not proceeding as planned and the team decided to focus their efforts on more secure and profitable projects.

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The Ravaging (Pukka Games) [PC – Cancelled]

The Ravaging is a cancelled action game that was in development by Pukka Games around 1998 – 1999, to be published by Telstar on PC. The team was co-founded in 1998 by Clive Townsend, Anatole and Damon Branch, but unfortunately never found much success and is mostly known for a couple of Thunderbirds tie-ins for Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance. Most of their projects never saw the lights of day, titles such as Tracers, Life Force, Chaos and Chariot Racer.

The Ravaging would have been their first game, but Telstar closed down during development. As we can read from their old website:

“The ravaging is a tactical/action 3D game set on the planes of Hades, an enormous hierarchical structure ruled over by the Angel of the Abyss, Satan. The planes are divided into sections, called Sub-Planes, containing a horrendous assortment of demons, puzzles and traps, all of which stand in your way. As a newly qualified Demon Lord, your natural desire is to slash, burn, maim and deceive your way to the top, where on, completion of the game, you take Satan’s place on the ice-cold ebony altar of pain which is his throne.

To progress through the game you make challenges on the rulers of Sub-planes. If you are successful your Status will rise and you will gain in ‘experience’ which may be ‘spent’ on improving your abilities or that of your horde. You will also earn the right to demand demons from the loser to add to your own horde. Magic skills can be improved through learning, discovering or stealing artifacts. In this way as you progress through The Ravaging your magic powers and legion will grow ever stronger.

However, thousands of Pithounds and the ability to summon Demogorgon, the Lord of Chaos, do not a successful challenger make. All of The Ravaging’s characters are endowed with enough intelligence to make life very difficult indeed. Sneaky, tactically devious and incapable of mercy, the inhabitants of Hades have more than one way to fry an upstart baron. It is up to you to find their weaknesses, the one chink in their leathery hides that renders them vulnerable. (If a 110 foot, psychopathic lava-god could ever be considered vulnerable.)”

Today the project is mostly forgotten, but former Pukka Games developers talked about it in a few interviews. Clive Townsend was interviewed for Jogos 80:

J80: Did you think at the time about releasing a third installment? There are mentions of a third game on World of Spectrum that hasn’t been released.

CT: I’ve wanted to make a Saboteur 3 for many years, but never had the financial backing to make it happen. In 1998 I teamed up with some colleagues to form Pukka Games, and the plan was to complete The Ravaging then use the game engine to make Saboteur 3. Despite having an amazingly advanced 3D engine, the publisher (Telstar) closed down so the deal fell through and we had to resort to making Game Boy games to pay the bills”

On Retro Gamer (Issue 011-015) we can read another interview with Clive:

“After getting  permission from Robert White, I set up Bacchus Software  Projects and started work. The 3D revolution had hit but 3D  hardware was still a rarity, so I started creating a software 3D  engine. After working alone for 18 months I finally had everything working; all my  maps, models, bitmaps, textures, sound effects… At this point I joined up with two  friends – Anatole and Damon Branch – to form Pukka Games. Saboteur 3 was put on hold while we created The Ravaging  for Telstar.”

In September 2017 user 10ahu posted a playable The Ravaging prototype on the Assembler Games forum:

“The ravaging was a pc game developed by Pukka games back in 99 early 2000. It was a action game. You play an angel from hell…and…I don’t remember the story at all :D Based in Wells Uk Pukka games was a very tiny studios but full of great people. I ve worked here few months before joining bits studios. They mostly know for GB and GBA games. Sadly The company closed door in 2002.

I ve found this demo on one of my old rotting cd from back in the day (18 year old cheap cd don t age well). they was more assets on the disk. some video…but the files got corrupted. Fortunately the part of the disk with the demo was still working!! Don t expect a full game, this is a really early build…really rough…

From what i ve could figure out you play with the mouse and the arrows… the demo seem to only have one level. but on the cd i ve got the data s for a few more, so they maybe more I haven’t try all the menu…I remember 4 arms gorilla enemy that I haven’t seeing so far in the demo.

The Team was small but very dedicated to the game and it was still being worked on when I ve left the company so they maybe other demo with more gameplay.”

You can download The Ravaging proto from here (100 MB). We tried to run the game but without much luck. If you are able to play this and record some footage, please let us know!

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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!