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Captain Blood [Cancelled – PC, Xbox 360]

Captain Blood is a cancelled pirate-themed action adventure based on a series of novels by Rafael Sabatini, that was in development for PC and Xbox 360 since 2003 by Russian studio Akella (the team behind titles like “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Age of Pirates”). The game was never officially canned, as of May 2016 you can still find its website online and in the last 13 years it had multiple reboots: Captain Blood easily became a legendary vaporware and was labeled by some fans as “The Russian Duke Nukem Forever”.

When still in early development, Captain Blood’s leads Dmitry Demyanovski and Andrei Ivanchenko decided to open their own team “.dat” and left Akella: the remaining team restarted the game with Renat Nezametdimov and Yuri Rogach taking the new lead. At E3 2004 Captain Blood was officially announced by 1C Company, the Russian publisher of other games made by Akella, showing a gameplay trailer with open sea naval combat and realistic sword fighting system.

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This second version did not last much longer and in 2005 Captain Blood suffered more heavy changes, becoming like a pirate version of God of War, with fast-paced over-the-top fights, finishing moves, quick time events, lots of blood and gore. Akella was split in two different teams, named respectively SeaDogs and SeaWolves, with the first working on Age of Pirates, and the latter to develop this new version of Captain Blood.

In 2007 for some unknown reasons SeaWolves were sold to 1C, along with Captain Blood. New people took lead of the project and it was updated to a more powerful 3D engine. At this time the game looked great, like a mix between Fable 2 and God of War, but because of the new acquisition by 1C many of the original developers left the team.

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Even with some internal issues, SeaWolves and 1C continued working on it and in 2010 Captain Blood seems to have been completed, ready to be published. Unfortunately another complication fell against the game: Playlogic (the company that would publish it in Europe and USA) sued 1C for some disagreements over the license and this blocked the release of Captain Blood. We don’t know what happened, but maybe Playlogic tried to get some money to save themselves from their economic troubles, a move that did not help them at all, as in August 2010 they were declared bankrupt.

In 2013 someone found a playable review copy of Captain Blood for the Xbox 360 at a flea market and bought it for about $4: it does not seem to have been leaked online yet, but we hope that one day someone could be nice enough to upload it for everyone to enjoy and preserve.

Thanks to Ross Sillifant for the contribution and to Stanislav Costiuc for his great article on this lost game!

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Kanaan (Argonaut) [PC – Cancelled]

Kanaan (Argonaut) [PC – Cancelled]

Kanaan is a cancelled first / third person open world shooter that was in development by Argonaut Games in late ‘90, planned to be published in 1998 / 1999 by Ubisoft on PC. While many other lost games from Argonaut were widely known, this one seems to have been forgotten for many years, until in January 2016 Werta Oldgamesru noticed this title and posted about it in our Unseen64 FB Forum. The project was quite an interesting twist on the classic shooter genre, because of its open world environments and anthropomorphic animal enemies. As noticed by Ross Sillifant, a two-pages preview of the game was featured in Edge magazine September 1998 issue, where we can read a lot of details about its gameplay:

“Think dark tunnels, think robot enemies, think bleak future worlds. The stereotype defined by ID’s seminal Doom has been adhered to with a near-religious reverence by developers worldwide. So perhaps, it’s salient that Argonaut, a traditional console game company once strongly linked to Nintendo, should be chipping away at the genre’s mould. Argonaut first person foray is currently dubbed Kanaan, although the search for a name to replace the development tag of “Chaos” has been a protracted wrangle. While the game’s futuristic setting is nothing new, its dog-themed alien enemies are refreshingly different. Guiding lone human Gabriel Cain, the player must stop the invaders from capturing his home planet of Camrose. Cain is one of two surviving members of Camrose’s crack Chaos Squad, the other being the group’s traitorous captain deSoto. As the game progress, new plot elements are introduced, including Cain joining the underground resistance. New weapons, locations and environments will gradually be uncovered as Cain struggles to defeat the alien foe. His eventual target is the alien leader Commander Kray, who must be brought down for Cain’s final victory.

Through the careful use of tessellation techniques, Kanaan has been gifted with vast environments. […] However, the game also contains a large number of structures which can be entered, the action blending smoothly from interior to exterior. Using Kanaan’s powerful 3D engine fully, certain buildings will feature balconies, giving the player the ability to look across an area and attack enemies from a distance.

In order to move swiftly around these incredibly open areas, the player can capture and utilize a variety of vehicles. These includes jeeps, cars, trucks, speedboats, helicopters and bombers, each with their own armoury available at Cain’s disposal. […]

While Kanaan’s standard viewpoint is first person, Argonaut has strong opinions regarding character depiction, and to that end an additional third person camera is selectable. […]

Cain also has access to a sniper weapon (as seen in Goldeneye) so he can pick-off foes from a great distance by zooming in through the weapon’s sights. Traditional first person puzzle elements also emerge, along with console systems which reveal conundrums that block progress.”

A few more memories about Kanaan’s development can be found in websites of people that worked on it. Simon Grell recalls:

“Kanaan was the first game I worked on at Argonaut. I did most of the character and vehicle designs but unfortunately it was canned shortly before it was due to be released”

In an interview with Julian Alden-Salter posted in the GameOn Forum, we can read:

“I spent 5 years at Argonaut working on Hot Ice (unpublished), Alien Odyssey (unpublished), Croc, FX Fighter Turbo and Kanaan but was made redundant when the project I was producing (Kanaan) was canned.”

As the game was almost complete when cancelled and even Edge was able to try a playable demo, we hope that in the future someone could find a video or even a prototype of Kanaan that could be saved.

Thanks to Werta Oldgamesru, Maik Thiele and Ross Sillifant for the contributions! Screenshots saved from AVOC by Fabio Cristi

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Deep Cover [PC – Cancelled]

Deep Cover was a first-person shooter being developed by Looking Glass Technologies and Irrational Games in the 1999 to 2000 period. During the development of System Shock 2, the Looking Glass team began work on a new game which would take the concepts of Thief: The Dark Project into a modern setting. Using the Dark Engine originally developed for Thief, the spy-espionage game took on the title of Deep Cover.

“Deep Cover was slated to be one of the coolest games to leave the studio. It was a gritty 1960’s cold war spy action-adventure that had the elegance of thief and the depth of system shock 2.”

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The game was set to incorporate more interactive elements into the Thief and System Shock pallet with a faction system which would react based on how the player decided to complete a mission, though the missions themselves had a set order of progression.

  • Extraction: Berlin, East Germany Sector, 1958. A top German scientist has developed a deadly biological weapon that could threaten the Soviet-American nuclear détente. Jon must find out who this scientist is, and extract the scientist out of Eastern-block Germany (willing or not).
  • Infiltration: Alabama, 1961. Word has it that a Soviet mole has worked his way into a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. Infiltrate the Klan enclave, find out who the mole is and get out alive.
  • Surveillance: Cuba, October 1962. Jon infiltrates an installation near Havana to photograph alleged Soviet nuclear SS-4 missiles.
  • Interdiction: Dallas, 1963. Your information is vague but you must act fast. A group of Cuban nationalists are going to try to kill President Kennedy. Find your way into the book repository and stop them.
  • Assassination: Bulgaria, 1964. The Turkish Undersecretary of Defense has been selling documents to Moscow. He must be eliminated before he can make a critical drop. An elite squad of Turkish terror troops heavily guards him.

Irrational and Looking Glass shared equal parts of this project, with the former hiring on staff and the latter seeking investment for the project. Ken Levine put together a story and a design doc for the project to follow, reviving the Cold War theme seen in one of his pre-Thief concepts and inspired by John Le Carre’s storyThe Spy Who Came From the Cold”.

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Among the level designers were Nate Blaisdell, Edward J. Moore III, Michael Swiderek, Steve Kimura (all of whom had no prior design experience) as well as Paul Hellquist, Rick Ernst, Nathan Wells, and Michael Ryan who posted screenshots of the unannounced game online in 2002 as well as implemented a search-light system into the Dark Engine. Other developers connected to the project included Ian Vogel and Alexx Kay. The lead programmer on the project had worked at Looking Glass previously and was called back by Ken Levine to work on Deep Cover.

“When I was at Irrational, I worked on Deep Cover, which was System Shock meets JFK. Hacking closets, feeding attack dogs sleep drugged meat.”

Concurrently with this development though, both companies were attempting to manage their own affairs separately. Looking Glass was having trouble paying Irrational due to the former’s financial difficulties, causing the latter to seek out contract work in November of 1999, beginning work on a project which would eventually become the Playstation 2 game The Lost. Looking Glass were also working on Thief 2, which ended up featuring some of the code originally intended for Deep Cover.

There were going to be multiple factions… depending on how you played each mission, you could make different groups pleased or disappointed. Later missions would be affected by this.   while there wasn’t going to be an overall branching mission structure, each mission in the game could be changed in minor ways that would affect the flow and difficulty. – Michael ‘solus’ Ryan

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After 9 months of work on Deep Cover, Looking Glass managed to procure a major publisher: Microsoft, who expected the studio to collaborate with Irrational Games on the title. However, Irrational were moving out of the Looking Glass offices and devoting their time to The Lost, leaving Looking Glass to work on the contract alone. Disappointed, their publisher pulled out of the one million dollar deal in February of 2000, leaving the project on the verge of cancellation.

“When Irrational Games pulled out of the Deep Cover project, the publisher pulled out as well, together with a lot of calculated advances. This put Looking Glass into a very bad position concerning liquidity.” – Tim Stellmach

Work did continue on Deep Cover after Irrational’s departure. The studio attempted to negotiate a deal with Sony to keep the studio and the project afloat, but a restructuring within Sony caused their executive contact to be fired. The lead programmer described at least one level in a playable prototype state prior to a switch from the Dark Engine to a successor technology called the “Siege Engine”, which none of the available screenshots showcase. After his departure, the former lead programmer of British Open Championship Golf was brought on, who also was an expert on the JFK Assassination.

The closing of Looking Glass Technologies in May of 2000 put an end to Deep Cover, and subsequently migrated much of the talent over the industry. In a basic thematic sense, the spy theme with the Looking Glass style of freedom would re-emerge in Deus Ex which was released shortly before the studio dissolved.

The following screenshots were taken from very early versions of the levels… before any gameplay was implemented, and well before Looking Glass decided to switch from the Dark Engine to the Siege Engine. – Michael ‘solus’ Ryan

Article by AguyinaRPG

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NEXUS 2 / WARP [PC – Cancelled]

Nexus: The Jupiter Incident was a sci-fi RTS game developed by Hungarian-based Mithis Entertainment, published by HD Interactive on PC in 2004 (you can still buy it with the latest updates on Steam). While the game did not sell well at the time, it still gathered a cult following of fans, thanks to its different approach to strategy space battles. Soon after releasing Nexus, Mithis started the development of a sequel, but due to the descending market of strategy titles, it was conceived as an action oriented space combat game, with the ability of traveling in a vast galaxy from planet to planet. Seeing the differences from the original Nexus, HD Interactive decided that it would have been better to use a different name and the team reused the title of one of the test prototypes from their first game: WARP. The old W.A.R.P. prototype was a failed proposal for a fighter-pilot based version of the original Nexus, designed when the project was in development limbo and they tought to change its gameplay. In 2005 Mithis developed an early demo for Nexus 2 / WARP, but unfortunately the original Nexus was not selling enough and the market seemed to be too small not only for space-strategy games but for space games in general. So eventually HD decided not to risk it further and they cancelled the Nexus 2 / WARP reboot project. This was the end of the original Nexus saga by Mithis.

On August 2011 Most Wanted Entertainment (a team founded by former Mithis developers) tried to pitch another, different sequel to Nexus on the crowdfunding website GamesPlant, but without luck. In september 2012 they tried again with a campaign on Kickstarter, under the title of “Nexus 2: The Gods Awaken”, failing again to reach their goal. Everything seemed lost, but in September 2015 Nordic Games acquired the intellectual property of Nexus so we can speculate that they could resurrect this series in the future, as it already happened with the lost chapter in the Aquanox series.

Super thanks to Nordic Games for the contribution!

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Frontier (Origin Systems) [PC – Cancelled Pitch]

Frontier is a lost PC game pitched by Warren Spector  to Origin Systems with a planned to ship date of Q2 ’94, and was described as a system simulation of the taming of the old west. The high concept of this game was that the player would be a pioneer and they would have to explore and settle a new nation. The player would have to choose what route they would take, the Oregon Trail, the Santa Fe Trail, what time of the year they would travel, how many settlers would travel with them and where they would eventually stop.

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Once the player had decided where to settle they would then choose what they would like their settlers to specialize in like farming, mining or becoming a rancher. The player would then have numerous natural disasters they would have to deal with like earthquakes and floods, natural predators, “Indians” (Native Americans), and what is described as “bad men”. There would also be NPC players that would be direct competition to the player.

The players initial goal was to attract new settlers to their settlement so that they can start a community and make a prosperous new town, this would lead to trains stopping at the town, mail routes, and banks. Ultimately the goal was to attract the county seat and then the state capital so that your settlement could request to become a state, but the player could decide how they would get there, striving to keep their settlers happy or becoming a rich tycoon.

Interestingly this game was pitched as more of an educational game that was akin Civilization, Sim City and Railroad Tycoon, they were looking to attract the audience of these games but were also looking at it being utilized in schools. This would have been Origin’s first simulation, and as far as I can see this game went no further than this pitch document.

Many thanks to Joe Martin for the document.

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