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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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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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