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Hell or High Water [PC – Cancelled / Prototype]

Hell or High Water is a cancelled jet-boat shooter that was in development by Wild Child Studios for PC. You can imagine it somehow like a mission-based Wave Race set in different levels from all around the world, where you had to shoot down enemies and collect key-items to complete your objectives.

As we can read in the prototype description:

“Hell or High Water fits players in a heavily armed military-type jet-boat. You have to use your best skills to outmaneuver and destroy AI-controlled opponents with your arsenal of rockets and machine-gun. The game consists of several episodes in various parts of the world with different mission objectives. For example, in the episode at Amazon River your goal is to collect dynamite and use it to mine and blow up a river dam, while in the Nord episode you have to find and destroy a crashed plane prototype and pick up the black-box. The whole game is an intense race against time in the world of water, fire and explosions!”

The team worked on this prototype to test gameplay using Driver-Inter‘s proprietary engines, but in the end the project was cancelled, possibly because they did not find a publisher interested in funding it. Wild Child Studios were also working on another water based game titled “Extreme Wakeboarding”, which was also canned in 2002.

Thanks to Mihapsx for the contribution!

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Cult County (Renegade Kid) [Cancelled – 3DS, Wii U, PS3, PSVita, PC]

Cult County is a cancelled psychological horror game that was in development by Renegade Kid around 2013, originally announced for Nintendo 3DS at PAX 2013 and later also planned for PS4, PS3, PSVita, Wii U, PC, and Xbox One when they unsuccessfully tried to fund the game on Kickstarter. Their plan for the project was to create an episodic horror tale, something like “The Walking Dead meets Silent Hill 2 from a first-person perspective”.

The team is mostly known for cult-classic Nintendo DS horror titles such as Dementium: The Ward and Moon, plus fun platforming adventures such as Mutant Mudds and Xeodrifter. While they always showed skills and love for Nintendo consoles, their games never sold much unfortunately.

Some details about Cult County can still be read on their Kickstarter campaign page, which raised just  $ 46.736 of their $ 580.000 goal:

“Cult County is an all-new first-person survival horror game that blends the episodic story-telling of The Walking Dead with the classic tension-filled exploration and action of Silent Hill and Resident Evil, presenting an opportunity for fans to help a veteran team produce a new experience that is fresh, exciting, and scary!

Rebirth of the survival horror FPS genre, crafted with fan input.
Story-driven gameplay, featuring memorable character interactions.
Small West Texas town filled with tension, mystery, and scares.
Vulnerable and personalized melee and firearm combat.
Varied cast of creepy enemy encounters and devious boss battles.

You assume the role of Gavin Mellick, whose mother has fallen deathly ill. Unable to reach your older sister, Alissa, by phone you drive the 6 hours across Texas to visit her in person and share the sad news. You return to the small town where you spent your summers as a child with Alissa, at your late aunt’s house. There is a particularly savage dust storm rolling in when you arrive.

Unable to locate your sister, you ask some of the locals for help. You quickly learn about their suspicions of a cultish group that recently moved into town, and the unexpected suicide of Father Pearce. The locals offer very little help finding your sister, and it isn’t long before your search takes an unexpected dark turn, leading you down a road of no return.

You are alone. You are unarmed. You see strange “people” linger on the edge of the dust storm, who seem to be watching your every move. But, as soon as you turn your head to face them, they disappear. Who are they? Where do they go? What do they want?

As you explore deeper into the town, searching for any clues that might lead to your sister, you meet various town folk who offer their own anecdotes on what the “people” might be. Some claim they are just your imagination, and some say they are part of the new cultish group who recently moved into town. One person even goes as far to name them “Dust Devils“!”

With no support on Kickstarter, Renegade Kid possibly tried to find a publisher for Cult County, but without success. After releasing Moon Chronicles and Dementium Remastered on Nintendo 3DS, in August 2016 Renegade Kid announced that it was shutting down. It’s currently unknown if Cult County could be resurrected in the future, but if so we could see it from Infitizmo, the new team created by former Renegade Kid cofounder Gregg Hargrove.

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Spectac (Cauldron) [Xbox 360, PS3, PC – Cancelled]

Spectac was an ambitious cancelled project that was being developed in 2004/2005 by Slovakian studio Cauldron. It was planned to be a prequel to Cauldron’s 2003 game Chaser: a futuristic First Person Shooter similar to Red Faction in tone, set in a time when humanity has successfully colonized Mars. Spectac in turn was to be set before these events, dealing with the hunt for a terrorist group threatening to unleash a viral weapon on the world, and the team tasked with putting an end to their plans.

From what we can tell, Spectac was to be a stealth-action affair, very inspired by other espionage and military-science stealth series such as Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell, but played from a first-person perspective. And like in the latter franchise, the player was to make heavy use of sound and shadows for things such as masking their actions or distracting enemies, along with a strong emphasis on climbing, swimming, and other means of infiltration.

Players would have been helped by other team members, in a feature that would show some inspiration from the Rainbow Six or SWAT series. This would add a strategic element of choosing what individual skill sets would be useful in each mission and what paths they would open. This would in turn allow for greater replayability, as not only could a level play out differently depending on what team members are present, but one could also step in their shoes and play from their perspective. A sniper and a security expert/hacker, named Isis and Evac, respectively, would also be available to help the player at all times.

The engine that had powered Chaser (CloakNT) had been upgraded, and its 2.0 version allowed for many innovative features. The Havok physics engine had been integrated as well, and Cauldron was ready to take full advantage of their new technology by allowing for extensive interaction with the environment in Spectac. For example, to use a simple numeric keypad or keyboard, the player would have to physically move the character’s hand in order to press the individual buttons. The same approach would be used if they needed to swipe a keycard to open a door, or use a mouse at a computer terminal, and so on.

The hand-to-hand combat would apparently also use this system to some degree, with different techniques such as neutralizing an enemy by choking or pistol-whipping requiring active player interaction.

Graphically, the game was to take visuals to the next level as well. The geometry was now much more complex, allowing for more detailed models. In conjunction with the aforementioned first person interaction, the lighting would have offered a great deal of immersion as well, filling the levels with dynamic shadows. Spectac looked a bit like F.E.A.R. another game that became known for its rich lighting and physics interaction, developed by Monolith and released in 2005. In addition, missions in Spectact were to take place in locations heavily inspired by real-life landmarks, such as the Hoover Dam.

All of this, however, seemed to be just a little too much for Cauldron. Spectac was conceived as a possible next-gen title to be released on PC and the then-upcoming PS3 and Xbox 360 platforms, but apparently even the most powerful computers of the time were struggling to run it in 2004. Possibly for this reason, the project was eventually abandoned some time around 2005, after being deemed too ambitious, and never entering full production.

Cauldron themselves would infamously continue on to create lower budget games in a partnership with the Activision Value publishing brand, such as Soldier Of Fortune: Payback and a string of hunting-themed and war-themed First Person Shooters for the Cabela’s and History Channel brands, respectively. We know the team also worked on the cancelled Project Revolution and Seven Days, before being acquired by Bohemia Interactive in 2014 and renamed to Bohemia Interactive Slovakia.

Article by António Pedro Pinto

Thanks to Chris and Piotr for the contribution!

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Trans Am Racing 1968-72 (EAI Interactive) [PC – Cancelled]

Trans Am Racing 1968-72 is a cancelled racing game that was in development by EAI Interactive and would have been published by GT Interactive on PC. In 1998, Papyrus / Sierra released Grand Prix Legends, a historic-based racing simulator based on the 1967 Formula 1 season: the selling point (other than the historic accuracy of the 1967 F1 season) was its advanced 3D physics model.

GT Interactive announced it’s own retro simulator, Trans Am Racing 1968-72, which was to focus on the golden era of Trans Am racing, in which the American “Big 4” (Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, American Motors) all fielded cars. The romanticism of 1960-70s V8 muscle played into this, as well as a host of Trans Am tracks, in particular the demolished Riverside, which hasn’t been replicated in a game or sim to that point. As we can read on PC Zone 66 (August 1998):

“If you’ve ever fancied yourself behind the wheel of a Ford Mustang, AMC  Javelin, Plymouth Barracuda, Chevrolet Camaro, Pontiac Firebird or Trans Am, look out for GT Interactive’s Trans-Am Racing this October. It’s a 3D race sim  that captures all the thrills and spills of the 1968-72 SCCA series. The   developers insist that their  physics model is the most  accurate yet, and to help  make the game accidents  seem more realistic they  even went to the extent of  crashing the cars and  analysing what happened.  They also brag that their 16-player network option is unequalled by any other driving game.”

It was planned to be published in the Fall of 1998, then was delayed till the Spring of 1999. Screenshots were released and a playable version was made for E3 in 1998 (according to a Usenet message). More details on the game were shared by former EAI Interactive developer Adrian Penn in an interview with Sports Gaming:

“EAI is the only game developer that employs a team of people who have been producing litigation animations for nearly a decade. Attorneys rely on EAI to produce scientifically accurate animations that are realistic enough to be admitted into evidence.  EAI has produced thousands of animations for court cases that touch many areas of the law. And not once has any of these animations failed the arduous, evidentiary process mandated by the courts.  EAI’s litigation team, which includes vehicle dynamics experts, engineers and physicists, worked with the game development team to create some of the most realistic car crushes and crashes that have ever been viewed on the PC. These crashes conform to the laws of physics and follow the properties of vehicle dynamics. And although the typical gamer may not be versed in the properties of physics or structural dynamics—these players will understand when they see this—that TransAm Racing is something special.”

“A technological gem that adds additional authenticity is the real-time crush. When a car is crushed during the game, the deformations are produced on-the-fly. In real time. Let’s say you careen your Ford Mustang into your opponent’s Chevy Camaro. The crush that occurs is calculated instantaneously. Ordinarily, a game will have several pre-rendered crush eventualities programmed into it. With TranAm, the deformations are visualized immediately. And of course, these racing battle wounds conform to the laws of physics and engineering. The crush that you see is what would have occurred in the real world under the same circumstances.”

“There is multiplayer support for single races and seasons consisting of up to twelve races. You can play over LAN, modem, and the Internet. Yes, you’ll see Trans-Am on Sega’s HEAT. […] There’s 12 tracks and 25+ cars (we’ll cram in as many as we can).”

“Yes, 48-hours is the maximum race length. Trans-Am races in that era varied in length – two and four-hour races were common. We’d originally set the maximum length to 12-hours – Sebring, and early Trans-Am venue, was a 12-hour enduro. However, we received a number of requests from sim racers on the Net asking for longer races. So we upped the max to 48. Unfortunately, there’s no provision for nighttime racing so the races will be 48-hours of continuous daylight.”

However, the sim would be cancelled in early 1999, possibly due to the low sales of Papyrus’ Grand Prix Legends. The engine would be used for the PS1, Saturn and PC game Dukes of Hazzard: Racing for Home.

Thanks to Mike for the contribution!

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Wingblade (Bootprint Entertainment) [PC – Cancelled]

Wingblade is a cancelled flying-action arena shooter that was in development by Bootprint Entertainment around 1998 – 1999, planned to be published on PC by their parent company GT Interactive. The team was formed by former ORIGIN Systems (Wing Commander, Ultima, System Shock) developers, lead by producer Rod Nakamoto who wanted to create new, ambitious video games.

As we can read on Gamespot:

“Rod Nakamoto recently left Origin Systems to found a wholly owned development studio for GT Interactive. It’s called Bootprint Entertainment and should make its mark on the industry in the coming years. […] Like GT’s other wholly owned studio, CaveDog, Bootprint is being given free reign to develop the games it wants. Nakamoto says he and his teams want to create products that are not only competitive in terms of graphics, but also in terms of AI and gameplay. But, Roan says, “the main thrust of our games is going to be multiplayer, we’ll still have single-player .

But the near future for Bootprint is all about multiplayer games. Not so much persistent worlds, like Ultima Online, but persistent gaming environments like battle.net. Roan hopes to create games that will grow an online community. […] Bootprint also sees a future in hybrid games. Nakamoto says that they will create hybrids, “with an emphasis on action and a combination of strategy and RPGs. They make for unique products.”

Bootprint is starting out with a technology team, which will soon start work on the engine for its first two games, and two product teams. One team is working on an action/RPG, while the other is working on an action game that could have strategy elements.”

Unfortunately Wingblade was never officially announced by Bootprint Entertainment nor GT Interactive, so details about its gameplay and settings are scarce. By reading that Gamespot article and by looking at the available footage we may speculate it was going to be an online multiplayer shooter in which players could freely fly around fantasy levels to find and kill their opponents.

Keep in mind Wingblade was in development during the “Online FPS craze” of the late ‘90s – early ‘00s, when cult titles such as Quake 3 Arena and Unreal Tournament were some of the most played games on PC. For sure it looked great for 1999 and it could have been a fun multiplayer game if only released.

Unfortunately in 1999 GT Interactive posted a net loss of $254 million, with their game sales failing to meet expectations. In November Infogrames Entertainment bought 70% of GT Interactive, but many of their internal teams had to be closed: after just a couple of years, Bootprint Entertainment was no more. And all of their games in development (Wing Blade, Viscera and Wrath) were canned and lost forever.

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