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Decay (Insomnia Software) [PC – Cancelled]

Decay is a cancelled immersive-sim FPS that was in development by Insomnia Software starting from 1998 – 1999, planned to be published on PC by Interplay. Set in a modern / cyberpunk world, Decay was conceived as an ambitious sandbox RPG adventure, somehow similar to what players experienced two years later with Deus Ex. Their goal was to “Create the new breed of games. Games that are more realistic, more dynamic, better looking and with gameplay and storylines that pulls you straight in and makes you feel as if you’re really living in the gameworld”.

Unfortunately Insomnia Software were still a young and inexperienced team: they were not able to fulfill their vision for the project. As we can read in old previews by 3DActionPlanet and other (now offline) websites:

“First off all, in Decay, you can create your own character (like in any good RPG), but this isn’t something commonly seen in FPS games. You can customize your character by dividing your points between different abilities such as strength, speed, etc. and this will have a direct affect on your character and how he handles in the game. Of course it is also possible to further enhance your character’s abilities as you wander through the game, as new ability points are awarded whenever you complete a mission. Hence you can follow your own heart and create a character that suits your gaming style.”

“Imagine a world very much like Blade Runner, where the ecosystem is on its last leg. Pollution levels are so extreme that it’s hazardous to breathe the air and acid rain forces the population to remain indoors. The latter may not be the sole reason for this, however. Crime syndicates are common, thriving on the lack of proper police enforcement to stop them in the cities housing over 200 million people. The syndicates take advantage of the popular demand for drugs and weapons, while organized crime in the form of gangs control the streets by pillaging and plundering.”

“Decay puts you in the role of anti-hero Jake Blisser, a bad-to-the-bone hitman from the near future. You’ve got quite a history to live up to in this persona, as you have been accused of various macabre dealings such as assassinations, mass killings, and other things best left unsaid. You’re back on the streets, this time on the “right” side of the law due to some unusual plot twists. […] Giant corporations control everything, and you’ll have to play it smart with them to survive.”

“The engine they’re using will allow all sorts of realistic environmental effects, ranging from dynamic lighting to a persistent game world where changes you cause stick around and may impact how you approach a future situation when you return to the scene later in the game.”

“You choose the missions you want from your home base, kind of like a safe house, and from there you can plan your mission as in-depth as you see fit. Perhaps the DECAY team will incorporate some blueprints, roadmaps, etc. to help you with this. (Kind of like Rainbow Six?) However, there are many new goodies in store for the gamers. Not only can you choose the missions you want to play, but also you can make new contacts to get access to illegal weapons and tools. In addition, if you want to create a reputation or be respected among the other hitmen, go head-to-head with them. Take out all your competition and become the sole hitman in town.”

“Here’s a cool example of some of the awesome tools you can use to sneak your way into your target’s home: Use a burner to cut your way into the power central and shut down the alarm and the lights. Use hi-tech tools to open security doors. Place explosives at strategic locations to ensure a safe, or at least possible, get-away. Use your knife to slit throats and drag the bodies out of sight. Blow away your target from a distance, but only after you are sure you can make a clean get-away.”

“Also, the highly ambitious DECAY team promises to provide an excellent selection of weaponry so that you can build up your own private arsenal and weapons and tools at your home base. You’ll even have the opportunity to test out new weapons before using them. This is a nice change from the norm of just wandering around and picking up guns and ammo from random locations as if someone just placed them there for the heck of it.”

This sounds quite impressive for its time but unfortunately it was not meant to be. We don’t know what happened to Decay, but in October 2000 Insomnia Software officially announced they had to change their name to Termite Games (possibly due to copyright problems with Insomniac Games) and Decay was cancelled, with the team switching resources to their new online multiplayer FPS “New World Order”.

It seems New World Order shared Decay’s 3D engine, settings and some assets, but it was quite the different game. As we can read in an old interview by CuttingTheEdge with former Insomnia Software’s Producer Nicholas Cederstrom:

“Well, Decay was a really strong single player game with a lot of content. New World Order is a pure action game with less content but it makes up for it in the action department. The game will be optimized for multiplayer gaming. There will be a single player part of the game and a co-op version as well.

The DVA-engine we used for Decay is the engine we use for New World Order as well. We have optimized it and added new features. The look and the feel of New World Order will be similar to Decay but we have made all new levels, sounds, textures and more.”

In 2002 Termite Games was acquired by Project 3 Interactive and renamed to “ Project Three Interactive Studio AB”, then New World Order was published in 2003 receiving unfavorable reviews (Metacritic: 32/100).

Thanks to Piotr for the contribution!

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Reverence (TSI) [PC – Cancelled]

Reverence is a cancelled FPS that was in development around 1996 by TSI (Three Space Imagery), planned to be published on PC by Cyberdreams. The game looked like a mix between Duke Nukem, Hexen and Exhumed (PowerSlave), with a strange blend of tibetan – gothic – egyptian – norse mythology settings. Luckily a playable alpha of the game was preserved in 2015:

“You have been chosen by the gods themselves to determine the future of the human race. According to them, humans are weak and pathetic and don’t deserve to exist anymore. You need to pick up a bunch of guns and energize yourself with a wide array of spells and defeat them one by one.

The leaked alpha version can be considered almost a full game. It appears to have all levels with most of the graphics, music and sounds. The game is divided into four big realms, each with its own theme. Realm of Osiris, an Egyptian god of underworld full of lava lakes and fire demons; Kokyangwuti, Hopi goddess of life, desert-like world; Frejya, Norse goddess of love whose realm lies under the vast waters and last but not least, Manjursi, Tibetan god of wisdom, who has a vast dominion in mountains.”

TSI was founded by Alberto Menache in the early ’90s, creating innovative motion capture software for games and computer graphics. Their collaboration with Cyberdreams covered at least two games, one of which was the released Noir: a Shadowy Thriller, but then the publisher had to cancel most of their projects. As we can read on Mobygames:

“In 1995 an “internal shake-up” had taken place at Cyberdreams: the investors removed management and installed a “turnaround management team,” that would make a transition to 3rd party publishing. It wouldn’t help. Cyberdreams only managed to publish one more title, Noir: A Shadowy Thriller (1996). In the meantime a lot of projects (almost all action games) were announced / taken into development: Species, Reverence, The Incredible Shrinking Character, Blue Heat, Ares Rising, and Wes Craven’s Principles of Fear. Sometimes they had been in production for years.”

Reverence was canned and TSI moved to other projects such as TV commercials.

Thanks to RareAlone for the contribution!

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Prince of Persia Redemption [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3, PC]

Prince of Persia: Redemption is a cancelled reboot of the classic series, that was internally pitched at Ubisoft Montreal (FoxTeam) around 2010 – 2011, just after the release of The Forgotten Sands. The project was mostly unknown until May 2020, when fans finally noticed a video uploaded on Youtube in 2012 by an anonymous user. By looking at this footage, the game looked like a mix between 3D Prince of Persia, God of War, Uncharted and Assassin’s Creed: a cinematic adventure game with huge monsters and time-rewind mechanics.

As wrote by former Ubisoft animator Jonathan Cooper on Twitter:

“Wow – haven’t seen this in ages. Amazing work from animation director Khai Nguyen (For Honor) and team. This target game footage (pre-rendered game pitch) inspired our own pitch for Assassin’s Creed 3 as they did such a great job making it look like real gameplay.

Sadly Ubisoft are generally quicker to cancel Prince of Persia games than others IPs because AFAIK original creator Jordan Mechner still holds license rights so the profit margins are lower. Would love to see a new one though. I’ve always wanted a PoP set in contemporary Iran.”

We can assume The Forgotten Sands did not sell enough for Ubisoft to invest more resources on another title, preferring to focus on the more profitable Assassin’s Creed series.

Thanks to Jason for the contribution!

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Splinter (Stromlo Entertainment) [PC – Cancelled]

Splinter is a cancelled Six-Degrees-Of-Freedom shooter that was in development around 1998 – 2000 by Stromlo Entertainment, planned to be published on PC by Electronic Arts. While the game is basically forgotten today, it was quite hyped at the time by gaming websites and magazines, with journalists seeing it as the next Descent mixed with Half Life, offering complex story and interesting game mechanics.

As we can read on IGN:

“When we highlighted this aspect of the game as well as the combination of organic enemies (e.g. wasps) and manmade adversaries (e.g. flying drones) and compared it with similar elements found in Half-Life, Greg Paltra was quick to add his thoughts: “Half-Life was a really great game. We were already well into development when it came out and we had our first look at it. We could really appreciate what it had to offer. Anyone who played Quake or something and then played Half-Life would realize the difference in the world they had created. I think we have tried to do the same sort of thing with Descent or Forsaken — we’ve got their basic game mechanic, but we’ve added the whole richness of the world and a believable story and a sense of character to really bring that genre to life. I think Half-Life really set the standard for what a game should be for the next generation of software that is out there.”

Players would take the role of a US military trying to retrieve a secret weapon called MERC, a sci-fi craft which can miniaturize itself to go undetected in restricted areas. It seems you would also find yourself miniaturized, exploring such places as ants-nests and shooting down huge insects. As we can read on IGN:

“Splinter is set in present day Blount Island, Mississippi at a secret government laboratory that is home to The Roanoke Project. It is a highly classified attempt by military scientists to perfect the science of nanotechnology and miniaturization. Research has led to the development of molecular robotics, self replicating manufacturing systems and the crowning glory, the Micro Emergency Response Craft now known simply as The MERC. It is a craft with the most advanced weapon systems ever produced and it can be miniaturized to the size of a quarter. Its ability to penetrate the most secure facilities ever devised has made it the most valued piece of military hardware on the planet. One little problem has come up though… it’s missing. “

“The cinematic background and relationships of Stromlo are very obvious in the character driven storyline but perhaps is most visible through the cinematic cutscenes that appear throughout the game. The movie scenes are done completely in CGI by visual effects house Animal Logic. The Sydney based company has worked in television and film with credits including The Thin Red Line and The Matrix.”

“Across the five levels, there are between 5 and 10 sections within each mission. The environments vary a lot, from very organic environments like the ant’s nest to man made environments like munitions factories. The diversity in the architecture, lighting and even the gameplay changes across each mission and within each mission. It’s something that people have responded to very strongly. We’ve got very favourable reports especially compared to something like Descent and some of the other games that are out there where its all been seen and it’s all been done and I think what we’ve got is very new and it’s very diverse within its own content.”

“The range of weapons gains some flexibility with secondary fire for all of your armaments. You start with a basic mini-gun that has a secondary fire like a shotgun all barrels fire together. The strategy of laying a stream of fire into an approach ant followed up by a close-up all barrel blast seems like fun. Other weapons include a heavy cannon, rocket launcher, grenade launcher and flamethrower. The secondary fire of the flamethrower (a big fire ball) and the rockets were probably our favourites in terms of visuals and ant killing mayhem. “

“There will be no floating weapons, or powerups in the game at all. Resources will be collected from organic and man made sources using the ‘Resource bot’. Organic sources such as fungi or dead insects can be converted into fuel for the flamethrower. Man made enemies may have ammunition you can use as well. Your prototype MERC is also fully equipped with all the weapons you will need in the game ¿ however the weapon system has been code locked by Trilling. You will need to link with other crafts you down to upload the codes to unlock your weapons. “

The team was also working on another game for EA, titled “Hydra”, which was also canned in early development:

“We were very lucky that Tony had an existing relationship with EA and we were fortunate at the time that EA Australia were looking to do some work with Australian developers so we had an introduction which led to a co-publishing deal for our first two projects. Stromlo’s second title Hydra will be based on a completely new engine and it will also have a strong focus on characters. It will be a different sort of game. We’ve done quite a bit of work on the new engine and some preliminary work on the concepts and characters but we’re really not ready to talk about it — you’ve really got to get your first one out there and keep your focus on that!”

Unfortunately EA killed the team when pulled the plug on Splinter, as we can read on PC Powerplay magazine (issue 054, 2000)”

“Melbourne-based developer, Stromlo Entertainment, has closed its doors following EA’s withdrawal of financial backing for the Descent-esgue shooter, Splinter. EA allegedly felt that Splinter too closely resembled Forsaken, which sold poorly worldwide. Despite the fact that Splinter was nearing completion, EA pulled the plug, forcing the company to undergo liquidation. Several former Stromlo employees have now moved on to other local companies including Auran and Blue Tongue.”

We don’t know how much of the game was completed before the cancellation, but we can hope someone could find a playable proto in the future as it looked like it could have been a cult-classic if only released.

Thanks to jackgrimm99 for the contribution!

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Dungeon Hero (Firefly Studios) [Xbox 360, PC – Cancelled]

Dungeon Hero is a cancelled hack & slash / dungeon simulator that was in development around 2006 – 2008 by Firefly Studios, the team mostly known for their Stronghold series. The game would have been published by Gamecock Media on PC and Xbox 360, but in October 2008 the publisher was bought by SouthPeak Games and the new managers abandoned the project.

As we can read on Softpedia:

“Their latest project is called Dungeon Hero and features as the main character a human mercenary with some combat experience and little left in the way of a moral compass. To make matters even worse, said mercenary is now employed by a pack of goblins, those little charming creatures everyone remembers from any old generic role playing game with a fantasy setting. These goblins are rather upset with another goblin tribe and the mercenary player is there to get the job of leveling goblin cities done.”

It seems Dungeon Hero would have had an comical approach to the genre, with funny situations, unexpected moments and a pinch of goblin-life simulator. As described by Wired and Destructoid (E3 2008):

“Firefly Studios’ upcoming Dungeon Hero, for the PC and the 360, will be different from other dungeon crawlers because, they say, it’s the “first dungeon-based game to realistically depict underground life.” Players will prowl through a remarkably realistic subterranean community, complete with goblin cheese merchants and troll miners.”

“Firefly Studio’s Simon Bradbury wants you to know that like all of us, goblins sometimes have to take a leak.  – We wanted to create a world where the enemies wouldn’t just stand around. Why is there a chest of gold there, and why is this goblin waiting for you to kill him? It doesn’t make any sense.”  This is the peculiar premise behind Dungeon Hero – a believable world, where believable goblins and trolls do believable goblin and troll-like things. The game shuns the hack-and-slash genre’s clichéd dungeons populated by groups of enemies who live for nothing more than to get slaughtered at the end of a hero’s blade. In Dungeon Hero, everything has a purpose; it’s a game set in a completely fictional world that attempts to be grounded in reality.”

“The area we see at first appears to be a goblin hospital, with wounded goblins lying on cots, and others crying out in pain. Goblin doctors stitch up wounded goblin soldiers and goblin citizens. One goblin looks like he’s preparing for surgery as he readies a crude looking drill. Deeper in the trenches, we see more goblins engaging in other, more leisurely activities; one is sitting relaxing on a bench and playing a guitar.”

“As the boat moved through the canals of the city’s underground, goblins on either side went about their daily business. Firefly are trying to convince gamers that goblins (in a sense) are people, too; they’re not simply waiting in dungeons to be hacked and slashed to pieces.  Based on what I saw, I’m sold — some were doing laundry, others were dumping buckets of water from the top floor of their goblin homes.”

“In the demo, we only saw what looked like a handful of moves (mostly different types of slashes), but we were told that there are over 300 different types of upgradeable moves. The skill chart we were shown looked like a map of the human nervous system; it was ridiculous enormous, with dozens of paths breaking off from dozens of paths.”

Unfortunately when the team remained without a publisher during the global financial crisis of 2008, they had to put Dungeon Hero on hold and cut their staff. As we can read on Firefly Studios’ official website:

“Seven years and seven games later Firefly, having felt the effects of the 2008 credit crunch which caused funding to disappear for their ambitious hack-and-slash RPG Dungeon Hero, decided a change was needed. Working with a skeleton team of four the developer quickly prototyped, iterated and released a closed Alpha for Stronghold Kingdoms, Firefly’s first foray into free-to-play, without a publisher. Over the course of the next two years the Kingdoms player base grew from tens to hundreds of thousands. The game entered open beta in 2010 and launched on Steam in early 2012. It would remain in the Top 10 Most Popular free-to-play games on Steam for two years”

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