Others

They (Metropolis Software) [Cancelled – PC, PS3, Xbox 360]

They is a cancelled survival mystery-horror FPS that was in development for PC, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 by polish videogame developer Metropolis Software, founded in 1992 by Adrian Chmielarz and Grzegorz Miechowski. In 1997 the studio acquired the license of “The Witcher” from Andrzej Sapkowski, however, they ceded it around 2000 to CD Project as they were already worked on 3 games at the same time (one of them being the cult-following turn-based rpg game “Gorky 17“).

Metropolis started working on They between 2005 and 2006 and officially announced it at the Game Convention 2007, but CD Projekt acquired the studio in 2008. The majority of the team was then taken over to work on “The Witcher” series and in the end Metropolis were subsequently closed in 2009.

One of the most interesting mechanics conceived for They was its weapons customization system: you only had a single weapon, which could have been modified, upgraded and designed with hundreds of different items. The PC Action magazine mentioned “a large amount of over 250 upgrades and design parts“, including stickers and logos. As we can read on Destructoid:

“Throughout the game, weapon body-parts and plug-ins will frequently crop up for the collecting. Maybe they’ll be part of a boss’ arsenal, dropped when you kill it, or you might just find them lying around in the aftermath of a battle. However you get hold of them, they can be put together, Lego-style, and tweaked and tuned to make a gun to do whatever the player can think up.”

“Every variety of gunfire, from single-shot, to machine gun, to explosive, to laser, to pretty much anything else you can think of can be blended and combined with however many others you want, along with all kinds of special properties such as fire, ice, lighting, and God knows what else. On top of that, there are loads of little adaptations to be had in the way of reload speed, shot frequency, blast damage etc. You want a rapid-fire electro-shotgun with exploding shells? You’ve got it. Grenade launcher with freezing ammo and your choice of blast radius and trajectory? Why not?”

We also know from IGN’s preview, levels in They would have been partially destructible, to let players create new ways of moving around:

“Of course, this being the next generation and all, it’s possible to destroy some buildings with a well placed grenade or two which, interestingly, is more than a simple aesthetic gimmick – laying waste to buildings uncovers shortcuts through levels and even secret power-ups. However, it’s worth remembering that being hit by falling debris is seriously bad for your health so take precautions. “

Metropolis Software’s philosophy with the weapon customization system was detailed in an interview on GGMania:

Q: You announced a unique weapon feature, where you are able to upgrade a flexible weapon to your individual needs. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

A: Without naming so many things of the weapon yet, you might think of a soldier in every war. He only wears some few weapons – mostly knife, gun and maybe pistol. Common FPS games are really unrealistic in that point of view, that a soldier is really able to wear 10 more or less heavy guns at the same time (or he must be HULK to carry them all). In THEY you will have this one weapon, where you identify yourself with, which you can customize and enhance it based on YOUR needs and preferences! You will be able to store setups, so you have the expected control system with keys 1-0 to have access to different types of weapon setups – but it still will be YOUR buddy, YOUR best friend, YOUR WEAPON. The appearance will change dramatically, but you are still able to identify yourself with the weapon. So what we will bring to the genre is some more realistic and believable approach in sort of weapon handling. The fear of players, to have only one gun can be easily refuted, as you have hundreds of combinations which you can store and customize at your own discretion – to create YOUR perfect weapon setup, store it to the expected keys 1-0 and have access to them at all time! So each player will have the weapons of HIS choice, a large variation to be used based on needed functions (gameplay relevant decision!) and need not to get along with standard weapons – this is something unique and new to the genre and will grant more freedom for each player! On the other hand, if someone WANTS’ his standard “pumpgun/rifle/Ak47” feeling, he is able to create that…but when he will figure out the fun and possibilities from our new weapon system he will get used to it soon.”

Weapon customization was essential, because you would fight against some weird and stealthy alien / robot creatures in a “not so distant future”. The setting was a destroyed English city and the main plot was told by a little, mysterious boy.

“Set in near-future London in a world crippled by increasingly severe terrorist attacks, THEY follows the story of a British soldier during the emergence of a new global threat. An army of robots has appeared and begun laying waste to everything around it, and while everyone has assumed that a new terrorist faction is behind it all, it will eventually turn out that things are a lot more complicated than that. The robots are far more intelligent in their combat tactics than anyone can believe possible, and seem to be able to work together without any visible signs of communication. Needless to say, humanity is taking a serious kicking to the face, and it’s during one of these kickings that the player’s story starts.”

“The game will take in around twelve levels, and IMC/Metropolis were keen to point out that they’re taking an episodic structure to the game’s story. Taking their model from shows like Heroes and The X-Files, they’ll be making each level work as an individual episode, but will be building a bigger overall story arc as the game progresses.”

We can only hope one day someone could find a playable version of They, so it could be preserved online.

Thanks to Sam and Dan and for the contributions!

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Project Witches (Eternal Light) [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PC]

Project Witches (aka Eternal Light) is a cancelled coop-focused action game that was in development by Revistronic for Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Wii and PC. Gameplay would have probably been similar to Diablo or Gauntlet, with 4 players team up together to kill dozens of enemies and huge bosses. Eternal Light was officially announced in 2007, but then postponed for multiple times until it was considered vaporware among gamers.

As we can read on the original press-release and official website:

“Project WITCHES (Provisional Title) available w/w is a third-person action adventure game developed by Spanish developer, REVISTRONIC. In WITCHES players find themselves in terrifying dark surroundings in an epic struggle for survival in order to take freedom and peace to an oppressed medieval kingdom.

Across a landscape of devastation, players manage a squad of Witches, sultry warriors that still resist the dark will of the Evil Lord and his horde of awful creatures and lead the rebellion against his satanic power. Above all, it is a game where teamwork is vital: all modelling, levels and scenes are designed to promote cooperative play.”

Key  features

“Everything reeks of death, torture and destruction. The people have been enslaved. They are prisoners of a dark power that has established a reign of terror and devastation throughout the land. Your aim is to eliminate the evil creature that dwells in the depths of a sinister castle and to rescue the crushed inhabitants from their horrifying destiny. In order to survive in the face of this satanic power and its cruel armies, you must learn the art of combat and acquire terrible dark powers yourself.

Sultry girls against satanic monsters: Let yourself go in this dark medieval narrative and enjoy the contrast between sensual beauty and sinister horrors. Direct the beautiful but dangerous Gwen in a spectacular fight against hordes of repellent deformed creatures.

Feel the fear: Skies rent by terrifying storms, hair-raising shrieks, shadows in the fog, stealthy movements and menacing growls, the glint of monstrous eyes that watch from the shades. The oppressive certainty of death lying in wait for you.

Spectacular system of tactical combat: Combining spectacular combat with sequences of caution and stealth. The tactics you use will be decisive for your survival. You must rescue the captives and obtain their help. You will lead your team. You can be a great leader or sacrifice your comrades in the fight. Your decisions will shape your destiny.

Totally interactive environment: All game items can be used, creating a sensation of total immersion such as never before. You can use all kinds of objects to achieve your aims, even the amputated limbs of adversaries.”

There are a few gameplay videos from the game, but we don’t know how much was really completed before Revistronic closed down in 2011 for bankruptcy.

Thanks to Jean for the contribution!

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Project Copernicus (38 Studios) [PC – Cancelled]

Project Copernicus is a cancelled PC MMO that was in development by 38 Studios (AKA Green Monster Games) between 2006 and 2012, an overly ambitious project that got their creators to fail in bankruptcy in a long and painful venture. This would have been their first project: the company was conceived precisely to develop a new, profitable Massive Multiplayer Online Game, a “World of Warcraft killer”.

As we can read from an in-depth article by Tech Raptor:

“In 2006, baseball pitcher Curt Schilling announced he would continue working in a new field: video games. After speaking with several friends and family members, he would found Green Monster Gaming with one goal in mind: create a new MMO.

Schilling himself was an avid fan of MMORPGs,  playing the likes of World of Warcraft in the off-seasons and wanted to add to the market a passion project of his own design. Schilling was not alone in this passion. Two of his biggest backers to Green Monster Gaming, famous fantasy author R.A Salvatore and conceptual artists Todd McFarlane, were also gung-ho on the potential of any projects the studio could create.

This is in part to Schilling himself, who stated in an interview just after his studio closed, “If it wasn’t an MMO, I wouldn’t have done it. If you look at the game space now, if you want to build something that’s a billion-dollar company, the only game to do that with is an MMO.”

Some of the big names to join the company would include Travis McGeathy, the lead designer of the MMO Everquest; and Jennifer MacLean, former chairperson of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) and the VP General Manager of Games at Comcast. ”

There is not much info on Copernicus’ gameplay, but we know they heavily invested into its settings and lore, with a 10,000 year game-history created by R.A. Salvatore and art direction by Todd McFarlane. After the team failed to gather interest and funds from investors to complete their MMO, they decided to acquire Big Huge Games from THQ.

Their plan was to release a less ambitious single player action RPG: the result was Kingdoms of Amalur, a game that merged a project already in development by BHG with part of Copernicus’ settings and lore. As we can read on RPG Fans:

“For three and a half years, we had the Amalur universe in 38 Studios,” Schilling said. “The IP is being led by this team of very passionate people, we’re making this MMO, we’ve got a roadmap – and in a 24 hour span, we add 90 employees who now all of a sudden are taking the baby being created in Boston. There’s 90 people we don’t know and we’re handing off this multi-billion dollar, multi year project… to who?”

But perhaps it wasn’t so crazy. As it turns out, Big Huge Games had already been laying the groundwork for their own single player RPG project under lead designer Ken Rolston, of Morrowind and Oblivion fame.

“They had been shopping this fantasy game for a long time,” said Schilling. “From a tech perspective and a game design perspective, there was a solid foundation. But they were missing the story – the thing that makes a great RPG. We had that. It was a match made in heaven, because not long after the partnership, when Bob [Salvatore] and Ken [Rolston] and the creative team sat down together, there was a lot of magic going on.”

Unfortunately even Kingdoms of Amalur did not sell enough to keep 38 Studios alive and without being able to keep their MMO in development, the company closed for bankruptcy in 2012:

“38 Studios went to Delaware’s bankruptcy court this afternoon beginning the arduous process of salvaging what it can in the face of a $270 million debt.  The hearing marked the first opportunity since the studio filed for bankruptcy for creditors to question the company’s executives. According to the Boston Globe, creditors and employees who have gone unpaid since May will likely receive nothing through the proceedings as the studio takes the first steps towards liquidation.”

“Kingdoms of Amalur would go on to be a modest success for 38 Studios. Published by Electronic Arts, as a part of their EA Partners program, Kingdoms of Amalur would see 1.3 million copies sold in three months, which for a new IP was respectable. Schilling, and later Chafee, would note that the game needed to hit around 3 million units sold to break even on development costs and turn a profit.”

We don’t know exactly how much of Project Copernicus was done before its cancellation, but enough footage and screenshots were leaked online to have a good idea of how it would have looked like. Unfortunately, from what Curt Schilling said, his dream MMO was not fun to play:

“The money was only a secondary concern to Schilling. “The game wasn’t fun… It was my biggest gripe for probably the past eight to 12 months.” Evidently the combat lagged and no one seemed to be playing it around the office.”

“As the studio collapsed, employees were left in the dark. Worse, their health insurance was shut off without notice – which one pregnant woman only discovered upon going to a doctor’s appointment. The company that was supposed to handle relocation fees didn’t finish the job, leaving several employees stuck with mortgages on their old homes as well, and bills that were supposed to have been handled through management hadn’t been.”

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Battletech (Microprose) [PC – Cancelled]

In the late ‘90s Microprose UK was working on a Battletech real-time strategy game for PC, based on the official license by FASA Corporation. FASA’s own development team (FASA Studio) was probably still busy working on their first MechCommander video game (published in 1998), so we can assume the company asked Microprose to work on a different game in the meantime. In the end Microprose’s Battletech was cancelled, but thanks to game designer Terry Greer we know a few details about this lost project:

“Battletech (based on a license from FASA and set in the Battletech universe and with lead designer Richard Bakewell) was in relatively good shape when I started as Head of Game Design at Microprose UK, so I really had very little to do with it – apart from working on creating the cutscene scripts, and overseeing it until its untimely cancellation.

Battletech had its own engine, a basic terrain editor, and the beginnings of control mechanics. It was also very extensively documented with a detailed GDD and specification, along with lots of artwork and models – and was fully thought through (the Battletech license was owned by FASA).

The game was based around controlling a small squad of mechs (basically big power suits) with just a single operator  across a height-based map with deformable terrain. Tactics and squad formation and use were to play a large part in the gameplay.

Unfortunately the game was canned a short time later for reasons that were out of our control and which involved FASA suddenly reversing their decision to continue. I still have some artwork from the game – but can’t get the demo to run any more, it required other installed files which I no longer have.”

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7Days (Cauldron) [PC – Cancelled]

7Days is a cancelled fantasy RPG in development around 2001 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 The Elder Scrolls series, with action combat, underground dungeons and a fantasy open world to explore.

Unfortunately we can’t find much more online about this lost game. We know the team also worked on the cancelled Project Revolution and in 2014 Bohemia Interactive acquired Cauldron, changing their name into Bohemia Interactive Slovakia.

Thanks to Chris for the contribution!

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