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Hollow (ZootFly) [PC, Xbox – Cancelled]

Hollow is a canceled First-Person Shooter developed from January 2003 to October 2004 by ZootFly, for the PC and Xbox systems.

Officially revealed in September 2003, Hollow was quite ambitious for its time. The game had a pretty original story and background as we can read on the now-defunct official website of the game:

It’s 1978 in a country, called Centrope. The Great War raged for 38 years and left the world devastated. After the war, the Central Powers formed a single, giant state of Centrope. The vast territory is governed by an Orwellian off-beat Disco-totalitarian regime.

During the war, an advanced physics experiment went wrong somewhere in Ural, and created the Time Distortion Territory. Later, Centrope’s scientists invented a way to record time fragments that escaped the Territory. The fragments are thoroughly scrutinized for clues of the future. To the horror of the Centropean oligarchy, one of the fragments shows the Territory expanding all over Europe.

The oligarchy is convinced that the Territory is controlled by the Rebels from the Mirror City, which lies under the capital of Centrope and that they will use it to destroy Centrope. The Rebels are a powerful paramilitary group that controls a vertically mirrored replica of the capital – among other misfits, dissidents and criminals.

Conversely, the Rebels are certain that the State is controlling the Territory and will use it to destroy them. A grave misunderstanding: the Territory is controlled by neither side. In this tragic ignorance, both sides strive to save their skin: the oligarchy is planning a massive evacuation, while the Rebels are fiercely attacking State’s vital institutions.

In the middle of this maelstrom, Tyler Kilmore, a former US reporter who was expelled from Centrope five years ago, is brutally awakened the next morning after his return, as he came back from the US to reunite with his fiancée. He is arrested and charged with her murder – the murder of his fiancée Aiko Bronte. The Chief of Police suggests him to finish his life to spare everybody a painful investigation and save Aiko’s family, since she was a Rebel collaborator. Relentless to end his life, Tyler Kilmore is thrown out of a window in 87th floor by the helpful hand of the Police.

Luckily, Tyler lands on an airship and gets to see another day. Or does he?

Pursued by the Police, Tyler Kilmore must find out what happened to his fiancée. The search leads him through the perils of Centropolis, the giant capital of Centrope. Tyler gets to use many sorts of weapons, takes hostages, assassinates VIPs, drives vehicles, flies airships and executes audacious missions. The clues lead him to the chaotic underground Mirror City, packed with criminals, gangs and outlandish assignments, such as a spectacular car chase on the methane dump fields under inverted skyscrapers, hanging off the Firewall that separates Centropolis from the Mirror City.

All this to get the doctor that worked with Aiko, Tyler’s fiancée, and may know where she is. And she knows where Aiko is!

As the plot thickens, Tyler will make way into the impenetrable Time Distortion Territory, where a remote lake guards a submerged entrance to a primeval Underworld.

The hellish Underworld holds the key to saving Tyler’s fiancée and the world, and keeps the answers to many questions of ancient history.

The whole story of the game can be read here, thanks to Wayback Machine.

 

In addition to its original background, ZootFly promised several features never seen in video games before, or, at least, back then, which took the form of gadgets, weapons and powers:

The PolyVisor, which is used similarly to night vision goggles, is a breakthrough feature that enables Tyler Kilmore to see how dangerous the opponents actually are before engaging in a fight.

As Tyler switches the PolyVisor on, a display of tell-tale auras will encircle each opponent, singling out the most dangerous individual. Whether that is the most aggressive, intelligent or important individual in a group, Tyler will be able to plan his strategy using this information. The strength, direction of flickering and color of auras will tell him who to eliminate first to leave the rest of the group in disarray. Collective aura of a group will tell Tyler how the group is organized. Do they have a chain of command, do they attack in packs, or are they an amorphous group of one-track minds?

For example, Tyler will be able to eliminate the commanding officer first, leaving the rest of the troops in confusion for a while. Using PolyVisor, Tyler will be able to single out undercover agents in a group of civilians. He’ll be able to predict how cops will react when he takes a hostage: will they shoot to kill or will they let him bluff his way past them with an empty gun? And much, much more: in the multiplayer mode, the PolyVisor will show health and armor of other players and their skillfulness, based on their previous actions.

The HoloSnoop is a highly visually attractive feature that will enable Tyler to control a holographic image of himself in third person view and walk it around the level to a limited distance.

Consequently, Tyler will be able to inspect some of the level without being exposed to immediate danger, and trick NPCs into believing the hologram is Tyler himself. This opens a whole new aspect of, for example, planning diversions.

By using the HoloSnoop, a hologram of Tyler will detach from the first person camera and seamlessly blend into the third person view. The hologram can perform all actions except engaging in a fight, but its range of operation is limited to about twenty yards.

ChronoFreeze is a feature that enables Tyler to freeze time for resolving most complex situations, or to reverse time for a couple of moments and undo mistakes.

Tyler can, for example, throw some crates off a skyscraper rooftop and use ChronoFreeze the next moment to freeze time. He can then jump off the rooftop and land on the crates that stopped a couple of floors down frozen in time, break a window on that floor and jump into the building. Of course, time is of the essence: ChronoFreeze works only a couple of moments and Tyler must be as quick and agile as possible to complete a feat like this.

The alternative usage will enable Tyler to rewind time a couple of moments back, making it possible to fix mistakes or undo wrong moves. Tyler will thus be able to try the most daring stunts without the danger of dying instantly, relieving the player from the hassle of quick saving and loading.

Many other features were planned for the single-player campaign as well as the multiplayer, alongside various characters. Multiplayer info are available here and other features alongside characters and enemies can be view here.

Using a proprietary engine called Xubl, Hollow was planned for a release between Christmas 2004 and Spring 2005, and ZootFly made multiple comparaison with other famous FPS games such as Doom 3, Halo and Battlefield 1942. In March 2004, GenGamers was able to get an interview with CEO Bostjan Troha, who shared some more information about the title:

G.G. Have you been inspired by other games or movies?

B.T. Sure. Brazil, one of my favorite movies, was the top inspiration; Delicatessen for bizarre environment; Kafka with his oppressive and intolerable situations; the Brady Bunch with their upbeat approach to living in the Disco-ridden seventies; plus the Italian Carabinieri with their Village People uniforms… Then there is Half Life 2 which we all want to get close to as far as gameplay and graphics is concerned.

G.G. Is Hollow a typical shooter or will you implent interesting gameplay variations?

B.T. We have some quite cool features that will rock the gameplay.

One is what we call ChronoLeap. The player is able to fast rewind time for up to 15 seconds and redo their actions again as the second embodiment of Tyler. The first Tyler will exactly recreate actions from the initial attempt, while the second Tyler will be fully controllable by the player. Thus the player will be able to act as his own buddy, helping himself progress through the level with double power.

The number of rewinds, and consequently embodiments of Tyler, is limited by the player’s health. With each rewind, the player’s Tyler will get only one half of the original Tyler. Thus, the third Tyler will get one half of the second Tyler.

Another nice feature are objects with flammable liquids. For example, you’re able to pick up a gasoline canister and spill the liquid on the floor, creating a trail of gasoline, and then ignite it with a bullet. With this you can prevent AIs from advancing, explode oil barrels from safe distance and much more.

We want to create the ultimate emergent gameplay. Gamers are able to use different global paths (e.g. get to the B by driving through highway barricades or shooting your way through the subway), local paths (e.g. sneak through back rooms on a silent kill spree, or blast the way through the station), and use any object in the environment to their advantage.

G.G. How many weapons will appear, and what´s up with the equipment? Will we see some helpful goodies?

B.T. For example, the player has a navigable pill bug robot, equipped with a camera, incapacitating spikes and a self-destructing bomb that can crawl on walls and ceilings. Weapons include all the comfortably known guns, plus wicked weapons, such as the DeBoner that instantly decomposes calcium in bones and reduces the opponent in a boneless chicken.

G.G. Will you include different endings? Is there any replay value?

B.T. There will be three different endings, determined by the psychometrics engine.

User’s inputs can tell everything we need to know about the player. How they react in a tight situation, how they use resources, how they interact and communicate, how they deal with challenges. What is their sequence of keys pressed, how jerky are movements of the mouse. What do they do when they enter a new space: do they go in the middle of the room and look around or do they explore details first? What is the average speed of their movement?

Based on such information the engine will build a psychological profile of the player and adapt the game accordingly. Based on this, the game will have three distinctively different conclusions. The game will branch at two thirds of the story to three distinctive resolutions, and the psychometrics engine will pick the right one for the player.

The immediate reaction of the game works on the principle of positive feedback. If the player is cerebral, they will get more cerebral puzzles; if the player is violent, they will get more violence. The immediate response works for the benefit of the player on the usability/learning curve level as well. How often does the player quick-save? Maybe the game is too difficult. How many new rooms do they discover in a specific time? Maybe they are lost and need additional stimuli to proceed, maybe they are too fast and the game is not fun anymore and they need more interesting obstacles.

G.G. Are there any plans for a multiplayer part?

B.T. Multiplayer side of Hollow will run on broadband PCs and Xbox Live for up to 64 players and will feature 10 different multiplayer maps and various vehicles.

There are three opposing teams instead of two to add a different dimension to multiplayer first-person action gaming. It is sure interesting to engage in a fight against two other teams; each team will have to plan and coordinate their actions more carefully in order to win. It definitely adds an element of forging alliances and – surely enough- backstabbing. However, those three teams won’t have to stay each on their sides the whole time, since two teams will be able to form alliances and fight the third team.

Hollow Multiplayer will have all the usual modes (such as capture the flag, team deathmatch, co-op, POW rescue), plus some unique such as racing. However, there will also be some additional features that are worth mentioning. Players will be able to infiltrate any of the other two teams by taking the role of a spy and by performing undercover actions. Other cool features that will completely change game tactics are the options to take prisoners of war and taking hostages. You’ll also be able to increase your chances of survival by playing dead and sharing ammunition and health with other players.

However, in October 2004, Hollow was put on-hold due to lack of publishers interested in the project, as we can read on GenGamers again:

Zootfly Software´s Bostjan Troha let us know that their first person shooter Hollow is “on hold” now. They didn´t find a publisher yet.

We can speculate that the overambitions intended for Hollow was what which pushed the publishers not to sign a deal with ZootFly, of which it was also the very first game.

Hollow wasn’t the only cancelled game made by ZootFly. Years after that, the studio also had another new IP named Time0, developed from the remnants of a Ghostbusters prototype, which was cancelled for the same reason as Hollow. There was also a mysterious prototype codenamed World War 3 developed around 2005-2006 and their last game, Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death, began as a Mr. T video game, back in 2009, before being reworked, as Bostjan Troha pointed out recently on Twitter:

It was rather redeveloped as Marlow Briggs. The reason was that Mr. T’s agent offered us a blank slate for the IP. However, they later decided that the Mr. T’s game character mustn’t ever hurt anyone, be violent, only do good stuff, etc. Which makes it a hard game to develop.

ZootFly was acquired in 2013 by casino company Interblock.

Article by Daniel Nicaise

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Armageddon (Boanerges Studios) [X360 PS3 PC – Cancelled]

Armageddon is a canceled Christian futuristic squad-based First-Person Shooter developed by Boanerges Studios and published by Atari from 2005 to 2006, for the PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 systems.

As we can read on the now-defunct Boanerges website, Armageddon was:

“A story-driven multiplayer FPS set in the end times. In the near-future much of the world unites under a multi-national government. This New Age marks the end of man’s separatist ways, and anyone who is unwilling to surrender their heritage for the greater good is an outlaw, to be systemically hunted down and exterminated.”

“Choose to join the rebellion and fight the enemy against all odds, or join the world’s most lethal military machine as it sets out to eradicate the opposition from the face of the planet. Battles occur in real-world locations, with fast-paced customizable vehicle combat and friendly squad Artificial Intelligence. A random sub-mission system provides a unique experience every time a map is played, framing online and offline gameplay rich with content and impressive level design.”

In September 2005, Gamecloud interviewed Garland Wong, one of the co-founders of Boanerges, about what the game was supposed to be:

“The game takes place in a time known as the End of Days. A great leader known as the Antichrist will emerge and form a treaty with Israel. The world will think the Antichrist is a good person but 3 1/2 years into this treaty he will break the covenant with Israel and declare himself to be God. He will force people to worship him by taking the mark of 666. You won’t be able to buy food or work or function in his society if you don’t take the mark. The Christians and Jews will work together to survive this time.”

“There will be various different levels that have religious significance. Some of the levels include Jerusalem, The Vatican City, Petra, and Westminster Abbey. Standard Military vehicles such as tanks, trucks, assault dune buggies will be part of it, also, with our customizable vehicles system, standard civilian vehicles can be made into weapons. There will be two teams, you can play as a Christian/Jew or as the Antichrist, and for the multiplayer, you will be able to play 32 players per server and up to 64 total including NPC.”

“Armageddon has three main unique game play features. The first is customizable vehicles in a FPS game. You will be able to retrovit civilian and military vehicles with various weapons. These vehicles retrofitted with weapons will also react very realistic physics since we are utilizing Ageia’s PhysX API and this will take advantage of the hardware accelleration. The second is squad based AI. You will be able command a bunch of AI squad members and give them commands. You can then cycle through the HUD and determine if any of your squad mates need help and take over there position. This is pretty cool for example you send one of your squad mates to complete a mission. You cycle through the camera and see he is being badly hurt or may need more “intelligence”. You can then take his place to complete the mission and he will take your place. The third is random story events. Armageddon is similar to Battlefield 2 in which you need to capture and hold control points to gather resources. However, Armageddon will inject random objectives throughout the map that are mutually opposing. For example, one random store event will be a great earthquake as unearthed the ark of the covenant. The Christian’s teams goal will be retrieve it while the Antichrist team will also be given the mission to capture it. These random store events have the side effect of playing a level different everytime so it will be less stale.”

Using the Reality Engine, the developers planned to implement next generation features such as dynamic effects like shadowing and lighting alongside realistic physics. Others features included Top-Down “Commander” view with real-time switching between squad members, special abilities such as placeable turrets and upgradeable armor.

Jesse Rapczak, the other co-founder at Boanerges, explained, on his personal website, why the game was eventually canceled:

“I was responsible for pitching the game to publishers, though many shied away due to the controversial nature of the story (a sci-fi future based on the Book of Revelation). Armageddon was in development for a year and was strongly considered by Electronic Arts, Vivendi Universal Games, and Sony Online Entertainment before it was finally picked up by Atari. Unfortunately, the game was cancelled a few months later when the publisher’s financial situation bottomed out.”

Armageddon was potentially going to be the first AAA Christian First-Person Shooter video game in the industry, even if we saw years before titles such as Super 3D Noah’s Ark, The War in Heaven, Saints of Virtue and Catechumen.

Article updated by Daniel Nicaise

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Commander Keen: The Universe is Toast! [PC – Cancelled]

Players who have played through the last, sixth episode of Commander Keen should remember that at the end of the game you could see Keen wearing a Santa hat, promising “the best of all Commander’s adventures” for Christmas 1992. The seventh part id Software was going to release it under the name The Universe is Toast! and it was supposed to consist of three separate games.

However, soon the studio employees were so fired up with the idea of creating a three-dimensional Wolfenstein (in fact, conditionally three-dimensional), and they forgot to think about the new Commander Keen. Subsequently, Tom Hall, Carmack, and Romero said more than once that they were not averse to doing the seventh part of the game. Romero, even with his studio, even took on the reissue of the entire series, reworked for Windows. But things are not going further than talk.

In Tom’s own words:

“Well, I don’t want to talk too much about it, as I may do it someday, but as you know from the end of Keen 6, Mortimer McMire is back, and he has big, bad plans for the end of the Universe as we know it…

If I can ever get the rights back to Keen, or if I can strike a deal with id so I have creative control of him forever, then you’ll see Keen again. I don’t want to start Keen back up, only to have him taken away again if he’s successful. That just wouldn’t seem fair.

I would love to do another Keen. My last idea for Keen 7-9 was a game world [that] was 3D, and at certain places the camera rotated with you for different games. It was halfway between Super Mario 64 and Pandemonium. This was two years before those games came out. I wish I’d been in a place where I could’ve made that happen back then.

I do miss the good ol’ days of Keen. I love the universe and the gameplay, and I’d love to make another chapter in the saga. We will see how the future unfolds..”

Joe Siegler recalls what else Tom Hall said about Keen 7…

“When Tom Hall was working here at Apogee, I used to pester him about Keen, because quite frankly, I was a customer of Apogee’s before I started working here. I used to ask him a lot about what he had planned for Keen 7, and I remember him being really annoyed when Super Mario 64 came out, because Tom said that was exactly what he had planned for Keen 7 – he wanted to be first to market with that kind of game concept.

When I asked which characters he said would be back from the original Keen games, he replied “All of them – a level Idea I had was that in the first level, you’d have every single character from all of the previous Keen games in there all at once – sort of a Galactic Zoo type of thing. Then I’d start introducing new stuff after that.” Whether or not Tom actually uses this idea or not, you can tell he was thinking on a grand scale.”

On December 14th, 2015 (25th Anniversary of Commander Keen’s initial release) John Romero posted a prototype of “Keen 7” that was, according to him, created in Madison, Wisconsin.

Some information is taken from «Игромания» magazine, 03 (114) 2007

  

White Fear (Inuits) [PS2/PC – Cancelled]

White Fear, later renamed Inuits, is a canceled action-adventure game developed by Widescreen Games, first published by Microïds, then by Playlogic Entertainment, from 2002 to 2004 for PC and Playstation 2.

Announced in the spring of 2002 for a release initially scheduled for November of the same year, White Fear tells us the story of Iru, a young shaman who has to help the inhabitants of a polar village. An evil witch named Sukko not only destroyed their homes and settled the area with her servants, but also cast a terrible curse on them: turning them into monsters of ice. In addition to various melee weapons, Iru would also have magical powers taught by four spirits to take on a total of 21 various monsters such as trolls and goblins through diverse environments across four worlds. As the game progressed, Iru was called upon to increase his powers through various items found throughout the adventure. Futher information can be read on Gamespot:

The game is set in a 3D fantasy world filled with frozen wilderness and magic. It will include fast-paced combat as well as puzzle-driven adventure elements.

As we can read on Queutimes.com, it seems that Microïds made the decision to let go the project in 2004 after a certain number of postponements, and left the hand to Playlogic which canceled the game very quickly, not without having to change the name in the process. No statements were made about why it was dropped by Microïds neither canceled by Playlogic.

At the beginning of 2019, a prototype of the game dating from May 2002, leaked onto the Internet.

After its cancellation, Widescreen Games will work on many other projects, some also canceled, before filing for bankruptcy in 2009.

Article updated by Daniel Nicaise

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Plague of Darkness [XBOX/PS2/PC – Cancelled]

Plague of Darkness (also known as The Plague) is a canceled action-adventure game developed by Widescreen Games and published by Namco Hometek for Playstation 2 and Xbox around 2003-2004.

The game was announced during the ECTS 2003 for a release planned in the summer of 2004 as we can read on Gamezone:

“Gamers Beware: Namco to spread gaming fever next summer with Plague of Darkness title to infect action adventure genre on PlayStation®2 and Xbox®.

Leading video games publisher Namco Hometek Inc. promises intense, nonstop action in its newest thriller, Plague of Darkness (tentative title), announced today.  Scheduled for release on the PlayStation®2 computer entertainment system and the Xbox® video game system from Microsoft, Plague of Darkness will ship in the summer of 2004.  Developed by Widescreen Games in Lyon, France, Plague of Darkness will feature Xbox Live functionality, complete with downloadable content, as well as PlayStation®2 online support with exclusive extras.

“Plague of Darkness will raise the bar in the action adventure genre through its haunting original storyline, close combat elements, stunning graphics and intense action,” said Jon Kromrey, Producer at Namco Hometek Inc.

“We think gamers will be infected with its immersive and addictive gameplay.”

In Plague of Darkness, Namco transports players to ravaged Medieval Europe during the time of the Black Death. Eight brooding environments with 58 sub-locations will put players to the test, each containing new objectives, enemies and obstacles. A linear storyline with deadly puzzles, fascinating characters and chilling discoveries allow players to experience unique game play mechanics and participate in over-the-top fantasy combat. In a time where advanced weaponry doesn’t yet exist, players have a multitude of basic weapons, special tools and magic at their disposal. Over five weapons are featured in the game, including a variety of swords, crossbows, daggers and the ability to cast magic spells. The game’s outstanding cinematic effects set an additional ambient tone for Plague of Darkness, immersing players deep into the dark world environments.

The game’s story features a Knight of the Order, Douran, who sets out on a mission to bring down a terrible demon.  The demon has been haunting the land of the living by feasting on the black souls of the dead, in order to bring about its own resurrection. During the course of his adventure, Douran encounters other characters that may hold answers to the mystery behind the demonic plague, but can he trust them? In the course of the story, the hero fights the omnipresent evil demon by using the game’s sacred relic in a quest to spread peace throughout Europe.”

In December of the same year, Gamekult revealed a little more about the game:

“In a medieval Europe ravaged by the Black Plague (1348), the young knight Douran sets sail for the island of St. Angui, to join Jacques de Villemort, the head of the Order, and his father, whom he has seen attacked by an evil spirit in a recent nightmare. Offshore, Douran sees a thick dark fog with a Death’s face, which quickly takes the form of a claw to trap the ship and capsize it. At the back of his cabin, our hero hears the horrified laments of the members of the crew, before seeing the strange tablecloth rush under his door … Small peculiarity, the combat system will propose to assign tarot cards to get special spells. Equipped with an online function on Xbox as on PS2 to obtain new equipment, Plague of Darkness is scheduled for next June in the United States.”

In April 2004, Sliced Gaming Australia shared a bit more about the game design:

“As you progress through Plague of Darkness you’ll be able to upgrade Douran’s weapons, magic and armour Role-Playing Game-style. As the game has an emphasis on action and combat, Douran will have more combat-based moves than simply attacking; he’ll also be able to block enemies’ attacks and even grab them to execute throw moves. Twenty-five enemies will be featured in the game, some with non-magical attacks and some with magical attacks.”

However, Plague of Darkness quietly vanished without a trace after this. We can speculate that something went wrong during it’s development process and Namco decided to pull the plug. Oddly enough, a partnership between Widescreen Games and Namco will eventually come to fruition with the making of Dead to Rights 2, released in the end of the 2005 year, after a troubled development.

Article by Daniel Nicaise

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