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Lex Ferrum [N-Gage – Cancelled]

Lex Ferrum is a cancelled multiplayer hack n’ slash that was in development by YDreams and Nokia for the ill-fated N-Gage. The project was quite ambitious and original for its time, using actual geo-localization of players who communicated and competed locally via Bluetooth. The team behind the game was composed by Tiago Carita (game designer, 3D artist and animator), Pedro Lopes and António Lobo (both in charge of 2D art) and Antão Almada, Mário Franco, Hugo Abreu and Eurico Moita (programmers).

I’d like to thank Tiago Carita for the time he took to answer my questions about their lost game, and Ivan Barroso for getting us in contact. Also, special thanks to Nélio Códices who sent me all of the screenshots you can see in this article.

Lex Ferrum was in full development around 2003, green-lighted after a prototype made in two months for Nokia. The company was looking for a way to demonstrate the Bluetooth capabilities of their recently launched N-Gage, and YDreams was hired to create a new game that would use such features. Lex Ferrum would use Bluetooth to connect more than 100 players in the same area, an impressive feature that was tested during the Nokia Conference 2003 in Portugal.

Lex Ferrum told the story of a fierce battle between Moors, Nordic, and Iberian warriors for the control of Akio, a sacred realm taken by evil spirits. Players are invited to choose one of these clans, each one with three playable characters. After choosing your warrior you would immediately start fighting against near real-human players and deadly ghosts controlled by AI.

Each warrior could choose between different weapons, such as axes, swords and scimitars. During the Nokia Conference 2003 you could move around the place with your N-Gage, finding real-life Lex Ferrum Bluetooth shops decorated with weaponry and altars. When you got close to one of these shops, the game would immediately connect to them via Bluetooth and activate the corresponding place on the N-Gage screen. You could then buy new weapons, magic potions and spells, for extra help on the virtual battlefield. According to Carita, during the Nokia Conference 2003 around the venue you could also find “two medieval chapels with chanting priests, a witch with a steaming cauldron and a gunsmith doing his craft, one in each corner of the event. If you got close to one of those areas, your N-Gage Bluetooth would detect them and you could be resuscitated by the priest, buy scrolls from the witch or weapons and armour from the blacksmith.”

During battles even deaths were of extreme importance: dead characters became ghouls and to resurrect you had to take vital energy from enemies or find a real-life priest around the venue. In the end, only one name would be remembered: the last warrior remaining alive would be declared the heir to the throne of Akion, the leader of its people. With its 100-player multiplayer, Lex Ferrum was basically a local hack ‘n slash battle royal.

After each battle players would acquire gold and experience points, to be used to buy items in shops and level-up your character. If you didn’t have 100 real life friends you could also play Lex Ferrum by yourself, fighting opponents controlled by the game’s AI. This “single player mode” would have been quite useful, as technology at the time was not advanced enough for the game’s 100-player ambitions: “it was quite hard to connect more than 10 people in the same 50 m2 area using available bluetooth technology at the time. To connect 100 players would have been impossible. The team was in panic and despair when we found out our idea wasn’t technically feasible. Bluetooth could hardly see each other and it kept losing connection: it was hard to fight someone near you”.

In the end YDreams made some changes to Lex Ferrum’s code: “When there were too many N-Gages around you, Bluetooth could detect the IDs of each device, but it didn’t connect. We then used GPRS signal between cellphones and if there wasn’t any bandwidth the game would just launch an opponent controlled by AI. In this way, it looked like you were connected via BT to dozens of people”.

After the game’s presentation during the Nokia Conference 2003, YDreams in collaboration with Nokia tried to expand the game’s mechanics with more layers of combat, content, characters and missions, but unfortunately they realized it was not financially doable. The only playable version of Lex Ferrum was conceived to be used during Nokia events and with no more budget to invest into the project it had to be canned.

Thanks to Códices we can preserve some Lex Ferrum screenshots in this page: if any other concept or media shows up in the future, it will also be saved here.

Article by Jump/Error, original version in Portuguese on the Videogame PT Blog!

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The King of Cosplays [Neo Geo Pocket – Cancelled?]

The King of Cosplays is a cancelled RPG that may have been in development around 1999 – 2000 by Viccom, possibly to be published by SNK for their Neo Geo Pocket. This is quite the strange and previously unknown game, but our friend and Korean-gaming expert Sam Derboo found a short article about it in Korean Game Power magazine (July 2000 issue):

“The King of Cosplays supposedly in development 1999~2000 at Viccom, NGPC RPG where your characters get stronger the more convincingly cosplay as SNK characters”

Could Viccom and SNK really have been working on a Cosplay-RPG? While the concept sounds weird, we know there were quite some strange / original titles on Neo Geo Pocket, such as Dark Arms: Beast Buster, the “SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters Clash” series, Biomotor Unitron and Ganbare Neo Poke-Kun. Also as noted by Sam, “Viccom is known to have cooperated with SNK on several levels (development support / training for Fight Fever, NeoGeo distribution in Korea including NGPC, ties to The Real Kim Kap-hwan) so it’s not completely incredible.

At the moment this scan is the only proof we have of the existence of The King of Cosplays. Could this have been a Game Power magazine inside-joke? While we may never know the truth, for sure it could have been quite the amazing niche RPG if ever released. If you’ll find something else about this mysterious NGPC game, please let us know.

Thanks to Sam Derboo for the contribution! 

DogTag (DiezelPower) [PC, Xbox, 360 – Cancelled]

DogTag is a cancelled shooter that was in development around 2005 by DiezelPower for PC, Xbox and Xbox 360, to be published by British company Digital Jesters. It was going to be a third-person squad based shooter, featuring cover mechanics and basic orders that could be given to teammates. It would encourage players to use the environment for defensive and offensive maneuvers, with blindfire, flanking and enemies that would counter tactics being used against them.

For the gaming press some of its elements drew comparisons to other cover-based shooters such as Kill.Switch and the then-upcoming Gears Of War, but DogTag had a slightly different gameplay style in mind. By mixing the fast action gameplay of traditional shooters and the slower, tactical combat of games like Full Spectrum Warrior, DiezelPower wanted to create a breed of game in which both these styles would come together. It would create a gritty, but arcade-like tactical shooter, in which players would have to think to defeat their opponents, but could also have fun in fast-paced shooting. Online co-op was also going to be a major feature.

The story would have certainly helped with that grittiness. Described as “controversialby publisher Digital Jesters, the plot focuses on one of the civil wars that frequently ravage a large number of nations in Africa. After a United States-backed group is forced to retreat from the conflict, the U.S. sends in a battalion of Marines to replace them. For reasons unknown, however, the colonel of this battalion revolts and leads a mutiny against his own country. The U.S. once again send in a small elite force tasked to bring the colonel back for questioning. Hell breaks loose when they arrive in Africa, as they are immediately met with heavy resistance from the rebelling American forces, starting a long fight that would pit U.S. soldiers against each other, something rarely seen in a video game.

The most obvious inspiration for the storyline would probably be Apocalypse Now, but it is also eerily similar to another controversial title that would come out in 2012: Spec Ops – The Line (which also featured streamlined tactical combat and a story about a U.S. force led by a mutineering officer and the special ops team sent it to capture him, with the setting changed to an evacuated Dubai stricken by a catastrophic sandstorm). But if the storyline in DogTag was intended to be as psychological or as critical of violence as it was in Spec Ops: The Line, it is unknown.

DogTag was to be released in 2006, and would have been a next-gen title at that point in time. Initially, it would only be released on PC and Xbox, but an Xbox 360 port was planned later on with added content. However, it seems the game was not meant to be.

Towards the end of 2005 publisher Digital Jesters became the center of controversy when it faced several accusations of wrongdoing from many of their business partners. These accusations included lack of payment for games developed by external studios, price changing and selling of games in territories not covered by their contracts, and doing business under different names in what seemed like an attempt to escape financial troubles. Despite a substantial investment that Digital Jesters claimed had left them “110 percent financially secure”, KaosKontrol (the company that owned DiezelPower) petitioned the UK High Court to force Digital Jesters into liquidation, in what is known as a winding-up order. Legal action was also threatened against the key people in the company directly and many of their publishing deals were cancelled. The Digital Jesters website disappeared not long after that.

KaosKontrol claimed that it still owned the rights to DogTag, that its development was not affected and was ready to seek out another publishing deal for their game. However, nothing else was heard about it. With the team presumably unable to find another publisher and left in financial trouble (and possibly accumulating legal fees) they had to close down some time afterwards. DiezelPower themselves seem to have survived in some form and are still around to this day, with their two most recent games, Nation Red and Versus Squad, being available on Steam.

Article by thecursebearer

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Reign Of Thunder (Day 1 Studios) [PC – Cancelled]

Reign Of Thunder is a cancelled mech arena combat game that was in development by Day 1 Studios around 2011 – 2012, planned to be released on PC as a Free to Play title. The team previously worked on the Mechwarrior series for Microsoft (with a cancelled Mechwarrior 3 pitch), so fans were quite interested in a new mech game by Day 1 Studios.

The game was going to support up to 16 online players, with fully customizable mechs to fight in deathmatch, team deathmatch and objective based modes. As we can read in their (now offline) official website:

“Reign of Thunder is a free-to-play fast paced multiplayer action oriented Mech combat game currently slated for the PC. The game features deep customization options allowing players to create and customize Mechs to match their play style, choosing from thousands of weapon, shield, and gadget combinations. Players can also join factions and form clans to support community engagement and team play.”

Some more details were shared in an interview by Neowin:

“Ever since we shipped MechAssault 2 we’ve been eager to return to the Mech genre and really take advantage of current generation hardware.  Recently a window of opportunity to do this presented itself so we’ve jumped into this game with incredible enthusiasm.  It’s been something we’ve talked about doing for a while and now we’re finally able to bring this opportunity to life.

One of our goals for Reign of Thunder was to create a property we could have ownership of.  The other universes are well developed, but the next step for Day 1 Studios as an organization was to create something we own and have control over.  Reign of Thunder was the next logical step in our business plans. Additionally, we wanted to take the game in a creative direction that just would fit some of the licensed products.

At the moment the bulk of the gameplay experience revolves around online competition.  There is a training mode to allow players a chance to familiarize themselves with how their Mech controls and get to know the maps.  At the moment all of our efforts are being directed towards the online competitive experience.”

Reign of Thunder was announced in February 2012, but just a year later Day 1 Studios were bought out by Wargaming, renamed to “Wargaming Chicago-Baltimore” and the game was put aside to focus the team on World of Tanks console ports.

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Technic Beat [Beta – PS2, Arcade]

Technic Beat is a music rhythm game developed by Arika for Arcade and Playstation 2, as a sequel to their title Technictix. Sossigu64 found some beta screenshots and videos on the old Arika website, using WebArchive. Here’s a list of the main differences found in these images / footage:

  • The tension gauge is different from both the arcade and playstation releases.
  • The intro is a lot shorter and very similar to Technictix’s intro.
  • Hassy (platypus) and Willie (giant stuffed bear) in the video are too fast. Both characters are considered slow characters and their speed is on the level of Bot (robot) and Cart (human glasses man, kinda resembles Klug from puyo puyo and Jeff from earthbound.).
  • The sets for each “session” are identical from Technictix but have a bit more going on (more visual effects) and the sets look a lot more cleaner (better refined)
  • Concept art found on the Omake page for Technic Beat also shows concept art for Technictix.

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