PC / MAC

Ruff ‘n’ Tumble [Beta – Amiga]

RuffnTumble is an action / platform game developed by Wunderkind and published by Renegade in 1994 for Commodore Amiga. In the game you play as Ruff Rodgers – a kid with big multi-type ammo gun who was transported to another strange world ruled by evil robots. Ruff ‘n’ Tumble was made by a joint-venture team of just three people who wanted to create the perfect action game for Amiga: Robin Levy (graphic, System 3),  Jason Page (music, Graftgold, Sensible), Jason Perkins (code, Vivid Image, Renegade, Virgin, Gremlin). After the release of Ruff ‘n’ Tumble Wunderkind never released any other game. Thanks to Grzegorz we can learn more about the beta differences from the early versions of the project.

Ruff ‘n’ Tumble development started in 1993: the first preview was published in “CU Amiga” magazine in August 1993. At the time the game was titled “Rough ‘nTumble“, but maybe it was just a print error.

In this screenshot we can see a possible beta of World 2 mine/cave theme with lava. It could have been just a mock-up, in the final game there is no mine cart tracks, no carts with robots and the protagonist does not have that standing idle sprite.

The next preview is from “Amiga Format” magazine, December 1993.

Now game has its final name “RuffnTumble“, level titles are the same as in the final version and that jump sprite is still in the game. There is a first beta HUD.

Interesting beta stuff can also be found in “Amiga CD32 Gamer” magazine  from June 1994

Project Overdrive (Vistage) [PC – Cancelled]

Project Overdrive is a cancelled first person open world game that was in development since 1999 by Russian studio Vistage, to be published by Buka Entertainment in late 2000 / early 2001, many months before the release of GTA 3. Overdrive was an ambitious project, with many features that are still missing from today’s open world games, such as explorable buildings with no loading times and destructible environments, vehicles and gibs.

project overdrive: vistage buka entertainment cancelled open world game

By looking at the screenshots and video below you can notice how Project Overdrive looked great for its time, with a big city to freely explore while hijacking cars, completing missions and trying to not being arrested or killed by cops. If only finished and released before GTA 3, Overdrive could have been a huge influence for the new generation of 3D open world games and Vistage could have became the Rockstar of Russian video games.

As we can read in the original press release by Buka Entertainment:

“Behind the bright, clean surface of a modern city lurk the masterminds of crime, the ones they never catch. You are not yet one of them, though. Here you are, at the federal prison’s gates, a crumpled $20 bill in your pocket and a whole new life to build.

You’re smart, hi-tech and deadly: will you spend your days being an honest worker? Think again. There are enough high-paying jobs, and, with your underworld connections, it’s time to start climbing the crime ladder again, but remember: your reputation will always precede you.

Starting small is a wise choice: it should be easy to become a courier for the local mob. There are a whole lot of opportunities if you don’t mind getting your hands a little bloody or occasionally washing them in water that’s too hot for comfort. Become a bodyguard – or a hit man. Take orders from no one except the Boss – or work only for yourself. Save up and buy a car – or just steal one (remembering to watch out for the police – or just shoot them, if you think that’ll be easier).

Uniquely, PROJECT OVERDRIVE combines the best elements of shooters and driving games in a way that will appeal to anyone who likes movie car-chases and shoot outs, as well as hard-core gamers. It promises to release the first person shooter from the dungeon, bringing portal technology and high quality gameplay into the open where they can be appreciated properly.

This is a new kind of game that redefines the meaning of the words immersive world. Imagine a giant metropolis, several hours across, with streets full of cars and people going about their business, legal or otherwise, hundreds of buildings looming over your head and complete freedom to live your life as you see fit. Make your choices and face the consequences.

Unique 3D-engine with portal technology allows consistent frame rates while walking or driving in the streets, or inside complex buildings; no loading screens and therefore no pauses entering or exiting buildings. Intelligent reflections and shadows.

For the first time ever, real life physics and damage. Everything obeys the laws of physics with unparalleled accuracy, and this means that, just like in the real world, everything can be destroyed: cars can be twisted out of shape, windshields broken, doors torn off; humans can be maimed or reduced to a pile of body parts, furniture can be broken to pieces or burned.

Sophisticated artificial intelligence: all characters have sophisticated and realistic behavior models. Cars and pedestrians obey traffic lights and signs, intelligently following the best route to get to their destination and doing their best to avoid collisions.

Enormous city with distinct districts, for example Chinatown. Uniquely, you can enter any building in the game. The final level takes place on a separate island. Day and night cycle. Complete freedom of action; there are many different ways of finishing the game.”

Even more details can be found in the old Project Overdrive FAQ:

“You start at the bottom of a crime syndicate’s ladder and work your way upwards, hopefully right to the top. You can steal cars, kill for hire, intimidate the opposition, in the process earning money for buying weapons, equipment, cars and even fancy apartments.

Players are trying to increase their wealth and status in the criminal world by successfully completing a variety of missions. The gameplay is non-linear, however, so there is no single way of completing the game. In addition, most of the missions in the game aren’t pre-scripted, but automatically generated by the AI, and these two features should ensure great replayability. There will also be the option of selecting and playing any mission, with a free choice of weapons, out of context as an independent unit.

Most importantly, the high quality of the game’s engine, graphics and AI. The city already looks breathtaking (see screenshots), and, for the first time ever, it will be possible to enter absolutely any building in the whole city and interact with its contents, whether they are people or (smashable) furniture or whatever.

Secondly, the game’s uniquely realistic physical model should put it head and shoulders above the rest. Objects are not just a series of polygons, but real entities, which interact and deform just as they do in the real world. For example, if a grenade lands near a tree, the tree will catch fire; later, the tree might fall on top of a car and squash it. This real world complexity is unprecedented (although a few sacrifices have been made in the name of more exciting gameplay).”

Unfortunately Vistage had some problems during development and in January 2001 Project Overdrive was put on hold by Buka Entertainment, and never completed:

“It was not easy to us to make this decision, as a great effort had been put forth to the development of the game. The originality of the design had attracted attention of many gamers both inside and outside Russia. Quite a few people had expected the game to be released at the beginning of 2001, hoping it to become a hit. But, when the game went alpha, it became clear to us, that the final version would not meet our and our users’ expectations. And as we would not like to disappoint our users, we made the decision to put the project on hold.”

Thanks to a Russian gaming journalist a playable prototype of the game was saved and preserved online, you can download it from mirrors at 3D Shooter Legends and The Iso Zone. As wrote by Talonbrave, in this prototype you can find many of the promised features that would have been expanded if only the game would have been completed:

“The game is actually quite complex; supposedly it’s playable from the first mission to the end, vehicles have per-vertex deformation, a lot of elements within the environment are destructible, characters use inverse kinematics for some interesting results, cars have a limited amount of petrol and need to be filled up, there’s a trading system in the game, you can customize your character, there’s supposedly support for multiplayer, shadow mapping, a completely dynamic lighting system that supported day and night cycles, it appears there were also multiple locations such as an island, there are no loading screens as the game attempts to stream in content during gameplay and seems to feature fairly complex AI for the time.“

Thanks to Svyatoslav for the contribution!

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Desolate World [GBA, Amiga – Cancelled]

Desolate World is a cancelled side-scrolling action game that was in development since late ‘90s by a small Czech independent team (Magic Birds?), to be published by Vulcan Software. The game was initially planned to be published on Amiga computers, it was previewed in Polish “Amiga Magazyn” in 1997 (issue 12) and 1998 (issue 10), and also in some old websites:

“The game is a platformer similar to the all-time great, Gods. However, As well as being all about killing nasties, the game will also have a heavy puzzle element. It is also planned for it to contain certain missions that you have to complete.

Having played an early demo of the game I am quite impressed. Although the main character seemed to move a little showly (this may have been changed), the GFX were very nice and main basis of a good game seemed to be there.

The game will require any Amiga with an 68020, 2Mb Chip RAM and 4Mb Fast RAM. A 4x speed CD-ROM will also be required.”

In September 2017 user “Solaris104” from the “English Amiga Board” found a demo from the Amiga version:

“Demo version Desolate World is public in czech magazine Amiga Review 28 on coverdisk. Authors are brothers Cizek. Vladimir Cizek is coder, Pavel Cizek is graphician and Petr Klimunda is musician. The game should be published by Vulcan. All levels done, but never published and lost on Amiga harddisk. I played some levels in 1997. ExiE made rendered intro for this game.”

This demo has just one playable – but very large – level. Gameplay is indeed very similar to Bitmap Brothers’ Gods: you search for switches, keys, sometimes you have to use terminals, operate lifts or small robots that can act like a lift. From time to time you fight mini-bosses and solve puzzles. A full walkthrough of the Amiga demo can be found on YouTube:

After some time the Amiga version of Desolate World was cancelled and the team tried to port it to the Game Boy Advance, at the time the major console where 2D “retro” games could still be sold with success. A video from an early prototype of the GBA version was uploaded on Youtube in May 2013 and we can notice how the graphic was way less impressive than the original Amiga version, but still nice for a portable console.

Unfortunately even the GBA version of Desolate World was never released and no demo from this version is leaked yet. It remains one of the most obscure GBA games we’ll never play.

Thanks to Grzegorz for the contribution!

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Citizen Siege: Wage Wars (Oddworld) [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3, PC]

Citizen Siege: Wage Wars is a cancelled action adventure that was in early planning by Oddworld Inhabitants in 2004, to be released for Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC. After the project was canned in late 2005, it resurrected a year later as an online arena combat game, to be the first of a series of new games related to their multimedia IP “Citizen Siege” (with a CG movie being their focus at the time). In the end neither the game nor the movie were ever completed.

Citizen-Siege-Wage-Wars-Game-Oddworld-Inhabitants

The Citizen Siege IP was already conceived before the release of Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath, as told by Lorne Lanning (co-founder of Oddworld Inhabitants) to CVG in December 2004:

“But with the atmosphere of the world today we were inspired to birth another universe. This one’s Earth in the future – and not too far in the future. It’s a very intense gaming experience, and it’s about martial law and the diminishment of civil liberties. It hits far closer to home than Oddworld does. I expect that if we’re blessed enough to see it through that there’ll be quite a few senators and congressmen who’ll be really pissed off. And I hope they are, because we’re really pissed off at their behaviour.

As the climate changes and the technology allows us to create something more realistic, we want to match that with something that’s contextually relevant and culturally relevant to where our society is today. We’re not afraid to show the darkside of what’s going on.

It would be built at Oddworld Inhabitants, but it wouldn’t be called Oddworld any more – it’s another brand. Our working title for the universe is Citizen Siege, and then we’d have multiple characters birthed within that universe – a place where a state becomes privatised and America becomes Americo.”

Some more details about this early concept of the game were revealed by EDGE magazine in 2013:

“Citizen Siege was based in a near future where the policies of recent White House administrations continued onward unabated; ultimately landing us in a dark totalitarian landscape where people have been reduced to pure commodity. In this world, your healthy tissue is used as collateral against financial debt, and if you sink low enough, you can be ‘re-possessed’ piece by piece.

The hero had been re-possessed, and was now encased in a cheap life support system as he traverses the economic divides of a dystopian city in a mad search to reclaim his body, and bring down the system that stole it. The powers your character employed were of an unworldly nature brought about by an alternative and illegal energy source. This device fuses to his mechanical body after you attempts to smuggle across an economic border. These powers were intended to play out much as we see the central character in InFamous Second Son demonstrates – we called our version ‘Z-powers’.

We designed it and visualized it with a few hundred production paintings, but never entered a full on pre-production phase. The project was verbally green-lit, but we ultimately chose not to pursue any relationship with the publisher. From that point, we instead chose to shop it as a CG animated feature instead of working with a game publisher.”

Citizen-Siege-Wage-Wars-Game-Oddworld-Inhabitants (9)

After the release of Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath in 2005 Oddworld Inhabitants fell into financial problems because the game sold less than expected (possible due to EA not promoting it enough) and they decided to retire from traditional games development. As told by Lorne to Spong at the time:

“We closed the studio because of what the realities of the marketplace are. There is currently only one financing model in the games industry, and that is that the publisher pays for the entire game; it handles the manufacturing, the marketing, the distribution, the advertising, practically everything, much the way it used to be in Hollywood pre-United Artists. […] And so, as a developer, you have limited options in terms of how many parties are actually willing to finance your games, what types of games they are willing to finance, and what are the terms you face as a third-party developer to get that financing. That’s not a very exciting climate“

At that time Oddworld Inhabitants were already working on a few other games, such as “Oddworld: The Brutal Ballad of Fangus Klot”, all of which got canned. A year later, during his speech at GameCity 2006 in Nottingham, Lorne officially announced that they were working again on Citizen Siege as a multimedia project, with the animated movie to be produced by Vanguard Films, the studio founded by John H. Williams (Shrek) and Neil Braun:

“In CITIZEN SIEGE, Lanning and McKenna are creating a new universe where current global conditions are extrapolated into a frightening near future where democracy has all but disintegrated under the rule of global corporatism. Well‐known for their heartfelt characters and socially relevant storylines, Oddworld intends to raise the intensity level as their latest hero, an ex‐patriot, finds himself ensnared in a nightmarish credit racket that leaves him ‘repossessed.’

Williams added, ‘Abe’s Oddysee was a genre busting original game and was the first one I fell in love with. CITIZEN SIEGE promises to be an action thriller that, like other great science fiction stories, also has incredible poignancy to the universal issues of our time. Lorne and Sherry are highly revered as founding masters of CG animation and we think CITIZEN SIEGE is perfectly suited to be a breakout action adventure.

CITIZEN SIEGE will mark Lanning’s first directing foray into feature animation. His announcement comes after a year of silence from Oddworld, when it last announced the company would be redirecting energies away from internal video game development and would henceforth be focused on a broader palette of digital storytelling that would include animated feature films.”

By using the CG movie to secure funds away from traditional gaming publishers, Lorne hoped to develop their new IP into a multimedia success, with Citizen Siege: Wage Wars being the first video game tie-in. A second, untitled game was also announced but without any details.

In 2007 finally Lorne confirmed to CG Society they started working on the Wage Wars game, revealing that it would have been an online multiplayer game. By looking at some of the released concept art made for Citizen Siege, we can see that Wage Wars was meant to be a combat arena in which players would fight against each other. As we can read at the Oddworld Library:

“For Players, the War is Real! Perhaps they really believe they are in the midst of a genuine war, and not in a spectator arena being watched by millions as a form of mass entertainment. Let’s hope they never break free from the Wage Wars arena and spread the battle onto the streets. Hopefully the same removal from reality will not affect gamers who play Wage Wars online.”

In 2008 it was announced that Oddworld cut their collaboration with Vanguard and the CG movie would have been finished with another studio:

“Oddworld Inhabitants’ ambitious movie and videogame project Citizen Siege is still in development, despite the studio no longer working with original partner Vanguard. The project was announced back on 2006, with Oddworld’s Sherry McKenna telling GamesIndustry.biz that the company still intends to develop games as part of its ‘Oddworld 2.0’ business plan. “Citizen Siege is a project near and dear to our hearts so while we are no longer developing it with Vanguard due to the famous ‘creative differences‘, it is still in development,” confirmed McKenna, co-founder of Oddworld. “We still care about creating games although perhaps not in the way we did in the past. We are just in the process of finalizing our new Oddworld 2.0 plan.”

At the time it seems Wage Wars was also still in development, as Maxis co-founder Jeff Braun announced his involvement with a new Oddworld Inhabitant game during a talk given to students of Wilfrid Laurier University:

“According to Wilfrid Laurier student newspaper The Cord, Braun told the audience the game would feature a “revolutionary new 3-D animation system” that would feature “cinematic quality on a ‘1 to 1 scale’ to that of computer-generated motion pictures,” and would utilize the same assets as a CG film version.”

Unfortunately in the end the whole Citizen Siege project was cancelled following the financial crisis of 2008 / 2009. As told by Lorne to Wired in 2014:

“We got a movie deal for Citizen Siege, which EA greenlit as a game but we decided to take to a movie. What happened was the 2008 financial crisis put the writing on the wall for our CGI animated movie with a $50-60m budget. It just wasn’t going to work. Everything got dinged and it went back on the shelf — it was no-one’s specific fault.”

9th Power [PS2, PC – Cancelled]

9th Power is a cancelled action adventure developed by Eworks and planned for Playstation 2 and PC. It was going to be the first known project for a major console fully developed in Portugal and at the time it was shown in some of the biggest gaming events of the country.

Thanks to an interview with Marco Vale who worked as an intern (2D and 3D artist) for Eworks during the development of 9th Power, we were able to obtain some more details about this interesting game:

“In 9th Power players would control a character belonging to the resistance, a group of humans who had rebelled against the Atlantids (inhabitants of Atlantis) who oppressed them. As the Atlantids had superior intelligence and superhuman skills, such as the ability to mind-control, it was an easy task for them to take control of the earth.

Only few Atlantids were still alive after their society vanished, but they would do whatever is possible to bring back to life the rest of them. By using advanced technology they were able to revive some more Atlantids using their remains: as an example one of them was rebuilt from his brain and mandible, now depending on his robotic body to survive. The only hope for humanity was a single Atlantid who had also rebelled against the actions his own people, joining the rebels and risking his life to help them.”

The 9th Power prototype was developed using the Alchemy and Havok Physics engines and it was meant to be an action-adventure RPG with a sci-fi theme. The team planned to implement new mechanics that would set it apart from other action games of its time, such as the use of a skill tree and destructible environments.

Eworks was formed in 2000 specializing in software development, but David Rodrigues (company’s founder) always had the dream of making games, so in 2002 he participated to the Game Developer Conference with a friend, to “see how the industry worked, how things were done”.

Eworks found out that they could develop a prototype and present it to companies, but this process was not as easy as it seemed.  They took an early 9th Power prototype to E3 and Game Developers Europe where it was very well received, as they managed to show detailed models and high poly-count for its time.

They managed to gather the attention of Take-Two Interactive, that even sent them a dev-kit console to speed-up development. Unfortunately with the economic recession in early ‘00s there was a reduction of investment in original IPs and a turn to safer investments with already popular franchises.

Eworks’ investment in their first game was already expensive for the company (200.000 euros, with 50.000 coming from the European Commision) and even though they pitched it to various publishers, in the end they were unable to secure a deal.

Unable to find other ways of financing themselves, they cancelled 9th Power and were left in need of a financial restructuring, making them to focus on outsourcing work. During an interview with the Portuguese magazine “Mega Score” in September 2005 the team said they planned to fully return to video games development after the end of a few outsourcing projects. Unfortunately that never actually happened.

Slowly the team fell apart and with the closure of the company, their members ended up creating or joining other companies, such as Ignite, RTS and Vortix (which Marco Vale helped to create). In the concept art and screenshots you can see all the areas and characters created for the first playable demo shown to publishers, kindly provided to us by Marco Vale.

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

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