Ghost Wars is a cancelled strategy shooter that was in development around 2004 by Digital Reality (mostly known for Imperium Galactica and Sine Mora), planned to be published in 2006 on PC by Hip Interactive. The game was quite ambitious for its genre, as you would have been able to play it as a traditional real-time strategy game or impersonate each soldier in your unit to play it as a first / third person shooter.
“Based on the Government Special Operations Group, “Ghost Wars” takes players into the clandestine and secret war against terrorism. Players take control of air, land and sea units of an Elite Special Forces group across multiple top secret missions. With the graphical quality of a first person shooter, “Ghost Wars” will offer gamers the most accurate depiction of modern day warfare to date.
Through Battlefield View, “Ghost Wars” brings the theatre of war to life. Gamers are not only tested on their strategic senses, but also on their ability to react quickly under enemy fire by directly controlling individual units. By setting up, equipping and planning troops’ activities, gamers will need to utilize state-of-the art weapons and technology to defeat terrorist networks.”
“You’ll have the typical type of units, including soldiers, tanks, helicopters, and such. However, what makes Ghost Wars unique is how you control them. While you can just use the typical kind of point-and-click movement, you can also select a specific unit and zoom the camera in to take its viewpoint. If you choose a soldier, you’ll go into first person, and if you pick a vehicle, you’ll go to third person. From there, you can control that unit manually, attacking whatever you like. Soldiers can also get into parked vehicles on the field and drive them.”
“Units in the game will be upgradable in a number of ways, letting you specifically level up individual units to improve their performance on the battlefield. And you’ll need to level up, because Digital Reality is endeavoring to make the opponent AI in the game quite challenging. AI units will run for cover and hide inside buildings, meaning you’ll have to bring in your tanks and choppers to take those buildings down. And boy, can you. Though not all the deformable objects were in, the developers showed us quite a number of big-time building and vehicle explosions that looked pretty impressive.”
Burgers Wars (AKA “Burger Warz” or “The Great Burger War”) is a canceled first person arena shooter that was in development around 2004 by Amped Labs, planned to be released on PC and Mac. Up to 128 players would have been able to play against each other in colorful arenas, to decide which fast-food burger brand would win the “Burgers Wars”. As we can read from their old website:
“Burger Wars is a fast action, multiplayer online first person shooter. In the year 2033 two competing burger franchises, McBozo and Burger Clown are in an all out global war as they battle for supremacy in one of the worlds last free market enterprises. Team based play tactics are involved and 3 game types, Team Death Match, Capture the Flag and Assassinate the Clown are supported. It runs on PC, Mac and Linux. It can handle up to 128 players per server, and its spoof humor is a guarantee for some side splitting laughter.”
“In each game type a score point is made by “nutralizing” your opponents. A point is awarded for each “nutralization.” Several unique weapons are available to help you. When an opponent is “nutralized” he or she will drop weapons ammo and a score burger. “The score burger is worth an additional 10 points. As you gather score points your character has the ability to use more weapons. Your character can grow over time and his or her score is maintained on the game server or cluster of game servers. The objective is to obtain all the weapons and keep the highest score. As new mod packs and weapons are available your player will be able to maintain his or her own inventory and trade weapons with other players.”
“In 2003 the first human was cloned. Despite world wide pressure to ban cloning and genetic experiments on humans the fast food industry creates its very own human clown mascot. They altered his genes to have fiery red hair, bright red lips and very pale skin. His genetic “fathers” included splices from a former actor who became a California Governor, an olympic athlete, an opera singer and a famous magician. He was put to work at an early age. He was very enthusiastic and worked very hard.
Mc Bozo is a ruthless money hungry capitalist who is too cheap to hire a mascot so he does his own advertisements. He is fat, lazy and greedy. He started out as a police officer and was corrupted by smugglers when he began accepting bribes. After serving time in prison for his crimes he was released on Parole and began selling hamburgers as a street vendor. “
“In 2031 only two occupations still employed human workers. The vast majority of the workforce had been laid off in the great depression of 2019. Cheap automation, rapid inflation coupled with the devaluation of the new global currency, and the latest human occupation software upgrades for Japanese ASIMO humanoid robots were to blame. Of the remaining two human occupations, one was civil service, which required a minimum of 3 PHDs, the other was fast food. When times were tough the application process for a fast food worker could require a two year wait. Hours were long and competition between the fast food restaurants was fierce. Price wars reduced wages, and layoffs were rampant. Finally the stress of modern life became too much to bare for the fast food workers and they began attacking each other.
At first it was simple… like a brick tossed through a window. Graffiti sprung up on the buildings such as “Die you scum sucking McBozo devil worshippers!” and “Rot in Hell you Burger Clown bastards!” Soon the attacks became more open and personal. One McBozo worker was beaten by Burger Clown employees, dipped in a vat of McBozo sundae sauce and wrapped in toilet paper. The violence was captured and broadcast via infravision on all local neural network stations. Shortly after, on October 31st 2033, an angry mob of McBozo workers dragged a Burger Clown employee into the street, forced him to eat seven pounds of uncooked French fries and set fire to his head. That was the last straw! It was outright war!”
While the game was officially announced on many gaming websites and a playable demo was also released, Burger Wars and its developers just vanished sometime around 2005. We can assume Amped Labs were not able to complete their project without support from a publisher. They were also working on another game titled “Rise of Power” but it was also cancelled.
It seems the game was playable at E3 1998, but we were not able to find any footage yet. Unfortunately there are no details about what happened to the project, it just vanished and then forgotten by everyone. We can speculate gameplay was not food enough to rival Diablo and Activision just decided to kill the project.
If you can find more screenshots or videos from this lost game, please let us know!
Warhound is a cancelled open-ended FPS that was in development by Techland (the team behind such titles as Call of Juarez, Dead Island and Dying Light) in 2007, planned to be released for Xbox 360 and PC. The game was quite ambitious for its time, offering RPG-like mechanics, fully destructible environments, usable vehicles, roguelike elements and freedom of choice on many aspects of your character’s development. Players would take the role of a mercenary: you would have been able to freely explore each area and resolve missions as you please, choosing how, where and when to complete each objective.
You could image Warhound as a mix between Crysis, Far Cry and Dead Island. As we can read from the (now offline) official website:
“Warhound is an open-ended First-Person Shooter (FPS) set in modern times. In the game, you will play as an ex-Delta Force operative, now working for the world`s largest military company. In Warhound, you`ll complete a variety of challenging missions in battlefields around the world, while later uncovering a massive terrorist plot that targets the United States and thousands of its citizens.
Warhound focuses on complete freedom of choice, and as such, you will have unprecedented opportunities to pick your missions, weapons, battlefield tactics and vehicles. You will select mission start times, insertion/extraction points and the types (land, sea or air) of insertion. You will also need to keep on top of your training, finances and position in the highly-competitive mercenary market to ensure you receive only the most select missions. More successful missions equal more money, which can be used to buy new equipment and weapons for future jobs. Warhound`s innovative First Person Perspective (FPP) cover system will allow you to bring the battle to your enemies in ways you`ve never dreamed of before.”
Unprecedented freedom of choice in an FPS:
– Tackle missions in the order you choose, create your own path through each mission`s objectives
– Plan your tactics and equipment load-outs
– Buy satellite photos, recon data and other intelligence about the battlefield situation
– Pick a deployment time and location, then pay for the means of getting in and getting out
– Train your character in several skills, including climbing, repair, and weapons proficiency
– Skills are earned and developed as in the real world – for ex., shooting ranges improve accuracy, running tracks and climbing walls boosts cover and movement skills
– Develop and use skill specializations to gain advantages in combat; new skills offer fresh opportunities for advancement through the mercenary ranks, and new ways to complete missions
FPP cover system:
– For the first time in FPP/FPS games, you’ll be able to use the innovative cover system, which will forever change your way of looking at FPS games. Use items, trees, buildings and other elements of the environment to hide from the torrent of bullets. Shoot at your enemies from behind safe covers.
Detailed and realistic economy:
– Earn money for each successful mission and by selling materials picked up on the battlefield
– Use your newly earned riches to buy weapons, ammo and new gadgets
– Invest in learning new skills
Constantly changing battlefields:
– Every mission is laid out differently each time you play it, enemy units take up new positions, post new patrols, lay traps in different locations, set up ambushes, etc.
– Enemy A.I. takes into account how you`re playing the mission, and counters with unique strategies and tactics
Interactive, destructible game environments:
– A fully interactive environment means plenty of surprises for the enemy – destroy buildings they are hiding in, set villages on fire to “smoke them out”, cause avalanches and knock down trees to clear your line of fire or to create obstacles for the enemy and cover for you
Rivalry with other mercenaries:
– Climb up the career ladder and increase your reputation among the elite mercenaries of the world
– Successful players will earn prestige among their peers, which leads to better and more lucrative contracts
Some interesting details can also be found in an interview by GGMania:
“Adrain Sikora: There are two primary unique features. First up, we have RPG elements that allow you to specify the characters specialization. This influences the kind of tasks you can undertake and allows you to choose different approaches to achieving a given goal. The second unique element is the economic layer of the game. You need to constantly keep an eye on your finances, and plan expenses ahead. Some missions will require a particular kind of weapon, equipment or vehicle, and you’ll need to buy that. We’ve also played around with various gameplay ideas and solutions, because with got the new Chrome Engine, but it’s too early to talk about that.”
“Adrain Sikora: Weapons and guns are still an open issue. We keep adding new types and models. You’ll get off-roaders, half-trucks, quads, APC’s, tanks and choppers. We’re still planning and testing other stuff. I can’t state a precise number of weapons right now, because we’re still working on it. We want to introduce some variety, but also we want to have all the usual stuff: pistols, SMG’s, sniper rifles, rocket launchers, etc. You’ll also get to use fixed guns and vehicles. We’re not planning a weapon upgrade mode, but most guns will come in different variations.”
“Adrain Sikora: We want to have classic modes, like deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag and so on, with up to 32 players. We are also working on our own ranking system for online players, which will also allow you to create custom character classes. You’ll also get to use skills and choose equipment just as you’d do in single player. There’ll be vehicles in MP too.”
“Adrain Sikora: The game is 50% done at the moment. We want to release the game in Q4 2007. Warhound will be available in North America, though we haven’t chosen a publisher just yet.”
Warhound was quite hyped at the time, so many screenshots, details and footage can still be found online today. Unfortunately today the project is mostly forgotten by everyone. In the end Warhound was put on hold because the team had to focus their resources and efforts on such titles as Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood and the promising Dead Island. As we can read on Engaged:
“Blazej Krakowiak, the company’s international brand manager, told us, “We reached a certain development stage and had to postpone it because of Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood.” He continued, “A release of an ambitious and well-received title is always a good moment to unwind a little bit and reevaluate all the options,” speaking to the recent release of Bound in Blood. “It wouldn’t be a good idea for us to discuss them right now.” Though Krakowiak doesn’t exactly confirm our suspicions on the fate of Warhound, his caginess on the game’s fate speaks volumes.”
Although the main Call Of Cthulhu tabletop RPG campaign takes place mostly in the 1920’s, the Delta Green setting puts players into modern times, in the shoes of agents of the fictional U.S. secret organization of the same name. Their mission is to deal with aliens and paranormal investigation, keeping their existence a secret from the public. This would be often done ruthlessly and by any means necessary, throwing conspiracy fiction into the horror formula of the Cthulhu mythos.
Flying Lab (a Seattle-based studio) was collaborating with the creators of the tabletop game, Dennis Detwiller, Adam Scott Glancy and John Scott Tynes (with the latter being brought in as a member of the studio and serving as lead designer) in order to bring Delta Green to life as faithful as it could be to the source material. Whole new characters and stories were written exclusively for the video game, and apparently these ideas would end up being used in the tabletop game itself later on, as this adaptation would have been considered canon.
Although the tabletop game focuses on role-playing, the video game would translate into a strategic and tactical experience. Initially development focused on delivering an X-Com-like feel and style of control, with the player ordering a squad of agents from an isometric camera angle. One or more characters could be selected at once, given a command, and they would carry out the order. However, it was decided later in development that this approach was not enough, and the scheme was changed to a third-person camera angle, with each team member being able to be controlled directly if the player so wished, with orders given through an on-screen “playbook” and prompts. This gameplay style would probably have been similar to later strategy games such as Valkyria Chronicles, with the major difference being that Delta Green would play in real-time.
The similarities with X-Com wouldn’t end here, however: Delta Green was to feature a planning aspect between combat, with the player being able to recruit agents and allies as they see fit by spending resources. You could also upgrade the organization’s effectiveness through research. For example, a first encounter with a monster might have ended with the agents’ weapons being completely ineffective against it: a better tactic would be to focus on collecting a sample from the enemy and bringing it back for analysis. This would result in a squad that would now be better prepared to deal with the new threat and could come back with new weapons to deal with it. But of course, once the team returns to that area, they could be facing groups of enemies that are now more prepared to deal with them as well.
With any game built around strategy and tactics, A.I. was a very important aspect for Delta Green and Flying Lab were aware of this. One of their major focuses during development was to create an A.I. that would not frustrate players, fully capable of taking action by itself. Agents in Delta Green would be aware of their surroundings and would act with a certain degree of autonomy. They would take cover when under attack, hold their fire until their teammates were safely out of the way and coordinate their actions when carrying out an order (such as breaching a room). This would eliminate micromanagement, leaving the player to simply provide macro-tactics and decide how to approach a problem, letting the A.I. agents doing the rest.
On the horror front, Flying Lab wanted to keep the game consistent with the Cthulhu vibe. This meant keeping the actual monsters and horrors to a minimum, as they thought slaying creatures that are supposed to terrify you in large numbers only causes their impact to be heavily diminished. With this in mind, most of the enemies the player would encounter would be cultists, humans driven mad by old, demonic deities who would employ everything from conventional firearms to magic and artifacts against them.
The environments would evolve based on this philosophy as well, with early levels taking place in the easily recognizable real world (such as run-down subway stations and apartment buildings), but progressively being replaced with more bizarre and supernatural locations. The latters would include the submerged cities of the Deep Ones and even an alien base on the Moon, which would feature artificial gravity and navigation on geometrically impossible structures inspired by the works of M.C. Escher.
To help build this effective horror atmosphere, Delta Green was going to be powered by a modified LithTech Jupiter engine, developed by Monolith for their upcoming game No One Lives Forever 2. Inspired by the early looks the public got into Doom 3 and Halo 2 during the time of Delta Green’s development, Flying Lab licensed Jupiter in order to add cutting-edge lighting and character models to their game. This tech would be used for some interesting gameplay mechanics, for example a certain type of monster was able to disguise itself as a member of the team and would be completely indistinguishable from a human, with the exception of the shadow they cast. Flying Labs would also employ a bit of trickery in order to achieve high fidelity models: they took a 300.000 polygon model, created a lighting map for it, and then simplified the model back to around 3.000 polygons. By putting the original lighting map on top of this lower quality polygon map and letting pixel shaders do all the work, it would cast lighting on the geometry without it actually being there. This would create models that looked extremely detailed, but not nearly as resource intensive. Tynes would describe the results of this technique at the time as “the most realistic playable characters ever seen in a game, period.”
But the excitement was not meant to last. Flying Lab was aiming for a 2003 release for Delta Green: throughout the summer of 2002 they were in talks with several publishers in order to try to bring the game to the public. But what started off as a small PC exclusive eventually grew enough that it got in the Xbox Incubator program as well. This allowed prototypes to be easily created for the Microsoft console using standard PC tools. It seems Microsoft took an interest in Delta Green, but at some point backed out of the deal. It could be assumed that nobody else ended up picking up Delta Green for publishing unfortunately. Because of this the game never entered full production, despite the LithTech Jupiter engine allowing it to develop ahead of schedule.
At the same time Flying Lab was working on another game, Pirates Of The Burning Sea, an MMO set in the Golden Age Of Piracy that was eventually released in a beta testing state in December 2005, and officially released in 2008. From what can be pieced together, it seems Flying Lab chose to focus on their MMO after hitting trouble with Delta Green, and the game was shelved indefinitely at the beginning of 2003. Although Flying Lab hoped they could come back to the project at some point, it seems that never happened and Delta Green was never heard from again.
Flying Lab would continue to develop Pirates Of The Burning Sea for years to come, but would eventually go out of business sometime around 2012, when their publisher (Sony Online Entertainment) dropped the MMO from their catalog. Former members then founded another studio, Portalus Games, which continued maintaining the game until 2018 with a shrinking team, when they also closed doors. The game remains alive, but managed by a whole different company, Vision Online Games, with Flying Lab’s influence long gone from its virtual world.
Article by António Pedro Pinto, thanks to Majiki for the contribution!