PC / MAC

Blackstar (Spacetime Studios) [PC – Cancelled]

Blackstar is a cancelled Sci-Fi MMORPG that was in development around 2005 by Spacetime Studios, planned to be published on PC by NCSoft ( Lineage, City of Heroes, WildStar, Guild Wars). The team was composed of experienced developers who worked on such projects as Wing Commander, Star Wars Galaxies and Ultima Online, but unfortunately they were not able to complete the game after NCSoft dropped their support in 2008.

As we can read on Spacetime Studios’ website:

“Spacetime Studios’ Blackstar MMO concept featured a unique combination of space flight, real-time shooting and role-oriented (RPG-style) combat. In Blackstar, players piloted heavily-customizable starfighters through evocative space environments, battling a universe of exciting foes with a combination of weapons, defenses, and other abilities that improve through experience and gameplay.”

A new breed of game, Blackstar resurrects the dream of online space combat with real-time spaceflight featuring fast and nimble fighter-craft loaded with devastating sci-fi weapons.

You aren’t limited to the canopy: get out of your ship and hit the deck for fast paced ground combat on the surface of alien worlds and aboard enemy ships.

Fly your spaceship to exotic locations: blasting through cunning enemies and dreadful space creatures. Leave your ship and take up the quest, exploring mysterious planets, derelict space stations, and force your way onto enemy ships.

Live as one of four races: ranging from heroic humans and beautiful aliens to warrior robots and undead horrors in an epic science-fantasy universe where advanced technology clashes with ancient demonic power.

Combine spell-casting with real time shooting as you blast through enemies, collect loot, and gain levels in a variety of unique alien environments.

Join up with your friends in maneuverable fleet formations to take on capital ships and enemy starbases in epic large scale battles.

Play as a member of one of two galaxy-spanning factions: the hopeful and technologically advanced United Colonies or the dangerous, prophecy-guided Scorn Empire.

Choose your role in the fight from a variety of powerful classes: From deadly Assassins operating behind the enemy lines, to powerful Crusaders who shrug off damage and unleash volleys of blistering fire, pick the role that matches your style of play.

Participate in a rich story as the forces of futuristic technology and mind-twisting magic clash in a battle to decide the fate of the galaxy.

Declare war against other players and destroy them in action packed player-vs-player combat that serves all levels of skill from the freshest cadet to the deadliest ace.”

Some more details can be found in old interviews by TenTon Hammer and Engaged:

“Our team has a great history… Cinco and Anthony (Sommers) have worked together since QA/ CS waaaaaay back in the old Origin days, Jake (Rodgers) and I both worked at Digital Anvil many years ago, and all four of us worked together on various aspects of Star Wars: Galaxies and SWG: Jump to Lightspeed. That’s just the founders… our team has an amazing amount of experience building, shipping, and running MMO’s as well. Collectively we have shipped three MMO’s under our belts (Ultima Online, Shadowbane, and SWG) as well as a vast multitude of single-player titles.”

Space flight and space combat will be an integral part of our game… it is what we are passionate about and what we know best. It is safe to say that the game will take place primarily in outer space. At the same time, we feel that a strong avatar component is essential as well.”

“Take the best of Wing Commander and Descent. Add some kick-ass ground combat. Play a lot of PvP to polish the hell out of it until it hits the right balance of easy to play/difficult to master. We are unconstrained by the existing fiction of a licensed product and free to attempt the artistic purity that can truly define a franchise. There’s nothing like it and we don’t see anything on the horizon.”

In 2011 Spacetime Studios were able to regain control of the Blackstar IP and its concepts became the inspiration to create Star Legends: The Blackstar Chronicles, a quite different MMO for mobile phones.

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Blood Tactics (Artefacts Studios) [PC – Cancelled]

Blood Tactics is a cancelled fantasy RTS that was in development by Artefacts Studios in the mid – late ‘00s. The team is mostly known for their work on such titles as Agatha Christie: The ABC Murders and Space Hulk Tactics, but it seems they were also planning this obscure project. Unfortunately Artefacts never officially announced Blood Tactics so the only proofs of its existence are a few images from an alpha demo, probably developed to pitch the project to various publishers.

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BaiJiu Racer (Spicy Horse) [PC – Cancelled]

BaiJiu Racer is a cancelled online kart-racer that was in development for PC in 2008 by cult-following game designer American McGee and his team Spicy Horse. After working on their episodic American McGee’s Grimm game series and with support from ICE Entertainment, Spicy Horse pitched Baiju Racer as a competitor for Crazyracing Kartrider, an online racing game that was quite popular at the time in the Asian market.

As wrote by American McGee on his blog:

“Announcing “BaiJiu Racer” – An MMO-lite racing game concept with China as the core theme. The concept has been in focused pre-production for the past three months here at Spicy Horse. Working with our Chinese publishing partner ICEE we’ve crafted a solid Game Design Document, Technical Design Document, Art Bible, Visual Target Demo, and Development Plan. Together these materials constitute a compelling pitch for a title we think will be a strong competitor in the worldwide, lite-MMO, online racing category (think “Kart Racer”).

A lot of teams dream of a “Mario Kart” or “KartRider” killer – and we think our concept goes a long way towards being a viable contender. For one, it’s the first Chinese cart racing game developed with an authentic and original Chinese art style, set in real-world locations, and featuring some of the funkiest racing vehicle designs the world has ever seen (inspiration coming from actual Chinese vehicles). We’re focusing on semi-realistic (and fun) physics-based racing dynamics, going light on the power-ups, and throwing in a lot of visual action.”

Gameplay would have been mostly skill-based, with just a few Mario Kart style power-ups:

  • Distinctive art style featuring a timeless portrayal of everyday Chinese people and locations
  • Core gameplay focused on skill-based racing, avoiding fun-killing power-ups
  • Strong narrative backbone and emotional drama – “everyone can be a hero”
  • Unique and interesting vehicle designs based on real-life Chinese vehicles
  • Track locations that reveal a China few foreigners have seen

Baijiu Racer would have been free to download and play on PC, with heavy emphasis on cosmetic paid content. For this reason playable characters were designed with an “ugly” style, to incentivize players to buy cosmetic stuff. As wrote by American McGee in 2010:

“Online games dependent on microtransactions and purchase of items must create and maintain a compelling library of buyable content. Generally this content is geared towards improving player’s abilities in-game, either upgrading performance of a vehicle, allowing access to a bigger weapon, or resupplying ammo/fuel for those weapons and vehicles. Purchases can also be purely cosmetic, improving Player’s outfit, hair style, or physique. It is agreed that in a fair and balanced PvP environment purchased items should not upgrade or influence a Player’s ability to win. This means purchased items are purely cosmetic.

Solution: Our brains have evolved to be powerful facial characteristic readers. We are walking face “value scanners”. A game geared towards the creation and maintenance of facial “value” taps into this most basic skill of the human brain. Facial beauty is a function of ratios and relational harmonies. A character creation system with built-in flaws limits Player to creating only ugly faces.

Typical facial creation systems assume Player will build a face at the start of the game and then leave it until the end. By linking the facial manipulation mechanic into the store we create a constant driver to spend time/money on making a player character more and more attractive. The promise of all those marketing campaigns becomes a reality.

Races (crashes specifically) will deliver damage to Player Character’s face, clothing and body. This way we create an instantly recognizable value system within the game which can be monetized through make-up, insurance, surgery and more.”

While ICEE was announced as the publisher of the game in China, as far as we know Baiju Racer was never released in any way, as confirmed by a former Spicy Horse developer’s resume.

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AOsphere (Identifiction) [PC – Cancelled]

AOSphere is a cancelled point & click episodic adventure that was in development around 2008 – 2009 by Widescreen Games and Identifiction for their streaming-gaming platform on PC. At the time it was quite an ambitious and original project, anticipating both popular episodic games such as The Walking Dead (2012) and Life is Strange (2015) and live-streaming gaming services.

As we can read on GamesIndustry:

“The episodic videogame distribution channel www.identifiction.com will be launched on October 15. Heading the program: videogames that take the form of weekly episodes in streaming mode. This is a revolutionary new borderline concept between videogames and TV series.  Videogames that you can follow just like a TV series  The website www.identifiction.com will diffuse its videogames at a weekly rhythm. They are intended for adults seeking content that’s original, irreverent, short and easy to access from any operating system and a wide range of computers (pc, mac, windows, linux, etc.).

The Aosphere series (Science fiction/adventure) will be available immediately the platform is onlined. The channel’s catalogue will be enhanced by two more original series, due from the end of the 3rd quarter of 2008 and the beginning of 2009.”

“Widescreen Productions is to launch a weekly episodic games portal in October, hoping to bring TV-style content delivery to the games business. While previous attempts at episodic delivery have been sporadic, Identifiction.com promises weekly episodes of 30 – 45 minute long game experiences.

Videogames must be capable of rethinking their narration, formats and genres,” offered Oliver Masclef, creative director of Indentifictions. […] “By taking the economic model of the series with short formats and attractive subjects available at definite dates and times, we are aiming at all those who have turned their backs on playing videogames due to lack of time or boredom,” he said. The first title for October will be the science fiction action game Aosphere, with the company planning two new titles for the end of the third quarter and beginning of 2009.”

The AOsphere project and the Identifiction platform were initially postponed from October 2008 to early 2009:

“Initially scheduled for 15 October, the launch of the serial game AOsphere has been put off until January 2009. www.identifiction.com will nonetheless open with a beta version before the end of the year. The creative team will offer its first interactive serial exclusively to those registered.  “Since we’re now finishing the production of the first season of AOsphere, it’s vital to make sure we do it under the best possible conditions. That’s why we’re setting back the marketing schedule by a few months. This additional time will allow us to test our games and check the ergonomics of our platform.”

In the end AOsphere seems to have quietly vanished, even their official Facebook page stopped updating about the game in February 2009. We don’t know if Identifiction ever streamed any video game on their site, but by the lack of information available on its service (and the fact their website was put on sale the following year) we assume it was also never launched, canned and forgotten by everyone.

Some screenshots, concept art and footage from AOsphere are preserved in this page, to remember the existence of this lost project.

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Starfall (Hyboreal Games) [PC – Cancelled]

Starfall is a cancelled loot-shooter RPG that was in development around 2005 – 2006 by Hyboreal Games (later known as UI Pacific), a forgotten team formed by former Blizzard North developers, who previously worked on such games as Diablo, Diablo 2 and the cancelled version of Diablo 3. You can imagine it as a third person shooter with settings and gameplay similar to a mix between Halo and Diablo, plus a comic-book art-style. We can speculate it would somehow have been similar to what Borderlands became when published in 2009.

As we can read on the old Hyboreal Games website:

“The company is establishing a new best-selling game franchise by applying the proven formula of mass accessibility, addictive game play and longevity through replayability. Hyboreal Games was founded by Eric Sexton, Michio Okamura and Steven Woo, all industry veterans and former developers for Blizzard North where their contributions were essential to the success of the highly acclaimed Diablo franchise which has sold well over 13 million copies worldwide.

Hyboreal Games has enlisted the outsourcing services of FlipSide Game Studio in the development of the first project. FlipSide Games was founded by Jon Morin, our long time friend of nearly a decade and former co-worker at Blizzard North. FlipSide Games has already been hard at work helping us on the First project for the past few months.”

Unfortunately the team never showed any in-game screenshot for Starfall and only some concept art is preserved below, to remember the existence of this lost project. We can read some details about their concept for the game in an old interview by Shacknews:

Shack: Have you been in talks with any publishers or other sources of capital, and are you concerned about the financial challenges of this endeavor?

Eric Sexton: We have just started talking with publishers about our current project. Starting your own business is always challenging, but the team is confident in our project and our experience as game developers.

Shack: What can you tell us about your first title?

Eric Sexton: Our current project is a 3D, Science-Fiction, Action RPG. It’s Halo meets Diablo with all the fast visceral game play of third person shooters merged with the character advancement and item collection of a role playing game. You can explore the planets of the galaxy, customize your spaceship and choose the path of your character while deciding the fate of the galaxy.

Shack: The few pieces of concept art available for your project suggest a perhaps more colorful or vibrant aesthetic than that of the Diablo series, where most of the team’s roots lie. Is this indicative of the direction of the game?

Eric Sexton: We do want to go with a slightly lighter look. The art we have up on our page is a preliminary direction, but we are still exploring the “look” of the game universe.”

Hyboreal Games soon vanished without any trace, so we can assume they never found a publisher interested in Starfall.

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