PC / MAC

Iron Angel (Ocean) [PC – Cancelled]

Iron Angel is a cancelled sci-fi flight / combat simulator that was in development for about 3 years by Meta Mode Design, to be published in 1994 / 1995 by Ocean Software for PC. This was meant to be Meta Mode’s first game and while it looked promising, unfortunately it was never completed and soon the team vanished without any trace. The only details remaining from this interesting project are from a series of previews published in 1994 in various gaming magazines. It seems Iron Angel was also shown at ECTS 1994 but we did not find any footage yet.

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In a preview published in PC Gamer (august 1994) we can read:

“From the people who brought us TFX (that’s Ocean, not Digital Image Design), comes an even more futuristic flight sim, with the action taking place both above and below the Earth’s atmosphere as you battle to save the world from Armageddon (again).

What’s so special? Well, have a look at the screenshots. Although this is Meta Mode’s first game, it’s already clear they’re no donkeys – it moves as impressively as it looks. Strike Commander and the forthcoming Inferno could have some serious competition…

If you’re into flight sim in any way, shape or form it’s going to be difficult to turn a blind eye to a game which promises not only mind-blowing visuals but an innovative campaign structure across over 150 missions.

Robert Muir and Alan MacDonald had known each other for years before, but decided to get together in 1991 to write a PC game because they weren’t impressed with what they were seeing in the software shops. So they had an idea, took it to Ocean, who liked it, and away they went. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

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Well, three years on, and Muir and MacDonald, alias Meta-Mode Design (as a game design duo, they’re probably the smallest team working on the PC today), are now all set to unveil the fruit of their collective labors, Iron Angel – a futuristic flight combat game that nestles snugly between the simulation and arcade goalposts. But despite comparisons that are already being drawn between the likes of TFX and Strike Commander, Meta-Mode isn’t pushing the issue – the game was conceived long before most of these youngsters arrived on the block, so they can hardly be accused of plagiarism.

Set in the year 2025, Iron Angel has its front a little more into the future than Ocean and Digital Image Design’s impressive TFX. You’re cast as a pilot in the United Nations Space Force, at a time when the Cold War has re-emerged more threatening than ever before.

Four main superpowers compete for control of the globe, with a sophisticated SDI system protecting against nuclear attack. But a new breed of fighters, capable of destroying the SDI satellites, has made nuclear war a threat again, so the UNSF is set up to keep a lid on the things above and below the Earth’s atmosphere.

The Iron Angel, an ultra-sophisticated high-altitude fighter, is the UNSF’s main weapon, flying against opponents ranging from the relatively primitive F-16s and MiGs in service today to the superior ships flown by the largest superpower, an alliance of giant corporations.

Iron Angel’s main hook is its settings – a mix of sci-fi fantasy and reality. “This is a world where you’ll still see conventional planes, but the technology has improved” says Muir.

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Meta-Mode vision of the airborne military of 2025 includes aircraft whose cockpits have been replaced by gyroscopic cradles that turn inside the plane to counteract the effect of G-forces, landing claws that enable an aircraft to land down on the site of a mountain, and even fighters that can fly underwater! But there’s more to this than just futuristic fancy. Muir becomes animated when he talks about the game’s structure and design. “I’m not impressed by the mission structure of most conventional flight sims, I get bored of just flying from waypoint to waypoint, hitting a target and coming home again. We’ve tried to make Iron Angel as different to that as possible. The closest thing to it is F/A-18 Interceptor on the Amiga, which really broke new ground when it first appeared. We’ve got about 150 missions and they can take up to two hours to complete, which will give you an idea of how involved they are. the gameplay’s much more strategic, you’ll be using your wingmen a lot – like in X-Wing. And we’ve got plenty of hidden extras, like enemy reinforcements if you hang around too long”

After three years in development, Iron Angel is still only 80% complete, so the Meta-Mode boys will have to pull their fingers out to get the job done in time for Christmas.”

Unfortunately it’s unknown if they ever completed the game before its cancellation and Ocean never gave an official statement about its demise. For sure the Iron Angel looked awesome for its time, and it could have been a revolutionary combat simulator, with players able to use planes, cars and mechs – all of them in the same game.

Robert Muir and Alan MacDonald seem to have worked on just a couple of other games, before to also vanish into nothing. If you are in contact with Robert or Alan and could help to preserve more info, images or footage from Iron Angel, please let us know!

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Star Trek: Secrets of Vulcan Fury [PC – Cancelled]

Star Trek: Secrets of Vulcan Fury is a cancelled adventure game that was in development from 1997 to 1999 by Interplay Entertainment that would have been the third entry in their Star Trek adventure game series, the other two being 25th Anniversary and Judgment Rites.

Like the two previous games, it would have featured the entire cast of “The Original Series, and would have been written by Original Series writer D.C. Fontana, and directed by Original Series director John Meredyth Lucas. Essentially, like the two previous games, it would have been an interactive episode of the television series.

The game would open with a plot involving the murder of a Romulan ambassador, that would lead into a whole series of stories exploring the backstory of the Vulcan and Romulan races, including why they split into two (something that has not been explained to this day in any Star Trek iteration).

The reason for its cancellation was apparently that the game was far too ambitious. Full Motion Video was in its infancy at the time and the game would have been entirely interactive FMV sequences using clay models similar to Interplay’s Fallout series, with full voice acting, something that was simply too expensive to produce at the time. So the game was cancelled with only five percent of the game complete.

There are claims the entire script was recorded by the Original Series cast, however this is false. The script was never finished, and audio recording never seemed to have went beyond testing purposes. It’s unclear if even the entire original cast would have been able to record dialogue in fact. For example: Deforest Kelly, the voice of Leonard McCoy, was apparently too ill when development commenced, and had to be replaced by an impersonator. It’s unclear exactly how much work was done audio wise, but but it’s likely nothing went beyond testing and some scene rehearsals, and to add insult to injury, all files were accidentally deleted by Interplay, making a revival of the game all but impossible unfortunately

The technology however impressed Paramount Studios, who planned to use it to make a CG-I television series fearing the Original Series cast and characters, but that too was cancelled.

Article by To Be Continued

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Hired Guns (Devil’s Thumb, VR-1) [PC – Cancelled]

The original Hired Guns was a First Person sci-fi tactical RPG developed by DMA Design (the team that created GTA and later became Rockstar North) and published in 1993 by Psygnosis for Amiga and PC. Hired Guns was quite ambitious for its time, players were able to use 4 different characters at the same time, each one had their own view and the game was played using a 4 windows split screen, also allowing up to 4 players to play together in coop.

The team behind this “reboot” of Hired Guns was Devil’s Thumb Entertainment, a small DMA division started in 1995 by David Jones and led by Tony Harman. Only a year later Devil’s Thumb was cut off from DMA and became an independent studio, working on Mike Piazza’s Strike Zone (released in 1998 for Nintendo 64) and Tides of War (released on PC in 1999). Sometime between the release of these two games, Devil’s Thumb also pitched this new Hired Guns to Psygnosis, that soon greenlighted the project to be developed using Unreal engine.

As recalled by a former Devil’s Thumb member who worked on the game:

“All of our levels had a maximum on-screen limit of 80 polygons using the old Unreal 1 engine.  Our art direction was to use a lot of color, since the first person shooter at the time was Quake and it was very brown.  Our marketing was going to include:  “There are millions of colors, we used them all…. except brown.”

A few previews for Hired Guns were published back in the day by Gamestop and IGN:

“Whereas most shooters are pretty simple run and gun affairs, Hired Guns is a complex game of tactics and teammates, more along the lines of X-COM Alliance or System Shock 2 than a Quake or Unreal. “

“Here’s the basic story. In the not so distant future, those who could afford it left the now poisoned Earth to travel to different off-world colonies that had been established by three different corporations. The first colony was in the Luyten system 10.8 light years from Earth and was reached by the mammoth Tesseract Corporation using a brand-new interstellar drive. Later colonies were started not only by Tesseract, but by the Betelov and Grenworld Corporations as well. With these new colonies in place, humans began to flourish again with huge new stores of resources to tap and trade. Sadly, human nature began to kick in and the three companies began fighting over consumer wealth and loyalty.”

“In the beginning of these battles, war was fought more or less in the conventional fashion, with huge armies taking each other on in space and on the colonies, wiping each other (and often the colonies) out in the process. As colonies wised up and began to create their own militias and as the corporations began to loose the ability to fund huge armies, they started to hire small mercenary groups to commit acts of espionage and sabotage for them. It was during this time that the Hired Guns, a crack team led by a man named Kircher appeared. Considered by some to be the finest data espionage agents ever assembled and by others to be absolutely insane, this ruthless group started to play each of the companies against the others in an attempt to bring themselves massive profit and power.”

“Using the Unreal engine, Hired Guns will allow gamers to control a four person mercenary squad as they go off on a series of missions. What pushes Hired Guns outside the genre is that you actually control all four members of team in a multi-windowed interface. One large window accommodates the character you’re currently controlling with three smaller windows that depict what your other team members are seeing. When you’re not controlling them directly, a control panel allows you to tweak their AI for the task at hand. If you need to clear room quickly, you could turn up their aggression and see what ensues. Or you could have one soldier run into a room to battle several enemies and retreat when its health goes below 50 percent. During gameplay, you can take control of any of the players as they combat evil corporations.”

“Missions bring more strategy to the 3D shooter by forcing you to figure out which mercenary is best suited to a particular task in a mission. Kircher is a Rasta male with spiritual self-healing capabilities, Myriel is a 200-year-old who is mostly cyborg and has an advantage of being able to understand electronics, Rorian is a ex-soldier with zoom lens-like optical implants, and Osverger is the berzerker of the crew with a large soldier body and massive strength.”

In 2000 VR-1 Entertainment acquired Devil’s Thumb, while at the same time Psygnosis decided to leave the PC market to focus their resources on Playstation games. It’s not clear which company owned the Hired Guns IP, but unfortunately without its original publisher and with a new studio management the game had to be canned.

It seems Hired Guns was almost finished when cancelled, there’s even a leaked beta that you can download and play to check out what it could have been.This beta is labeled as a “pre-production version” and it includes all the levels, characters and weapons planned for the final game.

Thanks to Harri for the contribution!

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Hellion: Mystery of the Inquisition [Cancelled – PS3, Xbox 360, PC]

Hellion: Mystery of the Inquisition is a cancelled first person action RPG set in a medieval world, in development in 2009 by Flying Fish Studios, a small team composed of developers who previously worked on The Witcher and Two Worlds. The game was planned for Xbox 360, PC and PS3, set to be released sometime in 2011.

As we can read in a Gamespot hands-on preview:

“The demo we saw revolved heavily around swordplay, and we watched as the developer rang a bell to summon a procession of new opponents to hack through. The combat seems to emphasize defense, so if you can block an attack, it leaves your opponent vulnerable to a follow-up blow.

Once he had weakened his opponents, he performed gory finishing moves, hacking their heads off or stabbing them in the heart, and in the full version, you’ll be able to sever limbs as well.

There’s still a lot of work to be done on Hellion, but the developers have plans to include 10 different locations, including Italy, the UK, Spain, and Prussia, as well as lots of medieval weaponry, including daggers, crossbows, and grenades. You’ll also be able to manifest God’s power in the form of exorcisms, ripping demons from the bodies of the possessed enemies, but we’ll have to wait to find out more about this.”

By looking at the remaining footage Hellion looked quite impressive for its time, something like a more linear Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion set in the real historical age of the 13th century. As announced by Simon Grabowski (CEO at Flying Fish Works) to IGN:

“Hellion is an epic journey through different medieval cultures full of real-life characters, wild animals, rough warriors, powerful Templar knights, deadly assassins and, ultimately, horrifying demons. Our vision is to create a historical fiction game that will put the player in the center of the medieval world, full of its cruelty, intransigence and diversified beliefs. In this ruthless reality, the player will become an eyewitness of great political machinations, unseen brutality and betrayal. He will pave his way to the truth just to find that it is more horrible and dreadful than anyone could imagine.“

There is no official reason why the game was never released, it just vanished forever and forgotten as another unseen game from the 7th generation of consoles. We speculate it could have been canned because of the financial crisis that struck many gaming studios at the end of the ‘00s.

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Elveon [Xbox 360, PS3, PC – Cancelled]

Elveon is a cancelled action adventure, originally planned to be released for Xbox 360 and PC. The game was conceived in 2003 by 10Tacle studios in Bratislava (Slovakia) until their parent company (10Tacle group) had to close down for financial problems in 2008. The project was then acquired by Climax Group and development focused on console (Xbox 360 and PS3), but unfortunately even Climax fell into financial problems and Elveon was canned again.

As we can read on Elveon’s official website (now closed)

“The history of the Elveon project dates back into 2003 when a small team started working on an idea of a fantasy world and game that would bring to life a new perspective – a story set in the  “early days” of a fantasy world – a time when the Elves were not yet the old, declining population, guarding the ancient ways, but still a young, emerging race, struggling to take their place in a world dominated by Gods and divine powers. During 2004 to 2007, the project grew and the team expanded up to a peak size of over 70 developers and – utilizing architects, painters and sculptors, managed to give the idea a stunning visual facade that – at its time – represented a benchmark in fantasy design and real-time graphical quality. In 2008, after a series of complications and before a serious attempt for a release could be made, the project had to be abandoned and the team has gradually dissolved. A long period of slumber resulted, with the Rights and Assets being held by different entities. The idea however, did not die with the original project…”

The original concept of Elveon by 10Tacle Studios Bratislava was for a somewhat linear action game with RPG elements, focused on story and complex combat mechanics. The team also planned an online multiplayer mode to let players fight against each other, something that reminds me of Ubisoft’s For Honor or the Versus multiplayer of Dark Souls. For sure Elveon was quite ambitious for its time. As we can read in an old preview by IGN:

“The action takes place in the third person and is centered on deliberate combat. We say deliberate because button mashing won’t get you anywhere. Controlled, precise actions will win the battles against your foes. […] Different moves and combos are conducted through a grouping of directional motions and button presses. Blocking must be done at the right moment to successfully deflect oncoming attacks.”

“All of the attack actions were motion captured using real weapons and it shows in the way spears are swung. They look like they actually have a weight to them. The weapons will also interact realistically with the environment. Blades will glance off of walls and other obstacles directly and it really looks like they’re colliding into something instead of bouncing off in the general vicinity of where it should hit. “

“Nothing is set in stone yet, but there may be some differences between the Xbox 360 and PC versions when they hit retail. After looking at some sales data, the developers are toying with the idea of including more RPG elements in the PC version and keeping the 360 build as a more streamlined action title. […] That’s because both the PC and 360 versions will have an online tournament mode where players can take their character from the game online to fight others one-on-one. “

When Climax acquired the game they changed its structure into something more similar to Zelda, with a main hub to freely explore to reach different dungeons. Probably Elveon’s multiplayer was cut at that time. Not much was ever shown from Climax’s version of the game, but from the few screenshots available (that you can see in the gallery below) it looked a lot like a mix between Dark Souls and Zelda.

After Elveon was cancelled again by Climax, in 2015 former members of 10Tacle studios Bratislava were able to re-acquire trademark, licenses and assets for their old game, to develop it again into something more similar to their original concept.

“Our main goal is to produce quality action RPG game, using newest technologies (UE4) and finish the Elveon dream, which was started 12 years ago with a small group of adventurous developers. Our focus is to use Elveon (book of elves) trademark and Elveon world with its specifics, to bring player whole new fantasy experience. We are taking the best from original game (duel fights, story, specific art style), we are polishing and tweaking it to the highest possible level, adding new features, graphics, using best actual technology available. We hope, to keep the Elveon trademark and world alive and bring the best game experience to players possible.”

Unfortunately this third version of the game seems dead too, with no updates since many years ago and with their official website that doesn’t work anymore.

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