Sega

Ringman (Zono Inc) [Saturn, Dreamcast – Cancelled]

Ringman is a cancelled third person platform-shooter that was in development by Zono Inc in late 1996, initially planned for Sega Saturn and then for Sega Dreamcast. It would have been one of the first games ever published by Sega of America for their lost version of the Dreamcast. The team behind this project was part of the same one that worked along with Ed Annunziata on Mr. Bones for the Sega Saturn, with names such as William Novak, Simon Hallam and Dave Castelnuovo: thanks to the good relationship between Sega and Zono, they were able to pitch this project for the planned 128 bit console.

While the Dreamcast hardware was still not available in late 1996, Zono interfaced directly with Sega of America producers and the development team that was designing a 3Dfx version of the console, codenamed “Blackbelt”. Sega of America wanted to create something amazing and showed off the planned graphical power of the new 3Dfx chips. The game concept was inspired by the (at the time) newly released Quake by ID Software and Dave remembered how John Carmack was talking about implementing NURBS (“Non-uniform rational Basis spline” a model used in computer graphics for generating and representing curves) in his next rendering engine:  Sega producers wanted Zono to take a look at using NURBS to create this Blackbelt game. The surfaces in each world of Ringman would be curved and even the main character would have had a body composed of different rings, like a colorful spring that would permit it to move around quickly and shoot down enemies.

The team did quite a bit of concepting for the game and got as far as having a very simple prototype world with the protagonist moving around, but unfortunately the project was canned in mid-1997 when Sega of Japan found out about Sega of America’s plan to create another console and shut down the project. As we can read in an article by Douglass C. Perry on Gamasutra:

“In 1996, 3Dfx began building wide acclaim for its powerful graphics chips, one of which ran in arcade machines, including Atari’s San Francisco Rush and Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey. In 1997, 3Dfx went public, announcing its IPO. In the process it revealed the details of its contract with Sega, required by U.S. law. The announcement, however, had undesired effects. It publicly revealed Sega’s blueprint for a new, unannounced console, and angered executives at Sega Japan. Numerous reports indicate Yamamoto’s Blackbelt chipset using the 3Dfx chips was the more powerful of the two. Sega executives, however, still fuming at 3Dfx, severed their contract with the chip maker. (Soon thereafter, 3Dfx sued Sega and both companies settled out of court.) In the end, Sega of Japan selected Sato’s design, codenamed it “Katana,” and announced it publicly on September 7, 1997.”

If this internal issue between the “two Segas” was not enough, Sega of America was also split into the ill-fated SegaSoft and in early 1997, a few of their projects were canned. In late 1996, the CEO and CFO of SegaSoft asked the new company director, Peter Brown, to install a new financial system by April 1997. As told by Brown during an interview with InfoWorld magazine: “as a young company, we needed built-in maturity of process and scalability”: we can assume that games for a not-yet-confirmed new console were not a safe bet for the company stability.

After the cancellation of Ringman, along with their N64 legendary project “Freak Boy”, Zono had to wait until 2000 to release another game: Metal Fatigue, a PC RTS published by Psygnosis. In 1997, SegaSoft stil released a couple of Saturn games, Scud: The Disposable Assassin and Three Dirty Dwarves.

This article was originally published in 2016 in our book “Video Games You Will Never Play” 

Flesh & Wire (Running With Scissors) [Cancelled – PS2, Dreamcast, GameCube]

Flesh & Wire is a cancelled action adventure that was in development by Running With Scissors (of Postal fame), announced in 1999 and planned to be published by Ripcord Games for Playstation 2, Dreamcast and GameCube. It would have been and over-the-top shooter where you could control an alien blob to explore the world and resolve environmental puzzles. As we can read on IGN:

“The game follows Angus, a sleazy, slimy cop who wakes up one morning with an alien amoebae-like creature noshing on his legs, and his city has been engulfed by a bio-ship by the name of the Nulloid. Rather than worry about what the heck the thing’s doing to his lower half, he comes to the realization that he can control the gelatinous blob, and uses this newfound power to move around and utilize special abilities, sloshing around the levels. He’ll also utilize massive amounts of firepower, so expect over-the-top violence […]”

In 2016 Running With Scissors CEO Vince Desi talked about Flesh and Wire in an interview posted on their official website:

Robin TGG: I had almost forgotten that you once worked on a title called “Flesh and Wire”. What was that game all about? And why was it canceled?

Vince RWS: Yeah that was after POSTAL got cancelled, we actually had 2 other original games in development, but financial reality simply didn’t allow us to continue. It was a sci-fi based game that had a blob as the main character, I really liked it, who knows maybe someday we’ll take another look at it.

The game was somehow similar in concept to a more violent “A Boy and His Blob”, as you could transform the blob into different forms, such as a ladder to reach high places, a bungee to get down and a shield to protect the protagonist from bullets. Some more details on its development can be read on the March 1999 issue of Game Developer magazine:

“According to Randy Briley, the soft-spoken art lead for the project, the development process for FLESH & WIRE (FW) has always been a little bit different. For starters, the publisher (Ripcord Games) has been very hands-off, letting the development team drive the development. This uncharacteristic display of trust has as much to do with RWS’s track record of getting products out the door on time as it does with Ripcord Games’ relative newness to the gaming scene. And although the style of game play has some basis in currently released titles (the game is some-thing of a cross between RESIDENT EVIL and THE THUNDERCATS), the look of the game is anything but conventional. From character design and animation to background generation, the unorthodox look derives from equally unorthodox production methods.

When RWS finally settled on the game spec, they realized that from a resource production standpoint, they had bitten off more than they could chew. In addition to the standard budget of special effects, GUI art, and several minutes of cut scenes, the spec called for over 200 static screens of game play with in betweens, and a set of enemy and player characters’ 300+unique animation sequences. With a production cycle of just under 18 months, no budget for outsourcing, and an extremely small art team, the task seemed pretty daunting. It was time to improvise.”

[…] rotoscoping could be done largely in-house with little or no overhead, the production time compared to hand animation was much faster, and although it required the talents of a skilled animator to implement, it provided a cheap, efficient method to complete the animations on schedule. The team went down to a local gymnasium and interviewed several martial arts students. Then, working closely with the art lead (a martial arts expert himself), the actors were mocked up to look like the characters in the game. Several sets of motion shots were taken, using two synchronized digital cameras set 90 degrees apart (front and side). After digitizing these images and importing them into Softimage, the result was a sequence of images. The Animator then animated the characters by hand, using the images as a guide. […]

Compared to the mammoth task of generating over 200 hundred in-game background scenes, the character animation problem looked simple. With only a handful of 3D artists on staff, the team had to make some tough decisions. As the project evolved through its initial stages, it became clear that the art direction was evolving towards the techno-grunge look typified by such industry standards as The Crow and City of Lost Children. The level of detail the team wanted would require hours of tedious texture and modeling work using classical CG methods. Given the size of the team and the allotted time, this simply would not be possible. Rather than cut the design or ask for more time, the team resolved to find a solution that would allow them to maintain the scope of the project while holding true to the artistic vision. They Took a gamble, and decided to build the entire game using miniatures.

“Near the end of the planning phase of the project, RWS presented the publisher with a proof of concept for the process. For the first test, the team put together a town from a model railroad set and digitized it into the POSTAL engine. In short, the result was a huge success.

Put simply, the sets for the game were built with “anything we could get our hands on,” says RandyBriley. Basically, the team would just bring stuff in: PVC piping, copper tubing, old VCR’s, and so on, and the pieces were glued together and painted using a hot glue gun and standard modeling paints. Most of the back-drops for the game were created using Styrofoam panels, which proved easy to get hold of and standardize.  “Once we got an assembly line going with a certain panel (background piece), we could crank each one out in a matter of a few hours.”

By far however, the biggest advantage of the process is the lack of any requirement for CG expertise on the part of the artists. Consider that with a single trained 3D artist to guide the process, the bulk of the artists can be classically trained with little or no industry expertise. This means that production costs go down for any given piece of work or, you get a lot more resources for a lot less money.”

As said by Vince, in the end they were not able to keep up development for 3 different projects at the same time, so Flesh & Wire had to be canned. We hope someday to be able to see some more images from this strange and original video game.

Thanks to Josef for the contribution!

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Lunatik (Pure Entertainment) [Playstation, Saturn – Cancelled]

Lunatik is a cancelled shoot ‘em up that was in development around 1997 by Pure Entertainment, planned to be published by Eidos for Playstation, Sega Saturn and PC. The team wanted to develop something similar to a 3D Defender, while showcasing their gorgeous (at the time) 3D engine, featuring dozens of enemies on screens, high number of polygons and detailed textures.

Unfortunately gameplay was not as fun as they hoped for: the project needed more time to be improved, but Eidos did not want to invest any more money into it. In the end Pure Entertainment reworked Lunatik as some kind of ATI Graphic Cards tech demo, and this version was released in limited quantities in ATI bundles. We can assume this ATI Edition was much different from what the team had originally conceived for Lunatik. As we can read on Sega-Saturn.net:

“But ultimately the project failed because the original concept (3D Defender) was next to impossible to do really well. We tried many different gameplay mechanisms to make it work, and none were working. Ultimately we ran out of time to make it work and Eidos cancelled the project. The game did get a limited release for the PC. It was bundled with graphics cards as a graphics showcase, but the game itself was poor.”

We were also be able to gather some early PR text shared when Eidos were promoting the game to gaming magazines and websites:

“Little known London-based Pure Entertainment is the developer behind the project. They are striving to update the genre with a true 3D engine, giving the player full freedom of movement within Lunatik’s 3D world. LUNATIK is a 3D Shoot ‘Em Up, drawing on the addictive gameplay aspects of classics such as Defender and Zaxxon for inspiration, and merging them with a uniquely dramatic look and feel, the combination of which has never been seen before.

Drawn with strong Manga cartoon influences, the 3D real-time graphics have paved the way for an unusual ‘above and behind’ perspective, which will be backed by some in-house techno tunes.

Lunatik will sport eighteen levels, a barrage of Armageddon-like weaponry (including a heat seeker), power ups galore, shields, cloaking devices to collect and bosses that appear at designated times throughout the game.

One interesting touch is the boss timer. Each of the 18 levels features a construction area, where the enemies are busy building a boss monster. If you fail to complete the mission before the timer ticks down, the boss monster is built, and immediately comes looking for you. Gameplay is very much a case of fire or be fired upon, and if you do succeed then the nastier and smarter the AI of the bad guys gets.

The game itself has 8 large levels, each one being a man made ‘moon’ orbiting the decaying relic that was once Earth. All out war is occurring between 7 of the Corporation Dominated Moons and one other, Nu Earth 3, an indomitable civilization holding out against everything the Corporate armies can throw at them. Your mission? Quite simply, wipe the floor with the enemy.”

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Miina in Wonderland [Mega Drive, Genesis – Cancelled]

Miina in Wonderland (AKA ミーナ ワンダーランド) is a cancelled mini-games collection planned by Micronet for the Sega Mega Drive. There are not many details about this lost project, but from the few screenshots shared on Twitter by japanese fans, it seems players would have been able to move around a city map with many different buildings, and in each one there would have been a mini game to play. Some of these games were quite strange, such as a chicken race against a masked man.

It seems Miina in Wonderland also had some kind of story-mode, following the adventure of Miina and her fluffy animal friend. A playable prototype was found sometime ago and sold on Yahoo Auction, so we can hope one day a ROM of the game could be uploaded online to be preserved.

If you can read Japanese and see some more interesting details in the scans below, please let us know!

Thanks to GDRI for the contribution!

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B.O.B. 2 [Cancelled – SNES, Mega Drive]

The original B.O.B. was a run ‘n gun platformer developed by Gray Matter Inc. and Foley Hi-Tech Systems, published in 1993 by Electronic Arts for SNES and Mega Drive (Genesis). A sequel titled “B.O.B. II” was also in development not long after the first one, but in the end the project was canned and never officially announced by EA.

There’s not much remaining from this lost game: just some concept art and its logo. We don’t even know if one of the two original teams developed an early prototype for EA. We can assume it would be hard to see more from BOB 2: it’s the cancelled sequel of a mostly forgotten run ‘n gun.

Maybe one day someone who worked on the project could help unveiling more, but for now these images are the only proof it was once in development or at least conceived as a possibility.

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