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Ocean Warrior (Extreme Outer Reef) [Xbox 360, PS3 – Cancelled]

Ocean Warrior is a cancelled action game that was in development by a small team known as “Stardust Interactive Media” between 2001 and 2004, planned to be released for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. The game was initially conceived as some kind of mix between “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater” and “Waterworld”, an extreme-sport video game titled “Extreme Outer Reef” about big-wave surfing in flooded cities.

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As we can read from an old press-release published in 2002:

“If things go according to plan for Stardust Interactive Media, the startup will soon be making waves – monster waves – in the video-game market. Big waves are the name of the game for Stardust, creators of a sports-action surfing video title, “Extreme Outer Reef.” The game is based on one of the most dangerous sports in the world, “extreme big-wave surfing”–surfing waves 75 feet and taller with the aid of high-powered jet-skis.

“Extreme Outer Reef” capitalizes on the recent success of other extreme board-sports videos, such as snowboard and skateboarding. “People love board sports and we’ve created a game in a way that’s never been done before,” said Markland Fountain, chief operating officer for Stardust Interactive, one of 10 finalist companies in The Business Journal’s Business Plan Competition. “Surfing is just a sexy, interesting sport and you can’t get any crazier than this,” Fountain said.

The game is the brainchild of Chief Executive Dan Meyers, a native Oregonian who has surfed the Oregon Coast for the past 23 years. He and Fountain–also a surfer dude–are heading up the company. And they’re backed by a solid team of video-game bigwigs and world-class giant-wave surfers.

Scott Orr, whose video titles have sold nearly $2 billion in the past 20 years, signed on as executive producer for “Extreme Outer Reef.” Chief technical consultant is Stewart Apelzin, creator of best-sellers “Myst” and “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?”

Other surfing videos exist, but Stardust insists its game will be unique. For one thing, the game thrills players with monster waves up to 200 feet, but Stardust also has developed a “dynamic waves physics engine” — a software application that generates waves that behave the way real waves work in the ocean.

“No other surf game makes waves with a real-time physics model,” said Meyers. Picture “giant liquid avalanches,” say the business partners. “You have endless variability, and it becomes this crazy surface where you can pull tons of tricky maneuvers,” Fountain said. “It gives the game replay value,” as opposed to existing surfing videos, which can quickly become boring.”

During development the project evolved into Ocean Warrior, a more cinematic action game featuring speed-boats equipped with machine-guns in a post-apocalyptic flooded world, similar to Waterworld.

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As we can read from the description added to the box mock up (made using the original Xbox games’ template as the Xbox 360 was not released yet):

“The Earth’s major cities are under water! The world’s ocean levels had been rising for years, but a nuclear blast set off by the evil NERVA organization has caused the sudden flooding of coastal cities worldwide. As an elite Ocean Warrior, you take to the waves to rescue the innocent and to bring NERVA to justice.

Waterborne combat is back with a vengeance! Pilot a variety of heavily armed watercraft through unbelievable apocalyptic ocean environments!

Drive the boat, or man its turret, bail out and swim at any time. Commandeer any craft you can find! Disable an enemy crew, climb aboard, and take their boat for yourself!

Protect your floating base at all costs. Your base supplies all of your new weapons and repairs, and holds items and personnel captured or rescued in the field!

Monster surf like you’ve never seen! Ride 100-foot tidal waves through modern cities and ancient canyons!

Exciting story of global destruction takes you to disaster zones around the world, your AI teammates will have your back!

Tons of multiplayer modes! Play deathmatch, CTF, Destruction, King of the Kill and more on a split screen, with system link or over xbox live!”

Stardust Interactive tried to pitch the game to different publishers, but in the end Ocean Warrior was never released, only a few screenshots and footage from the early prototype are preserved below, to remember this lost project.

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DR (989 Studios) [Playstation – Cancelled]

In the mid and late ‘90s 989 Studios / Sony Interactive Studios Los Angeles developed many popular games for the first Playstation, titles such as Bust A Groove, Cool Boarders 3, Jet Moto 3, Cardinal Syn, Twisted Metal 3 and Syphon Filter. Unfortunately they also worked on many other projects that never seen the light of day, such as Dark Guns, Sorcery, Warhawk 2 and The Diabolical Adventures of Tobu.

Another unseen game they were working on was labeled as “DR”, possibly the initials for something like “Death Race”, some kind of post-apocalyptic racing / combat game inspired by the Mad Max movies, featuring strange vehicles with guns and bio-mechanical designs. Unfortunately there’s not much more available from this lost game, but only a few concept arts were preserved, create by artist John Duggan at the time.

We can speculate DR was meant to be played somehow like Twisted Metal and that could be the reason of its demise: Sony gave 989 Studios the Twisted Metal IP to develop a full sequel to their car-combat game, a title that could have been more profitable than an original project with similar gameplay.

DR remains another interesting unseen game we’ll never play by one of our favorite studios from the original Playstation years. If you know someone who worked on this game and could remember more details, please let us know!

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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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Heartland (Homeland) [PSP – Cancelled]

Heartland (originally titled “Homeland” in its early stage) is a cancelled FPS in development by Incognito Entertainment / SCEA, planned to be released on the PSP. The project was conceived by David Jaffe as a mature shooter focused on making players thinking about their decisions and the consequences of war, with political themes related to George W. Bush’s administration and their “war on terror”.

Jaffe wanted to arouse players’ emotional reactions with a strong setting and series of dramatic events, which would have been directly affected by their choices during the game. A couple of examples of these difficult / morally ambiguous decisions would be to “blow up a bridge, stranding the townspeople, but preventing the ground assault” and “obey or disobey the order to douse an innocent family and their house with gasoline, and set them on fire”.

Heartland was meant to be a metaphor of the real US invasion of Iraq in 2003, with North American being the invaded country by a foreign army. The game was to be set in “heartland” of the US in an alternate history in which China invaded America. The main protagonist was a soldier debating whether to stay in the army and fight for America or go AWOL to find his family.  As revealed by Jaffe in a few articles on 1UP and Escapist:

“On one hand, it was supposed to be emotional, we wanted players who are sensitive types like myself – that cry at Hallmark commercials – we were hoping that those types would actually cry, and that other players would still feel something that came close to an emotional response.”

“We were trying to put in a lot of gameplay that would evoke emotion. You had sequences where you’d go into homes and your commanding officer would tell you to shoot innocent Chinese-Americans. It was very dark and was meant to cause players to consider what it’s like to live in America and be an American today.”

“It wasn’t supposed to make you hate the Bush Administration so much as, as a layperson political junkie, it was supposed to put into light – using games as a medium – all the things I didn’t like about the Bush Administration.”

The team planned to use many different and original ways to unfold Heartland’s story and its themes, for example by letting players to find a tape they could watch: initially one would see the execution of a Chinese soldier, but by rewinding the tape you could discover older footage with the soldier’s family during a vacation at Disneyland.

The Incognito team was full of talented developers and after their experience on the PSP with Twisted Metal: Head-On they were planning on making a full 1st person shooter experience to “create the definitive shooter for the PlayStation Portable.”

You can imagine Heartland’s gameplay as an open ended FPS, with several objectives in each area and many different ways to resolve them. It was meant to be more similar to a “Deus Ex” set in a contemporary american settings than another “Call of Duty” or “Battlefield”. As said by Jaffe “I was really excited about creating this almost homage to Deus Ex.” On his old blog Jaffe wrote:

“HEARTLAND: Was going to be a return to more old school, opened up single player (and co-op) Goldeneye/Doom II style level design. Plus a little Deus Ex thrown in, in terms of multiple solves, as much emergence as we could intentionally create (not the mention the happy surprises)”

 

Unfortunately Heartland would never seen the light of day: the team worked on the project for about 6 or 8 months, creating concept art, 3D models and an early engine running on the PSP, before most of them were moved to the Warhawk team to help finishing the game. As more and more people left the Heartland team, they thought to cut some parts (such as the planned multiplayer mode), but in the end with less than 10 people available it was clear they did not have enough resources to fulfill their original concept. For Sony Warhawk was a much more important project to complete and it had the priority over an ambitious PSP game.

With such a small team David Jaffe and Scott Campbell left Heartland behind and decided to start a most suitable project, which later became “Calling all Cars“, released for Playstation Store in May 2007. In mid 2007 Incognito was splitting to create two new studios: Eat Sleep Play lead by Scott Campbell and David Jaffe – which later created Twisted Metal (2012) – and Lightbox Interactive lead by Dylan Jobe – which later created Starhawk (2012).

Unfortunately we still did not save any image from Heartland (the ones you see in this article are from random videos related to the chinese army), we got in contact with a few former developers who worked on the game but they did not have any screenshot or concept art anymore. If you know someone else who worked on this lost game, please let us know!

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