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BioSwarm (BattleSport 2) [Playstation, Nintendo 64 – Cancelled]

BioSwarm (initially conceived as “BattleSport II” and later also known as N.R.G. and Groundwave) is a cancelled sci-fi vehicle combat game that was in development in 1997 / 1998 by Cyclone Studios, planned to be released on Playstation and possibly on Nintendo 64 (as noted by IGN in 1998).

At the time Cyclone Studios was mostly known for BattleSport, a “futuristic sports game” published by 3DO in 1997 for their 3DO console, Playstation, Sega Saturn and PC. In BattleSport players battle in small arenas controlling armored hovercraft. The main objective is to shoot an energy ball into a target to score points, while killing your opponents. You could somehow imagine it like a mix between “Rocket League” and “Quake 3 Arena”.

battlesport-2-cyclone-studios

BattleSport was popular enough to deserve a sequel and soon Cyclone Studios started working on BattleSport 2 which was officially announced by 3DO at the time, originally planned for the ill-fated 3DO / Panasonic M2. As wrote by Gamespot:

“Battlesport II (working title) Another former M2 title, Battlesport II is a futuristic sports game planned as a PlayStation-only title due spring of ’98. The first Battlesport game was originally released on the 3DO console system, and it is due for the PlayStation soon through Acclaim.”

In May 1997 IGN also reported:

“3DO has secured approval from Sony to develop a sequel to BattleSport, one of the better titles for the original 3DO hardware. The game is currently under the working title of BattleSport 2 (no big surprise there) but it may end up as BattleSport Extreme among other possibilities. It has not yet been decided whether the game will focus more on combat or sports, but, “It will be drastically different than the first,” according to a 3DO spokesperson. BattleSport 2 is slated for an early 1998 release.”

Some more details about the game were shared by former Cyclone Studios President Helmut Kobler, in a short interview posted in 1997 on the n64.com website (now closed):

“N64.com spoke with Cyclone Studios President Helmut Kobler, who gave us an idea what the game will be like. “We definitely want to bring a version of BattleSport to N64,” said Kobler, the 28-year-old former University of California at Berkeley student. “We’ve spoken with Nintendo, they’ve given us the OK to make it, but right now we’re focusing on bringing a little more order here in-house before we move on to anything else.”

Cyclone will orchestrate a Nintendo 64-specific title, with loads of changes, abilities no other system will have, and has yet to decide which system the game will be developed for, 64DD or N64 cartridge. “Battlesport is born to be on a system like N64,” Said Kobler. “And there is a possibility of the game going four-player, if two systems could be hooked up. As far as I know, a link up is a possibility, but I can’t speak for Nintendo. […] But we’ll only do the game when we feel it’s right. We’re a small company, and we like it like that, so we need to be ready, and need to manage our resources properly.”

Kobler’s plans to make a version of BattleSport for Nintendo 64 include alterations like improving the graphics so that tanks and arenas will contain a quantifiable leap in polygons, and special effects that will include smoke and exhaust, and an altogether far more detailed world. “You wouldn’t just see a flat wall area, crowds, color, and much more would be seeable. And tanks could destroy certain parts of the arenas,” Kobler says.

[…] Lastly, explained Kobler, the game will have new parts to it, which add to the strategy. “Some of the new elements will include underground and above-ground tunnels to hide from the enemy, and pits as well,” he added.”

In the end BattleSport 2 was still primarily in development for Playstation, but unfortunately it seems that Sony, 3DO and Cyclone Studios were not exactly sure how to enhance this sequel. As we can read in an interview with Lance Lewis (former Cyclone developer):

MT: What is the current status of 3DO’s BioSwarm for the Playstation?

LL: We actually finished a playable level to demo at E3 in 1998, although it was never shown there. In defense of the game, I think it had really begun to take shape, and it was quite unique. However, this was one of those projects that just had too many “red flags” around it from day one. It was originally a sequel to the 3DO Multiplayer game BattleSport. I believe Sony wasn’t too keen on the idea, so it was redesigned and called N.R.G. (energy… get it?). Again, it wasn’t received too warmly so it was redesigned again to become BioSwarm. All of this was going on while the game retained that same engine, presenting a problem for the design team. I feel technology should be built to house a game, a game shouldn’t have to be restricted by pre-built technology. Now, there was nothing wrong with the technology, it was great in fact… but… it was built to do a particular style of game, so every design after that was obviously going to be limited. Upper management really didn’t care about details like this and so once again the 3DO theme: “Re-use, re-use, re-use…”

Unfortunately Lance Lewis passed away in January 2018; family and friends organized a “celebration of life” ceremony for him in San Jose.

To learn more about this lost game we got in contact with James Hampton, former Lead Game Designer at Cyclone Studios on BioSwarm, who recall when he started working on the project:

Eddie Ruvinsky and Rob Adams were the lead programmer and artist on the team, and together they put together a playable level that featured these articulated hover ships that Rob had designed. When I started at Cyclone Studios, I was tasked with building a game design based on this prototype.

I agreed that the ships were fun to zoom around the arena they built, and wanted to add some unique mechanics that could help the game stand out in the vehicle combat genre. As a group we brainstormed and came up with a bunch of pop-culture inspired enemies and arenas.

The core idea for BioSwarm (as seen in the storyboards for the intro movie) was that a pair of intergalactic garbage men come across Earth, and when they see how polluted Earth is,  they saw as the perfect landfill to dump their toxic waste on. This space trash turns out to be these energy based creatures that travel in swarms which defended itself by bringing stuff to life to fight for them.  Each of the arena would be set in different kinds of trash themed locales such as ‘Silicon Slums‘ (where old computers parts and monitors go to die), a nuclear power plant, and even a Vegas like level that focused on ‘trashy pop culture’. Example: in the Automobile wrecking yard level, the swarm summons a boss monster whose body is made up of automobiles and car parts (this is the enemy creature seen in the BioSwarm poster and video). This initial build included a subtle easter egg in that a lot of the cars used in the boss monsters body were based on the vehicles the dev team drove to work every day.

The amazing art duo of Rob Adams and Mark Dixon came up with some excellent concept art to show what these new kind of enemies could be.”

BioSwarm’s gameplay was quite different from its early conception as BattleSport 2. Sports’ mechanics of scoring points by shooting balls in a target were dropped in favor of a more combat-focused gameplay, merging cult classics vehicle combat games such as Twisted Metal and Vigilante 8 with an interesting “flocking Artificial Intelligence”.

As told us by James:

“The goal for the BioSwarm player was to round up these alien energy creatures that defended itself by bringing inanimate objects to life to act as their protectors. Sort of a science fiction take on rodeo lasso-ing using these Hoverships to chase down, lasso and capture the ‘swarm’ of creatures. The Swarm used a “flocking” AI algorithm which resulted in these dynamic movement patterns of the swarm moving as one.”

The team worked hard on BioSwarm until April 1998, when Cyclone Studios were fully merged into 3DO and the project was cancelled so that they could instead focus on titles based on their “Army Men” franchise. They developed “Army Men: Air Attack”, published in 1999 for Playstation, Nintendo 64 and PC.

Before BioSwarm got canned the team was able to develop a “pre-alpha” version, which offered a taste of what the moment to moment gameplay was like. While not everything was implemented, you could control a hover ship in an environment inspired by Three Mile Island / nuclear plants and chase down the swarming creatures and zap them. This early demo was presented to the executives at Cyclone and 3DO, as well as a handful of journalists from some of the game magazines publishing at the time (such as EGM). We hope one day someone could rediscover BioSwarm‘s playable demo to share and preserve it online.

On a curious note, years later after Cyclone Studios merged with 3DO their former office space was used by Thomas Dolby’s company Beatnik to work on audio software solutions and games for Macromedia and shockwave.com. James remembers Dolby shown him a demo of Beatnik’s software remixing “She Blinded me with Science” in the same conference room they used to pitch game ideas while at Cyclone.

Huge thanks to James Hampton for helping us preserving more details to remember this promising lost game. All BioSwarm art was developed by lead artist Rob Adams and Mark Dixon. Also thanks to Ross Sillifant for the contribution!

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Zone of the Enders 3 (Enders Project) [Cancelled – PS3, Xbox 360]

Enders Project (also know as Zone of the Enders 3) is a cancelled game which seems to have been planned for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 (and possibly also for PS4 & Xbox One) by Hideo Kojima and Konami. The game would have been the third chapter in the popular Zone of the Enders game series, but it was scrapped at a very early stage in development.

Zone of Enders, the series

The first Zone of the Enders is a third-person shooter / hack and slash type of video game set in 2172 where the player assumes controls of a mecha (known as Orbital Frame) called Jehuty. His mission is to free Jupiter’s colony Antilia from the military force BAHRAM. Its sequel, Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner (know in Japan as Anubis: Zone of the Ender), followed the same style but improved on many aspects, introducing more enemies, abilities and a more immersive environment. ZOE 3: Enders Project was conceived as a direct sequel to Second Runner, without taking place on futuristic colonies but rather in an “ancient civilization”.

“Unofficial announcement” of ZOE 3

The game was ‘announced’ on 25 May 2012 during a Zone of the Enders HD Collection preview event held at the Shinjuku Wald 9 theatre in Tokyo, with many Kojima Productions’s employees and ZOE developers, including Hideo Kojima himself, Yoji Shinkawa (mecha designer and illustrator for the series), Noriaki Okamura, Shuyou Murata, and Nobuyoshi Nishimura. As 4gamer reported, it was not an official announcement, rather a presentation of details about a future project for ZOE, experimenting with different concepts and models.

Quote from andriasang.com:

As detailed at Famitsu.com, Kojima indicated that the game is currently in an early prototyping phase. Producer Ryosuke Toriyama and other key staff are currently conducting tests on what can be done using the internally developed Fox Engine, explained Kojima. Toriyama took the stage and revealed that he and his staff are at the state where they’re making models (real models) and converting them into Fox Engine assets.

Example of one of these model (possibly the main Orbital Frame) via tkjy’s Tumblr

http://tkjy.tumblr.com/post/23731533519/20120525-新宿バルト9にて撮影-zoe続編検討用イメージモデルとイメージイラスト

Picture of the model from Kojima’s tweet (via neogaf.com forums):

Kojima’s words on ZOE 3

Given the fact that the game was only a concept in early development, there are not many details circulating, some of them coming from a series of Twitter posts from Kojima himself.

Details and translation of the tweets appeared on SiliconeraOriginal tweets in Japanese are provided above:

Kojima says his plan is not to change the nature of the game, but the world will have a different presentation. Kojima says this title will be a true sequel. Right now, the development team is looking at two styles – a Japanese animation style with sci-fi robots and a live action real world style based on works like X-Men, Batman, and Spider-Man.

Kojima says the team isn’t trying to make a photo-realistic game, but the Fox Engine, which is still under development, is optimized for this look. Creating a global and high-end Zone of the Enders style is essential for the times and an anime style Zone of the Enders game would eat the budget and only be for a domestically designed title for Japan.

A few of his staff have the sci-fi spirit, Kojima says, and will probably want to create robots with an anime look to them.

Evangelion, Akira, and Gundam were cited by Kojima as sci-fi series from Japan with global appeal.

While Kojima is a producer on Enders Project, he’s busy working on Project Ogre. Other staff like producer Ryosuke Toriyama will lead Enders Project after Kojima creates the initial design of the game. Game design, script, direction, level design, and supervision will be handled by other staff.

Youtuber HyperBitHero details some of the possible concepts around the game:

In particular, judging from concept arts available, it looks like the game would have been based on exoskeletons, rather than mechas (but it remains pure speculation).

Why was ZOE 3: Enders Project cancelled?

Kojima announced the cancellation of the project on his HideoBlog radio show. Apparently, Zone of the Enders HD Collection failed to deliver a smooth enhancement of the two original games, and Kojima felt the need to re-evaluate the franchise before going any further. He also said that the team working on Enders Project has been disbanded.

It is unclear what will be the future for a new episode of ZOE. Konami announced yet another remaster titled Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner — Mars, developed by Cygames with 4K graphics and VR support. The game is a direct remaster of Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner and will be out in Spring 2018 for PlayStation 4 and Windows PC.

Image gallery of Enders Project / Zone of the Enders 3 (via DengekiOnline):

Full Impact (thq) [Xbox 360, PS3 – Cancelled]

Full Impact is a cancelled car combat game that was being developed in 2010 by Juice Games (AKA THQ Digital Studios Warrington / UK) for the Playstation 3 (PSN) and Xbox 360 (XBLA). The game would have been somehow similar to the Destruction Derby series, with players using cars to destroy their opponent by driving around in arenas at high-speed.

There would have been different gangs to choose from, each one with their own style and car-type, somehow like in Twisted Metal. Players could also been able to fully customize their vehicles with new parts, colors and decals, before destroying them during missions.

Only a few images remain to remember the existence of this interesting project. As you can see it looked really promising. Many different arenas would have been available to play in, set in such locations as a demonic amusement park, a shuttle launchpad and many more.

Unfortunately Full Impact was never completed. THQ decided to move the team to other projects using more popular IPs: Red Faction Battlegrounds and Warhammer 40,000 Kill Team, both released in 2011 for PSN and Xbox Live Arcade. Juice Games also worked on many other cancelled games and prototypes, such as Split Shift Racing, Project FUUB, After Burner and Stormbirds.

This string of failed projects can attributed largely by the shifting focus of the company, and THQ’s own goals during the time after purchasing Juice Games in 2006. With the studio itself undergoing a transition away from boxed retail products and moving solely into digital goods, Juice Games was also undergoing its transformation into THQ Digital Studios Warrington.

Shortly after releasing their two digital games, THQ Digital Studios were then closed down by THQ in June 2011 due to “lackluster sales of Red Faction: Battlegrounds”. Talking to Eurogamer, an inside source who worked at the studio claimed that THQ had cancelled several projects over the years, and that they “struggled to find an idea THQ were happy with”.

Thanks to Andy for the contribution!

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Pojo the Chicken (Midway) [Playstation 2 – Cancelled]

Pojo the Chicken is a cancelled 3D platformer / action game which was in development in 2000 by Atari / Midway Games West for Playstation 2. Pojo was originally born as an easter egg / secret character to be unlocked in such games as MACE: The Dark Age and Gauntlet and she was mostly an internal joke / team mascot for Midway. At some point in late ‘90s the studio jumped the shark and decided to make Pojo the main protagonist of her own game.

As described for Mace: the Dark Age:

“Pojo: The Fighting Chicken, transformed by Countess Taria into something more than human, a force powerful enough to rend the very cosmos in her powerful beak. Pojo wages a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the feathered way.”

Unfortunately only a few screenshots from an early level remain from this lost game to remember its existence. By looking at its colorful graphic, we can assume Pojo the Chicken would have been a fantasy action platformer, with humorous settings and funny jokes. For example the island you can see in these screens was home for Kung Pao, which we speculate was some kind of kung-fu chicken master which could have teached special moves to Pojo. Kung Pao chicken is also the name of a delicious chinese dish.

We don’t know enough about Pojo the Chicken to say if it could have been a fun game to play, but for sure it seems the team had fun at conceiving something as crazy and amusing as a whole game based around a powerful fighting chicken.

The same team also worked on the cancelled Joust 3D for PS2 and Xbox, before developing Dr. Muto which was finally published in 2002 for PS2, Xbox and Gamecube. In 2009 Midway Games filed for bankruptcy, most of its internal games studios where closed and all of its assets were purchased by other companies such as Warner Bros. Probably we’ll never know what really happened to the mighty chicken Pojo.

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Project X (Activision) [Xbox 360, PS3 – Cancelled]

Project X is a cancelled third person action game for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, which was in development around 2005 / 2007 by Z-Axis studio (later known as Underground Development) for Activision. The game was never officially announced by the company and it’s just one of many more unreleased games (such as Call of Duty: Devil’s Brigade) the team was working on, before Activision decided to close them down in 2010.

Only a few screenshots and a short video remain to remember the existence of this lost game. By looking at these, we can assume the game would have been somehow similar to other action games with super-powers like Prototype and Infamous. The main protagonist was able to morph itself into different forms of elemental energy, for example a body of ice or fire. By switching elements it would have been able to easily kill different kinds of enemies of the opposite element.

It seems only an early prototype was developed before Activision cancelled the project, maybe to switch the team to work on the PS3 version of Enemy Territory: Quake Wars.

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