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State of Crisis [Cancelled / Prototype – PS3, Xbox 360, PC]

State of Crisis is a cancelled real time strategy first person shooter that was in development in 2010 / 2011 for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC by french studio Darkworks. After Ubisoft took away I Am Alive from Darkworks in 2008 to make it finish to Ubisoft Shanghai, the team tried to create many different prototypes to pitch to publishers, to get another contract to survive. We can assume that at the time Darkworks tough that shooters were the most marketable genre to be greenlighted by publishers, so they conceived a few ones (State of Crisis, Black Dead, The Deep) with interesting / original features.

In State of Crisis players would have been able to switch to different teammates in real time, to use a satellite to get strategical information about the enemies and the area, to interact with electronic devices and to requests laser attacks from above. For example we could have been able to study the map of the building in which we would have entered to, checking if there were lights to deactivate to hide in the darkness, to mark enemies and see their position on the map, to place beacon to track an helicopter and destroying it with a powerful laser shoot from the satellite.

To use ammos, the satellite and to hack devices would have cost a certain sum of money from a limited budget for the mission and at the end of each level one could have seen how much the team spent to save the place from terrorists. As far as we can gain from the prototype demo, State of Crisis could have been divided in many different missions to complete as fast as possible and by spending as less money as possible, to gain an higher final score or to save funds to buy better equipment.

Unfortunately Darkworks were not able to find any publisher to fund State of Crisis and the game was quietly cancelled. In 2012 the company was placed into compulsory liquidation and then closed down. In about 15 years of activity, Darkworks were able to successfully complete and release only 2 games (Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare in 2001 and Cold Fear in 2005), while all their other projects were either cancelled or moved to other developers: a sad ending for one of the most interesting gaming studios in Europe.

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Kurayami (Suda51) [Cancelled Pitch – PS3]

Kurayami is a cancelled psychological / horror game that was pitched by Grasshopper Manufacture as a PS3 exclusive and originally announced in Edge Magazine issue 162, in May 2006. Being inspired by Franz Kafka novels (a writer known for his stories about alienation, physical and psychological paranoia), in Kurayami players would had to explore a mysterious european castle (that we can relate to Kafka’s The Castle) and the near village filled with creepy inhabitants, using the light from his torch to resolve puzzles and move through the darkness. Light and darkness would have been a central theme in the game, similarly to what happens in Alan Wake (announced in 2005 but released in 2010), in Kurayami the protagonist would have been safer in lit areas while dangers would have been lurking in the darkness.

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Talking about this concept, Goichi Suda said:

“When I considered the visuals, I immediately thought of darkness, and I imagined a hero within this night, with a light that would in a way symbolise his life. That became the core concept of Kurayami: literally, ‘darkness’ (in Japanese). […] It’s not about some hideous monsters or evil creatures coming out of the darkness, but playing on our natural fears of the dark, and the uneasiness that comes from the absence of noise and life. […] “Kurayami’s ideas are not about violence or eroticism, but fundamental problems in the human mind, which may find some conflict with the rating system. […] Though I expect the rating level to be quite high for Kurayami, I also expect the PS3 to be mainly purchased and used by an adult audience. I’m making a game for an adult audience, one that shows what life is and what being human is.”

Players would have had to pay attention to the townsfolk too, as the game would have been ambiguous about their intentions and personality:

“It shows how people change when faced with their fears – in a way, you could see a little bit of what Japan, or the world, is like in this town.”

While there are no in-game screenshots available (only the concept arts that you can see in the gallery below) it’s know that Kurayami would have used a cell-shading style focused on the contrast between colors and black, evolving the 3D engine Grasshopper already used in Killer7. From what was said by Suda during an interview with Joystiq in 2009 it seems that the game never entered into a prototype form:

“It’s not even in development right now. We aren’t even really working on it. We’ve just been talking about it, but there hasn’t been time to work on it. Actually it was really just for Edge. The artwork was just something we submitted them. We’re not working on this project yet. They had some special coverage about Grasshopper and we talked a little bit about Kurayami, and so we gave them some artwork.”

Originally Suda51 told to Edge that they wanted to make Kurayami appealing to more people than their precedent games, saying that “The challenge now is to go beyond simple recognition, and transform our original games into a mainstream success”. Only a year later Grasshopper released No More Heroes for the Wii and it became their most successful games until that point. While Kurayami sounded like a dark, introspective and uneasing experience with european inspired environment and characters, No More Heroes was an explosion of over-the-top action, japanese fanservice and quirky personas.

This could have been the reason why Kurayami was quietly cancelled: in the next few years the team was busy developing Zero: Tsukihami no Kamen (Wii, 2008, a new chapter in the popular Fatal Frame / Project Zero series) and No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle (Wii, 2010), supporting Nintendo’s motion-controlled console and finding a new market for their projects.

While Kurayami was never released, its main concept of light and darkness was reused for another Grasshopper Manufacture title: Shadows of the Damned. SotD was a much more linear, over-the-top horror / action game than what Kurayami appeared to be, and even if the released project is a good one, unfortunately there’s no trace of Kafka influences anymore.

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Tonic Adventure (Tonic Trouble 2) [Cancelled Concept]

Tonic Adventure is the cancelled sequel to Tonic Trouble, a 3D platform game developed by Ubisoft Montreal and Ubisoft Montpellier, released in  mid 1999 for N64 and PC.  Tonic Adventure was being made from 1999 to 2000 (perhaps for Dreamcast or the soon-to-be-released PS2) by the same team that worked on the original game and Rayman 2, but it seems that the project was canned in early development, maybe because of low sales and mixed reviews of the first TONICT. Only a few concept arts were found in the portfolio of a former Ubisoft artist, preserved in the gallery below to remember this lost game. We can speculate that after Ubisoft found out that Tonic Trouble would have not been a popular IP as they planned, they switched resources from Tonic Adventure to more marketable games as Rayman M and Rayman 3.

If you know someone that worked on Tonic Trouble 2 and can help to preserve more info about this cancelled project, please let us know!

Thanks to Maxime for the contribution!

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Labyrinth / Legend [Playstation – Tech Demo]

In the first months of 1994, before launching its first console, Sony created a few tech demos in order to show to the public the hardware capabilities of the new Playstation: F-1, T-Rex, Fighting Demo  and so on. In june 1994, Edge published an article about a video with some PSX tech demos that recently aired on japanese Tv Asahi’s program Tonight. One of them, a yet unnamed  platform game, eventually became Jumping Flash, but the most interesting of them was “Legend“, a first person dungeon crawler (no relation with King’s Field) that remained just a tech demo / concept:

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In this tech demo video the player moved around the dungeon‘s fully textured, highly detailed corridors and encounter a massive dragon. Another screenshot of Legend (now called “Labyrinth“), appeared in august 1994 on Edge 11:

labyrinth tech demo psx

We don’t know which team developed the Labyrinth / Legend concept for Sony or if the latter was ever planned to become a full game. If you have more info about this tech demo, please let us know in the comments below!

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Brothers in Arms: Furious 4 [Cancelled – PS3, Xbox 360, PC]

Announced in 2011 at Ubisoft’s E3 press conference Brothers in Arms: Furious 4 was to be the next instalment in the Brothers in Arms franchise after Brothers in Arms: Hells Highway. The game was originally set to be released sometime in the first half of 2012 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC, but that never happened. However, in 2012 Ubisoft let go of the Brothers in Arms IP and The Furious 4 trademark granting the games developers, Gearbox Software, full ownership of both. The president of Gearbox, Randy Pitchford, then announced that the Brothers in Arms name was being dropped from the title due to negative fan feedback and from now on the game would just be called Furious 4. Pitchford also said that internal discussions held within Gearbox led to the same conclusion that Brother in Arms and Furious 4 should be separate IPs. He said that there would be another Brothers in Arms game sometime in the future when the time is right but for now Gearbox was concentrating on Furious 4 which would be undergoing some drastic changes.

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While previous Brothers in Arms games followed Sargent Matt Baker and the soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division in a serious historical setting, Furious 4 would have taken a quite different approach to the World War 2 setting. Furious 4 looked like a cross between Borderlands and Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 film Inglorious Bastards. The plot followed a group of four characters as they massacred their way through Germany in 1944 all the way to Hitler, and that’s all we really know about the plot itself.

There is a small bit of information on each of the four playable characters. Firstly there was Chok who was a Native American soldier with a fondness for hatchets. Next up was Stitch who was an Irishman with a few lose screws who seemed to enjoy taking out his enemies with a custom made taser a little too much. Crockett was from Texas and could use a cattle prod to brand enemies. Lastly there was Montana who was a Nazi killing lumberjack with a large machine gun, a chainsaw and bear traps. There was also a narrator who spoke over the gameplay and was just as much of a character as the other four. He would clue you into the moment to moment plan and often hinted that he felt the members of the Furious Four were quite stupid. The only gameplay shown for the game was behind closed doors at E3 2011 and judging from what the people who saw it said historical accuracy was not a concern in Furious 4, apparently they even had a helicopter in a WWII shooter. The only other thing discussed about the gameplay was it’s over the top trigger happy violence that attempted humour.

On the 16th of July 2015 Randy Pitchford was speaking at the Develop: Brighton conference and said:

“Furious 4 is not a thing anymore, right? Creative development is a trip. The idea that something started as a Brothers in Arms game, through some absurd convulsion, ended up as Battleborn is evidence of what’s possible.”

With that Furious 4 was officially cancelled although as Pitchford said it transformed into Battleborn so it’s likely that a lot of Furious 4’s assets will end up in that game. In fact Furious 4’s Montana character will feature in Battleborn.

The good news for Brothers in Arms fans is that Gearbox is going to start development on the next “authentic” game in the series soon which will more than likely follow on from Hell’s Highway. Gearbox has been under fire in recent years for Duke Nukem: Forever and Aliens: Colonial Marines although their Borderlands series has been positively received and proves that they are talented developers. Gearbox is currently working on Battleborn and their website says they’re hiring for the next Borderlands game so we can expect news on that soon.

Article by Conor Hutton

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