Isle of Minno was developed for the Playstation Portable in 2006 by Sumo Digital; a company founded by former Infogrames/ Gremlin Interactive employees and which released other PSP games such as Toca Race Driver, Outrun and Driver 76 (which I truly enjoyed to play when I owned a PSP myself).
There is little information on Isle of Minno, a prototype was found by an Assembler Games Forum user and the game itself looks and sounds a bit like a children’s game. I couldn’t find a reason why the game got cancelled by Sumo Digital; the game is hardly mentioned anywhere. Game also doesn’t show up on old cached webpages of Sumo Digital’s website. In May 2006 Sony and Sumo Digital made some actual pre-production Isle of Minno UMDs, none intended for resale, but you can now easily find a leaked ISO online.
Some of the actual UMD copies even ended up on ebay and were selling for around $ 100. The dumped prototype looks to be a fully playable demo, with even a multiplayer and game sharing option.
The game starts off with a small sequence showing a boy who washes up ashore on an island after drifting in the sea with some leftovers from a ship. After a small walk on the beach he enters a cave and finds a small village hidden in a valley at the end, presumably called Leafy Cove. After a short introduction talk from an elder person you are sent on your first mission to get yourself some decent clothes. The town is fully explorable; decent sized with loads of places to go to and now and then you find inhabitants with which you can interact and accept missions from. After completion of a mission you’re invited over to the person’s house or you can collect a small reward for your efforts. The whole gameplay mainly seems to consist of completing small mini games like collecting feathers, fruit or other stuff, mowing lawns, throwing things out threes and of some music memory games. The complete story of the game or its missions stays however vague.
Split Shift Racingis a cancelled arcade racer that was being developed by Juice Games (AKA THQ Digital Studios UK) for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. Set in a distant sci-fi future, the game was due to take place in a chaotic “open world” environment that spanned both urban and rural terrain, and featured a transforming mechanic that allowed players to alter their car on the fly.
Juice games had just finished work on Juiced 2: Hot Import Nights when they began working on the concept for three new games at the start of 2009. Alongside Split Shift Racing, the staff of 80 at the THQ-owned subsidiary were also working on the cancelled flight-sim Stormbirds, and a third as yet undiscovered game and peripheral project titled “FUUB”. Before this, the studio enjoyed two successful game launches with the original Juiced, as well as a PSP spin-off called Juiced: Eliminator, and the team would go on to release Red Faction: Battlegrounds and Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team under the new moniker of THQ Digital Warrington.
Details on Split Shift Racing are lacking, thanks in part to an existing NDA still covering the project. However, we can piece together some of the puzzle from talking a number of sources and various bits of portfolio work by artists that worked on the concept. One source described the project as a “futuristic open world racing title”, which is backed up by some of the concept work on display below, each one showing off designs like semi-holographic digital signboards and geometric sci-fi car models.
It’s not clear just how open the world was going to be in the final product, but an early UI concept design showing a map overview by another artist from the project suggests that instead of having one massive, sprawling world to explore, players would instead have the choice of going to one of several “zones”, each with their own theme. In this instance, we can see the Earthquake Zone, which seems to sport a large portion of off-road terrain, along with a small city pocket in the corner. This is supported by another concept image, this time for the main menu, which features a “Zone” option for players to select.
Perhaps the most interesting feature was the ability to alter or transform your vehicle to suit the situation. Thanks to a couple of other concept pieces, we can see that the controls have four different functions mapped to the face buttons. These include Speed, Hammer, Climber, and Agile configurations. It’s not clear how each mode affected your vehicle’s performance, but it’s probably safe to assume that Speed was for racing, Hammer for taking down other drivers or breaking through debris, Climber for scaling rough terrain, and Agile for control during aerial jumps. Players could unlock new versions of vehicles from one of the four different styles by playing, and whilst there was an XP progression system in place to allow players to advance, it’s not clear whether unlocks were tied to this system or whether they had to be earned by winning races and events.
Network features were also set to appear heavily in the game, with a strong focus on asynchronous multiplayer pitting people against each other in a variety of leaderboard challenges and events across each zone. This would have been coupled with an “Activity” page that tracked the player and their friend’s accomplishments, race times, and high scores in the form of a daily feed that others could leave comments on.
Despite most of the information surrounding Split Shift Racing being under NDA, there are still a few images of in-game footage that show off what we might have seen if the game ever made it to its final release. Unfortunately, we don’t know whether the game itself ever made it to a playable state.
Development on Split Shift Racing began some time in 2009 under the management of producer Tim Preece, and would go on into the early stages of development until it was cancelled some time during 2010. This saw the development team moved onto other projects, with the majority starting work on Full Impact, a classic American car destruction derby game that would also go on to be cancelled. 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 2007.
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 Warrington. Unfortunately, as the market continued to shift, THQ decided that instead of using the studio to develop new IP, they would utilize the Warrington-based team to develop secondary games based on THQ’s pre-existing IP, which gave rise to the digital-only Red Faction and Warhammer games in 2011.
Shortly after releasing the first of their two digital games, THQ Digital Warrington was then closed down by THQ in June 2011 due to “lacklustre 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”.
[EDIT]: Shortly after posting this piece, we received some information that confirmed our report. We also received some extra background information on the project, and some minor clarifications which are posted below:
The screenshots containing “real cars” were in fact for a separate project, simply titled “Concept”. This was going to be a “realistic racer” that was set to follow after the release of Juiced 2. Only one track was ever made for this concept however, and the game was never developed further.
Split Shift was originally going to be called “Arc”, but the studio had to change the name as there were rumours that the PlayStation Move controllers were going to take that name. The studio didn’t want to risk a dispute, so instead opted to change the name proactively.
There were several race events already in the works, ranging from traditional time attack and head to head races, to more original concepts. One such event, called XP scramble was described as a race that “had you running around finding XP orbs that launched randomly from a set point”.
As suspected, the cars did have the ability to transform. The four different modes players could transform between were a default car, a racer, a quad bike, and a motorbike. One source described the process as such: “Each offered a different way to race and was up to the player when you wanted to switch.”
The first area, pictured in the images above, was a mountainous region that was fully playable and near completion when the game eventually got cancelled. A second area described as “An apocalyptic sinkhole” had just entered the early stages of development but never managed to get much further than a rough concept. One source describes how the whole team was taken to watch the disaster movie “2012” to help give them some inspiration for the sinkhole map.
The size of the mountain region was approximately the same size to that of the city area in Burnout paradise
Djinn is a cancelled action RPG planned initially for PC and later also for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. The project was in development by Castaway Entertainment, a talented team founded in 2003 by former developers who left Blizzard North, some of which were previously working on the cancelled version of Diablo 3. Djinn was quite hyped at the time because of its connection with the Diablo series and many RPG fans were eager to see more from the game, promising hundreds of hours of adventure, exploration and rare loot. Unfortunately before its cancellation not much was ever revealed about Djinn, its gameplay mechanics or plot, but thanks to the finding of its pitch document we can now learn more about this ambitious project.
Castaway wanted to create an innovative role playing game with a story told in real time, while players were actively exploring its world and listening to the protagonist’s comrates. This team of characters following the protagonist could have been similar to the “pawn” system used many years later in Dragon’s Dogma, but with heavy interconnections with the main storyline:
“The idea of a next-generation, greatly upgraded Diablo II on console forms the basis of the concept and marketing strategy for our newest game, Djinn. Djinn is a real-time 3D action roleplaying game of heroic risks in an island world of ancient mythical beings and forbidden magic. With non-stop pacing unfettered by text dialog choices, and featuring larger than life ruins, temples, and legendary creatures, Djinn reveals a real time story told not by signpost NPCs but by your very traveling companions”
“Our unique twist on companions is the Crew concept. The crew members are intriguing, multi-purpose characters who are also lesser heroes in their own right, much like the Argonauts (the Greek heroes who made up the crew of Jason’s ship Argo). They can be added or removed at any time to the questing party, and each one has unique powers that the player will enjoy experimenting with. In combination, crew members may reveal additional abilities.”
Djinn’s gameplay would have been inspired by many more games other than the popular Diablo 2, adding physics-based combat and environment interaction, plus a series of “cards” that could change the game’s world and how players could interact and fight in this world. We could imagine it as an ambitious mix between Psi-Ops, Phantom Dust, Baten Kaitos and Hand of Fate:
“Djinn combines Diablo II quality, item collection, tactical equipment and skill choices, and dynamic, user-friendly combat; Phantom Dust playfield interaction and destruction; Psi-Ops physics-based combat; Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal’s varied attacks and situational awareness; and Magic: The Gathering’s highly addictive collectible and customizable booster packs.”
“We will be showing off our combat moves, interactive environments and highly vertical levels using advanced physics. Players will be able to do many things with our physics engine, including: Push victims off ledges or slam them into spikes; Drop objects onto targets far below; Knock over pillars and break platforms, in order to damage opponents; Knock back enemies who fall down with rag doll physics; Create “domino” effects where one object knocks into another.”
“Djinn is designed to be a modular system that allows the player to make significant changes to their own game play experience. A player may alter their character’s skills, reconfigure their quests, select their companions, and even make changes to the world itself. These modifiers are contained in virtual “cards” that the player may collect, trade, buy, or sell with other players. “Cards” are currently being used as a metaphor for a system of tokens that can be applied within the game. The final game pieces will most likely take the form of artifacts or scrolls, not tarot or playing cards. Regardless of how the player wishes to manage their cards, everyone begins with a basic set (a virtual deck) that contains five types of cards: Skill Cards, Hero Cards, Quest Cards, World Cards, and Crew Cards. By playing combinations of these five types, the player is able to explore different locales over and over with very different experiences.”
Duke Nukem: Critical Mass is a run & gun shooter game, released on the Nintendo DS platform in 2011 by Apogee Software. The game was originally intended to also come out as a Playstation Portable game but was later cancelled for unknown reasons. Rumours on the game started early as the beginning of 2008 and were later in July of that year confirmed when Apogee Software announced a completely new Duke Nukem adventure: a Trilogy which would be developed for both systems in cooperation with publisher Deep Silver and which would be developed by Frontline Studios. After being rebranded to 3D Realms this would also be the revival of the Apogee brand in game development and publishing. The trilogy would consist of three separate games with Critical Mass being the first; its original release date set in the fall of 2009 and would be followed by the other chapters Duke Nukem: Chain Reaction and Duke Nukem: Proving Grounds.
Besides the storyline the games on DS and PSP would however be completely different from each other; the Nintendo DS version would be more of a side scroller while the Playstation Portable would be more of a third / first person shooter. The game would have on both platforms a multi-mode where players could easily switch between third person, first person, isometric and side scrolling views including some extra options as a sniper mode, a jetpack mode and different boss battle modes. The Critical Mass chapter would have 9 areas to complete, divided into 27 missions and the player was promised 15 different types of weapons, multiple and secret ways to achieve in-game points and on top of that both platforms would have cinematic rendered cut-scenes between levels. The huge difference between the Nintendo DS and the Playstation Portable, being two complete different machines can be seen in the two screenshots below which I took out of a promotional video released by Apogee in March 2009 made specially for the Game Developer’s Conference; the promotional video was cut in two pieces and showed screenshots of both systems. Funny thing was that the PSP version was rated Mature and the DS was only rated Teen. So two complete different games carrying the same story.
In the first chapter of the trilogy some Earth Defense Organization had been sending out special agents on missions into the future to ensure the safety of the Earth; none of the sent agents however reported back and our hero Duke Nukem is sent into that same future to figure out what is going on. In that future Duke Nukem finds a ruined world in complete chaos and disaster, mankind is almost entirely wiped out and the remains of it are reigned and controlled by aliens. Duke then discover that things might have gone wrong because of him; the moment he left the earth for the future it was attacked by those same alien forces. In the second chapter “Chain Reaction” Duke heads back to the present time in hope of fixing things in the present and thus also in the future. In the third chapter “Proving Grounds” Duke would see things getting worse and ends up being involved in a new World War.
So the DS version was released, being it much later then planned: what happened to the PSP version of the game? In March 2009 Apogee Software confirmed that the release date of both versions was still set for September of that year. They then went a bit silent and rumors about Apogee’s mother company 3D Realms closing its doors start to spread; everybody expected that the same would also happens to Apogee Software. Apogee however denied all rumors and stated that the company under no circumstances would be affected by the 3D Realms situation and that the development of the Duke Nukem Trilogy was going according plans. 3D Realms was at the time also working on Duke Nukem Forever. In May of the same year Take-Two, who was at that moment the holder of the publishing rights for Duke Nukem, filed a law suit against 3D Realms, stating that 3D Realms failed to deliver the game. In 2010 Take-Two announced that Forever had been shifted over from 3D Realms to Gearbox and that it had sold all the rights and the intellectual property to that same company. It was later announced that Critical Mass could no longer carry the Duke Nukem license. They decided to change the game with replacing all traces of Duke Nukem like player models, logos and even voice-overs. The name of the main character was also changed and replaced by a new hero called Cam Nash. Frontline Productions even had a new name for the game, “Extraction Point: Alien Shootout” and decided that the new game now would be released on the Playstation Network. Their biggest problem now was that they faced having to deal with a complete new IP, without a well-known and thus easier selling IP like Duke Nukem.
Things then got even weirder when later in 2011: Apogee Software stated that they did not lost the license for Duke Nukem and that the release date for Duke Nukem: Critical Mass was set for June 2011, but just the DS version. A PSP version was no longer spoken off and was said to be cancelled when developer Frontline was taken off the project; the real reason behind this decision still remains a bit vague but the confusion on loosing or not loosing the original license must have been a large part of that decision. Apogee Software denied that the decision to cancel the PSP version had something to do with the loss of any rights and they even said to have submitted a complete build of the game to Sony for final approval. Unfortunately Apogee declined all comments when asked why the game never got a PSP release.
The Nintendo DS version came out as scheduled in 2011. It was labeled as the worst handheld game ever and received some very hard and killing critics when reviewed. End of story? No not at all. There is a complete version of the PSP version of Duke Nukem: Critical Mass. Leaked? Nope. Later release? Nope. Port of the game? Also nope.
The Library of Congress in the United States is probably the biggest library in the world. It archives besides just books also things as magazines, comics and yes, also video games. Through the copyright registration process the library receives roughly 400 games in a year. About 99,99% these games are physically released and published computer games. In 2014 a technician of the library was performing an inventory of acquired video games and he stumbled upon a DVD-R labeled Duke Nukem: Critical Mass (PSP).
Most of the time however these DVD’s contain footage of gameplay of a game. The technician was however triggered by a line of text in the copyright database record: Authorship: entire Video Game, computer code, artwork, music. He put the DVD in his computer and discovered a file directory with the source code of a complete PSP game; a game of which he later found out to be an unreleased Playstation Portable Game. All the contents of the found disc are however copyrighted material and the disc will be stored in the digital archive of the library. Unfortunately it seems that its content cannot be shared. According to Apogee the disc is an early alpha version of the game and it was submitted to the library as required for the copyright process. Duke Nukem: Critical Mass will probably remain another cancelled PSP game that will never be released.
Attack of the Killer Rabbids from outer Space, later retitled Killer Freaks from outer Space, was a first person shooter developed by Ubisoft Montpellier that would eventually become ZombiU for the Wii U.
Originally planned as an untitled horror shooter for the PS3 and Xbox 360 in 2010, the game was already intended to be a part of the Rayman spinoff seriesRaving Rabbids wherein earth was attacked by a much more frightening “cousin” of the Rabbids. Early concept art depicts them as being very similar looking to the Rabbids but with sharp teeth and, in some instances, missing their eyeballs. Also revealed in concept art were designs for different types of enemies such as a basic trooper, a shield trooper, a giant Rabbid, UFOs, and a variety of other alien vehicles. Multiple soldiers can be seen fighting the Rabbids in some of the art, suggesting that would the player would not only be taking the role of one of these soldiers, but there would be co-op multiplayer as well.
This more “mature” tone and the level of violence in the game began to cause concern among the game’s developers as they felt it was begin to stray too far from the child friendly franchise. “We thought about making them cousins to the Raving Rabbids,” designer Jean-Karl Tupic-Bron stated in in an interview with Polygon, “but quickly decided to split [it off]- This is not what Raving Rabbids is all about.”
In response to the issue they changed the invaders from “Killer Rabbids” to “Killer Freaks” and officially revealed the game under that title at E3 2011 as a launch game for the Wii U. While the Freaks remained very similar to the Rabbids in size and stature they were given a much more reptilian appearance to differentiate them from their earlier counterparts. Set in a post-apocalyptic London, the game pitted 1-4 players against hordes of the Freaks with an arcade run n gun style of gameplay complete with a point system. An early trailer and gameplay video revealed a variety of weapons that could be used against the Freaks ranging from handguns and shotguns to a buzzsaw launcher and electricity gun.
Despite the early footage getting a positive response the team still wasn’t satisfied with what the game was turning out to be. The driving force behind this was their desire to create an experience tailor suited for the Wii U, something that the fast paced shooter that they had made didn’t deliver on. Another reason was that the Freaks, despite being well liked by the team, were too small and forced players to look towards the ground for a majority of the game. It is because of these pacing and gameplay issues that the team decided zombies were the next logical step.
Many of the aspects were completely overhauled in the transition to ZombiU, with Tupic-Bron citing the one vs many book and film I am Legend as a major inspiration towards the change. First and foremost the pace of the game was significantly slowed down, hence the change to zombies as they are generally depicted as being slow and stumbling. They introduced a focus on preparation, patience, and inventory management as opposed to the frantic gameplay in the previous installment.
This allowed them to utilize the Wii U pad more effectively, as it was now used for vital gameplay features such as displaying the map and organizing the player’s inventory. They also abandoned the more comical aspects of the game in favor of a darker and more serious tone. Co-op was also removed and instead was replaced by a unique “one death” in which every survivor the player controlled only had one life, and the next survivor the player controlled would have to make their way to the now zombified previous survivor and kill them for their supplies. One of the only aspects that remained relatively unchanged was the vs multiplayer in which one player would control an army of aliens/zombies with the game pad, while the other would try and survive as long as possible with a Wii-mote and nunchuck.
ZombiiU was released on November 18th, 2012 and ports for the Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC were released on August 18th, 2015. News of a sequel in development began to spread when creative director Jean-Phillipe Caro mentioned working on a prototype, but It has since been 100% denied by the Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot as the game was not financially successful for the company. It has been more recently revealed that this proposed game would have re-instated co-op gameplay like in the previous installments. Ubisoft Montpellier continues to work on big franchise games such as the next Ghost Recon and the sequel to their cult hit Beyond Good and Evil.