The Insider: Back in Black is a cancelled adventure game that was in development for PC between 1998 and 2001 by french company Dramaera (AKA In-Visio or Dæsign). The game’s protagonist was Simon Blurr, an international thief in search of new pieces for his private art collection. Set in 1920s Paris, The Insider was conceived as an ambitious exploration – simulation game, where each character had its own live and emotions, artificial intelligence and daily routine, probably following an internal clock.
Players could move around different buildings of Paris to plan their next robbery, by observing streets, houses, museums and people who live in them. French publisher Canal+Multimédia was initially supporting the team, but in March 2000 they closed their relationship with Dramaera because their project was not proceeding as expected. As we can read on Mobygames:
A few weeks after the contract however, index+ was sold to Wanadoo Edition. The relationship quickly deteriorated when Wanadoo decided to focus on more mainstream products. The Insider, the project Dramæra had been working since 1998 with an investment of € 900,000, was to be turned into a classic adventure game with a new team. Jean-Noël Portugal refused and because of this the studio ran into financial troubles at the end of 2001.”
We don’t know how much of the game was dove before its cancellation, but it would be interesting to see a prototype leaked one day, to understand what the team was able to achieve.
Aero-Cross is a cancelled sequel to Namco’s classic Metro-Cross, a racing-platform game that was released in arcades in 1985. This new chapter planned PlayStation 3 Network and Xbox 360 Live Arcade was announced in 2011 and it would have been released for the “Namco Generations” series, conceived to modernize some of their classic titles, such as Pac-Man Championship Edition DX and Galaga Legions DX.
Aero-Cross would have followed the same gameplay as the original, with players running in linear levels trying to avoid obstacles and collecting items (but this time in a sci-fi setting). In the end the project was officially cancelled in 2012 along with the other missing Namco Generations title: Dancing Eye HD. Luckily in this case a playable demo for Aero-Cross was found by Ganonthegreat on an old PS3 demo-disc, and shared online on Archive.org
They is a cancelled survival mystery-horror FPS that was in development for PC, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 by polish videogame developer Metropolis Software, founded in 1992 by Adrian Chmielarz and Grzegorz Miechowski. In 1997 the studio acquired the license of “The Witcher” from Andrzej Sapkowski, however, they ceded it around 2000 to CD Project as they were already worked on 3 games at the same time (one of them being the cult-following turn-based rpg game “Gorky 17“).
Metropolis started working on They between 2005 and 2006 and officially announced it at the Game Convention 2007, but CD Projekt acquired the studio in 2008. The majority of the team was then taken over to work on “The Witcher” series and in the end Metropolis were subsequently closed in 2009.
One of the most interesting mechanics conceived for They was its weapons customization system: you only had a single weapon, which could have been modified, upgraded and designed with hundreds of different items. The PC Action magazine mentioned “a large amount of over 250 upgrades and design parts“, including stickers and logos. As we can read on Destructoid:
“Throughout the game, weapon body-parts and plug-ins will frequently crop up for the collecting. Maybe they’ll be part of a boss’ arsenal, dropped when you kill it, or you might just find them lying around in the aftermath of a battle. However you get hold of them, they can be put together, Lego-style, and tweaked and tuned to make a gun to do whatever the player can think up.”
“Every variety of gunfire, from single-shot, to machine gun, to explosive, to laser, to pretty much anything else you can think of can be blended and combined with however many others you want, along with all kinds of special properties such as fire, ice, lighting, and God knows what else. On top of that, there are loads of little adaptations to be had in the way of reload speed, shot frequency, blast damage etc. You want a rapid-fire electro-shotgun with exploding shells? You’ve got it. Grenade launcher with freezing ammo and your choice of blast radius and trajectory? Why not?”
We also know from IGN’s preview, levels in They would have been partially destructible, to let players create new ways of moving around:
“Of course, this being the next generation and all, it’s possible to destroy some buildings with a well placed grenade or two which, interestingly, is more than a simple aesthetic gimmick – laying waste to buildings uncovers shortcuts through levels and even secret power-ups. However, it’s worth remembering that being hit by falling debris is seriously bad for your health so take precautions. “
Metropolis Software’s philosophy with the weapon customization system was detailed in an interview on GGMania:
“Q: You announced a unique weapon feature, where you are able to upgrade a flexible weapon to your individual needs. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
A: Without naming so many things of the weapon yet, you might think of a soldier in every war. He only wears some few weapons – mostly knife, gun and maybe pistol. Common FPS games are really unrealistic in that point of view, that a soldier is really able to wear 10 more or less heavy guns at the same time (or he must be HULK to carry them all). In THEY you will have this one weapon, where you identify yourself with, which you can customize and enhance it based on YOUR needs and preferences! You will be able to store setups, so you have the expected control system with keys 1-0 to have access to different types of weapon setups – but it still will be YOUR buddy, YOUR best friend, YOUR WEAPON. The appearance will change dramatically, but you are still able to identify yourself with the weapon. So what we will bring to the genre is some more realistic and believable approach in sort of weapon handling. The fear of players, to have only one gun can be easily refuted, as you have hundreds of combinations which you can store and customize at your own discretion – to create YOUR perfect weapon setup, store it to the expected keys 1-0 and have access to them at all time! So each player will have the weapons of HIS choice, a large variation to be used based on needed functions (gameplay relevant decision!) and need not to get along with standard weapons – this is something unique and new to the genre and will grant more freedom for each player! On the other hand, if someone WANTS’ his standard “pumpgun/rifle/Ak47” feeling, he is able to create that…but when he will figure out the fun and possibilities from our new weapon system he will get used to it soon.”
Weapon customization was essential, because you would fight against some weird and stealthy alien / robot creatures in a “not so distant future”. The setting was a destroyed English city and the main plot was told by a little, mysterious boy.
“Set in near-future London in a world crippled by increasingly severe terrorist attacks, THEY follows the story of a British soldier during the emergence of a new global threat. An army of robots has appeared and begun laying waste to everything around it, and while everyone has assumed that a new terrorist faction is behind it all, it will eventually turn out that things are a lot more complicated than that. The robots are far more intelligent in their combat tactics than anyone can believe possible, and seem to be able to work together without any visible signs of communication. Needless to say, humanity is taking a serious kicking to the face, and it’s during one of these kickings that the player’s story starts.”
“The game will take in around twelve levels, and IMC/Metropolis were keen to point out that they’re taking an episodic structure to the game’s story. Taking their model from shows like Heroes and The X-Files, they’ll be making each level work as an individual episode, but will be building a bigger overall story arc as the game progresses.”
We can only hope one day someone could find a playable version of They, so it could be preserved online.
Project Witches (aka Eternal Light) is a cancelled coop-focused action game that was in development by Revistronic for Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Wii and PC. Gameplay would have probably been similar to Diablo or Gauntlet, with 4 players team up together to kill dozens of enemies and huge bosses. Eternal Light was officially announced in 2007, but then postponed for multiple times until it was considered vaporware among gamers.
“Project WITCHES (Provisional Title) available w/w is a third-person action adventure game developed by Spanish developer, REVISTRONIC. In WITCHES players find themselves in terrifying dark surroundings in an epic struggle for survival in order to take freedom and peace to an oppressed medieval kingdom.
Across a landscape of devastation, players manage a squad of Witches, sultry warriors that still resist the dark will of the Evil Lord and his horde of awful creatures and lead the rebellion against his satanic power. Above all, it is a game where teamwork is vital: all modelling, levels and scenes are designed to promote cooperative play.”
“Everything reeks of death, torture and destruction. The people have been enslaved. They are prisoners of a dark power that has established a reign of terror and devastation throughout the land. Your aim is to eliminate the evil creature that dwells in the depths of a sinister castle and to rescue the crushed inhabitants from their horrifying destiny. In order to survive in the face of this satanic power and its cruel armies, you must learn the art of combat and acquire terrible dark powers yourself.
Sultry girls against satanic monsters: Let yourself go in this dark medieval narrative and enjoy the contrast between sensual beauty and sinister horrors. Direct the beautiful but dangerous Gwen in a spectacular fight against hordes of repellent deformed creatures.
Feel the fear: Skies rent by terrifying storms, hair-raising shrieks, shadows in the fog, stealthy movements and menacing growls, the glint of monstrous eyes that watch from the shades. The oppressive certainty of death lying in wait for you.
Spectacular system of tactical combat: Combining spectacular combat with sequences of caution and stealth. The tactics you use will be decisive for your survival. You must rescue the captives and obtain their help. You will lead your team. You can be a great leader or sacrifice your comrades in the fight. Your decisions will shape your destiny.
Totally interactive environment: All game items can be used, creating a sensation of total immersion such as never before. You can use all kinds of objects to achieve your aims, even the amputated limbs of adversaries.”
There are a few gameplay videos from the game, but we don’t know how much was really completed before Revistronic closed down in 2011 for bankruptcy.
Between 2008 and 2010 Sony Computer Entertainment Japan were working on a new “Russian retro Sci-Fi Horror” video game for their Playstation 3, but in the end the project was cancelled. While this new PS3 game was never officially announced by Sony, a single concept art was revealed by Masahiro Ito (of Silent Hill fame) on Twitter in 2017, before he removed its own tweet.
“it would appear that conceptualization of the Russian sci-fi horror project began somewhere close to 2006 based on images from his official website. If you start from the top of the paintings section (while being mindful of some sensual imagery), the entire third row along with parts of the fourth seem dedicated to the production. I wasn’t aware these works actually belonged to an unfortunately scrapped game until fairly recently. I was actually under the impression they were simply a “subject matter” study that he explored in his art book, The 2nd Wild Pig, which was released at Comiket 74; however, it has been difficult to obtain exact details about its content despite remarks from the artist about making his work available in the West in some form or another. Ultimately, it appears a multi-media project called Acid Bufferzone has cannibalized remnants of the material shared between figurines and seemingly a manga series from Ito-san as well.”
Unfortunately at the moment this concept art is the only remaining document from the game. It would be interesting to see screenshots from the probable prototype they were able to create during the early development.