Playstation 3 (PS3)

TimeShift/Chronos [Beta – Xbox 360, Xbox, PS2, PC]

TimeShift is a futuristic First-Person Shooter released in 2007 for the PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, developed by Saber Interactive and first published by Atari, then, by Sierra Entertainment.

TimeShift‘s plot revolves around a secret program aimed at designing two time shifting suits. One is stolen by the doctor Aiden Krone, the main villain, and you, wearing the other, must go find it. Following him backward through time to 1939, player discovers a dystopian sci-fi alternative past with Krone as the supreme ruler.

Its key feature is the player’s ability to control time: slowing, stopping and rewinding it. This allows many possibilities during gunfight as well as solving specific puzzles.

The game’s development was pretty messy. It was first revealed in February 2004 under the title of Chronos, and was planned for the PC, Xbox and Playstation 2, using the in-house engine of Saber Interactive, the Saber3D Engine. As we can see on the screenshots for this version, it was using the same HUD as previous Saber’s game: Will Rock. Here is what we could read on French website Jeuxactu:

Known for having developed Will Rock, Saber Interactive is currently working on a new project called Chronos. This will be an FPS based on the same engine as Will Rock’s (which is also a homemade engine). If we don’t know anything at the moment about the scenario and the gameplay of the game, Saber Interactive has nevertheless shared some images on their official site. Planned on PC, Xbox and PS2, Chronos should probably be released later this year in the United States, as soon as a publisher is found.

The project resurfaced in October of the same year when HomelanFed announced that Atari was going to be the publisher:

A check of Atari’s official web site reveals some titles of games that have not yet been officially announced. The PC section shows a listing for Civilization IV, which is most likely the next game in the long running and popular strategy game series. Other unannounced games listed include three identified as “action” titles with the names Chronos (PC-Xbox), Enemy In Sight (PC-Xbox) and Rat Race (PC). Besides the titles and the game platforms there is no other info available on these games.

In January 2005, Atari renamed Chronos as TimeShift and shown it to Gamespot. Throughout the entire 2005 year, the project was showcased here and there at various occasions. However, in April 2006, Atari sold the game to Vivendi Universal Games, owner of the Sierra Entertainment’s brand, as we can read on Gamedeveloper:

Officials from Vivendi Universal Games have confirmed, via a pre-E3 press showing, that time-bending PC and Xbox 360 first person shooter title Timeshift will now be published by VU Games, rather than original publishers Atari. Although representatives from Atari have not commented on the change, the game was initially scheduled for a May release by the company, but no longer appears on Atari’s schedules. Vivendi officials were unable to provide further details at time of press, indicating only that the game currently does not have a scheduled release date.

The storyline alongside various characters were rewritten or removed, the only exception being the doctor Aiden Krone, formerly named Ivan. Here is what we can read about these former characters on GameGossip:

Colonel Michael Swift

Colonel Michael Swift (recently retired) has a unique combination of brains and brawn that have helped him to rapidly rise to the top ranks of the Air Force. An all-state running back in high school, Swift passed up on athletic scholarships from some of the country’s best universities to join the Air Force Academy where he majored in military strategic studies. After graduating from the Academy at age 21, Swift spent ten years as a combat and recon pilot, flying thousands of sorties. In the year 2004 during a secret mission he was shot down over hostile territory. He spent three months navigating the treacherous terrain of the enemy’s land, avoiding capture and battling the elements before successfully reaching the border of an ally. His resurfacing became the stuff of legend and the Air Force soon promoted him to the rank Colonel. He soon became a specialist in the research and development of advanced weaponry for future combat. Upon the death of his wife he retired from active duty and became a full-time father.

When a government agency initiated the testing of the Quantum Suit and the Chronomicon – a highly publicized event – they chose Swift to perform the experiment as he was the only candidate with the proper mix of DNA, brains and strength to perform he job. After initially declining the offer, the tragic death of his daughter Emma causes him to reconsider.

Professor Ivan Krone

Professor Ivan Krone was born in 1947. Krone’s father, Nicholas, was a scientist who worked in the US Patent Office in Washington DC.

In 1955 Krone’s parents were killed in an accident. With no known relatives Krone was transferred to an orphanage where he spent the rest of his youth. He became highly anti-social and isolated himself from the other children in the home. Krone escaped reality by embracing the study of science. For the next decade he devoted all of his time poring over the works of the world’s great physicists, from Newton to Einstein to Feynman to Hawking. Krone soon began to see himself as the next in line among the kings of physics.

By the age of 17 Krone was accepted into the Technology Institute where he studied for the next 10 years before receiving his doctorate in Applied Physics at the age of 27. Upon graduation he took a position in the Institute as an associate professor. He began to delve seriously into the study of time travel and time control. By the turn of the century, Krone had developed a device that he was convinced would allow for limited time control functionality. He sought out students interested in participating in an experiment to test the device. One student volunteered. The test proved disastrous – the device exploded during the experiment and the student was killed.

An investigation followed the tragedy and Krone was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide. He was sentenced to an unusually harsh prison sentence. For the next decade-and-a-half Krone’s obsession with time control grew even stronger. He feverishly devoted himself to its study during his long tenure in prison. Upon his release he had a host of ideas ripe for testing, but he couldn’t find a way to get them funded. He was rejected and shunned by the academic community and mocked for his obsession with the study of time. Krone was left to find a way to fund his studies on his own.

For the next decade Krone worked zealously. He spent days working as a janitor in a local college and nights secretly working in the school’s labs. By the turn of the century Krone had made a startling breakthrough. While he had not yet discovered a way to travel in time, he created a device that allowed for limited control of time. Word leaked to the public of this invention and the government quickly assumed control of the device in the name of the national interest. Krone was devastated. He had worked his entire life to come to this moment and now the government had usurped control over his project. The government promised him compensation and guaranteed him the right to continue to develop the project. He reluctantly agreed, all the while resentful of the government for scorning him and then assuming control over his life’s work. It was in this environment that Swift was chosen to test the Quantum Suit in November of 2007.

Jasmine Lin

Jasmine Lin is Ivan Krone’s assistant on Project TimeShift. She has a passion for what she does, and it has taken complete priority in her life – above family, a vacation, or a relationship. She is especially optimistic about Krone’s project…but she has a chip on her shoulder due to having been passed over multiple times within her career progression because of both the male-dominated nature of the military and the innate bureaucracy of the government itself. Additionally, she has been given the awkward and stressful task of gaining the commitment of the notoriously obstinate Colonel Swift, who is ironically the ONLY man found within the military (past or present) to be able to take part in the project due to his unique DNA.

General Bruce Mitchell

General Mitchell is Project TimeShift’s military overseer. While Professor Krone is the director—and the brains—behind the project, Mitchell unquestionably holds the purse strings. It is Mitchell who suggests Swift’s involvement in the Project, as his ex-superior. Enormously competent and meticulous to a fault, Mitchell cares only for the men under his command and his duty to his country.

Emma Swift

Emma is Swift’s 5 year-old daughter. She is the only family he has, and is the reason he initially turned down the chance to be involved in Project TimeShift in the first place. Her death in an accident that destroyed her school bus haunts Swift even as he agrees to take part in the Project.

Some famous actors were initially going to voice characters in the game. Revealed in July 2006 by Gamespot, Dennis Quaid was the voice of Michael Swift and Michael Ironside voiced Dr. Ivan Krone:

Today, Vivendi Games announced that Michael Ironside has joined the voice cast of TimeShift, the sci-fi shooter the publisher recently acquired from Atari. Ironside will play Doctor Krone, one of the scientists developing the time-travel technology at the center of the game’s storyline.

Joining Ironside is one of Hollywood’s more recognizable leading men. Dennis Quaid, whose 20-year career has spanned the 1980s, ’90s, and ’00s, is also joining TimeShift’s cast. It will be his first game project and will see the aging heartthrob play Colonel Michael Swift (Ret.), a former test pilot who becomes the world’s first “chrononaut,” or time traveler.

Rounding out the cast is character actor Nick Chinlund, who will play General Mitchell, director of the game’s time-travel project. Though not a marquee name, Chinlund has appeared in many movies familiar to gamers, including Chronicles of Riddick and Training Day. Chinlund has had guest spots in several high-profile TV series, including The Sopranos and Desperate Housewives.

In the final game, none of the work done by these actors were retained, as characters Michael Swift and Bruce Mitchell were both entirely removed, and character Ivan Krone rewritten. Storyline was also a bit modified, but remains the same in general:

The storyline basically was as follows: Michael Swift, the protagonist, volunteers for a time-travel experiment, under the direction of scientist Dr. Ivan Krone. Swift travels back to 1911 and tampers with the past in some way. Upon returning to the present day, the entire world has changed and Krone is now an evil dictator ruling over a 1984-but-cartoony-esque United States.

Following the acquisition by Vivendi Games, TimeShift was pushed back for the end of 2007 and decision to make a complete overhaul of the project was taken. In April 2007, director of product development Kyle Peschel, explained everything that happened on Shacknews:

“So Sierra pulled me in the office last year–with seven bugs left to fix on TimeShift–and said, ‘If we gave you a year, what would you do with that?’

I said, ‘Are you fucking kidding me? I’ve got seven bugs, let’s put the fucking thing out tomorrow. I’m sick and tired of fucking crunching. I can’t handle hundred hour weeks for another year.’ And Martin Tremblay, who had recently arrived, said, ‘No, Kyle, I really believe we can do something greater than what we’re doing now. What would you do?’

“Well I said, ‘I’d scrap the physics system, get rid of this Meqon and put in Havok. I’d kill off the first four levels of the game, because we made the classic video game mistake of doing the beginning first and the end last, and the end is great and the beginning is weak. All these Full Motion Videos we paid for, I want to get rid of them. I want to get rid of the story, I want to get rid of the style guide, I want to get rid of the weapons, I want to get rid of the menus, I want to get rid of the HUD, I want to get rid of the suit. I want to get rid of the main character; people aren’t identifying with him.’ I just went down this list. I was kind of going after that list so aggressively that I was kind of hoping people would say to just release the game tomorrow, and then I could be done with it. But he goes, ‘Okay. Let’s do that.’

TimeShift has switched publishers (from Atari to Vivendi subsidiary Sierra), switched platforms (from Xbox and PC to Xbox 360, PC, and PS3), switched visual styles (from steampunk to gritty oppressive future), and switched innumerable control- and design-related decisions, but it has not switched its producer. Peschel described to me how he started on the project back at Atari, and how he managed to stick with it when it was dropped as a result of that publisher’s well-publicized tumultuous financial situation.

TimeShift was picked up almost four years ago almost as a value title,” he explained. “When it was originally picked up by Atari, I had just come off of some other first person shooters. It was kind of opportunistic–let’s take a chance on these guys in Russia. So I sat down and started looking at the game said, ‘You know, I think we could really do something with this,’ provided we really built the mechanics and made it not gimmicky, focused on an interesting art style like steampunk–set it apart from the myriad of things. So we started rolling with it, and got about done with the Xbox [version], and I sat down with [then Atari CEO] Bruno Bonnell and all the execs at Atari, and they said, ‘So, Kyle, can you make this game for 360?’ I’m like, ‘What, am I a fucking genie now?’ They say, ‘No, seriously, it’s for 360 now.’

“I say, ‘Okay, I’m sure we can get that out.'”

That was to be the first time the game would undergo large-scale redevelopment. Soon, however, Atari’s funding started to dwindle in the face of falling revenues, and in January 2006 the team was pressured to get a demo released quickly. Internet response illuminated some of the game’s major issues, some of which were a result of the game being quickly ported up to target then-current hardware, and some of which went as deep as the game’s perhaps poorly planned visual style.

“When you get something in that many hands, you listen to the feedback. I’m making games for guys like me, not for corporate America. I mean, I work for corporate America–I don’t want to sell it like I’m the fuckin’ hero of gamers everywhere–but I’m cognizant of what people are saying. I was on Shack reading the comments and, reading between the lines, people were saying basically, ‘I really like some of what they’re doing, but this steampunk shit is ass. Look at this fucking knuckleduster thing, what the fuck is that? It’s all confused.'”

Soon after, Atari announced that it would be shedding much of its development to help reduce expenditures. TimeShift was put up on the auction block, and Peschel quit his job to go work for Vivendi’s Sierra Entertainment label. “Within a day,” he recalls, he was approached by management with the possibility of Vivendi acquiring TimeShift from Atari and reassigning him to the project. At the time, Peschel was working under industry veteran Drew Markham, who founded Gray Matter Studios, designed Xatrix’s Kingpin: Life of Crime, and produced Gray Matter’s Return to Castle Wolfenstein. Markham saw, as Peschel had when the game was first signed by Atari, that TimeShift had more potential than it was demonstrating, so Peschel went back and started rethinking major aspects of the game.

“I changed the storyline up at the last minute, and that’s when we brought in [voice actors] Dennis Quaid and Michael Ironside and all those guys,” he recounted. “A funny thing happens when you rewrite the story: you pay attention to everything. I was thinking, ‘Fuck, X isn’t working, Y isn’t working, I wish I could do this.'”

That was when, at seven bugs away from completion, Peschel was called into Sierra’s offices and was told that he had another year. The original steampunk theme was dropped and replaced by a grittier, darker, more desolate future. The main character was redesigned from a muscle-bound action hero to a more faceless protagonist in a full body suit, into which Peschel hopes players will project themselves.

It must be stated that TimeShift’s visuals have come a long, long way since the game was shown in demo form last year. Since that point, it went through an overhaul to bring it up to speed for Xbox 360, but Peschel noted that even then the game had a great deal of legacy geometry and textures, and did not feel up to par with modern shooters. It was not until development was revamped again and the entire visual style scrapped that the game began to look truly new.

After its release, TimeShift has received mixed to positive reviews by the press. In December 2017, VentureBeat revealed during an interview of Matthew Karch, Saber’s CEO, that a spiritual sequel called Timebender was in development:

As Saber continues to work on Quake Champions, it’s also working on other projects, most notably a follow up to its 2007 time-manipulation shooter: TimeShift. Saber hasn’t officially announced it yet, but it’s in development. It’s something of a passion project for the studio. (…) Of course, it can’t be called TimeShift 2, since Activision still owns the rights, so instead it’s a spiritual successor. It will be a new story with a new name, but the most important elements, like the time manipulation, will be returning. (…) As for the new name, nothing is set in stone, but Karch has already registered ‘Timebender’.

According to some information made available from the e-book Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology: 14th International Conference, Timebender was going to be multiplayer only. However, according to this site, it seems that the project could have been dropped as the use of the Timebender trademark entered in the status “abandonned” in November 2018.

As noted by Liqmatrix the Atari PC seven level single player beta is available at this link: https://archive.org/details/TimeShiftAtariDemosDJXavieRO

Thanks to John Paul, Liqmatrix and Gerror for the contribution!

Chronos images:

TimeShift Atari’s version Images:

Gameplay videos from the 2006 demo:

Michael Ironside’s interview:

Nick Chinlund’s interview:

 

Time0 (ZootFly) [X360/PS3 – Cancelled]

Time0 is a canceled action game developed by ZootFly for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 platforms, alongside potentially a Nintendo Wii version, from 2006 to 2008.

As we coul read on old ZootFly’s website, Time0 followed the adventure of Zed Condor, an urban explorer and Violet Munro, an investigative reporter who got trapped deep in the shadow world of a parallel New York. The city itself is a giant war machine threatening to wipe out our world. They have three days to stop it.

“Time0 is a daring and upbeat action adventure about two diehard New York City urban explorers. They discover an entrance to a parallel world in which an army of enslaved people is building replicas of cities in order to launch a Trojan horse invasion on Earth and other worlds.”

“There’s the exploration spirit of unknown worlds, the audacity of the greatest movie adventures, and the roughness of gritty urban TV series.”

Time0 had a pretty messy development story, as the creation of this game came from the ashes of another canceled project from ZootFly, a title based on the Ghostbusters license. According to Bostjan Troha, founder and president of ZootFly, for Gamespot, this game was in development from May to July 2006 before being postponed because of IP issues:

“Over the weekend, Ghostbusters fans were aflutter with some videos that appeared on YouTube. The clips showed footage of a game based on the 1984 sci-fi comedy film. But instead of featuring fish-out-of-water geeks awkwardly shooting from their proton packs, the videos showed Gears of War-style gameplay, massive destruction, and a gritty New York cityscape.

The videos were posted by the game’s developer, Slovenia-based ZootFly, who later admitted that the Xbox 360 game was merely a prototype and that intellectual-property issues momentarily sidelined its development.

Bostjan: “The development started in May 2006 and was put on the back burner in July 2006, at which point we shifted the focus to Time0, a Ghostbusters-inspired game. The engine is based off of a common code base we have at ZootFly. After our previous titles were released it was upgraded to next-gen to run a prototype of World War III, a game where the US and Europe duke it out. The Ghostbusters footage was running on an intermediate build of the engine that now powers Time0 which is a third-person action game for the Xbox 360, PS3, and hopefully for the Wii. It is in part based on a true story about two urban explorers that disappeared in New York City in August 2006, while exploring a Harlem basement rumored to house an ancient portal into the parallel world. We started prototyping in summer last year. The development of a 20-minute vertical slice of Time0 started in late October 2006. Right now it’s hard to tell when it’s gonna be complete. Currently, we are actively looking for a worldwide publishing deal for Time0.”

Early 2007, ZootFly posted three teaser videos about Time0. After that, the game disappeared from the radar during an entire year before Gematsu revealed in May 2008 that the title was still in development and that the developer was trying to negotiate with publishers:

“We’re still talking to… how shall I put it… two of the top four publishers about publishing Time0,” said Troha. “The 20th Century Fox title will be announced by Brash Entertainment sometime in summer. Unfortunately that’s all I am allowed to disclose.”

Unfortunately, Time0 was never mentioned again thereafter. A few years later, a new video showing gameplay was uploaded in addition to new screenshots, unclear as to whether this was a new attempt to revive the project or if it was an old prototype before it’s cancellation. We notice that the appearance of the protagonist has been totally changed, as Chentzilla pointed out in the comments, it borrowed a lot from the main character of the game Mistmare, which was developed by people who would later found ZootFly.

After developing Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death, ZootFly was acquired in 2013 by the company Interblock, specialized in casino games.

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Terra : Formations (Starcave Entertainment) [X360/PS3/PC – Cancelled]

Terra : Formations is a canceled first-person shooter with real-time strategy elements developed by Cellien Studios, a two men team subdivision of game company Star Cave Studios, for PC, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 systems, from 2004 to 2017.

The game was first revealed in the beginning of 2005 by Cellien as a multiplayer FPS using the Torque Engine:

“We at Cellien Studios are developing a game on the Torque game Engine from www.garagegames.com. Terra: Formations is a Sci-Fi FPS game that will be played online much like Unreal Tournament style. The project website is www.terrathegame.com and our studio website is www.cellienstudios.com. So far our studio only consists of two people but for a two man team and only 5 months of development I feel confident that we will be able to release a demo in the coming months so keep an eye out.”

After a year of silence, Gamesindustry announced Terra : Formations, now headed by Star Cave Studios:

“Irish Star Cave Studios Limited proudly announces the development of its first “AAA” title and first multiplatform game, Terra: Formations! In Terra: Formations, players have the freedom to select their preferred style of game play, ranging from high action First Person Shooter (FPS) to more strategic Real-Time Strategy (RTS) in a ranking system set up much like a Role-Playing Game (RPG)! It’s the clash of the titans when it comes to game genres; FPS, RTS and RPG – all tied together in this awesome looking fast-paced, action packed, futuristic Massive Multimedia Online Game (MMOG), also featuring single-player options and adventure elements!

By the year 2157, mankind had depleted the resources of planet earth with his lust for power, technological advancements and greed. Ironically, the very machines that played a role in mankind’s irrevocable position were the only chance of survival! After several years of uncertainty, hope was reborn with the efforts of the Global Military Alliance to Terraform one of earth’s celestial neighbours, Jupiter’s moon called “Europa”. It wasn’t until the excavation of the satellite’s icy crust that mankind learned the truth; he was not alone and something, somewhere, was waiting, watching, learning and preparing for battle!

As a player in Terra: Formations, you join the ranks of an elite military force with the objective of reshaping the environments of inhospitable worlds, experience the evolution of a developing planet, and take command to become humanities only hope for survival in an epic struggle for control of the solar system.

Four classes of characters offer different insight to the chaotic world, each providing a unique blend of interaction. The Soldier faction allows for adrenaline pumping action that players have come to expect from traditional FPS games. As a member of the Engineer class, the player becomes the key element in the development of the environment by constructing and repairing mankind’s lifeline to the world. The Researcher class explores the evolution of the world to enhance society’s tools and develop new technology, and finally the player can opt to take command of the action from the perspective of the Commander class to bring order to an uncertain future, tying RTS elements into Terra: Formations.

Star Cave Studios Limited is a privately owned game development studio based in Ireland, and the cream of Irish developers! Founded in June 2004 by industry veteran Keith Killilea, CEO, its focus is to create state-of-the-art computer games targeted not only at the PC platform, but also the next generation gaming consoles! During the course of 2005, Star Cave Studios Limited acquired Cellien Studios, based in Austin Texas, and Single Cell Games, based in Australia, and has now become the leader of Irish game development!”

After that announce, however, the game was put on-hold indefinitely, before surprisingly coming back from the dead in September 2012 on platforms such as Steam Greenlight and Indiegogo, using this time the Unreal Engine 3:

“In Terra: Formations, players have the freedom to select their preferred style of game play, ranging from intense action First-Person Shooter to more strategic RTS planning in an online multi-player universe.”

The key concepts of Terra can be summarized by the conflicting species, player classes, life forms, technology, locations, and gameplay that are designed to make a genre hybrid, player driven world possible.”

Terra: Formations main features:

Rich, highly detailed, atmospheric and wonderful alien enviroments

Changing environments reflecting your terraforming progress, becoming more habitable and supportive of your species requirements. Tug of War gameplay.

Permanent changes in environments – terraforming levels will remember your changes.

Groundbreaking genre crossing gameplay, combining First Person Shooter with Real-Time Strategy.

Highly detailed player characters, with customizable appearances

RTS online gameplay where you give real players control commands.

Advanced AI Droids for FPS defending & RTS resource play.

4 distinct classes of characters; Soldier (FPS), Commander (RTS), Builder (FPS+RTS), and Medic (FPS).

Hi Tech Weaponry & Several Ground / Air Vehicles

Commander Special Attacks such as air-strikes, cloaking, superweapons.

Aliens have the ability to turn Humans by infestation into fellow Aliens.

Global online points & stats system.

Open Mod System allowing map makers to create new worlds.

“The game was announced back in 2006 for all major platforms from PC to Consoles and the screenshots you see in the Gallery tab at the top of this page is the playable demo from back then! We spared no expense to create “AAA” class graphics, code, game-play and pulled all-nighters with barely no lives at all. To develop the whole game we needed a publisher and in the end Terra needed to be put on hold – until now!

On the Indiegogo page, we could read further details on the company and some ideas behind that game:

“Based on our funding target, we would expect to nail the deadline for Beta Release in late 2013. We know exactly what we are doing, and as Terra has been many years in the making, we are confident in our deadlines! We will keep you in the loop with our development at all times, and give you a look into the process and progress we are making.”

“Example of how amazing Terra will be, your playing on the multi-player level and the world around not just changes due to the terra-forming but stays changed even when you return later to it! We want to bring you an experience of game-play not done before and a dynamic living world you would expect to be on.”

Unfortunately, the crowdfunding campaign wasn’t a success, the game only collected 75$ on a fixed goal of 175,000. After this failed campaign, Terra : Formations disappeared again, but attended a third comeback, this time in the beginning of 2014. Rebranded as T.E.R.R.A. and using Unity as new engine, the project was slightly different about what was initially planned from it’s former form and was, once again, put on Steam Greenlight:

We are an small team of 4 so far working on this title but if we are funded we can bring in extra help from our peers to bring the game to an completion stage. For the past few years the game evolved from it’s concept of different demo versions towards today, believe me we have had plenty of time to do trial & error on blending the genre’s! We ended up with the finish concept after all of this to what it is now, so much had changed we changed the name to the current form to represent this.”

The developers managed to release it in Early Access around Spring 2016, but in April 2017, as we could read on the comments section, Starcave decided to rebuild the game to it’s core in order to get significant improvements:

“There was a break in the development, where we were reviewing everything of the Early Access release build and have decided to rebuild the core to make better improvements for between EA to Full release to be as smooth as possible. More updates will appear as soon.”

It will never materialize and, since then, Starcave disappeared from the picture alongside T.E.R.R.A. which isn’t playable anymore.

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Moscow Rhapsody (Illusion Softworks) [X360/PS3 – Cancelled]

Moscow Rhapsody is a canceled First-Person Shooter published by D3 Publisher and developed by Illusion Softworks, between 2006 and 2008, exclusively for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles.

For several years, little information was available regarding Moscow Rhapsody, until August 2019, when the Czech website Visiongame.cz interviewed Marek Rabas, who was lead programmer on the game, in order to learn more about its concept and the origin of its cancellation:

VG: So you mentioned that you left after the unannounced Illusion Softworks project was canceled. We have it in the archive, it’s Moscow Rhapsody. Could you tell us more about this game? Apart from a few pictures, not much can be found about it. So was it’s cancellation a reason for you to leave?

Marek Rabas: “Moscow Rhapsody was a First-Person Shooter that had some interesting inspirations. The first was Rainbow Six : Vegas, which combined 1st person and 3rd person cameras. So it was the FPS where you used the covers, and when you were in the cover, the camera just switched to 3rd person. The story took place in Russia and was inspired by the book Icon, which dealt with the coup. When some people go crazy and shoot the president, creating total chaos in the country. The player then had to move in this situation and try to solve it. It had a very interesting concept. I think that the game had hope of success and we worked on it for two years, helping to make the engine on which Mafia runs. Unfortunately Moscow Rhapsody was made for publisher D3 and not for 2K Games. So when 2K bought us, they canceled the project and moved people out of it to complete Mafia II. So it was an impulse for us to leave. They took our project and the relationship between the Mafia II team and the Moscow Rhapsody team was not entirely good.”

After the release of Mafia II, Illusion Softworks (then renamed 2K Czech) was merged with another internal studio at 2K Games, Hangar 13, to continue developing other games based on the Mafia license.

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Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned [X360 PS3 PC – Cancelled]

Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned is a canceled action-adventure role-playing  game that was developed by Propaganda Games for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC platforms and published by Disney Interactive. It was an open world game based on the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise.

Set before events of the first movie, the game was to follow James Sterling, a pirate captain whose main mission was to travel across the Caribbean Sea to make a reputation for himself. Although little was unveiled about the story, it was intended to be independent from the films’ main arc and included new characters.

The game was first revealed before E3 2009 with an interview of Alex Peters, game director from Propaganda, thanks to IGN:

“Disney Interactive Studios and Propaganda Games are working on Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned, an action RPG set in a huge open world. The story takes place before the Pirates of the Caribbean movies with an original plot where players step into the shoes of a new pirate beset with all manner of nasty enemies. Moral choices, character building, and a supernatural world await. We’ve got the first details on the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC game, courtesy of Alex Peters, Game Director for Armada of the Damned.”

IGN: Can you tell us a little bit about the plot? Who do you play as and what is the overall goal of the game?

Alex Peters: “The story of Armada of the Damned takes place before the events of the Pirates of the Caribbean films, so we have a great opportunity to expand on the rich and diverse history and mythology that already exists in the universe. The character at the start of the game is a young pirate setting out on his maiden voyage with the goal of becoming the most respected — or feared — pirate captain in the Caribbean.”

IGN: Are you set to play as a specific character with a predetermined look or is there going to be a character creation system so that I can make my own unique pirate?

Alex Peters: “The current plan is that the character initially has a predetermined look, but throughout the game the choices the player makes during gameplay will change the character’s appearance. Some of these changes will be story-related and quite drastic and some will be much less serious, allowing the player to create a more unique character.”

IGN: Is the bulk of the game on sea or are there significant portions of exploration on land?

Alex Peters : “The exploration will be a mixture of both land and sea and it’s up to the player to choose how much time they spend in each.”

IGN: Since this is an open world, I’m assuming that exploration will be a big part of the game. What sorts of things can I do when veering away from the main quest?

Alex Peters: “We want to entice players to explore hidden coves, mysterious inlets and intriguing islands. The people of the Caribbean have their own stories and while their lives are certainly affected by the events that transpire in the main story, they often have more immediate or personal concerns. Since the player is cast in the role of a pirate, they may choose to involve themselves in situations that pique their interest or serve their own purposes.”

IGN: The film is set in a sort of pseudo-reality. But obviously during the time of pirates, the sea was a warzone for a variety of nations. How are those nationalities playing a role in this game and will you be free to pick you allegiances?

Alex Peters: “Throughout the course of the game, the player will interact with the nation powers who inhabited the Caribbean at that time and their loyalties will change based on the choices made over the course of the game.”

IGN: The press release says there are moral choices to be made. How extensive is this and how does the morality system work?

Alex Peters: “A major focus for this game is choice. Players will have to decide how they interact with non-player characters, what they decide to do and where they travel. Morality in the pirate lore is a bit of a gray area and our game will take advantage of the various choices the player will have to make.”

IGN: How important is your crew and what goes into assembling one to take your ship to sea?

Alex Peters: “A pirate captain is only as good as his ship’s crew. With that said, we will allow the player to personalize their crew. These choices will affect their character’s success or struggle.”

IGN: One of the key elements to any RPG is having a good dialogue system. How will this work in Pirate of the Caribbean? Are there multiple dialogue choices or is it more traditional?

Alex Peters: “We’re committed to making conversations in the game entertaining. We’ve created a script that takes advantage of an entirely new story set within the world of the Pirates of the Caribbean and wholeheartedly embraces the tone and humor players expect. RPGs are all about choices. Players that want to cut to the chase are able to do so, and those who wish to explore every angle can weave their way through the dialogue, pursuing areas that interest them.”

On the same period, Kotaku added:

“The game is an action RPG on an epic scale. Alex Peters name checks games like Oblivion, Dragon Age, and Fable, saying that Armada of the Damned definitely fell on that end of the scale, through not quite as action-oriented as Lionhead’s game. The game of course features a great deal of sea combat as well, allowing the player to sail from island to island, building their crew and taking on other ships in dynamic combat.”

The following year, the game was the subject of numerous previews by various media which had the opportunity to play the title, scheduled for February 1, 2011. For example, Gamesradar wrote:

“The combat and land exploration looks uncannily similar to Fable II. The swordfighting has been designed to be as accessible as possible, allowing you to mash at buttons, but also to create unique combos by adding flintlocks and magic attacks to the mix. The main story quest has an obvious path to follow, but there are also loads of side missions which introduce you to the likes of voodoo priestess Tia Dalma, long before she joined Jack Sparrow’s crew.

But what sets Armada of the Damned apart from other action RPGs is the ability to sail the high seas. There’s a huge area of the Caribbean to explore, and you directly control your ship the Nemesis, just like you would a boat in GTA. You’re free to travel almost anywhere in the world right from the beginning. We’ve seen the pirate city of Tortuga and it looks great. You’ll also be able to visit the merchant outpost Port Royal, and Alex Peters also hints that no Pirates game would be complete without supernatural locations like Fiddler’s Green and Davy Jones’ locker.

Captain Sterling certainly comes close to ending up there at the start of the adventure. On his maiden voyage to the Caribbean, the young pirate is sunk and all but drowned by the insane Spanish admiral Aldonado. However, he miraculously survives and vows to strike back. How you wreak your revenge is a matter of many important choices, and this will eventually decide the fate of Sterling’s soul.

Rather than going down the old route of making ‘good’ or ‘evil’ decisions, there are ‘Legendary’ or ‘Dreaded’ acts. Legendary acts involve stuff like swinging on a chandelier to escape a mob of guards while delivering one-liners and grinning through your sparkly gold teeth. Basically, anything that Jack Sparrow would do will also enhance your reputation as a pirate lord.

Dreaded acts are based on double-crossing, choosing not to help people and general acts of violence and cruelty that would make most people shiver their timbers. They’re also the kind of thing that could earn you a skeletal face like captain Barbossa.

Actions influence your character’s appearance as well as his fighting abilities. At his most ‘legendary’ Captain Sterling is decked out in gold finery and sports a dashing haircut. The most dreaded Captain Sterling is covered in barnacles, has a skeletal frame and uses the anchor that dragged him to his drowning place as a weapon.”

IGN, for it’s part, said:

“Although the game is set in the Pirates of the Caribbean universe, the events of the game transpire well before the first film and revolve around a new hero: Sterling. This young adventurer had dreams of fame and fortune — having been raised by a poor father — but Sterling is, surprisingly, killed on his first voyage through the Caribbean. Through the intervention of certain supernatural forces, Sterling is brought back to the world of the living and is given a second chance to fulfill his fate.

The idea of “choosing your fate” takes center stage in Armada of the Damned. Early on in the game, players will decide if they will play as a legendary hero, or a dreaded one, but the gameplay will remain flexible. In other words, players can still make the occasional “good” or “evil” decision, even if that decision opposes their original selection. But Sterling will ultimately end his journey as a legendary captain or a dreaded one.

This defining choice extends into several aspects of the game — it doesn’t just influence the story. Sterling’s appearance, personality, weapons, attacks, quests, and even the game’s endings are all affected by the player’s choice. The legendary Sterling is a showboating, handsome adventurer, while the dreaded Sterling is haunted, dark, and uses supernatural power to decimate those that stand before him.

The dynamic between these two paths was demonstrated perfectly in a set of two trailers, where Sterling narrates his experiences after he wakes up on a beach. In the first legendary trailer, Sterling’s voice grows richer over the course of the video, building up confidence and momentum until he announces himself as the legendary Captain Sterling. The second trailer starts the same way, but the moment that Sterling regains consciousness after his fatal accident, his voice sounds unsettled. Vengeful. You can slowly detect a haunting echo in his voice, which becomes more guttural and menacing over time.

Seeing trailers is good fun, but seeing the game in action is what it’s all about. The first part of my extended demo covered the land battle portion of Armada of the Damned, which looks a little bit like Fable. Sterling has a light and heavy attack, and he can string a series of four strikes together to form a basic combo. Timing the button presses accurately will cause Sterling to end the combo with a powerful bonus strike, which plays out in slow-motion (for the win). This adds a bit of a timing game to the combat, which is a welcome feature. Sterling can also grab his opponents and infect them with a curse, which is basically a weakening spell. This curse can then be transferred to all the other enemies in the area if Sterling performs a finishing move on a cursed opponent.

Of course, all of Sterling’s various attacks, special moves, and animations change depending on if the player selected the legendary path or the dreaded path. The special moves were of particular interest to me, as they play on the nature of Sterling (be it legendary or dreaded) and they look sweet in the process. Legendary Sterling can perform a technique, for example, where he tosses a jug of rum into the air and shoots it, causing flames to pour over the baddies underneath. On the other hand, the dreaded version of Sterling uses a giant anchor as a special weapon and can smash it down to the ground, causing ghostly waves to erupt from the earth.

To make this intriguing system even more appetizing, players will be able to upgrade these skills in a number of different ways, tweaking their version of Sterling to their liking. If players want to use a very specific set of skills, they are free to pour experience into just those techniques and maximize their efficiency.

The second section of the demonstration focused on sea combat. It is another fundamental element of Armada of the Damned. Players can view the action from a distant perspective (with the camera hanging a ways back from your ship) or from right behind Sterling’s shoulder as he mans the wheel.

When it comes to the actual combat, players can attack an opposing ship’s hull, sails, or crew. By balancing these three attack types together, players can sink a ship, disable its movement or weaken its crew to ease the process of boarding. This seemed like a great way to set up the battles, and with a Gears of War style reloading mechanic which rewards players with accurate timing, there’s going to be a lot of skill and strategy to employ when fighting on the high seas. Sterling will even be able to use special techniques while sailing — similar to the ones he uses on foot. During my demonstration, the dreaded Sterling summoned a massive tempest above the enemy ship and called forth a tremendous bolt of lightning that split the hull clear in half.

Sailing isn’t all about blood and steel, though. Players will be able to explore almost all of the Caribbean, filled with hidden caves, trade routes, bustling towns and more. According to the developers at Propaganda, Armada of the Damned could last up to 100 hours if players decide to tackle all the available side quests.

The final two sections of my tour of the game were shorter, but still just as interesting. I had a walkthrough of Tortuga, where the day/night cycle was shown off, and I also met with one of the developers behind Armada of the Damned’s sound design. Propaganda wants to make sure that the musical themes from the movies are treated tastefully and only used on occasion. There’s plenty of stirring original music to be found in Armada of the Damned, with special markers built into the system to allow the tracks to transition seamlessly from one section to another.”

Sadly, on October 2010, Disney Interactive took the decision to cancel Pirates of the Caribbean : Armada of the Damned, reducing the staff at Propaganda Games from two teams to only one. It was relayed by Kotaku:

“Disney’s upcoming action role-playing game Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned has been canned and that the studio behind the game are laying folks off today, Disney confirmed to Kotaku today.

“Disney Interactive Studios confirms the cancellation of the Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned video game which was scheduled to be released in 2011,”Angela Emery, Disney Interactive Studios’ vice president of communication told Kotaku today. “As a result of this decision, Disney Interactive Studios completed a restructuring of Propaganda Games, affecting one of the studio’s two development teams. The studio is still in active production of TRON: Evolution, the video game, which will be released on December 7, 2010 with additional DLC (downloadable content) support following the game’s release.”

We’re told that Vancouver-based Propaganda Games, which is also working on Tron: Evolution, let as many as 100 people go this week, including most of the Pirates team and some of the Tron team. The remaining team members from Pirates were shifted over to help put finishing touches on Tron, we are told.

This latest news seems to back up rumors we’ve been hearing since early September about turmoil at Propaganda Games surrounding disagreements with upper management at Propaganda and their parent company.”

After the release of Tron : Evolution, Disney decided to shutdown permanently Propaganda Games in January 2011. Some musical scores initially written for the game were implemented in LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean. To this day, the license is still dormant after this huge debacle and we were only able to get some mobile phone games. Eventually, players who are fans of piracy can nevertheless still try to console themselves with Assassin’s Creed IV : Black Flag, which shares some game design ideas that should have been implemented in Pirates of the Caribbean : Armada of the Damned.

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