Playstation

BioTech: Liberator [Playstation, PC – Cancelled]

BioTech: Liberator is a cancelled first person action game in development around 1998 by australian studio Beam Software (AKA Infogrames / Atari Melbourne House and Krome Studios Melbourne), planned to be published on Playstation and PC. Previously the same studio developed and released KKND2: Krossfire for PC and Playstation.

BioTech: Liberator was quite original for its time, with players using morphing mechs / vehicles to resolve different missions in a strange gameplay mix between “Soviet Strike”, “Blast Corps” and Lemmings. Some details about the project can be found in an old press-release:

“You’re stuck in a steaming alien jungle with nothing but your own sweat for company. The enemy has a lock on your position and they’re rapidly closing in. Your shields are down to 14%, you’ve got just two guided missiles left in your BioTech Assault Tank, and if you stay put you’re dead meat. So, what are you going to do? Panic and start crying? Or do you get a little creative… ?

In BioTech: Liberator you take control of a single combat vehicle, but one capable of morphing into widely differing forms, providing you’re carrying the relevant Transform Pod to make the change. Each form has its own unique abilities and weapons and since you’re up against an entire planet of warmongering nasties, you’ll be needing them all if you want to get out of there in one piece.

It’s partly about blowing the enemy into gooey, bite-sized chunks, but it’s also about using the different forms of the biotech vehicle to the best effect – transformations are limited. Much as we hate to use other games as a point of reference, think Soviet StrikeTM meets Blast CorpsTM, with just a pinch of LemmingsTM. In short, a killer mix of strategic problem solving, white-knuckled action and hefty explosions!

Key Features are:

  • A wide range of unique and awesome weapons, a deadly enemy and fiendish puzzles to solve
  • Fully deformable true 3D landscape – if you don’t like the way something looks, blow it up!
  • Multiple 2 player modes. Choose from Deathmatch, Conquer and Chase variations
  • Support for force feedback devices

Some more details were found in a Russian website, featuring a few screenshots taken from an unknown magazine:

The game consists of at least 30 missions (20 standard, 5 bonus and a few secret ones), which often require not only shooting, but also finding items, saving hostages, capturing enemy bases, and much more.

BioTech: Liberator was planned to be released in 1999, but the same year the studio was sold to Infogrames. It’s possible that Infogrames decided to cancel the game to switch resources on more safe and profitable projects, as GP 500 and Le Mans 24 Hours.

If you know someone who worked on this lost game, please let us know!

Thanks to Visurox & Edward Kirk for the contribution!

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Aero the Acrobat 3: A3RO [Playstation – Cancelled Pitch]

Aero the Acrobat 3 (also known as A3RO or Aero 3D) is the cancelled third chapter in the action platformer series composed by Aero the Acrobat, Aero the Acro-Bat 2 and Zero the Kamikaze Squirrel. Aero 3D was conceived at Universal Interactive Studios in the mid ‘90s, while they were also working with Naughty Dog to create the first Crash Bandicoot for Playstation.

David Siller was the original creator of the Aero the Acrobat series and he later bought back his Aero IP and sold it to Universal Interactive Studios, when he was hired to produce two new 3D platformers: Crash Bandicoot and Aero the Acrobat 3D. In the mid nineties 3D platformers where one of the most successful genres and Universal Studios wanted to to take advantage of the profitable Playstation market to make some money.

As wrote by David in his (now deleted) Facebook page “Crash Bandicoot Untold Story” (archived by Crash Mania):

“Tension was heighten at Universal as they bought from me an IP that I had created at SUNSOFT called “Aero the Acrobat”. I had just bought it from Sunsoft as I departed there for the Universal lot!  Rubin and Gavin again went on the extreme offensive believing that Universal’s new acquisition would become more important than Crash or Willy. I began also designing the new AERO 3D polygonal video game to be added to the line-up.”

In 2016 David shared a few pages from the Aero the Acrobat 3 design doc in his Twitter account (now deleted):

david siller aero the acrobat 3

From these documents it seems the game would have had multiple playable protagonists and 3D flying levels.

From what we know the game was still in early conceptual phase when it was canned. We can speculate that the success of Crash Bandicoot and the internal issues between David, Universal Interactive Studios and Naughty Dog put and end to the project. As we can read from the same archive at Crash Mania:

“Back in Rubin’s office, he was angry at me about “this letter” and then threaten my life! He said I was going to be sorry! I did NOT report this to management or anyone one else at that time. I was a mature adult who could take this and I wasn’t afraid of Rubin as I came from a tough neighborhood and had loads of associates myself. Rubin’s father was a lawyer and I suppose told him to always act tough or people will shit on you. Those tactics do NOT work, but that was the final straw. Mark Cerny then used this severed relationship to get involved as Sony had just arrived. He said quote “They don’t like you!”….”

“When I was hired to join Universal Interactive Studios, it was owned by Matsushita Electric, the largest Electronics manufacturer in the World located in Japan. It was run by the longest in place Management team in all of Hollywood, Lew Wasserman and Sid Sheinberg! It was utopia as far as I was concerned. Everything was so damn cool, everything the Studio did was classy and first rate. Soon as Crash Bandicoot was approaching completion, Matsushita sold their majority interest to the Canadian distillery Seagrams! Everything then became chaotic and all the top tier managers were fired. Sony then came into the picture and that caused even more chaos. This of course played into Rubin and Gavin’s agenda and the s*** hit the fan!”

It’s currently unknown what happened to David after he deleted all his online profiles and if he’s still working on video games.

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Beneath (Presto Studios) [Playstation, PC – Cancelled]

Beneath is a cancelled action adventure that was in development by Presto Studios in mid / late ‘90s, to be published by Activision for the original Playstation and PC. The game was quite hyped at the time: it was presented as a “Tomb Raider” killer, with such lines as “Deeper than any Tomb” and “More dangerous than any woman“. As we can read on The Journeyman Project website:

“Follow the exploits of Jack Wells as he searches for his missing father, a renowned archaeologist, down a mysterious network of tunnels deep into the earth. The game features a cutting-edge 3D engine with support for hardware acceleration and levels full of amazing uncharted civilizations to explore, climb and swing your way through.”

Presto Studios wanted to add more than Tomb Raider in their inspirations, and such names as H.G. Wells or Jules Verne were dropped in old press releases, such as in this one by CNN:

“Is the world ready for a revisionist H.G. Wells or Jules Verne adventure game? Presto Studios and Activision think so. In Beneath, Presto (of Journeyman Project fame) is convinced that Tomb Raider opened a door for third-person adventures, but the earlier game relied upon its good looks and lacked easy input control and depth of storytelling.

So Presto set off to build a game around Jack, a turn-of-the-century (19th/20th) adventurer out to track down his missing father whose expedition to the pole has gone terribly wrong. In the best Wells/Verne tradition, Jack discovers an underground world with an entirely unique social and eco-system. Three societies inhabit the underground – a Troglodyte world, a Morlock world, and an Insectoid world. Strangely, all three are biologically and socially connected, the questions to be uncovered are how are they connected and what are they up do?

Whether beefcake Jack will draw women to beneath the same way Tomb Raider’s Lara captivated men is unknown, but Presto definitely has a grand vision for an adventure game in Beneath. Unfortunately, despite obvious enthusiasm behind their product, the first couple of times Beneath was brought in for demonstration to PC Games, there wasn’t a whole lot in evidence to get excited about. These early alphas were all software rendered, there weren’t any adversaries or creatures and nothing to explore but dingy mineshafts. What’s more, the producers seem somewhat disdainful of the need for 3D acceleration in third-person games.

This week Activision trotted Beneath through the office again and we’re happy to report there’s a lot more there to talk about. First, Glide support was finally added a couple of weeks ago. Direct3D will come later, as well high-resolution versions of Jack, but the difference 3D acceleration brings to the game is enormous. Activision won’t release updated screens, so we were forced to run the accompanying E3 SVGA screens, but we’re happy to report that Presto’s texture work is often stunning in 3D.

[…] Now for the targets. Presto still hasn’t put many adversaries into the game, but at least we got to play with some early giant spiders and earwigs. They’re still pretty stupid, and we’d still like to see how the Morlocks and Insectoids are coming along, but this is still progress.”

Thanks to some previews published in gaming magazines at the time we know that Beneath would have been set in 12 different levels spread over 3 lost civilizations. The more players would descent deeper beneath the earth’s surface, the more technologically advanced the lost civilization would became.

In the end Presto Studios were not able to keep up with creating their ambitious 3D adventure, being more used to developing pre-rendered point and click adventures, such as their The Journeyman Project series and Myst III: Exile. A full 3D action adventure game was not an easy task to create and competition was high, with many Tomb Raider clones releasing on Playstation.

Beneath was cancelled and in 2002 the studio was closed down, after the release of their Xbox title Whacked.

Thanks to Mark and Ross Sillifant for the contribution!

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Alien Reign (SquareSoft) [Playstation? – Cancelled]

Alien Reign is a cancelled sci-fi real time strategy game in development by SquareSoft USA (Redmond) in late 1995 / early 1996. While the project was still in early concept phase when it was canned and no console was decided yet, by looking at the partnership between Squaresoft and Sony in 1996 we can speculate that if only completed Alien Reign could have been released on the original Playstation (and maybe on PC?).

The team that was working on Alien Reign was the same which worked on Secret of Evermore, released in October 1995 for the Super Nintendo. This would have been their second game, if Squaresoft Japan would have not closed them down in spring 1996.

Alien Rage was conceived while the Squaresoft USA team was waiting to know their fate while their parent company was going to decide what to do with their American branch. Clayton Kauzlaric, Daniel Dociu, Brad Clarkson and a few other Squaresoft developers tossed around ideas for this new RTS inspired by their love for Warcraft 2.

As wrote by Kauzlaric in his blog:

“We were just ramping up on 3D at Squaresoft during the completion of Evermore, and I was interested in finding tools that would be simple and easy for artists to pick up and learn quickly. KPT Bryce seemed like it had possibilities. I also wanted a look that wasn’t obviously made of tiles like most RTS games. I hoped our backgrounds could have larger pieces of nicely rendered terrain.

These pictures from March of 1996 are the result. I did the terrain. The buildings and robot were designed by our art director Daniel Dociu then modeled and rendered by Square’s resident Alias guru Brad Clarkson.”

When Squaresoft USA was closed down, many former developers (including Kauzlaric) were hired by Cavedog Entertainment (a sub-division of Humongous Entertainment). Cavedog was already working on a new, ambitious sci-fi RTS titled “Total Annihilation”, later presented at E3 1997. As wrote by Kauzlaric:

“It’s a small world. I was sitting in Redmond thinking up ways to incorporate 3D art into an RTS game. It turns out there was a guy just a couple miles away working on an engine for an RTS game with 3D height maps. Once those two thing met up, very good things started to happen.”

In the end Alien Reign was never released, but its concept somehow survived into the Total Annihilation project. As we can read on Wikipedia:

“Total Annihilation was a commercial success. It shipped 250,000 units by October 30, 1997. It ultimately sold over 1.5 million copies by 2002. The game was highly praised by critics, and won numerous awards, including GameSpot’s Game of the Year Award for 1997. It won GameSpy’s Top Ten Real-Time Strategy Games of All Time in 2004, leaving StarCraft in second place.”

 

Commando (Namco) [Playstation – Cancelled]

Commando is a cancelled third person action / shooter game that was designed by Stephane de Luca for Namco, planned to be released on the original Playstation. Stephane pitched the project to Namco thru Virtual Studio, which at the time were also working on Snow Break for Playstation and Ar’Kritz the Intruder for DOS PC.

Stephane with the help of a few more developers such as Pavlos Germidis worked at Virtual Studio from october 1997 to september 1998. In just 3 months they developed a short prototype for Commando, used to show off its 3D engine and main mechanics. Stephane worked on the game’s 3D engine, its tools and game programming while Pavlos worked on the artwork design, the story pitch and the CGI movie which would introduce the game.

Commando would have been an interesting take on the 3D action genre. The game was divided into different missions, each set in a different area on Mars full of enemies and huge final-bosses. You could steal and control enemy mechs and bikes, there would have been different ways to resolve a problem such as killing an enemy or avoid it with by flying away using a jetpack. It was a bit more open-ended than similar third person shooters of its time.

The deal for Commando was that Stephane would create the game and handle everything directly with Namco. Only the financial aspect would go thru Virtual Studio, which would get 30% of the price for being a financial go-between. Many trips to Japan were required in order to find an agreement on the game design, technical features and financials terms. The contract was finally signed by Stephane in Tokyo at the Namco building.

Unfortunately it seems that Virtual Studio misunderstand its part in the whole deal. When Stephane directly signed the game with Namco, Virtual Studio were surprised to be limited to a financial partner and quickly changed their mind about the deal. In the end the game had to be cancelled.

Only a few, tiny screenshots from the Commando prototype are preserved below, to remember its existence.

Thanks to Stephane for the contribution!

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