Unseen News

Unseen Interview: Julian Holtom (Imagitec, Ocean, Team17)

While working on our book about lost video games, we were able to interview many developers who worked on cancelled projects, but we had to cut some of these interviews from the book because of the 480 pages limit. As promised, we are going to publish all the missing articles directly in our website, and the following interview is one of these! During his career Julian (Jules) Holtom has worked at Imagitec Design, Ocean Software and Team17 on such lost games as HMS Carnage (PC), Worms Battle Rally (PS2, Xbox, GameCube) and many more.

Unseen64: To start this interview, we would like to ask you to introduce yourself to our readers: we’d love to know more about your career in the gaming industry and what you are working on today.

interview julian holtom - worms battle rallyJules: I spent almost 23 years working in video games, the first machines I worked on were Spectrums, building sprites from character graphics. At the time there were no off-the-shelf art packages to speak of; the few tools that we did have were coded from scratch by the in-house programmers.

Of course as with all things technological this changed, and as an artist you had to be fleet of foot to keep up with the latest tools being developed, to help us to deliver to the ever changing capabilities of target platforms. By the time I quit the industry I was using the same 3D software and rendering tools that the film industry uses to create their cinematic magic.

I’ve been out of the industry now for 7 years, and in that time I’ve turned my hand to photography, design and building websites. I certainly miss the camaraderie of old colleagues, but definitely not the “crunch”.

Unseen64: Which are some of your favourite videogames? Have you been playing anything lately?

Jules: I’ve always had a soft spot for sprawling RPG’s with a few hundred hours of gameplay, such as Skyrim. I also love fps “twitch” games like Battlefield 4 or more recently The Division.

Unseen64: Can you shed any unique / personal  light on Daemonsgate by Imagec, which seems was planned as a trilogy (Dorovan’s Key, Nomads and Homecoming)? Key marketing aspect was that actions in 1 game would have implications in sequels, so kill an NPC in the 1st game i.e. ‘Barry pig-squealer’ and his family would come looking for revenge in the 2nd game (a concept years ahead of its time).

Jules: This game was by any standards, ambitious in scope and scale. We were trying to create a far more involved game world than any equivalent game had to offer at the time, and I expect the mechanics of which have only just been truly realised in these type of games in the last 5 years. The hardware, architecture, and coding capabilities coupled with time constraints meant it simply wasn’t possible to build the game as intended at that time, and I think as with all games, there were some significant compromises from the original brief in order to get the game finished.

Unseen64: What can you tell us about Prophecy: Viking Child? UK Press had claimed that Imagitec had originally planned this as a trilogy of games, was there any truth in this?

Jules: I only helped Blizz (the lead artist) a couple of times on that project, recolouring sprites if memory serves. As it wasn’t my project, I didn’t pay too much attention to what it was meant to be.

Unseen64: Do you have anything you could tell us on canned Imagitec games like Space Junk (which was a WIP on everything from the sega Mega CD, Atari Falcon and then Jaguar CD) or any other lost Imagitec projects that never seen the light of day?

Jules: Imagitec often had games “using as yet unseen technological advancements” in development, it sounded good and helped Martin Hooley, the studio owner, raise funding to keep the studio going. In truth, I have no idea if any of these titles were ever really meant to be completed.

Unseen64: In mid / late ‘90 Ocean Software wanted to develop some really groundbreaking games, they rebranded their internal development department as “Tribe”, invested a lot of money, hired a lot of new talent and asked everyone to come up with amazing original concepts huge enough to fill a CD-ROM (!). One of these concepts was the stunning looking HMS Carnage – a 3D flight sim, set on Mars, in an alternative, Steampunk future. We have read memories from Nigel Kershaw about his involvement on HS Carnage but we’d love to hear your side of the story: how was to work on such an ambitious project and do you think it could have achieved what was planned if only the team had more time?

Jules: Nigel and I had worked together for some years both at Imagitec (which became Dreamweavers, then Runecraft), and at Ocean; he was the designer behind Daemonsgate and Space Junk. Not afraid of taking a brief and creating a game of “epic proportions” from it, he was the perfect fit to drive HMS Carnage. I was the lead artist heading up the 3d team, and at the time, we really were treading water, using hardware and software than no one had any experience of, including the coding team that were getting to grips with real 3D.

interview julian holtom - HMS

Unseen64: What did you work on while at Ocean before HMS Carnage? At the time they were also working on Silver (released in 1999) and on a point ‘n click adventure with Hanna-Barbera characters, called “Zoiks” that was later cancelled. Any other lost games or pitches for unrealized ambitious projects that you remember from those years?

Jules: Jurassic Park, but couldn’t tell you what console it was for. I also helped render some FMV sequences for out of house dev teams. I believe one game was called Central Intelligence, the other was one of the flight sims that came from DID.

Unseen64: Long shot, but whilst at Ocean, we’re you aware if Jaguar proposals for games like Water World, TFX and Robocop ever getting past proposal stage? They often pop up on YouTube videos as lost Jaguar games, but unlike Toki Goes Apeshit (which we have actual footage of) there’s so far seemingly nothing to suggest they were ever started and thus aren’t true lost games..

Jules: Unfortunately I cannot say. When you are in a team, you usually only focus on the task before you and pay little heed to projects elsewhere. You might be better of speaking to a producer of that time, who had a top down view of everything that was in development and what happened to it.

Unseen64: You worked for more than 9 years at Team17 on many popular games, but unfortunately a few of those were never released. One of them was Worms Battle Rally: what do you remember about this project? How was the gameplay like and why was it canned?

interview julian holtom - Worms Battle RallyJules: The Worms franchise has often been shoehorned into other successful game genres, trying to piggyback off of their success to eek out more money from fans loyal to the original game. Worms Battle Rally was no exception, essentially aping Mario Kart. Unfortunately the team bought together to work on it, had little experience of building driving games. That began to tell after a while when the game simply wasn’t living up to expectations, both internally and when compared to games already out there. The lack of confidence to deliver meant the plug was pulled.

Unseen64: Do you remember other cancelled games in development or pitched at Team17 during those years? If so, can you share some details about what they could have been?

Jules: I expect there will be quite a few, but I can’t remember them, sorry.

Unseen64: Working on videogames is often tough and gruelling work, but every development team has both one catastrophic and one funny story (or at least bizarre). Do you remember any such stories from your experience in so many different gaming studios?

Jules: Too many to mention, particularly from the early days of game dev, which were let’s say… a little like the Wild West frontier of old. Rules were far and few between. However a few do stand out; Gaffa taping a programmer to a chair on his birthday then handcuffing them to the back of a car and towing them at speed around the company carpark. The following year we handcuffed the same guy to the drainpipe outside the office and deluged him in buckets of water… his birthday was in the middle of winter.

Another chap we worked with used to get on the wrong side of many of us, one day it was decided we’d mete out a collective punishment and covered his entire car in shaving foam and disposable razors. The man in question was notoriously short-fused, and we knew full well he’d hit the roof upon seeing his car, but I think the cherry on top the pushed him over the edge was the word “cock” on his reg plate.

Unseen64: That was the last question, thanks a lot for your time Jules! 

Unseen64 Survived for Another Year: Thank You for Your Help! What to Do in 2017?

The last couple of years were really hard for Unseen64: we had to keep updating our site to add more unseen games, while at the same time working on our book dedicated to games we will never play, that was finally published in September 2016. As most of you known, we work on Unseen64 in our own free time, after a long day of our day-jobs, taking away this extra time from our sleep, friends and family just to read Unseen64 related emails, reply to messages on social networks, resolve technical issues on the site, search info on lost games, save media, contact developers and write articles.

It could be difficult to understand when you only see a few articles or videos published every month, but to keep the site alive as it is, it takes dozens and dozens of hours of work every week. To also working on a book along with the site, it meant to take even more hours away from our daily lives, and the last few months before the book was published were really crazy.

video games you will never play book

Unseen64 is not our main job and sometimes all the effort and time needed to keep it alive is really overwhelming, but we always do the best we can. One of the reasons why we keep doing this, is the support of our awesome readers: your kind words and your donations on Patreon mean a lot for us, and you prompt us to keep up doing this, even during the hardest times.

Thanks to your support we were able to remain an independent website, to rise enough donations from Patreon to fully pay the Unseen64 server, to do multiple backups of files so we don’t lose screens, info or video, and to create a Preservation Fund to be able to save enough money for future needs.

Having more than 3.000 unseen games in our online archive and by covering games till the 7th generation of consoles (Wii, PS3, Xbox 360), it means that the most interesting titles are already covered, there are already good articles in here or in other websites to remember them. While there are still some previously unknown, interesting lost games we will cover in the following months on Unseen64, most of future site updates will probably be about obscure cancelled games that not many will care about.

When everyone already know about such unseen games as Zelda URA, Resident Evil 1.5, Fallout: Van Buren, Bio Force Ape, Tengai Makyou III, Akira 16bit, Mario Takes America, Sonic Mars, Sonic X-Treme, Lufia 3, Conker 64, Agharta, B.C., Game Zero, Maximo 3, Elder Scrolls Travels, Kid Icarus Wii, Final Fantasy Fortress or Kameo 2, there’s not much left to discover: only less popular / important lost games (that still deserve to be remembered) or previously unknown and intriguing projects that can only be covered by luck or months of time-consuming researches.

You can easily see how it became harder and harder to surprise and satisfy readers with interesting lost games they would have loved to play. You can also easily see how unsatisfied readers could drop their support on Patreon, leaving us with less funds to cover Unseen64 needs.

How to keep up our mission to remember unseen games till the 7th generation of consoles, while still engaging readers and secure steady support on Patreon for Unseen64?

We discussed about this with our patrons during the last year, and thanks to their feedback we organized a possible plan for 2017:

  1. Continue covering lost games on Unseen64, even the less impressive ones: every single cancelled game deserve to not be forgotten, because each one could have been a favorite game for someone. Some of these less-impressive unseen games still have an historical importance, an interesting connection with developers that later created a different masterpiece and even if some of these canned projects could have became bad games if only released, we still care to remember them for curiosity and historical preservation.
  2. Expanding old articles for some of the more interesting unseen games that are not already covered somewhere else: even when an unseen game is widely known, there could still be many details that are missing about its development, plot, gameplay mechanics and other random memories about its conception. We’d like to dedicate some time to deeply research more info about some of our favorite games we’ll never play, those lost games that also have a wide appeal and could be interesting for all kind of readers.
  3. More video articles: as we wrote many times before, we know that today most people don’t read gaming reviews on websites anymore and just rely on video reviews from Youtube. For “historical” websites like Unseen64 is just the same: there are many more people that would watch a 10 minutes video about a cancelled game, rather than to fully read a 1.000 words article on the same topic, as proven by the Unseen64 video series created by Tamaki and hosted on Did You Know Gaming. Just like in the past gaming magazines have been replaced by gaming websites, now youtubers are taking the mass-market lead for videogames reviews, news and historical researches. While it would require more time to create more video articles (especially as the main Unseen64 is italian and Tamaki is already full of work with his videos), this kind of coverage would reach many more users than 3 or 4 written articles and it would help to keep patrons to donate for Unseen64. As we have seen, people are more incline to donate for video content than for website articles.
  4. A new Unseen64 English Podcast: if everything will go as planned, in a few weeks we’ll upload a new episode of our Podcast dedicated to our patrons, thanks to some friends and collaborators that are currently organizing and recording the episode. If this new podcast will be appreciated by patrons, we’ll keep doing them in the following months as a “thank you!” for their donations.

All of these activities will require a lot of time, efforts and collaboration between people who help the Unseen64 collective, but we really want to keep Unseen64 alive for as much as possible. We will also update our Patreon’s goals to align them with our 2017 plan and to secure funds to cover the time needed to implement it.

As always big gaming networks such as IGN or Kotaku have the resources to own powerful servers and to pay a team to work full-time on their websites, keeping them online and publishing daily updates. We don’t have their resources, but we think we have something better: we have you, a community of gamers that know why it’s important to remember beta and cancelled games.

There are many ways to help Unseen64 and thanks to all the other websites, gamers and youtubers that also use their time to remember beta, unreleased and unused gaming documents, together we can save as many unseen games as possible.

unseen64-patreon-2016

Remember: Unseen64 is still online thanks to all the awesome people who made one-off donations and pledges on Patreon: together, we can do it!

We’d like to thank all of you (in random order) who are helping U64 with your donations and support:

Daan Koopman, Sentinator of Team Haruhi, joef0x, Liam Robertson, Mark J. Lang, Thomas Whitehead, David Galindo, Tiago Pereira dos Santos silva  From Porto, Portugal, Mason “SoberDwarf” M., Ryan Jessee, Peter Lomax, Frans Aymes, Emiliano Rosales, Paul Benson, Faisal AlKubaisi, Julian Lord, Shane Gill, Conrad A Fursa, Lukas Steinman, Vitor Takayanagi de Oliveira, Red , Nick Fancher, allan paxton, Pete Imbesi, Robert Dyson, tydaze , Justin Moor, Kristian Binder, Chris Chapman, Anders Moberg, Gabe Canada, Tim Lawrence, Tommy Wimmer, Michael Benkovich, Amy , Oliver Rennie, Hugo Guerra, Thomas.nunn, That Black Guy, Mauro Labate, Olivier Cahagne, Corentin, Andrew Eleneski, Alex MacIntyre, Henry Branch, Matthew , Anders “Captain N” Iversen, Coldi , Dan Berends, Joe Brookes, Austin Murphy, James Jackson, netsabes , Aaron Sharratt, James Champane, Jonathan Pena, Jacob Walker, Jonathan Cooper, Paul Stedman, Viraj , Jrg McJrg, Brice Onken, Alex Stutzman, Guilherme Killingsworth, Pablo Bueno Navarro, Paul , Levi Wyatt, Josh Mann, Brice Dirden, Dan Thomas, Adrian , Ben Cowling, Alex Wawro, Niels Thomassen, Lou , Matthew Gyure, PtoPOnline , Jesus Tovar, Jacob , Brandon , Lisa , Akspa , Martin , Irvin , James Steel, Tony, DJ Gillard, Christopher Cornwell, Goffredo, and everyone else! (did we forget someone?)

We <3 you

 

Unseen Interview: Domenico Barba (Naps Team)

While working on our book about lost video games, we were able to interview many developers who worked on cancelled projects, but we had to cut some of these interviews from the book because of the 480 pages limit. As promised, we are going to publish all the missing articles directly in our website, and the following interview is one of these!  During his career Domenico Barba has worked at the Italian gaming studio NAPS Team on such lost games as Green Beret / Rush’n Attack (GBC), Dark Night and many lost chapters in the Gekido series.

Unseen64: To start this interview, we would like to ask you to introduce yourself to our readers: we’d love to know more about your career in the gaming industry and what you are working on today.

naps-team-videogames-logoDomenico: Is it possible to tell 20 years of history in less than 20 lines? :) The passion for the world of video games has brought Naps Team together. We did not know each other before, I was looking for a graphic designer for a fighting game (a horrible thing made on Amiga) and different people suggested me someone called Fabio Capone who had fun doing animations and characters with Deluxe Paint. :) Well we were able to meet, under a newsstand, exchanging two diskettes, without cops in hot pursuit. :) Today we are still here and we have the same passion of that time, even after almost 45 games made and many more to make. At the moment we are finishing working on Iron Wings, a huge project for an arcade flight game set in the second World War.

Unseen64:What are some of your favorite video games? Have you been playing anything lately?

Domenico: In the last year, unfortunately no, I’m fully focused on the development of Iron Wings, but I always keep my eyes on many new games and I’m very impressed, both by AAA masterpieces and clever indie productions.

Unseen64: Did you know Unseen64 before this interview? What do you think of our “mission” to create an online archive to remember those video games we’ll never play?

Domenico: To tell the truth yes, but without being able to follow your updates, the mission is praiseworthy and it is great that there can be a memory of unexpressed creativity, with really beautiful games that sometimes fail to see the light of day for the most different reasons. I’d love to sabotage your mission and release Gekido: The Dark Angel one day :)

Unseen64: Which difficulties did an Italian game development studio find in a market lead by English, American and Japanese studios? Are there more opportunities today thanks to digital distribution on PC and Smartphone?

Domenico: There are huge difficulties, but they are mainly related to the Italian territory and absurd management difficulties, instead digital distribution is undeniably a great opportunity.

Unseen64: Gekido is one of your most popular series, of which the first episode was released in 2000 for Playstation: do you remember how development started, how long did it take to complete, and if the final game is what you originally had in mind or if you had to cut something?

Domenico: Gekido had a somewhat troubled genesis, it was born from the skeleton of a 2D fighting game for PC, then turned into a 2.5D one and finally became fully 3D. A lot was cut, but also a lot was added, such as the “arena mode”, and different gameplay modes were conceived in the wake of enthusiasm that the game was receiving in the internal circuit of testers, publishers, etc.

Unseen64: How did you manage to involve important names like Fatboy Slim for the music and Marvel comic artist Joe Mad for the character design in the development of the first Gekido?

Domenico: Everything was thanks to Travis Ryan of Gremlin and Daniel Matray of Infogrames (Atari), they were able to find the best artistic talents that could have been greatly related to Gekido.

intervista-domenico-barba-naps-team-gekido

Unseen64: Besides the cancelled Gekido: The Dark Angel for PSP (of which there will be a dedicated article in this book) two other episodes of Gekido were in development but never released: Gekido for GameBoy Color and Gekido for N-Gage. What happened to these games and how much was done before the cancellation?

Domenico: More or less the same unfortunate “misalignment of planets” that happened with Dark Angel, it is not uncommon to come across sudden changes in the market or in adverse and catastrophic predictions of analysts that suggest to not continue working on a game, and you are the best witnesses and guardians of these unrealized projects, right? :)

Unseen64: Over the years there have been many different rumors about a new episode of Gekido in development, is there any chance to see this series again in the future?

Domenico: Absolutely yes! :)

Unseen64: Shadow Fighter is another of your most beloved games, Italian and foreign magazines published great reviews for it, CU Amiga gave it 93%, Amiga Computing 91% and so on: how did you feel at the time to receive all these positive comments on one of your first games and did the reviews help to bring a good number of sales?

Domenico: Shadow Fighter was a huge success in sales, luckily for our publisher Gremlin. It was a success beyond every expectations, we were just enthusiasts who certainly did not have a professional approach to the gaming industry at the time.

Unseen64: Another interesting lost game once in development at Naps Team was Dark Night for GBA. Graphically it was truly spectacular considering the console: do you remember how the gameplay was meant to be and why you had to stop working on the project?

Domenico: When Dark Night was canned it was still in beta, and it’s gameplay was similar to Zelda. :) The reasons why it was cancelled is the same unfortunate “misalignment of planets” that i told before, we propose to change our spaceship the next year. :)

Unseen64: Have you worked on other games that have never been published, of which you can speak?

Domenico: Not that I remember, although after several years and difficulties, we always managed to revive ideas that we thought were good, those for which we can still enjoy ourselves as players, and we will continue to do so.

Unseen64: Have you ever worked on some games for Atari Jaguar / Lynx / Panther or the legendary Konix Multisystem?

Domenico: No.

Unseen64: As most of the Unseen64 Staff is also italian, we just LOVE to eat good food. :) What is your favorite food ever? Any secret recipe that you would like to share with us?

Domenico: Unusual question, but tasty. :) Well, being a Sicilian I do not really know where to start, for sure I’m more a good food lover than a good cook, in a ratio of 100 to 1. I would say I love everything that contains eggplant in the recipe, from “pasta alla norma”, eggplant “parmigiana” … i’ll stop here, following on Dark Knight, where there was a huge purple boss named “Milinchan”. :)

Unseen64: Well, that was the last question, thanks again for your time Domenico!  

Unseen Interview: Massimiliano Di Monda (Raylight Studios)

While working on our book about lost video games, we were able to interview many developers who worked on cancelled projects, but we had to cut some of these interviews from the book because of the 480 pages limit. As promised, we are going to publish all the missing articles directly in our website, and the following interview is one of these! During his career Massimiliano Di Monda has worked at Pixelstorm and Raylight Studios on such lost games as Monster Truck Madness (Microsoft), Dukes of Hazzard (Ubisoft) and Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid tech demos for GBA.

raylight-studios-interview

Unseen64: To start this interview, we would like to ask you to introduce yourself to our readers: we’d love to know more about your career in the gaming industry and what you are working on today.

Massimiliano: I started working in the world of video games through a friend who worked at Namco in London, we exchanged technical advice on some video games, at some point he told me that there was a team in Naples that was working on a new project and asked me if I wanted to participate. From there, I began this adventure.

So I started to work on video games in 1996 from zero in the QA department, and after years of experience I got into designing and producing video games. In these 19 years, I worked at Raylight Studios on about 30 products for a variety of platforms, ranging from Sony PlayStation and Nintendo GameBoy Color, PC, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS and mobile platforms. In 2002 / 2003, I worked at Wing Commander Prophecy for the Nintendo GameBoy Advance, the game was named runner up (2nd place) at E3 2002 in Los Angeles in the best technological excellence category (first place was Monkey Ball). Most recently I worked on games such as the much-acclaimed Sniper Elite for Nintendo Wii, published by Reef Entertainment; My Little Baby (1st prize winner Samsung Bada contest in 2010, Nokia / Microsoft App Campus selected project in 2012) for various platforms including Android and iOS; I also worked on a number of ports and bundles titles for Nintendo 3DS. At the moment we are working on PS4 games, Xbox One, mobile, VR and some original IP which I still can not name.

 

Random Facts & Rumors from the Unseen World | Volume 2

Our friend Ross Sillifant send us many contributions every week, with info, images, videos and interviews about lost videogames and their development, from popular and obscure software houses, for old and new consoles and PC. It would take years to properly organize this huge amount of info, but we’d like to save these random memories on the site, to be sure that they will not be lost while we wait for dedicated articles. Do you remember those “news and rumors” sections in gaming magazines? That’s exactly what this section is about! Every attempt was made where possible to check claims made by the gaming press, but as it stands, magazine claims should not be treated as fact and even memories could be washed out by the passing of time. This is the second collection from this series (here you can check the first one), it’s another part of a huge section that had to be cut from our book and in the following months we’ll add even more of the missing book content to the site.. enjoy!

Company called Photo Surrealism were showing video footage of texture demos etc for planned multiplayer space game on Jaguar called Galactic Gladiators, which promised Modem+JagCom support. I’ve never seen said vids, so no idea if coding actually started on game proper.

I asked John Romero about Jaguar Quake: “Hi Ross, I can’t really say whether the port started because I left id only 6 weeks after shipping Quake. If a Jag port was started it would have been after I left, and I never heard any rumors about it. Practically speaking, there’s no way the Jaguar could have done it. It could barely handle DOOM. Best, John”

doom-1-cover

Comments by John Carmack about how he’d of done Jaguar Doom differently: he talks also about Jaguar’s hardware limits, but there’s no mention of Quake being started on Jaguar as some have claimed over the years:
“The jaguar CANNOT make a fully textured, full screen, full resolution game that runs at 30 fps. The bus will simply not take that many accesses. The 64 bit bus will let you do really fast shaded polygons, but texture mapping is done a single pixel at a time. DOOM had to be significantly reworked to get good performance, but it wasn’t designed from the ground up to take advantage of the Jaguar. If I was designing a game from scratch for the Jag (I’m not), I would target 20 fps with a 256*180 view window in 16 bit color as a reachable goal. Doom runs 15 fps at 160*180 because the basic design is non-optimal for the jag’s characteristics. I wrote it for the pc.”

Prolific’s Return Fire 2 was also planned for Playstation 1 as well as PC. Edge Issue 58 has it previewed under PC / Playstation. PSX version was never released.

 
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