If you are a long-time fan of Square you may have read about this lost game before. Project Dropship was a canceled videogame developed by Square Enix Los Angeles and it would have been their first game. It was going to be a frantic but strategic shooter with a top down view and a strong coop multiplayer component.
It was 2008: Square Enix decided to open a new studio to test new technologies and develop digital-only, small-budget videogames. Their LA team was composed by around 10 or 20 developers and the director was Fumiaki Shiraishi, already know for his work on Crystal Chronicles: my Life as a King and Final Fantasy XI Online. In an interview with Gamasutra Shiraishi talked about their idea for the studio:
“We do like to have one full-size project if possible, and then have the downloadables on the side. We’re still in the process of trying to figure out what the first title will be. Right now we’re still in the very early phase of testing out gameplay stuff and testing out the technology. The scope of the game, and how it’s going to be sold, is going to come a little bit later.”
Even Dave Hoffman, Director of Business Development, declared to Siliconera that they were not ready to announce anything and for 3 years the Square LA studio didn’t release any videogame or announcement
2011 was a difficult year for Square Enix: in March they reported a loss in their last fiscal year, in part due to canceled videogames. Nothing was ever announced for their Los Angeles Studio until it was suddenly closed. Square Enix didn’t announce any reason for the closure, but thanks to Siliconera, Final Fantasy Universe and some leaked screenshots we know that the studio was working on a project titled “Dropship”
Dropship was in development for PS3 and Xbox 360 using Gamebryo, a 3D Engine created by Numerical Design Limited and later licensed by Square Enix in 2009. In the game you had to fight against large groups of enemies to proceed in the area, while using shields and rocks to plan attack or defense strategies. By looking at the video and screenshots leaked online it’s clear that Dropship had a strong focus on its coop mode, with up to 4 players at the same time
The game was set in a sci-fi-western world, featuring snowy, rocky areas and abandoned factories. You could use guns or lasers and choose between different characters, such as an old man dressed as a cowboy with a pirate hat and a girl with pink hair and goggles. Main enemies in the game were some kind of aliens, strange animals and monsters: we can notice a flying white fish and a huge creature similar to a snake
Dropship was probably cancelled in March 2011 even if it was in an advanced state of development. After the closure of the studio Shiraishi worked for other software houses and today he is Director of Game Development at GungHo Online Entertainment America.
2019 is coming soon and as every year we’d like to review what we did the last year and make some plans for the new one.
As most of you known we work on Unseen64 in our own free time, after a long day of our day-jobs. We take away this extra time from our sleep, friends andfamily just to search info on lost games, write articles, read Unseen64 related emails, reply to messages on social networks, resolve technical issues on the site, save media and contact developers.
Here are some of the lost games we archived on Unseen64 in 2018:
You only see a few articles published on the site every month, but to keep it alive we invest dozens of hours of work every week. 95% of the needed work is done by monokoma and in the last few years it became harder and harder to find more people who can help the site steadily. Most contributors just write one or two articles, before vanishing forever.
While we still love remembering obscure, forgotten lost games, in 2018 it became clear to us that our work for Unseen64 is getting harder and harder, while most people are not interested in a website of this kind. It’s hard to keep the interest high, especially to support our work on Patreon:
We still have hundreds of lost games for console and PC to write about, but most of them are obscure projects by small studios. There are no more popular projects like “Resident Evil 1.5” or “Sonic Xtreme” to uncover or it’s almost impossible to gather information about them.
Even for those obscure and little cancelled games, it became harder to receive more details and write good articles. Some years ago we could contact 5 developers who worked on a lost game and we would get at least 2 or 3 answers. Now we contact 10 or 20 developers and 99% of the time we never get any answer. Internet has became a fearsome place, where news could deform and spread uncontrollably on social networks. Developers seem scared to talk about their old jobs, because they don’t want to get in trouble.
Without being able to get in contact with developers, we cannot even save more screenshots or footage from many lost games we are researching. With no exclusive images or videos, we cannot even keep up with Patreon higher tier bonuses. This means people who donate to get bonuses are not happy (and we understand their disappointment).
Without details and without good footage, we cannot create interesting video articles. The fact that monokoma is Italian and cannot record voice-over himself in english makes it even harder. In 2018 we got in contact with 4 different people who accepted to record voice-over for our videos, but in the end they never did. It’s clear it’s not possible to keep making interesting video articles when we can’t get information or even record the audio.
From what we see, most people are not interested in supporting an old website in the age of Youtubers. With no interesting video content, people don’t support Unseen64 on Patreon and we are not shared on major websites anymore. Many years ago those same websites would write news for many of the lost games we wrote in our site in 2018. Today if you don’t make a good video about it, you are not picked up by those websites.
Is everything failing? Not yet.
Thanks to people like you who still read articles on our website and support us on Patreon we did not lose faith in our project yet.
We are still trying to keep Unseen64 alive by doing as much as we can, instead than closing it down.
We keep remembering those obscure lost games on Unseen64, even if most people don’t care about them.
We keep trying to get in contact with developers, and write as much as we can about a game when we don’t get any answer from who worked on it.
If support on Patreon decreases we will search other methods to raise funds (as publishing short books using the same content we publish on the site).
We will try to lower expenses for the site (for example by choosing a less powerful server), so that we could still keep it online even with less donations.
Patreon is essential for the survival of a niche project like Unseen64, a website 99% managed by a single italian guy in this age of Youtube and gaming videos in english.
By focusing on short text-articles about obscure lost games, do we have any chance of keeping up with the time and cost needed to keep Unseen64 online?
We are not sure.
So we have some questions for you:
What do you think about the current state of Unseen64?
Do you have any suggestions which could help us with our researches?
Are you interested in small, obscure lost games forgotten by everyone else?
If you currently support us on Patreon for higher tiers, would you still donate if we cannot secure exclusive screenshots or videos every month?
Should we just remove Patreon tiers and let people to donate only as much as they want, without any major bonus?
Is there something you’d like to see on Unseen64 in 2019?
In the meantime, we are really grateful for your kind words and your help: without our Patrons, Unseen64 would already be dead. You prompt us to keep up doing this, even during the hardest times.
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 have you: a community of gamers interested in preserving the unseen history of video games.
We’d like to thank all of you (in alphabetical order) who are currently helping U64 on Patreon:
Alex Schaeffer, Alex Wawro, Alexandy1, allan paxton, Alpha 3, Anatoly, Anders “Captain N” Iversen, Andy S, Ben Salvidrim, Benjamin Swan, Brandon, Bransfield, Brice Onken, Cameron Banga, Christopher Cornwell, chubigans, Cody and David Studios, Coldi, Conrad A Fursa, Daniel, DidYouKnowGaming, Emiliano Rosales, Emily Bowman, Fabrizio Pedrazzini, Faisal AlKubaisi, Gabe Canada, Goffredo, Guilherme Killingsworth, Hannes, Henry Branch, Itay Brenner, Jake Baldino, James Jackson, James P Branam-Lefkove, James Steel, Jessi Williams, Joe Brookes, Joe Tangco, joef0x, Jonathan Pena, Josh Mann, Julian Lord, Kaleb Ratcliff, Lachlan Pini, Levente Tóth, Liam Robertson, Lou, Marcos Tadeu, Mark J. Lang, MARTAZIA A BROWN, Martin GP (KAISER77), Marty Thao, Matthew Gyure, Matthew Zarzyczny, Mauro Labate, Mcsahon, Nick Robinson, Niels Thomassen, Olivier Cahagne, Patrick Enriquez, Paul, Paul Stedman, Pedro, Peter Lewis, PtoPOnline, Rich Uncle Skeleton, Riptide, Robert Dyson, Rylan Taylor, Sebastian Haley, Shalyn Miyake, Shane Gill, swagDaddyMcPimp, Taylor H, That Black Guy, The Outpost Show, The Video Game History Foundation, TheFlameCrow, TheUnbeholden, Thibaut Renaux, Thomas Muste Jr, Thomas.nunn7, Tony, tydaze, Vitor Takayanagi de Oliveira and everyone else! (did we forget someone?)
We are happy to announce 3 eBooks taken from our “Video Games You Will Never Play” physical book are featured in the latest eBook bundle by Story Bundle! Our “Sega Saturn Video Games You Will Never Play”, “Nintendo 64 Video Games You Will Never Play” and “Playstation Video Games You Will Never Play” can be found in this bundle in their exclusive ePub and Mobi versions (our full book is available in physical form on Amazon and in PDF on Patreon), so you can easily read them in your eBook reader.
In the same bundle you can also find many interesting eBooks about less known video games and their history, such as “Game of X v.2” by Rusel DeMaria, “NES Works” by Jeremy Parish, “Rocket Jump: Quake and the Golden Age of First-Person Shooters” by David L. Craddock, “Making Mulaka” by Christian Cardenas and many more.
Funds raised with this eBook bundle will support Unseen64, the other books authors and you can also choose to donate 10% to Pixelles, a non-profit initiative committed to helping more women make and change games.
StoryBundle is sending off 2018 with one of our best collections of books about video game history and culture yet: The Winter Power-Up Game Bundle, available now for a limited time on www.storybundle.com.
For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format – WORLDWIDE.
The Game Beat by Kyle Orland
PlayStation Games You Will Never Play by Unseen64
NES Works Volume 1: 1985 by Jeremy Parish
Sega Saturn Games You Will Never Play by Unseen64
If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus SEVEN more!
Generation Decks: The Unofficial History of Magic the Gathering by Titus Chalk
Making Mulaka by Christian Cardenas
Game of X v.2 by Rusel DeMaria
NES Works Volume 2: 1986 by Jeremy Parish
Rocket Jump: Quake and the Golden Age of First-Person Shooters by David L. Craddock
Boss Fight Books: Shovel Knight by David L. Craddock
Nintendo 64 Games You Will Never Play by Unseen64
This bundle is available only for a limited time via http://www.storybundle.com. It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub and .mobi) for all books!
It’s also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.
Why StoryBundle? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.
Get quality reads: We’ve chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.
Pay what you want (minimum $5): You decide how much these fantastic books are worth. If you can only spare a little, that’s fine! You’ll still get access to a batch of exceptional titles.
Support authors who support DRM-free books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there’s nothing wrong with ditching DRM.
Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to Pixelles!
Receive extra books: If you beat the bonus price, you’ll get the bonus books!
StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com.
Black Death is a cancelled FPS / Survival Horror game somehow similar to Condemned and Dead Island, in development by Darkworks around 2011. Darkworks was an independent French studio not widely known by the average gamer, but they released a couple of fan favorite games as Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare (Playstation, Dreamcast and PC) and Cold Fear (PS2, PC and Xbox). Black Death was announced in June 2011, as the team tried to get attention from publishers to find money and resources to fully develop their idea. This was the last project they tried to pitch before closing down after a series of unfortunate failed projects, such as their Onechanbara reboot, State of Crisis and The Deep.
After Ubisoft took away I Am Alive from Darkworks in 2008 to complete it under Ubisoft Shanghai, the team worked on many different prototypes. We can assume at the time the team tough that shooters were the most marketable genre to be greenlighted by publishers, so they conceived a few ones (such as Black Death) with interesting / original features.
Some more details about Black Death were published in the (now removed) official website:
What is Black Death? Black Death is a new survival horror from Darkworks. Black Death is the personification of the fear generated by the recent pandemics and the mistrust which has been associated to their supposed origins (natural apocalypse, scientific, industrial, or military ones… or else… ). Our goal with Black Death is to go one step further by focusing the game on three essential elements: speed, fluidity and freedom of action, to offer the player a sensation of freedom and the possibility to create his own arsenal.
Pitch: Today, The American North East coast, a city is suddenly hit by a massive cloud of smoke. Mysterious swirls of this black smoke appear and infect everybody. This new disease is spreading all over the city making it a place full of sick people sunk into a comatose state. As they mutate into strange creatures with various powers and group behaviours, they start to become violent and invade the whole city. The player is a survivor who will try to stay alive and wipe out this scourge from the city.
Gameplay Experience: THE FOG PLAYS WITH YOU, PLAY WITH THE FOG Survive in the fog Be Creative: Create your own chemical weapons and test them on your enemies Cure or kill infected you meet and choose your fighting strategy Spectacular: Have fun discovering a unique bestiary, and experiment with multiple weapons and devices Fight: Fast action, it’s difficult to kill, you must finish on contact Control the fog Discover the black death evolution
A playable demo / prototype for Black Death was also released in July 2011 (download backup in here), but it failed to gain much interest from gamers and publishers. With no more money to keep working on their projects, in October 2011 the studio was placed into Compulsory liquidation and was closed. In about 15 years of activity, Darkworks were able to successfully complete and release only 2 games, while all their other projects were either cancelled or moved to different developers. There are already a good number of interesting lost Darkworks games in the Unseen64 archive, but many more still remain unseen and even if we tried multiple times to get in contact with people that worked at the studio, it seems almost impossible to know more about what happened to them or to their cancelled games.
Sacred Line is a first person dark adventure / surreal thriller developed by Sasha Darko (a Russian music producer, game developer and writer), released for free in 2013 for PC. In 2015 an extended version of the original Sacred Line game was released for Mega Drive (phisically and digitaly), titled “Sacred Line Genesis“.
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