News on Beta & Cancelled Games

Iron Angel (Ocean) [PC – Cancelled]

Iron Angel is a cancelled sci-fi flight / combat simulator that was in development for about 3 years by Meta Mode Design, to be published in 1994 / 1995 by Ocean Software for PC. This was meant to be Meta Mode’s first game and while it looked promising, unfortunately it was never completed and soon the team vanished without any trace. The only details remaining from this interesting project are from a series of previews published in 1994 in various gaming magazines. It seems Iron Angel was also shown at ECTS 1994 but we did not find any footage yet.

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In a preview published in PC Gamer (august 1994) we can read:

“From the people who brought us TFX (that’s Ocean, not Digital Image Design), comes an even more futuristic flight sim, with the action taking place both above and below the Earth’s atmosphere as you battle to save the world from Armageddon (again).

What’s so special? Well, have a look at the screenshots. Although this is Meta Mode’s first game, it’s already clear they’re no donkeys – it moves as impressively as it looks. Strike Commander and the forthcoming Inferno could have some serious competition…

If you’re into flight sim in any way, shape or form it’s going to be difficult to turn a blind eye to a game which promises not only mind-blowing visuals but an innovative campaign structure across over 150 missions.

Robert Muir and Alan MacDonald had known each other for years before, but decided to get together in 1991 to write a PC game because they weren’t impressed with what they were seeing in the software shops. So they had an idea, took it to Ocean, who liked it, and away they went. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

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Well, three years on, and Muir and MacDonald, alias Meta-Mode Design (as a game design duo, they’re probably the smallest team working on the PC today), are now all set to unveil the fruit of their collective labors, Iron Angel – a futuristic flight combat game that nestles snugly between the simulation and arcade goalposts. But despite comparisons that are already being drawn between the likes of TFX and Strike Commander, Meta-Mode isn’t pushing the issue – the game was conceived long before most of these youngsters arrived on the block, so they can hardly be accused of plagiarism.

Set in the year 2025, Iron Angel has its front a little more into the future than Ocean and Digital Image Design’s impressive TFX. You’re cast as a pilot in the United Nations Space Force, at a time when the Cold War has re-emerged more threatening than ever before.

Four main superpowers compete for control of the globe, with a sophisticated SDI system protecting against nuclear attack. But a new breed of fighters, capable of destroying the SDI satellites, has made nuclear war a threat again, so the UNSF is set up to keep a lid on the things above and below the Earth’s atmosphere.

The Iron Angel, an ultra-sophisticated high-altitude fighter, is the UNSF’s main weapon, flying against opponents ranging from the relatively primitive F-16s and MiGs in service today to the superior ships flown by the largest superpower, an alliance of giant corporations.

Iron Angel’s main hook is its settings – a mix of sci-fi fantasy and reality. “This is a world where you’ll still see conventional planes, but the technology has improved” says Muir.

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Meta-Mode vision of the airborne military of 2025 includes aircraft whose cockpits have been replaced by gyroscopic cradles that turn inside the plane to counteract the effect of G-forces, landing claws that enable an aircraft to land down on the site of a mountain, and even fighters that can fly underwater! But there’s more to this than just futuristic fancy. Muir becomes animated when he talks about the game’s structure and design. “I’m not impressed by the mission structure of most conventional flight sims, I get bored of just flying from waypoint to waypoint, hitting a target and coming home again. We’ve tried to make Iron Angel as different to that as possible. The closest thing to it is F/A-18 Interceptor on the Amiga, which really broke new ground when it first appeared. We’ve got about 150 missions and they can take up to two hours to complete, which will give you an idea of how involved they are. the gameplay’s much more strategic, you’ll be using your wingmen a lot – like in X-Wing. And we’ve got plenty of hidden extras, like enemy reinforcements if you hang around too long”

After three years in development, Iron Angel is still only 80% complete, so the Meta-Mode boys will have to pull their fingers out to get the job done in time for Christmas.”

Unfortunately it’s unknown if they ever completed the game before its cancellation and Ocean never gave an official statement about its demise. For sure the Iron Angel looked awesome for its time, and it could have been a revolutionary combat simulator, with players able to use planes, cars and mechs – all of them in the same game.

Robert Muir and Alan MacDonald seem to have worked on just a couple of other games, before to also vanish into nothing. If you are in contact with Robert or Alan and could help to preserve more info, images or footage from Iron Angel, please let us know!

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Star Trek: Secrets of Vulcan Fury [PC – Cancelled]

Star Trek: Secrets of Vulcan Fury is a cancelled adventure game that was in development from 1997 to 1999 by Interplay Entertainment that would have been the third entry in their Star Trek adventure game series, the other two being 25th Anniversary and Judgment Rites.

Like the two previous games, it would have featured the entire cast of “The Original Series, and would have been written by Original Series writer D.C. Fontana, and directed by Original Series director John Meredyth Lucas. Essentially, like the two previous games, it would have been an interactive episode of the television series.

The game would open with a plot involving the murder of a Romulan ambassador, that would lead into a whole series of stories exploring the backstory of the Vulcan and Romulan races, including why they split into two (something that has not been explained to this day in any Star Trek iteration).

The reason for its cancellation was apparently that the game was far too ambitious. Full Motion Video was in its infancy at the time and the game would have been entirely interactive FMV sequences using clay models similar to Interplay’s Fallout series, with full voice acting, something that was simply too expensive to produce at the time. So the game was cancelled with only five percent of the game complete.

There are claims the entire script was recorded by the Original Series cast, however this is false. The script was never finished, and audio recording never seemed to have went beyond testing purposes. It’s unclear if even the entire original cast would have been able to record dialogue in fact. For example: Deforest Kelly, the voice of Leonard McCoy, was apparently too ill when development commenced, and had to be replaced by an impersonator. It’s unclear exactly how much work was done audio wise, but but it’s likely nothing went beyond testing and some scene rehearsals, and to add insult to injury, all files were accidentally deleted by Interplay, making a revival of the game all but impossible unfortunately

The technology however impressed Paramount Studios, who planned to use it to make a CG-I television series fearing the Original Series cast and characters, but that too was cancelled.

Article by To Be Continued

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Ocean Warrior (Extreme Outer Reef) [Xbox 360, PS3 – Cancelled]

Ocean Warrior is a cancelled action game that was in development by a small team known as “Stardust Interactive Media” between 2001 and 2004, planned to be released for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. The game was initially conceived as some kind of mix between “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater” and “Waterworld”, an extreme-sport video game titled “Extreme Outer Reef” about big-wave surfing in flooded cities.

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As we can read from an old press-release published in 2002:

“If things go according to plan for Stardust Interactive Media, the startup will soon be making waves – monster waves – in the video-game market. Big waves are the name of the game for Stardust, creators of a sports-action surfing video title, “Extreme Outer Reef.” The game is based on one of the most dangerous sports in the world, “extreme big-wave surfing”–surfing waves 75 feet and taller with the aid of high-powered jet-skis.

“Extreme Outer Reef” capitalizes on the recent success of other extreme board-sports videos, such as snowboard and skateboarding. “People love board sports and we’ve created a game in a way that’s never been done before,” said Markland Fountain, chief operating officer for Stardust Interactive, one of 10 finalist companies in The Business Journal’s Business Plan Competition. “Surfing is just a sexy, interesting sport and you can’t get any crazier than this,” Fountain said.

The game is the brainchild of Chief Executive Dan Meyers, a native Oregonian who has surfed the Oregon Coast for the past 23 years. He and Fountain–also a surfer dude–are heading up the company. And they’re backed by a solid team of video-game bigwigs and world-class giant-wave surfers.

Scott Orr, whose video titles have sold nearly $2 billion in the past 20 years, signed on as executive producer for “Extreme Outer Reef.” Chief technical consultant is Stewart Apelzin, creator of best-sellers “Myst” and “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?”

Other surfing videos exist, but Stardust insists its game will be unique. For one thing, the game thrills players with monster waves up to 200 feet, but Stardust also has developed a “dynamic waves physics engine” — a software application that generates waves that behave the way real waves work in the ocean.

“No other surf game makes waves with a real-time physics model,” said Meyers. Picture “giant liquid avalanches,” say the business partners. “You have endless variability, and it becomes this crazy surface where you can pull tons of tricky maneuvers,” Fountain said. “It gives the game replay value,” as opposed to existing surfing videos, which can quickly become boring.”

During development the project evolved into Ocean Warrior, a more cinematic action game featuring speed-boats equipped with machine-guns in a post-apocalyptic flooded world, similar to Waterworld.

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As we can read from the description added to the box mock up (made using the original Xbox games’ template as the Xbox 360 was not released yet):

“The Earth’s major cities are under water! The world’s ocean levels had been rising for years, but a nuclear blast set off by the evil NERVA organization has caused the sudden flooding of coastal cities worldwide. As an elite Ocean Warrior, you take to the waves to rescue the innocent and to bring NERVA to justice.

Waterborne combat is back with a vengeance! Pilot a variety of heavily armed watercraft through unbelievable apocalyptic ocean environments!

Drive the boat, or man its turret, bail out and swim at any time. Commandeer any craft you can find! Disable an enemy crew, climb aboard, and take their boat for yourself!

Protect your floating base at all costs. Your base supplies all of your new weapons and repairs, and holds items and personnel captured or rescued in the field!

Monster surf like you’ve never seen! Ride 100-foot tidal waves through modern cities and ancient canyons!

Exciting story of global destruction takes you to disaster zones around the world, your AI teammates will have your back!

Tons of multiplayer modes! Play deathmatch, CTF, Destruction, King of the Kill and more on a split screen, with system link or over xbox live!”

Stardust Interactive tried to pitch the game to different publishers, but in the end Ocean Warrior was never released, only a few screenshots and footage from the early prototype are preserved below, to remember this lost project.

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DR (989 Studios) [Playstation – Cancelled]

In the mid and late ‘90s 989 Studios / Sony Interactive Studios Los Angeles developed many popular games for the first Playstation, titles such as Bust A Groove, Cool Boarders 3, Jet Moto 3, Cardinal Syn, Twisted Metal 3 and Syphon Filter. Unfortunately they also worked on many other projects that never seen the light of day, such as Dark Guns, Sorcery, Warhawk 2 and The Diabolical Adventures of Tobu.

Another unseen game they were working on was labeled as “DR”, possibly the initials for something like “Death Race”, some kind of post-apocalyptic racing / combat game inspired by the Mad Max movies, featuring strange vehicles with guns and bio-mechanical designs. Unfortunately there’s not much more available from this lost game, but only a few concept arts were preserved, create by artist John Duggan at the time.

We can speculate DR was meant to be played somehow like Twisted Metal and that could be the reason of its demise: Sony gave 989 Studios the Twisted Metal IP to develop a full sequel to their car-combat game, a title that could have been more profitable than an original project with similar gameplay.

DR remains another interesting unseen game we’ll never play by one of our favorite studios from the original Playstation years. If you know someone who worked on this game and could remember more details, please let us know!

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Hired Guns (Devil’s Thumb, VR-1) [PC – Cancelled]

The original Hired Guns was a First Person sci-fi tactical RPG developed by DMA Design (the team that created GTA and later became Rockstar North) and published in 1993 by Psygnosis for Amiga and PC. Hired Guns was quite ambitious for its time, players were able to use 4 different characters at the same time, each one had their own view and the game was played using a 4 windows split screen, also allowing up to 4 players to play together in coop.

The team behind this “reboot” of Hired Guns was Devil’s Thumb Entertainment, a small DMA division started in 1995 by David Jones and led by Tony Harman. Only a year later Devil’s Thumb was cut off from DMA and became an independent studio, working on Mike Piazza’s Strike Zone (released in 1998 for Nintendo 64) and Tides of War (released on PC in 1999). Sometime between the release of these two games, Devil’s Thumb also pitched this new Hired Guns to Psygnosis, that soon greenlighted the project to be developed using Unreal engine.

As recalled by a former Devil’s Thumb member who worked on the game:

“All of our levels had a maximum on-screen limit of 80 polygons using the old Unreal 1 engine.  Our art direction was to use a lot of color, since the first person shooter at the time was Quake and it was very brown.  Our marketing was going to include:  “There are millions of colors, we used them all…. except brown.”

A few previews for Hired Guns were published back in the day by Gamestop and IGN:

“Whereas most shooters are pretty simple run and gun affairs, Hired Guns is a complex game of tactics and teammates, more along the lines of X-COM Alliance or System Shock 2 than a Quake or Unreal. “

“Here’s the basic story. In the not so distant future, those who could afford it left the now poisoned Earth to travel to different off-world colonies that had been established by three different corporations. The first colony was in the Luyten system 10.8 light years from Earth and was reached by the mammoth Tesseract Corporation using a brand-new interstellar drive. Later colonies were started not only by Tesseract, but by the Betelov and Grenworld Corporations as well. With these new colonies in place, humans began to flourish again with huge new stores of resources to tap and trade. Sadly, human nature began to kick in and the three companies began fighting over consumer wealth and loyalty.”

“In the beginning of these battles, war was fought more or less in the conventional fashion, with huge armies taking each other on in space and on the colonies, wiping each other (and often the colonies) out in the process. As colonies wised up and began to create their own militias and as the corporations began to loose the ability to fund huge armies, they started to hire small mercenary groups to commit acts of espionage and sabotage for them. It was during this time that the Hired Guns, a crack team led by a man named Kircher appeared. Considered by some to be the finest data espionage agents ever assembled and by others to be absolutely insane, this ruthless group started to play each of the companies against the others in an attempt to bring themselves massive profit and power.”

“Using the Unreal engine, Hired Guns will allow gamers to control a four person mercenary squad as they go off on a series of missions. What pushes Hired Guns outside the genre is that you actually control all four members of team in a multi-windowed interface. One large window accommodates the character you’re currently controlling with three smaller windows that depict what your other team members are seeing. When you’re not controlling them directly, a control panel allows you to tweak their AI for the task at hand. If you need to clear room quickly, you could turn up their aggression and see what ensues. Or you could have one soldier run into a room to battle several enemies and retreat when its health goes below 50 percent. During gameplay, you can take control of any of the players as they combat evil corporations.”

“Missions bring more strategy to the 3D shooter by forcing you to figure out which mercenary is best suited to a particular task in a mission. Kircher is a Rasta male with spiritual self-healing capabilities, Myriel is a 200-year-old who is mostly cyborg and has an advantage of being able to understand electronics, Rorian is a ex-soldier with zoom lens-like optical implants, and Osverger is the berzerker of the crew with a large soldier body and massive strength.”

In 2000 VR-1 Entertainment acquired Devil’s Thumb, while at the same time Psygnosis decided to leave the PC market to focus their resources on Playstation games. It’s not clear which company owned the Hired Guns IP, but unfortunately without its original publisher and with a new studio management the game had to be canned.

It seems Hired Guns was almost finished when cancelled, there’s even a leaked beta that you can download and play to check out what it could have been.This beta is labeled as a “pre-production version” and it includes all the levels, characters and weapons planned for the final game.

Thanks to Harri for the contribution!

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