News on Beta & Cancelled Games

Max Blastronaut [Xbox 360 – Cancelled]

Max Blastronaut is a cancelled beat / shoot ‘em up that was in development by Coin App, planned to be released on Xbox Live Arcade. In 2009 the game won Microsoft’s Dream-Build-Play contest, giving the team more funds to complete and publish the project. It was even previewed by a few gaming websites, such as IGN, Co-Optimus and Destructoid:

“Coin App’s submission is Max Blastronaut, an action game where players protect distant planets from “dredge miners.” Melee combat takes place on a planet’s surface, but Max can also hop into a space ship and take part in zero gravity gunfights. There are 24 planets to be defended with varying challenges.”

“I only played the first few stages, but the game seems to advance through a series of progressively more difficult planets that you must clean out, each with its own gravitational field. When Max reaches a new planet, he descends onto the surface in order to collect fuel to power his jetpack. Eventually, Dredge Miners attack, and Max is presented with two options: stay on the ground and brawl, or take to the air and shoot.”

“By way of features, Max Blastronaut supports drop-in/drop-out co-op for up to four players, twenty-four different planets, and a challenge mode.”

“While we only played through one level that was pretty much a tutorial level, I was told that future levels would feature power-ups for the blastronauts, new blaster weapons, and even vehicles.”

While it looked like a fun arcade game to play with friends, as far as we know (and by reading former Coin App developers resume) Max Blastronaut was never released on the Xbox 360, nor any other platform or PC.

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M.O.S. (Military Occupational Specialty) [PC – Cancelled]

M.O.S. (Military Occupational Specialty) is a cancelled “Massively Multiplayer Tactical Role Playing Shooter” (M.M.T.R.P.S.) that was in development around 2003 – 2004 by SharkByte Software, planned to be released on PC. It was an ambitious online FPS / RPG hybrid, conceived to become the “next genre of online gaming”, featuring a huge 42.987 miles² explorable planet, which is quite unbelievable even by today’s standards if you compare it to such open worlds as Final Fantasy XV (700 miles²),  Just Cause 3 (400 miles²) or Fuel (5.560 miles²) .

Players would take the role of a soldier sent to an alien planet called Balia, to combat for one of the available military factions: The Dominion, The Divine Separation and The Sovereignty. As in other MMORPGs Players VS Players and Realm VS Realms would have been available, you could drive different types of vehicles and

Details on SharkByte Software’s hopes for M.O.S. can still be found in old interviews and in their (now offline) website:

“The Idea for M.O.S. game about because we all liked playing FPS’s and tactical shooters such as Rainbow Six. We also like some RPG’s especially the online ones, so we thought man would it be cool if we could play Rainbow Six but in an Everquest setting? From there we started laying out the details of how this type of game might work. Now we are working on making that happen.

We currently have two server technologies that are being used and I can say that one will support approximately 30k per world and the other should allow for everyone to play together (obviously not in the same square inch :) ).”

“The initial game world covers approximately 142 kilometers by 193 kilometers. When you add the uncharted continents, seas, and oceans, the entire game world will encompass an area of 260 kilometers by 430 kilometers. This translates into an area of 161 miles by 267 miles.

A player will have three ways to develop their character. Since this is a military game the first method of advancement is in rank. A traditional rank system is being used. Secondly, the player will hone his skills by means of missions. Skill points are awarded which the player uses to develop the character skills. Thirdly, since this is a role playing game, the player will accumulate valuable information on which the players’ ability to decipher and implement what is learned can affect the outcome of the game.

The overall aim of the game is to establish and maintain the superiority of the player’s own shard. Within this framework the player will amass personal wealth and advance in rank with the successful completion of missions.”

“Killing of players within one’s own shard is also allowed although highly discouraged. As in any society, the attempted killing of an unarmed or peaceful citizen carries severe consequences. Friendly fire, on the other hand, may be unavoidable in the heat of combat.

Shard vs. shard attacks will be available. It is highly recommended that a player build up his skills before going into battle to increase his odds of survival.

A Shard is a group of military personnel under the rule of a General. There are 3 Shards on the planet: The Dominion, The Divine Separation and The Sovereignty. We chose the term Shard because it emphasizes the splitting of a single object.”

“Initially you will have to join a shard. Since this is a military type game and the player is recruited to serve on this planet the player is obliged to serve for a period of time. After fulfilling the obligation the player will have the option to continue within the system or make their fortune on the frontier.

A player will have access to use of vehicles as part of items necessary for use in missions. If a player can afford the cost of a vehicle, it is available to him.”

The team just showed concept art and a single 3D render from the game, so we don’t know how much was really done before its cancellation. As it usually happens with these ambitious MMORPG from the early ‘00s, we can assume the team underestimated the efforts, skills and budget needed to develop such a game and never find a publisher interested in helping them.

Thanks to Dan for the contribution!

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Boo Haunt (Retro Studios) [Nintendo DS – Cancelled Concept]

In May 2020 Shinesparkers published a series of links to the online portfolio of Sammy Hall, former Retro Studios contract artist who worked on concept art for a cancelled Boo game pitched by the company for Nintendo DS. Possibly known as the “Haunt” project, in this adventure players would take the role of a young Boo, freshly graduated in the Haunt university.

In these images you can see a Boo professor teaching his students about a magical cauldron and our Boo protagonist would have been chosen to be dipped into it for some reasons. We speculate that by being soaked in the cauldron, the young Boo would have somehow received new powers. Concept art shows this Boo in different poses, as if it could be stretched and moved around like in Kirby: Canvas Curse.

These drawings were noted as being used for Retro Studios’ Boo project between 2006 and 2007 (the same artist also worked on Metroid Prime 3: Corruption and Donkey Kong Country Returns), just a year after Nintendo released Canvas Curse. As we can read on their original page:

“Cancelled Boo project (2006 – 2007). Loads of Boo sketches in very very unfamiliar territory. Deep in debt at Haunt University. Powers & abilities. Broomies. Possession powers. Spiders spider boss variations. Tiny stuff for tiny handheld resolutions.”

We can also speculate the witches seen in these images are the “Broomies” (possibly the main enemies of the game, as seen in one of the drawings in which Boo fight against one of them like in a shoot ’em up) and Boo would had some kind of “Possession powers” to gather new powers & abilities.

After these images were found by fans and gaming journalists, the artist just deleted his whole ArtStation account. IGN was able to get in contact with him, asking about this Boo project and the cancelled Zelda – Sheik Wii game:

“Speaking to IGN, ex-Retro Studios concept artist Sammy Hall explained that both games were in pre-production when cancelled, and “I doubt many at Nintendo proper saw much of any of this stuff. I was mostly put into a room like Milton from Office Space and tasked to brainstorm between other projects.”

According to Hall, the ideas for both games came from ex-Retro leads Mark Pacini, Todd Keller and Kynan Pearson, but were “cancelled the week they went to create their other studios.”

We’d like to preserve these fascinating Boo drawings in the gallery below, to remember the existence of this lost video game. If you saved more concept art from Retro Studios’ Boo project that are missing from this page, please let us know in the comments below or by email!

Thanks to AvenPlainstrider for the contribution!

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High Heat Major League Baseball 2002 [Game Boy Color – Cancelled]

High Heat Major League Baseball 2002 is a cancelled sport game that would have been published by The 3DO Company for Game Boy Color. While other versions of the game were released in 2001 for PC, Game Boy Advance, Playstation and PS2, this GBC edition was announced but then never released by the company. As we can read in their old website:

“Bring the best Major League action to the road! Whether you prefer to play a single game, an entire season with playoffs, or just want to whack the ball out of the park in the Home Run Derby, this game’s got it!

  • All 30 Major League Baseball teams
  • Actual updated 2001 teams and player rosters
  • 5 different modes of play – Batting Practice, Exhibition, Season, Playoffs, and Home Run Derby
  • Strike out batters with multiple pitch types
  • Use the auto-fielding option for easy play

Maybe one day someone will leak a ROM of this canned port?

Thanks to Nemkell for the contribution!

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Hostile Intent (Aware Entertainment) [PC – Cancelled]

Hostile Intent (Not to be confused with the Half-Life mod of the same name) was a First Person Shooter that was being developed by American company Aware Entertainment during 2002 and 2003. Aware Entertainment were based in Knoxville, Tennessee, and were founded in January 2001 by Andrew Roberto while he was still in Law School, with the studio born from a desire to create “truly interactive computer games”. This was their very first project.

With a fairly outlandish plot and a gritty look, the concept of Hostile Intent seemed to fall somewhere between Battlefield, Rainbow Six and even the James Bond series. It was described by Aware as an intense, fast-paced shooter while simultaneously offering an open-ended gameplay experience.

The backstory of the game would have offered us a little bit of alternate history as the setup:

“In 1945, just after the end of the second World War, United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt created a covert organization called “Leviathan” to combat any perceived threats against the free world. Leviathan was cleared to use any means that governments could not publicly endorse, whether it be kidnapping, assassination, sabotage, arms-dealing, corporate espionage or even triggering war and, due to the nature of these methods, the organization was to be a secret to everyone with the exception of a single member of the executive branch of the US, who would then pass on the knowledge to a successor once he left office.

However, just a few months later, any knowledge of Leviathan dies with Roosevelt, who suffers a cerebral hemorrhage before he can disclose the existence of the organization to vice-president Harry S. Truman. With no one to keep it in check and its funding structure firmly secure, Leviathan goes on to attain massive influence over the world’s affairs, essentially becoming a shadowy world government with the power to deploy its forces anywhere it deems necessary.

Decades later, their reign is threatened by a prodigious and mentally-ill hacker known as “Xander”, who has plans of world domination. Using his computer skills to steal from the elite and big businesses, he funds a personal army that he dubs “Alliance Of Anarchy” to achieve his goal and while trying to send false orders to one of the world’s armies, he accidentally reveals himself to the Leviathan leadership, a former high ranking member of the CIA known only as “Spyder”. With both factions now aware of each other, a battle for supremacy begins as Xander escalates conflicts around the world and sends his mercenary army to hunt down his rival, hoping to take advantage of Spyder’s distraction and stretched resources in his efforts to bring the world back under Leviathan control.”

In the middle of this mess, the player would assume the role of J.D. Knox, a former marine and Leviathan operative recruited by Spyder, as he is deployed in battlefields around the world. These would include some obvious choices for the time, such as Iraq and Chechnya, but places such as North Korea would also make an appearance.

Hostile Intent was quite ambitious in the gameplay department. Aware would claim in several interviews that the game would not only feature levels with infinitely generated landscapes, but also a fully destructible environment, complete with terrain deformation, made possible by Aware’s own custom made engine which they were also hoping to license out for other games.

With a scope this large, the player would have at his disposal a large amount of real-life weapons and vehicles to fight with and get around. In addition to over 20 guns that ranged from pistols to rocket launchers and laser target designators, Hostile Intent would allow us to get inside the M1A1 Abrams tank, the Humvee, the Bradley APC, Hokum, Apache and Comanche helicopters, and even several boats.

With this feature set, it should come as no surprise that Hostile Intent was being developed with multiplayer action in mind. In addition to all the modes one would expect, such as Deathmatch and objective-based missions like hostage rescue, the game would also feature modes that could take advantage of its capacity for environment destruction, with up to 32 players joining the mayhem at once.

However, it does not seem that the single player experience would suffer as a result of this online focus, as the open-endedness of the gameplay allowed for not only a large amount of replayability, but the levels themselves would have been populated by NPCs, both hostile and friendly, in addition to the main enemy force. The main campaign would have been team-based and, although Hostile Intent was not meant to be a pure tactical shooter, it would have offered some depth when it came to player movement, with the ability to lean around corners and to go prone, and even the possibility to employ stealth.

2003 saw Hostile Intent build up a little bit of hype among some of the smaller gaming websites. With a release date estimated for late 2004, Aware claimed in an interview that they had several publishers interested in their game, but no deal had been finalized at that point in time. The last update on their official website seems to have been on September 15 of 2003 and, by 2004, the website no longer existed. Hostile Intent, and by extension Aware, had seemingly died, and whether that was due to difficulties with publishing, overambition, or a combination of both, remains unknown.

Article by António Pedro Pinto, thanks to Dan for the contribution!

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