News on Beta & Cancelled Games

Dark Matter: The Baryon Project [PC, Xbox 360, PS3 – Cancelled]

Dark Matter: The Baryon Project is a cancelled sci-fi shooter RPG that was in development by Pixelcage, planned to be released for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3. The project was quite ambitious for a rather small and obscure team, promising to offer both on-foot first-person shooting and third person spacecraft combat.

In their old – now closed – website, we can read they wanted to create a vast universe in which to freely fly around, inspired by such games as “TIE-Fighter” and “Freespace”. You would fight in space against huge spacecrafts planned to be up to 100 km (62 miles) in size – something that would be considered a massive open-world even by today’s standards (SKYRIM’s world is about 5 km wide), gigantic spaceships-worlds in which you could also break-in to continue attacking your enemies on foot.

“When playing such games in the past, I always wondered how it would be to just ram one of that bigger vessels and just “clear the bridge manually”. With today’s hardware capabilities, we now do a swing on it. – Marco Sobol, former Pixelcage developer”

If this was not enough to hype up the project, they also wrote about “graphic details up to a grade of millimeters!”, “experience speeds of up to 3000 km/h!”, “have a million polygons on your screen – in realtime!” and “can you handle hundreds of enemies?”. For sure the team had big dreams for their first project.

Thanks to an old interview with Pixelcage by Gengamers, we can read that work for the game began in 2003 with a core team of only 7 people, with plans to expand the studio to more than 40 people when they would finally find a publisher.

“Dark Matter is a first person shooter/ space shooter with some RPG elements, such as an inventory and improving skills, but without the flaws of pondering about tables and character sheets. It will feel much like a common FPS when it comes to game controls and speed, but comes with hours of dynamic scripted scenes, a non-linear storyline and state-of-the-art sound effects and music.”

Not only gameplay and huge environments would have been quite ambitious for its time, Dark Matter: The Baryon Project was also planned to have a open-ended storyline with different endings. Pixelcage wanted to have several playable characters appearing in the game and time travelling would have played an important role, featuring morphing aliens and fierce “time warriors”.

If such an immense game like this was not complex enough to develop, the team also wanted to add online multiplayer:

“We will put much efforts in the multiplayer part. There will be several deathmatch and teamplay modes, we even plan to include a mode in which you can play the single player campaign together with your friends. This is generally possible because there is more than one prime character in the game.”

It’s easy to see how Pixelcage were a passionate team with many ambitious ideas for their project, but unfortunately it seems they never found a publisher interested in funding it. In the end they had to abandon Dark Matter: The Baryon Project to work on other, simpler games such as Switchfire (published in 2006) and Jekyll & Hyde (2010), before to close down the studio.

If you know someone who worked on this game and could help us to preserve more screens, videos and details, please let us know!

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Shantae 32 bit [Playstation 1, PC – Cancelled]

After being one of the most forgotten hidden gems for Game Boy Color in 2002, in the last few years Shantae became a cult-series, with 4 main games developed by WayForward Technologies for PC, Wii U, DS, Playstation 4, 3DS, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. While Shantae games are quite popular today, most fans still don’t know that the first, original Shantae project for Playstation 1 and PC was never released.

shantae playstation 1 pc cancelled 32 bit game

Thanks to mpx and Youloute we know that this cancelled 32 bit version of Shantae was in development around 1997 and it was even shown on the official WayForward Technologies website in the late ‘90s:

“It is a time of magic and majesty, where strange beasts roam the land and beautiful creatures wield powerful magic. In this world lives a young girl named Shantae… a troubled genie, born without magic, yet the only individual capable of saving the realm from disaster. Following a century of imprisonment underground, three powerful Jins have broken the seal that restrained them, and now seek to drain the world of the magic it needs to survive. As the magic is stolen, the peaceful creatures that once harbored it are left weak and helpless. Shantae, unaffected by the magic drain, is the only hope for peace. But can she possibly battle the Jins and their legion of monsters relying only on the magic she reclaims along the way? It’s up to you to guide Shantae through perilous traps and dangers beyond your wildest imaginings!”

 

“Shantae is designed for the PC or comparable game system (such as the Sony Playstation). The gameplay is full 3-D, with traditionally (2D) animated characters that move in and out of the rendered backgrounds. With this advantage, players can travel down streets, enter tunnels or battle monsters several times the size of the normal viewing area! Perhaps the best feature of this 3-D system is the totally hands-free camera movement. The view automatically zooms in or out, up or down depending on the proximity of Shantae to other important elements. In addition, the paths Shantae can take often split into different layers of depth, allowing the player to walk on near or far surfaces in order to get around obstructions, crevices, or buildings. Also, enemies can attack from any direction in three-dimensional space in order to hunt Shantae down. It’s the long awaited blend of 2-D’s fluid animation and 3-D’s next generation gameplay rolled into one!”

During an interview with Siliconera, Shantae series director Matt Bozon said:

“We had a polygonal Shantae that could be run around in three distinct gameplay ‘gyms’. […] One was a spline-scroller (like Namco’s Klonoa), one was a free-range 3D like Mario 64, and the last was an isometric 3D platformer. We’ve done a lot of exploration in this area… Shantae was a sprite/3D hybrid for PlayStation and PC, and was free-roaming on the PlayStation 2.”

Shantae’s character design was a bit different in this lost game, compared to her current design:

In 2013 during a live streaming the WayForward team played the cancelled Shantae 2: Risky Revolution for GBA, so we can only hope that one day they could also find a playable version of this cancelled Playstation / PC version to show it to the world. Only a few, small screenshots are currently saved in the gallery below.

Unseen64 Survived 2017: Thank You for Your Help! Here are our 2018 plans

2018 is here 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, 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.

Conker's Bad Fur Day 2: Other Bad Day

Even if you only see a few articles or videos published every month, to keep the site alive as it is, it takes dozens and dozens of hours of work every week. 99% of the articles are written by monokoma, who also manages tech issues, replies to emails and on social networks (mostly on Twitter). In 2017 we started to repay a few of these hours thanks to the help of all of our Patrons, to let him work a bit less on freelance jobs and to work a few more hours on Unseen64 instead.

We still did not reach our goal of $550 on Patreon, so monokoma can’t really quit any more of his freelance activities to invest more time into Unseen64. Still, these donations permits him to not lose faith in our project and to keep it alive – instead than to close the site down.

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.

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.

What we did in 2017

We saved these forgotten lost games in our website:

We also published these videos featuring previously unseen games:

These are just a few example of the whole unseen history of video games we could lose if not researched and unveiled.

When everyone already know about such lost games as Zelda URA, Resident Evil 1.5, Bio Force Ape or Sonic X-Treme, 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.

To continue our work, we entrust you and all of our Patrons, people who know why it’s important to keep a site like Unseen64 alive.

Unseen64 plans in 2018

In 2018, we’ll continue doing our best to remember lost games no one else cares to write about:

  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 who later created a different masterpiece. Even if some of these canned projects could have been 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. Continue making new video articles: 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 Liam 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 requires more time to create video articles by monokoma (with the help of some english friends for voice-over), 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. Continue publishing the cheap-edition of our book: in September 2017 we also started to release a new low-price edition of the Unseen64 book, divided into different volumes, so you can choose your favorite consoles. At the moment the first volume is available, dedicated to cancelled 8 bit and 16 bit games (NES, Master System, Game Boy, Turbografx 16, Super Nintendo and Sega Mega Drive). We are currently working on the next volume for 32 bit and 64 bit games! We will also release a kindle version in the future (ad the moment you can already get a PDF version of the book by pledging 5 $ on Patreon). By keep selling our book, we can raise even more funds to keep working more and more on Unseen64.

All of these activities will require time, efforts and collaboration between all the people who help the Unseen64 collective, but we really want to keep Unseen64 alive for as much as possible.

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 who 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 who also use their time to remember beta, unreleased and unused gaming documents, together we can save as many unseen games as possible.

Remember: Unseen64 is still online thanks to the awesome people who pledge on Patreon: together, we can do it!

We’d like to thank all of you (in order of donations) who are helping U64 on Patreon:

Daan Koopman, Sentinator of Team Haruhi, joef0x, Mark J. Lang, Thomas Whitehead, David Galindo, Patrick Enriquez, Riptide, Patrick Kupilas, Александр Шутенков, Alex Schaeffer, Renee Violette, Mcsahon, Chris Chapman, Marty Thao, Ryan Razon, Taylor H, Itay Brenner, Pierre-Luc Pineault, Tiago Pereira dos Santos silva, Emiliano Rosales, Faisal AlKubaisi, Julian Lord, Shane Gill, Kaleb Ratcliff, Vitor Takayanagi de Oliveira, Joe Tangco, Peter Lewis, TheUnbeholden, Matt T, Thomas Muste Jr, Hannes, MARTAZIA A BROWN, Pedro, Gabriel Girouard, Jonah Bealy, Sebastian Haley, Knight, Mason “SoberDwarf” M., Arkadij, Ben Salvidrim, Keith Stack, Benjamin Swan, The Video Game History Foundation, Daryl Baxter, Nick Fancher, allan paxton, Robert Dyson, tydaze, Justin Moor, Liam Robertson, Kristian Binder, Gabe Canada, Tim Lawrence, Thomas.nunn7, That Black Guy, Mauro Labate, Olivier Cahagne, Alex MacIntyre, Henry Branch, Matthew, Anders “Captain N” Iversen, Coldi, Joe Brookes, James Jackson, Aaron Sharratt, Jonathan Pena, Jonathan Cooper, Paul Stedman, Jrg McJrg, Brice Onken, Alex Stutzman, Guilherme Killingsworth, Pablo Bueno Navarro, Paul, Josh Mann, Dan Thomas, Adrian, Ben Cowling, Alex Wawro, Niels Thomassen, Lou, Matthew Gyure, PtoPOnline, Jesus Tovar, Jacob, Brandon, Lisa, Martin GP (KAISER77), Aaron, James Steel, Tony, Bransfield, Christopher Cornwell, Anatoly, Goffredo and everyone else! (did we forget someone?)

We <3 you

Jonny Blastoff and the Kremling Armada (Rare) [PC – Cancelled]

Jonny Blastoff and the Kremling Armada is a cancelled point & click adventure game similar to Monkey Island that was in development by Rare for PC / Mac in the early ‘90s, before the team fully started working on Donkey Kong Country for Nintendo. The Kremlings, a race of anthropomorphic crocodilians that appear in the DK franchise, were originally conceived for this lost game and only later reused for DKC, becoming canon in the Donkey Kong world.

Gregg Mayles – Creative director at Rare and designer for the Battletoads and Donkey Kong Country series – is quite a fan of the piracy world and lore. Jonny Blastoff and the Kremling Armada was conceived as a game to fulfill his love for pirates and it would have been set in a series of islands with coconut palms, galleons and hidden treasures. This same tropical setting planned for Jonny Blastoff was later reused for Donkey Kong Country.

While Rare never officially announced this game to the public and no image from the prototype was ever released, in September 2015 Gregg shared some concept art on Twitter, showing off the original Kremlings designs that somehow resemble the Battletoads characters designs.

While no details about Jonny Blastoff’s gameplay were ever revealed we can imagine it would have been played like a traditional point & click adventure game, with many strange characters to interact with, items to retrieve, weird puzzles to resolve and Rare’s classic english humor.

After Donkey Kong Country Gregg Mayles and Rare worked on other piracy-inspired games such as the cancelled Project Dream for SNES (later Banjo & Kazooie for N64) and lately Sea of Thieves for Xbox One.

HiTech (Illusion Softworks) [PS3, Xbox 360, PC – Cancelled]

HiTech is a cancelled action / stealth game that was planned for Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and PC in 2006 / 2007 by Illusion Softworks (now known as 2K Czech), the team mostly known for the Hidden & Dangerous and Mafia series. The project was still in early development and without a playable prototype when it was canned. Only a concept video was created to pitch the game to publishers, but unfortunately they did not find any company interested and had to cancel it. Instead, they continued working on Mafia II, later released in 2010.

The project was lead by Daniel Vávra, game designer who worked at Illusion Softworks since 1998 on Hidden and Dangerous and Mafia I & II. Vávra shown the HiTech concept footage in 2007 during his presentation titled “How to make a game” and the video was later uploaded on Youtube. From what we can see in this pitch video, HiTech’s gameplay could have been similar to other action / stealth games such as Metal Gear Solid or Splinter Cell, but in a sci-fi setting.

As we can read in the video intro:

“Year 2025. A group of terrorists sabotaged military robot tests inside Adler Group production facility. The robots went out of control and slaughtered AG staff. Terrorists provided media with video footage of this massacre. The facility has been evacuated and the nemesis team has been called in. The objective is to regain control and cover up the incident.”

Thanks to superannuation for the contribution!

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