News on Beta & Cancelled Games

Split Shift Racing [PS3, Xbox 360 – Cancelled]

Split Shift Racing is a cancelled arcade racer that was being developed by Juice Games (AKA THQ Digital Studios UK) for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. Set in a distant sci-fi future, the game was due to take place in a chaotic “open world” environment that spanned both urban and rural terrain, and featured a transforming mechanic that allowed players to alter their car on the fly.

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Juice games had just finished work on Juiced 2: Hot Import Nights when they began working on the concept for three new games at the start of 2009. Alongside Split Shift Racing, the staff of 80 at the THQ-owned subsidiary were also working on the cancelled flight-sim Stormbirds, and a third as yet undiscovered game and peripheral project titled “FUUB”. Before this, the studio enjoyed two successful game launches with the original Juiced, as well as a PSP spin-off called Juiced: Eliminator, and the team would go on to release Red Faction: Battlegrounds and Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team under the new moniker of THQ Digital Warrington.

Details on Split Shift Racing are lacking, thanks in part to an existing NDA still covering the project. However, we can piece together some of the puzzle from talking a number of sources and various bits of portfolio work by artists that worked on the concept. One source described the project as a “futuristic open world racing title”, which is backed up by some of the concept work on display below, each one showing off designs like semi-holographic digital signboards and geometric sci-fi car models.

It’s not clear just how open the world was going to be in the final product, but an early UI concept design showing a map overview by another artist from the project suggests that instead of having one massive, sprawling world to explore, players would instead have the choice of going to one of several “zones”, each with their own theme. In this instance, we can see the Earthquake Zone, which seems to sport a large portion of off-road terrain, along with a small city pocket in the corner. This is supported by another concept image, this time for the main menu, which features a “Zone” option for players to select.

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Perhaps the most interesting feature was the ability to alter or transform your vehicle to suit the situation. Thanks to a couple of other concept pieces, we can see that the controls have four different functions mapped to the face buttons. These include Speed, Hammer, Climber, and Agile configurations. It’s not clear how each mode affected your vehicle’s performance, but it’s probably safe to assume that Speed was for racing, Hammer for taking down other drivers or breaking through debris, Climber for scaling rough terrain, and Agile for control during aerial jumps. Players could unlock new versions of vehicles from one of the four different styles by playing, and whilst there was an XP progression system in place to allow players to advance, it’s not clear whether unlocks were tied to this system or whether they had to be earned by winning races and events.

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Network features were also set to appear heavily in the game, with a strong focus on asynchronous multiplayer pitting people against each other in a variety of leaderboard challenges and events across each zone. This would have been coupled with an “Activity” page that tracked the player and their friend’s accomplishments, race times, and high scores in the form of a daily feed that others could leave comments on.

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Despite most of the information surrounding Split Shift Racing being under NDA, there are still a few images of in-game footage that show off what we might have seen if the game ever made it to its final release. Unfortunately, we don’t know whether the game itself ever made it to a playable state.

Development on Split Shift Racing began some time in 2009 under the management of producer Tim Preece, and would go on into the early stages of development until it was cancelled some time during 2010. This saw the development team moved onto other projects, with the majority starting work on Full Impact, a classic American car destruction derby game that would also go on to be cancelled. This string of failed projects can attributed largely by the shifting focus of the company, and THQ’s own goals during the time after purchasing Juice Games in 2007.

With the studio itself undergoing a transition away from boxed retail products and moving solely into digital goods, Juice Games was also undergoing its transformation into THQ Digital Warrington. Unfortunately, as the market continued to shift, THQ decided that instead of using the studio to develop new IP, they would utilize the Warrington-based team to develop secondary games based on THQ’s pre-existing IP, which gave rise to the digital-only Red Faction and Warhammer games in 2011.

Shortly after releasing the first of their two digital games, THQ Digital Warrington was then closed down by THQ in June 2011 due to “lacklustre sales of Red Faction: Battlegrounds”. Talking to Eurogamer, an inside source who worked at the studio claimed that THQ had cancelled several projects over the years, and that they “struggled to find an idea THQ were happy with”.

Katamari [DS – Cancelled]

In 2005 the Katamari series was on a roll (pun intended), and speculations about the series hitting Nintendo consoles started to emerge. In March 2005 Nintendo Power listed the game as in development for the DS. On the same month that year IGN approached Namco to ask about the possible title to which they simply replied “At this point we haven’t made any announcement for the future development of this franchise.”.

Unfortunately that was the last note regarding the title before disappearing.

Some say that this game ended up being dropped in favor of the PSP Katamari game Me & My Katamari which was released on December 2005. Sadly, Nintendo consoles still haven’t managed to get a Katamari game of their own aside from the DSiWare spinoff Korogashi Puzzle Katamari Damacy.

In 2016 the franchise came back from it’s 5 years hiatus with Tap My Katamari for iOS and Android so maybe the future might hold something for Nintendo platforms after all.

Article by Silvio Carrera

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Djinn (Castaway Entertainment) [PC, Xbox 360, PS3 – Cancelled]

Djinn is a cancelled action RPG planned initially for PC and later also for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. The project was in development by Castaway Entertainment, a talented team founded in 2003 by former developers who left Blizzard North, some of which were previously working on the cancelled version of Diablo 3. Djinn was quite hyped at the time because of its connection with the Diablo series and many RPG fans were eager to see more from the game, promising hundreds of hours of adventure, exploration and rare loot. Unfortunately before its cancellation not much was ever revealed about Djinn, its gameplay mechanics or plot, but thanks to the finding of its pitch document we can now learn more about this ambitious project.

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Castaway wanted to create an innovative role playing game with a story told in real time, while players were actively exploring its world and listening to the protagonist’s comrates. This team of characters following the protagonist could have been similar to the “pawn” system used many years later in Dragon’s Dogma, but with heavy interconnections with the main storyline:

“The idea of a next-generation, greatly upgraded Diablo II on console forms the basis of the concept and marketing strategy for our newest game, Djinn. Djinn is a real-time 3D action roleplaying game of heroic risks in an island world of ancient mythical beings and forbidden magic. With non-stop pacing unfettered by text dialog choices, and featuring larger than life ruins, temples, and legendary creatures, Djinn reveals a real time story told not by signpost NPCs but by your very traveling companions”

“Our unique twist on companions is the Crew concept. The crew members are intriguing, multi-purpose characters who are also lesser heroes in their own right, much like the Argonauts (the Greek heroes who made up the crew of Jason’s ship Argo). They can be added or removed at any time to the questing party, and each one has unique powers that the player will enjoy experimenting with. In combination, crew members may reveal additional abilities.”

Djinn’s gameplay would have been inspired by many more games other than the popular Diablo 2, adding physics-based combat and environment interaction, plus a series of “cards” that could change the game’s world and how players could interact and fight in this world. We could imagine it as an ambitious mix between Psi-Ops, Phantom Dust, Baten Kaitos and Hand of Fate:

“Djinn combines Diablo II quality, item collection, tactical equipment and skill choices, and dynamic, user-friendly combat; Phantom Dust playfield interaction and destruction; Psi-Ops physics-based combat; Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal’s varied attacks and situational awareness; and Magic: The Gathering’s highly addictive collectible and customizable booster packs.”

“We will be showing off our combat moves, interactive environments and highly vertical levels using advanced physics. Players will be able to do many things with our physics engine, including: Push victims off ledges or slam them into spikes; Drop objects onto targets far below; Knock over pillars and break platforms, in order to damage opponents; Knock back enemies who fall down with rag doll physics; Create “domino” effects where one object knocks into another.”

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“Djinn is designed to be a modular system that allows the player to make significant changes to their own game play experience. A player may alter their character’s skills, reconfigure their quests, select their companions, and even make changes to the world itself. These modifiers are contained in virtual “cards” that the player may collect, trade, buy, or sell with other players. “Cards” are currently being used as a metaphor for a system of tokens that can be applied within the game. The final game pieces will most likely take the form of artifacts or scrolls, not tarot or playing cards. Regardless of how the player wishes to manage their cards, everyone begins with a basic set (a virtual deck) that contains five types of cards: Skill Cards, Hero Cards, Quest Cards, World Cards, and Crew Cards. By playing combinations of these five types, the player is able to explore different locales over and over with very different experiences.”

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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.

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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.

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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

Rewind (Two Tribes) [DS – Cancelled]

Rewind is a cancelled on-rails shoot ‘em up in the vein of StarFox that was in development in 2008 by Two Tribes for Nintendo DS. After their work on Worms: Open Warfare 2 DS for THQ in 2007, Two Tribes started to plan their next game and wanted to create an original Sci-Fi shumup for the same console. IGN reported the announcement of Rewind DS in July 2008, but even they did not have much info on the project:

“[…] ReWind, described as an on-rails shooter with a twist. What this twist is hasn’t been revealed yet, but Two Tribes says it is taking full advantage of the DS’ abilities. ReWind is set in a “carefully scripted game world” where players have one objective: blast everything.[…] It will use the DS microphone and feature a CD-quality soundtrack.”

By looking at the title, we can speculate that Rewind’s “twist” could have been a way to rewind time during the game or to go backwards during its on-rails levels. Unfortunately not much more was ever revealed about Rewind and it soon vanished among many other lost DS games: it’s possible that Two Tribes never found a publisher interested to support them for this project.

After releasing such a clever hidden gem as Toki Tori 2 in January 2014 Two Tribes had to close down for bankruptcy because of low sales of the game. Their parent company Two Tribes Publishing B.V. formed another small team to develop their last game, under the working title “RE:Wind”, later published in September 2016 as Rive for PC, Wii U, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Rive is a side-scrolling shooter and not an on-rails shooter as Rewind DS was planned to be, but we can still speculate that the released game is an evolution of their original, unreleased concept for the portable console.

Update: thanks to Maik we found an interview on N4G featuring Martijn Reuvers (co-founder of Two Tribes) that confirm some of these details:

Martijn: When we started with RIVE, it was about 2005, so a long time ago. Its original name was “Rewind” and it was meant to be a small game reusing the level designs and artwork that we had. You would shoot a couple of enemies, rewind back in time, and then go to a point slightly before where you started. This way we can just reuse assets and every time you rewind, you’re replaying the same content, but it’s become a little more difficult. So, that was the original inspiration for RIVE. We actually started with the concept, but when we were play-testing it, we found out that it really sucked, so we dropped it. The energy orbs that drop in RIVE were meant to allow you to travel back in time with Rewind, but we don’t know what to do with them anymore, because the whole rewinding system is out of there. We still have a warp system in there, but it has nothing to do with time travel. It’s a very iterative process. We start with something, decide it doesn’t work, and move on from there.

In addition to RIVE being built from the remnants of Rewind, we played a lot of Gradius and Metal Slug back in the 90s, especially in arcades. Collin and I played a lot of those, and we always wanted to make a game like Gradius. So, when the company went bankrupt two years ago (2013), we had been making a lot of puzzle games and we wanted to make something with shooting and explosions. We said to ourselves, “Why not go back to that original design from 2005 and do something with that?” The real inspiration for this game is our passion for those types of games.

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