News on Beta & Cancelled Games

Deadline (Microflash) [PC – Cancelled]

Deadline is a cancelled FPS that was in development around 1992 – 1993 by a little and now forgotten Finnish team called “Microflash”, which as far as we know never released any other video game before closing down. It seems Deadline was promoted in old gaming magazines with a playable demo (one of these was PC Format magazine, which had the demo in their 3.5″ cover floppy disk) but in the end Deadline and its creators vanished into oblivion. Just a few websites like OldGames and LegendsWorld still have some details about this lost project.

The game’s story was quite b-movie alike. Deadline’s protagonist agreed to participate in a cryo experiment and was frozen in suspended animation, but for some reasons he was not awakened in time. Waking up hundreds of years later, he found Earth is now ruled by evil aliens so he just decides to fight them.

One unique feature in the game was a tool that allowed you to restore power to walls in the environment. This allowed you to, for example, activate a chain of walls starting from one that was already powered, to then supply power to a door further away: an interesting environmental puzzle for such an early FPS. You could also buy new weapons from certain wall interfaces.

It seems Microflash showed their Deadline demo at the 1993 London ECTS fair, where they managed to get hired by Cyberdreams, but the collaboration never materialized. There’s an interesting research on Finland ‘80s – ‘90s developers in which they talk a bit about Microflash:

“Mika Keskikiikonen, who worked at MicroFlash, has recalled that their aim [with Deadline] was to create an improved version of Wolfenstein, which the group’s programmer Jani Peltonen in particular did not consider to be well enough built. […] Having acquired its programming skills from Demoscene, Keski-kiikonen had already gained some fame with the Amiga Game Maker’s Guide programming manual published by Tecnopress in 1992. MikroBit and Pelit magazine were advertised relatively often in 1992-1993. See e.g. MikroBitti 5/1993, 67. He was also involved in programming some utilities for Toptronics. MicroFlash’s initial success in 1993 was also noticed in MikroBit and Pelit magazine. See Made in Finland, MikroBitti10 / 1993, 64. Game news, Games 7/1993, 8, Game news, Games 1/1994, 4”

While the beta demo does not look good by today’s standard (and it was quite bugged at the time), Deadline could have been one of the first 3D FPS if ever released.

Thanks to Mat for the contribution!

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Blur 2 (Bizarre Creations) [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3, PC]

Blur 2 is the cancelled sequel to 2010 arcade combat racing title (basically “Mario Kart with Real World Cars”) developed by Bizarre Creations and planned to be published by their parent company Activision for Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC. It would have expanded Blur’s gameplay with a new 3D engine and more interactive tracks, for example by using rainstorms and avalanches to spice-up the course, or adding a new ability to race sideways on buildings.

Unfortunately Blur 2 was cancelled due to low sales of the first game, when Activision decided to close down the team in 2011. As we can read on Shacknews:

“Over the past three years since our purchase of Bizarre Creations, the fundamentals of the racing genre have changed significantly. Although we made a substantial investment in creating a new IP, Blur, it did not find a commercial audience. Bizarre is a very talented team of developers, however, because of the broader economic factors impacting the market, we are exploring our options regarding the future of the studio, including a potential sale of the business.”

A few years later footage from Blur 2 was leaked online, showing off some new ideas they had for the game:

“This video shows us trying out some new visual effects, partly just because we thought it would be cool, and partly to see how more intense effects would effect the player’s experience (i.e. is driving through a storm shooting and dodging weapons fun and exciting or stupid and annoying).

So we built a load of big storm effects into the Brighton level from Blur and did some fancier animated turn markers. The ‘Shunt’ power up also got an overhaul from the big red ball in Blur, to a big refractive energy pulse here. This new one would throw tear up the road as it homed in on its target, leaving a trail of broken tarmac and scattered, twisted lamp posts.”

In late January of 2020 a Blur 2 playable prototype was also leaked online, preserving what was done on the game before its cancellation. From this proto we can learn the game would have had tracks based on Detroit, Dubai, North Africa, a ski resort, Odessa, Miami, Liverpool, and Hong Kong. Each location would have around 3-4 tracks, along with several test maps, but most of them are just whiteboxed in this build.

Several new cars would have been added, ranging from Ultima, Ferrari, Mazda, RUF, Bugatti, Mitsubishi, and more. There were also a couple of new powerups added, such as a star and a variant of the Shunt powerup, that unfortunately have no effect when used in the proto build. Lastly, a new mode was planned to be added, called “Fans”. It seems that it would have been a competition to get the most fans in a race.

Thanks to AceArroww for the contribution!

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Raphael (Sensory Sweep) [Xbox 360, PS3 – Cancelled]

Raphael is a cancelled third person action game that was in development by Sensory Sweep Studios for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. The game was a free-flying / platform adventure inspired by Dante’s Inferno, in which archangel Raphael would explore hell and fight Satan’s demons. As far as we know this project was pitched by the team to different publishers, but in the end it was never fully developed.

Sensory Sweep closed due to bankruptcy in 2005, with employees working without being paid for months. As we can read on Mobygames:

“The company filed for bankruptcy in September 2005, but kept all projects going with two name changes (including Fooptube). In early 2008 the employees stopped receiving contributions, even though their paychecks were still deducted for the next few pay periods. Soon after that the paychecks bounced and Sensory Sweep lost Brash Entertainment as a big client when it folded at the end of 2008.”

What remains of Raphael today is just some concept art, preserved in the gallery below to remember the existence of this lost game.

Among Sensory Sweep’s other cancelled games are titles such as Crash Tag Team Racing DS, Time Traveler, Sentient and Oregon Files. If you know someone who worked on this lost game and could help us preserve more images or details, please let us know!

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Woody (Cinemax) [PC – Cancelled]

Woody was a stylish point & click adventure that was in development for PC by Cinemax around 2002, later cancelled for unknown reasons. Its graphic style is reminiscent of classic Amanita Design games, but unfortunately not much information is available on this lost game. It seems the project was conceived for younger players, but for sure it looked quite cool.

If you know someone who worked on Woody and could help preserving more screens, footage or details, please let us know!

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Project Ragtag [Cancelled – PS4, Xbox One, PC]

Project Ragtag, a third-person action-adventure game set in the Star Wars Universe, was cancelled in 2017. The game was under development by Visceral Games and planned to be published by Electronic Arts. In the end EA shut down Visceral Games, following the game’s irreversible demise.

Led by former Uncharted series Creative director Amy Hennig, Project Ragtag was an ambitious single-player adventure, focused on a ragtag group of space thieves. While it seemed like a sure-hit for a game that started development in 2013, EA cited dwindling interest in single-player experiences as the main reason for its cancellation.

An interview by US Gamer with Ms. Hennig explained how things went for the project. Henning said the game had been beset by challenges that the whole management didn’t foresee. Additionally Kevin Kiner (music producer of Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels) also shared his thoughts on the project. He mentioned he worked on the game for a couple of years and managed to create a good amount of music for it. Unfortunately it seems these scores can’t be used in future Star Wars projects.

Making a Star Wars game that looks and feels like Uncharted was a big challenge. For instance, Visceral Games had to use DICE’s Frostbite Engine to develop Project Ragtag, which was mostly designed for first-person shooters, not third-person adventures. They had to re-implement lots of code and animations, from third-person platforming to climbing.

Unfortunately, this was not enough to save the project. In 2017 EA officially announced Project Ragtag’s cancellation: though it had bittersweet comments and feedback from the online community, Hennig and the other team members have moved on. For players and fans of Star Wars, it’s sad to see such a promising game fail.  The cancellation of Project Ragtag was also a tough experience for the staff who poured their efforts into it.

There’s a lot of cool stuff conceived for Project Ragtag that we will never get to see. However, as everyone says, life goes on. Other Star Wars games are still published every year, such as Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes, Star Wars: Squadrons and Star Wars Commander.

Article by Nash Kingston

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