News on Beta & Cancelled Games

Metroid Prime 1.5 [GameCube – Cancelled Pitch]

Metroid 1.5 was an undeveloped new game in the Metroid Prime series, internally pitched at Retro Studios between the development of Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. This lost project was found in 2011 thanks to online research by Mama Robotnik on the NeoGAF forum, who unveiled the Metroid 1.5 design document written by former Metroid Prime designer:

“This adventure would take place immediately after Samus takes off from the surface of Talon IV. Upon exiting the planets surface, Samus decides to take a long rest in her Cryo chamber as her ship autopilots home. However, something goes wrong and Samus’’s ship computer hones in on a distress signal. The distress signal is coming from a huge alien vessel (huge, like the size of several Star Destroyers) that is drifting out in space. As Samus’s ship approaches the alien craft, a tractor beam activates and the Ship is pulled into one of the gigantic docking bays. As the ships doors close, the gigantic vessel folds and enters a parallel dimension, thus begins Samus’’ new adventure…

Upon awakening, the ship appears to be abandoned, there is no power except for auxiliary lights and telemetry from computers. It is up to Samus to unravel this mystery. The mystery being that the ship’s AI has gone mad and the ship is actually a war vessel that is on a collision course with a peaceful planet. It’s goal? The entire enslavement of the race of beings on said planet as well as natural resource stripping as its (the planets) destruction. So in essence, the ship AI has split into several different personalities, and is playing a deadly game with Samus. The Alien inhabitants of the ship are also in a state of suspended animation because as the ship travels through the parallel dimension, the alien inhabitants are being created and refined for warfare until the ship arrives at its destination and assaults the planet…. However, the robotic and automated entities are not, these will be the primary enemies that Samus must deal with. In addition, Samus must also deal with the ships cunning AI, who will all the while be taunting her and trying to trick her at every opportunity.”

“The Main reason Samus and possibly other Bounty Hunters are being pulled into this ship is to assimilate their best and most deadly abilities into the personality construct of not only the ships AI, but also into the actual Alien Inhabitants in order to further their quest for perfection. As the ship reaches its target, it will unfold into this dimension and begin its attack. This has what the ship and Alien race who created it has have been doing for past thousand or so years, going from planet to planet, assimilating the most violent parts of a culture and asserting it into its own being.

The main goal for Samus is to disable the engines of the ship, destroy the AI, and eradicate all life forms on the ship. The catch is that even though Samus is all powerful from her previous item acquisition on Talon IV, she will be limited to use them in certain areas of the ship due to the containment matrix that the Rogue AI has set up all over the ship. This will force the player to handle situations differently than expected, and once the containment matrix is disabled, Samus will be free to use all of her abilities. Due to being in a parallel dimension, there are areas within the ship where floors may become ceiling due to gravity being reversed, Time may run backwards, (illustrated by creatures and machines moving in reverse, water moving up into a faucet) and other sorts of environmental weirdness, that Samus as well as other Bounty hunters will have to learn to adjust to in order to survive.”

“Mad AI, the central computer of the ship has gone crazy, it sees inviting Samus onto the ship as a game for its amusement. Will taunt and try to trip Samus up at every move. The Mad AI has four distinct personalities…: The Child, The Killer, the Martyr, and the Fool… each one is deadly and utilizes different tactics and techniques.”

This cancelled project was meant to have a short development time, to release it shortly after the first Metroid Prime while the main team would take their time to develop the true sequel:

“So this is pretty much what I think we could crank out in a year, A Smaller Adventure with expanded mechanics and a few new ones thrown in. The beauty of spaceship design is that a lot of corridors and hub rooms can be reused over and over again, with minor variation; it also lends itself well to our room/door/hall layout. Plus, we can make the world denser by exploiting the super structure of the ship using morphball mechanics. Even though the idea of an AI gone mad has been used before in games as well as films, I feel that we could put a unique twist on it. And by allowing Samus to use only certain abilities in certain parts of the game, we can get a fair amount of replay value by offering the player different solutions to a single problem. This I feel would satisfy gamers who completed Prime and are hungry for something more with a few new mechanics and ideas thrown in.

With the addition of the co-op multiplayer components I have noted in the previous paragraphs, I feel that we would still have a game that feels like Metroid, albeit the feeling of Isolation would no longer be there, at the expense of the multi-player experience. However, I think the by unlocking the additional multi-player modes, after the actual game is completed, it won’t detract from the experience. Unlike TimeSplitters 1 and 2, we can keep the player focused on the main portion or adventure of the game which is what Metroid is all about.”

Concept art was also found in the design doc and on the websites of other former Retro Studios developers. You can find a deep-dive into the document’s details on Wikitroid.

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MediEvil Legends [PSP – Cancelled]

MediEvil Legends is a cancelled hack & slash developed by ChocChip Moose team for Sony as a part of the MProf Games Development course. This prototype was based on a brief given by Sony to students of the course with plans to possibly fully developed it into a PSP Mini commercial release.

While this should be considered a course-prototype and never announced by Sony as an official MediEvil game, some details were found online by fans:

“For the second semester, we were given the task of developing a small prototype by Sony that could be carried over and fully developed for sale as a PSP Mini game. The game was part of the established Sony franchise MediEvil and the concept was Dan retelling the story of his heroic deeds in the form of tall tales to his fellow heroes that the player had to relive. It took the form of a simple 3D top-down hack and slasher with humorous dialogue and banter between the listening heroes and Dan. This game was also developed in PhyreEngine.”

“The gameplay was a linear set of enemy waves, each wave getting progressively harder by spawning more enemies for longer periods of time. in addition, the final prototype contained 5 different enemy types, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. The zombies, numerous and weak, the mummies, rare but significantly tougher and hard-hitting, Scarecrows, extremely fast and agile, Headless zombies who run in straight lines very fast across the map, bouncing off walls and providing both comic relief and a surprising hazard, and Shadow Demons, deadly, fast and tough.

Waves were interspersed with humorous dialogue between Dan recounting his tale, and the heroes listening in, chiming in with their own comments and version of events, mocking and supporting Dan’s achievements.”

In the end sony never completed the MediEvil Legends prototype into a full PSP game and it soon became a lost and forgotten project.

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Hero Mix [Cancelled – Xbox 360]

Hero Mix is a cancelled music game / music tool that was in development by 7 Studios around 2010, planned to be published by Activision on Xbox 360 (and possibly Playstation 3). As you can assume by its title it was meant to be part of Activision’s Hero series of music games, composed of such games as Guitar Hero, DJ Hero, Band Hero and the cancelled Sing Hero, Dance Hero and Drum Hero.

Activision never announced this game officially, but some screenshots with mock-up UI were found online by fans in 2013. By looking at these we can speculate you would have been able to mix together different songs by playing some kind of rhythm game. Basically it could have followed the same premise of other Hero music games, but with mixing mechanics instead than playing a plastic guitar or DJ set.

In the end the Hero music game market collapsed and Activision just canned all the remaining projects still in development:

“In October 2009, following the completion of DJ Hero, Activision laid off an estimated 30 people from 7 Studios, about half of the team. In February 2011 Activision announced to discontinue all music games series. On 9th February 2011 staff members confirmed that 7 Studios had been shut down.”

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Xevicom Unlimited [PC – Cancelled]

Xevicom Unlimited is a cancelled story-driven FPS that was in development by Xevicom around 2009 for PC. The game was a tie-in for the Xevicom Forever graphic novel by fantasy author Ray Reid, planned to be a new chapter for their narrative. The team had quite the ambitious vision for Xevicom Unlimited, with a semi-open world to freely explore while watching over citizens and eliminating enemies with high-level AI.

As we can read from the official press-release:

“Set shortly after the events of the graphic novel, Xevicom Unlimited introduces players to Xevicom City in the aftermath of the comics bloody finale. Shockwave, the serial murderer whose activities set in motion the comics events, is rotting in prison but events surrounding his capture have further destabilized the delicate balance of power in Xevicoms streets and organized (and disorganized) criminal bands have begun a bloody campaign of retribution against the city’s few remaining vigilantes. For the first time ever, players will be able to take control of the mysterious Prophet in a story that follows his battle to quell this gang warfare whilst exploring his hitherto unknown origins. Through action packed battle sequences to rooftop chases, Xevicom Unlimited will bring the comics world to life like never before.

The game play in Xevicom Unlimited will focus on narrative driven action with a wide selection of heavy weaponry, intelligent enemy AI and exploration of the eponymous city. Indeed, exploration will be a key tactic as the game will feature a semi-open world layout that will allow players to tailor their gaming experience, whilst dealing with the moral dilemmas of vigilantism. The city of Xevicom will be brought to life with a colourful cast of characters, access to the world’s own fictional newspaper as well as the ability of players to manipulate their characters moral standing among Xevicoms citizens.

The game, being developed internally at Xevicom.com, features a new story by the graphic novels author, Ray Reid who said I never expected to be able to continue the story of the Xevicom universe but this new videogame adaptation gives me a chance to pursue that dream in a completely new way.”

After just 3 screenshots released, Xevicom Unlimited was never seen again. We can speculate the team was not ready to develop their first video game with such ambitious mechanics and were not able to fulfill their dreams.

Thanks to Dan for the contribution!

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Sea Dog (Mariner’s Run) [NES – Cancelled]

Sea Dog (シードッグ) also known as Mariner’s Run is a cancelled RPG / submarine simulation / Shoot ‘em up game planned to be published for NES / Famicom by Vic Tokai. A couple of screenshots were found in old gaming magazines by japanes fans and shared on Twitter, while some details were published online in a japanese website:

“Although gameplay is not clear on screenshots, it seems Sea Dog was going to be a vertical-scrolling submarine shoot ‘em up with some RPG elements. Between deep-sea exploration and combats you would be able to rise to the sea level and stop at nearby ports. You probably could repair your damaged submarine and buy new weapons.”

We could imagine Sea Dog somehow similar to cult-classic Metal Max, but with real-time underwater shoot ‘em up combat instead than post-apocalypse turn-based combat around desert cities. By looking at the few screenshots available we can assume you would have been able to freely explore the ocean underwater, while fighting enemy submarines and hunting down bosses, then reaching nearby islands to help NPCs and upgrade your submarine. The title of the game was probably inspired by the USS Sea Dog, a Balao-class submarine in the United States Navy.

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