News on Beta & Cancelled Games

Legends (Pandemic Studios) [Xbox 360 – Cancelled]

Legends is a cancelled third person action RPG planned to be released on Xbox 360, which was in development in 2006 / 2007 by the original Battlefront team at Pandemic Studios. The game would have merged cover-based third person shooting in a series of floating sci-fi islands, with usable vehicles for combat and exploration, randomized dungeons and rare loot ala Diablo plus a quest system somehow similar to what at the time was used in MMORPG such as World of Warcraft. You can imagine Legends as a lost precursor of Borderlands (which was later published in 2009), taking the classic RPG loot formula into a more action-oriented shooter.

As far as we were able to gather about this unreleased project, the Battlefront team at Pandemic worked on it for about one or two years, with at least a prototype / alpha version of the game running with many placeholder models and images.

We can assume Legends was not seen as a priority project by Electronic Arts, when they acquired Pandemic Studios in late 2007 / early 2008. In the end Legends was canned to switch resources to more marketable IPs. In 2008 they released Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, and in 2009 The Lord of the Rings: Conquest and The Saboteur, before EA decided to close down Pandemic Studios in November of the same year. Other still in development Pandemic games were also cancelled: Mercenaries 3, The Next Big Thing and Batman: The Dark Knight.

Only a few prototype screenshots, missions designs and mockups are preserved in the gallery below, to remember the existence of this lost game. If you know someone who worked on Legends, please let us know!

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The Retro Wonder Game DRM-free eBook Bundle, featuring Unseen64

We are happy to announce 2 eBooks from our digital version of “Video Games You Will Never Play” are featured in the latest eBook bundle by Story Bundle! Our “An Introduction of Video Games You Will Never Play” and “PC Games You Will Never Play” can be found in this bundle in their ePub and Mobi versions (our full book is available in physical form on Amazon and in PDF on Patreon), so you can easily read them in your eBook reader.

In the same bundle you can also find many interesting eBooks about forgotten video games, such as the research on the lost P.T. (Silent Hills) PS4 demo by Joel Couture, The Complete Guide to the Famicom Disk System by Hardcore Gaming 101 and the history of Doom by by David L. Craddock.

Funds raised with this eBook bundle will support Unseen64, the books authors and you can also donate 10% to to ‘s Video Game History Foundation.

Here’s the full description, for more details check https://storybundle.com/games

The Retro Wonder Game Bundle – Curated by Simon Carless

The first Video Game Storybundle of 2018 is a massive one, since we have three brand new game history/analysis ebooks you can’t get anywhere else, as well as some amazing overlooked & sought-after tomes based around retro video game goodness.

Some of the biggest highlights for this bundle include exclusive ebooks on Hideo Kojima’s ‘lost classic’ horror title P.T., on the Doom franchise‘s amazing start and triumphant 2016 return, and on unlikely gems for the Atari 2600/VCS (including, yes, E.T the Extra Terrestrial!)

We also have a truly wonderful book on the history of the Xbox, a complete look at the rare Famicom Disk System and its games, and a trilogy of Douglas Adams-style novellas about a retro computer/game collector, as well as rare games revealed from the Unseen64 crew and a look at the historical heroines that come in game protagonist form.

Once again, the optional charity for this bundle is the Video Game History Foundation, a brand new non-profit organization dedicated to cataloging, digitizing, and preserving the history of video games. – Simon Carless

The initial titles in the Retro Wonder Game Bundle (minimum $5 to purchase) are:

  • 21 Unexpected Games to Love on the Atari VCS by John Harris
  • Heroines of Gaming by Christian Cardenas, Dylan Altman and Trista Payte
  • The Ambivalence Chronicles – Bit#1: The Chip Whisperer by Steve Trower
  • The Ambivalence Chronicles – Bit#2: The Kempston Interface by Steve Trower

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular titles, plus SEVEN more!

  • P.T. – A Video Game Ghost Story by Joel Couture
  • Stairway to Badass by David L. Craddock
  • HG101 Presents: The Complete Guide to the Famicom Disk System by Kurt Kalata and Dustin Hubbard
  • Game of X – Vol 1.: The Untold History of Xbox by Rusel DeMaria
  • PC Games You Will Never Play by Unseen64
  • The Ambivalence Chronicles – Bit#3: The Road Worrier by Steve Trower
  • An Introduction To Video Games You Will Never Play by Unseen64

This bundle is available only for a limited time via http://www.storybundle.com. It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other e-readers via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub, .mobi and some .pdf) for all books!

It’s also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.

Why StoryBundle? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.

  • Get quality reads: We’ve chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.
  • Pay what you want (minimum $5)You decide how much these fantastic books are worth. If you can only spare a little, that’s fine! You’ll still get access to a batch of exceptional titles.
  • Support authors who support DRM-free books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there’s nothing wrong with ditching DRM.
  • Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to the Video Game History Foundation!
  • Receive extra books: If you beat the bonus price, you’ll get the bonus books!

StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com.

BioSwarm (BattleSport 2) [Playstation, Nintendo 64 – Cancelled]

BioSwarm (initially conceived as “BattleSport II” and later also known as N.R.G. and Groundwave) is a cancelled sci-fi vehicle combat game that was in development in 1997 / 1998 by Cyclone Studios, planned to be released on Playstation and possibly on Nintendo 64 (as noted by IGN in 1998).

At the time Cyclone Studios was mostly known for BattleSport, a “futuristic sports game” published by 3DO in 1997 for their 3DO console, Playstation, Sega Saturn and PC. In BattleSport players battle in small arenas controlling armored hovercraft. The main objective is to shoot an energy ball into a target to score points, while killing your opponents. You could somehow imagine it like a mix between “Rocket League” and “Quake 3 Arena”.

battlesport-2-cyclone-studios

BattleSport was popular enough to deserve a sequel and soon Cyclone Studios started working on BattleSport 2 which was officially announced by 3DO at the time, originally planned for the ill-fated 3DO / Panasonic M2. As wrote by Gamespot:

“Battlesport II (working title) Another former M2 title, Battlesport II is a futuristic sports game planned as a PlayStation-only title due spring of ’98. The first Battlesport game was originally released on the 3DO console system, and it is due for the PlayStation soon through Acclaim.”

In May 1997 IGN also reported:

“3DO has secured approval from Sony to develop a sequel to BattleSport, one of the better titles for the original 3DO hardware. The game is currently under the working title of BattleSport 2 (no big surprise there) but it may end up as BattleSport Extreme among other possibilities. It has not yet been decided whether the game will focus more on combat or sports, but, “It will be drastically different than the first,” according to a 3DO spokesperson. BattleSport 2 is slated for an early 1998 release.”

Some more details about the game were shared by former Cyclone Studios President Helmut Kobler, in a short interview posted in 1997 on the n64.com website (now closed):

“N64.com spoke with Cyclone Studios President Helmut Kobler, who gave us an idea what the game will be like. “We definitely want to bring a version of BattleSport to N64,” said Kobler, the 28-year-old former University of California at Berkeley student. “We’ve spoken with Nintendo, they’ve given us the OK to make it, but right now we’re focusing on bringing a little more order here in-house before we move on to anything else.”

Cyclone will orchestrate a Nintendo 64-specific title, with loads of changes, abilities no other system will have, and has yet to decide which system the game will be developed for, 64DD or N64 cartridge. “Battlesport is born to be on a system like N64,” Said Kobler. “And there is a possibility of the game going four-player, if two systems could be hooked up. As far as I know, a link up is a possibility, but I can’t speak for Nintendo. […] But we’ll only do the game when we feel it’s right. We’re a small company, and we like it like that, so we need to be ready, and need to manage our resources properly.”

Kobler’s plans to make a version of BattleSport for Nintendo 64 include alterations like improving the graphics so that tanks and arenas will contain a quantifiable leap in polygons, and special effects that will include smoke and exhaust, and an altogether far more detailed world. “You wouldn’t just see a flat wall area, crowds, color, and much more would be seeable. And tanks could destroy certain parts of the arenas,” Kobler says.

[…] Lastly, explained Kobler, the game will have new parts to it, which add to the strategy. “Some of the new elements will include underground and above-ground tunnels to hide from the enemy, and pits as well,” he added.”

In the end BattleSport 2 was still primarily in development for Playstation, but unfortunately it seems that Sony, 3DO and Cyclone Studios were not exactly sure how to enhance this sequel. As we can read in an interview with Lance Lewis (former Cyclone developer):

MT: What is the current status of 3DO’s BioSwarm for the Playstation?

LL: We actually finished a playable level to demo at E3 in 1998, although it was never shown there. In defense of the game, I think it had really begun to take shape, and it was quite unique. However, this was one of those projects that just had too many “red flags” around it from day one. It was originally a sequel to the 3DO Multiplayer game BattleSport. I believe Sony wasn’t too keen on the idea, so it was redesigned and called N.R.G. (energy… get it?). Again, it wasn’t received too warmly so it was redesigned again to become BioSwarm. All of this was going on while the game retained that same engine, presenting a problem for the design team. I feel technology should be built to house a game, a game shouldn’t have to be restricted by pre-built technology. Now, there was nothing wrong with the technology, it was great in fact… but… it was built to do a particular style of game, so every design after that was obviously going to be limited. Upper management really didn’t care about details like this and so once again the 3DO theme: “Re-use, re-use, re-use…”

Unfortunately Lance Lewis passed away in January 2018; family and friends organized a “celebration of life” ceremony for him in San Jose.

To learn more about this lost game we got in contact with James Hampton, former Lead Game Designer at Cyclone Studios on BioSwarm, who recall when he started working on the project:

Eddie Ruvinsky and Rob Adams were the lead programmer and artist on the team, and together they put together a playable level that featured these articulated hover ships that Rob had designed. When I started at Cyclone Studios, I was tasked with building a game design based on this prototype.

I agreed that the ships were fun to zoom around the arena they built, and wanted to add some unique mechanics that could help the game stand out in the vehicle combat genre. As a group we brainstormed and came up with a bunch of pop-culture inspired enemies and arenas.

The core idea for BioSwarm (as seen in the storyboards for the intro movie) was that a pair of intergalactic garbage men come across Earth, and when they see how polluted Earth is,  they saw as the perfect landfill to dump their toxic waste on. This space trash turns out to be these energy based creatures that travel in swarms which defended itself by bringing stuff to life to fight for them.  Each of the arena would be set in different kinds of trash themed locales such as ‘Silicon Slums‘ (where old computers parts and monitors go to die), a nuclear power plant, and even a Vegas like level that focused on ‘trashy pop culture’. Example: in the Automobile wrecking yard level, the swarm summons a boss monster whose body is made up of automobiles and car parts (this is the enemy creature seen in the BioSwarm poster and video). This initial build included a subtle easter egg in that a lot of the cars used in the boss monsters body were based on the vehicles the dev team drove to work every day.

The amazing art duo of Rob Adams and Mark Dixon came up with some excellent concept art to show what these new kind of enemies could be.”

BioSwarm’s gameplay was quite different from its early conception as BattleSport 2. Sports’ mechanics of scoring points by shooting balls in a target were dropped in favor of a more combat-focused gameplay, merging cult classics vehicle combat games such as Twisted Metal and Vigilante 8 with an interesting “flocking Artificial Intelligence”.

As told us by James:

“The goal for the BioSwarm player was to round up these alien energy creatures that defended itself by bringing inanimate objects to life to act as their protectors. Sort of a science fiction take on rodeo lasso-ing using these Hoverships to chase down, lasso and capture the ‘swarm’ of creatures. The Swarm used a “flocking” AI algorithm which resulted in these dynamic movement patterns of the swarm moving as one.”

The team worked hard on BioSwarm until April 1998, when Cyclone Studios were fully merged into 3DO and the project was cancelled so that they could instead focus on titles based on their “Army Men” franchise. They developed “Army Men: Air Attack”, published in 1999 for Playstation, Nintendo 64 and PC.

Before BioSwarm got canned the team was able to develop a “pre-alpha” version, which offered a taste of what the moment to moment gameplay was like. While not everything was implemented, you could control a hover ship in an environment inspired by Three Mile Island / nuclear plants and chase down the swarming creatures and zap them. This early demo was presented to the executives at Cyclone and 3DO, as well as a handful of journalists from some of the game magazines publishing at the time (such as EGM). We hope one day someone could rediscover BioSwarm‘s playable demo to share and preserve it online.

On a curious note, years later after Cyclone Studios merged with 3DO their former office space was used by Thomas Dolby’s company Beatnik to work on audio software solutions and games for Macromedia and shockwave.com. James remembers Dolby shown him a demo of Beatnik’s software remixing “She Blinded me with Science” in the same conference room they used to pitch game ideas while at Cyclone.

Huge thanks to James Hampton for helping us preserving more details to remember this promising lost game. All BioSwarm art was developed by lead artist Rob Adams and Mark Dixon. Also thanks to Ross Sillifant for the contribution!

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Dwagons [SNES, Mega Drive – Cancelled]

The 16-bit era is often mentioned as the Golden Age of Gaming. A graced period that gave us hundreds of awesome classic games. It was a time when 2D game development was maturing and lots of ideas from the 8-bit generation would be revamped with new technology and graphics. Some old concepts and gameplay would still do pretty well in 16-bit, others had to be reworked and adapted, while still using similar and already successful mechanics. The latter is the case for Dwagons, our featured game.

Dwagons is a cancelled maze-puzzle game planned to be released on the Super Nintendo and Sega Mega Drive (Genesis). It was in development by UK based company Imagitec Design. As noted in a magazine preview found by the spanish board SEGASaturno, Dwagons shared similar ideas with Pengo (a 1982 arcade game by Sega) and Sokoban (a japanese puzzle game from the same time).

In Pengo the player must navigate through a maze and push ice blocks to defeat every enemy on screen in the shortest time possible. In Sokoban a more strategic approach is needed: the player have to move and fit blocks into specific areas to open the next level. Both had very simple but very successful formula for the 1980’s gaming market.

Dwagons would add a little more depth into the “static-screen block pushing” type of game in “a combination of adventure, strategy and arcade“.  It would feature multiple-themed levels, co-operative multiplayer, multi-layered puzzles and a lot of secrets to uncover, everything wrapped in a cartoon-like medieval fantasy theme.

Developers even thought about other gameplay elements like magic spells, teleporting blocks, rafts to move through water places and trap doors that could make the player backtrack. By that time, gameplay variety was a central idea among gamers and developers and core mechanics for puzzle games were evolving (see Capcom’s Goof Troop for the SNES for example).

We don’t know how close Dwagons was from completion or how much of the game had actually been made, but judging from screenshots and detailed previews it seems it was already in a pretty advanced stage. It even had a whole scenario and a plot of its own. Two dragons (Dwagons) named Snort and Snail set on a quest to retrieve the Magic Talisman of Power and rescue their brother, Snarf, captured by the evil Lord Flame.

Imagitec was responsible for a variety of  arcade game ports released mostly on Atari and Amiga platforms. They worked with other companies such as Atari Corporation, Gremlin Graphics, and Electronic Arts until early 1997 when Imagitec was purchased by Gremlin and renamed Gremlin Interactive Studios.”

Thanks to Marçal Mora Cantallops for the scans!

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Zone of the Enders 3 (Enders Project) [Cancelled – PS3, Xbox 360]

Enders Project (also know as Zone of the Enders 3) is a cancelled game which seems to have been planned for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 (and possibly also for PS4 & Xbox One) by Hideo Kojima and Konami. The game would have been the third chapter in the popular Zone of the Enders game series, but it was scrapped at a very early stage in development.

Zone of Enders, the series

The first Zone of the Enders is a third-person shooter / hack and slash type of video game set in 2172 where the player assumes controls of a mecha (known as Orbital Frame) called Jehuty. His mission is to free Jupiter’s colony Antilia from the military force BAHRAM. Its sequel, Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner (know in Japan as Anubis: Zone of the Ender), followed the same style but improved on many aspects, introducing more enemies, abilities and a more immersive environment. ZOE 3: Enders Project was conceived as a direct sequel to Second Runner, without taking place on futuristic colonies but rather in an “ancient civilization”.

“Unofficial announcement” of ZOE 3

The game was ‘announced’ on 25 May 2012 during a Zone of the Enders HD Collection preview event held at the Shinjuku Wald 9 theatre in Tokyo, with many Kojima Productions’s employees and ZOE developers, including Hideo Kojima himself, Yoji Shinkawa (mecha designer and illustrator for the series), Noriaki Okamura, Shuyou Murata, and Nobuyoshi Nishimura. As 4gamer reported, it was not an official announcement, rather a presentation of details about a future project for ZOE, experimenting with different concepts and models.

Quote from andriasang.com:

As detailed at Famitsu.com, Kojima indicated that the game is currently in an early prototyping phase. Producer Ryosuke Toriyama and other key staff are currently conducting tests on what can be done using the internally developed Fox Engine, explained Kojima. Toriyama took the stage and revealed that he and his staff are at the state where they’re making models (real models) and converting them into Fox Engine assets.

Example of one of these model (possibly the main Orbital Frame) via tkjy’s Tumblr

http://tkjy.tumblr.com/post/23731533519/20120525-新宿バルト9にて撮影-zoe続編検討用イメージモデルとイメージイラスト

Picture of the model from Kojima’s tweet (via neogaf.com forums):

Kojima’s words on ZOE 3

Given the fact that the game was only a concept in early development, there are not many details circulating, some of them coming from a series of Twitter posts from Kojima himself.

Details and translation of the tweets appeared on SiliconeraOriginal tweets in Japanese are provided above:

Kojima says his plan is not to change the nature of the game, but the world will have a different presentation. Kojima says this title will be a true sequel. Right now, the development team is looking at two styles – a Japanese animation style with sci-fi robots and a live action real world style based on works like X-Men, Batman, and Spider-Man.

Kojima says the team isn’t trying to make a photo-realistic game, but the Fox Engine, which is still under development, is optimized for this look. Creating a global and high-end Zone of the Enders style is essential for the times and an anime style Zone of the Enders game would eat the budget and only be for a domestically designed title for Japan.

A few of his staff have the sci-fi spirit, Kojima says, and will probably want to create robots with an anime look to them.

Evangelion, Akira, and Gundam were cited by Kojima as sci-fi series from Japan with global appeal.

While Kojima is a producer on Enders Project, he’s busy working on Project Ogre. Other staff like producer Ryosuke Toriyama will lead Enders Project after Kojima creates the initial design of the game. Game design, script, direction, level design, and supervision will be handled by other staff.

Youtuber HyperBitHero details some of the possible concepts around the game:

In particular, judging from concept arts available, it looks like the game would have been based on exoskeletons, rather than mechas (but it remains pure speculation).

Why was ZOE 3: Enders Project cancelled?

Kojima announced the cancellation of the project on his HideoBlog radio show. Apparently, Zone of the Enders HD Collection failed to deliver a smooth enhancement of the two original games, and Kojima felt the need to re-evaluate the franchise before going any further. He also said that the team working on Enders Project has been disbanded.

It is unclear what will be the future for a new episode of ZOE. Konami announced yet another remaster titled Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner — Mars, developed by Cygames with 4K graphics and VR support. The game is a direct remaster of Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner and will be out in Spring 2018 for PlayStation 4 and Windows PC.

Image gallery of Enders Project / Zone of the Enders 3 (via DengekiOnline):

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