News on Beta & Cancelled Games

Death to Spies 3: Ghost of Moscow [PS3, Xbox 360, PC – Cancelled, Beta]

Death to Spies 3: Ghost of Moscow is the cancelled third game in the Death to Spies franchise, in developed in 2010 by Haggard Games and to be published by 1C Company on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC. While the original project was never released on the 7th generation of consoles, the game was later reworked and rebranded as Alekhine’s Gun and published by Maximum Games for PC, Xbox One, and PS4 on March 2016.

Previous Death to Spies chapters (Death to Spies and Death to Spies: Moment of Truth) were set during World War II and the protagonist is a member of the Soviet counterintelligence agency SMERSH called Semyon Strogov. In Ghost of Moscow players had to use stealth to resolve different missions and kill enemies without being detected, exploring non-linear levels with multiple ways of completing objectives, somehow similar to the Hitman series.

As one member of Haggard Games explains, Death to Spies 3: Ghost of Moscow was originally canned because of internal changes at 1C Company:

“Not related to the game. It’s more of their change in business strategy. They closed almost all projects in development and all their internal studios after financial problems and focused only on distribution/publishing already finished products.”

To continue development of the title, Haggard Games ran two crowdfunding campaigns: one on Indiegogo in 2013 and another on Kickstarter in 2014. Unfortunately both campaigns failed to reach the funding goal but they were later able to collaborate with Maximum Games to continue the development of the game as Alekhine’s Gun. This new version follows the same SMERSH (now KGB) agent, Semyon Strogov, who was recruited in the CIA during the 1960’s to untangle a plot inside the United States that could spark nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States.

The original beta version of Death to Spies 3 had two other playable characters: Olga Godunova-Lopes and Victor Kovalev. Players could switch between each character at any time during a mission. Alexegy Agamalov, lead developer of Haggard Games was able to provide more details about some the cuts and changes made on the game:

Matt Redmond: I’ve noticed from media, such as screen shots that Victor Kovalev and Olga Godunova-Lopes were to be playable. Was that removed for gameplay balance or to focus the narrative on Semyon Strogov?

Alexegy Agamalov: They were removed because of complexity. It was too much work to design/balance/playtest/focus test/etc.. And we had to cut some features to release the game in time. (After we signed with Maximum Games additional work related to consoles were added). Story also did change, some levels were redesigned to be played by Semyon only.

MR: What kind of abilities were planned for Victor and Olga?

AA: Olga was able to attract guards and other NPC’s, also climbing into some special places (such as small passages not wide enough for the men). Victor was a sniper and knife master, able to hide in shadows or grass. Semyon was able to use disguises.

MR: How was the story modified as the characters were reduced to only Semyon?

AA: Story was completely changed. First story was based mostly on Bay of Pigs invasion. We also had to change the story because rights on it belonged to our previous publisher.. Well, mostly there was gameplay feature cuts (like removing multi-characters), levels were redesigned. Two of the levels were changed from Cold War era to WW2 era (Dts1 levels remakes).

MR: Did Maximum Games decide to pick up the title as they announced plans that the company wanted to expand their publishing portfolio to more mature/adult games? Or was because of the original gameplay demo? (And how much of the game was completed before Maximum Games picked up the project?)

AA: I can’t speak for Maximum Games, but I guess it was a way for them to expand their portfolio. As for how much it was completed, on the moment of signing with MG, Death to Spies 3 was about half-way completed for features/gameplay and 70% on content (graphics/animations/sounds/etc..)

Death to Spies, Death to Spies: Moment of Truth and Alekhine’s Gun are all available on Steam.

Article by Matt Redmond

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Project Exile (Studio Archcraft) – [GBA – cancelled]

Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled is a role-playing game produced by a Canadian company Studio Archcraft and published by Graffiti Entertainment in 2009 on the Nintendo DS platform. After their first ideas for a game in 2001, actual game development started way back in 2003 on another platform: the Game Boy Advance.

The project became known as “Project Exile” and it was meant to be a Super Nintendo style RPG in the likes of Chrono Trigger. In June 2006 Studio Archcraft however took the decision to port the complete game over to the Nintendo DS instead of releasing it on the Game Boy Advance. In an interview (see screenshots below + another interview in here) developer Archcraft described the change of console as mostly a business decision. The Game Boy Advance was nearing the end of it’s life cycle and the Nintendo DS would provide them more freedom design-wise and more flexibility in memory/ screen space.

Although the Nintendo DS was capable of playing Game Boy Advance titles the company took the decision to completely port the title and abandon the Game Boy Advance version. Development must have been quite far judging the quite good looking screenshots of the game as well as a promotional/ gameplay video dated 2006 I found. I also retrieved a progress report stating a 70% completion dating back to June 2004.

Also found below are some screenshots dating June 2006 from Archcraft’s old website: all Game Boy Advance material but also the announcement of porting the game to the Nintendo DS.  So June 2006 end of a promising game: Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled aka Project Exile for the Game Boy Advance.

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promotional/ gameplay Video by Archcraft – 2006:

progress report & interview 2006:

 

 

 

 

 

website screenshots archive.org:

Kaio: King of Pirates [3DS – Cancelled]

It is not the first, but one of the more memorable failures in Keiji Inafune’s growing history of cancellations and shortcomings: “Kaio: King of Pirates” was announced for the 3DS in 2011, and was planned to not only be a launch title for Nintendo’s wildly popular handheld, but also to spawn an own multimedia franchise with anime, manga and toys. The project was the first game that Comcept, Keiji Inafune’s new studio, should develop after he left Capcom. Looking for an alternative way to achieve his visions and free himself from restrictions, he decided to found Comcept and Intercept, two new game development companies to work on his own ideas and titles.

Kaio: King of Pirates was the first game to be developed by Comcept and Intercept. Marvelous had acquired the rights to fund and thus publish the game. It was planned as the first part in a trilogy of games that would recount the infamous Romance of the Three Kingdoms tale, similar to other Japanese games like Dynasty Warriors. In this case, the scenario was that of pirates, ships and sea monsters, albeit with the twist of anthropomorphic characters. The main character Sangokushi is a penguin, and in the trailer one can spot numerous other animals such as lions, snakes, parrots, cats and even dragons. There is not much else to be found on the internet: the first and only trailer with English subtitles from 2011 is everything that is left of Kaio: King of Pirates.

Gameplay was planned to be quite like the Dynasty Warriors series, with the ability to pick up and play for longer sessions without problems. This is also one of the reasons why Keiji Inafune chose the 3DS as main platform, as opposed to mobile phones. The game was announced almost around the same time that the 3DS was unveiled, and was planned for release in 2012. Later, it was delayed to 2014, before being cancelled by Marvelous in the beginning of 2015. The company stated it had lost around 3.8 million dollars (or 461 million yen) in the 4-year-period of Kaio’s development.

Keiji Inafune has since turned to crowdfunding for his newer projects, but it seems the former Mega Man-talent cannot reach the glory of his past projects: Mighty No. 9, despite being a successful Kickstarter campaign, has received rather mixed and average reviews after release in 2016. Other Comcept games are Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z from 2014 for PS3, X360 and PC, as well as the Microsoft Studios-published ReCore, which also released in 2016 for PC and Xbox One. Let’s hope Inafune’s bad luck will end soon, because his next project Red Ash: The Indelible Legend is described as the spiritual successor to the Mega Man Legends titles. Despite causing some controversies in its Kickstarter campaign, which ran when Mighty No. 9 was still in development, the game is planned for a 2017 release on PS4, Xbox One and PC.

Article by kazuhira64

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Project V13 (Strategy RPG Version) [PC – Cancelled]

Project V13 was the codename originally used for Interplay‘s original attempt at creating Fallout Online, an overly-ambitious MMO that was initially in development in 2006 by Engage Games Online, then by Micro Forté and in the end by Masthead Studios, before to be finally cancelled.

The original Project V13 MMO was canned after a lengthy court case with Bethesda as Interplay lost the rights to make the MMO using the Fallout IP. Interplay could have probably tried to rework their MMO into an original IP, but we can assume they understood it would have been difficult to successfully develop and complete a quality MMO without enough money and without a recognized IP to work with. That’s when they decided to redesign their game as a classic isometric turn-based strategy RPG using a new setting, but still similar to the original two Fallout games. This kind of project is something they could have easily completed with way less money, using their previous experience on strategy RPGs.

To work on this second version of Project V13 Interplay decided to reconstitute the previously closed Black Isle Studios, using their fame to hype up the game, even if only Mark O’Green and Chris Taylor were back from the original team. In december 2012 Interplay and Black Isle opened a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to create a prototype of their new strategy RPG, raising slightly over $6000.

Donating to the campaign gained access to the Black Isle Forums on which they posted updates and pieces of concept art from the game, as well as a picture of the tabletop prototype that they were using to test out the rules for the digital game.

Here’s the original details available on the Black Isle website / crowdfunding campaign:

“Project V13 (PV13) is the first planned Black Isle Studios release in years, a post-apocalyptic strategy RPG. You will create a character to represent yourself within the game world. Your character will be a hardy adventurer from a variety of backgrounds; one of the last remaining humans, a new breed mutant, or a technologically advanced cyborg. The choice is yours.

Once you have determined your character’s background, you will found your “colony”. From a deserted city, a broken down military base, or even the ruins of an oil pumping station, the colony will be yours to rebuild and control. Attract non-player characters for guards, peons, scientists, and other activities. Or, if you are the type that so desires, shanghai the NPCs. Put them to work rebuilding your society and improving your colony.

Meanwhile, you will experience grand adventures to gather the resources and ancient technologies as well as fight back the enemy hordes. Your character will gain experience, advance skills, learn new talents and gain access to incredibly powerful equipment. Or die trying.

Explore the world, meet friends, and fight your neighbors for control of resources. PV13 will be your chance to rebuild a devastated world.

Project V13 cancelled Black Isle second SRPG

About the Team

We’re an experienced team of game developers. We love the post-apocalyptic genre and want to do something exciting with it. PV13 has been in development for years, but we’ve had to make some major changes recently. We believe the changes are for the better and we’re excited about working on this new iteration of PV13.

We Need Help

But we can’t do it alone. We need to raise money to put together a prototype. We need more developers and staff. This is a big world we’re developing.

The prototype will be a “proof of concept“. It won’t have the entire world or a finished game. We’ve got some great ideas, but they haven’t been tested in the crucible of actual play. We need time and money. We’ll have most, if not all, systems in the proof of concept. We’ll be able to run around the world, interacting with NPCs and objects, basic combat, building and worker management, and test the other core gameplay mechanics.

We can then use this prototype to raise the additional funds necessary to complete the game.

Our backers will have immediate access to a private forum, where you will be able to interact with the developers. You’ll have the earliest possible access to the friends and family beta test towards the end of development. You will be able to influence the game’s ultimate direction by providing valuable feedback.

Sounds great, but what will you do with my money?

We have been working hard behind the scenes to resume operations as Black Isle Studios. Since we are no longer constrained by licensing issues, we have the opportunity to build a new IP from the ground up and there is a lot more latitude to unleash our creativity, try some new ideas and even incorporate your suggestions. Our goal at this stage is threefold: 1) prove to management that you want Black Isle Studios resurrected – and all the history and tradition of excellence that goes with it; 2) to continue to staff up BIS and complete our PV13 game design; and 3) to develop a tech demo/ proof of concept for our design that will open the doors to additional funding.”

Unfortunately feedback on this new project was not very good, only hardcore fans of Black Isle and old-school strategy RPGs supported the crowdfunding campaign, it was not enough to really develop a playable prototype and raise more funds. Interplay quietly removed any references to Project V13 from their website, the supporters’ Forum were closed down sometime later and there are no official statements on what happened to it.

As wrote by machiavalium on Reddit:

“After seeing it and realizing it was months past the deadline, I decided to check it out again and see where the project stood. It hasn’t changed much at all, in fact the ability to donate was still up and running until August 15th, 2014, eight months past the original deadline and two months past the Forum deadline. They ended with only $6,630 (Campaign Successful!), with donations trickling in once every couple months according to their feed.

They haven’t provided public updates since January 3rd, despite continuing to take donations for another eight months. Did anyone around here contribute? Has anyone heard any news? Or was it really just a shady cash-grab by Black Isle/Interplay?”

Only a few concept arts and a photo from the tabletop test-game remains to remember this unreleased project. On September 2016 Interplay sold off all their remaining intellectual properties and video game assets, ending their long troubled existence.

Thanks to True Patrician for the contribution!

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(b)Last (quantic dream) [PS2, Xbox – Cancelled]

Before to became a hugely popular studio among Playstation fans thanks to successful games such as Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, Quantic Dream was a somewhat obscure French studio mostly known for their cult adventure games Omikron: The Nomad Soul and Fahrenheit.

In early ‘00s Quantic Dream was trying to expand their portfolio with many different projects for the 6th generation of consoles (Dreamcast, PS2, Xbox, GameCube), announcing a few titles that never seen the light of day: Omikron 2, Quark and (b)Last.

(b)Last is for sure one of their most obscure and mysterious project, with only a few details and low-quality images to remember its existence. As far as we know it was meant to be an action game / beat ‘em up in a sci-fi / fantasy setting mixing together Lovecraft tales and the Matrix movies, with weird tentacle monsters, laser weapons, super powers and many different characters to interact with.

While Omikron 2 was probably Quantic Dream’s major focus at the time, only a small team of artists and developers were working on (b)Last: unfortunately the project was soon canned for unknown reasons, but we can speculate the studio fell into some issues while developing so many different games at the same time, making it hard to create a quality, fun game.

As we can read in an old interview with David Cage:

UL: Does QD canceled projects live in this new project? bLast, Quark… other?
DC: We usually start several projects at the same time. Over the last years, one of them get so much interest from publishers that we had to cancel or at least postpone the others. Each Quantic Dream’s project requires up to 80 people and all our attention. It is difficult to start several original project with the same ambition in matter of quality…

At the moment only a couple of images are preserved from (b)Last, we hope to be able to save many more artworks in the future with the help of former developers who worked on it. If you know someone who worked on (b)Last, please let us know!

Thanks to Maik for the contribution!

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