News on Beta & Cancelled Games

Nomos (Haven) [Xbox 360, PS3 – Cancelled]

Nomos (previously known as Haven) is a cancelled sci-fi action adventure that was in development by Coded Illusions for Xbox 360 and PS3. Not much is know about it’s settings and gameplay, but from what we gathered it looks it would have been set in some kind of alien planet threatened by a new world order regime. 

The project was started by the team in 2005, but in 2008 they had to close down because of lack of money to keep the studio alive “following the effects of the financial crisis that made it difficult to find a publisher”. Some of its former employees founded a new studio called Vertigo Games, reworking part of the ideas and 3D assets conceived for Nomos into a different game titled “Adam’s Venture”, released in 2009.

Some footage and concept art from Nomos was shared online by former developers, preserving what the team had originally in mind for their project.

“The level shown in the video is part of a bigger level known as the ‘Sanctuary’, which is an underground cave-system inhabited by a peaceful group of people who found refuge from the terror of a new world order regime.”

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Angel quest (Virtual Studio) [PS1, PC – Cancelled]

Angel Quest is a cancelled action adventure that was in development by french company Virtual Studio (Ar’Kritz the Intruder, S.T.O.R.M.) around 1996 / 1997, to be published by GT Interactive (Driver, Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus, Critical Depth) for Playstation and PC. You could freely explore a huge (for its time) 3D world by flying around with its winged protagonist, somehow similar to a 3D Kid Icarus. You would fight against enemies in real time, helping NPCs and resolving quests as in a classic Action RPG.

As far as we know GT Interactive never officially announced this project, but thanks to Stéphane de Luca who shared some images and details on his website, we can preserve the memory of this lost game: 

“This project was the first to use optical motion capture for real time animation: we pioneered this advanced technology. The heroes was an Angel living in a very large world: he could make use of his ability to fly to speed up its move towards the next location to visit. Numerous characters were also there to help him find his way, giving him potential clues through interactive dialogs. 

Angel Quest was running on PlayStation on which I programmed the engine and the game in C and assembler. All the characters were in 3D and animated through motion capture: I developed a compression tool that reduced the data stream (curve) that was moving each node of the skeleton. The word was really huge: I had to stream all blocks silently from the CD-ROM drive as the heroes was moving: it was a big challenge due to bandwidth limitation.”

In the end Angel Quest was canned for unknown reasons. Virtual Studio later worked on other cancelled action games for PS1, such as Commando and Valerian.

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Gravity One [PS2, Xbox 360 – Cancelled]

Gravity One is a cancelled third person shooter that was in development by Kawaii Studio and Widescreen Games (mostly known for Dead to Rights II and the cancelled The Witcher: Rise of the White Wolf) around 2003 / 2006, initially planned to be released for PS2 and later for Xbox 360. The project was never officially announced by Kawaii / Widescreen, but some footage is preserved below to remember its existence.

As far as we know Gravity One was going to be a linear third person shooter, with an original twist: the game was set in some kind of space-station, so you could be able to fly around in zero-gravity rooms. This means you had to shoot down enemies while moving around in all directions, using boxes and other parts of the scenario as flying-covers or weapons. The project was still in early development while Kawaii Studio pitched it around to different publishers: it’s possible they would have added more mechanics to it, if only they had found support.

It seems Gravity One was initially conceived as a Playstation 2 game, but with time passing without finding a publisher, the team switched the project to the soon-to-be-released Xbox 360 console. Even if Microsoft’s Xbox 360 market was quite perfect for third-person shooters, Gravity One was quietly cancelled.

In the end Kawaii Studio never released any game: their second know prototype titled “Ghostman” was also canned. Kawaii Studio seems to have been fully merged or acquired by Widescreen Games in 2006, possibly to help them with other major projects, such as their cancelled “The Witcher” console port.

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Drachen Zor [PC – Cancelled]

Drachen Zor is a cancelled multiplayer arena fighting game that was in development for PC around 1997 / 1998 by 8th Wonder Games, using voxel technology to show off impressive graphics for its time: 

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“8th Wonder Games today announced the development of the V-Engine, the technology used in fantasy fighting game Drachen Zor. Drachen Zor, set for publication by Southpeak Interactive this October, is the first in a series of action games from 8th Wonder that it hopes will be based on the new technology.

The engine is a combination of proprietary in-house technologies with an open architecture for integration with other technologies. It contains multiplayer networking, high resolution 3-D character definition that doesn’t use polygons, and a voxel-based engine for landscapes. 8th Wonder says that this means more fluid and realistic worlds plus AI that adapts to players’ styles.”

As we can read in an old interview with Bob Chase (former SouthPeak Interactive’s Media Relations Specialist):

“BC: Drachen Zor is a fantasy action CD-ROM game developed by 8th Wonder Games set in the mystical world of Drakkor. Players can choose to be one of eight different characters in an epic-style tournament for control of the Dragon Gate. Drachen Zor’s proprietary V-Engine supports multi-player gaming via the Internet, LAN and modem. We expect Drachen Zor to be available October 1997.”

In our book “Video Games You Will Never Play“ (2016) we published an interview with Gabe Cinquepalmi, who worked at 8th Wonder Games on Drachen Zor. He shared some memories about their cancelled project:

“Gabe: My best memories of making of Drachen Zor were about the people. I made a lot of friends back then that I still keep in touch with today. We were all new to making PC games, and had to go through a lot of trial and error. A multiplayer voxel fighter was probably a little too ambitious for a company comprised mostly of an ex-medical CD-ROM crew and some kids fresh out of school, but we were too inexperienced to know that we were too inexperienced… and we had an irrational confidence and exuberance that would help us negate most of that. We worked on the game for two blissful years, fueled by Mountain Dew and Watchamacallits. I remember animating in 3D Studio R4 using forward kinematics, having to use dry erase markers on my monitor to keep registration points for feet. I remember the pizza guy across the street would call us “computer brains” when we came over to get a slice. I remember that we had an SGI Onyx computer for Softimage, that only one guy could use. It was the size of a small refrigerator and cost as much as a house. During production, 3D PC cards came out for a few hundred bucks that pushed polys faster, making everyone who owned one of those overpriced, oversized hulking cubes feel rather silly. I also remember getting carpal tunnel from playing too much Quake after work, and had to switch to a Wacom tablet exclusively for a few years. Random memories. Good times.

I don’t remember how we got into voxels, but we were sure that it was the silver bullet that was going to set us apart. We were going to be the first game to market with that tech. Our organic characters were leaps and bounds better looking than the industry standard box men running around. I think a Star Trek licensed game ended up coming out eventually, and then it petered out for a few years until it resurfaced as a hip new indie look.

Southpeak was a great ally at first. They treated us and the game well, and weren’t shy about digging into their bottomless coffers. We showed at E3 in Atlanta at a giant kiosk filled with actors dressed as our main characters, and then rented out Planet Hollywood for a fancy party afterwards.They got respected comic artist, Bill Sienkiewicz, to do our box cover and poster. We were riding high! Shortly after that, Southpeak suddenly pulled the plug [cue Price is Right fail sound].

At the time, Southpeak told us that they were going to move into a more kid-friendly direction, and went after licenses like Looney Tunes. Our violent fantasy fighter (with blood splats) did not fit into their plans any more, and voxels were dead now that the 3DFx card was selling like hotcakes. Our company was left in the lurch. We tried to “pivot”, as the kids say, to move the company into a different direction, but we didn’t have the notice or capital to make it. 8th Wonder was scattered to the wind. A few years later, after having worked on some great games, I can look back and see that they probably cancelled it because it just wasn’t the best game. It wasn’t our time.”

In the end Southpeak Interactive officially announced Drachen Zor’s cancellation in September 1998. As we can read on IGN:

“Southpeak Interactive has canned fantasy fighting game Drachen Zor, the company said today. “[It] just didn’t meet the high standards that we’ve established for ourselves and for our products,” said Southpeak president Armistead Sapp. He did note that Southpeak might still make a game set in the fantasy world.

“We still believe the unique characters, environments and story line at the heart of Drachen Zor create a solid foundation for a thrilling fighting game,” Sapp said.”

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Lawmaker (Darkroom Studios) [Cancelled – PC]

Lawmaker is a cancelled western themed FPS that was in development for PC by Darkroom Studios around 2005. The team planned to mix the usual first-person shooting gameplay with the less-abused setting of old wild-west America, to create a fun action game for fans of the genre. 

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As we can read from their old website:

“Immerse yourself into the chaos of the 19th century gold rush as Colt Kaufman, a man caught in a degenerative struggle for money, power, and revenge in the western FPS Lawmaker. Coming home to Kaufman for the first time in ten years, you find a butchered father, a mother forced into hiding, and an inferno of greed fueled by deception. Old friends have become new enemies, and the word “trust” is a tattered remnant of days gone by. In a town where silence is the weapon of choice, who can you turn to when your back’s against the wall? It’s up to you to reap revenge upon your father’s murderer, but the killer’s scent grows colder by the hour.

Lawmaker harnesses breathtaking visual effects and the power of an intense, tightly knit single player storyline to create a game that completely consumes the player in a world as grand as the old legends of the Wild West.

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Lose yourself in the old Wild West as you brawl your way through a bevy of breathtaking settings including large estates, plantations, docks, mansions, and a riverboat, just to name a few. When you’re not busy fighting for your life in one of those locales, amble your way through one of the multiple expansive environments. There you can hang with the hoodlums in the poorer parts of town or you can wrap yourself in the security of the law-abiding sections. Whether you elect to live life on the edge or revel in the nightlife is up to you. You choose your own destination, path, and, possibly, destiny.

Whether you’re battling along side them, against them, or playing as them, you’ll interact with over 35 individual characters throughout the Lawmaker universe. They have their own goals and agendas, and they definitely have their own way of dealing with little “problems” that come up during the course of the day. If you become one of those problems, you might just find yourself on the business end of a hand cannon. 

Blast your way through the world of Lawmaker using a number of different weapons. If you get bored blowing away enemies with your handy double barreled sawed off shotgun, pick up an axe and hack your way through them. What’s that you say? You don’t want to have to put down one of them just to pick up another? If the carnage inflicted with one weapon just isn’t enough, then why not create your own deadly duo of weaponry by wielding both simultaneously. What can stand in your way when you have the accuracy of the Peacemaker and the close range power of the sawed off shotgun? Absolutely nothing. 

Highlights

– A battery of Single Player indoor and outdoor missions

– Astonishing visual characterization of the real Wild West with goal-driven A.I., photo-realistic imagery, and a rich storyline

– Staggering environmental effects such as tornadoes, dust storms, and lightning.

– Relentless, fast-paced action that leaves you on the edge of your seat”

In the end Darkroom Studios was not able to complete their project. We don’t know what happened, but Lawmaker and its team soon disappeared: as it often happens with cancelled video games, they probably did not find a publisher interested in supporting them and with no money they had to stop working on the game. 

Thanks to Dan for the contribution!

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