New Cancelled Games & Their Lost Media Added to the Archive

They Hunger: Lost Souls [PC – Cancelled]

They Hunger: Lost Souls is a canceled horror First-Person Shooter developed by Black Widow Games, exclusively for PC, from 2004 to 2008. It is a successor of They Hunger, a mod based on Half-Life.

They Hunger: Lost Souls was officially revealed in October 2005 by its developer:

Black Widow Games announced today the development of They Hunger: Lost Souls, its first commercial PC game powered by the award-winning Half-Life 2 Source engine from Valve Software. Based upon the highly popular They Hunger mod series, the upcoming title features a completely new horror-survival adventure. In North-Eastern Europe during the early 1960’s, strange anomalies culminate with dead corpses rising from their graves. As a tourist recovering from a tragic accident, you seek shelter in an ancient monastery overrun by bloodthirsty zombies, and become involved in an escalading cascade of calamities.

“They Hunger: Lost Souls is a first-person action game planned to take full advantage of the superior graphics, physics and new gameplay possibilities provided by the new Source technology,” said designer Neil Manke. “Without the previous technical restrictions of the now seven years old Half-Life 1 engine, we have been able to produce a brand new game far more exciting and creative than any simple sequel or remake could ever be. Fans of the original series should still recognize the basic gameplay style, although this is an independent story with no previous knowledge required.”

The new game is currently 75% complete after being secretly produced for almost a year, and a release date will be announced shortly. Regarding the adoption of a commercial model for this production, Neil explained “Next generation game engines are so complex and detailed that we would never be able to invest so much time and resources for such an ambitious project any other way. Right now we are still working out the pricing and distribution options, but our goal is a low cost alternative so it can be available for just a fraction of other commercial games.”

In the same month, Neil Manke, alongside Einar Saukas, were interviewed by Gamecloud:

Gamecloud – Why did you wish to use the Source engine from Half-Life 2 as the basis for your first game?

Neil Manke – Source is the only brush-based modern 3D game engine. In practice, it means a level designer can create interesting environments using mostly brushes, and later add special models to improve specific details. Working with brushes gives me much more flexibility and opportunity to improvise with my creativity. In comparison, most other state-of-the-art engines depend upon the rather slow and involved process of developing very specific models for every stage of architecture.

Gamecloud – What can you tell us about the back story for They Hunger: Lost Souls and how it relates to the previous They Hunger games?

Neil Manke – In the story, you are a tourist visiting North-Eastern Europe during the early 1960’s. After a dramatic, blood-curdling accident, you find yourself wandering alone in the wilderness and seek shelter in an ancient monastery. However, you soon realize things in this place of “sanctuary” are not what they should be. You then become involved in a desperate series of bone-chilling struggles to preserve your own life, and escape from this nightmarish experience.

Gamecloud – Where will the new game take place and what will the levels be like?

Neil Manke – Some of those locations have already been partially revealed in our first promotional images. Settings include: a huge ancient monastery complex comprised of many varied buildings, some clinging precariously to seaside cliffs, a zombie-infested salvage operation, an isolated farming settlement, wilderness areas with meandering river beds, lakes and waterfalls, fog shrouded swamps, and others. And there is still more to come.

Gamecloud – What new weapons can we expect to see in They Hunger: Lost Souls?

Einar Saukas – The weapons are similar to those in classic They Hunger, in the sense that they are a selection of era-relevant weapons, explosives and incendiaries. With the addition of a unique and innovative new weapon, the likes of which I can’t reveal to you, otherwise we will have to eliminate you and end this interview!

Gamecloud – What other new gameplay features will They Hunger: Lost Souls have?

Einar Saukas – There are many new gameplay features but obviously we can’t reveal much about them. For now I can only give you one example: One of the favorite features from the classic series was driving an old steam locomotive and flattening zombies with it. However, smarter zombies refuse to be such sitting ducks, so instead we decided to take advantage of realistic vehicle physics (provided by the Source engine) and give you a powerful tractor, that you can drive freely to chase the zombies down before running over them.

Gamecloud – Will this new game be episodic in nature like the previous They Hunger games?

Neil Manke – It is actually a fully independent game. However, we do have it planned as being the first game in a series. We already have a basic story outline for the sequels depending upon the reception of the first. Each game in the series is a complete story within itself, and each with an exciting and satisfying ending.

The game went into alpha in April 2006:

They Hunger: Lost Souls has now entered alpha stage. All level development is finished and refined. We are now focusing on final resources and content, which basically means integrating scripting, dialogues, additional models and animations.

However, in the following months, updates by Black Widow Games were pretty scarces. In October 2006, Saukas shared a little update about the development and told that various game models and animations were redesigned:

The game is now very close to release. From our previous screenshots, you can see the biggest issue we had was the lack of proper zombies. We were using “placeholder” models as temporary replacements for zombies during most of the development process, so we could continue working on other areas while we didn’t have enough people to model and animate new zombies. But in the last few months we were able to focus on the game pending issues, especially additional models and animations.

Our work is concentrated now on game improvements overall. There isn’t much left to do, but the game still needs lots of small details and tweaks that are very time consuming. We understand our fans are anxious to play it, but after about 2 years of development, it doesn’t make sense to rush its release now and sacrifice quality, when the game is so close to be finished. We still don’t have an official release date, but we can say it will be “very soon”.

In April 2007, an interview from Planet Half-Life clarified things a bit more:

Planet Half-Life: Ok, then … so what’s really going on?

Black Widow Games: Although we have never announced an official release date for They Hunger: Lost Souls (TH:LS), the truth is that our internal schedule had originally planned its release for end of 2006, but then we decided to delay it to implement further improvements.

It’s important to understand there’s a key difference between the original They Hunger, produced as a mod, and this new commercial game. A successful mod needs to be imaginative, very entertaining and have a good quality overall, but nobody expects a free mod to be flawless. In comparison, when someone buys a commercial game, the expectations are much higher. Players demand it to be polished in nearly every detail, and game developers have an obligation to provide this since they are getting paid to do so.

Planet Half-Life: The gaming landscape has changed, as it usually does, quite considerably in the time since we last spoke. Being big fans ourselves of zombie-themed games, our ears naturally pricked up when late last year Turtle Rock Studios announced the development of their new game, Left 4 Dead. Do you feel that you will be in direct competition with them, and what do you feel will set your game apart from theirs?

Black Widow Games: We are actually glad to have Left 4 Dead arriving around the same time as Lost Souls, because these two major titles based on the same zombie survival theme will probably attract much more attention together than each individual release.

As a matter of fact, the zombie genre is about all these titles have in common. L4D is a fast paced, adrenaline driven, pure action game focused on cooperation, where players have to always stick together to protect each other. If a player runs low on ammo, gets lost from his friends and surrounded by zombies, it’s game over for him… but that’s when Lost Souls begins.

Just like the original They Hunger series, Lost Souls is a horror game, where the player is expected to feel lonely, defenseless, and completely surrounded by zombies. Of course there’s also plenty of zombie killing as the player gradually finds out how to defend himself, but this is just part of the gameplay along with exploration, puzzle solving and story telling.

With L4D and Lost Souls based on opposite premises, there’s no possible comparison between these titles.

Planet Half-Life: Do you expect Lost Souls series to have more than three installments, or will this be a trilogy?

Black Widow Games: Lost Souls is the first chronicle and it’s composed of two episodes. The initial episode works as a “prelude” to the entire series, introducing all the story elements, a wide range of weapons, some of the key characters and all kinds of zombies. It has the player looking for shelter at an ancient monastery, where he can gradually learn basic zombie survival principles and the subtle art of killing the dead, all the while discovering some of the mystery about their origins. The following episode will introduce less conventional weapons and focus on exploring the surrounding areas, as well as revisiting the monastery.

The prelude episode will be released this year, and the next one just a few months later. In fact, we have already produced most of the second episode, but since there was too much content to be beta-tested and improved, we decided to focus our efforts to finish the initial episode earlier and release it in advance, instead of holding the game release until the entire chronicle was ready.

After that, unfortunately, everything went silent for Black Widow Games and They Hunger: Lost Souls. The game was mentionned on two issues from PC Gamer, the first one in August 2007, and the second one, a two pages preview, in March 2008. This was the latest news regarding the game before totally vanishing for an entire decade.

The rest of the story is a little weirder. In January 2015, a thread dedicated to the game on the Mapcore forum revealed some messages from one of the ex-developers, Teddy Bergsman Lind, on the project:

I was part of the team for a few years up until 2007/2008. At that time the game was about 60% finished, with 5-6 segments more or less done (the levels were huge). It should be stated Neil truly did a great job on the levels. I should still have the game anno 2008 on an old computer in a storage somewhere.

Everyone on the team, Neil and Einar included, pitched in in their spare time, and given the AAA scope of the project it was likely tricky business to sustain. Einar used to dream about starting up an actual dev studio to produce the game, and should there have been financial means I think it would have happened. Had Kickstarter been a thing back then, who knows. Our conversations eventually faded sometime in 2009; at that time to my knowledge the project was still alive, but I doubt it still is, at least as a commercial product.

I spoke with Einar for a while last night; he and Neil lost contact with each other years ago and have not been able to get back in touch since. There were some speculation Neil has been in bad health for a while. However, a few months ago Neil tried contacting Einar again. They weren’t able to get back in touch afterwards, so that’s the latest info there is. As far as project status goes though, it’s not cancelled. I think both of them are keen on getting back on track even after all these years.

In May 2019, builds coming from alpha and beta versions were leaked on ModDB.

To date, nothing has ever really been revealed about what happened during the development of They Hunger: Lost Souls. Through the various developer interviews, we can understand that Black Widow Games wanted to be perfect in the design of its first commercial game. Were the rumors that circulated about Neil Manke’s health true? Out of respect for Neil, Einar, and the rest of the Black Widow Games team, it’s perhaps best not wanting to know about it, and be grateful to have gotten, years later, the playable builds of They Hunger: Lost Souls, in order to appreciate their work.


Full playthrough of the 2006 alpha:

Full Playthrough of the 2008 alpha:

Images before the redesign:

Images after the redesign:

Stargate Worlds [PC – Cancelled]

Stargate Worlds is a canceled futuristic sci-fi Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game developed from 2006 to 2009 by Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment and published by FireSky, exclusively for PC. It was based on the television series Stargate SG-1.

Stargate Worlds was officially announced in January 2006 by the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, rights holder of the Stargate franchise:

MGM and Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment today announced that work has begun on Stargate Worlds, a massively multi-player online role-playing game (“MMORPG” to those in the know) based on the hit TV franchise.

“Stargate Worlds is an MMO that provides players with a form of exploration, adventure and ranged combat set in worlds of historical human time periods, alien environments, and outer space locations,” according to the announcement. “Players will travel through the Stargate as a team of soldiers and scientists where they can forge alliances, establish trade, investigate ancient mysteries, and defend Earth from such hostile forces as the Goa’uld and the Ori in an immense multiplayer universe.”

The developer’s official Web site offers more on the game:

Stargate Worlds provides players with a form of ranged combat unique to MMORPG that will take full advantage of modern and science fiction weaponry, cover, and terrain. Players will be able to form squads with their friends or use bots for players who want to go solo. Squad leaders will control maneuvers and objectives through an innovative combat control interface. Players may choose to create characters that are members of either the SGC (the Good Guys) or the System Lords (the Bad Guys). Characters are equipped with varied and mixed skills, with the choice to form such classes as Research, Combat Marine, Medical, Scientific, Diplomatic, Engineering, Archeological, and Exploration. PVP will be possible between the two alliances on many contested worlds, actually swaying the balance of power on those planets, and unlocking hidden content. Cooperative play will also be possible, and players will be encouraged to forge temporary alliances to deal with greater threats, such as the Ori.

The universe evolves as players inhabit and vie for control over alien worlds. Local populations will shift their allegiance between the two alliances. Outside threats, such as the Ori, will conspire to further change the face of these worlds. Players will be able to tip the balance of power on these worlds, beating back the Ori invasion, and swaying the local populations to their side through quests, combat and trade. Whether you are a solitary explorer, master tradesman, or commander of a massive armed force — your every action will alter the worlds of the Stargate universe.

The game was using the Unreal Engine 3 and screenwriters Brad Wright and Robert C. Cooper were hired as creative consultant. During its first two years, Stargate Worlds development progressed smoothly, and some details regarding the story and playable classes were shared:

What sorts of characters and character classes will you be able to play? Will you only be able to play as members of the Stargate team, or can you play as members of other factions?

RN: We want the players to be the stars of their own show. This means we can’t keep retelling the story of SG-1. We’re going to let players choose from seven archetypes–Jaffa, Goa’uld, Asgard, and human soldier, scientist, archeologist, and commando–when they create a character. Players will be able to specialize their characters using a skill tree, allowing them to further refine their role. There will be two factions in the game at launch. One side will feature the Asgard, Free Jaffa, and humans; the other side has the Goa’uld, Loyal Jaffa, and humans.

GS: We understand that exploration will play a key role in the game. Will this mainly be done on foot? Will there be any vehicle or starship travel, or vehicular combat?

RN: At launch, Stargate Worlds will focus on the original Stargate experience. It’s not a game of vehicle combat, and there won’t be player-controlled starships. Players will be able to use starships for transport, but the primary method for getting around the galaxy is the Stargate.

GS: We learned at GDC that the game will be set during seasons three, four, five, six, seven, and eight of the TV show’s run. Why the latter years and not the early ones, and what kind of story possibilities emerge due to this decision?

RN: The most important thing to remember about the timeline is that we’re not retelling the story of Stargate SG-1. Our story will be happening roughly concurrently with the events you saw during those seasons, like the Replicator War, the Apophis War, the Tok’ra war with the Goa’uld, and the Jaffa Civil War. These events form a dramatic backdrop for our story to play out against.

GS: We understand that the game was intended to draw upon content from both Stargate SG-1 and Atlantis. Will it draw upon both series evenly, or will it favor one universe or time frame over another?

RN: The action in Stargate Worlds at launch takes place in our galaxy, so you can say that it draws more from SG-1 than Atlantis, although you can see from some of our screenshots that an Atlantis-like city is one of the sites characters will visit. Atlantis is a good candidate for our first expansion pack, and we’re looking at a variety of options.

Regarding playable classes, named ‘archetypes’, everything was saved from the Wiki Fandom dedicated to the game. As it was canceled before being finished, some archetypes could have been changed during development:

  • Archaeologists would specialize in ancient cultures and languages. They would be able to ‘blend in with the locals’ to gather intelligence or ambush the enemy. This ‘blending in’ uses Asgard holographic technology to assume the appearance of others. Archaeologists could also be quite adept in aggro management, perhaps by being superb negotiators or good at hiding, making them good solo characters, in addition to their ability to solve puzzles.
  • Asgard would be physically frail, but would be masters of technology and would have a strong science ability. They depend on clone technology to survive and thrive. By calling upon different types of drones to attack, defend, heal, or analyze, the Asgard would be a true jack-of-all-trades. When faced with dire circumstances, the Asgard could also bring in their mighty starships to devastate the enemy with orbital bombardments in the form of a special attack.
  • Goa’uld would gain much of their power from their servants. With the ability to command several different types of minions, the Goa’uld could become almost as versatile as the Asgard. These minions would include Jaffa. In addition to their minions, Goa’ulds also have access to poisons that can be used to cripple enemies. They can also specialize in Ashrak technologies, such as phase cloaking, becoming masters of stealthy attacks. As the evil counterparts to the Asgard, the Goa’uld may be able to call in their Ha’tak bombers to bombard the enemy as a special attack. The Goa’uld character would be the symbiote and would at times and at a “cost” be able to choose to enter a new host. However player Goa’uld would not be able to take over other players’ hosts.
  • Jaffa in the game were much like the Jaffa in the show. In addition to its devastating ranged attack, the Jaffa staff weapon could also be used in melee combat. Displaying solidarity and teamwork, Jaffa could use their oaths to strengthen their allies, especially other Jaffa.
  • Scientists would be a combination of pure scientist and engineer. They could specialize in analyzing, repairing, and using technologies. They could also use new technologies to craft personal upgrades. Their battlefield utility came from the ability to construct devices such as gun turrets, shields, and target inhibitors. They could also specialize in healing and resurrection technology. Like the archaeologist, the scientist could also solve puzzles, but of a technological nature. These puzzles would be in the form of minigames.
  • Soldiers is valuable for protection when stepping through the stargate. With the ability to specialize in a variety of weapons, including grenades, automatic weapons, machine guns, mortars, and rocket launchers, their job was to unleash firepower on enemies. With additional training, they could also learn basic healing, how to use alien weaponry, and lead teams.
  • Commando class would give up access to the variety of weapons a soldier class uses, a commando class gaining access to stealth, demolitions, and the sniper rifle. The commando could disrupt, confuse, and neutralize enemies. In addition to ability with stealth, commandos would also have technology to detect stealthed enemies. The commando would be at least one of the archetypes able to deploy and detect traps.

According to an interview from Warcry, a strong emphasis for teamwork was designed by Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment concerning the specificities of each archetype:

Not much is known at present about the exact implementation of the game’s systems, but there are plans to offer both combat classes for the die-hard combatant as well as more tactical and strategic classes like archaeologist or medic. Each class is planned to hold a specific strategic advantage to promote teamwork in the field, and it is proposed that there will be enough classes to provide appeal for a wide array of gameplay styles. Also, in the works are plans to allow players to build structures at offworld locations. From small individual shelters to large-scale corporate headquarters, an entire tech tree is planned to make exploration and gaining footholds on offworlds that much more exciting.

In April 2008, Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment created FireSky, a publishing subsidiary, in order to help the funding and publishing of Stargate Worlds:

FireSky, a new video game publisher, and a subsidiary of Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment, dedicated to improving how gamers play and interact online, announced today that it would publish Stargate Worlds, a massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) based on MGM’s award-winning Stargate franchise.

However, after the game was launched into closed-beta, troubles occured in December 2008, when various media discovered that company’s developers suffered from payments issues:

Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment, developer for Stargate Worlds MMO, has issued a statement confirming that they do have some “cash-flow issues”.

A website went live counting the number of days since their last pay check, and it currently stands at “25 days”. They’re currently seeking “additional sources of funding” right now.

“At Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment, we have always been upfront with the media and our fans that we are a start up,” reads the response from the company.

“Like many start ups, we face the same cash-flow issues that all pre-revenue companies face. We have maintained a core of dedicated investors, but the new economic realities are forcing us to seek out additional sources of funding and that’s what we’re doing.”

The website is still running and presumably will continue to run until the team get their earned dosh.

The entire 2009 year was a grueling one for Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment as the company was sued over unpaid bills, which forced its marketing manager, Kevin Ballentine, to issue a statement in April of the same year:

“We are currently negotiating several deals that will cover our financial responsibilities and fund the remainder of development. When we sign those deals, you’ll hear about it. Until then, we’ll keep building Stargate Worlds, because right now, that’s the only thing that matters to us.”

After the departure of its Executive Producer, Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment put the project on-hold and announced Stargate Resistance, an online Third-Person Shooter, in December 2009:

Firesky and Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment, the studio behind the financially troubled but still-in-production MMO role-playing game Stargate Worlds, is working on a second video game title, they announced today.  Stargate Resistance is an online, third-person shooter currently in the final stages of development.

“Resistance brings to our fans the kind of gameplay SGW never planned to deliver,” said Chris Klug, the game’s creative consultant and the creative director for Stargate Worlds.  “Resistance delivers the combat, weapons and tactics seen so often on the show that many of you have been asking for.  I know this game will excite fans who have longed to go toe-to-toe with a Jaffa as well as those who always wanted to dominate the galaxy in ways the MMO could only hint at.”

In the full letter, Klug also speaks to the difficult last year faced by the studio, its decision to remain silent, and its recognition that it needs to rebuild its relationship with fans.

“As well as building this new exciting product, paramount to Firesky’s long-term future is restoring your confidence and trust in us,” he said.

In February 2010, Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment filed for bankruptcy:

Cheyenne Mountain’s corporate structure has undergone some dramatic changes in the last few weeks, and that has resulted in various actions such as the filing for Chapter 11. Certain parties believed that was the right thing to do, other parties do not and this is still being evaluated and may be rescinded. Even if the bankruptcy should go through, however, Chapter 11 simply allows a company to restructure its debt to a manageable plan approved by the courts. It does not absolve a company of debt, and it does not shut it down or otherwise affect its daily operations. This will all be sorted out in the legal and proper manner, and all of us on the development side of things hope it’s done as quickly as possible.

The studio, heavily downsized, nevertheless, maintained an activity until January 2011, under the name of Dark Comet Games, before being forced to close the Stargate Resistance servers and disappeared.

Stargate can be seen as a kind of cursed license in the gaming world: a few years ago, Stargate SG-1: The Alliance was canceled after weeks of legal battle. In July 2021, as we can read on The Companion, Steve Garvin, who was lead content designer until June 2009, shared his whole experience during the development of Stargate Worlds:

“The main story was that Ra was coming back and the dark side was trying to leverage it while the light side was trying to stop it. So the two stories were very disparate, a vastly different experience.”

The “dark side” is OP-CORE, a group of humans who are aligned with the Goa’uld.

Some 16 different planets were in development for the game’s initial launch. Among them was Lucia, the yellow-skied homeworld of the Lucian Alliance — never seen on screen in the television series.

The game was eager to expand upon the legend of the Furlings — and the show’s producers were gracious to allow them to do so. “We had this whole idea for the Furling being a single entity that stretches across time, able to see the past and the future.”

“It was mostly a lovely experience. It was a friendly team, we were close and it was a great learning environment with empowering leadership. But it also sucked. We had the great pieces for a good game – never enough to look you in the eye and say it was great – but we were getting there. But what was most disappointing was not getting some of the world-building and Furling stuff out. It would have filled in a lot of gaps in SG-1 lore, and the showrunners agreed that what we had was pretty cool. The fans would have loved it – it was fan service.”


Other videos containing various information about the game can be found here.


Ultima X: Odyssey [PC – Cancelled]

Ultima X: Odyssey is a canceled fantasy Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing game developed from 2002 to 2004 by Origin Systems and published by Electronic Arts, exclusively for PC. It was based in the Ultima universe.

Ultima X: Odyssey was officially announced in August 2003, as we can read on Gamespot:

Electronic Arts’ Origin Systems development studio has today announced that the next game in its Ultima series will be a massively multiplayer online role-playing game powered by the latest version of the Unreal Engine. Ultima X: Odyssey will boast a number of features not found elsewhere in the genre, the most intriguing of which is the “Odyssey Adventure System,” which will deliver customized quests to players automatically, and will also allow players to request private adventure zones so they’re not interrupted by uninvited troublemakers.

“Ultima X: Odyssey takes the genre to the next level through its innovative new Odyssey Adventure System, ensuring that players experience a greater sense of adventure and reward from both questing and combat,” said Andy Hollis, vice president and COO of Origin Systems.

Ultima X: Odyssey will feature fast-paced strategic combat in which players’ actions will play as big a part in determining the outcome of a battle as their characters’ strength. Players will be able to choose their level of aggressiveness and a variety of combat styles, and while individual combat will be the most common, rival player guilds will be able to challenge each other to gladiator-style duels in privately created zones.

As they progress through the game, players will be able to customize not only their character, but also their inventory, party, and guild–in ways never before possible. Examples given in today’s press release include players enhancing their weapons and armor using virtue abilities or experience points, and the existence of magic items and weapons that actually gain experience and level up in the same way players do.

Players who manage to master any of the eight virtues in Ultima X will gain the ability to use special powers and, eventually, create disciples for themselves. Upon mastering all the virtues, players will attain the ultimate status of “avatar.”

Ultima X: Odyssey is currently scheduled for release this winter.

The story begin at the end of Ultima IX, when the Avatar (the hero) and the Guardian (the villain) merged together at the climax of their final battle. Ultima X: Odyssey’s story begins with the Avatar and the Guardian struggling for control of the god-like being that they have become. The Avatar is losing this battle and creates the world of Alucinor, a place where adventurers can journey to and learn about the Virtues just as the Avatar did during his travels in Britannia. But, because the Guardian also has great influence over Alucinor, he has created his own minions to thwart any would-be heroes.

In November of the same year, lead designer Jonathan Hanna was interviewed by Gamer.No and shared a few details on some of the upcoming features for the game:

G.N.: With the implementation of Virtues and good vs. evil, will there be any player killing involved, and if so, how will this be carried out in Odyssey?

J.H.: (…) Players can challenge each other to duels that are tracked through a robust ladder system. In addition, guilds can challenge each other to large-scale battles. These battles will take place on private maps, preventing outsiders from interfering with the battle. Also, players can wager gold and items on duels and guild battles, making them even more interesting. Combined with our highly interactive and action-packed combat, PvP in Ultima X: Odyssey will be a blast!

G.N.: What lore, political elements, stories and legends will be a part of Odyssey? In essence, what is going to make us feel that we are actually in an Ultima game, and where in the Ultima timeline is the game set?

J.H.: Everything about this game screams Ultima! From the character races (which include Gargoyles, Orcs, Pixies, Humans, Elves, and Phoda – a race based on the Fuzzies from previous Ultimas) to many of the points of interest, you’ll find plenty of references that hearken back to the Ultima games. More importantly, our entire adventure system is centered around making decisions based on the Ultima Virtues. For example, you might be asked to slay a Minotaur Lord who has been raiding a local farm. When you find him, you learn that his people are starving. At this point, you could demand Justice and fight the minotaurs, or you could show Compassion and help them find a new food source. In keeping with the previous Ultima games, neither Virtue choice is the wrong choice – they’re just different. They will, however, lead you down different paths of the adventure, as well as determine the abilities your character can learn. Eventually, as characters continue to advance they can even ascend to the level of the Avatar, the ultimate fantasy hero!

However, troubles occured in February 2004, when EA took the decision to disband Origin Systems and relocate the team, from Austin, Texas, to Los Angeles, as we can read on Gamesindustry:

Publisher Electronic Arts is reportedly planning to shut down its Origin Systems development studio in Austin, Texas, and is offering staff at the studio the choice of relocation to California or a severance package.

Origin Systems is best known for its work on the classic Ultima and Wing Commander franchises, and the move to relocate the studio’s staff comes as part of a wider consolidation of EA’s development efforts.

The founding of a new development campus in Los Angeles has already seen the Westwood studio being shut down, while the relocation of the Maxis studio to Los Angeles was announced last week.

In June of the same year, Electronic Arts pulled the plug for Ultima X: Odyssey:

Today Ultima X: Odyssey was summarily pulled from the production schedule by publisher Electronic Arts. The game had been on track for a 2005 release, but rumors of trouble had been swirling around the project for some time.

In a post on the official UXO Web site, producer David Yee gave the game an epitaph of sorts. “As of today, development on Ultima X: Odyssey has ended,” he said. “This isn’t an easy decision but it’s the right move for the future of all things Ultima, including the community and the team.”

Yee said the reason for the decision was to “focus our online efforts, and most of my team will be moving to the UO expansion pack, the UO live team, and an unannounced Ultima Online project.” GameSpot was told by another source within EA that no staffers were laid off as a result of today’s decision.

Formerly under the guidance of lead producer Rick Hall, Ultima X: Odyssey went through an evolution when its design and development staff were recently moved from EA’s Austin, Texas, studio to the company’s main Redwood Shores campus. At that time, Hall relocated to EA’s Tiburon studio, and UXO was placed in the hands of Yee.

According to some sources, Ultima X: Odyssey was definitely cancelled during the relocation of staff members from Texas to California, as many of them decided to resign instead of moving homes and families. In 2011, Justin Olivetti wrote on Engagdet:

Reportedly, one of the biggest reasons behind the project’s death was EA’s decision to relocate the Austin, TX team to California, a move at which many devs balked. With the relocation a failure, the game’s development was hobbled and EA felt it had no choice but to give it the axe.

Ultima X: Odyssey wasn’t the first Ultima MMORPG to be canceled. Years prior, EA canceled Ultima Worlds Online: Origin in order to focus on development of expansion packs for Ultima Online.



Dragon Empires [PC – Cancelled]


Dragon Empires is a canceled fantasy Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game published and developed by Codemasters, exclusively for PC, at least from 2001 until 2004.

Dragon Empires was officially revealed in September 2001 as we can read on Gamezone:

Dragon Empires presents a world where magic is plentiful and the lives of humans and dragons intertwine.  The world is made up of 100 lands spread over five empires, a world that can be ruled by player clans and a world whose strongholds are guarded and policed by fiercely protective dragons.

Dragon Empires is filled with embattled clans, each striving to prove their superiority in head-to-head group combat, as they aim to rule magnificent cities and, ultimately, empires.  Dragon Empires breaks the mold by placing an emphasis on player-to-player combat and making it an integral part of the gaming experience.  It is open season on all other players all the time, thereby enforcing the concept of player clans forming and ruling sprawling cities within the game’s world.

Although players start out on their own, as they become experienced they’ll be able to form their own clans and take control of entire cities or rule the seas between the lands and make profit and taxes from the land they rule.  Cities can be owned by a clan or taken by force against other clans in real time wars and sieges.  Combat is real time and engaging in an attack is as easy as walking up to a target and using spells or weapons on it.  There are mechanisms to keep the world from turning into anarchy; with the basic rule being that, while a player can attack anyone, they risk becoming an outlaw if the attack is not warranted.  Outlaws become an instant target and can be hunted down by other players or face the wrath of the city’s protectors – the dragons.

“Dragon Empires is a massive and important project as Codemasters continues to embrace new delivery platforms for gaming,” said Ted Carron, producer of Dragon Empires.  “The always-on combative element is something we’re very excited about; the majority of existing MMORPGs are 99% co-operative and relatively slow paced – Dragon Empires is more intense and competitive, driving people into groups where the real benefit of online gaming lies.  We’re confident no other MMORPG will provide the fiercely competitive balanced battles that Dragon Empires will create an arena for.”

For Dragon Empires, Codemasters is promising real progression in the world of MMORPGs and the game will be visually striking in a 3D real time rendered environment.  The game is being developed at Codemasters’ online development facility in Oakhurst, California.

The English language version of Dragon Empires is scheduled to go online in Q2 2002 for PC gamers. The software will be launched as a boxed product with players subscribing on a monthly basis to play.

Using the Unreal Engine, the game was briefly showed during E3 2002 and was scheduled to go into beta in May 2003, as we can read on Gamespot:

In the latest of its newsletter updates on Dragon Empires, Codemasters has announced that the upcoming online role-playing game’s “period of planning has come to an end,” and that the game’s beta test will begin in May 2003, a bit later than was originally scheduled. The update attributes this delay to the addition of features that the game’s fan community requested, as well as graphical updates like improved textures and new character models.

In April 2003, Codemasters announced that the game will be present at E3 2003, alongside further details:

The game, slated for launch in Spring 2004, has already attracted a massive fan base, with more than 120,000 applications received for beta testing.

Dragon Empires delivers an online fantasy world that is both immersive and compelling, where thousands of players socialize, trade and fight individually or in clans, for control of the game’s 50 cities.  At E3, Codemasters will highlight Dragon Empires’ stunning scenery, landscapes and buildings that form Fortitude, the game’s world of five unique mystical empires.  Each empire is ruled by a mighty dragon whose personality shapes the individual look and feel of each empire and its respective cities.  E3 will also mark the first showing of the game’s playable and non-playable characters.  In Fortitude, the lives of humans, monsters and dragons have intertwined to form three playable races – the magical Humans, the heroic Dragonblood and the darker brood of Shadow.

In addition to  these features, the game’s incredible climate engine, based on real weather models, will also play a prominent role throughout gameplay.  With naturally evolving climactic effects, including lightning, rain, snow, blizzards, fog and rainbows, the climate model provides for naturally evolving environments across sandy deserts, hot plains, tropical forests and treacherous, ice-glistened mountains.

Players will be able to experience the world in third or first person. With the game’s draw distance at over a mile, it gives the player a feeling of seeing as far as the eye can see.

During E3 2003, the title was showed and RPGFan, alongside Loadedinc, wrote previews for the game. Thus, RPGFan wrote:

One of the more important gameplay aspects of an MMORPG is how player-vs-player (PvP) combat is handled. Each game in the genre has its own unique system and Dragon Empires is no exception. Bounty hunters, outlaws and contract traders are able to engage in inter-player combat, Civilians on the other hand, are free from all forms of player killing.

Bounty hunters will be free to attack any outlaw and will be rewarded if they successfully dispatch them. Players will begin as civilians and will need to get permits from non-player characters in cities in order to become bounty hunters. These slips have various durations and will likely be cancelled if the bounty hunter is killed. Bounty hunters who fail to complete their tasks become civilians and must renew their bounty-hunting permit.

Outlaws can attack any bounty hunter or trader for their contracted goods. There are many ways to become an outlaw, one of which is by murdering an empire’s venerated beast. These creatures are sacred to each empire and usually have their own treasure horde. Killing one of these creatures will result in becoming an outlaw of that empire and a bounty being placed on your head. Since each empire has different sacred beasts, players can hunt down these creatures, become filthy rich with their loot, and slither over the border to safely count their horde.

Traders will be free to defend themselves against any attacking outlaws to keep their contracted goods safe. Civilians can become traders by accepting contracts to transport goods between empires. These conditional “classes” will give different kinds of players the opportunity to participate in PvP and cooperative play on their own terms.

For its part, Loadedinc told us:

After the demo we asked Peter Tyson, Codemasters community manager, about the pushing back of the Beta and he said that the Beta had been delayed for various reasons including engine changes over the past few months. He did say that a very limited Beta will go live in June, perhaps 100 testers, and then more will roll out. Peter expects a long Beta period before the game is launched around May next year. Peter also stressed the importance of user feedback and Codemasters really want to take their time with this game to get things just right.

Peter was also rather excited about the game’s economy and trading model in which different cities are trying to undermine each other with a strong emphasis on manufacturing and trading. Players will be able to take resources from areas such as farms and mines to the cities where they can be sold for gold or just gain experience from trading. This  means players are also open to attack from outlaws along trade routes making it a risky business. There’s also the ability to refine resources such as iron ore into iron and then manufacture swords, or alternatively you can sell that ore or give it to another player, who may be a trader, to move the resource around the game world. Once items such as swords are created they can be enhanced by adding other items to them such as a fiery ruby to create a fire sword. The game will feature automated production via manufacturing and also crafting of individual items to enhance them further. The game really is economy driven and it’s the one aspect of the game that should provide variety in the types of players and groups that populate the world. Peter expects clans to set themselves up as merchants and no doubt we’ll see groups of players moving goods around the world to drive that economy and city production.

While we didn’t get to see much of the actual gameplay this year, we did get a good look at the game engine and it was one of the most impressive engines powering an MMORPG at this year’s E3. The landscapes look gorgeous and the weather effects are nothing short of stunning making Dragon Empires a real stand-out title. Let’s hope next time we see the game we’ll be able to get deeper into the actual gameplay and player interaction.

However, after months of delay, Codemasters took the decision to cancel the project in September 2004, as Gamesindustry learned it:

British publisher Codemasters has announced that it has discontinued development on Dragon Empires, with the massively multiplayer RPG title being dropped due to “technical issues.”

The bulk of the development team on the game are being transferred to other parts of Codemasters’ operation, and no redundancies have been announced as a result of the cancellation.

Codemasters claims that it still has “long-term ambitions” in the massively multiplayer space, and says that the decision to cancel Dragon Empires is down to technical problems – with the company lauding the “incredible support” from the online community for the title to date.

On Gamezone, we could read further details:

Technical difficulties had been weighed and after deliberation it was decided that further development of Dragon Empires would be halted. It was a sad turn of events for the community, which had eagerly been looking forward to the title.

Gary Dunn, producer of the title, posted a message on the official Dragon Empires Web site, which stated: “We were experiencing unexpected obstacles with the server code, in particular our ability to serve clients at a scale which would have permitted us to launch the game as an MMO. The resolution of these issues was fundamental to the success of the project and ultimate release of the game. Due to the delays, a detailed analysis and review of the game was undertaken over the period of approximately six weeks in which a detailed study of the viability of the project was undertaken.”

After the cancellation of Dragon Empires, Codemasters devoted itself to publishing MMOGs by acquiring licenses from RF Online and Archlord in order to exploit them in the West. Both games didn’t meet the expected commercial success and Codemasters didn’t renew the licenses. The company then concentrated on the exploitation of American MMORPGs in Europe, notably signing with Turbine Inc. to exploit Dungeons and Dragons Online and The Lord of the Rings Online.

However, Codemasters gradually withdrew from the exploitation of MMORPGs to refocus on the development and exploitation of racing games, in particular through several emblematic licenses such as the F1, Dirt, GRID and Project Cars series. The studio was acquired by Electronic Arts in February 2021.



Revival (IllFonic Ltd) [PC – Cancelled]

Revival is a canceled Free-To-Play Sandbox Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game developed from 2012 to 2016, exclusively for the PC, by IllFonic Ltd.

Set in a medieval fantasy world inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, Revival was revealed in July 2013 by its developers as we can read on Engadget:

Revival’s recent reveal caught our attention with its promises to “revive the MMORPG” by way of a gorgeous sandbox. Developer IllFonic went on record stating, “It’s a genre that has a bad name. There are hardcore fans in the genre, but there’s no reason why the whole world shouldn’t be playing this genre. The genre has been locked out with a bad taste for a decade. It’s time to rethink it, go back to the drawing board, start from scratch and tell everyone that an MMO isn’t a stat-chasing, quest-ignoring snorefest.”

Music to sandbox fans’ ears! Naturally, we were keen to hear more, so we spoke with IllFonic Creative Director Kedhrin Gonzalez and surprisingly received very few “we can’t talk about that yet” responses. Just remember as you make your way through our interview: A lot can change between the prototype and final release version, so don’t unbridle your skepticism just yet.

Gonzalez explained that the point of Revival is right in its name: to “revive the MMORPG,” and by that they mean the sandbox MMO RPG. We separated those letters for for a reason. The game really is supposed to be story-driven, but think less Star Wars: The Old Republic or Guild Wars 2 or Elder Scrolls Online and more Asheron’s Call 2. The game is story-driven because of its real “live story” approach that utilizes real people: GMs.

“The live storytelling aspect is like playing Skyrim, but imagine someone is playing as the dungeon master, opening and closing things all over the place,” he told us. “The game is 100% non-linear, so there are no useless quests. You won’t encounter something that’s not really worth your time as a character. Sure, we may have some bland quests like the “kill x for me please” quests, but that’s filler, and it’s good to have those. Most of our quests will have serious sit-down-and-think scenarios.”

What kind of scenarios? Gonzalez said that the current prototype has missions to help the devs study how karma works in an MMO setting. One mission involves a lord concerned about a wraith in a nearby crypt, and it demonstrates a whole range of reactions based on your character’s karma. “If you have good karma before you approach the city, the guards love you and welcome you in; you can go right up to the lord of the kingdom and talk to her about her plight,” he explained. “But if you’re neutral, the guards are cautious of you and won’t let you go near her until you prove your worth with a sub task. If you’re red, the guards won’t even let you in the city, and if you are severely red, the guards will attack you on sight.”

The monsters have their own reactions: “If you’re blue and go to the crypt, all of the creatures will attack you. If you’re grey and go to the crypt, the wraith’s slaves will stand by and watch you with caution as you move throughout the crypt; the wraith will talk to you and give you a mission, but if you deny it in the dialogue, she’ll attack you. If you’re red, the creatures will be on guard still, but the wraith will talk to you with more open arms and won’t attack you if you deny the quest. At the same time, if you are blue originally but somehow turn grey or red on the way to the crypt, the wraith will adjust and have dialogue based around these new decisions you have made. You could be a red player normally but a blue player in areas that matter to the lord, who will therefore talk to you.”

Gonzalez also promises there won’t be any exclamation points telling you where all the quests are. “There is barely a linear track in Revival. I would say the only linear track that exists in Revival is that of your individual skills,” he said.

The game certainly sounds much more dangerous than other MMORPGs. For starters, you can kill anyone, even important NPCs. Granted, if the NPC dies, GMs might conduct an event in which players need to revive the NPC, or a relative might replace her, but it is something you can do. Thieves, you can steal anything from anyone, both player and NPC, as well as from shops run by players or NPCs. You can just kill and loot people too.

Of course, for your crimes, you might be sent to jail. “Blue” towns (with positive karma) will have more guards who will try to protect people, though they can be killed. Then you have “blessings,” items that protect you from PvP, looting, and thievery. The game is free-to-play, and players can both earn and buy “standing points,” the game’s currency, but IllFonic wants “penny play,” so blessings themselves are supposed to be cheap and accessible. Guilds in blue towns can even work toward granting blessings for whole regions. However, you can’t just buy a “get out of jail free card.” As the name implies, blessings come from the gods, and if your actions offend them, you may find that they won’t offer you their protection.

So just how do you accrue karma? We’ll let Gonzalez explain.

Karma is measured on a lot of different layers. Your karma as a player is definitely on a blue-grey-red system, with shades in between. However, that is general karma. Every NPC, town, guild, kingdom, god, monster, animal, etc. you interact with will have its own karma rating for you as an individual. Every single thing you do in the game from the moment you create your character (including what city you choose as your starting place) will affect your karma. If you mine ore non-stop all day, grinding it, depleting resources all over the place, the god of nature will dislike you. Wild animals are more likely to just randomly attack you. If you mine ore, being mindful of what you’re taking from the planet, the god of nature will reward you. Even the amount of time you play has an impact. And some quests are available only to people of certain karma levels. You’ll even have access to dialogue choices from certain individuals based on your karma. Sometimes, NPCs will randomly say bad things to you or offer you things that other players would not receive, depending on your various karma standings.

City karma is something based on real-world factors. Economy and crime play massive roles in Revival. I’ll use the example of a city that doesn’t get much trade. When the economy goes down, the count of the guards goes down. You’ll visually see the city start to decay. When this happens, red players can move in and start killing NPCs/players, looting, stealing… eventually, if the city is unable to heal itself, the karma of the city will turn red. That means it’s a city that welcomes red players.

Not all red players are murderers and thieves, though. Red players can be merchants, craftsman, and more. We have a carefully orchestrated system where players can be good or evil and still play the way they want to. This system goes very far in depth, and it’s one of the main thing’s we’re prototyping right now. There will always be a city that is on the three major poles of the karma system and permanently locked in so players of a specific playstyle aren’t forced out, and if you choose a very good karma city to start in, you will start with very good karma.

We didn’t get too many more details on how crafting works, but we might assume that like a lot of interactions in the game — from stealing to lockpicking — it involves minigames. Stealing is simple; a dice roll lets you know whether you were successful or not, but your window of opportunity to actually steal closes quickly, such that if you take too long to look through items you shouldn’t be looking at, a quest NPC may get mad and maybe even call a guard on you. You need to get in, find what to take, and get away. We also learned that some repetition may be involved in skilling up crafting and related skills, but books can also teach you skills and there’s a hint that watching master crafters can help you learn too. And master craftsman can also customize decals and items to a certain degree. Use-based item decay is still under consideration.

What about the visuals? The game is being made with Unreal Engine 4, and there is a lot of focus right now on how much the game can handle in terms of not just quality graphics but animations and sounds. Unless you have the right magic or skill, you have to look at the way people move to determine how strong they are or how low on health they are. A fighter with his hands at his sides will probably be easier to take on than someone holding her arms up and bouncing around where she stands. The game, in some ways, is supposed to be intuitive. While there are skill-ups, the idea is that an FPS pro should theoretically be able to pick up a bow and be pretty good at it because of natural player skill, not stats. Stats are supposed to help when it comes to equipping certain items, but you won’t be shooting arrows at someone point blank and seeing “miss!”

The game will be free to play; beta, Gonzalez tells us, will hopefully begin when the game is 35% complete.

Over the months, several other features were announced, and in July 2015, Massivelyop got an interview with Kedhrin Gonzalez: Read more