New Cancelled Games & Their Lost Media Added to the Archive

Siren in the Maelstrom (Silicon Knights) [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3]

Siren in the Maelstrom is a cancelled fantasy adventure that was in development by Silicon Knights in the late ‘00s, but never officially announced. The title of this lost project was leaked online in different ways, when Canada Telefilm (an organization that lists projects approved for government grants) announced they would invest into Silicon Knights for their new game “Siren in the Maelstrom”. As we predicted at the time, unfortunately the game was never released.

Siren in the Maelstrom was again mentioned in a disastrous legal case between Epic Games and Silicon Knights. As we can read on Wikipedia:

“On May 2012 Epic Games defeated Silicon Knights‘ lawsuit (opened in July 2007) and won its counter-suit for $4.45 million on grounds of copyright infringement. Silicon Knights was directed by the court to destroy all game code derived from Unreal Engine 3 and to permit Epic Games access to the company’s servers and other devices to ensure these items have been removed. In addition, the studio was instructed to recall and destroy all unsold retail copies of games built with Unreal Engine 3 code, including Too Human, X-Men Destiny, The Sandman, The Box / Ritualyst, and Siren in the Maelstrom.”

Maelstrom (maelström; [ˈmeɪlstɹəm])  is a north-european word used to indicate powerful water whirlpool, produced by opposing currents or a current running into an obstacle. Many of these maelstroms are located near the Norwegian coast and knowing Silicon Knights’ history with the Norse mythology, many fans speculated Siren in the Maelstrom would also have been set in Vikings folklore.

Unfortunately the team never showed any official screenshot from the game, but some concept art is preserved in this page, to remember the existence of this lost project.

In May 2014, following the loss of the court case, Silicon Knights closed their office and filed for bankruptcy. As far as we know, files related to Siren in the Maelstrom had to be deleted, so it could already have been lost forever. As Epic Games had access to Silicon Knights’ server, someone may have saved parts of their cancelled games. We can only hope one day someone could be able to share more screenshots, footage or details from these projects.

If you know someone who worked at Silicon Knights on Siren in the Maelstrom and may help us to save something more from the game, please let us know.

Thanks to Dan for the contribution!

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Bladeball (Cat Mother) [Xbox, PC – Cancelled]

Bladeball is a cancelled extreme sport game that was in development by Cat Mother around 2002, for PC and the original Xbox. It was inspired by the Rollerball movie and you could imagine it as a more “violent” version of soccer / football: two teams in an arena, trying to score their point by any means. The team was able to develop an early prototype, but it was not as fun to play as they imagined it to be and decided to cancel it, to work on another game (Dead Justice, which was also canned). Unfortunately only a few, tiny screenshots remain from this lost project: we tried upscaling them to have a better idea of how Bladeball could have looked like in 2002. You can find them in the gallery below.

Thanks to Piotr for the contribution!

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Wish (Mutable Realms) [PC – Cancelled]

Wish is a cancelled MMORPG that was in development by Mutable Realms between 2002 and 2005, planned to be released on PC. Like many overly ambitious projects, Wish fell under the weight of its own concept. The game promised to be the world’s first “Ultra Massive” Online RPG: according to Mutable Realms the game would simultaneously support up to 10.000 players in a single world / server, with no divided zones nor shards.

More details about its gameplay and world-settings were shared by many websites, such as IGN:

“player guilds will be able to reclaim towns and become “Noble Houses”. These Noble Houses can declare war on each other, as part of the ongoing story where, as Rickey indicated, the “world has fallen to barbarism and petty warlords.” Thus, you have player vs. player combat in these house wars. Should someone not wish to be a part of this, they simply do not participate in a Noble House or strive to make their House a peaceful one. “

“Character advancement will follow a skill-based system. The selection of playable races named so far includes a half-dozen familiar archetypes ranging from Humans to Orcs, Elves, Halflings, Dwarves and Gnomes. There’s also one we don’t see as often – and when we do, it’s invariably in the role of a monster – the Cyclops. “

“Wish is providing that control in the form of the Houses. Being a House means conquering a monster-controlled town and becoming responsible for its well-being. You gain control of the town, its buildings, and the resources that surround it, and you get rewarded by being able to collect taxes on transactions within that territory.”

“The various towns successfully replicate the feeling of medieval villages, complete with fortified walls, domesticated animals and inhabitants that continuously go about their daily business. Player characters have a fair amount of weapons and armor to equip thus far, and the color of clothing can be altered through use of a dying tub. Spell effects, while currently sparse, show dazzling potential as in the case of the Necromancer’s Decay cantrip, which issues forth a large skeletal ghost and several gravestones around the caster. “

“At present, monster loot primarily consists of gold and resources such as hides, although a few creatures drop weapons. Since characters have no level indicators or experience to accumulate, it facilitates the ability for players of varying skill levels to aid each other in group combat. “

“Live Content is the primary defining feature of Wish. In the ongoing Beta 2.0 test we publish a daily newspaper, which contains clues to what may come to pass, as well as summaries of what happened on the previous day. The events described within the paper are actual in-game events and refer to real players. We now mirror this paper online in our newspaper section. You can read all five daily papers there. New papers will be added daily. “

In 2003 / 2004 closed beta testing was announced, but it seems the team did not properly estimate what was needed to keep the game alive and online: Wish was officially cancelled in January 2005, just before the planned Open Beta:

“Wish has been shut down because with the data we gathered during the first 10 days of our Beta 2.0 test, even with our best-case projections for player numbers, we could not have reached enough subscribers for Wish to sustain itself.”

Engadget and Escapist published a couple of articles with more details about what happened to the project:

“The beta lasted only nine days. On January 9, 2005, after careful consideration of the way the beta had played out, examination of our internal metrics and an honest appraisal of the MMOG landscape (WoW launched the previous November), we made the decision to shut things down.”

Wish had no single cause of death, but overhype played a huge role. Our statistics didn’t lie. At every step of the way, from signing up for beta, to downloading and installing the client, to playing the game for more than an hour, we lost huge percentages of players. In case we didn’t trust the stats, tons of players told us about their departure on our forums, as well.”

“For small and mid-sized developers, this battle can never be fully won. Usually, simple economics means they’re going to produce mid-quality titles. What they need to recognize is what niche their game fills and try to attract a community that respects that. A decent game can be sunk if the community expects more than what’s delivered and simply doesn’t buy it on principal.”

“In the end, Wish’s assets were carved up and sold off, with some being used for Irth Online.”

Thanks to Josef for the contribution!

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Teebo & Kai [Xbox, PC – Cancelled Prototype]

Teebo & Kai was to be an online cooperative, Sci-Fi, 3D platformer developed by Escape Factory and commissioned by Valve. Escape Factory is not a studio many have heard of, and for good reason. The company never released any major games on consoles, just a few casual games like Overball and STX for the PC. Founded in 2000 by Ed Allard and James Gwertzman, the company only lasted 3 years before the company was shut down. Throughout their short existence, the company worked on only 2 major projects, Teebo & Kai and a cancelled entry in the Space Quest franchise.

Very little is known about Teebo and Kai, and the information available contradicts one another. A now delisted video by Tyler McVicker claims that the project was in development for the original Xbox and explains his story for how the project came about’:

Microsoft approached Valve Software around the year 2000 in order for Valve to create an exclusive title for the then upcoming Xbox. Quickly following the first couple of meetings and contract signings between Microsoft and Valve, Valve put together a team.”

This claim contradicts various sources such as James Gwertzman’s LinkedIn profile and the Escape Factory website (which was updated multiple times during the early 2000s), the latter of which provides a timeline of the entire company’s life and claims that the studio was in fact an independent developer doing contract work for Valve. Not only do the sources claim that they were independent, these sources claim that Teebo and Kai was in development for the PC and was actually a “cooperative platform game prototype” and not a full game.

Another illusive aspect of Teebo & Kai is the gameplay. It was to be an action platformer with online components running on the GoldSrc engine, but very little is known about the moment-to-moment gameplay beyond that. The project would have taken place on an alien planet, with many strange and unique locals that players can visit. Temples, towns, and strange rocky areas are a small fraction of what the supposed game could have had players visit.

Teebo & Kai also would have featured very unique enemy designs for the time. 3-eyed monsters with mouths on their stomach, giant frog creatures with cameras, and gummy bear-like aliens would have filled out the project’s lush planet. Another piece of concept art for the game features flying machines that seem to be enemies, which could be evident of other enemy types in the project.

Another major deviation between the Tyler McVicker video and other sources is the outcome of the project. The previously stated claim that the project was only a prototype and was worked on for a year is further supported by a Powerpoint presentation given by Gwertzman called What to do When it All Goes to Hell: Escape Factory Post-Mortem which gives a detailed timeline of Escape Factory.

While the timeline states that the project was only worked on for 8 months, and was the project only ended because the demo was completed, the Tyler McVicker video also went on to explain their version nature of the project’s cancelation:

About 2 years in Gabe Newell walked into the office at Valve headquarters that this team was working in, cancelled the project, fired the entire team, and decided that porting Team Fortress to the Xbox was the better option.”

Despite these contradictions, all information on the project confirms that Escape factory then went on to use the tech and progress made on Teebo & Kai to work on a revival of Sierra’s Space Quest franchise. This project was also cancelled later on, after a series of developmental problems.

Article by Alex Cutler

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Tribal Lore (Gremlin) [PC – Cancelled]

Tribal Lore is a cancelled “tribe-building resource management” strategy game that would have been published by Gremlin Interactive in the late ‘90s. The team used a sophisticated mix of polygons and sprites for the game’s graphics, which looked quite impressive for its time. Gameplay would have been similar to Command & Conquer and Age Of Empires, but with a Celtic mysticism twist.

We can read some more details from the original Tribal Lore PR, preserved by the Gremlin Archive among some concept renders:

“Tribal Lore is a 3D magic ‘n’ combat strategy game, with a mind-blowing AI, set in a mystical pseudo-Celtic environment. Set in the mythical ‘Land’, Tribal Lore explores the relationships, alliances and frequent squabbles among four arcane races: the Cruithná, the Shamanka, the Bruann and the Nammad.

Players can choose to take control of any one of the four tribes, each with its own distinct graphic and gameplay nuances. The careful management of the environment will allow growth of wealth & technological resources, allowing the construction of an array of  temples, armouries, strongholds and fortresses.

Exploration will give access to magical sites allowing accumulation of major power. In Tribal Lore, magical power comes from your surroundings, and can be ‘tapped’ via dolmen, menhirs and other standing stones. Your druids can channel this energy in a variety of ways: morphing the terrain, affecting weather conditions, devastating foes or empowering heroes.

Further options including a scenario game (with missions & a slowly unfolding plot experienced from four perspectives) and full four-player network capabilities put Tribal Lore in a league of its own.”

Fantasy novel authors Jay Northearn worked on the game’s story, and shared some memories on the game’s cancellation:

“All seemed well, then wham – out of nowhere the publisher pulled the plug and the project, and all my work, was forever consigned to the slush pile. I was later told it was a financial decision made by people far removed from studio development. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

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