New Cancelled Games & Their Lost Media Added to the Archive

The Vatz (Beenox) [PC/Xbox – Cancelled]

The Vatz is a cancelled science-fiction post-apocalyptic/horror Third-Person action/Role-Playing hybrid game developed around 2001-2002 by Beenox Inc., for the PC and Xbox systems.

The game takes place in the distant future where a war between humanity and vampires is won by the latter, enslaving humans. Living now in cities shrouded by artificial fog, players take on the role of Zakk, a human slave, in the city called The Vatz, who joins the rebellion in order to exterminate all vampires, and reconquer the planet. Zakk has the power to possess certain types of vampires, called receptacles. He can control 3 different ones, each with their own abilities in terms of movements and combos, whether in melee combat or with weapons.

The title was unveiled in April 2002, before E3, and promoted Beenox’ in-house engine Goliath:

Quebec-based game developer Beenox has announced that it will demonstrate The Vatz, its upcoming action strategy game, at the 2002 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles next month. The game is set in a sci-fi universe, and it incorporates action, puzzle, strategy, and role-playing elements. Beenox developed a new 3D engine, Goliath, specifically for the game. The engine features an advanced physics system, real-time shadows and lighting, customizable visual effects, and level-of-detail rendering. It also supports animation interpolation, morphing, and blending, as well as a number of video-card-specific features and optimizations such as vertex and pixel shaders.

More could be read on MacWorld:

While the technology demo Beenox will show at E3 next month runs only on Windows, Beenox founder and president Dominique ‘Dee’ Brown explained to MacCentral that the Goliath technology has been created to support multiple platforms.

“The engine could be used to create Macintosh games,” Brown said. “That really depends on whether or not the publisher of the game wants it for the Macintosh market.”

Details are still sketchy on The VATZ, but Beenox describes the game as featuring “intense 3rd-person game play and multiple twisted storylines.” (…)

“In the past several months, we put the best we got in developing a 3D engine that would have everything a gamer may expect and more: Goliath was born,” said Brown.

After that, The Vatz disappeared without any information, and Beenox decided to focus on Windows and Macintosh ports of licensed games for the publisher Activision. It was implied that The Vatz was cancelled due to a lack of publishers interested in the project.

In September 2021, an Xbox prototype dated from October 2002 was leaked by Hidden Palace and can be downloaded here.

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Fortris [PC/Playstation/Dreamcast – Cancelled]

Fortris is a cancelled 2D puzzle/tower-defense hybrid game developed by Promethean Designs around 2000, for the PC, Playstation and Dreamcast systems.

The game was first revealed in June 2000 by IGN:

Promethean Designs wants to deliver on the carnal need of medieval warfare, but mixed generously with the frantic puzzle play. This new project called Fortris is an arcade-like battle game combining the action of games like Artillery or Worms, strategy and fabled setting of a Warcraft or Myth, and puzzle challenges of Tetris or Atari‘s Rampart.

The gameplay in Fortris seems straight-forward and potentially addictive beyond control. Each round of the game begins with a Building sequence where Towers, Parapets, Armaments, and other castle pieces drop from the sky. Magic Blocks will also appear, so make the best use of them to fit your strategy. A well-crafted design will not only help in play, but also reward the creator with bonuses if the blocks used create combo — you can earn yourself extra cannons and wizards if the castle is brilliantly fashioned. Players will have to work frantically to erect a proper fortress with a solid foundation and plenty of defense positions.

Only a limited amount of time is offered to build the fortifications, and suddenly the war explodes. Assailants will have access to magic spells as well as traditional attack units, and will also be able to send out soldiers (called Twerps) to storm the castle. Twerps come in several varieties — Grunts, Soldiers, Medics, Archers, ect. — and players will have to wisely deploy their forces for maximum attack power without losing their own base. As in any good combat situation, rebuilding and refortification is a big part of the strategy, as each side only has a limited crew to parse out. All the while, the gates are being bombarded, the outer walls are cascading down, the Twerps are dying off, and the foundation is caving.

Essentially an arcade strategy game, Fortris will thicken the strategy by shifting levels as players go along. Gameplay begins in the beginning of time, but as the game moves on and the Twerps evolve, the battles become more advanced, more challenging, and more harrowing. Beginning in the Ice Age World, the game eventually runs through to the Stone Age, Medieval Times, and Space Age. Each game level has new weapons, spells, and Twerps to control. Also, the fortresses you build in Fortris become increasingly complex, and with it comes new challenges in both the Building and Attack stages.

Promethean Designs is currently in negotiations with publishers regarding Fortris, and the game is only in demo stages right now (these shots are from PC versions of the game). The PlayStation version will feature the split-screen action seen in some of these shots, as well as comical sequences where the Twerps are being taught the finer points of the Art of War. (…) Either way, this game will be and addictive and seemingly deep puzzle experience, with plenty of warfare action, magical pizzaz, and tactical excitement to spice the brew.

However, in January 2001, it was announced that the development of Fortris was given to Majesco Entertainment, which quickly decided to make the game exclusively for the Game Boy Advance and rebranded it as Fortress. It was developed by internal’s Majesco development studio Pipedream Interactive and released in August 2001.

It is, to this day, unknown why Promethean Designs gave the development to Majesco. We can speculate that the company faced financial troubles during this period as their last game was Aqua GT, released a year prior, and that they decided to salvage this title, before shutting down.

Strangely enough, in May 2022, PC Wizard shared on Twitter/X a 3D map screenshot of what was claimed to be the second version of the game during its development. According to him, the 2D version that was eventually released on GBA was the first version developed by another unnamed game development company. It was then given to Promethean Designs, which decided to turn it into a full 3D game. It is still unclear how far this version went into development, nor who’s right between video game magazines of the time claimed that the 2D version was developed by Promethean, or PC Wizard’s claimings.

Article by Daniel Nicaise

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Gorkamorka [PC / Dreamcast – Cancelled]

Gorkamorka, also stylized Gorka Morka and GorkaMorka, is a cancelled Post-Apocalyptic cars combat racing game developed by Real Sports, around 1999 to 2001, and published by Ripcord Games for the PC and the Dreamcast. It is based on the tabletop skirmish wargame of the same name, set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.

First details for Gorkamorka was shared by IGN in April 2000:

Gorka Morka, whose name originates from a board game, is a vehicular combat game in development by Real Sports, the developer of Jeff Gordon XS Racing. The game features the popular Ork “Mobz” of the Warhammer 40K universe, and has you recruiting your own Ork Mob and arming your battle vehicle for combat. Then its off to the battle field for some fun weapons-based warfare against other Ork Mobz.

Actually, Gorka Morka‘s combat is like that Sega arcade game of old. Housed within your vehicle are two bodies, a driver and a gunner. The driver, of course, drives the vehicle, and the gunner operates a gun seated atop the vehicle, blasting any and every which thing that lay on your path around the track. In the game’s single player mode, you switch off between gunner and driver position constantly throughout the race, and the game’s artificial intelligence takes over the other position for you.

The game’s single player mode is actually centered around the notion of upgrading your driving buddy, as well as all other parts of your car. As you drive, you collect money by damaging opponents and getting to the finish line. You’ll be able to use this cash to upgrade your weapons, although some of it will also have to go to make repairs to the component damage that’s incurred along the way. The real cool thing is that one of your upgradable parts is your AI partner, and by coughing up a portion of the winnings, you can make your buddy study and become more adept both at gun fire and driving.

As you get better at the game and get a smarter driving partner, you can unload some of the dirty work on him. Even better is that Gorka Morka actually gives you a good deal of encouragement to actually drive better in a race, as you can actually build up a fan section amongst the spectators, with the size of the crowd being determined by how good a driver you are.

(…) It turns out that the developers are hoping that you’ll actively switch between driver and gunner positions based on the area of the course you’re currently in. If you’re in a part of the course that requires precision driving in order to get the best time, move into the driver’s seat. If you’re approaching a tough foe, and you really want to nail him, get into the gunner’s position and blast away while the AI guides you.

Of course, there are still some people out there who aren’t in on this AI thing at all, and that’s what multiplayer was made for. You and a friend can play the game simultaneously, with one player taking to the driving position while the other assumes gunner role. The real intriguing part is the Online play, though, which allows you to do the same thing with an owner of the Dreamcast or PC version somewhere else in America. You’ll actually be able to play multiplayer in this cooperative fashion, or you can join hands with your AI buddy and go at it competitive.

The game was shown at E3 2000 where more info about it was spread:

Basically the point of the game is to shoot up your opponents as much as you can on your way around the track. The races are run for a certain amount of time, so whether you are in the front of the pack or not doesn’t really make a difference to the overall standing. What does make a difference is how much you can damage all of your opponents vehicles. Each time that you damage an opponent you get the ork currency called “teef.” Yup, the orks trade their teeth as currency because they grow back so fast. It’s a matter of showing that you can kick the crap out of your fellow ork. All if this is accomplished through switching between the gunner and driver positions.

Ripcord was nice enough to come by the other day and show us an early version of the game and even gave us said version so that we could mess around with it. And I can say right now that it is looking pretty good. There still are some placeholder graphics and some of the features in the game haven’t yet been implemented, but it looks like it just might break the tradition of lackluster Warhammer 40,000 games.

One of the coolest things that will be implemented into the final version of the game is a crowd that reacts to the races and acts like any good English soccer fan would. They get rowdy. Like rowdy enough to start shooting at the opposing team. If you do well enough that you get the crowd behind you then they will start fighting for control of turrets around the track. Now that’s some crowd interactivity.

Not only will there be crowds to add to the fun, but there are also plenty of traps that you can trigger to hurt the other players in the race and the shortcuts that usually come with racing games nowadays. Of course, these things can only be accessed if you are in the right position. If you are operating the vehicle in the position of gunner, then you’ll be able to trigger the traps, but if the computer AI is in the gunner position, it won’t try to trigger the traps. Same goes for the shortcuts, AI won’t take them so if you want to go that route, you’ll need to be driving. Luckily enough, it’s very easy to switch between the two positions so you’ll be doing both with a little practice.

Probably the biggest draw to this game will be in the multiplayer however. As of this point, Ripcord is saying there will be max sixteen players and eight cars per race in multiplayer. So you can buddy up with a friend and get onto that course and take out the competition.

The game is still quite a ways off from being complete, but Ripcord is speculating a first or second quarter release next year.

In the same period, Gamespot wrote:

To make combat more interesting, there are location-based damage means that specific parts of a car can be targeted and blown off.

They also added in January 2001:

(…) The circuits are gloomy, desolate arenas with metal walls and blood-red surroundings. The vehicles have the same industrial look, in the mold of those in the old Mad Max flicks. Overall, the vehicles and tracks are highly detailed. Although its colors are muted overall, the game has a crisp look, and it should make very good use of the Dreamcast’s high-resolution capabilities.

Adding to the gameplay, Ripcord is bringing GorkaMorka online through SegaNet as part of Sega’s multiplayer network kickoff. Online gamers can select and recruit their own gangs, and they can race against up to 15 other vehicles – a total of 32 people can play at once. In fact, Ripcord is looking at allowing PC and Dreamcast players of GorkaMorka to hook up online. According to a company representative, this feature is yet to be successfully tested at this point, but if at all possible, it will be available in the final version.

GorkaMorka will be released for the Dreamcast, with full online multiplayer support, in October 2001.

Unfortunately, in March 2001, Ripcord Games decided to cancel their whole Dreamcast line-up, following SEGA’s decision to discontinue the system. Alongside Gorkamorka, Legend of the Blade Masters and Shrapnel: Urban Warfare 2025 were put on-hold:

Lately, it’s been more of the ugly news of third parties canceling their Dreamcast games and now, Ripcord Games might join that list soon.

“We have put a hold on the further development of our Dreamcast games,” stated John Peterson, Executive Vice President of Ripcord Games. “While we believe the Dreamcast is a great system, SEGA’s new business direction [into the software business] has made us re-evaluate our current state.” Mr. Peterson wouldn’t go so far as to state the Ripcord Games for the Dreamcast – Legend of the Blade MastersGorka Morka, and Shrapnel: Urban Warfare 2025 – were cancelled, but are pending publisher’s decision.

The next month, Ripcord Games ceased operations, burying any hope that Gorkamorka, in addition to Shrapnel: Urban Warfare 2025 and Legend of the Blade Masters, being released on PC.

An early build of the PC version, dating from January 24th, 2001, can be downloaded here.

Article by Daniel Nicaise

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Legend Of The Blade Masters [PC / Dreamcast – Cancelled]

Legend of the Blade Masters, also stylized Legend of the Blademasters and Legend of the BladeMasters, is a cancelled fantasy role-playing game developed by Ronin Entertainment and published by Ripcord Games, from 1997 to 2001, for the PC and the Dreamcast. In Legend of the BladeMasters, player took the control of a 17 years old boy named Erik Valdemar who, one day, stumbled across a cursed sword in the forest. It turns out that this sword is one of seven magic blades that are being sought out by five ruthless guardians. Erik must master the magic of the blades as he learns of their connection to the devastation of the kingdom. In his quest, he will be joined by four other characters: O’Lora Kita, a young elf who wants to bring peace to her city, August Winslow, an Elemental wizard and guardian spirit of Windor, who can talk to animals, Lucan, a mountain Orc raised to be chivalrous, serving as the squire of Knight Rudenstein and vowing to become more like his master, and, finally, the mysterious Knight Macon.

More information was shared in April 1999 with an interview of the core team by GA Source:

Very little information is known about Blade Masters, could you tell us something about the plot?

Leonard Robel: It all starts with a bold king who, by the aid of a young wizard, befriends the five dragons of the land. Unfortunately jealousy over a woman arises, and the wizard ends up hiding for his life in a deep, dark cave. His anger and loneliness slowly drives him insane, and his plots against the king begin to tear the kingdom apart. Then some things happen that even the wizard doesn’t understand. The hero is just a boy, named Erik Valdemar, who comes across a strange powerful blade in the forest, and finds he is now part of something much more incredible than he could have guessed.

How and when did the idea for Blade Masters first come up? How long have you been working on it? What would you rate as the major influences on the game in terms of both game and non-game influences?

Harrison Fong: My major influences for designing BladeMasters came from playing a lot of the good old fast action arcade games of Gauntlet and Dungeon & Dragons. In addition, I am a fan of the amazing Jet Li in his Chinese movies, such as Once Upon Time in China, and admire the astonishing visuals and story of director Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa and Laputa. BladeMasters combines several of these influences into an interactive game.

What sort of unique features and capabilities will your proprietary engine have?

Juan Carlos Arévalo Baeza: In terms of gameplay, there are a few: first and foremost, the AI system, which is built using multi-threaded, layered state machines. This allows us to create behaviors that are as good as, if not better than, any we’ve seen before. And also, there’s the customizability. We already explored that concept in Armor Command, and expect to bring it to its fullest in BladeMasters.

Will you have any other new NPC’s to assist you in your missions?

Harrison: At the beginning of the game you only control Erik Valdemar. But as you journey the worlds, you’ll meet additional heroes who will join the party. You might be in the midst of saving them or sometimes they are saving you. You’ll be able to control up to three characters out of five. Each character will be different in their attitude and choice of weapons.

Tell us about some of the weapons we will be using

Leonard: Each player character has his own favorite weapon he sticks to until he upgrades to one of the legendary blades. They use short-swords, two-handed mallets, great-swords, spears and double maces. They can also choose a ranged weapon, such as a bow, crossbow, knives, darts, caltrops, ancient bombs and guns, and that sort of thing.

In November 1999, IGN explained a little bit more the gameplay:

The game’s battle system will also stray a bit from the norm associated with most other RPGs of this form. Like Infograme‘s upcoming Silver, battles will be fully realtime, with you taking control of the entire party. The main character will be the only guy receiving your full control, though, with the other members of your party being controlled through commands. We’ve actually heard that the PC version will be featuring a multiplayer mode allowing up to four players to adventure simultaneously together.

In January 2000, Computer Games Magazine wrote a preview, featuring explanations provided by Game Designer Troy Dunniway:

Blademasters takes place over the course of about sixty levels, each a hand-built 3D area. Erik will be present through them all, but he will rarely be alone. This is a party game in which the player controls up to five characters at a time from a pool of a couple dozen NPCs that move in and out of the story, revealing plot elements as they come and go.

There are four main areas the player will visit. Alvante is the temperate forested area where the game begins. Kelta is a swampy jungle, Windor is a snowy mountainous area, and Vameria is a huge underground city. The story progresses linearly in one direction rather than moving outward in spurts from a central place. (…) There will be plenty of branching paths, mainly in the form of optional quests where you can help people in some fairly standard tasks: finding items or killing monsters threatening a town, for instance. “But we’ll also include some fairly elaborate quests that involve you figuring out who murdered someone or who is stealing things from someone else,” Dunniway says, “This will involve a bit of detective work. For some quests, you’ll have to use your brain, for some your sword.”

In one subplot, you’ll have to find a set of gears to repair the machinery in a millhouse that extends a bridge to a hidden area with bonus items. For one quest, you can release fish into a stream by breaking a dam down. This will distract a flock of ravenous birds nearby that were preventing you from reaching another area. Dunniway says that most of these quests are optional rather than obstacles in the way of the storyline. Most of them will simply yield new goodies to help you along the main plotline. (…)

(…) There are ten areas of magic (the four elements, of course, plus Lightning, Dark, Holiness, Mind, Plant, and Time) and each character can master five of these areas. Each area has two spells: a weak force and a strong force. “Most of these different forces are completely different spells,” says Dunniway, “not just stronger versions of the same spell. Some of the strong force spells might also do, say, an area of effect damage or attack multiple targets, where the weak force only attacks a single target.” (…)

(…) Most of the spells Ronin is showing off seem combat oriented, but they feature some pretty fancy animation. Summoning a rock man causes boulders to stack up into an animated character who fights for you before crumbling back into his component boulders. Enormous hands reached out of the earth for one spell, smashing the hapless victim between their palms in a huge giddy clap. When meteorites fell from the sky, the entire screen shakes with the force of their impact. And when the power of one of the blades is unleashed and a dragon guardian enters the fray, he rivals anything you’d summon in the Final Fantasy games.

Characters start off with some spells, but the rest will have to be “learned” in the form of spell gems. “The idea is that magic within the world will gather in certain spots,” explains Dunniway, “and when too much gathers, it coalesces into a small hard gem. Anyone who has the ability to cast magic, and has the ability to master that kind of magic, can pick up one of these gems and infuse the spell into themselves.” Dunniway explains that the gems aren’t sold like other items in the game, so you’ll have to find them in the game world rather than buying them or earning them through experience.

(…) Each character has a unique melee weapon, which can be enhanced in one of five magic areas (Water, Wind, Earth, Fire, and Lighting). These enhancements can also be cast on the secondary weapons that any character can use. Secondary weapons will generally be ranged weapons like bows, crossbows, molotov cocktails, and even flintlock pistols. Dunniway explains that Blademasters will introduce a queuing system to help you control the way secondary weapons are used. “They have a five slot queue. Your character uses whatever is in slot one and whenever that is used up, he cycles to slot two and so forth. A blank slot will pause the queue. You can put, say, ten arrows in slot one, two molotov cocktails in slot two, five bullets in slot three, nothing in slot four, and then 50 arrows in slot five. The character would then shoot the first ten arrows, then throw two cocktail, shoot five bullets and stop so the player could restart the queue if he wanted. It’s a very flexible and powerful system.”

Dunniway mentions another hugely successful game when he talks about Blademasters’ multiplayer support. “It will be similar to Gauntlet, where all the players are working cooperatively to get through the level and on the next.” You’ll start in a castle where you configure your character based on the powerups you grab. Then you pass through teleporters to clear out succeeding levels and solve puzzles, returning to the castle to restock as needed. “It’s designed to be playable in a very short period of time, from thirty minutes to several hours. We wanted a more casual multiplayer experience that you won’t have to play for days on end.” (…)

For its part, Gamespot told us:

The world of Legend of the Blade Masters was once populated by an assortment of dragons. However, these dragons were constantly fighting amongst each other to become the sole possessors of the five elements – earth, wind, water, wood, and fire. A great war ensued, and after the dust settled, only five dragons remained. Incredibly tired from battle, the dragons decided to rest in five different caves scattered across the land. While the dragons slept for thousands of years, humans became the dominant force in the world, thanks to the peaceful, unifying efforts of a single king. However, the peace was shattered when a series of dark holes began to appear across the land.

Out of these holes climbed the most evil creatures to ever walk the land. Humans watched helplessly as the creatures destroyed all that the humans had built. The king, who knew of the five legendary dragons, searched the land for a wizard capable of summoning the dragons to destroy the creatures that sprang from the dark wells. After a lenghty search, the king finally discovered the only wizard who was capable of waking the sleeping dragons. Together, the king and the wizard, Aberhart, began the journey to find their winged saviors. Eventually, the king and the wizard came back from their quest with the five dragons, and together, they were able to push the dark creatures back into their wells.

However, after the victory against the dark creatures, the king and wizard became bitter enemies. The wizard had an affair with the king’s wife, and the jealous king ordered his wife and the wizard executed. The wizard managed to escape death, but the king’s wife was killed by an arrow through the heart.

Vowing vengeance, the wizard dedicated himself to black magic and summoned a demon ally to help him destroy the kingdom and imprison the king’s five dragons in five swords. The demon, however, betrayed the wizard and scattered the five swords across the land. As soon as the king learned of the dragons’ imprisonment, he summoned the last of his remaining knights to help him find the swords before the vengeful wizard could.

Legend of the Blade Masters starts immediately after the events illustrated above. As the intro movie comes to a close, you’re character, Erik Valdemar, joins the search for the five swords.

From a gameplay standpoint, Legend of the Blade Masters hopes to compound the standard adventure formula by adding RPG and strategy elements to its character and combat systems. The game’s 3D world is presented from an overhead perspective a la Zelda, and exploration takes place in a continuous world. When you control Erik and up to two of the four companions that will join him, the camera focuses on the character in the lead, with the other two characters following intelligently. Combat extends this AI system substantially. While you control the main hero directly, you can issue general commands to teammates, and the game will then do its best to have the characters carry out these orders. Enemy behavior changes under varying conditions, so adapting the party to each battle will be a strategic challenge.

In the same period, it was revealed that the second game, online only, named Quest of the Blade Masters was merged into Legend of the Blade Masters:

In addition to the 41 substages, Legend of the Blade Masters will contain an extensive multiplayer mode. Ripcord originally planned to release the single-player and multiplayer versions of Legend of the Blade Masters as two separate games with the multiplayer game titled Quest of the Blade Masters. The plan to merge both games was officially announced a few weeks ago, which should give you an indication of the depth of Legend of the Blade Masters’ multiplayer mode. Instead of just offering a multiplayer version of the single-player game, Blade Masters’ multiplayer mode significantly changes the pace of the game with gameplay weighted toward action rather than role-playing. The landscape is filled with many more enemies than in single-player, and your main objective will be to kill just about everything in sight.

There is a surprisingly high level of customization in the multiplayer mode as well. After selecting your character, you can decide whether you want to cooperate with other characters or compete against them, and then you can adjust details for each level such as the amount of items, enemies, and gold, as well as the character levels. You can even select the level in which you will be competing against or working with four other players.

According to Ripcord, this latest version will prominently feature the actual quest, with up to 8 players simultaneously online (…) Other online modes include multiplayer challenges like king of the hill, hidden key (like capture the flag), and last man standing.

During its whole period of coverage, Legend of the Blade Masters was constantly pushed back in terms of its release date: from August/September 1999 to the first quarter of 2000, then to November 2000 and finally to 2001.

Unfortunately, in March 2001, following the drastic restructuring of SEGA after the financial failure of the Dreamcast, Ripcord Games announced that some of their games were cancelled. Legend of the Blade Masters was one of them:

(…) Lately, it’s been more of the ugly news of third parties canceling their Dreamcast games and now, Ripcord Games might join that list soon.

“We have put a hold on the further development of our Dreamcast games,” stated John Peterson, Executive Vice President of Ripcord Games. “While we believe the Dreamcast is a great system, SEGA’s new business direction [into the software business] has made us re-evaluate our current state.” Mr. Peterson wouldn’t go so far as to state the Ripcord Games for the Dreamcast – Legend of the Blade Masters, GorkaMorka, and Shrapnel: Urban Warfare 2025 – were cancelled, but are pending publisher’s decision.

Ripcord Games definitely closed offices in April 2001, ruining the chances of Legend of the Blade Masters, Shrapnel: Urban Warfare 2025 and Gorkamorka being released, at least, on PC.

Article by Daniel Nicaise

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Shrapnel: Urban Warfare 2025 [PC / Dreamcast – Cancelled]

Shrapnel: Urban Warfare 2025, formerly known as M.O.U.T. 2025, is a cancelled futuristic squad-based First-Person Shooter developed around 1999 to 2001 by Zombie Studios and published by Ripcord Games, for the PC and the Dreamcast. As the title suggest, it was set in 2025 where player took the role of a member  of the Military Operations on Urban Terrain, a special military team whose missions are related to counter-terrorism.

The game was first revealed in November 1999 by IGN, which, at that time, indicated that it was similar to Tribes:

We also learned last night at a Ripcord sponsored press event that Ripcord will be working closely with Zombie on future games based on the Spec Ops concept. Lou Viveros, President of Ripcord, told us about at least two Spec Ops-based projects in the works. (…) Shrapnel, will be a futuristic squad-based shooter similar to Tribes.

More was shared in April 2000:

In Ripcord and Zombie’s Shrapnel: Urban Warfare 2025, you become a member of the elite M.O.U.T. Force, the swiftest and surest weapon in our nation’s growing arsenal against the terrorist threat. The title, which in some ways looks to resemble Red Storm‘s Rainbow Six is a first person shooter in which you carry out various missions against our largest foes.

As the 2025 of the title would suggest, Shrapnel takes place in the near future, although the developers seem keen on stressing the near part. What the game gets from this setting is a slightly sci-fi atmosphere, but the real area of interest is in weapons technology. Placing the game just a bit ahead of the times allows for players to be on the receiving end of a realistic arsenal of advanced weaponry. We’re talking stuff that hasn’t even seen the light of day outside of some loon’s weapon-testing ground, including some items that are best classified as “deceptively deadly.”

In speaking with the game’s producer, we learned of a few examples. Imagine if you will, a grenade, only smarter. These grenades can be programmed to travel a certain distance then spontaneously explode, without even striking the ground. So, say a young man named Mike is actively campaigning for an upcoming presidential election, and while touring through New York City, he smells something fishy in the air. He scans his surroundings inently, and spotting what he believes to be a grenade launcher, he leaps behind a car in order to take cover. But you, the gunman, came prepared with your smart grenades. You get a readout on the distance from the gun to the car – about 50 feet, program the following grenade to explode after sixty feet of travel, aim the grenade at the window, and let her rip. The grenade launches towards the car, breaks through both windows, and explodes in mid air right behind Mike (don’t worry – he was into some bad, bad things). The initial blast may not fully get him in full impact, but the shrapnel does the job.

You’re going to need them as you take to your various missions, all of which are set in realistic cities and feature realistic terrorist threats. The game’s design and AI are being handled by real life counter terrorism experts, the very same guys you design the anti-terrorism training grounds used to prep America’s finest, so we can probably expect a realistic, and therefore tough experience. Thankfully, in addition to the above mentioned futuristic weapons, the video we’ve included below of the game points to the inclusion of laser sighting and sniper modes available on call, and we’ve also learned that you’ll have equipment that can triangulate the location of you and your buddies based on sound.

Fighting terrorism is a team effort, you won’t be alone in Shrapnel. We don’t have much in the way of detail on the game’s team aspect, with Ripcord having only told that we can expect the game’s included online mode to allow for up to eight players simultaneous. That’s all we know at the moment, other than the game’s making use of the Lith-Tech FPS engine.

Further details could be read on Gamespot in December 2000:

Just as in Ripcord’s other Spec Ops games, MOUT’s focus is on realism. The game is uncompromisingly realistic when it comes to inflicting and taking damage. Enemies can be felled with one bullet to the head, and team members are just as easily killed. The game will make you exercise your whole team and take full advantage of your MOUT tactics.

The game will feature many futuristic weapons that, while based on current military prototypes and designs, are completely fictional. Still, the technology in the game sounds very cool. Each member of your team will be wearing a combat helmet fitted with a special HUD capable of triangulating enemy positions based on data from other team members’ helmets. A well-placed team member can alert you to activity behind walls and can even help spot immediate threats. Additionally, the game will feature upgradeable weapons, such as grenade launchers that can be refitted with prototype grenade rounds.

One of the more interesting aspects of MOUT 2025 is its online capabilities. In conjunction with Ripcord’s pledge to make games that take advantage of Sega’s gaming network, MOUT 2025 will be Internet multiplayer compatible, featuring up to eight-player cooperative and deathmatch play.

MOUT 2025 is scheduled for an October release.

Still on Gamespot, the following month, we could read this:

The game essentially has two modes of play: a single-player, mission-based mode and an online, “every man for himself” battle for up to eight players.

A very small section of one of the game’s levels, in a nighttime setting, was playable at the E3 show. This urban area was cluttered with trash cans, elevators, and alleys. In terms of weapons, there wasn’t much variety. Perhaps because the game was presented in a limited setting, the only weapons that were readily available were a straight machine gun and a short-range rocket launcher. Also, the only real power-up was an ammo recharge. According to a Ripcord representative, however, several new weapons and power-ups will be added to the finished product.

Sadly, in March 2001, Ripcord took the decision to cancel some Dreamcast titles, following the restructuration of SEGA after the console didn’t do well in terms of selling units:

Lately, it’s been more of the ugly news of third parties canceling their Dreamcast games and now, Ripcord Games might join that list soon.

“We have put a hold on the further development of our Dreamcast games,” stated John Peterson, Executive Vice President of Ripcord Games. “While we believe the Dreamcast is a great system, SEGA’s new business direction [into the software business] has made us re-evaluate our current state.” Mr. Peterson wouldn’t go so far as to state the Ripcord Games for the Dreamcast – Legend of the Blade MastersGorka Morka, and Shrapnel: Urban Warfare 2025 – were cancelled, but are pending publisher’s decision.

Ripcord Games definitely closed offices in April 2001, ruining the chances of Legend of the Blade Masters, Shrapnel: Urban Warfare 2025 and Gorkamorka being released, at least, on PC.

Article by Daniel Nicaise

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