News on Beta & Cancelled Games

Ninth Doctor Who (2005 Video Game) [Cancelled / Tech Demo]

A Doctor Who video game, based-off the science-fiction series of the same name, was being developed by Australian developer IR Gurus Interactive (later rebranded Transmission Games). The game would have coincided with the first series of the revived 2005 tv-show starring Christopher Eccleston as The Ninth Doctor and Billie Piper as Rose Tyler. Development lasted half a year and was funded through substantial government subsidies. The reason for its cancellation according to Paul Callaghan who worked at the studio was simply “It’s complicated”.

“I’d wanted to work on a Doctor Who game since I was about 11 years old, so this was kind of a dream project for me,” said Callaghan. “When it was cancelled, I had to take a step back to work out whether or not this was the career I wanted to pursue.”

As to the plot for the game, it is vague whether the details given by Callaghan are what was planned for it. From the Sydney Morning Herald article:

“He conceived a plot around aliens modifying the human race with airborne nanobots, allowing companion Rose Tyler to undergo some changes: “We could give her some cool alien powers!””

According to Andy Widger, then head of communications for BBC Worldwide, there were no intentions of releasing it as he told website GamesRadar:

“The news of a Doctor Who game is a little premature. At present the only work being done is on an interactive demo for internal evaluation. There is no firm proposal for a game and no commitment to particular formats or an idea of a potential release date – and no screenshots.

Article by Vitas Varnas

Mythica (Microsoft MMORPG) [PC – Cancelled]

Mythica is a cancelled MMORPG based on Vikings folklore and Norse mythology that was in development by Microsoft Game Studios between 2002 and 2004, planned to be released on PC. At the time most big gaming companies tried to launch their own massive online multiplayer games, as it was quite a lucrative market (at least until they over-saturated it). Mythica boosted impressive graphics for its time, and Microsoft also promised fun gameplay mechanics.

As we can read from their official 2003 press release:

“When playing ‘Mythica,’ players will feel like genuine Norse heroes on a personalized journey unique to them,” said Adam Waalkes, studio manager for role-playing games at Microsoft Corp. “Through ‘Mythica,’ Microsoft Game Studios will revitalize the massively multiplayer genre by putting the focus where it belongs: on gameplay.”

In the quest to become the one true hero in a vast gaming world, players may adventure with a band of fellow immortals into huge, populated public spaces or enter a Private Realm. “Mythica’s” Private Realms Technology envelopes players in story lines and environments that react to their actions in private areas of the world. Here players become the central characters in a heroic tale where actions have lasting consequences in their own persistent game world.

The Private Realms are spread across several traditional planes of existence from Norse mythology, from the grassy fields and eternal spring of Asgard to the fiery heart of Muspellheim. Using godlike powers, players can dispel droves of menacing monsters with a single blow or battle massive, monstrous beasts such as the Midgard Serpent.”

In 2011 Justin Olivetti wrote a great article about why Mythica could have been a great addition to the MMORPG market:

“No matter how similar MMOs may be to each other, each one needs a “hook” that devs and marketers can bandy about to capture the imaginations of gamers. […] With Mythica, the hook was “Let players be gods.

[…] Each day, players would get to choose whether they wanted to adventure in an open world setting or in personalized “private realms” that would change the game according to their deeds. In private realms, what you or your small group of friends did would have a lasting impact on the game world — as long as you were in that version of the game, that is.”

Mythica’s development team consisted of about forty people, but most of them were fired in 2004 when the game was officially cancelled. Just a year before Microsoft already faced another sudden problem: Mythic Entertainment (developer of popular MMORPG Dark Age of Camelot) sued Microsoft, seeing in the similarity between their name and Mythica. We could speculate it was just a way to get some money from Microsoft or interfere with their game, seeing it as a potential competitor in the same genre as DAoC. In the end Microsoft just recognized the MMORPG market was over saturated: it would have been risky to proceed with Mythica’s development, so the project was canned.

Thanks to Josef for the contribution!

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Aquaria (Lobotomy Software) [Nintendo 64, Playstation – Cancelled]

Aquaria is a cancelled action adventure that was in development by Lobotomy Software for Nintendo 64 and Playstation. It was described as having a feeling similar to SEGA’s Nights Into Dreams, but underwater and with full 3D levels to explore in every direction. If you played Exhumed / PowerSlave on Saturn or Playstation, you probably remember it was quite good for its time: a Metroidvania adventure in first person view, before Metroid Prime even existed. Aquaria could have been another cult-hit by the same team, but unfortunately we never got the chance to see more from the project. It was just mentioned in old gaming magazines, such as in GameFan Magazine Issue 5:

“Currently Lobotomy is working on both games, with the company’s 20-or-so staff split roughly down the middle on each project. They have a number of games on the back burner, including PowerSlave 2 (a 3rd person Tomb Raider style adventure starring a young King Ramses), Aquaria (like Nights underwater, but with full 3D control) and a PC strategy game called Gothic. They are currently in the process of applying to become and N64 developer (Aquaria will be their first N64 title) and never miss the opportunity to snatch a quick game of Death Tank during lunch breaks.”

Computer & Video Games Issue 192:

“Lobotomy’s first N64 game, Aquaria already looks fantastic. The graphics run at 60fps and are apparently some  of the best seen. Enix are converting the game to PlayStation.”

C&VG probably confused Aquaria with Aqua Prophecy or another cancelled Enix game for Playstation. Thanks to our friend Ross Sillifant in 2015 we published an interview with Brian McNeely (former Lobotomy Software developer), who shared some memories about their work on Aquaria:

“We had a playable demo of Aquaria up and running on PlayStation. It was a free roaming third person underwater adventure game where you controlled an alien merman character.  The Nights comparison ties into how fluid the controls were.  You could do various dolphin-like acrobatics to maneuver through the environment.   In addition to the playable demo I had the majority of the design pretty much completed but when the company began to close its doors we had to stop development.  At one point we were contacted by Sega to possibly make the next Ecco the Dolphin game and we sent them our Aquaria prototype, but that never panned out.  If you’ve ever played Ecco the Dolphin Defender of the Future you can get a pretty good idea for how the core character controls and camera system for Aquaria were designed.”

In 1998 Lobotomy’s talented developers were acquired by Crave Entertainment and the team was renamed to Lobotomy Studios, to work on a Caesar’s Palace game for the Nintendo 64, but after a year of development the game was postponed and eventually cancelled. As we can read on Wikipedia, at that point Lobotomy Studios was closed and employees were let go or given the option to be relocated to another position at Crave Entertainment.

We hope one day someone could find screenshots, footage or even the playable Aquaria prototype: it would be great to preserve more documents of this lost video game.

Thanks to Celine and Ross Sillifant for the contributions!

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Ringman (Zono Inc) [Saturn, Dreamcast – Cancelled]

Ringman is a cancelled third person platform-shooter that was in development by Zono Inc in late 1996, initially planned for Sega Saturn and then for Sega Dreamcast. It would have been one of the first games ever published by Sega of America for their lost version of the Dreamcast. The team behind this project was part of the same one that worked along with Ed Annunziata on Mr. Bones for the Sega Saturn, with names such as William Novak, Simon Hallam and Dave Castelnuovo: thanks to the good relationship between Sega and Zono, they were able to pitch this project for the planned 128 bit console.

While the Dreamcast hardware was still not available in late 1996, Zono interfaced directly with Sega of America producers and the development team that was designing a 3Dfx version of the console, codenamed “Blackbelt”. Sega of America wanted to create something amazing and showed off the planned graphical power of the new 3Dfx chips. The game concept was inspired by the (at the time) newly released Quake by ID Software and Dave remembered how John Carmack was talking about implementing NURBS (“Non-uniform rational Basis spline” a model used in computer graphics for generating and representing curves) in his next rendering engine:  Sega producers wanted Zono to take a look at using NURBS to create this Blackbelt game. The surfaces in each world of Ringman would be curved and even the main character would have had a body composed of different rings, like a colorful spring that would permit it to move around quickly and shoot down enemies.

The team did quite a bit of concepting for the game and got as far as having a very simple prototype world with the protagonist moving around, but unfortunately the project was canned in mid-1997 when Sega of Japan found out about Sega of America’s plan to create another console and shut down the project. As we can read in an article by Douglass C. Perry on Gamasutra:

“In 1996, 3Dfx began building wide acclaim for its powerful graphics chips, one of which ran in arcade machines, including Atari’s San Francisco Rush and Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey. In 1997, 3Dfx went public, announcing its IPO. In the process it revealed the details of its contract with Sega, required by U.S. law. The announcement, however, had undesired effects. It publicly revealed Sega’s blueprint for a new, unannounced console, and angered executives at Sega Japan. Numerous reports indicate Yamamoto’s Blackbelt chipset using the 3Dfx chips was the more powerful of the two. Sega executives, however, still fuming at 3Dfx, severed their contract with the chip maker. (Soon thereafter, 3Dfx sued Sega and both companies settled out of court.) In the end, Sega of Japan selected Sato’s design, codenamed it “Katana,” and announced it publicly on September 7, 1997.”

If this internal issue between the “two Segas” was not enough, Sega of America was also split into the ill-fated SegaSoft and in early 1997, a few of their projects were canned. In late 1996, the CEO and CFO of SegaSoft asked the new company director, Peter Brown, to install a new financial system by April 1997. As told by Brown during an interview with InfoWorld magazine: “as a young company, we needed built-in maturity of process and scalability”: we can assume that games for a not-yet-confirmed new console were not a safe bet for the company stability.

After the cancellation of Ringman, along with their N64 legendary project “Freak Boy”, Zono had to wait until 2000 to release another game: Metal Fatigue, a PC RTS published by Psygnosis. In 1997, SegaSoft stil released a couple of Saturn games, Scud: The Disposable Assassin and Three Dirty Dwarves.

This article was originally published in 2016 in our book “Video Games You Will Never Play

Angelus 2: Holy Night [PC Engine – Cancelled]

Angelus 2: Holy Night is the cancelled sequel to Enix’s Angelus: Akuma no Fukuin, once in development by Asmik Ace Entertainment with such names as Yuzo Koshiro and Hiroyuki Kitazume working on the project, planned to be released for PC Engine and PC-98. The first game was a beloved visual novel, released only in Japan around 1988: Angelus 2 would have continued the story, left unfinished with a huge cliff-hanger. Somehow a CD-R containing data from this unreleased sequel was found some years ago by collectors, who later uploaded the content online: it seems the main plot was complete and you can listen to audio files (in japanese) to understand what would have happened in the final game:

“Angelus 2: Holy Night’s protagonist is Brian Pearl, the same reporter from the previous game. After the incidents seen in Angelus: Akuma no Fukuin, Brian and Ellis left London and had their wedding in New York. Two years have passed since then, and Brian is asked to cover a series of deaths happening in New York, caused by a strange disease (just like in the first game). He declines this request, as he doesn’t want to be involved again in a bizarre incident. Unfortunately his editor receive a letter warning of the next murder: the minister who witnessed the marriage of Brian and Ellis would be killed. Brian goes to the church, but the minister is already dead. He then decides to cover this case, because the mysterious disease has spread to people close to him. However, people involved in Brian’s life are dying one after another. As he continues his investigation, he discovers the existence of a group of evil spirits behind the incident and the resurrected demon Seva.”

In the end it seems the game was canned because the team switched development to the PC engine CD-ROM2, but the hardware sold poorly and they just decided to stop working on it.

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