News on Beta & Cancelled Games

Ion Runner [Cancelled – GameCube, PS2, Xbox, PC]

Ion Runner is a cancelled racing / on-rail shooter game that was in development around 20022003 by Attention to Detail, the team mostly known for such titles as Rollcage, Lego Racers 2 and Drome Racers. The project was planned to be released for GameCube, Playstation 2, Xbox and PC, but unfortunately the team did not find a publisher interested in supporting it.

Some details about this lost game was shared online by former developers, who started working on Ion Runner after the cancellation of Lego Racer 4:

“A more ambitious project, Lego Racers 4, was canned after substantial development effort. This was technically interesting as the design called for streaming of the entire game world from DVD, allowing much larger and more intricate play area than earlier Lego games, or most console titles at the time. The team involved went on to work on Ion Runner […]

Two complete levels of Ion Runner were programmed and demonstrated to many publishers, but there was no time to sign a deal before venture capitalists 3I pulled the plug on the company in August 2003.

Since then the demos have been seen by many in the industry who were surprised that the project was never finished – but the price, calculated to refloat the group as well as to cover the development costs, meant any deal on this new IP was hard to arrange.”

It seems the game initially started as a classic 3D racing – on rail shooter, in which players would drive their overbike through different levels while shooting down enemies. After a while the team toyed with a more open adventure-alike gameplay, possibly with HUB world to explore, NPCs to talk to and other action-adventure mechanics. As far as we know, not much was done on this version before the cancellation.

In the end with no more funds to keep the studio alive, Attention to Detail had to close down for liquidation:

“UK developer ATD (Attention to Detail) went into liquidation last Thursday, it has been revealed. While most of the country’s attention was directed at the ECTS trade show approximately 50 staff was laid off after a failure to sign the developer’s Ion Runner title.”

If you know someone who worked on the game and may have saved footage or more screenshots, please let us know!

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Yamabushi (True Dimensions) [PC – Cancelled]

Yamabushi is a prototype for a PC stealth-game cancelled around 2001. The project was in development by True Dimensions, a portuguese team formed by Diogo Teixeira, Márcio Martins, Marco Vale, Mário Luzeiro, Tiago Sousa and Vítor Marques. Yamabushi was conceived from an original idea by Marco: their goal was to develop a game about ninjas set in feudal Japan with an accurate depiction of the era, a credible story while keeping gameplay interesting for fans of the genre.

Development started around 1999 with a small tech-demo, to demonstrate their skills. This demo was internally known as “Blood & Honour”, a name that was later changed to not be associated with the homonym political group. Setting their focus on realism True Dimensions collaborated with Gonçalo Rosa, instructor of the Bujinkan Tsuru Dojo in Carcavelos. The team asked Gonçalo to review their script, to be sure their story wouldn’t have any inaccurate information. In Yamabushi players would follow a hypothetical scenario deeply rooted in Japan’s history: it was very important to create this sense of realism, to let you believe that this story could have truly happened.

Inspired by games like Tenchu and Metal Gear Solid, the team went after the idea of making a stealth game. The plot unfolded around two ninjas: Kazuya and Kimiko. The first was conceived by Marco and the latter by Vítor, reusing a design from another earlier project. Yamabushi was set around the 13th century: Kazuya and Kimiko are two children from the Yamabushi family, a group despised by most people because part of them lived as thieves, ronins and killers, under the name “Yamabushi Raiders”. They grew up as normal children, even if their community was estranged by society. Unfortunately their family was attacked by samurais, as they were regarded as a threat for the safety of the locals. In that attack their parents and most of their family were killed.

Kazuya and Kimiko managed to escape and wander together through the woods for several days, until they found a small village. Seemingly deserted, the village actually belonged to a ninja clan. They welcomed the kids and trained them to become ninjas, helping them fulfilling their destiny to avenge their family.

In the end True Dimensions were not able to develop a full game out of their Yamabushi prototype, but screenshots they shared online piqued the interest of other developers and gamers, managing in a way to start-off the actual Portuguese developers community.

True Dimensions worked on other tech-demos in the early ‘00s, like TrasD (2001), Homo-Machus in Space (2002) and Illuminatu (2002). These demos served as their portfolio pieces and were determinant in making them choose the area of videogame development as their future.

I’d like to send special thanks to Marco Vale for his time and help in writing this article, to remember their lost project.

Article by Jump/Error, original version in Portuguese!

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Blood Dust (Visceral Games) [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3]

Blood Dust is a cancelled multiplayer shooter in development at Visceral Games / EA from presumably late 2008 to 2011. As it was in development during the “golden age” of online multiplayer on consoles, its main focus was to create a fun game to fight against friends and random people. Unfortunately, not much more is known about this lost project.

Rumors suggest the game started out as being just a multiplayer mode for the cancelled singleplayer game The Ripper, which was also in development by EA. After showing promising results, EA turned this “multiplayer mode” into a stand-alone digital-only project: Blood Dust.

The game was set in a ‘30s style world, where three factions fought over a drug called “Blood Dust”. These factions consisted of “The Crushers” (made up of former U.S army troops), “the Black Chamber” (a predecessor to the CIA) and a third “monster” faction. This was what an anonymous writer had to say about the game:

 “I got to test this game about a year ago. At that time, The Ripper was a super power-up you got in multiplayer – although I can’t remember the conditions required to transform (might have been a certain amount of kills in a row.) The Ripper was a juggernaut; you had super speed, throwing knives that were almost instant kills, and a brutal melee. It was a fun concept because it really took teamwork to take The Ripper down. The monster class was grossly overpowered at the time I played, but it was lots of fun. Different classes could climb walls, hang on ceilings, or see enemy heat signatures through walls.”

EA planned to publish The Ripper one year after the release of Blood Dust, but both games were eventually cancelled. After The Ripper was canned, Visceral Games Melbourne (the studio behind the titles) focused their efforts on Blood Dust, but without much luck. EA decided to close the studio in 2011 after all of their games were cancelled, apparently because it was too expensive to keep them alive.

Blood Dust was nearly 80 percent finished when it got cancelled.

Article by Vipaah, thanks to Raupidu for the contribution!

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Fang of Alnam (no Kiba) [Cancelled – SNES, Super Famicom]

Fang of Alnam (アルナムの牙~獣族十二神徒伝説~, Alnam no Kiba: Shouzoku Juunishin-to Densetsu) is a cancelled 16-bit RPG that was in development by forgotten japanese team Right Stuff, planned to be released in 1996 for Super Famicom (SNES). This project could have been a port of “Alnam no Kiba”, an obscure RPG released in 1994 for PC-Engine and later reworked as a Visual Novel for the original Playstation in 1996.

By comparing screenshots from the cancelled SNES version to images / videos from the PC-Engine version it looks like the game was changed a lot, with very different sprites. While it still looks like a traditional RPG (and not a Visual Novel like the PS1 edition), we could assume that this lost Super Famicom version would also have some differences compared to the PC Engine edition.

Celine found a screenshot of the SNES version in Famitsu magazine (issue 363) and some more details on the personal blog of a japanese collector / former developer (?) who owns an early prototype of the game (translated with Google translate):

“This time, I will introduce Arnam’s fang, which was developed by Right Stuff but has been discontinued. Since this ROM is a very early version, there is no opening, no conversation with NPC, and almost no menu is created.

There is only one MAP and you cannot leave this town. Although it is judged to be an obstacle for the time being, it is suspicious and you can dig into buildings and trees. NPC has several characters in the MAP but cannot speak at all. I can’t enter the building. You can just walk around the town.

Only the menu can be displayed with the Y button. The item is item equipment beast record record method break state setting. Beasting and breaks cannot be used, and will freeze when selected. Most of the items are left unimplemented and the equipment is displayed, but you can not change the equipment.

I don’t remember any magazines at that time, but I may have decided to cancel the development quite early. And the cart name of this ROM is “DEATH BRADE”. Often, the development ROM often uses the ROM name that was previously developed. SFC’s Death Brade is an IMAX and DECO game.

Did you get involved = Light Staff”

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