News on Beta & Cancelled Games

Ocean Warrior (Extreme Outer Reef) [Xbox 360, PS3 – Cancelled]

Ocean Warrior is a cancelled action game that was in development by a small team known as “Stardust Interactive Media” between 2001 and 2004, planned to be released for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. The game was initially conceived as some kind of mix between “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater” and “Waterworld”, an extreme-sport video game titled “Extreme Outer Reef” about big-wave surfing in flooded cities.

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As we can read from an old press-release published in 2002:

“If things go according to plan for Stardust Interactive Media, the startup will soon be making waves – monster waves – in the video-game market. Big waves are the name of the game for Stardust, creators of a sports-action surfing video title, “Extreme Outer Reef.” The game is based on one of the most dangerous sports in the world, “extreme big-wave surfing”–surfing waves 75 feet and taller with the aid of high-powered jet-skis.

“Extreme Outer Reef” capitalizes on the recent success of other extreme board-sports videos, such as snowboard and skateboarding. “People love board sports and we’ve created a game in a way that’s never been done before,” said Markland Fountain, chief operating officer for Stardust Interactive, one of 10 finalist companies in The Business Journal’s Business Plan Competition. “Surfing is just a sexy, interesting sport and you can’t get any crazier than this,” Fountain said.

The game is the brainchild of Chief Executive Dan Meyers, a native Oregonian who has surfed the Oregon Coast for the past 23 years. He and Fountain–also a surfer dude–are heading up the company. And they’re backed by a solid team of video-game bigwigs and world-class giant-wave surfers.

Scott Orr, whose video titles have sold nearly $2 billion in the past 20 years, signed on as executive producer for “Extreme Outer Reef.” Chief technical consultant is Stewart Apelzin, creator of best-sellers “Myst” and “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?”

Other surfing videos exist, but Stardust insists its game will be unique. For one thing, the game thrills players with monster waves up to 200 feet, but Stardust also has developed a “dynamic waves physics engine” — a software application that generates waves that behave the way real waves work in the ocean.

“No other surf game makes waves with a real-time physics model,” said Meyers. Picture “giant liquid avalanches,” say the business partners. “You have endless variability, and it becomes this crazy surface where you can pull tons of tricky maneuvers,” Fountain said. “It gives the game replay value,” as opposed to existing surfing videos, which can quickly become boring.”

During development the project evolved into Ocean Warrior, a more cinematic action game featuring speed-boats equipped with machine-guns in a post-apocalyptic flooded world, similar to Waterworld.

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As we can read from the description added to the box mock up (made using the original Xbox games’ template as the Xbox 360 was not released yet):

“The Earth’s major cities are under water! The world’s ocean levels had been rising for years, but a nuclear blast set off by the evil NERVA organization has caused the sudden flooding of coastal cities worldwide. As an elite Ocean Warrior, you take to the waves to rescue the innocent and to bring NERVA to justice.

Waterborne combat is back with a vengeance! Pilot a variety of heavily armed watercraft through unbelievable apocalyptic ocean environments!

Drive the boat, or man its turret, bail out and swim at any time. Commandeer any craft you can find! Disable an enemy crew, climb aboard, and take their boat for yourself!

Protect your floating base at all costs. Your base supplies all of your new weapons and repairs, and holds items and personnel captured or rescued in the field!

Monster surf like you’ve never seen! Ride 100-foot tidal waves through modern cities and ancient canyons!

Exciting story of global destruction takes you to disaster zones around the world, your AI teammates will have your back!

Tons of multiplayer modes! Play deathmatch, CTF, Destruction, King of the Kill and more on a split screen, with system link or over xbox live!”

Stardust Interactive tried to pitch the game to different publishers, but in the end Ocean Warrior was never released, only a few screenshots and footage from the early prototype are preserved below, to remember this lost project.

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DR (989 Studios) [Playstation – Cancelled]

In the mid and late ‘90s 989 Studios / Sony Interactive Studios Los Angeles developed many popular games for the first Playstation, titles such as Bust A Groove, Cool Boarders 3, Jet Moto 3, Cardinal Syn, Twisted Metal 3 and Syphon Filter. Unfortunately they also worked on many other projects that never seen the light of day, such as Dark Guns, Sorcery, Warhawk 2 and The Diabolical Adventures of Tobu.

Another unseen game they were working on was labeled as “DR”, possibly the initials for something like “Death Race”, some kind of post-apocalyptic racing / combat game inspired by the Mad Max movies, featuring strange vehicles with guns and bio-mechanical designs. Unfortunately there’s not much more available from this lost game, but only a few concept arts were preserved, create by artist John Duggan at the time.

We can speculate DR was meant to be played somehow like Twisted Metal and that could be the reason of its demise: Sony gave 989 Studios the Twisted Metal IP to develop a full sequel to their car-combat game, a title that could have been more profitable than an original project with similar gameplay.

DR remains another interesting unseen game we’ll never play by one of our favorite studios from the original Playstation years. If you know someone who worked on this game and could remember more details, please let us know!

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Hired Guns (Devil’s Thumb, VR-1) [PC – Cancelled]

The original Hired Guns was a First Person sci-fi tactical RPG developed by DMA Design (the team that created GTA and later became Rockstar North) and published in 1993 by Psygnosis for Amiga and PC. Hired Guns was quite ambitious for its time, players were able to use 4 different characters at the same time, each one had their own view and the game was played using a 4 windows split screen, also allowing up to 4 players to play together in coop.

The team behind this “reboot” of Hired Guns was Devil’s Thumb Entertainment, a small DMA division started in 1995 by David Jones and led by Tony Harman. Only a year later Devil’s Thumb was cut off from DMA and became an independent studio, working on Mike Piazza’s Strike Zone (released in 1998 for Nintendo 64) and Tides of War (released on PC in 1999). Sometime between the release of these two games, Devil’s Thumb also pitched this new Hired Guns to Psygnosis, that soon greenlighted the project to be developed using Unreal engine.

As recalled by a former Devil’s Thumb member who worked on the game:

“All of our levels had a maximum on-screen limit of 80 polygons using the old Unreal 1 engine.  Our art direction was to use a lot of color, since the first person shooter at the time was Quake and it was very brown.  Our marketing was going to include:  “There are millions of colors, we used them all…. except brown.”

A few previews for Hired Guns were published back in the day by Gamestop and IGN:

“Whereas most shooters are pretty simple run and gun affairs, Hired Guns is a complex game of tactics and teammates, more along the lines of X-COM Alliance or System Shock 2 than a Quake or Unreal. “

“Here’s the basic story. In the not so distant future, those who could afford it left the now poisoned Earth to travel to different off-world colonies that had been established by three different corporations. The first colony was in the Luyten system 10.8 light years from Earth and was reached by the mammoth Tesseract Corporation using a brand-new interstellar drive. Later colonies were started not only by Tesseract, but by the Betelov and Grenworld Corporations as well. With these new colonies in place, humans began to flourish again with huge new stores of resources to tap and trade. Sadly, human nature began to kick in and the three companies began fighting over consumer wealth and loyalty.”

“In the beginning of these battles, war was fought more or less in the conventional fashion, with huge armies taking each other on in space and on the colonies, wiping each other (and often the colonies) out in the process. As colonies wised up and began to create their own militias and as the corporations began to loose the ability to fund huge armies, they started to hire small mercenary groups to commit acts of espionage and sabotage for them. It was during this time that the Hired Guns, a crack team led by a man named Kircher appeared. Considered by some to be the finest data espionage agents ever assembled and by others to be absolutely insane, this ruthless group started to play each of the companies against the others in an attempt to bring themselves massive profit and power.”

“Using the Unreal engine, Hired Guns will allow gamers to control a four person mercenary squad as they go off on a series of missions. What pushes Hired Guns outside the genre is that you actually control all four members of team in a multi-windowed interface. One large window accommodates the character you’re currently controlling with three smaller windows that depict what your other team members are seeing. When you’re not controlling them directly, a control panel allows you to tweak their AI for the task at hand. If you need to clear room quickly, you could turn up their aggression and see what ensues. Or you could have one soldier run into a room to battle several enemies and retreat when its health goes below 50 percent. During gameplay, you can take control of any of the players as they combat evil corporations.”

“Missions bring more strategy to the 3D shooter by forcing you to figure out which mercenary is best suited to a particular task in a mission. Kircher is a Rasta male with spiritual self-healing capabilities, Myriel is a 200-year-old who is mostly cyborg and has an advantage of being able to understand electronics, Rorian is a ex-soldier with zoom lens-like optical implants, and Osverger is the berzerker of the crew with a large soldier body and massive strength.”

In 2000 VR-1 Entertainment acquired Devil’s Thumb, while at the same time Psygnosis decided to leave the PC market to focus their resources on Playstation games. It’s not clear which company owned the Hired Guns IP, but unfortunately without its original publisher and with a new studio management the game had to be canned.

It seems Hired Guns was almost finished when cancelled, there’s even a leaked beta that you can download and play to check out what it could have been.This beta is labeled as a “pre-production version” and it includes all the levels, characters and weapons planned for the final game.

Thanks to Harri for the contribution!

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Hellion: Mystery of the Inquisition [Cancelled – PS3, Xbox 360, PC]

Hellion: Mystery of the Inquisition is a cancelled first person action RPG set in a medieval world, in development in 2009 by Flying Fish Studios, a small team composed of developers who previously worked on The Witcher and Two Worlds. The game was planned for Xbox 360, PC and PS3, set to be released sometime in 2011.

As we can read in a Gamespot hands-on preview:

“The demo we saw revolved heavily around swordplay, and we watched as the developer rang a bell to summon a procession of new opponents to hack through. The combat seems to emphasize defense, so if you can block an attack, it leaves your opponent vulnerable to a follow-up blow.

Once he had weakened his opponents, he performed gory finishing moves, hacking their heads off or stabbing them in the heart, and in the full version, you’ll be able to sever limbs as well.

There’s still a lot of work to be done on Hellion, but the developers have plans to include 10 different locations, including Italy, the UK, Spain, and Prussia, as well as lots of medieval weaponry, including daggers, crossbows, and grenades. You’ll also be able to manifest God’s power in the form of exorcisms, ripping demons from the bodies of the possessed enemies, but we’ll have to wait to find out more about this.”

By looking at the remaining footage Hellion looked quite impressive for its time, something like a more linear Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion set in the real historical age of the 13th century. As announced by Simon Grabowski (CEO at Flying Fish Works) to IGN:

“Hellion is an epic journey through different medieval cultures full of real-life characters, wild animals, rough warriors, powerful Templar knights, deadly assassins and, ultimately, horrifying demons. Our vision is to create a historical fiction game that will put the player in the center of the medieval world, full of its cruelty, intransigence and diversified beliefs. In this ruthless reality, the player will become an eyewitness of great political machinations, unseen brutality and betrayal. He will pave his way to the truth just to find that it is more horrible and dreadful than anyone could imagine.“

There is no official reason why the game was never released, it just vanished forever and forgotten as another unseen game from the 7th generation of consoles. We speculate it could have been canned because of the financial crisis that struck many gaming studios at the end of the ‘00s.

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Elveon [Xbox 360, PS3, PC – Cancelled]

Elveon is a cancelled action adventure, originally planned to be released for Xbox 360 and PC. The game was conceived in 2003 by 10Tacle studios in Bratislava (Slovakia) until their parent company (10Tacle group) had to close down for financial problems in 2008. The project was then acquired by Climax Group and development focused on console (Xbox 360 and PS3), but unfortunately even Climax fell into financial problems and Elveon was canned again.

As we can read on Elveon’s official website (now closed)

“The history of the Elveon project dates back into 2003 when a small team started working on an idea of a fantasy world and game that would bring to life a new perspective – a story set in the  “early days” of a fantasy world – a time when the Elves were not yet the old, declining population, guarding the ancient ways, but still a young, emerging race, struggling to take their place in a world dominated by Gods and divine powers. During 2004 to 2007, the project grew and the team expanded up to a peak size of over 70 developers and – utilizing architects, painters and sculptors, managed to give the idea a stunning visual facade that – at its time – represented a benchmark in fantasy design and real-time graphical quality. In 2008, after a series of complications and before a serious attempt for a release could be made, the project had to be abandoned and the team has gradually dissolved. A long period of slumber resulted, with the Rights and Assets being held by different entities. The idea however, did not die with the original project…”

The original concept of Elveon by 10Tacle Studios Bratislava was for a somewhat linear action game with RPG elements, focused on story and complex combat mechanics. The team also planned an online multiplayer mode to let players fight against each other, something that reminds me of Ubisoft’s For Honor or the Versus multiplayer of Dark Souls. For sure Elveon was quite ambitious for its time. As we can read in an old preview by IGN:

“The action takes place in the third person and is centered on deliberate combat. We say deliberate because button mashing won’t get you anywhere. Controlled, precise actions will win the battles against your foes. […] Different moves and combos are conducted through a grouping of directional motions and button presses. Blocking must be done at the right moment to successfully deflect oncoming attacks.”

“All of the attack actions were motion captured using real weapons and it shows in the way spears are swung. They look like they actually have a weight to them. The weapons will also interact realistically with the environment. Blades will glance off of walls and other obstacles directly and it really looks like they’re colliding into something instead of bouncing off in the general vicinity of where it should hit. “

“Nothing is set in stone yet, but there may be some differences between the Xbox 360 and PC versions when they hit retail. After looking at some sales data, the developers are toying with the idea of including more RPG elements in the PC version and keeping the 360 build as a more streamlined action title. […] That’s because both the PC and 360 versions will have an online tournament mode where players can take their character from the game online to fight others one-on-one. “

When Climax acquired the game they changed its structure into something more similar to Zelda, with a main hub to freely explore to reach different dungeons. Probably Elveon’s multiplayer was cut at that time. Not much was ever shown from Climax’s version of the game, but from the few screenshots available (that you can see in the gallery below) it looked a lot like a mix between Dark Souls and Zelda.

After Elveon was cancelled again by Climax, in 2015 former members of 10Tacle studios Bratislava were able to re-acquire trademark, licenses and assets for their old game, to develop it again into something more similar to their original concept.

“Our main goal is to produce quality action RPG game, using newest technologies (UE4) and finish the Elveon dream, which was started 12 years ago with a small group of adventurous developers. Our focus is to use Elveon (book of elves) trademark and Elveon world with its specifics, to bring player whole new fantasy experience. We are taking the best from original game (duel fights, story, specific art style), we are polishing and tweaking it to the highest possible level, adding new features, graphics, using best actual technology available. We hope, to keep the Elveon trademark and world alive and bring the best game experience to players possible.”

Unfortunately this third version of the game seems dead too, with no updates since many years ago and with their official website that doesn’t work anymore.

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