News on Beta & Cancelled Games

Big Brother (George Orwell’s 1984 Video Game) [PC – Cancelled]

Big Brother is a cancelled point and click adventure game based on the book 1984 by George Orwell. The project was in development by Media X around 1998, planned to be released on PC. We only know about this lost game thanks to a preview published in Next Generation magazine (Issue 48) in December 1998, but we cannot find anything else on Media X online: they seems vanished forever with no trace.

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In the original preview we can read:

“LucasArts’ Hal Barwood has made  the excellent point before that unless adventure games stay on the cusp of technology, they are doomed as a genre. Enter Media X. The company’s goal is nothing short  of redefining the traditional adventure game.

To that end, the company has discarded the 2D point-and-click interface  that has dominated the genre since the death of infocom. In its place is a realtime  3D engine and a combination of inventory, slider, and Mario-style environment puzzles. To reduce player confusion – a  common problem for anyone who has played Myst or its descendants – text messages (for instance, “You unlock the steam vent”) appear on the screen at  appropriate times.

Initially disconcerting, these  messages quickly blend in and enable  players to concentrate on the game without wondering what they are  supposed to be doing. That’s good because the game should be exceptionally difficult on its own.

Set in  George Orwell’s 1984 universe, players  must rescue their fiancee from the Thought Police. It’s a simple goal, but one  that requires traversing 12 levels and solving hundreds of puzzles (there were originally 60 levels, but since early play testing indicates that each level takes about five hours, the number was culled).

Graphically, the game should be very  impressive. Media X has created an original first-person 3D engine for the  game, and, notably, the textures are very, very high-resolution, with little or no blurry filtering noticeable (the game will  require a 3D card to run), even when directly against objects. The art direction is equally good: The plot is slightly different from that of 1984, with a corrupt  regime that’s crumbling even more than in the book. The disintegration has carried over well – think crumbling brick buildings and steam vents.

Sales of adventure games (and  publisher support for them) is down, but  if ambitious projects like Big Brother and  GT’s Wheel of Time manage to become hits, this genre could quickly pick up  momentum. Based on early looks. Big Brother has a better chance to help the flailing genre than anything else we’ve  seen in years.”

Sounds promising? Maybe it could have been..

If you know someone who worked at Media X and could help us to preserve something more on their lost game, please let us know!

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Terraria: Otherworld [Cancelled]

In 2011 Re-Logic (an indie software house founded by Andrew Spinks) released Terraria, a 2D sandbox adventure set in a world made by blocks and biomes. The game let players to freely explore theirs worlds, dig tunnels, build buildings, crafting objects and fighting enemies.. basically it was Minecraft in 2D!

In 2015 Re-Logic and Engine Software announced they were working on a spin-off called Terraria: Otherworld, set in an alternate reality of the same universe. From the trailer we can see gameplay was similar to the original Terraria, but with new mechanics and a different graphic-style.

The game would have new items, dresses, furnitures, places and enemies, such as the Crystal Archer. Terraria: Otherworld’s developers tried to keep players’ freedom intact following a non-linear story. They retook the theme of fighting against the Corruption, but it would have been stronger than in the main game and could even corrupt other biomes such as dirt and snow. Players would have been able to build special towers to purify the lands, but these towers could be attacked by dangerous creatures and buildings had to be protected.

Their plan was to introduce more RPG and Tower Defense elements into the game, allowing players to build a defense system based on turrets and automatic weapons. They also wanted to add a level-up system for weapons, a quests system and new NPC telling the world lore.

Terraria: Otherworld was in development for 3 years before being cancelled. At first Re-Logic wanted to publish the game in 2016, but it was postponed and in 2017 Engine Software abandoned the project for unknown reasons.

Development was taken by Pipeworks, an internal team of Digital Bros Entertainment, but in 2018 Terraria: Otherworld was officially cancelled with an announce by Re-Logic. Apparently the team had a “clear vision for this game”, but they were not able to implement it into a fun game.

Article by Gin

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Naughty Dog’s Lost Sci-Fi Game (Savage Starlight?) [PS3 – Cancelled]

Today Naughty Dog is mostly loved for their modern-world adventures, such as the Uncharted and The Last of Us Series, but during the PS2 generation they were mostly known for their Fantasy Sci-Fi series: Jak and Daxter. It’s easy to see how they would have considered another futuristic project when they moved development to the Playstation 3 and while a Jack & Daxter 4 was pitched, they also planned a different, more mature Sci-Fi adventure

This cancelled untitled Sci-Fi game was revealed by them in their “Naughty Dog’s 30th Anniversaryart book (you can buy it on Amazon UK, Amazon USA or Amazon IT) with a few details

“We explored the idea of doing a science fiction game following the Jak and Daxter franchise, complete with androids, robots, and futuristic weapons. The sci-fi game was going to be centered around a city that had been built up around a giant hole in the ground. No one knew exactly what created the hole, but the adventure would have the player exploring the depths.”

In the end Naughty Dog worked on Uncharted instead and it became such a huge success to shape up their following projects and sequels. There are some rumors about a possible resurrection of their Sci-Fi concept, thanks to an interview by Gamecrate with Naughty Dog game director Bruce Straley:

“Yeah, I’m not gonna drop hints to what it is, because who knows, it might actually happen. There’s one image in there that’s still in the back of my mind that I’d like to make a game out of. There’s one image. I’m just letting you know that it’s very possible. There’s still a story, there’s some great game ideas, there’s a lot of really cool stuff in the thing, like I think it’d be really cool to see if Naughty Dog could do this game. I don’t think anybody else could do this game like Naughty Dog could do this game. It’s one image.”

Some people relate this lost Sci-Fi pitch with another Sci-Fi story titled “Savage Starlight”, a fictional comic book series that Naughty Dog put into The Last of Us as collectible items. While the name “Savage Starlight” is mostly used by fans to indicate ND’s future, possible science-fiction game, it seems the plot of the comics is quite different from what is know of their cancelled PS3 project

“Set in the year 2186, the plot of Savage Starlight centers around Dr. Daniela Star’s adventures in space. She discovers a method of traveling faster than light via a jump drive, and soon finds that a group of hostile extraterrestrial known as the Travelers are threatening mankind. “

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Crimson Skies 3 [Xbox 360 – Cancelled]

The first Crimson Skies is an arcade flight video game developed by Zipper Interactive and published for PC in 2000 by Microsoft Game Studios. In 2003 Microsoft published a sequel titled “Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge“, developed by FASA Studio for the original Xbox. Both games still have a cult-following, thanks to their fun gameplay and interesting “dieselpunk” story-settings (an alternate history of the 1930s), with a good single-player campaign, plus online and offline multiplayer

A third chapter in the series was in development by Fasa Studio around 2003 / 2004 and planned to be released for Xbox 360. Probably Microsoft wanted to offer one of their “hardcore” IPs for their new console, but in the end the project was never completed. There are currently no screenshot, videos or images preserved

Crimson Skies 3 would have expanded its gameplay by offering on-foot missions and we can speculate that FASA tried to create a much more ambitious project, making it a full open world flying game. High Road to Revenge already had many levels structured similarly to the open-world missions of GTA, where you could fly around and choose different missions located throughout the game map. We can assume in Crimson Skies 3 we could have explored cities with our character and then freely flying around the world using our planes to resolve missions and fight against enemy aircrafts

Unfortunately the game was soon cancelled and the team was moved to work on Shadowrun, the 2007 multiplayer game released for Xbox 360 and PC. Many other FASA games were canned in the mid ‘00s, such as Cesium, Mechwarrior Prime and Shadowrun: The Awakening. The company was then shut down by Microsoft on September 2007.

We tried many times to get in contact with people who worked at FASA on Crimson Skies 3 but without luck. If you know someone who worked on this lost project, please let us know.

Project Dropship [Xbox 360, PS3 – Cancelled]

If you are a long-time fan of Square you may have read about this lost game before. Project Dropship was a canceled videogame developed by Square Enix Los Angeles and it would have been their first game. It was going to be a frantic but strategic shooter with a top down view and a strong coop multiplayer component.

It was 2008: Square Enix decided to open a new studio to test new technologies and develop digital-only, small-budget videogames. Their LA team was composed by around 10 or 20 developers and the director was Fumiaki Shiraishi, already know for his work on Crystal Chronicles: my Life as a King and Final Fantasy XI Online. In an interview with Gamasutra Shiraishi talked about their idea for the studio:

“We do like to have one full-size project if possible, and then have the downloadables on the side. We’re still in the process of trying to figure out what the first title will be. Right now we’re still in the very early phase of testing out gameplay stuff and testing out the technology. The scope of the game, and how it’s going to be sold, is going to come a little bit later.”

Even Dave Hoffman, Director of Business Development, declared to Siliconera that they were not ready to announce anything and for 3 years the Square LA studio didn’t release any videogame or announcement

2011 was a difficult year for Square Enix: in March they reported a loss in their last fiscal year, in part due to canceled videogames. Nothing was ever announced for their Los Angeles Studio until it was suddenly closed. Square Enix didn’t announce any reason for the closure, but  thanks to Siliconera, Final Fantasy Universe and some leaked screenshots we know that the studio was working on a project titled “Dropship

Dropship was in development for PS3 and Xbox 360 using Gamebryo, a 3D Engine created by Numerical Design Limited and later licensed by Square Enix in 2009. In the game you had to fight against large groups of enemies to proceed in the area, while using shields and rocks to plan attack or defense strategies. By looking at the video and screenshots leaked online it’s clear that Dropship had a strong focus on its coop mode, with up to 4 players at the same time

The game was set in a sci-fi-western world, featuring snowy, rocky areas and abandoned factories. You could use guns or lasers and choose between different characters, such as an old man dressed as a cowboy with a pirate hat and a girl with pink hair and goggles. Main enemies in the game were some kind of aliens, strange animals and monsters: we can notice a flying white fish and a huge creature similar to a snake

Dropship was probably cancelled in March 2011 even if it was in an advanced state of development. After the closure of the studio Shiraishi worked for other software houses and today he is Director of Game Development at GungHo Online Entertainment America.

Article by Gin

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