News on Beta & Cancelled Games

Project: Advena [PC – Cancelled]

Project Advena is a cancelled sci-fi, survival adventure game that was in development by Illfonic and Psyop Games around 2015 – 2016. The game was officially announced by the team and a short description was available on their old website:

“Alone, and marooned on an alien world, a humble space freighter pilot must face dwindling resources, a hostile environment, and his own internal demons to make his way toward his only hope for rescue, a flickering beacon forgotten on a precipitous mountainside. Each step on his journey threatens to bring him face to face with his imminent mortality, dwindling supplies, strange creatures, and the deepening shade of his own solitude.”

Venture Beat also published an interview with Illfonic in late 2015:

“After THQ shut down, we started doing work for hire putting our CryEngine knowledge to good use, and we worked on Star Citizen, Evolve, Armored Warfare, Sonic Boom … the Team Challenges … a tech demo with AMD, Crysis 3, and some other really cool unannounced projects.

Currently, besides Friday the 13th: The Game, we are working on Moving Hazard and Project Advena — a working title — with Psyop Games, along with relaunching Nexuiz real soon. In addition, we are continuing working on our MMO Revival, which is build in stages and has a pretty cool update coming to Phase 1 real soon.”

Nothing more is known about Advena’s gameplay. Only a few promotional images are preserved below, to remember its existence. After a while the game quietly vanished, while Illfonic switched their resources on different projects. We can speculate Advena was not proceeding as planned and the team decided to focus their efforts on more secure and profitable projects.

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Project Alpha (MIT) [GBA – Cancelled]

Project Alpha is a cancelled RPG that was in development by Multimedia Intelligence Transfer for Game Boy Advance. The team is mostly known for their work on the portable side-series of Shin Megami Tensei, with titles such as Devil Children, DemiKids, Megami Tensei Gaiden.

This canned project was in development using the same GBA engine they created for the Devil Children titles, as much as it reused many assets from Devil Children: Fire Book. However it seems Project Alpha was planned as a different, original game. In early 2019 YT channel Hard4Games made a video about this prototype and sometime later Kuriatsu acquired the same proto, doing more research on its content. As wrote on Reddit:

“For those that are unaware, Project Alpha, is a game prototype that first appeared on Hard4Games about a month ago. In these videos, they covered a few things that are and are not relevant to the game series Devil Children on GBA. Project Alpha uses the exact same game engine to a T that Devil Children: book of fire uses, to the point that it even uses book of Fires internal designation. (so basically Atlus rom hacked Book of Fire) A lot of the assets, such as music, some visuals, a LOT of Debug, and so on, are from Book of Fire, but Project Alpha is its own game, and at one time, was supposed to be something, but noone knows what. In my experiments with this game, there’s not even a single trace of its original name that I’m seeing thus far.”

The japanese prototype was translated thanks to RetroTranslator and Kuriatsu made a video showing off more of what can be found in this early demo:

As wrote in the video description:

  1. This game is not even 1/50th complete, but it is an interesting game.
  2. This game is not a Devil Children game, despite using the DC3 Engine. project alpha is the same for devil children as Guruguru Garakuta-zu is for devil children on the Gameboy colour. Devil children on the GBC actually took a LOT of resources from Guruguru Garakuta-zu. In the same way, project alpha took a LOT of resources from Devil Children Flame Book. In fact, all of the music that we’ll hear from this game is actually from Devil Children Flame Book.
  3. This game is highly unusual in comparison to other prototypes, and is likely the equivalent of a pilot TV show thats testing the waters, as a result, it’s not incredibly detailed, but the back story is clear as crystal.”

Thanks to Kuriatsu for the contribution!

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Syndicate Reboot (EA Black Box) [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3]

Around 2005 Canadian team EA Black Box was working on a Syndicate reboot (8 years before their 2012 reboot of the series), to be published for the 7th generation of consoles (Xbox 360, Playstation 3). While the original Syndicate was a real-time strategy game, this new project could have been a more linear action oriented third person shooter, a popular genre on console at the time.

Unfortunately EA never officially announced this new Syndicate, so details about the game are basically zero. What we know is this Syndicate reboot was cancelled not long after: the team tried to convert it into an even more fast-action shooter featuring a female protagonist, but in the end even this new incarnation was canned. Part of the same team later worked on Gunhead, another interesting, cancelled third person adventure featuring a gun-headed protagonist.

Black Box were moved to more profitable projects such as Need for Speed, NBA Street and Skate, before part of the team was laid-off by EA Canada in 2012, when the studio was renamed into Quicklime Games to focus on social gaming and free-to-play.

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DeVargas (Capcom Studio 8) [PS2 – Cancelled]

DeVargas is a cancelled action adventure that was in development by Capcom Production Studio 8 for Playstation 2. The team is mostly known for their work on the Maximo series, Final Fight Revenge and Final Fight: Streetwise, but they also worked on some fascinating lost projects.

Studio 8 was full of talented devs and artists: after publishing Maximo 2 they started working on 3 interesting pitches: Maximo 3, DeVargas and Final Fight: Seven Sons (the unreleased FF planned before Final Fight: Streetwise). While for Maximo 3 and Final Fight: Seven Sons some footage and concept art were already preserved, DeVargas remained unseen until Trent Kaniuga (former Studio 8 artist) shared one image on Twitter:

We were able to gather some details about this canned project in 2015, while we were doing research for our book. Maximo 3 and DeVargas were in development using a similar code, so their early prototypes shared a few assets and models. While Maximo had a broader audience thanks to its character design, DeVargas was conceived as a more mature project, with a more realistic art-style.

The game setting was somehow similar to Assassin’s Creed. The main protagonist was a prisoner on ship and in the prototype you woke up in shackles. Your main objective was to escape using stealth: the boat interior was dark and the men on it had lanterns, so you could sneak up behind them and choke them with his chains.

This was just an early idea for the first level, but after it the game would open up, being more about exploration and melee combat. DeVargas was worked on for just 3 – 4 months before Keiji Inafune decided to cancel it.

In the end, only Final Fight: Streetwise was greenlighted by Capcom, but when released it failed to achieve mainstream success and it bombed in sales. Capcom decided to not invest in their California team anymore and sadly Production Studio 8 was closed down in 2006.

At the moment only a single concept art remains to preserve the existence of DeVargas, but you can keep an eye on Trent Kaniuga’s Twitter profile and Youtube Channel to see if he could find more in the future.

Ooinaru Kan [Famicom / NES – Cancelled]

Ooinaru Kan (大いなる完) is a cancelled adventure / simulation game based on Hiroshi Motomiya’s 1984 manga series, in development by Hect / Hector and planned to be published for Famicom / NES.

This series is quite obscure outside of Japan, but we can read a short plot description on Amazon Japan (“translated” with Google Translate):

“Tetsuma Kan, a peasant’s prisoner, is a bad guy who is entitled “Bonno” because of the annoyance of missing digits. In 1938, he committed the only daughter, Takako, of the landowner Ishikura, and jumped out of his hometown to climb to an equal position with Ishikura’s house. One generation of a man who lives in a turbulent era and rises to the top of politics.”

We can assume the game would have followed the same storyline, but not much is known about this project. Heimao found a single screenshot from the game in an old gaming magazine and shared it on Twitter.

As it often happens with cancelled Famicom games, today Ooinaru Kan is forgotten by everyone and we’ll probably never know more about what happened to it.

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