News on Beta & Cancelled Games

The Unseelie [PC – Cancelled]

In 2004 Australian developer KaWow! started working on a first-person shooter called The Unseelie, that mixed horror with adventure elements. The game told a storyline about an old haunted forest and a village trapped in time. It was planned to be published by Octagon in 2005, but sadly the project was cancelled for unknown reasons.

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KaWow! were founded in 1997, helping other studios with the development of some games for PC and consoles, such as GORE: The Ultimate Soldier and other projects for television multimedia integration, LAN and Internet multiplayer first person games.

The Unseelie’s story still stand out today and is a quite haunting and mysterious one:

“In a chilly November evening, Damian Logan is driving his car on the countryside, crossing a dark Irish forest, when suddenly a child-like figure appears on the road. Trying to avoid an accident, Damian`s car gets out of control and crashing into a nearby tree.

Upon awakening he stumbles into an ancient forest, called “Tir-Na-Bràch-Marbh” – Land of the Eternal Death. Wandering lost deeper and deeper into the woodlands, he discovers stones, buried in the shape of a septagram, with a source of light shining from its center.

Walking towards it, the light is bright and dazzling, but suddenly dimming – plunging the forest in absolute blackness. Strange voices begin whispering from left and right, near and far….

As the story unfolds, we learn that Damian is trapped in a world between the living and the dead. The dark haunted forest has tangled and enclosed a 17th century Irish village, severing its contact with the rest of the world and stopping time from passing.

In order to escape and return home, the protagonist has to battle “The Unseelie” (pronounced “Un SHEE Lee”), an unblessed cursed fairy race, based on Celtic mythology.

By defeating all seven demon lords, Damien would obtain certain ritualistic objects which allowed him to escape the clutches of Lord Finvarra, the King of the Dead, by opening a portal to his reality and returning home.”

To help during your quest you would be able to use an arsenal of roughly 30 different weapons, plus the possibility of crafting your own weapons from materials found in the game. By battling foes like Banshees, Goblins, Demons, Elementals and Ghosts, new experience points were collected to unlock skills and upgrade weapons.

The Unseelie is a great game to work with because of the way it uniquely combines Celtic mythos with popular first-person gameplay,” said Lloyd Melnick, Co-Founder of publisher Octagon.

Over the course of your journey, protagonist Damien would have gained access to a wide range of powers and attacks related to Fire, Water, Earth, Air, Wood, Metal and Spirit. Some monsters were resistant against physical attacks and could only be beaten with certain magic.

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The adventure-aspect of the game focused on players using elemental powers to solve many puzzles on the way through the 7 levels of the three-dimensional environment, generated by their homemade AMP II engine, which offered real-time lighting, matrix shading, high-resolution textures and bump mapping.

We used all of the visually stunning rendering techniques of our engine and combined them with the sinister forest setting of Celtic legend and some engaging game play design to make something that makes you want to play, but keeps you looking over your shoulder,explained Steve Woodgate, who was KaWoW! CEO until 2016 and is currently managing director of Coronum Pty Ltd.

It is unclear what happened to the studio. Since Mr. Woodgate left KaWoW! in 2016 we can assume they were active at least until that date, even though no other game seems to have been released since the cancellation of The Unseelie.

The company’s old website (www.kawow.com) is unreachable, and what remains today are only screenshots, a few articles splattered across the web and a couple of videos showing in-game footage. This was probably from the beginning of the game, when Damien escapes his crashed vehicle and discovers a stone-circle with a beam of light in the middle, showing: “Some fairy tales were never meant to be told…“.

Article by Niko, thanks to Dan for the contribution!

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Battle Mania 3 NY: Gankutsujou [Dreamcast – Cancelled]

Battle Mania 3 NY: Gankutsujou is a cancelled Dreamcast shoot ’em up that was in development by Takayan and a few more developers who already working on the original series. The first Battle Mania or Trouble Shooter as known in USA was developed and published by Vic Tokai for the Mega Drive / Genesis in 1991, with a sequel titled Battle Mania Daiginjou published in 1993 only in Japan.

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The game settings are a parody of classic anime tropes, with flying sci-fi girls shooting down aliens and monsters. Levels are often inspired by japanese culture and they change from side-scrolling to a vertical scrolling. This third chapter in the Battle Mania series was originally conceived as an arcade game, as we can read in a translated interview with Takayan:

Please tell us a bit about what happened after Daiginjo. You brought a design document for the legendary unreleased Dreamcast game Battle Mania N.Y. Gankutsujou but on the cover, there are Saturn and Playstation logos, does that mean you proposed this project during the 32-bit generation?

Takayan: Nope, they wouldn’t let me make it. I’m a big SEGA fan and just as I was thinking I’ll quit if they don’t let me make games for the Megadrive or Saturn, they put me in charge of the SFC division. That’s why I had to step away from Daiginjo right at the end of development. When I made this I’d already left VIC and the next company I’d worked at, and the company I was at was starting to look a little unstable. It’s a pitch for an arcade game but I had hardly any time to spend on it. (Laughs)

It’s amazing for the fans to be able to see Mania in 3d, could you tell us a bit about that?

Takayan: The pictures were drawn by fellow VIC survivors. One of them made the Softimage assets to go with the gameplay explanations. I made the 3d models of Mania and the picture of the heroines on the cover and the main artist on Odessaelya made the screens that go with the stage explanations. Add to that the artist who drew the giant robot and the queen and I think it was 4 people in all, I’m not sure whether that’s a lot or very few.

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Battle Mania NY: Gankutsujou’s pitch document was originally published in a book titled “ Nazo no Game Makyou 4” and later uploaded online thanks to HG101. By looking at its pages we can notice how the game was later pitched as a Dreamcast title, probably thanks to Takayan’s love for Sega hardware. Kid Fenris analyzed this document sharing some more details about what it could have been:

“The story itself, as far as I can grasp, sends our jetpack-sporting heroines from Japan to New York, spurred on by a distress call, a woman named Airin, and something called “N.Y. Haunted Square.” That’s possibly a Ghostbusters reference.”

“Battle Mania N.Y. Gankutsujou was to be a shooter like its two predecessors, though it would’ve presented three perspectives: a side view, an overhead view, and a 3D perspective reminiscent of Space Harrier and Panzer Dragoon. “

“The stage descriptions for Battle Mania N.Y. Gankutsujou are the best parts of the pitch, as each of them gets an illustration. A side-scrolling opening stage sees Madison and Crystal facing flying fish-men and a bicycle-riding robot on a city street. It’s perfectly in step with the humor in previous Trouble Shooter games, an unapologetic mélange of modern Japan and a world of weird mutants and technology, explaining nothing and never suffering for it.”

Unfortunately the available mockups are quite tiny, but you can still notice how it could have been quite awesome. In the end it seems Takayan and his team never found a publisher interested in this third Battle Mania and the project was quietly cancelled.

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Missile Fighter [PC Engine CD – Cancelled]

Missile Fighter is a cancelled action multiplayer game similar to Bomberman, that was in development by Media Works and NEC for the PC Engine CD. A preview for the game was published in Dengeki PC Engine magazine (June 93), showing off a screenshot and many details about its playable characters.

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Each one had its own skills and weapons, featuring ninjas, magical girls, dinosaurs and robots. It looked like the cute and fun multiplayer game, so it’s quite a shame it was canned. If someone would like to translate some more details from the japanese scan below, feel free to add them in the comments section!

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Madstix [PS2 – Cancelled]

Madstix is a cancelled “cinematic racing puzzle game” that was conceived by director Koichi Yotsui & producer Takehiro Ando, possibly in development at Sol, the studio behind PS1 cult puzzle game “Suzuki Bakuhatsu”. They wanted to create original games for the recently released Playstation 2, and Madstix was one of their favorite pitches.

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Their concept was to develop a racing game with no steering wheel, accelerator or brake. The more you turn the right analog stick, the more fast and dangerous the car action becomes on the screen. Instead if you turn the left analog stick it would make driving safer. According to Ando Madstix was meant to be played like a cinematic ​​”Chicken Race” to show off driving skills and high-speed action, turning the left and right sticks appropriately while changing course at the last moment to avoid accidents.

The advantage of this mechanic is that the camera was free to be changed by players in many different ways. In a standard racing game the camera must be placed in the driver’s seat or behind the vehicle to drive. However, in Madstix the car would follow its predetermined path and players could choose the best cinematic angle to watch their actions.

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While the game was never officially announced, it was revealed during a presentation at BitSummit 2017 in Japan. As always we can only imagine how many interesting and weird cancelled games by Japanese studios still remain unknown by the public.

Grafan (Emogence) [PC – Cancelled]

Grafan is a cancelled RPG supposed to be the first big project of 2003 freshly founded company EMOGENCE (Emotion-intelligence), consisting of ex Microsoft staff Herb Marselas and Chas (Charles) Boyd. Both coming from a technical background, Marselas started working for Microprose in the 90ies and made his name for blockbusters like “Age Of Mythology”, “Halo 2” and many more. Boyd on the other hand originally came from the Aeronautics Industry and later worked with different Hardware and video game companies as a mentor to help improve engine-performance.

What started out as a hobby, later became a concrete business idea:

“We were talking about the kinds of graphics and gameplay we`d like to see in games and whether we could start a studio that provides a gameplay experience that stood out from the crowd.“

Their ambitious plan was to create a PC first person action role playing game “…that delivers great gameplay and graphically surpasses any interactive entertainment experience to date“, optimistically setting a deadline to the end of the same year (2004).

Apparently the key of saving so much time was to automate the generation of content – including world building and scripting, which would be done manually by any other developer.  They though graphics would evolve so quickly, they felt like they didn’t want to lose time and deliver a game that was technically high-end and brand new as soon as possible. Unfortunately we know the game was never released and only a few interviews and a handful of screenshots remain today.

There was never any talk about why or when the game was cancelled or what happened to the studio. We can only reconstruct the game`s planned content, by closely reading statements and interviews done by IGN in 2004:

“Grafan gives the player a huge amount of character customization through class selection, skill point spending, and by equipping many of the thousands of items found in the world. There is a single player campaign as well as a random dungeon quest mode. The underlying engine is a highly sophisticated 3D random dungeon generator that utilizes a lot of advanced graphics technology, including real-time high dynamic range lighting, multiple real-time shadows, normal maps, glare, and pixel shading.“

Talking about graphics EMOGENCE were obviously visual enthusiasts, who developed an engine that was able to create “…environments on the fly and showcased high-resolution texturing“. Nvidia stated:

“The Grafan game engine’s use of high dynamic-range lighting, multiple real-time shadows, and multipass rendering techniques requires a high-performance graphics card. We’re currently working with the GeForce 6800 Ultra GPU and using pixel shader 3.0; all we can say is ‘wow’.”

It is also worth mentioning that they planned to showcase the game at the E3 2004, but by checking the list of exhibitors retrospectively, EMOGENCE never shown up.

To date Herb Marselas is working at AMD, a popular computer processor company. Chas Boyd was last seen on Max Payne and Alan Wake credits,  but after that we kinda lost track of him. By browsing different gaming-databases we can assume that he may have not been active in the gaming scene since.

Article by Niko, thanks to Dan for the contribution!

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