News on Beta & Cancelled Games

Alien Reign (SquareSoft) [Playstation? – Cancelled]

Alien Reign is a cancelled sci-fi real time strategy game in development by SquareSoft USA (Redmond) in late 1995 / early 1996. While the project was still in early concept phase when it was canned and no console was decided yet, by looking at the partnership between Squaresoft and Sony in 1996 we can speculate that if only completed Alien Reign could have been released on the original Playstation (and maybe on PC?).

The team that was working on Alien Reign was the same which worked on Secret of Evermore, released in October 1995 for the Super Nintendo. This would have been their second game, if Squaresoft Japan would have not closed them down in spring 1996.

Alien Rage was conceived while the Squaresoft USA team was waiting to know their fate while their parent company was going to decide what to do with their American branch. Clayton Kauzlaric, Daniel Dociu, Brad Clarkson and a few other Squaresoft developers tossed around ideas for this new RTS inspired by their love for Warcraft 2.

As wrote by Kauzlaric in his blog:

“We were just ramping up on 3D at Squaresoft during the completion of Evermore, and I was interested in finding tools that would be simple and easy for artists to pick up and learn quickly. KPT Bryce seemed like it had possibilities. I also wanted a look that wasn’t obviously made of tiles like most RTS games. I hoped our backgrounds could have larger pieces of nicely rendered terrain.

These pictures from March of 1996 are the result. I did the terrain. The buildings and robot were designed by our art director Daniel Dociu then modeled and rendered by Square’s resident Alias guru Brad Clarkson.”

When Squaresoft USA was closed down, many former developers (including Kauzlaric) were hired by Cavedog Entertainment (a sub-division of Humongous Entertainment). Cavedog was already working on a new, ambitious sci-fi RTS titled “Total Annihilation”, later presented at E3 1997. As wrote by Kauzlaric:

“It’s a small world. I was sitting in Redmond thinking up ways to incorporate 3D art into an RTS game. It turns out there was a guy just a couple miles away working on an engine for an RTS game with 3D height maps. Once those two thing met up, very good things started to happen.”

In the end Alien Reign was never released, but its concept somehow survived into the Total Annihilation project. As we can read on Wikipedia:

“Total Annihilation was a commercial success. It shipped 250,000 units by October 30, 1997. It ultimately sold over 1.5 million copies by 2002. The game was highly praised by critics, and won numerous awards, including GameSpot’s Game of the Year Award for 1997. It won GameSpy’s Top Ten Real-Time Strategy Games of All Time in 2004, leaving StarCraft in second place.”

Commando (Namco) [Playstation – Cancelled]

Commando is a cancelled third person action / shooter game that was designed by Stephane de Luca for Namco, planned to be released on the original Playstation. Stephane pitched the project to Namco thru Virtual Studio, which at the time were also working on Snow Break for Playstation and Ar’Kritz the Intruder for DOS PC.

Stephane with the help of a few more developers such as Pavlos Germidis worked at Virtual Studio from october 1997 to september 1998. In just 3 months they developed a short prototype for Commando, used to show off its 3D engine and main mechanics. Stephane worked on the game’s 3D engine, its tools and game programming while Pavlos worked on the artwork design, the story pitch and the CGI movie which would introduce the game.

Commando would have been an interesting take on the 3D action genre. The game was divided into different missions, each set in a different area on Mars full of enemies and huge final-bosses. You could steal and control enemy mechs and bikes, there would have been different ways to resolve a problem such as killing an enemy or avoid it with by flying away using a jetpack. It was a bit more open-ended than similar third person shooters of its time.

The deal for Commando was that Stephane would create the game and handle everything directly with Namco. Only the financial aspect would go thru Virtual Studio, which would get 30% of the price for being a financial go-between. Many trips to Japan were required in order to find an agreement on the game design, technical features and financials terms. The contract was finally signed by Stephane in Tokyo at the Namco building.

Unfortunately it seems that Virtual Studio misunderstand its part in the whole deal. When Stephane directly signed the game with Namco, Virtual Studio were surprised to be limited to a financial partner and quickly changed their mind about the deal. In the end the game had to be cancelled.

Only a few, tiny screenshots from the Commando prototype are preserved below, to remember its existence.

Thanks to Stephane for the contribution!

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Videos (Intro CGI):

The Tales of Walenir [PC – Cancelled]

The Tales of Walenir is cancelled first person action RPG (ala Elder Scrolls) that was in development by Temporal Games (Moscow, Russia) between 2006 and 2009. The game was quite ambitious for such a small and inexperienced team and after some years of development it quietly vanished without any explanation. Here we can read the original press-release with a few more details:

The Tales of Walenir is the fantasy-style first-person 3D action/RPG. The game takes place in the original universe Al’Venion, on the northern island Walenir.

Walenir is full of myths and legends. The hero will unravel the mysteries of the past, travel through the world inhabited with unique, playable races, and choose one of the many plot variations in order to achieve one of the numerous endings. The main priorities for this project are: the dynamic playing process with the freedom of movement, compact highly detailed world, interesting plot, and high quality performance.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the gaming experience will be strictly connected to the plot; a player will face a never-ending freedom of choices.

The game is being developed on our own cutting-edge graphic engine, which has been dubbed the “Temper Engine”. It gives us an opportunity to make a great number of beautiful visual effects while retaining a high performance.

According to ancient legends, the Gods came to Al’Venion from the north, from the island of Walenir – the origin of magic and nature forces. However, long standing dissensions within the pantheon caused the damage of the main relic, and slowly gods lost their ability to embody. And so, the interference of gods in the life of the continent’s residents became less frequent, which eventually led to the end of worldly appearances and miracles. Epochs after epochs, numerous wars and victories – the residents of the continent soon forgot the ancient gods altogether. Instead, they found replacements – Idols and Heroes of the past.

And so, the ancient gods were forced to return to their home – the island of Walenir. According to the legends, the last temple of the Six Gods is located there. Walenir is the last refuge for those who still remember the greatness of Sigelwar and the anger of Sevol, the deception of Walla and cheerfulness of Rivael, cruelty of Telias and tranquility of Ardar. The residents of the four states of Walenir are the last chance for the ancient pantheon to once again retain its former greatness and power.

  • Detailed in-game world “lives,” changing as the player progresses through the game”
  • Several races with their own original architectural styles, gear, equipment, and mentality
  • 3 different classes of characters
  • Non-linear gameplay
  • Intricate network of secret locations & quests not connected with the main storyline
  • Original role-playing system based on constant interaction with the in-game gods
  • Freedom of actions, movement, and exploration

After the cancellation of their first game project, Temporal Games don’t seem to have released any other game on PC or console. Today there’s another gaming collective with the same name, but we are not sure if it’s the same team which was working on The Tales of Walenir.

Thanks to Mihapsx for the contribution!

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RPG Densetsu Hepoi [Mega Drive (Genesis) – Cancelled]

The 16-bit era brought many new possibilities into design and artistic fields on gaming. Colorful sprites, rich and fluid animation, stereo sound and many new features graced a period that for a long time was considered the most important for the video game industry.

One of the biggest hook for consumers in the 80’s and 90’s was the extensive licensed material. These decades would change video games forever as companies were beginning to understand it as a communication channel, more than just an electronic toy. Soon, adaptations from cartoons, anime, movies, comic books, novels and pretty much everything began to pop through. It was the “make a game of that” philosophy.

This means that game designers worked day and night to figure out how to work with whichever hardware came around, in every way possible to make something popular, playable. Sometimes this meant that something great was coming, sometimes it was just excuse to make more profit with a famous brand.

A video game based on japanese anime RPG Densetsu Hepoi was in the makings for the Sega Mega Drive / Genesis System.

The only source available about this unseen game is a scan from a japanese magazine called Beep Mega Drive, dated 1991, which show us two screenshots, revealing the use of top-down perspective. We can also deduce by the menu displacement that it had classic j-rpg gameplay, including text-based actions, dialogues and multiple characters to use.

The game was also being co-produced by Sega.

Unfortunately we don’t know much more about this cancelled Mega Drive RPG: it quietly vanished forever with no official explanation. It remains one of the many lost 16bit games which will forever be forgotten by the majority of gamers all around the world.

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LEGO Racers: The Video Game [DS, Wii – Cancelled]

In late 2008, the next year’s LEGO sets were released “early” (this isn’t unusual for LEGO sets). What was unusual was the ad on LEGO Racers set boxes advertising an unannounced game; “LEGO Racers: The Video Game“.

lego racers the video game ds wii cancelled

People speculated on who was developing the game, and for what platforms it might be released (it was often confused with an unrelated web game, LEGO Racers Challenge, developed by NetDevil). On Brickset.com they wrote:

This is the first non-licensed LEGO video game to be released since 2006’s BIONICLE Heroes. It is also the forth racing-centric LEGO video game to be released, after 1999’s LEGO Racers, 2001’s LEGO Racers 2, and 2002’s Drome Racers.

It also wasn’t the only mysterious game advertised on set boxes – other sets advertised “LEGO Space: The Video Game” and “LEGO Castle: The Video Game“, both for Nintendo DS. Eventually it was found that those two games – along with “LEGO Pirates: The Video Game” (which hadn’t been advertised on set boxes) – were all merged into one game, LEGO Battles, after the set packaging had already been finalized.

But that didn’t explain LEGO Racers: The Video Game. Years passed without word of it, until in 2013 a developer from Firebrand Games posted samples of work he’d done on the game, and stated it was unreleased. Included were four rendered videos (showing three car models and an animated minifigure), and two in-game screenshots.

The developer said the game was for Nintendo DS, but the screenshots show higher graphical quality than the DS is capable of, and are 640×456 – a standard resolution for Wii games. Going by other games by developed by Firebrand, it seems likely the game was planned for both systems.

Thanks to jamesster for the contribution!

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