News on Beta & Cancelled Games

Rhino Rumble Puzzle (Formula) [Game Boy Color – Cancelled]

Rhino Rumble Puzzle is a cancelled puzzle-platformer featuring four playable characters and more than 60 levels (+ mini-games), that was in development by Formula Games / Lost Boys Interactive around 2001 – 2002, planned to be released on the Game Boy Color. Lost Boys was the original name of Guerrilla Games, prior to their acquisition by Sony and before creating such popular titles as the Killzone series and Horizon Zero Dawn. In particular Formula was Lost Boys’ internal team dedicated to handheld games, responsible for producing titles such as Rhino Rumble, and Tiny Toon Adventures: Dizzy’s Candy Quest for GameBoy Color.

Some details on Rhino Rumble Puzzle can still be found in an old preview by IGN:

“It’s a standard side-scroller, but the added challenge of protecting the water barrel changes the dynamics dramatically. And if that’s not enough puzzle madness for you, you can build your own stages in the game — a rarity in puzzle games and an unheard-of concept in side-scrolling games. Let your imagination run wild, then trade data with your friends via the Infrared link and challenge them to beat your tricky track.”

We can read the original game’s description on the archived Lost Boys website:

“The time has come again. Rhino has already eaten too many peppers! This time however, all the animals had foreseen this, putting all the available water in barrels and hiding on high ledges in labyrinth-like caves. Put yourself in the shoes of one of Rhino’s four best friends, and try to quench Rhino’s thirst by getting him the barrels of water. Using your own cleverness and objects scattered throughout the levels, your task is to jump and drill your way through the caverns. Dodge enemies, solve puzzles, and do it all within a time limit, without dropping the barrels! The animals will understand your actions, but they’d rather Rhino finally learn a lesson from his greed, so they’ll try to stop you. Crush, crush, drill and chop your way through over 60 challenging puzzle levels and earn a place in the hall of fame”

Rhino Rumble Puzzle was also mentioned in a 2011 interview by Gamasutra with Mathijs de Jonge (Game Director at Lost Boys / Guerrilla Games):

“I have very fond memories of a Game Boy Color game we made during the Lost Boys Games days, which we sadly couldn’t find a publisher for. Even though it was a Game Boy Color game, we had the same ambitions we had with Killzone 3, in a way. […] It’s a puzzle platform game but it has a level editor built in, and all the 80 or so levels in the game we made with the in-game level editor. If you remember it, the Game Boy Color had an infrared port, so you could submit the levels/puzzles you made to your friends that way.

That was already a big and ambitious project, and that was such a long time ago, and it’s really sad we couldn’t find a publisher for it — because back in those days publishers wanted licensed characters, and asked us to change the nice characters we created to well-known cartoon figures. We didn’t want to compromise our game, and sadly, that ensured that nobody wanted to publish it.”

At the time Lost Boys were also working on another cancelled Game Boy Color game titled “Knights”, originally conceived as a canned Dreamcast multiplayer brawler and later reworked as a Playstation 2 action platformer (also unreleased), before the team was sold to Media Republic and renamed Guerrilla Games.

Thanks to Squiddy Goat for the contribution!

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Raiko (Blizzard + Flextech) [PC – Cancelled]

Raiko is a cancelled action RPG that was in development by Flextech between 1996 and 1998, planned to be published by Blizzard Entertainment for PC. The game was conceived as a “3D Diablo with samurai”. At the time Raiko was not officially announced by Blizzard, but its name was later shown in a list of cancelled games they talked about at DICE 2008. In 2017 former Flextech founder and developer Felix Kupis published a few screenshots of their Raiko prototype on Linkedin:

“Raiko was a Diablo style game with a 3D engine set in ancient Japan. Even though the game got cancelled for various reasons, we did manage to have a working 3D engine, RPG system and a level editor. I can still run the engine today almost 20 years later on windows 10. Here are some screenshots from March 1998.”

Just a year before we had the pleasure to interview Felix for our bookVideo Games You Will Never Play”, when he shared some of his memories working on Raiko:

“As a fan of Diablo style games and Asian folklore I wanted to make a game that was essentially a 3D Samurai Diablo. This was built on a 3D engine but was played from a similar view to Diablo. You could turn the camera around to see more of the environment and the game was coming along but got cut when Vivendi bought Blizzard.

Myself and my crew of a couple people that did the work on the game traveled down to E3 when it was held in Atlanta and set up a meeting with Alan Adham and Bill Roper on this game demo we made for Raiko. I got to know Alan Adham when I told him my story of basically being kicked out early from Westwood (I was leaving after finishing Red Alert) for wearing a Blizzard shirt.  At that time the heads of Westwood hated Blizzard for “stealing” their RTS ideas so after wearing the shirt to piss off my boss I got the boot early. Anyway I was a good in with Mr. Adham and got me the meeting at E3, it was actually the very last meeting of the show for Blizzard.  After looking at our demo I remember Alan and Bill Roper both had a huge smile on their face and told us this is the game we have been looking for.”

“After Raiko got cancelled, Blizzard kept all the rights to it so we were basically looking for a new project before we ran out of funding.  We pitched Disposable Heroes to a bunch of publishers including GT interactive, Atari, and some others.  Disposable Heroes was basically Halo way before Halo but nobody would give us the funding for the game before money ran out and we had to shut down Flextech.  I still have the original documents for Disposable Heroes, it’s really funny reading them now and looking at how close it was to Halo.”

Thanks to Robin for the contribution!

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Blue Vault (Elixir Studios) [PC – Cancelled]

Blue Vault is a cancelled sci-fi strategy game similar to Syndicate / X-Com, that was in development in 2004 by Elixir Studios, the team lead by Demis Hassabis, a skilled programmer who co-created Theme Park and worked with Peter Molyneux during their Bullfrog and Lionhead days. Players would take the role of a secret team of agents with the mission of stopping aliens from invading our planet, while hiding their existence from the population.

At the time Elixir Studios had released two interesting but ill-fated games: “Republic: The Revolution” (2003) and “Evil Genius” (2004). Blue Vault would have been their third project, offering players more than 30 missions to resolve using strategy combat, managing the squad’s finance, keeping up the team morale and upgrading their skills. During missions civilians must have been protected but at the same time you had to not let them know what was really happening. As we can read from IGN:

“Blue Vault’s strategy element involves the usual research, resource-gathering, unit recruitment and skill advancement, but the team is going into a lot of detail that’ll be “almost to an RPG level” according to Sutherland. There’ll be 40 unique unit characters, each with their own features, toolset, stats and hopefully, voice. “X-COM missions were quite similar with very little characterization. We want to push the character element further, so you really care about your teams. Imagine each Blue Vault operative shouting orders or screaming in agony with a different voice.”

Some more details were published in PC Zone Magazine (issue 141, May 2004):

“[…] tension is the crux of the gameplay, so  even if you manage to deal successfully  with an interplanetary nuisance, if you  scare the bejesus out of too many people  – what Elixir is calling ‘culture shock’ –  you’ll fail the mission

Ops are your standard tactical soldier,  whereas Indigo Ops are your elite  troopers that utilise alien technology.  Obviously, the latter are more adept at  dealing with space tourists, but you have  to be careful not to freak out bystanders,  who will notice their strange uniforms and  hybrid weaponry.

Engineers, on the other hand, repair  stuff, allow you to recover valuable alien  artefacts, hijack cars to build barricades  and also reinforce any cover-up with  visible evidence, such as releasing  weather balloons to explain that bizarre  ‘meteorological event’ annoyingly  witnessed by dozens of people.

Finally, there are your Conspirators –  the ‘Men in Blue’ who’re crucial for crowd  control and ensuring that you protect the  populace from mass panic caused by first  contact. This is where Elixir’s ‘stimuli system’, also used to a certain extent in  Republic, comes into play, where  individual Al-controlled characters react  to things they see and hear. So, if a member of the public has a  glimpse of alien technology, for example,  or is confronted by a Blue Vault soldier  pointing a gun at them, they’ll become  fearful, but this will soon recede if you  manage to tell them to move out of the  danger zone. However, if the person is  left in the vicinity of an alien visitor, they  will go into culture shock, meaning they’re  so scared and irrational that they  become a danger to themselves. In this  case, you quickly have to use your  Conspirators’ special persuasive powers  to calm people down, or you’ll quickly fail  your objectives. Up to 1,000 people can be rendered on screen, with up to 3,000 polygons each.

Blue Vault has a total of six alien races  and 15 different model types with  emergent behavior, so it’s extremely  important how you deal with the  combat and containment of these  creatures. “If you get it wrong, say a  friendly alien race comes along and you  decide to blow them back to the Stone  Age, the next time they appear, they’ll be  aggressive,” says Hewitt,  “take the time to find out about them, work with them, then next time  they’ll be more helpful.” Elixir is working towards a total of  more than 30 scripted missions, ranging  from rescuing and escorting a stranded  alien so it can repair its vehicle and  launch, to a spaceship full of warlike  alien convicts that crashes in a  downtown leisure zone on a  Saturday night. There’ll also be  random spanners in the  works, such as an  epidemic of  intergalactic  spores that bury  themselves in  human skin.”

Unfortunately in 2005 Elixir Studios was faced with serious financial problems. Their publisher abandoned Blue Vault, possibly because Republic and Evil Genius did not sell as expected. It seems the team tried to pitch the game to other publisher, possibly using a possible “Men in Black” license, but without any luck. With no money to keep the studio alive, Elixir had to close down: Blue Vault and all of their other planned projects (Republic Dawn: The Chronicles of the Seven , Evil Genius 2) were canned and lost forever.

Thanks to Ross Sillifant and Josef for the contribution!

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Alien Commander (Warren Spector) [PC – Cancelled]

Alien Commander is a cancelled first person sci-fi adventure set in the Wing Commander universe, proposed by Warren Spector to Origin Systems while he was working at Looking Glass Studios. The team already developed Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss and UUII: Labyrinth of Worlds for Origin: now they wanted to work on something different than classic fantasy RPG. While Alien Commander was canned quite early, some of its ideas were merged into another game titled “Citadel” to create a different project known as “System Shock”. As we can read from an article and interview with Warren Spector published on Retro Gamer in January 2018:

“I was as sick of fantasy games as Paul having worked on several Ultima games and Underworld and Underworld II, I had a design spec for a game that was called Alien Commander, which was going to be a first-person science fiction game using the Wing Commander technology, and then along comes Paul with Citadel (System Shock’s original title) and I just dumped the Alien Commander proposal and System Shock went ahead.”

In PC Gamer magazine (May – June 1994) Spector also sadi:

“The game [System Shock] started off as something called Alien Commander (intended to be a Wing Commander tie-in) but soon moved completely away from that. Part of the fun for myself and project leader Doug Church was that we weren’t tied to the Ultima universe or to the Commander universe, so we could basically do whatever we liked“.

Since 2015 NightDive Studios announced they were working on a System Shock remake with the help of Warren Spector, and during one of their Twitch Streams they confirmed both Alien Commander and Citadel got merged to create the original System Shock.

Some more details on Alien Commander can be found in the pitch document Spector wrote in the early ‘90s, preserved in the “Warren Spector Papers” archive at the Briscoe Center for American History:

“This game combines Underworld technology with a Wing Commander storyline. The technology is strong and there have been very few first-person SF games (none of them successful to my knowledge). We all know the strength of the Wing Commander trademark. It’s been over a decade since the destruction of the Tiger’s Claw and a huge chunk of the old girl has been discovered in a backwater portion of the galaxy. Strange signals are being picked up from the derelict and the player has been sent to investigate.

[…] There are lots of creatures roaming around the ship, most of them dangerous. There are some people, too – a few survivors of the Claw’s explosion (some in suspended animation, some just recently awakened), a salvage crew that was drawn here by the same signals that attracted you, some folks, creatures you just can’t explain.

What the player doesn’t know (and must learn) is that members of the race known as the Double Helix (introduced in the Claw Marks magazine included in Wing Commander) had infiltrated the ship before it was blown up. They’ve spent the last ten+ years taking over the living creatures on the ship – most (but not all) of the people and creatures the player encounters are DH hybrids. […] The hybrids created by the merger are shape shifters. There’s no way to tell an enemy from a friend..

As the player explores the corridors of the ship, he must get the power on, find oxygen, repair life support and communications systems, acquire new components for his suit, new equipment he can fit to the suit or cart along with him for when he needs it. He must figure out that things are now what they seem, avoid being taken over by the DH, etc.

[…] When it appears the player is about to win, the DH pulls out their ace in the hole – they’re not just genetic manipulators, they can survive and thrive in electronic circuitry. They’ve infiltrated the ship’s computer system periodically and they duck in there now, intent on destroying the player even if it costs their lives. The last third (or so) of the game, takes place in cyberspace. In the Tigers Claw’s computers.

[…] In addition to your primary character, you start with a couple of sentries and drones. Sentries are like floating cameras. Set one up and it can survey an area. You can switch to its view at will. What it sees replaces your view or window or it appears alongside your view, in a smaller window. Drones can fly, but can’t interact with objects. Stopped by obstacles, but they’re small and can squak into / through places you can’t fit. Again, you can switch to drone view.

As the game goes on, you can acquire robots (and maybe other allies) you can switch to. Your character goes into stasis (so you better be someplace safe) and you then control a robot with different abilities than your main character. Maybe you can give a robot orders and have it carry them out without direct intervention from you. […] Even if you die, it should be possible to win using only robots.”

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Ghosts ‘n Goblins 3D [Playstation – Cancelled]

Ghosts ‘n Goblins 3D (AKA Makaimura 3D in Japan) is a cancelled chapter in the titular Capcom series that was planned in 1994 for the original Playstation, 3 years after the release of Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts for the Super Nintendo. As far as we know this canned PS1 game was never officially announced by Capcom (but they did announce Ghosts ‘n Goblins for Nintendo 64) even if rumors about a 32-bit Makaimura were around at the time. In September 2020 a former Capcom artist shared a few pieces of concept art on Twitter, but later removed their message: those drawings are preserved in the gallery below, to remember the existence of this lost game. By looking at one of the remaining drawings, we speculate the game may have had an isometric top-down view.

It seems Kouji Ogata (at the time a Capcom employee who worked on the opening of the SFC version of Super Street Fighter II) was originally in charge of Ghosts ‘n Goblins PS1 character design, but was later replaced by someone else (Pink Head?) before the project was just canned.

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