News on Beta & Cancelled Games

Spanish Blood (Scavenger) [Playstation, Sega Saturn – Cancelled]

Spanish Blood is a cancelled pirate-themed adventure game that was in development by Scavenger, planned to be released for Playstation and Sega Saturn. As noticed by Celine, the game was officially announced or at least talked about at E3 1996, when a few gaming magazines published a list of in-development games by Scavenger. 

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Some screenshots were published online by The King of Grabs, found in an old E3 Press Kit. By looking at these we can see Spanish Blood was going to be another impressive (for its time) 3D game by the team, which was composed of talented developers from the Amiga demoscene. While there are no details about Spanish Blood’s gameplay, we can speculate it would have been a seafaring adventure, with players exploring the sea on their boat, fighting against pirates and finding hidden treasures.

Unfortunately Scavenger probably had too many projects in development at the same time and with missing payments from their major publisher (GT Interactive), in the end the company had to close down. Most of their games were cancelled, such as Mudkicker, Angel, Spearhead, Aqua, Terminus, Heavy Machinery, X-Men, Into the Shadow and Tarantula.

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Zodiac (Ubisoft) [Sega Mega Drive – Cancelled]

Zodiac is a cancelled shoot ‘em up in development at Ubisoft around 1992 – 1993, by a team composed of  Frederic Houde (one of the designers behind the original Rayman and Tonic Trouble) and Laurent Cluzel (who worked on Starush, a 1992 Amiga shmup, and later on The City of Lost Children). Frederic talked about the game in an interview by Arcade Attack:

“How did you get the opportunity to work for Ubisoft?

My best friend Frederic Markus worked on a game called Starush for Amiga, Atari ST & PC while I was finishing my military obligation. Then, I tried an approach to join the team.  We had a strategy to show something big to Ubisoft to be able to make another (console) version, me as the main programmer. We decided to show a huge boss on the Amiga platform, something the current programmer for this game was not capable of… Ubisoft had no more than 50 employees at this time. I remember showing my Game Boss Demo to Yves (best Big Boss on earth), he told me “ok, I don’t know the project you will work on but here’s some money, consider yourself working for Ubisoft. It was the beginning of my career.

Tell us a bit more about the first game you worked on:

I ended up making ZODIAC (Starush inspired) on the Sega Mega Drive. It took me a year and a half, with Laurent Cluzel as graphic artist, making the engine, coding the tools, alone in my apartment… No internet at this time… The game was 100% finished, but Sega Mega Drive began to slow down at that time and unfortunately Ubisoft decided not to release the game. Only 2 roms exist at this time, Laurent’s and mine. Maybe someday I will give to the Mega Drive Emulator Scene a copy”

As posted by VGDensetsu on Twitter, a Zodiac prototype was shown by the Conservatoire National du Jeu Video (CNJV) at the Bibilothèque National de France (BNF). In there we can read Ubisoft decided to cancel the game because of the competition from Thunder Force IV and the high cost of cartridges, that would make hard to profit from its release. 

As far as we know, the game ROM is still not released to the public, but we hope Frederic could share it in the future.

Thanks to Dylan for the contribution!

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Earthbound (Mother) [GameCube – Cancelled]

In 2003 Baten Kaitos director Yasuyuki Honne proposed to Nintendo a new Mother / Earthbound RPG for GameCube, but in the end the game was cancelled. This project was pitched in summer 2003, just a few months before the release of Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean, possibly to become their following collaboration between Nintendo, Monolith Soft, tri-Crescendo and Namco.

While Earthbound for GameCube was never officially announced, in July 2019 Honne shown a couple images from their pitch-document on Twitter:

As you can see the game was imagined in a quirky felt-made diorama graphic style, that would have been somewhat similar to classic Earthbound promotional clay models. As translated by Nintendo Everything:

“I’m looking forward to the forthcoming book about Iwata-san. I met both Iwata-san and Itoi-san at the same time – it was back in 2003 when there were talks between Namco and Nintendo about a GameCube version of Mother. I was happy to come up with a visual concept, and when I went to Aoyama Iwata-san was also present. Itoi-san didn’t seem very interested; he felt it was a little strange, and yet we continued talks. Itoi-san said, ‘I wonder if Iwata-kun has any ideas?’ He seemed flabbergasted, he had an aura of something akin to ‘Aw jeez.’ In the end nothing came of it, but Itoi-san enjoyed the felt-like recreations of 1980’s America that I had come up with. Here are some images that I didn’t think I’d show off more than once. Ah, memories of the summer of 2003.”

Unfortunately it seems after the cancellation of Mother 3 for Nintendo 64, they were quite cautious about working on a new 3D chapter. 3 years later, Nintendo published Mother 3 on GBA and Yasuyuki Honne’s Baten Kaitos prequel (Baten Kaitos Origins) on GameCube.

By knowing what Monolith Soft were able to achieve with their RPG series, we can only imagine how much we lost with the cancellation of this “Earthbound GameCube” project. The Baten Kaitos team also had a third Baten Kaitos in development that was later canned, but they successfully released other beloved games such as Soma Bringer, Disaster: Day of Crisis and the Xenoblade Chronicles series.

You can take a look at the Sedna city in Baten Kaitos Origins (a strange world made of clay) to imagine how Earthbound Gamecube could have been like.

Video Games eBooks Bundle: Fall Ball Game @ StoryBundle!

We are happy to announce 1 eBook taken from our “Video Games You Will Never Play” physical book is featured in the latest eBook bundle by Story Bundle! Our “Wii, PS3, Xbox 360 Video Games You Will Never Play” can be found in this bundle in their exclusive ePub and Mobi versions (our full book is available in physical form on Amazon and in PDF on Patreon), so you can easily read it with your eBook reader.

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In the same bundle you can also find many interesting eBooks about less known video games and their history.

Funds raised with this eBook bundle will support Unseen64, the other books authors and you can also choose to donate 10% to the Video Game History Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to cataloging, digitizing, and preserving the history of video games.

Here’s the full description, for more details check https://storybundle.com/games

As the weather turns chilly and the scents of falling leaves and woodsmoke perfume the air, StoryBundle’s Fall Ball Game Bundle invites you to fill your dance card with nine DRM-free books about game development and culture. Hit the dance floor while you can: the Fall Ball Game Bundle is available for a limited time on StoryBundle.

Shacknews and David L. Craddock present Beneath a Starless Sky: Pillars of Eternity and the Infinity Engine Era of RPGs, a deep dive of over 600 pages detailing the making of classics like Baldur’s Gate 1 and II, Icewind Dale, and Obsidian Entertainment’s critically acclaimed Pillars of Eternity series.

Boss Fight Books and author Reyan Ali drive to the basket with NBA Jam, the compelling behind-the-scenes story of the greatest b-ball arcade game of all time. Includes interviews with series creator Mark Turmell and Tim Kitzrow, voice of NBA Jam’s iconic announcer. In The Walkthrough: Insider Tales from a Life in Strategy Guides, bestselling author Doug Walsh shares stories of his career writing tips, tricks, and walkthroughs for guide publishers such as BradyGames.

Alongside those DRM-free eBooks, John Harris is back with a meaty tome of advice and tips on building your own adventures in RPG Maker, Hardcore Gaming 101 haunts readers with stories of retro horror games, and much more. – David L. Craddock

StoryBundle is a pay-what-you-want platform for independent authors to share their works with readers (and gamers) like you. Paying at least $5 will get you three books from the Fall Ball Game Bundle, while paying $15 or more unlocks six bonus books.

  • HG101 Presents: Star Fox and F-Zero by Kurt Kalata
  • Pleasant Dreams: The Welcoming Play of Kirby’s Dream Land by Joel Couture
  • Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360 Video Games You Will Never Play by Unseen64

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all three of the regular books, plus SIX more books!

  • HG101 Presents: The Guide to Retro Horror by Kurt Kalata
  • Level Up! A JRPG Creator’s Handbook by John Harris
  • The Walkthrough: Insider Tales from a Life in Strategy Guides by Doug Walsh
  • GameDev Stories: Volume 4 by David L. Craddock
  • Beneath a Starless Sky by David L. Craddock
  • Boss Fight Books: NBA Jam by Reyan Ali

This bundle is available only for a limited time via http://www.storybundle.com. It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub and .mobi and some .pdf) for all books!

As always thanks for your support!

Nirvana [PC – Cancelled]

Nirvana is a cancelled open world RPG that was in development for PC by Team Nirvana around 2004. At the time it was a fascinating project inspired by beloved CRPGs such as Fallout, but it was probably too ambitious for such a small team, composed of young developers from Germany. Today Nirvana is forgotten by most people, but we can still find details about the team’s ambitious on their old website (translated from German):

In Nirvana, our earth is almost completely destroyed after the third world war. Nuclear bombs changed the world surface, orbital neutron weapons depopulated most cities. In this radioactive contaminated wasteland, various mutations developed. An artificial intelligence created from military research now controls parts of America and Europe. Descendants of the few survivors became nomad tribes, violent gangs, extremist religious communities, anarchists and merchant clans. 

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Player will have to survive in this bizarre ruined world. Their decisions will change the course of the game. Nirvana will be played in first-person view, thus Doom and Unreal fans can play it like a role-play shooter. If you do not like shooters and RPGs, you may prefer to play Nirvana as Tower-Defence City Simulation game. You can build your own post-nuclear settlement and protect it from enemies. Or maybe you want to play as a rich merchant? Players will be able to join existing clans in the game’s world or start their own gang.

Nirvana is a sandbox, non-linear open world game based on the observation of players and their ever-growing expectations with computer RPGs. In a game we seek freedom to do things we can’t do in our dull everyday life. There is no shortage of such games: they are a competition in which players increase their self-esteem, which is often withdrawn outside of the game world. Nirvana relies on a genre-spanning story and multiple styles of play. 

Since expectations for a game vary greatly from player to player, one could think it would not be possible to develop a game that could be loved by every kind of gamers. With linear gameplay, this is hardly feasible. Another problem of traditional games is limited number and type of possible ways to solve a specific task. In Nirvana at least 3 different ways to resolve a task will be available, as well as complete freedom to bypass the task if you don’t want to do it.

For example, a NPC asks you to get an item from a well-guarded building:

  • Player 1: (shooter player) they solve the task by using weapons and combat skills.
  • Player 2: (the strategist) they plan a different route to steal the item without being seen by enemies
  • Player 3: (the sim player) they persuade a NPC to take over the job for them or talk with enemy guards to bribe them.
  • Player 4: (the RPG player) they find the solution that best suits their character class chosen at the beginning of the game
  • Player 5: (the spontaneous guy) they may ignore this request to instead explore the rest of the game world, and maybe solve the quest later or not at all
  • Player 6: (the shortsighted guy) they just kill the client, take their money and then also infiltrate the building to keep the item.

The make-a-character and choose-your-class options will remind you of a role-playing game, while weapon and armor settings will be reminiscent of a classic shooter. For the dealer class you can unlock unique gameplay mechanics that will allow to turn the game into an economic and trading simulation. You can take your own apartment, where to keep all of your belongings weapons, items, similar to the fan-made “Morrowind” apartment mod. In cities you could enter and explore at least 50% of all the buildings, doors will not be locked or just part of the wall texture, something that often frustrate players in open world games such as GTA and Mafia. You can talk with each non-playable character and with some of them you can trade on the street without ever having to enter a shop.

Another source of information for the Nirvana project is an old interview posted in 2004 on Gamers With Jobs:

Q: How many people are actually working on the project?

Carsten Kny: The team currently consists of four permanent members and two external people providing additional support.

 Q: Have you developed games or mods before?

CK: Nirvana is the first project of this particular team, but all of us were involved in the production of games in some way before that.

Q: What kind of locations will the player be able to visit?

CK: Abandoned places such as cities that were hit by neutron bombs, radioactive wastelands, urban locations that are under the command by different gangs and deserts. Rural regions like farm lands were mostly spared the huge disasters. We’ll also have junkyards, ice deserts, mines, lost labs, bunkers, sewer systems populated by mutants. A forbidden zone – territory of the AI creatures, more or less peaceful trading routes. Nomad camps and destroyed industrial areas. And many interior locations like bars, warehouses or old subway tunnels.

Q: And in which part of the world is the game set to take place?

CK: We’ve already watched North America being destroyed in quite a number of movies, so we decided to go for Europe.

Q: Based on the initial information Nirvana appears to be a mix of FPS and action-RPG. How would you describe it and which of the games currently available or in development would you compare it to?

CK: There’s quite a number of things that inspired us. Picture a mix of Fallout and Morrowind. Of course, the battle system will be closer to what you know from FPS titles.

However, we’re also looking at things we liked in other games. The stealth-o-meter in Splinter Cell would be an example of that. It basically scans the texture shading in the nearby environment and displays it on a panel. The shadow panel is a brilliant idea – yet it doesn’t require an enormous amount of coding effort.

Often enough parts related to the gameplay devour less time than those related to the development of the plot line. We always have an eye open for stimuli like this and are curious about what Stalker and Restricted Area may offer .

Q: How are the different characters classes going to affect the gameplay?

CK:Well, there are no mages in the game, but if you’re looking for something similar you might want to be an explorer. A former mercenary is likely to have a hard time establishing a trading business. The trader again is better off avoiding fights – at least earlier in the game – in order to survive. Finding friends among those who have power will not be that easy if you happen to be an anarchist. Finding friends among rebels probably will.

There’s no static, traditional “good/evil” concept in the game. Each group has proper reasons for why they’re behaving the way they do. The choice of your character partially determines which factions you’re friends with or not. And you may change that throughout the game.

Q: It’s also been said that the player will be able to found new settlements which then could be managed by him/her. Could you elaborate on that idea?

CK: Well, Nirvana is a first-person game, so the strategical/economic part doesn’t work the way it’s traditionally being realized.

One will be able to start your own gang once you gained enough reputation among the NPCs. Enough reputation to convince at least five other persons. (Altogether your gang can have up to 15 members.) Upon having found people willing to join your side you’ll have to look for a nice spot to found a settlement. The required building land has to be purchased from one of the big clans. You’ll recognize these locations through signs stating that they’re up for sale. You should take your goals into account before buying land. Once you’ve acquired a building site, the sign will bear the logo of your gang.

If there’s enough money left then you can assign other NPCs to construct a main building. It’s the only one that has multiple purposes. It offers enough space for your character and the following five NPCs: The administrator is the person you have to talk to about constructing new buildings. He’ll also send messages informing you about important incidents when you’re not ‘at home’. The hunter can get enough food and water to support up to 10 people. The medic is in charge of the ward. And, of course, will heal the player for free. If something’s broken or not working properly it can be repaired by the engineer. The guard will help defend your place against intruders with his heavy machine gun.

The more your wealth increases through shares in mines or farms or money earned by solving quests, the more you can expand.

Other buildings that can be constructed: farm, water cleaning station, stock, storage, trading house, quarters, watchtower, MG station and barbed-wire fences or walls. And maybe a bar or labs – but we’re still debating that.

Some of them aren’t ‘universal’ and cannot be built everywhere. There’s no sense in constructing a trading house when there’s no trading route nearby. And an MG station seems pretty much useless if your settlement is located at a nice, calm and peaceful spot.

Q: And all that put into one game… well, that sounds very ambitious, doesn’t it?

CK: Yeah, I guess most people will think we’re crazy, claiming that a non-linear concept requires a lot more effort than a linear one. That’s certainly true when we’re talking about something like hypertext literature, but I think it’s different when we’re talking about game development. The more content you want to offer, the better a non-linear approach works. Morrowind, for instance, wouldn’t have worked that well as linear game and that certainly also would have resulted in a longer development time.

In an extremely linear game you’d have an individual script or parts thereof for every single NPC. In a non-linear game you only need one script that takes values such as skills and variables into account. To phrase it in a more simple way: an NPC has to find out who he/she is at first. And then he/she determines his/her attitude towards the player. The difference between or similarity between variables plays a role in the generates the behavioural patterns. That way also NPCs – and not only your character – can change while you’re playing the game.

As you can read from their own words, the team dreamed of an overly ambitious open world game that would merge many different genres, something like a mix between Fallout, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Deus Ex, GTA 3 and many other role-play sims. It’s easy to see why it was not meant to be.

We don’t know what happened to the Nirvana Team after their game was cancelled. As of today, this article on Unseen64 is one of just a couple of pages online that even remember Nirvana, such as an old article on a Poland website

Thanks to Dan for the contribution! 

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