Between 2008 and 2010 Sony Computer Entertainment Japan were working on a new “Russian retro Sci-Fi Horror” video game for their Playstation 3, but in the end the project was cancelled. While this new PS3 game was never officially announced by Sony, a single concept art was revealed by Masahiro Ito (of Silent Hill fame) on Twitter in 2017, before he removed its own tweet.
“it would appear that conceptualization of the Russian sci-fi horror project began somewhere close to 2006 based on images from his official website. If you start from the top of the paintings section (while being mindful of some sensual imagery), the entire third row along with parts of the fourth seem dedicated to the production. I wasn’t aware these works actually belonged to an unfortunately scrapped game until fairly recently. I was actually under the impression they were simply a “subject matter” study that he explored in his art book, The 2nd Wild Pig, which was released at Comiket 74; however, it has been difficult to obtain exact details about its content despite remarks from the artist about making his work available in the West in some form or another. Ultimately, it appears a multi-media project called Acid Bufferzone has cannibalized remnants of the material shared between figurines and seemingly a manga series from Ito-san as well.”
Unfortunately at the moment this concept art is the only remaining document from the game. It would be interesting to see screenshots from the probable prototype they were able to create during the early development.
Project Copernicus is a cancelled PC MMO that was in development by 38 Studios (AKA Green Monster Games) between 2006 and 2012, an overly ambitious project that got their creators to fail in bankruptcy in a long and painful venture. This would have been their first project: the company was conceived precisely to develop a new, profitable Massive Multiplayer Online Game, a “World of Warcraft killer”.
As we can read from an in-depth article by Tech Raptor:
“In 2006, baseball pitcher Curt Schilling announced he would continue working in a new field: video games. After speaking with several friends and family members, he would found Green Monster Gaming with one goal in mind: create a new MMO.
Schilling himself was an avid fan of MMORPGs, playing the likes of World of Warcraft in the off-seasons and wanted to add to the market a passion project of his own design. Schilling was not alone in this passion. Two of his biggest backers to Green Monster Gaming, famous fantasy author R.A Salvatore and conceptual artists Todd McFarlane, were also gung-ho on the potential of any projects the studio could create.
This is in part to Schilling himself, who stated in an interview just after his studio closed, “If it wasn’t an MMO, I wouldn’t have done it. If you look at the game space now, if you want to build something that’s a billion-dollar company, the only game to do that with is an MMO.”
Some of the big names to join the company would include Travis McGeathy, the lead designer of the MMO Everquest; and Jennifer MacLean, former chairperson of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) and the VP General Manager of Games at Comcast. ”
There is not much info on Copernicus’ gameplay, but we know they heavily invested into its settings and lore, with a 10,000 year game-history created by R.A. Salvatore and art direction by Todd McFarlane. After the team failed to gather interest and funds from investors to complete their MMO, they decided to acquire Big Huge Games from THQ.
Their plan was to release a less ambitious single player action RPG: the result was Kingdoms of Amalur, a game that merged a project already in development by BHG with part of Copernicus’ settings and lore. As we can read on RPG Fans:
“For three and a half years, we had the Amalur universe in 38 Studios,” Schilling said. “The IP is being led by this team of very passionate people, we’re making this MMO, we’ve got a roadmap – and in a 24 hour span, we add 90 employees who now all of a sudden are taking the baby being created in Boston. There’s 90 people we don’t know and we’re handing off this multi-billion dollar, multi year project… to who?”
But perhaps it wasn’t so crazy. As it turns out, Big Huge Games had already been laying the groundwork for their own single player RPG project under lead designer Ken Rolston, of Morrowind and Oblivion fame.
“They had been shopping this fantasy game for a long time,” said Schilling. “From a tech perspective and a game design perspective, there was a solid foundation. But they were missing the story – the thing that makes a great RPG. We had that. It was a match made in heaven, because not long after the partnership, when Bob [Salvatore] and Ken [Rolston] and the creative team sat down together, there was a lot of magic going on.”
Unfortunately even Kingdoms of Amalur did not sell enough to keep 38 Studios alive and without being able to keep their MMO in development, the company closed for bankruptcy in 2012:
“38 Studios went to Delaware’s bankruptcy court this afternoon beginning the arduous process of salvaging what it can in the face of a $270 million debt. The hearing marked the first opportunity since the studio filed for bankruptcy for creditors to question the company’s executives. According to the Boston Globe, creditors and employees who have gone unpaid since May will likely receive nothing through the proceedings as the studio takes the first steps towards liquidation.”
“Kingdoms of Amalur would go on to be a modest success for 38 Studios. Published by Electronic Arts, as a part of their EA Partners program, Kingdoms of Amalur would see 1.3 million copies sold in three months, which for a new IP was respectable. Schilling, and later Chafee, would note that the game needed to hit around 3 million units sold to break even on development costs and turn a profit.”
We don’t know exactly how much of Project Copernicus was done before its cancellation, but enough footage and screenshots were leaked online to have a good idea of how it would have looked like. Unfortunately, from what Curt Schilling said, his dream MMO was not fun to play:
“The money was only a secondary concern to Schilling. “The game wasn’t fun… It was my biggest gripe for probably the past eight to 12 months.” Evidently the combat lagged and no one seemed to be playing it around the office.”
“As the studio collapsed, employees were left in the dark. Worse, their health insurance was shut off without notice – which one pregnant woman only discovered upon going to a doctor’s appointment. The company that was supposed to handle relocation fees didn’t finish the job, leaving several employees stuck with mortgages on their old homes as well, and bills that were supposed to have been handled through management hadn’t been.”
Bizerta: Silent Evil is a cancelled survival horror heavily inspired by Resident Evil & Silent Hill, that was in development by Edrox Interactive, initially for Sony PSVita and later for Nintendo WiiU. The game was announced around 2015 and in mid 2017 the project was still planned to be released for WiiU, but in the end it just quietly vanished.
“Bizerta: Silent Evil sets the stage inside a disheveled World, softly lit by the moonlight overrunning its foliage and blanketing corridors with darkness.
“Bizerta : SILENT Evil” for Wii U is the story of Ash Lightheart drawn by the mystical power of the City called Bizerta. Ash was 15-years-old but one day, he woke up in a dark world as a 30-year-old man. You have to explore this world, slinking through a large creepy, and seemingly empty, building to find out what happened. The title will use extensively the Wii U GamePad’s touch screen for puzzle solving, unlocking doors, and other mini games and mechanism interactions.”
In 2015 Cubed3 also published an interview with Edrox Interactive, unveiling their hopes for the project:
“Randy: Can be tough, at times, the way the market swings, it’s completely unpredictable. Can you go into any details about the disruption you were faced with before coming over to Nintendo?
Ouissem: The biggest issue on Vita is that I have a PSM license so I can only publish a game with limited size on their store, which is 1 GB. That’s simply not enough for my game. Actually, many people asked them for more but Sony kept ignoring them, so I feel that the PSM program is more suited for mini games or something casual, not for a horror adventure.
Randy: Earlier you hinted that you missed puzzles specifically in the horror genre, can Nintendo gamers expect to challenge puzzle based obstacles in Silent Evil or is it more geared to providing action oriented elements?
Ouissem: That’s my goal actually – to try and combine these two elements. I won’t make it easier for people to get out of this nightmare!
Randy Freer: Are there additional playable characters in the cast or does Silent Evil focus on a single protagonist?
Ouissem: Only one playable Character.”
As far as we can understand, the game was in development by one single developer, so it’s safe to say that it became a project too ambitious for his small resources. As of April 2020 Edrox Interactive website is still online: could we see Bizerta released on other consoles or PC one day?
In the late ‘90s Microprose UK was working on a Battletech real-time strategy game for PC, based on the official license by FASA Corporation. FASA’s own development team (FASA Studio) was probably still busy working on their first MechCommander video game (published in 1998), so we can assume the company asked Microprose to work on a different game in the meantime. In the end Microprose’s Battletech was cancelled, but thanks to game designer Terry Greer we know a few details about this lost project:
“Battletech (based on a license from FASA and set in the Battletech universe and with lead designer Richard Bakewell) was in relatively good shape when I started as Head of Game Design at Microprose UK, so I really had very little to do with it – apart from working on creating the cutscene scripts, and overseeing it until its untimely cancellation.
Battletech had its own engine, a basic terrain editor, and the beginnings of control mechanics. It was also very extensively documented with a detailed GDD and specification, along with lots of artwork and models – and was fully thought through (the Battletech license was owned by FASA).
The game was based around controlling a small squad of mechs (basically big power suits) with just a single operator across a height-based map with deformable terrain. Tactics and squad formation and use were to play a large part in the gameplay.
Unfortunately the game was canned a short time later for reasons that were out of our control and which involved FASA suddenly reversing their decision to continue. I still have some artwork from the game – but can’t get the demo to run any more, it required other installed files which I no longer have.”
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