New Cancelled Games & Their Lost Media Added to the Archive

My Neighbor Totoro [SNES – Cancelled]

Around 1992 Tokuma Shoten Intermedia planned to develop or publish a tie-in Super Nintendo video game for the popular Studio Ghibli anime My Neighbor Totoro. At the time Studio Ghibli was part of Tokuma Shoten and the company published a few anime-related games such as Yadamon: Wonderland Dream and Eternal Filena. As far as we know the game was never officially announced by the company, but in 2019 Itoh Shigeyuki (former artists at Tokuma) shared on Twitter a couple of images from the game pitch they showed to Miyazaki.

As translated by Nina Matsumoto on Twitter:

“About 27 years ago, I drew these from scratch pixel by pixel to pitch a My Neighbor Totoro Super Famicom game to Hayao Miyazaki. (*for Tokuma Shoten Intermedia. The game got shelved). There were no decent scanners back then, so I had to stare at an art book and draw these one pixel at a time”

And a few more details “translated” by Google Translate:

“At that time, I felt a good bleed out when I saw it with a CRT while working, and it was more anime-like. Tokuma Shoten proposed a plan because he wanted to put it out, but unfortunately the director’s ok did not appear.

I couldn’t tell you the details of the reason for the store, but as you pointed out, he didn’t seem to like the game.

I guess it was more like an adventure game. I want to ignore the project and put out a racing game on a cat bus (laughs)

I think that there was a certain amount of odds, and I think that I had a plan for Manager Miyazaki, but in terms of adventure-oriented content, it might not have been as meaningful to turn it into a game.

Because it was for planning purposes, I think that I use more than 16 colors. However, the number of colors is considerably reduced.”

In the end after this undeveloped Super Famicom pitch there has never been an official My Neighbor Totoro video game.

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Prototype 3 (Radical Entertainment) [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3]

After releasing Prototype 2 in mid 2012, Radical Entertainment started working on the third chapter of their series, hopeful to quickly releasing it as one of their last games for the 7th generation of consoles or even better as a launch title for Playstation 4 and Xbox One.

Unfortunately Prototype 2 did not sell as expected: the team was already in financial difficulties and their parent company decided to layoff part of their staff, cancelling plans for Prototype 3. As we can read on Kotaku:

“Although we made a substantial investment in the Prototype IP, it did not find a broad commercial audience. Radical is a very talented team of developers, however, we have explored various options for the studio, including a potential sale of the business, and have made a difficult conclusion through the consultation process that the only remaining option is a significant reduction in staff. As such, some employees will remain working for Radical Entertainment supporting other existing Activision Publishing projects, but the studio will cease development of its own games going forward.”

While Prototype 3 was never officially announced by Activision nor Radical Entertainment, fans of the IP are still asking for it. In June 2019 a few screenshots from an early development version of Prototype 3 were found online. We saved these images in the gallery below, to preserve what remains of this cancelled project.

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Evil Spell [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3]

Evil Spell is a cancelled beat ‘em up / hack & slash that was in development by Dark Ride Studios for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. The team was established in 2010 by ex Grin developers after their former company closed down. They wanted to create simple, low-budget projects to pitch to publishers to receive funds and support, then release them on Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network.

In Evil Spel you would have been able to choose between 12 different characters, each one with their one combat style, weapons and skills. For example there was a medieval knight, some kind of WW1 soldier, an evil alchemist and a modern-age street-gangster.

As you can imagine the game was set in different time periods, so they could offer a good variety of levels, enemies and weapons. For example in the early prototype shown by the team at the Game’s Developers Conference 2011 we can see a medieval area mixed with a modern-day street.

In the end we can speculate Dark Ride Studios never found a publisher interested in their projects and were not able to complete Evil Spell. Only a few images and prototype footage are preserved below, to remember the existence of this lost game.

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The Dark Half: Endsville [Playstation, PC – Cancelled]

The Dark Half: Endsville (also known as The Dark Half Interactive) is a cancelled survival horror / adventure game based on the homonymous book by Stephen King. It was officially announced in early 1997, in development by Bits Studios and to be published by THQ and Orion Interactive for Playstation and PC. Unfortunately it seems they never released any screenshot from the game, but details about the project can still be found online in various forms.

In April 1997 IGN wrote:

“T-HQ announced today that it has signed an agreement with Orion Interactive to jointly publish The Dark Half, based on the novel by horror writer Stephen King. The game will be developed by the UK’s Bits Studios.

Also involved in the development of the game will be writers Matt Costello and Paul Wilson, who previously worked on PC titles The Seventh Guest and The Keep, respectively.

Revolving around protagonist Thad Beaumont’s struggle with his evil alter ego, The Dark Half is promised to be a 3D, third-person adventure game, “that will accurately reflect the Stephen King novel,” a T-HQ spokesperson said.”

During their E3 1997 report IGN also wrote:

“A new game for the PC and Playstation will be based on the King novel The Dark Half. The game will be based on Stephen King’s novel about a writer who must struggle with his evil alter-ego. It will be a real time, 3D adventure that contains 28 levels in seven different worlds. The Dark Half: Endsville is forecast for a 1998 release.”

GamePen’s E3.NET published another press release for the game:

“Stephen King, master of disturbing prose, is coming to the PlayStation and the PC next year in fiendish style with “The Dark Half.” The game will be based on King’s eerie tale of writer Thad Beaumont’s struggle with his murderous alter-ego, George Stark. The novel will be transformed into code through the use of two different game engines, one for the pre-rendered world of Beaumont, and one for the rendered-on-the-fly nightmare world of killer George Stark.”

We also know that Jeffery Lieber (mostly known for co-writing the Lost series) would have been the game’s producer, thanks to an old blog post by Paul Wilson:

“I was delighted to see “story by Jeffery Lieber” in the opening credits.  Jeff and I go back to the mid-1990s when Matt Costello and I were scripting the “Dark Half Interactive” project for Orion Interactive; Jeff was acting as producer.  He’s not the least bit squeamish but Matt and I managed to gross him out with our “Birthing Woman” interaction (don’t ask). The project was orphaned and became vaporware when MGM bought Orion.”

More memories about working on the game can also be found in Paul Wilson books “Repairman Jack, and More” and “Aftershock & Others: 16 Oddities”.

If you know someone who worked at Bit Studios in 1997 and could still have some images from this lost game, please let us know!

Thanks to eSpy for the contrbution!

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Wrench (Ensemble Studios) [Xbox 360 – Cancelled]

Wrench is a cancelled car-combat game that was in development by Ensemble Studios since the early ‘00s, and in its latest form it could have been published by Microsoft for their Xbox 360. It was developed as an internal demo and cancelled before being officially announced to the public, but bits and pieces of its history were shared online by former Ensemble devs such as Rich Geldreich:

“Unfortunately, mostly due to limited funding, our XNA demo didn’t see the light of day. This R&D and tech would later be used in a prototype at Ensemble named “Wrench”, then in a really cool internal demo Ensemble Studios got to show to Bill Gates in 2004 named “SevenDemo”. SevenDemo was a physics and graphics demo we put together in about 10 days to demonstrate what the still in development Xbox 360 console would be capable of doing. I was told he was very impressed. A few months after SevenDemo was shown, the Wrench prototype game was canceled (see below), so I rolled onto Age of Empires 3. Later, I used a lot of this tech in what would eventually morph into Halo Wars.”

“I first worked on the rendering and shader code of a prototype 3rd person car combat project named “Wrench” (also see here). After Wrench was canceled (this kind of game just didn’t match our strengths, honestly), I helped modernize and optimize Age of Empire 3’s graphics engine. (Age3 looked really good already, but Wrench had rendering and lighting tech that pushed the game even further.)”

“The team at Ensemble made this demo with the Wrench prototype code in approximately 7-10 days, where it was known inside Ensemble as “SevenDemo”:

“Video of the never before seen “Wrench” graphics/physics engine technology demo shown to Bill Gates by Ensemble Studios (Dallas, TX) in early 2004. We put this D3D9 shader model 3 demo together in roughly 7 days, but we had been working on the tech for around 18 months. The prototype AMD graphics cards we were using at the time became unstable at high clock frequencies, so we unfortunately had to show it at only 640×480 or 800×600 resolution with no AA. The real-time participating media effect used on the entire scene (pay attention to the light rays poking in from the front garage doors as they are riddled with bullet holes) consumed around 40% of our entire GPU budget. This effect is 100% dynamically computed by ray marching through dynamic 16-bit spotlight shadow maps, and was a very advanced effect for 2004. This demo shows light prepass rendering, HDR rendering, omni light shadows via dual paraboloid shadow maps, spotlight shadow maps, and dynamic light scattering effects on the omni/spot lights. Much of this engine code wound up shipping in Age of Empires 3 and Halo Wars.”

Also Richard wrote on Twitter:

“The Wrench gameplay prototype was a 3rd person outdoor car shooter. We had multiplayer working. The prototype was coming along, but I think Ensemble got pressured by Microsoft to pivot back to RTS game prototypes. This led to the “Phoenix” prototype, which then led to Halo Wars 1”

It’s interesting to notice that Phoenix was also the name of a cancelled RTS in development by Bungie for the first Xbox, but as far as we know it was not related to Ensemble Studio’s canned project. Unfortunately Ensemble Studios was closed by Microsoft in late 2008 after publishing Halo Wars. Some of their cancelled games were revealed in an article about the “last visit” at the studios by Gamasutra, with titles such as Agent, Bam! and their Halo MMO.

If you know someone who worked on Wrench and could help us to preserve more screenshots or videos from this lost game, please let us know!