New Cancelled Games & Their Lost Media Added to the Archive

Judge Dredd [Arcade – Cancelled]

 

Judge Dredd is a cancelled Beat ’em up brawler game developed and published by Midway Games on the arcade, around 1992-1993. It featured digitized graphics and was based on the comic book serie of the same name.

The game reached a near-complete state, with 3 stages finished, and 3 bonus stages after each ‘main’ level. Each stage was different in some way, such as the first being a normal scrolling brawler-style stage, the second being closer to a platform game, and the third being a unique concept, where Dredd has to fight off waves of ‘block warriors’, making sure that the two ever-decreasing bars never reach the bottom- if one of them is emptied, the stage is over and has to be repeated. After the final level is beaten, the game ends with a preview for the next level, apparently featuring the character Judge Death from the comics.

Gaming Hell managed to get in touch with Jake Simpson, former programmer on Judge Dredd, and former artist Erik Kinkead. Both shared details about the development of the game and why it was ultimately cancelled:

So, after the success of Terminator 2 – The Arcade Game, Midway were looking for another movie license to make an arcade game out of, and since the Judge Dredd movie had been announced at the time, they decided to grab the license and beat the cinemas to it. Utilising a slightly-better form of digitised graphics than the original Mortal Kombat (pioneered in this game) it was planned for release in 1993. The inspiration came from a different source.

Jake Simpson: The actual premise of the game was it was supposed to be a cross between Mortal Kombat and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – we literally had one in my office to play, the 4 player version…

It’s a scrolling brawler! You should be familiar with what’s gonna go down by this point- just fight through waves of enemies, and beat the boss character at the end of the stage. In fairness, it’s a rather sophisticated one for its time, as each stage is different in some way, be it the controls or the mission objective. It’s definitely a different approach than the norm.

Jake Simpson: We wanted each level to have a different mechanic (although not too different) because at the time, no one else had done that, at least not in a brawler.

The layout is actually recycled from NARC, Williams‘ ultra-violent run-and-gunner.

Jake Simpson: The control panel was used because ‘everyone else said it had worked out well with Narc. This was my first game, so I just let it go. (…) The jumping level with the robots literally went in about a month before test. It was only because Eric had done some renders of robots and we looked at it them and went “What can we do with this?” – Eric and I built that alone very quickly… I’d never even attempted to code a platformer before and had no real idea what I was doing. (…)

Yes, some of the levels were too hard. They were absolutely designed to be quarter suckers. The trouble with games like this – story games – is that most of the time people will only play through once. This isn’t a sports or combat game where you play to test your skills against another player, so you replay. This is a once through kind of game, so we needed to take as many quarters as we could without pissing off the player, so things were definitely harder than they should be for playing for free on Mame.

After the third shooting gallery, the game abruptly ends and you’re greeted by this screen, which promises that “DEATH IS COMING….”. Obviously, the next stage would’ve involved Judge Death somehow, but how?

Jake Simpson: The last level was basically Judge Death in Resyk – he was reanimating corpses that were rolling out on a conveyor belt at the back of the screen and you were shooting them and him – you’d have your gun but it could be knocked out of your hand and you’d be manno e-manno until another one dropped into the level. The Judge Death stuff was about 60-70% done. We had Judge Death leaping around and attacking you, that much I do remember. I don’t remember if he was reanimating corpses though, even though I knew that was the plan.

Also, in case you’re wondering why Death looks so crazy-awesome here, it’s because he was a mannequin, much like Leglock and Goro from Mortal Kombat. Eric Kinkead was particularly impressed with it.

Erik Kinkead: Oh man, that Judge Death model was so awesome. At least, if not as cool as Goro. I would go into either Tim Coman or John Vogel‘s office and look at that thing constantly. Although that close up picture of him… Doesn’t do the model justice.

However, it was never released. Hell, it wasn’t even completed, but was playtested in Chicago. Unfortunately, the locaction test didn’t quite go to plan, so the plug was pulled on the project.

Jake Simpson: We were still relatively early in development to be testing – normally the game doesn’t go out on test till it’s 100% complete and we weren’t – but we were starting to get glimmers of the fact that this wasn’t going to be great and we wanted to know early so we could just put a bullet in it and stop wasting our time, if that was the case.

I think part of the reason we did abandon it was because it *was* such a labor of love, and it just wasn’t living up to our expectations, either in what the game was or how it was doing on test.

We never finished it because we put it out on test and it just didn’t do great numbers… I remember having a bug that crashed the game in the block wars and that totally destroyed our on test numbers. I remember at the time NBA JAM was out, Mortal Kombat was out, and our numbers were no where near theirs, so we all got very demoralized and just gave up. In retrospect we _should_ have finished this – Midway paid for the license and we should have completed it. We probably could have in a month. I remember the meeting where we all sat there and looked at each other and just shrugged and said “What were we thinking?”. We were young and stupid. Enough said.

Both Jake and Eric remember a different level that was cut- a Spy Hunter-esque racing stage using Dredd’s Lawmaster.

Jake Simpson: There was another level we had which got cut – the motorcycle chase. It was a top down thing, where you were on his bike and you had to chase a car on a high ramp over the city. The ramp was damaged so you had to jump sections… We cut it because honestly, it was no challenge. A few jumps, some left and right and that was it. Looked gorgeous though, but all that really nice Mega City At Night imagery took up way too much image space, so we cut it entirely.

Sadly, the Lawmaster chase stage was gutted from the location test version to make space for the Death stage.

Jake Simpson: The code for the Motorcycle was there, but none of the graphics were.

Fortunately, the game was preserved, to an extent- although only four boards were ever made, a version of the game slightly older than the version play-tested was dumped and is available to play in MAME.

Jake Simpson: Only 4 machines were made. I had one, that went to my sisters pub in the UK and was destroyed when that burnt down. One went to Tim Coman, one went to Mark Penacho and I’ve no idea where the last one ended up. I also have no idea how the roms got out into the world – I will say that they weren’t the final ones we put out in the world though.

Article updated by Daniel Nicaise

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Damnation: Hell Breaks Loose [PC – Prototype]

Damnation is a Far West steampunk Third-Person Shooter/Platformer action game developed by Blue Omega Entertainment, Liquid Development and Point of View, Inc., and published by Codemasters in May 2009, for PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The game originally started as an Unreal Tournament 2004 mod, sometimes named Damnation: Hell Breaks Loose, and was entered into Epic Games first Make Something Unreal contest:

Return to the West that never was in this genre-blending total conversion for Unreal Tournament 2004. Equipped with an array of steam-powered weaponry, acrobatic skills, and mystic Spirit Powers only you stand against a ruthless, mechanized foe. A self-styled “steampunk fantasy-western,” Damnation stands apart, providing the gaming community with not only fresh, new gameplay, but an untapped world to explore as well. Damnation is a new breed of gaming experience. As a first/3rd person action/adventure title, Damnation’s gameplay is unprecedented. Combining the immersion and precision-gunplay of a traditional first-person shooter like Call of Duty with the navigational puzzle design of 3rd-person adventure titles like Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, Damnation is a new paradigm in genre-blending gameplay.

In September 2005, the team wrote a postmortem on BeyondUnreal about what was going to be their next plan about the project:

We sit here, now, in the newly formed office of Blue Omega Entertainment and look forward to starting full production of the retail version of Damnation in just over a month. The lessons we learned from the prototype have strongly shaped the structure of this new development studio. Since our Grand Finals submission, we have completely stopped development of the mod. We have spent the last four months doing nothing but preproduction. We have meticulously planned out our design docs, production pipelines, and schedule. Everything that went wrong with the prototype has been addressed and reworked from the ground up.

Most prototypes aren’t as fully realized as Damnation: Hell Breaks Loose. We didn’t necessarily need to put as much effort and time as we did into creating polished art assets just to test out the game design. Given the chance to do it over, I don’t think we would change that though. Taking the art production pipeline as far as we did on the prototype showed us where all the holes were. It taught us what we could outsource and what absolutely had to stay in-house. We were able to make mistakes that on the full game could have cost us millions, but on the mod were only annoyances.

In the end, even though we didn’t win the license, we feel that the prototype was a success. We were able to test out our game design and get tons of great feedback from the mod community. We now know that we are more than capable of taking the Damnation concept to completion and we feel confident that it will be a great game. In fact, the lessons we learned about valuing quality over quantity ensure that whether the final game matches our current vision or not, it will be fun. We believe that that focus alone is enough to make it a success.

Blue Omega tried to pitch their Unreal Mod to develop it into a commercial game and when they found a publisher interested in the project, the team worked hard to expand Damnation into a full title for the then next gen consoles. But the development of this new version didn’t go as planned: officially revealed in March 2008 for a release planned in December of the same year, the title was pushed back in 2009 for a release in May. Damnation received unfavorable reviews by the press.

In January 2013, VentureBeat investigated with former Lead Game Designer Jacob Minkoff what went wrong during the development:

Damnation was intended to be something very special. The game germinated from a hybrid first/third-person action game entered into the first Make Something Unreal competition in 2004. While it didn’t win, production continued with a full retail release as the ultimate goal. Aspirations were high among the team, and its plans for the game were lofty.

Blue Omega was aiming high with Damnation. It wanted to create huge battlefields that player and adversary alike could traverse any way they saw fit. It was seeking to create both organic locations and enemies, throw the player into the mix, and watch the emergent gameplay spiral out of control in the most fantastic of ways. Things eventually did spiral, though no one, especially the player, benefited in the least.

“Damnation was a product of a green team that didn’t really know what they were doing. It was my first professional game development project; the same was true of many members of the core team.”

The eagerness of the team also led them to overlook the huge challenge set by the new console hardware they were developing for. “We were on the cusp of a new generation, and we learned lessons that have since become common knowledge in game development,” said Minkoff.

In trying to expand upon Damnation so dramatically while working with new hardware, Blue Omega tried to accomplish too much too soon. “Making a sprawling — theoretically — triple-A game on console and PC was simply too much for us to handle,” said Minkoff.

This problem was only exacerbated by the decision to outsource large portions of the game and maintain an uncommonly small in-house team. The strategy was originally intended to afford this core team the greatest level of flexibility and allow it to adapt throughout development. As Minkoff revealed, this simply was not the case in practice.

“Outsourcing was a problem,” he said. “You need the time, experience, and budget to turn on a dime — to throw out what you’ve made and try something else quickly, and within constraints. We did not have the resources or knowledge to do that at Blue Omega.”

This inflexibility, caused by inexperience and outsourcing, led to the game’s woefully protracted development cycle. Few games command four years to make, and when they do finally see release, it’s usually justified with high levels of polish and production value. This was the opposite for Damnation. The longer it stayed in development, the more out of touch and less impressive it became. Level architecture, A.I., textures, animations, movement, physics, audio mixing, sound effects, dialogue, cutscenes, acting, weapons, and general common sense all had their merits eroded over the years it took Damnation to gestate.

“In the end, you usually run out of time or money,” said Minkoff. “With Damnation, we ran out of both. One of the primary reasons why you see so much architectural reuse is because it was cheaper to pay for a retexture than all new geometry. It also took less time to do so, giving us more hope of us meeting our release date.”

It could have been a great game had the team been more experienced, focused, and time-efficient. Minkoff sees the silver lining: “Many games never ship at all because the investment to make the game simply pass console certification would be prohibitive. That it shipped at all is a triumph for Damnation’s team.”

His positivity likely emanates from where Damnation took him next and where he was able to take its fundamental concepts. After the game’s completion, Minkoff moved to Naughty Dog and designed some of the most memorable sections of the Uncharted sequels. There, he was finally able to realize his ambitions for Damnation thanks to an experienced team and appropriate resources.

That the similar yet vastly superior first Uncharted game was in development at the same time as Damnation and saw release two years earlier to critical acclaim is an irony that is not lost on Minkoff. Instead of wallowing in the past, however, he is looking toward the future and building upon his first game’s auspicious past.

“Everyone has to learn somewhere,” he said. “I learned on Damnation.”

More recently, someone claiming to be a close source from the developers wrote under a video by Youtuber Matt McMuscles:

I work for the guys who came up with and had it made. They hired a company to do the coding and worked with a publisher to get it out on the various platforms. It was coming along with issues, as the developer wasn’t listening to my boss, and then the publisher decided that they were tired of waiting and forced them to release it when it was half done. The original concept of the game was awesome, and would have been amazing if they actually made what he paid for. An alternate history of the US where the South won the Civil War, with the tension and conflicts that arise from having an enemy directly border you. With steampunk elements. It sounded really cool.

The retail version retains some of the mod’s gameplay such as the acrobatic moves and spirit vision.

The original Damnation 2004 mod can still be downloaded here.

Article updated by Daniel Nicaise

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Prime [SNES – Cancelled]

Prime is a cancelled beat ’em up game that was developed by Malibu Interactive for the Super Nintendo around 1993-1994. The game was based on the comic of the same name.

Very few information exist about this game as, to this day, no video games magazines featured it on Archive.org, and no reason were given about why it was cancelled. We can speculate that it was the purchase of Malibu Comics by Marvel, of which Malibu Interactive was a subsidiary, that happened in 1994 that caused to shutdown the game company, and thus, cancelling the title in the process.

A first prototype of the game leaked in 2009 containing 5 playable levels and we can read more details about its gameplay here:

As far as gameplay goes, Prime is a pretty standard side-scrolling Beat-‘Em-Up in the mold of Final Fight, which shouldn’t come as a surprise if you were playing video games in 1994.

Malibu Interactive did a pretty good job on that front. Maximum Carnage seems to be the bar they set out to beat, and while you don’t get to whip people around with Spider-Man’s webs, they do give Prime a few neat attacks to keep things interesting — or as interesting as one of video games’ most repetitive genres gets, anyway.

One button makes Prime punch, often with a combo that’s a dead ringer for Cody’s in Final Fight, but powered by ridiculously huge arms instead of ultra-tight acid wash jeans. And while you don’t get to actually fly during any of the fighting levels, you do get a double jump that’s useful in exactly one area. Another button gives you an alternate kick attack that begins with the most awkward wind-up ever and ending with a stiff-leg kick square in the junk, complete with an impact burst exploding out of the bad guy’s crotch.

In addition to the standard chuck-an-enemy-across-the-screen, Prime also gives you the ability to throw them towards the background or foreground. It’s a trick lifted from the later-era TMNT games, but they pull it off pretty well here by adding something that the comics of the era specialized in: explosions.

Explosions are a recurring theme in the game, and you get to most of them by throwing enemies at everything possible just to see what happens. The car in the foreground, the fire hydrant in the background and the windows on the building can all be broken when you toss an enemy at them, usually resulting in an explosion even when it’s a fire hydrant. It’s also pretty nice that the backgrounds have areas (like the windows and the occasional boarded-up door) that are destructible, although owing to the game’s unfinished status, the destruction will occasionally result in a glowing purple square of nothingness.

So at this point, we’ve got guys in tank tops, crotch-kicks and exploding cars, and for the Streets of Rage aficionado, that’s all pretty standard stuff. Prime is also equipped with two special abilities that allow him to deal with these horrors. For one, as seen above, he walks just like WWE chairman Vince McMahon. And for the second, his super attack, which allows him to blow up like a balloon until he explodes.

An almost finished version leaked later on the internet.

The game was eventually released on the Sega CD under the name Ultraverse Prime in 1995.

Article by Daniel Nicaise

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Gen13 [PC / PSX / Saturn – Cancelled]

Gen13 is a cancelled action game developed around 1997 for the PC, Playstation and Sega Saturn systems, that was going to be published by Electronic Arts and developed by Gray Matter Inc. It was based on the eponymous comic-book franchise.

As we can read on Playstation Museum, a deal between EA and WildStorm Productions was struck in February 1996 in order to make a series of video game based on this licence. High Score Entertainment was tasked to make design documents for EA:

The license granted EA exclusive rights to develop a series of 2-D and 3-D action-adventure interactive entertainment software products based on the Gen13 comic book series for personal computers, Sony PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and other advanced entertainment platforms.

EA’s games will feature the comic book’s seemingly average teenagers – the Gen13 – who are actually missing subjects from a top-secret government experiment to create super-humans. Escaping from their keepers, the youths are labeled as fugitives who pose a national security threat to the United States. Their only hope for survival is to use their newly-found powers to battle their enemies and to learn the secrets of their past. The Gen13 are kids on their own just trying to have fun – when they’re not running from spies or saving the world.

High Score Entertainment, the studio responsible for Madden NFL 95 and NHL 95, were in charge of producing and designing the Gen13 game. The high level concept was that the Gen13 video game will deliver the detail, depth and play-control of Mario, the great platform/shooter dynamic of Earthworm Jim, the hard-core action of Street Fighter and an adrenalizing soundtrack of heart-thumping techno and contemporary modern rock- with all the mind-blowing artwork and spectacular characters that only the Gen 13 universe can offer!

Regarding its gameplay, Gen13 was going to be a mix of vertical shooter, beat ’em up and one-on-one fighting game, with a cooperative mode:

THE GAMEPLAY:
The normal gameplay engine will be similar to that of Earthworm Jim where the player controls at least one of the five different Gen13 characters. There are also “team-up” levels where the AI controls additional players on the screen. In the case of a two-player game, both characters will be actively controlled.

In addition to side scrolling fighting/shooting, the engine will be designed to be flexible, allowing for a variety of scenarios such as: vertical shooter, static screen action, zoomed in cinematic sequences, zoomed out view of gameplay, and forced scrolling action.

The boss combat engine will be a dynamic 3-D environment where the characters can cruise around in an arena. The closer the character is to the “boss,” the closer the camera will be. The camera will zoom out respectively when the characters are apart.

CHARACTER DESIGN:
All your favorite Gen13 characters are in the game, each with their own special moves and animation. WildStorm Productions sent EA visual character specifications in order to ensure that the characters are intricately and properly portrayed.

The Gen13 characters can’t get by on their good looks and sparkling personalities alone. Throughout the game will be various ways to help the player survive, in the form of traditional gameplay “power-ups.” Of course, Gen13 offers that extra twist: The Ultra Move. The most potent powerup in the game is the “Ultra Move.” Each character has only one “Ultra Move” hidden somewhere in the levels of the game. The “Ultra Move” is the ultimate manifestation of a character’s Gen Active power.

BOSS DESIGN:
The design team asked Jim Lee and J. Scott Campbell to create the bosses for each of the levels. They have also been commissioned to create the mother of all end bosses to climax the Gen13 game. The mother of all bosses will require true teamwork from all of the Gen13 characters in order to defeat. The game ending boss would be introduced in comic form in an upcoming Gen13 series. A possible marketing ploy would be to offer a secret code that is unlocked upon completion of the game that will allow the player to send away for a poster of the mighty end boss.

LEVEL DESIGN:
Levels will provide diverse physics and game mechanics to give a variety of challenging gameplay experiences. Levels on skates, on ice, driving vehicles, flying, swimming, or climbing will give the user several types of gameplay to master. The different areas of Gen13 will be truly living and breathing environments. Locations will be chosen not only for good gameplay and storyline, but for exciting and realistic visuals. 25 levels were designed conceptually, many of which were drawn out for the developer. Some of the levels include the Grunge and Freefall traveling to Las Vegas in “Viva Las Vegas”, Fairchild discovering an underground complex under the city in “Down In It”, Grunge saving Freefall from One-Eyed Jack in “No Tut In Common,” and Freefall loose in a shopping mall after hours in “Mall Maul.”

BONUS:
Arcade classic bonus games will be hidden throughout the Gen13 game. The games will be spoofs of famous arcade games that are recognized by all. The goal of the bonus games is to score points to earn extra lives.

Once the design documents finished, EA was looking for developers that could have achieved the vision they had for their Gen13 game. Three different game companies made tech demos to show to EA. Those studios were Evolutionary Publishing, Realtime Associates and Gray Matter Inc. Ultimately, Gray Matter was the developer retained by EA.

DEVELOPMENT HISTORY:
With the design documents completed, EA proceeded to entertain bids from possible developers. Potential developers included Evolutionary Publishing (Fox Hunt), Realtime Associates (Crusader: No Remorse, Iron Man & X-O Manowar in Heavy Metal), and Gray Matter Inc. (Perfect Weapon). Each developer submitted technical demos for review. It is important to understand that developers have concurrent projects in progress while technical demos are being created and some have more time and resources to dedicate on this than others. The technical demos are not to be taken as indication of how the resulting gameplay would be.

Evolutionary Publishing submitted two progressive interactive technical demos of Rainmaker and Qeelocke. Both demos allowed the user to move the character in a platform environment. The backdrop was from the “Viva Las Vegas” level. The more recent demo allowed Rainmaker to scale the wall of the pyramid in Las Vegas. Evolutionary Publishing decided to utilize 2D sprites for the characters whereas the following two competing developers used 3D models.

Realtime Associates submitted a playable demonstration of their progress in representing Freefall as a real-time rendered 3D model. This demo was put together in less than a week.

Gray Matter Inc. submitted a non-interactive art demo to illustrate the graphics style of the various Gen13 characters including an end boss as well as a fly through to the “Down In It” level. The graphics captured the essence of the design documents and ultimately Gray Matter was chosen as the developer.

But after some months of work, the game was cancelled for economical reasons. Gray Matter shutted down and EA decided to drop the licence.

CANCELLATION:
After just a few months of programming, Gray Matter developed two polished interactive levels, an arena mode, and FMV for both the PlayStation and PC. Three different characters were created for the two side-scrolling levels as well as enemies. Four characters and an enemy Boss were programmed for the Arena mode. Unfortunately the agreement between Gray Matter and Electronic Arts reached an impasse due to business politics. As a result Gray Matter closed down therefore ceasing all projects and all employees losing their jobs. Due to the amount of money spent and the popularity of Gen13 wavering, EA decided it was not financially feasible to engage another developer and instead decided to cut their losses.

Like many other games, over the years, the tech demo made by Realtime Associates and the prototype by Gray Matter leaked onto the internet.

Article by Daniel Nicaise

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Evolutionary Publishing’s version:

Realtime Associates’ version:

Gray Matter Inc.’s version:

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Gen13’s Realtime Associates prototype:

Gen13’s Gray Matter Inc. version:

ShadowHawk [SNES – Unreleased]

ShadowHawk is a cancelled action/platformer game developed by Studio E exclusively for the Super Nintendo around 1994. It was based on the comic-book of the same name.

The game was cancelled due to a lack of publishers interested in the project and the source code leaked on the internet in 2016. SNESCentral wrote:

The game is split into two modes. It featured one or two platforming stages, followed by a Mortal Kombat-style boss fight. After beating each level, you get a cut scene with the story, and usually a hint at who the next boss is. You can throw a boomerang, but I found that most enemies with shooting attacks will hit you before you even get a chance to throw it. A neat aspect is the grappling hook, which can allow you to quickly swing through a level.

The boss fights are an almost exact Mortal Kombat clone. The controls are set up the same (high and low punches and kicks on the face, block with the shoulder buttons). I wasn’t able to consistently do special moves, but they appear to be standard fighting game motions. After beating the boss, they stand there dizzy, which may mean you can pull off a fatality style move. Without a move guide, there is no way I can figure out if that is true.

ShadowHawk wasn’t the only cancelled game made by Studio E. Years after, the company also had two cancelled Playstation titles with the action game Pariah and the mysterious Zulu. Their only released game was VMX Racing in 1997, still on the Playstation.

Article by Daniel Nicaise

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