News on Beta & Cancelled Games

Junction Point (Looking Glass RPG) [PC – Cancelled]

Junction Point is a cancelled (initially) fantasy MMORPG / (then) sci-fi RPG that was in development by Looking Glass Studios (Austin team) in the mid ‘90s, an ambitious project conceived by Warren Spector (Wing Commander, Ultima Underworld, System Shock, Deus Ex), Steve Powers (Ultima VII, Deus Ex, Dishonored, Prey) and Allen Varney (Star Wars: Galaxies). This was their original, unfinished idea that would later led to such popular games as System Shock 2, Deus Ex and Bioshock.

Looking Glass are mostly known for their work on Ultima Underworld, System Shock and Thief: The Dark Project. Which such a high-profile portfolio of cult-classic RPGs we can only imagine what Junction Point could have been if only completed.

The game was never officially announced by Looking Glass, but we know about its existence thanks to old resumes and interviews by people who worked on it. The game was initially conceived as a fantasy MMORPG in the vein of Ultima Online, Lineage and EverQuest, but after a while the team decided to resize their ambitions and changed the project into a single-player sci-fi RPG.

The plot of this “sci-fi” version of the game would involve some kind of cult located inside an abandoned asteroid mining colony. On the old Steve Powers’ website we can read some details about one of the missions in the early Junction Point prototype:

Briefing: “We have been making incredible progress in understanding the genetic structure of the Hauranid under the direction of Dr. Lycombs, a microbiology genius. Lycombs has fallen under the influence of the Guardians of the True Path, a cult that worships the Hauranid as divine beings. The cult is located inside an abandoned asteroid mining colony, where the members have set up a hive of sorts, attempting to emulate their sacred leaders. The militant cult is led by Merril Rumby, and has a captive hauranid kept in suspended animation. He has the doctor working on a method for combining the genetic material from the hauranid with humans, to create a hybrid species that is ‘closer to God’.  We’ll pay for the following services…”

  • Primary goal: Return Dr. Lycombs to Corporation X for deprogramming.
  • Secondary goal 1: Return or destroy any research materials Lycombs has compiled.
  • Secondary goal 2: Eliminate Rumby

Problem 1: The passages throughout the colony are zero-g.

Possible solutions: Cult members use micro jets to “fly” through the complex.  The player can take the micro jets from a member and use them. He can use flight skills here.

Problem 2: Mine was plutonium-like substance. Radiation may damage health or certain technology.

Possible solutions: Care must be taken to avoid radiation areas. A radiation resistance nano helps.

Problem 3: Player wants to get rid of the colony in a spectacular way.

Possible solutions: Seismic charges, found in an old mining equipment storeroom,  can be used to blow open airlocks, clear rubble from passages, bust open the dome, or even break up the unstable asteroid if placed strategically in the tunnels throughout the mine. (an old portable computer with emails sent to the former mine superintendent gives clues that this is possible, computer skills make the chance of recovering this data much higher)

Problem 4: Collapsed tunnels bar the players way.

Possible solutions: Use old mining equipment to break through barriers.

Problem 5: Eliminate Rumby

Possible solutions: You find a genetic accelerator gun in the lab that will shoot out a cool ray and cause humans to become genetic human/hauranid hybrids (read: deformed) in a painful, traumatic transformation.  It is currently programmed with Rumby’s DNA, and will only work on him.

Problem 6: Cult members are making it difficult to complete objectives.

Possible solutions: Hive members have networked control chips implanted in their brains used to simulate the hive-mind. A  controller for the chips can be found in Rumby’s sanctuary, and it can be used to prompt the members of the hive to certain actions. (alert, sleep, congregate, repair…)

Problem 7: Find frozen hauranid

Possible solutions: Kill Hauranid captive by screwing with hibernation controls.

Revive Hauranid captive by screwing with hibernation controls. Conscious Hauranid calls for a rescue.

Problem 8: Secure escape vehicle.

Possible solutions: If you find the keys to the planetary skiff in the sanctuary, you can escape using the vehicle in the ore loading/unloading bay instead of signaling for pickup.

As written by Warren Spector during an AMA on Reddit:

“That was just a small, small part of what we were trying to do. I totally recall the Junction Point game (and spent many nights worrying that someone would come along and tell me I couldn’t call my next company that!). Though it evolved over time, the ultimate plan was to make an MMO unlike all the others that were out at the time. Frankly, there are a ton of ideas in the design doc we generated that STILL haven’t been tried. If I were an MMO guy, I might give those ideas a whirl, but I’m pretty much not an MMO guy.”

In late ‘90s Warren Spector left Looking Glass Studios and soon received a call from John Romero: it was the start of the new Ion Storm Austin team and the conception of Deus Ex. As told by Spector in the book “Postmortems from Game Developer“:

“Deus Ex is a game I’ve thinking about since right around the time Underworld 2 shipped. I’ve tried get a game like this started several times (As Troubleshooter at Origin, in some respect, as Junction Point for Looking Glass). Those games didn’t happen for a variety of reasons, but I never stopped thinking about them and, despite the failure of those games to reach production, they laid much of the conceptual groundwork for Deus Ex.”

As Ion Storm Austin director, Spector later oversaw development of Deus Ex: Invisible War, released in December 2003, and Thief: Deadly Shadows, released in June 2004. Soon after Spector left Ion Storm and officially announced his new company: Junction Point Studios, named in honor of the cancelled RPG he was working on during his last months at Looking Glass.

Junction Point was also used as the early project name in the pitch document for System Shock 2. In 1997 former Looking Glass developers Jonathan Chey, Robert Fermier and Ken Levine founded “Irrational Games” and soon started work on System Shock 2. As we can read in an interview with Chey by GamesTM:

“When [System Shock 2] was originally being discussed it had a name attached to it,” says Chey, “which was ‘Junction Point’. Some work had been done on it by Looking Glass’s Austin Texas studio, which was being run by Warren Spector. Then I think they decided that maybe they wanted to leave and start their own studio, and went on to produce the first Deus Ex game.” Looking Glass co-opted the efforts of Irrational Games, believing the team would work on Junction Point. “I remember seeing some design documents or something like that,” says Chey, adding that though little work had been done, there were some elements to it already. “I think it involved some sort of hub – the junction point – where you went on various missions,” says Chey, “but we liked the idea of doing a System Shock sequel so we put together a pitch for that and got Looking Glass interested in it.”

After working on such games as Freedom Force and SWAT 4, in 2007 Irrational Games published their most popular project: BioShock.

Only a few screenshots and a short video from the Junction Point prototype are currently preserved. If you know someone who may have more footage or documents from this lost project, please let us know.

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Shojo R (少女R) [Dreamcast – Cancelled]

Shojo R (少女R) is a cancelled Dreamcast game that was in development by Compile in 1999. Unfortunately at the moment we don’t have any detail about the project and its gameplay, only some concept art were found by Videogamesdensetsu on Twitter.

By translating those Twitter messages it seems that Famitsu DreamCast magazine at the time published a short preview of the game (if you know someone who may own this issue, please let us know!). In the west Compile is mostly known for such games as Puyo Puyo (puzzle game) and Aleste (shoot ‘em up), during their lifespan they worked on many different games and it’s hard to say what kind of gameplay this Shojo R could have had.

By the look of the concept art available we can speculate it could have been a third person action / shooter game set in a sci-fi / military setting. In one of the scans we can also read “network game“, but we are not sure if it’s related to Shojo R or it was for something else.

As we can read on Wikipedia in 2003 Compile suffered from bankruptcy and as a result key staff moved to Compile Heart, the company’s spiritual successor, whereas shoot-’em-up staff moved to MileStone Inc.

Shojo R may remain forever as one of the many obscure, unseen cancelled Dreamcast games we’ll never know more about.

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Mercenaries 3: No Limits [Cancelled – PS3, Xbox 360]

Pandemic Studios was the company who developed the Mercenaries series and unfortunately it was shut down in 2009, forcing the studio to cancel 2 projects they were currently working on at the time: Mercenaries 3: No Limits and Mercs Inc.

Mercenaries 3: No Limits would have been the next game in the series following the releases of the first two games: Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction (2005) and its sequel Mercenaries 2: World in Flames (2008). It was meant to be somewhat the same as the previous two games, an open world 3rd person action shooter with some improvements to the formula.

It is sad and frustrating that Pandemic was shut down as there clearly was a passion behind the creation of this new project. EA boss John Riccitielo at the time really wanted Mercenaries 3 to be released and he confirmed during an interview that if it was up to him that it could go on for a very long time.. going as far as a Mercenaries 10 release.

An article by Cnet explains well the financial struggles EA endured in 2009 and the reason why they felt the need to close Pandemic:

“An Electronic Arts spokesperson confirmed the news to CNET, but called it a consolidation rather than a closing, saying that the company merged Pandemic with EA’s nearby LA campus. The core team of developers integrated into EA will continue to work on Pandemic properties.

Hit by weak game sales, EA has been hurting since last year when it warned that 2009 would be a tough one. The company said at the time that it would need to cut staff, trim product lines, and close studios. EA initially announced job cuts of 10 percent of its workforce, then later revised that to 11 percent. In January, EA also jettisoned Pandemic’s studio in Brisbane, Australia.”

Since the studio closed in 2009 and their last game was released in 2008, Mercenaries 3 didn’t go very far into development. For that reason, not much is known about the game and most of it is sadly up to speculation. Fortunately, we do have a little video showing gameplay footage of what could have been, showing off core mechanics for a few minutes with audio commentary.

During the video, there is a radio conversation between the main character and what we can presume is their boss giving them the mission. The game is set in Cuba 2017 and the protagonist is given directives to meet and escort a journalist for the Russian mafia. You meet her inside a church in an animated black and white placeholder cutscene and shortly afterwards they both drive to where the journalist needs to find proof that ‘Blackfire’ has deployed combat drones. The video ends abruptly with the main character trying to shoot a drone with a machine gun and then with a bazooka.

Since the main character in that video is a character never before seen in the series, it is very likely that its model was a placeholder used for testing purposes until they would have finished creating the real main character for this new game, or maybe it was meant to be a different hero this time around. Sadly we do not have more information about this.

There may still be hope for Mercenaries 3 or for the series in general to make a comeback eventually. EA has continued to renew their ownership of the Mercs3 domain in February this year in 2018 and it is set to expire next year in February 2019.

Article by Alex (Brub)

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Three unreleased PlayStation games appear on eBay

We received details about a few interesting unreleased PS1 / PS2 games that recently appeared on eBay. A couple of these are English versions of Japan-only games which existence was unconfirmed until now, while the third one is a completely cancelled flight combat sim (Update: “Iron Eagle Max” was released as “Side Winder Max” in Japan, thanks to Ozzy2k for the info!):

Every blue moon, something truly special appears on eBay that is undeniably incredible. In this instance, not one, not two, but THREE incredible items have popped up. One unreleased PSX game in final form, and two PS2 games!

PANZER FRONT BIS: Panzer Front Bis. is a follow up to the acclaimed Panzer Front game. Only released in the Japanese language, Panzer Front bis. now has a full and final release in the English language:

You can find the eBay auction listing here.

 

POLAROID PETE: Polaroid Pete is the canceled and unreleased English translation of the critically acclaimed Japanese game “Gekisha Boy Gekibo 2”, which has garnered cult classic status.

You can find the eBay auction listing here.

 

IRON EAGLE MAX: Iron Eagle Max is an unreleased fighter pilot flight sim. Gameplay has a complete and polished feel. The only information we were able to track down about this game is an old article, cementing it’s legitimacy as a press review disc.

You can find the eBay auction listing here.

The eBay seller has a shop full of other very rare video game memorabilia and betas as well.

Bonk 64 (Ultra Genjin) [N64 – Cancelled]

Bonk (also known as “PC Genjin” in Japan and “BC Kid” in Europe) is the name of the main character in a series of platforming games that was started on the PC Engine in 1990 when the first title, Bonk’s Adventure, was developed by Hudson. Bonk soon became the mascot of Hudson in an 8/16-bit market filled with mascot-platformers (Mario, Sonic, etc.) and they released a few sequels for PC Engine and Super Famicom.

When Nintendo announced their Ultra 64 in late 1994 many Japanese companies started to plan 3D versions of their main properties for the 64 bit console and with the showcase of Mario 64 it looked like 3D platforming was finally finding its roots. At the time Hudson had a very good relationship with Nintendo, in 1997 they released Dual Heroes and Bomberman 64, while sometime later they also co-developed Mario Party together, a title that became a popular hit with the N64 user-base.

What most gamers do not know is that in 1995 Hudson in cooperation with A.I Studio (the team that already worked on other PC Genjin titles) were also planning a new, exclusive Bonk game for the Ultra 64, tentatively titled “Ultra Genjin”, that would have been the first 3D Bonk game to be released.

Unfortunately the Ultra Genjin team was still not used to creating 3D platforming games and they were not sure about how to develop this new version of Bonk or how to implement its characteristic 2D design into 3D graphics. In the end they decided to cancel the project and focus on other titles. The images you can see on this page are the only remaining documents on the development of Ultra Genjin with the first draft of Bonk in 3D.

bonk 64 Ultra Genjin Nintendo64 cancelled

bonk 64 Ultra Genjin Nintendo64 cancelled

After some years Hudson and A.I took the early work they had done on Bonk 64 to develop Bomberman Hero which was finally released in 1998 on the N64. As we can read in an interview by GDRI with Shouichi Yoshikawa:

GDRI: What happened with Ultra Genjin [N64]?

Yoshikawa: Ultra Genjin was being planned during the game industry’s transition from 2D to 3D games. I studied the practical aspects of this quite a bit, but I think that nobody really knew what should be done with games at the time. As a result of trial and error, we were able to adapt the design for Ultra Genjin to Bomberman Hero.”

The last original Bonk game released for consoles remains Cho Genjin 2, published in 1995 for the Super Famicom and the series never had a proper 3D incarnation. Other 3D Bonk games were cancelled many years later including Bonk 3D for Nintendo 3DS and Bonk: Brink of Extinction for Wii, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Because of several financial losses Hudson sold most of its shares to Konami and in 2012 Hudson Soft Co. Ltd completely ceased to exist and fully merged with Konami, losing all of their IPs. It’s currently unknown if we’ll ever see another Bonk game in the future.