New Cancelled Games & Their Lost Media Added to the Archive

A Ghost in the Machine (Presage Software) [PC – Cancelled]

A Ghost in the Machine is a cancelled text / visual adventure game that was in development in the mid ‘90s by Presage Software, planned to be published by Dreamworks Interactive in collaboration with Steven Spielberg. The game was quite ambitious for its time, mixing a faux operating system, AI-dialogues, free-form investigation and multi-paths storyline. You could imagine its gameplay as a mix between Hypnospace Outlaw and Her Story: by using this “game software” players would be able to find emails, photos, videos and chat with the AI, to unveil the plot.

The game was never officially announced but the team worked on the project for about 2 years investing a million dollars. The only remaining proof of its existence are some details shared by former Presage Software developer Todd Daggert on his old website (now offline unfortunately):

“It is a real-time interactive story in which you, the user, assist events that transpire within your very screen. […] The point of this program is that it is just that — a PROGRAM (the “Ghost”), nothing more, nothing less. […] But unlike other software, this program will become self-aware and know its capabilities. It will communicate as your computer would, should it ever come to life and develop a personality. […] They will remain themselves, reacting naturally to unnatural behavior from their once-familiar computer.

The strength and beauty of this program will be in its creative use of the medium’s shortcomings to further the authenticity of the events. […] The “Ghost” will have a totally dimensional personality, with character traits derived from a huge database of events and memories that will soon be shared with the user.”

“This diagram illustrates the player’s progression and flow of information as they work their way through the game. It was the first, highest-level pass of the interactive story.”

A Ghost in the Machine was originally conceived by Mike Kennedy at Presage Software, but after he left the company things became quite difficult for the remaining staff, with Dreamworks asking to make the game more similar to classic point & click adventures:

“[…] after the principal members of the first design team (including Mike Kennedy) departed from Presage I was brought in as the primary designer on a new team of designers and artists, to fuel it with new direction and “make something happen”. I flew down to Amblin in Hollywood and hung out in Spielberg’s office, played with his 3 foot high T-Rex model, and talked with Bryce Zabel, the Hollywood writer who was to go on to make “Dark Skies”. Shifts in Dreamwork’s staff had convinced them that our new direction needed more Hollywood involvement, so it fell to me to integrate the new story provided by Bryce, the new interface and elements desired by the Dreamworks producers, and the desires of management at Presage. “

The game’s story would be built around the possibility of re-program one’s mind artificially:

“Five enlisted soldiers were volunteered for the Bravo test sequence using the Legion Device.  The Langley research indicated that implanted programs could not be generically applied with any degree of accuracy, as each person’s memory patterns were too unique for any single solution.  The BLV-50’s Guido routine was modified appropriately.  The Device now would take a reading of the person’s mind under a standard series of conditions elicited by a series of sequential stimuli involving color patterns, pictures and music.  The routine would adjust the recorded patterns by applying the desired program and then return the adjusted pattern back to the brain, now enhanced with the subconscious program.”

“A total of nineteen soldiers comprising both enlisted men and NCO’s were taken to a subtropical test reserve in Florida and given explicit orders which contradicted the commands they were secretly programmed with.  These soldiers were broken into two teams, a “hunter” team and a “hunted” team.  The hunters were fully equipped and provisioned, though unarmed. The orders were for the hunted group to evade the hunters for a period of twenty-four hours.  If the two sides came into contact, the game was over, and the hunters had won.  Halfway through the game the commanders of both groups triggered the soldiers’ programming, with encouraging results.  Fourteen of the nineteen soldiers (including all members of the hunted team) followed their programming over their orders, plunging through the dense forest with nearly superhuman speed and control to find a member of the opposite team to beat into unconsciousness.  Of the fourteen who followed this programming, twelve of them had no memory of disobeying orders, and only one suffered any injury from vaulting through the treacherous undergrowth.”

In the end the project was managed by so many different people that it lost its focus:

“Despite my best efforts, there was no effective way to fuse the widely disparate visions of the three groups. Presage continued to hire and lose staff, as did Dreamworks, every new player bringing a new vision to the table. Design by committee is never a good thing, sadly, all of us would walk away unsatisfied by what Ghost became.”

“After a two-year-long journey through the height of Siliwood that consumed a million dollars, two full design teams and three producers, Ghost was to end its rough-and-tumble life with a final cancellation. […] Halfway through 1996, Ghost’s funding was cut off, Dreamworks walked away, and the project that we had known as Ghost came to an end. “

We would like to remember this cancelled project on this page, preserving what remains from a fascinating and ambitious video game we’ll never play.

Rage Hard [PC, MAC – Cancelled]

Rage Hard was a First Person Shooter in development from 2002 to possibly 2007, planned to be released on MAC first, then possibly also on Windows PCs. German company Titan Computer GbR were the main driving force behind the game, although they seemed to have been joined later by the fellow german DnS Development. Both companies had experience bringing Windows games to Macintosh, having ports such as Jagged Alliance 2, SiN, Heretic II and Shogo: Mobile Armor Division under their belts, and Rage Hard was being made as a Mac OS title first and foremost.

Rage Hard’s basic concept was something commonly seen around the time of its development: a multiplayer-focused shooter set in a gritty urban environment, backed up by a large arsenal of weapons and a tactical coat of paint. However, it wanted to set itself apart from the competition by not having the central conflict be what Titan saw as the generic Military good guys vs. Terrorist bad guys, and instead creating a world in which the playable characters all belonged to villainous factions.

Rage Hard was set in the not too distant future, in which the police itself grew to be corrupt enough to become one of the reigning crime syndicates. They becomes engaged in skirmishes which pit all manner of other criminals and deranged gunmen against each other. These would range from common street thugs to cartel and mafia members, paramilitaries and religious fanatics, offering a large selection of characters with wildly different looks. The CLAWS engine allowed for every detail of their appearance (like eyes, clothing and hair) to animate in real time.

Combat would take place in either close-quarters locations, such as nightclubs and other building interiors, to expansive and open environments like gang-ridden city blocks. Powered by an experience-based class system, the gameplay would require players to adapt to the environment, choosing between chaotic gunfights or a more tactical approach, as well as picking the right skills for the job.

Rage Hard would apparently do away with restrictive classes seen in games such as Battlefield by allowing the player to pick a base skill they wanted to excel at (for example Accuracy) and then utilizing experience gained by defeating enemies to develop others in whatever way they saw fit in between rounds. In theory, this could mean that creating a Sniper character that also had the ability to be a damage sponge was possible. But, of course, the utility of such a class to the team would be questionable, and it was up to the player to decide what worked in what context.

Despite the clear multiplayer focus, Rage Hard would also feature a single player campaign said to be 12 levels long and entirely team-based, although this aspect of the game seems to only have been added later on during development.

What ultimately became of Rage Hard is unclear. First announced in 2002, the game seemed to stay in development hell for quite a long time. Although the official website remained up until mid-2009, the last update on it dated back to late 2007. The Titan Computer website was accessible until at least late 2016, but it similarly stopped updating in 2009, with the last three announcements being completely unrelated to Rage Hard’s development. It’s likely they were ultimately unable to secure a publishing deal: whatever the case may be, Rage Hard would never end up seeing the light of day.

It seems Titan were never able to recover from the years they put into its development. Regarding DnS Development, their fate also seems to have become a mystery. They went on to release several games in the years after their unreleased project, which are available on Steam, and their website is still up as of 2021. However, their last project, Primal Fears, was released in 2013 and there has been no news from them since then.

Article by thecursebearer, thanks to Dan for the contribution!



Developers’s Tips to Avoid Game Cancellation For Students

Over the years, we have seen several much-anticipated video games getting canceled, including, Conker Bad Fur Day 2, ZOE 3, Project Titan, Prey 2, Silent Hill: PT, and others.

Some of the reasons for game cancellation are realistic, such as budget limitations, changes in the company, or time constraints. Although cancellation can be frustrating for both gamers and game developers, these reasons are quite understandable.

However, sometimes game cancellations can occur for the crazier reasons possible. Imagine spending all your time making a video game; then it gets canceled because it can’t be played on a certain game console or a vengeful wife destroys all the work. Yes! It can happen.

Game development is no simple task; lots of hours and effort goes into it. So, it’s wise to know the things to avoid, so your game doesn’t get canceled. Here you’ll find tips on how to avoid video game cancellation from game developers. Read more

Max Blastronaut [Xbox 360 – Cancelled]

Max Blastronaut is a cancelled beat / shoot ‘em up that was in development by Coin App, planned to be released on Xbox Live Arcade. In 2009 the game won Microsoft’s Dream-Build-Play contest, giving the team more funds to complete and publish the project. It was even previewed by a few gaming websites, such as IGN, Co-Optimus and Destructoid:

“Coin App’s submission is Max Blastronaut, an action game where players protect distant planets from “dredge miners.” Melee combat takes place on a planet’s surface, but Max can also hop into a space ship and take part in zero gravity gunfights. There are 24 planets to be defended with varying challenges.”

“I only played the first few stages, but the game seems to advance through a series of progressively more difficult planets that you must clean out, each with its own gravitational field. When Max reaches a new planet, he descends onto the surface in order to collect fuel to power his jetpack. Eventually, Dredge Miners attack, and Max is presented with two options: stay on the ground and brawl, or take to the air and shoot.”

“By way of features, Max Blastronaut supports drop-in/drop-out co-op for up to four players, twenty-four different planets, and a challenge mode.”

“While we only played through one level that was pretty much a tutorial level, I was told that future levels would feature power-ups for the blastronauts, new blaster weapons, and even vehicles.”

While it looked like a fun arcade game to play with friends, as far as we know (and by reading former Coin App developers resume) Max Blastronaut was never released on the Xbox 360, nor any other platform or PC.



M.O.S. (Military Occupational Specialty) [PC – Cancelled]

M.O.S. (Military Occupational Specialty) is a cancelled “Massively Multiplayer Tactical Role Playing Shooter” (M.M.T.R.P.S.) that was in development around 2003 – 2004 by SharkByte Software, planned to be released on PC. It was an ambitious online FPS / RPG hybrid, conceived to become the “next genre of online gaming”, featuring a huge 42.987 miles² explorable planet, which is quite unbelievable even by today’s standards if you compare it to such open worlds as Final Fantasy XV (700 miles²),  Just Cause 3 (400 miles²) or Fuel (5.560 miles²) .

Players would take the role of a soldier sent to an alien planet called Balia, to combat for one of the available military factions: The Dominion, The Divine Separation and The Sovereignty. As in other MMORPGs Players VS Players and Realm VS Realms would have been available, you could drive different types of vehicles and

Details on SharkByte Software’s hopes for M.O.S. can still be found in old interviews and in their (now offline) website:

“The Idea for M.O.S. game about because we all liked playing FPS’s and tactical shooters such as Rainbow Six. We also like some RPG’s especially the online ones, so we thought man would it be cool if we could play Rainbow Six but in an Everquest setting? From there we started laying out the details of how this type of game might work. Now we are working on making that happen.

We currently have two server technologies that are being used and I can say that one will support approximately 30k per world and the other should allow for everyone to play together (obviously not in the same square inch :) ).”

“The initial game world covers approximately 142 kilometers by 193 kilometers. When you add the uncharted continents, seas, and oceans, the entire game world will encompass an area of 260 kilometers by 430 kilometers. This translates into an area of 161 miles by 267 miles.

A player will have three ways to develop their character. Since this is a military game the first method of advancement is in rank. A traditional rank system is being used. Secondly, the player will hone his skills by means of missions. Skill points are awarded which the player uses to develop the character skills. Thirdly, since this is a role playing game, the player will accumulate valuable information on which the players’ ability to decipher and implement what is learned can affect the outcome of the game.

The overall aim of the game is to establish and maintain the superiority of the player’s own shard. Within this framework the player will amass personal wealth and advance in rank with the successful completion of missions.”

“Killing of players within one’s own shard is also allowed although highly discouraged. As in any society, the attempted killing of an unarmed or peaceful citizen carries severe consequences. Friendly fire, on the other hand, may be unavoidable in the heat of combat.

Shard vs. shard attacks will be available. It is highly recommended that a player build up his skills before going into battle to increase his odds of survival.

A Shard is a group of military personnel under the rule of a General. There are 3 Shards on the planet: The Dominion, The Divine Separation and The Sovereignty. We chose the term Shard because it emphasizes the splitting of a single object.”

“Initially you will have to join a shard. Since this is a military type game and the player is recruited to serve on this planet the player is obliged to serve for a period of time. After fulfilling the obligation the player will have the option to continue within the system or make their fortune on the frontier.

A player will have access to use of vehicles as part of items necessary for use in missions. If a player can afford the cost of a vehicle, it is available to him.”

The team just showed concept art and a single 3D render from the game, so we don’t know how much was really done before its cancellation. As it usually happens with these ambitious MMORPG from the early ‘00s, we can assume the team underestimated the efforts, skills and budget needed to develop such a game and never find a publisher interested in helping them.

Thanks to Dan for the contribution!