New Cancelled Games & Their Lost Media Added to the Archive

Baldur’s Gate 3: The Black Hound [Cancelled – PC]

Black Isle Studios, a divison of Interplay, was an RPG power-house in the late 90’s, being responsible for developing Fallout 1 & 2, Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale 1 & 2, as well as publishing BioWare’s Baldur’s Gate games. Sadly, it also became known for its cancelled games, such as Torn, Stonekeep II, Fallout 3 “Van Buren” and, the subject of this article, The Black Hound.

First announced in 2001 and commonly known as Baldur’s Gate III: The Black Hound, the game actually bears no relation to the plot, location or characters of the previous Baldur’s Gate game. It wouldn’t even be developed by BioWare, or use the famous Infinity Engine. In fact, the name “Baldur’s Gate III” was a legal trick, as during its development Interplay lost the Dungeons & Dragons license to Atari but could still develop D&D games under the Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale brands.

Under code names like “FR6” and “Project Jefferson“, The Black Hound began as its own game in late 2000, being developed by a small team as a side project. Full development would only begin in 2002, after Icewind Dale 2 was released. The team was led by Josh Sawyer, a History Major, and while it would still use the AD&D ruleset and be set in Forgotten Realms (like Baldur’s Gate), it would be a more grounded, low-level adventure, with a heavier focus on role-playing.

What is known of the original plot is that you would be set in the Dalelands region of Forgotten Realms. There you would create a new character – not a child of gods or special in any way – that would run into the eponymous black hound being fiercely hunted by a cleric named May Farrow. More than just a mere animal, the hound was a physical manifestation of her guilt for allowing her husband to die and then failing to properly resurrect him. She would kill the dog, but it’s spirit would bound to you, allowing you to see and interact with the guilt of others. The cleric would then begin to hunt you as well, and the game would be centered on your journey to understand what happened to you, interacting with factions like the Archenriders, the Church of Lathander and the Red Wizards of Thay, until eventually confronting May Farrow’s husband – now a powerful abomination which feeds from guilt.

Not much is know about the gameplay, other than it would be based on the previous Infinity Engine games – with multiple party members and real-time-with-pause combat – but updated to the recently released D&D 3rd Edition ruleset. Karma would be a central part of the game, as players would be able to explore the game’s world in a non-linear way, but would face the consequences of their actions, including failed and incomplete quests. To ensure this, a robust reputation system was devised, which would track your relationship with individual factions and locations, as well as your overall fame/infamy.

Thinking the Infinity Engine to be overused and inspired by the Aurora Engine that BioWare had developed for Neverwinter Nights, Black Isle decided to create a new engine as well, code named the Ferguson Engine. This new engine would be built from the ground with the D&D ruleset in mind and would allow for 3D character models, instead of Infinity Engine’s sprites. Unfortunately, the only two games designed with said engine were The Black Hound and the original Fallout 3 (codenamed Van Buren), and both never saw the light of day. Still, a tech demo of Van Buren was leaked in 2007, allowing curious souls to play a bit and imagine how these games would feel.

While there were plans for a full trilogy of games, The Black Hound was cancelled in 2003, reportedly about 80% complete, when Interplay lost the rights to the Baldur’s Gate brand as well and could not release a D&D RPG anymore. Suffering from financial issues, Interplay would close the Black Isle Studios shortly after.

However, that was not the end of The Black Hound. Black Isle Studios` former manager, Feargus Urquhart, gathered a few key developers, such as Josh Sawyer, Chris Avellone, Chris Parker, Darren Monahan and Chris Jones and founded a new studio: Obsidian Entertainment.

Focused on RPGs, Obsidian would then develop titles such as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2, Neverwinter Nights 2, Alpha Protocol, Fallout: New Vegas and Dungeon Siege 3. Neverwinter Nights 2 came with a toolset for creating modules and in 2007 Sawyer began using them to work on a personal project: a The Black Hound module. He posted about the project for a few years, sharing screenshots and discussing his views on mechanics such a damage resistance, feats and classes, but the module was never finished.

Another attempt at resurrecting the game would occur in 2008, when Obsidian pitched Baldur’s Gate III to Atari, holder of the Dungeons & Dragons license at the time. Negotiations went far and designers worked for months on the project, but Atari was suffering financially, didn’t have the money required and the game was abandoned as well. In September 2012 Obsidian would crowdfund a spiritual successor the Infinity Engine games, a 2D isometric RPG titled Pillars of Eternity. The Kickstarter campaign was a success, raising $4,163,208 dollars, and the game was eventually released in March 2015 to critical acclaim.

While Pillars of Eternity isn’t The Black Hound nor uses the D&D ruleset, it has Josh Sawyer as its director and features many similarities, being a party-based RPG with real-time-with-pause combat system and sporting a distinct visual style that combines 2D backgrounds with 3D character models. It also featured a nice Easter Egg to the days of Black Isle Studios, with one of the cities featuring an inn named The Black Hound.

Meanwhile, Trent Oster, a former BioWare employee, founded a company named Beamdog and developed enhanced editions of the Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale games, adding features such as widescreen support and tablet ports. After the success of the re-releases, the company began working on Siege of Dragonspear, an expansion to Baldur’s Gate, and mentioned many times their ambition of one day developing Baldur’s Gate 3.

In 2019 a new version of Baldur’s Gate III was formally revealed both for Microsoft Windows and Google’s Stadia, developed by Larian Studios (Divinity series). We can assume this version of BG3 will not be related in any way to the cancelled ones.

Article by Felipe Pepe, originally published in our book Video Games You Will Never Play.

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Colliderz (Sega Saturn) Prototype Found & Preserved

Colliderz is a cancelled sci-fi arcade sport game with hovercraft (think Rocket League but sci-fi hockey), planned to be released for Sega Saturn and Playstation. We had an old entry in our archive, posted in 2008. Recently a prototype of the Sega Saturn version was found and you can now download it from one of these mirrors. It should work with emulators such as Mednafen.

“just drag and drop the cue file into Mednafen and it works, loading the cue in other emulators might work too”

Please download it and share it with your friends: the more copies are around, the better we can preserve it!

Huge thanks to Hidden Palace for their help in making this playable on Emulators!

Radikal Bikers [Game Boy Color – Cancelled]

The original Radikal Bikers was a pizza-delivery racing game for Arcades, developed by Gaelco in 1998 and later converted to PlayStation in 1999. A Game Boy Color port was also in development by Bit Managers, but it the end it was never released. Some years ago a prototype of the cancelled GBC port was leaked online, so you can play it on your favorite emulator.

Gameplay is similar to the original arcade version, but using a top-down, isometric view. Players race in different cities trying to avoid cars to delivery pizza to their clients as soon as possible. As we can read from the original press-release:

“Jump on your scooter and take up the challenge. Through the busiest streets in the world you’ve got to avoid trucks, cars, police, obstacles and people in a pizza fuelled dash for glory. Take the challenge and race your way across Paris, London, New York and the true home of Pizza – Italy!

Featuring:

  • Classic Arkade Mode.
  • Radikal Mode.
  • 2 player dash for glory.
  • Numerous Characters and Scooters to suit your personal taste.
  • GET OUTTA MY WAY!
  • No speed limit. No seat belt. No air bag. No rules!”

A sequel to Radical Bikers was also in development by Gaelco, but also canned.

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Shadowrun: Assassin (FASA Studio) [PC – Cancelled]

Shadowrun: Assassin is a cancelled stealth action RPG set in the popular fantasy sci-fi universe, that was in development for PC by FASA Studio around 1997 – 1998. While today it’s mostly forgotten by fans, Assassin would have been the first 3D PC Shadowrun video game, and the fourth Shadowrun tie-in after the previously released SNES, Genesis / Mega Drive CD projects.

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Some details were published by NEXT Generation magazine (issue 42) in June 1998:

“And yes, Virginia, there will be more Shadowrun titles. Currently scheduled for an early ’98 release is Shadowrun: Assassin, a 3D action/adventure title that is the first of a planned series of Shadowrun games, each of which will detail a different archetype from that universe. Assassin features Solitaire, a high-tech contract killer with a twist. According to producer Vijay Lakshman, “Her job is not to go out and kill business leaders or politicians. Her job is much tougher – she is trained to hunt down and terminate other assassins.”

“Again, as in Mech Commander, the means of accomplishing each mission or assignment is open-ended. The Assassin team is designing each mission from the inside out, placing guards and security systems to genuinely protect the target, not merely to serve as obstacles for a player to overcome. “We’re taking the idea of an action game and moving it more into the area of a kind of sweaty-palmed nervousness,” Lakshman says. “Not like running in and shooting everyone in this room, but in constantly having to watch out how much noise I make — I’m this badass assassin. I’m supposed to get in as a ghost and get out as a ghost. My mission is only 50% complete once I take the target out — that’s when all the shit really hits because then I still have to get out alive!” The idea of stealth is so integral to the game’s mechanics, the eventual release will even feature a noise meter.”

“All the cybergoodies one could expect from a Shadowrun game will be at Solitaire’s disposal, including cyberware dermal sheaths, shock pulse hands, cyberlimbs, and hand razors. In all, the game will feature 25 weapons, 10 unique to Solitaire, and all pulled right out of the Shadowrun books.  But what makes FASA Interactive a company to watch are the tantalizing hints about what it will be up to in the future. According to Lakshman, “The whole ultimate goal is to have this online, persistent universe where people come in and get contracts from another human player and go on runs against corporations being led by humans. That’s our ultimate goal.”

In 2019 MrTalida shared on Twitter a previously unseen Shadowrun: Assassin’s Fact Sheet and a PowerPoint presentation which was used by FASA to pitch their project to potential publishers like EA and Hasbro. In this document we can find even more details about FASA’s ideas for their unreleased game:

“In Shadowrun: Assassin you are a covert specialist trained to eliminate targets sanctioned for termination. You will accept a contract, analyze strategic data, and then exercise your contract. You will become known as a deadly operative able to accomplish missions others consider impossible.  You will compete in a world of lethal assassins, one-shot one-kill scenarios, and no second chances…”

“High Concept: 007 meets Blade Runner, Action/RPG based on the top-selling Shadowrun franchise”

“You are an assassin, with access to over 20 hi-tech weapons and 15 deadly spells. You will be tested by over 40 different enemies, from huge Troll warriors to elite corporate mercenaries. You will journey through 30 missions spanning 10 unique environments that test your skill and courage. You will hunt down and terminate 25 targets of opportunity. Failure is not an option.”

  • Producer: Vijay Lakshman (The Elder Scrolls: Arena)
  • Technical Director: Eric Huffman (Age of Empires, BattleTech LBE series)
  • Art Director: Brennan Priest (Wing Commander IV, Privateer, Septerra Core)

In the end Shadowrun: Assassin was canceled when Microsoft purchased FASA Studio in late 1998 / early 1999 and moved them from Chicago to Seattle, to focus their resources on MechWarrior. Many years later FASA Studio worked again on a different Shadowrun multiplayer FPS (using the Halo engine) for the original Xbox and on Shadowrun Awakening RPG for Xbox 360, both cancelled. They had to wait 2007 to finally release a Shadowrun team-based FPS for PC and Xbox 360, just before closing down forever.

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John Carpenter’s Psychopath [Xbox 360, PS3 – Cancelled]

Psychopath is a cancelled first person adventure that was initially in development around 2004 – 2005 by John Woo’s video games studio Tiger Hill Entertainment (founded with Woo’s partners Terence Chang and Brad Foxhoven), planned to be released for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. The game’s protagonist was an ex-CIA operative called back from an early retirement to stop a serial killer, but during the adventure he would start questioning his own sanity.

Sometime in 2005 John Woo decided to cut their video game division, abandoning most of their in-development projects (Psychopath, Heat, Sundown, Demonik, Shadowclan, Sinner, Executive Assistant, Burglar) and keeping their Stranglehold IP (later released in 2007 with help from Midway). Brad Foxhoven took the remaining assets / game pitches and started a new company with former Tiger Hill creative director David Wohl. The new studio was named “Titan Productions” and they officially announced Psychopath at E3 2005, as we can read on IGN:

“Titan Productions released the first details of its upcoming first-person action game Psychopath, slated for release on upcoming next-gen platforms. The game was developed in collaboration with acclaimed film director, John Carpenter, who offered his cinematic direction and serves as a significant authority for the in-game character designs. […] According to Titan’s announcement, Todd Farmer screenwriter talents have also been sought as a key team member to write for the game and upcoming film with Carpenter.”

John Carpenter’s name was added to Psychopath when the game was still under development at Tiger Hill, during their pitching phase to find both a developer and a publisher. As we can read on Kotaku:

Todd Farmer said the first developer Tiger Hill pitched Psychopath to was People Can Fly, who passed because they wanted to focus on a sequel to Painkiller. Soon after, Sega passed on the game, which is apparently “exactly what [Tiger Hill and Farmer] wanted to happen,” so they could have latitude in finding partners for the game, and develop a film version simultaneously. Thereafter, Konami showed interest, but talks ultimately fell apart.

Tiger Hill thought they could generate more interest in the property from game publishers and film studios if they attached a major name to the project, and Farmer opted for John Carpenter. And Carpenter officially signed on board by March 2005.”

Carpenter talked about Psychopath in an interview with Gamespot in October 2005:

“GS: Psychopath is going to be both a game and a movie. Are you making the movie and turning it into a game or making the game and turning it into a movie?

JC: It’s going to be a game first.”

Carpenter would have mostly helped with direction of Psychopath’s game cutscenes, while working on the following movie if the project would have been green-lighted and founded by a major movie-studio. As we can read on Variety:

“Carpenter will oversee the game and direct its produced scenes and is attached to helm and co-write the film, along with Todd Farmer (“Jason X”).”

In the end Psychopath was mostly a game conceived by Tiger Hill Entertainment, which just wanted to find a popular director name to put on their title, a team of developers to realize their idea and a publisher to get money from. By what we were able to find during our research, the project stalled in early development and probably they never went did much more than a design document with concept artwork.

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