News on Beta & Cancelled Games

Aquaria (Lobotomy Software) [Nintendo 64, Playstation – Cancelled]

Aquaria is a cancelled action adventure that was in development by Lobotomy Software for Nintendo 64 and Playstation. It was described as having a feeling similar to SEGA’s Nights Into Dreams, but underwater and with full 3D levels to explore in every direction. If you played Exhumed / PowerSlave on Saturn or Playstation, you probably remember it was quite good for its time: a Metroidvania adventure in first person view, before Metroid Prime even existed. Aquaria could have been another cult-hit by the same team, but unfortunately we never got the chance to see more from the project. It was just mentioned in old gaming magazines, such as in GameFan Magazine Issue 5:

“Currently Lobotomy is working on both games, with the company’s 20-or-so staff split roughly down the middle on each project. They have a number of games on the back burner, including PowerSlave 2 (a 3rd person Tomb Raider style adventure starring a young King Ramses), Aquaria (like Nights underwater, but with full 3D control) and a PC strategy game called Gothic. They are currently in the process of applying to become and N64 developer (Aquaria will be their first N64 title) and never miss the opportunity to snatch a quick game of Death Tank during lunch breaks.”

Computer & Video Games Issue 192:

“Lobotomy’s first N64 game, Aquaria already looks fantastic. The graphics run at 60fps and are apparently some  of the best seen. Enix are converting the game to PlayStation.”

C&VG probably confused Aquaria with Aqua Prophecy or another cancelled Enix game for Playstation. Thanks to our friend Ross Sillifant in 2015 we published an interview with Brian McNeely (former Lobotomy Software developer), who shared some memories about their work on Aquaria:

“We had a playable demo of Aquaria up and running on PlayStation. It was a free roaming third person underwater adventure game where you controlled an alien merman character.  The Nights comparison ties into how fluid the controls were.  You could do various dolphin-like acrobatics to maneuver through the environment.   In addition to the playable demo I had the majority of the design pretty much completed but when the company began to close its doors we had to stop development.  At one point we were contacted by Sega to possibly make the next Ecco the Dolphin game and we sent them our Aquaria prototype, but that never panned out.  If you’ve ever played Ecco the Dolphin Defender of the Future you can get a pretty good idea for how the core character controls and camera system for Aquaria were designed.”

In 1998 Lobotomy’s talented developers were acquired by Crave Entertainment and the team was renamed to Lobotomy Studios, to work on a Caesar’s Palace game for the Nintendo 64, but after a year of development the game was postponed and eventually cancelled. As we can read on Wikipedia, at that point Lobotomy Studios was closed and employees were let go or given the option to be relocated to another position at Crave Entertainment.

We hope one day someone could find screenshots, footage or even the playable Aquaria prototype: it would be great to preserve more documents of this lost video game.

Thanks to Celine and Ross Sillifant for the contributions!

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Ringman (Zono Inc) [Saturn, Dreamcast – Cancelled]

Ringman is a cancelled third person platform-shooter that was in development by Zono Inc in late 1996, initially planned for Sega Saturn and then for Sega Dreamcast. It would have been one of the first games ever published by Sega of America for their lost version of the Dreamcast. The team behind this project was part of the same one that worked along with Ed Annunziata on Mr. Bones for the Sega Saturn, with names such as William Novak, Simon Hallam and Dave Castelnuovo: thanks to the good relationship between Sega and Zono, they were able to pitch this project for the planned 128 bit console.

While the Dreamcast hardware was still not available in late 1996, Zono interfaced directly with Sega of America producers and the development team that was designing a 3Dfx version of the console, codenamed “Blackbelt”. Sega of America wanted to create something amazing and showed off the planned graphical power of the new 3Dfx chips. The game concept was inspired by the (at the time) newly released Quake by ID Software and Dave remembered how John Carmack was talking about implementing NURBS (“Non-uniform rational Basis spline” a model used in computer graphics for generating and representing curves) in his next rendering engine:  Sega producers wanted Zono to take a look at using NURBS to create this Blackbelt game. The surfaces in each world of Ringman would be curved and even the main character would have had a body composed of different rings, like a colorful spring that would permit it to move around quickly and shoot down enemies.

The team did quite a bit of concepting for the game and got as far as having a very simple prototype world with the protagonist moving around, but unfortunately the project was canned in mid-1997 when Sega of Japan found out about Sega of America’s plan to create another console and shut down the project. As we can read in an article by Douglass C. Perry on Gamasutra:

“In 1996, 3Dfx began building wide acclaim for its powerful graphics chips, one of which ran in arcade machines, including Atari’s San Francisco Rush and Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey. In 1997, 3Dfx went public, announcing its IPO. In the process it revealed the details of its contract with Sega, required by U.S. law. The announcement, however, had undesired effects. It publicly revealed Sega’s blueprint for a new, unannounced console, and angered executives at Sega Japan. Numerous reports indicate Yamamoto’s Blackbelt chipset using the 3Dfx chips was the more powerful of the two. Sega executives, however, still fuming at 3Dfx, severed their contract with the chip maker. (Soon thereafter, 3Dfx sued Sega and both companies settled out of court.) In the end, Sega of Japan selected Sato’s design, codenamed it “Katana,” and announced it publicly on September 7, 1997.”

If this internal issue between the “two Segas” was not enough, Sega of America was also split into the ill-fated SegaSoft and in early 1997, a few of their projects were canned. In late 1996, the CEO and CFO of SegaSoft asked the new company director, Peter Brown, to install a new financial system by April 1997. As told by Brown during an interview with InfoWorld magazine: “as a young company, we needed built-in maturity of process and scalability”: we can assume that games for a not-yet-confirmed new console were not a safe bet for the company stability.

After the cancellation of Ringman, along with their N64 legendary project “Freak Boy”, Zono had to wait until 2000 to release another game: Metal Fatigue, a PC RTS published by Psygnosis. In 1997, SegaSoft stil released a couple of Saturn games, Scud: The Disposable Assassin and Three Dirty Dwarves.

This article was originally published in 2016 in our book “Video Games You Will Never Play

Angelus 2: Holy Night [PC Engine – Cancelled]

Angelus 2: Holy Night is the cancelled sequel to Enix’s Angelus: Akuma no Fukuin, once in development by Asmik Ace Entertainment with such names as Yuzo Koshiro and Hiroyuki Kitazume working on the project, planned to be released for PC Engine and PC-98. The first game was a beloved visual novel, released only in Japan around 1988: Angelus 2 would have continued the story, left unfinished with a huge cliff-hanger. Somehow a CD-R containing data from this unreleased sequel was found some years ago by collectors, who later uploaded the content online: it seems the main plot was complete and you can listen to audio files (in japanese) to understand what would have happened in the final game:

“Angelus 2: Holy Night’s protagonist is Brian Pearl, the same reporter from the previous game. After the incidents seen in Angelus: Akuma no Fukuin, Brian and Ellis left London and had their wedding in New York. Two years have passed since then, and Brian is asked to cover a series of deaths happening in New York, caused by a strange disease (just like in the first game). He declines this request, as he doesn’t want to be involved again in a bizarre incident. Unfortunately his editor receive a letter warning of the next murder: the minister who witnessed the marriage of Brian and Ellis would be killed. Brian goes to the church, but the minister is already dead. He then decides to cover this case, because the mysterious disease has spread to people close to him. However, people involved in Brian’s life are dying one after another. As he continues his investigation, he discovers the existence of a group of evil spirits behind the incident and the resurrected demon Seva.”

In the end it seems the game was canned because the team switched development to the PC engine CD-ROM2, but the hardware sold poorly and they just decided to stop working on it.

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Unseen64 Survived 2020: quite the strange year, wasn’t it?

2021 is coming soon and as every year we’d like to review what we did in the last 12 months for Unseen64 and make some plans for the new year. 2020 was a difficult year for the whole world: we hope you and your family could be safe, while we look forward to a better 2021. Unseen64 is just a small website about video games: there are much more important things to care about in our real lives (health, friends, family, happiness), and it’s vital to remember it during these hard times.

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Keeping this in mind, we still try to archive some memories of cancelled video games. As most of you know we work on Unseen64 in our own free time, after long hours of our day-jobs. We take away this extra time from our lives just to search info on lost games, write articles, read Unseen64 related emails, reply to messages on social networks, resolve technical issues on the website, save media and try to contact developers.

Here are some of the lost games we archived on Unseen64 in 2020:

There are now more than 3.200 unseen games archived on Unseen64!

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You see just a few articles published on the site every week, but to keep Unseen64 online and updated we invest dozens of hours of work every month. As in the last few years 95% of the needed work is done by monokoma, as it has become harder and harder to find more people who can help the site steadily.

In 2020 we had the same issues as in the last few years, so the following points are just a reminder of our fragile situation. People are not much interested in a website like Unseen64, especially when popular cancelled games were already unveiled in the past, with lots of great videos talking about them on Youtube:

  • We still have hundreds of lost games for console and PC to write about, but most of them are obscure projects by small studios. There are no more popular projects like “Resident Evil 1.5” or “Sonic Xtreme” to uncover or it’s quite rare to gather information about them.
  • Even for those obscure and little cancelled games, it became harder to receive more details and write good articles. Some years ago we could contact 5 developers who worked on a lost game and we would get at least 2 or 3 answers. Now we contact 10 or 20 developers and 99% of the time we never get any answer. The Internet has become a fearsome place, where news could deform and spread uncontrollably on social networks. Many developers seem scared to talk about their old jobs, because they don’t want to get in trouble for talking to a small website.
  • Today most of our research time is spent checking old magazines, going deep into hundreds of useless Google results, finding developers portfolios, trying to load vanished websites on the Web Archive, checking abandoned forums and communities to find a few mentions about obscure games no one remembers.
  • Without being able to get in contact with developers, we cannot save more screenshots or footage for many lost games we are researching. With no exclusive images or videos, we cannot keep up with Patreon higher tier bonuses. As we wrote on Patreon, please just donate what you can really afford, just how much you think it’s worth keeping U64 alive. We cannot ensure anything more than our love for lost video games (even the most obscure, boring ones) and our mission to remember them.
  • Most people are not interested in supporting an old website in the age of Youtube.
  • Since 2019 we just dropped our plans to create new videos, because we can’t get new information from developers. With the few details, screens and videos available it’s best if we focus on preserving them on our website.

Even with all these limitations, we survived 2020 thanks to your kind help and support.

We still work every week to keep Unseen64 online and updated:

  • We keep remembering those obscure lost games on Unseen64, even if most people don’t care about them.
  • We keep sending emails to developers, even if 99% of the time we never get a reply.
  • We write as much as we can about a lost game, by doing deep-research online, in old magazines, closed websites, developers’ resumes and online portfolios.
  • Unseen64 support on Patreon remained stable in 2020 (it did not grow, but it did not decrease much compared to 2019).
  • We keep working on other methods to raise funds (as with StoryBundle ebooks and publishing short physical books using the same content we have on the site).

Patreon is essential for the survival of a niche project like Unseen64, a 20-year old website managed with love and sleep-deprivation mostly by just one italian guy.

We are grateful for your kind words and your help: without our Patrons Unseen64 would already have been closed many years ago. You prompt us to keep doing this, even during the hardest times.

We’d like to thank all of you who are currently helping U64 on Patreon:

The Supreme Commander of the Cyber-Chihuahua Ninja Army, chubigans, Malkavio, gamemast15r, ▓░▓▓▓▒▓▓▓▓▓▓))), Denhette, Nick Ostrem, Becki Bradsher, Nelson Parra, EasterRomantic, TS, Jerry Graham, Kyle Allen, Matthew Geoffino, Shane Gill, Faisal AlKubaisi, Strider Ryoken, cyborgpluviophile, Itay Brenner, Marty Thao, Alex Schaeffer, James P Branam-Lefkove, Jake Baldino, Riptide, Reoko, Kaleb Ratcliff, Tony, Nolan Snoap, Case Davis, Christopher Cornwell, Peter Lewis, Lachlan Pini, Pedro, Robert Dyson, Brandon, Goffredo, Lou, PtoPOnline, Alpha 3, Topottsel, Matthew Gyure, Joe Tangco, Brice Onken, James Jackson, Mauro Labate, Olivier Cahagne, Bransfield, tydaze, The Video Game History Foundation, Ben Salvidrim, Cameron Banga, MARTAZIA A BROWN, Daniel, Liam Robertson, joef0x, DidYouKnowGaming, Nick Robinson, Thibaut Renaux, sheq2, NuclearSaber, allan paxton, Ehren Minnich, Nathan Wittstock, Rylan Taylor, Gabe Canada and everyone else! (did we forget someone?)

Gorge Tour (New Media Generation) [PC – Cancelled]

Gorge Tour is a cancelled comical FPS that was in development around 2002 – 2004 by New Media Generation, planned to be released on PC. Inspired by such titles as Quake and Unreal, Gorge Tour would have mixed horror shooting and humorous moments, thanks to its parodist story, weird enemies (such as rolling pumpkins) and funny weapons.

At the time some details were shared by the team on their official website:

“Classical First Person 3D action where a hero fights innumerable hordes of extraterrestrial monsters.  Year 2327. Mankind is actively exploring the profound space, but has not yet found any alien civilization. People founded a big colony on planet Tersa, a place rich in minerals and suitable for human life. Unfortunately a near galaxy is populated by various ugly and bloodthirsty, but intelligent monsters who spend all the time by ravaging the neighboring planets. The powerful scanners detected the human colony and sent their spaceship to it. Annihilate the greedy monster! The main hero wakes up in an isolated underground bunker and finds out the colony has been destroyed by a hateful monsters horde. The whole population has been exterminated. Now his main goal is to reach the spaceship and to leave the captured planet. Classical 3D First Person Action, unordinary game plot, 20 missions, 5 complexity levels, huge number of different monsters and weapons are waiting for you!

Former New Media Generation’s PR manager Kitaitseva Anna also had an interview with HomeLAN:

“We would like to make out a typical landscape of the lost-in-the-space setting, what would be determinative for creation of the right feeling of the inimical environment and anxious situation in the game.  The action takes place on a planet of the Earth type, where there are several moons in the light-green sky, poor vegetation and crooked trees. Rain falls in several locations, which are connected by several passages. The staggering music will intensify fillings appearing in this or that location.  We would like to diversify the game space and propose manifold locations and settings to the gamer. One will find the locations and settings of every sort and kind. Among them there are: various factories, workshops, laboratories, farms and combines as well as underground mines and nuclear reactors. Besides a lot of “ordinary” settings and locations will be available for training and mastering the skill of the combat against the extraterrestrial monsters. You will roam about the labyrinth of tangled streets, end up in a military garrison, administration offices, a police station, a sports complex, a club with a casino, a souvenir boutique of a luxurious hotel, a space center and finally in an alien spaceship on board of which you will manage to leave the planet.”

“In the game it is planned to use a lot of different kinds of weapons. Among them there are some weapon types for the close and distant combat as well as cold steel and fire-arms: a pistol, a shot-gun, a rocket-launcher, a grenade, a minigun, a flame thrower, a plasma gun, a lighting gun, a light axe and a laser mine, a tranquilizer and a butcher’s knife. But the player will have a possibility to use a unique specialized weapon of mass defeat “BANG!” It is a comic type of arm with a specific effect: all the enemies in its range fall on the ground bursting out laughing. The game space is interactive, so the player will be able to apply to various objects of the outward things as a kettle, the surrounding constructions and so on.

All the enemies in the game are extraterrestrial monsters. There are odd humanoid or lizard-like creatures, some of them can fly another are a cephalopoda, which move by rolling. The monsters will be able to pursue the hero, escape, try to take in rear, attack collectively and make common cause. We have planned the game with some parody elements on all games of this genre. So, sometimes the characters will be a little comic and odd with slightly hypertrophied characteristic features.”

We don’t know what happened to Gorge Tour, but it soon vanished after an impressive trailer New Media Generation published on their website in 2004.

Thanks to Dan for the contribution!

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