News on Beta & Cancelled Games

Looney Tunes Space Race [N64 – Cancelled]

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Looney Tunes: Space Race is a 2000 racing game that was originally announced as a Nintendo 64 title in 1998, but it was later moved to the Dreamcast and PlayStation 2. The N64 version was so cancelled. The project was initialy developed by New Wave USA but when it was ported to the Dreamcast, it was completed by Infogrames Melbourne House,  therefore, is not really the same game that was going to be released on the Nintendo64.

italian_flag.jpg [spoiler /Clicca qui per la versione in Italiano/ /Nascondi la versione in Italiano/]Le prime immagini di questo racing game della Infogrames cominciarono a circolare nel Marzo del 1998. Il progetto non sembrava all’insegna dell’innovazione, visto il concept abusato introdotto da Mario Kart, ma aveva comunque delle possibilità di successo grazie alla notorietà del brand e alla particolarità delle vetture, dei razzi.

Inizialmente previsto come gioco per Nintendo 64, venne dirottato durante l’estate del 1999 su Dreamcast, dove ottenne delle ottime valutazioni da parte della critica. Per i possessori della console Nintendo il rimpianto fu comunque limitato, visto che Infogrames oltre che cambiare destinatario cambiò anche mittente: non più New Wave USA (della quale fra l’altro non si hanno più tracce), ma Infogrames Melbourne House; quello che è stato distribuito per Dremcast, quindi, non è lo stesso gioco che sarebbe uscito su Nintendo64.[/spoiler]

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Max Payne [Beta – PC]

Max Payne is a third-person shooter video game developed by Remedy Entertainment and published by Gathering of Developers on July 2001 for Windows PC. Conceptualization of the game started as early as 1996, after the successful publication by Apogee Software, Scott Miller‘s company, of Remedy’s first title: Death Rally. In an interview with Matt Barton, Scott Miller recalls how he was impressed by Remedy’s work ethic, so he decided to further his collaboration for a different title, with Remedy pitching three different ideas, as it’s stated in Rus McLaughlin “The History of Max Payne” on the Escapist:

Everyone wanted to keep the momentum going. Remedy soon pitched Apogee founder Scott Miller three new ideas: another racing game, a Decent: FreeSpace– like space-combat sim, and Dark Justice, an isometric, neo-noir shooter inspired by Interplay’s twisted death-a-thon, Loaded.

Dark Justice was Max Payne’s first working title, and the title is of course a reference to the vengeance theme that persists through the game, although the game was still an isometric shooter. The plot was written by Sami Järvi (better know by the pen name of Sam Lake), but few elements of the game’s mechanic were ideas of Scott Miller, who explained part of Max Payne’s development process in a post on his blog Game Matters:

Max Payne was conceptualized during Tomb Raider’s peak run, and the design purposely avoids the special elements that made Tomb Raider unique and popular, such as swimming, the acrobatic moves, settings, horrible third-person camera, stuff like that. […] The game was designed with several interesting hooks to help it stand-out and generate buzz. The key hook is bullet-time, which I won’t go into further. But perhaps overlooked are other important hooks:  The game’s film noir style,  the game’s graphic novel story presentation, and [3] the game’s Hong Kong flick cinematic action. […] The game was originally titled Dark Justice, as this well describes the game’s theme. But, we felt it was more important to focus on the game’s lead character like we had previously done with Duke Nukem.

Given the fact that they needed to focus on the character, to build up a transmedia franchise, according to the Apogee FAQ on Rinkworks.com, Scott Miller came up with the name Max, soonly expanded in Max Heat, which later became the final title Max Payne (the title Max Heat appears in the final games, in both Max Payne and Max Payne 2, as the title of pornographic magazines and movies):

So we needed the name of the game to be the name of the character, and we needed a great, memorable character name that conveyed the essence of the character.

I came up with Max, but I couldn’t think of a good last name. At one point,the best name we could think of was Max Heat, and we spent over $20,000 trademarking this name worldwide. Then someone from Remedy proposed Payne as the last name, and immediately we ditched Heat and spent another load of money trademarking Max Payne. Truly a perfect name.

Development of the game started in 1997, with Remedy going for a full 3D game with a proprietary graphic engine, MaxFX. The lead technical artist Sami Vanhatalo in The Making Of: Max Payne recalls how:

One of the first things we did technologically was the particle system, and once you started seeing the particle effects with this huge slowdown it was like: ‘God, something good must come of this.’

The game was first shown to the public at the E3 1998 with this trailer, featuring a Max Payne’s prototype at a very early stage:

The video shows many prototype features, early stage levels and unused characters and weapons. Most notably: different sights for your weapons, unused weapon like the TASER shown at 1:50 or a pistol with a laser sight, early stage levels of Roscoe Street Subway Station, Jack Lupino’s Hotel and randoms NYC streets (presumably used only as tests levels), unused characters like a motorcyclist enemy with a UZI, a giant enemy with a striker shotgun and a smoking enemy (I’m not sure if a smoking enemy is included in the final game). I’m not sure if the comic panel shown at 0:51 is unused, and I don’t remember if in the final game Max limps if excessively wounded like he does at the end of the trailer, drop a comment in the comments section if you know.

The game was set for release for Summer 1999, however it was postponed numerous times, and a multiplayer mode was also dropped by the developers. Rockstar Games was questioned for a port to Xbox and PS2. Remedy also traveled to New York City to took pictures of streets and places potentially interesting for the game’s scenario, as documented on 3D Realms’ website. Indeed, the game was still in a very early beta status for E3 1999, as shown by this E3 1999 trailer:

(this trailer is credited by IGN.com as gameplay of the Dreamcast version, which probably was never coded)

Other notable differences in this trailer: the smoking enemy appears again, doing a mexican standoff with Max Payne (an element from John Woo’s movies, which never appears in the final game), the sight is different again, and unfinished version of levels like Roscoe Street Subway Station and the basement of Jack Lupino’s hotel.

Another trailer, this one from E3 2000, this is possibly the same beta build as the previous trailer, although in some closer shots Max 3D model is the same as the final game (notice how the part near the belt is different from other angles, and the face and the orange jacket are more detailed too):

I don’t remember the part with the exploding barrels (it could be a beta version of Casa di Angelo’s level? What do you think?)

The game was released on 23 July 2001 in North America, and the trailer from the E3 2001 looks pretty much like the final build of the game.

It’s been a long time since I played the game, can you spot more differences in these trailers or in the gallery’s images? Did you spot an error in this article? Drop a comment in the comments section and let us know what you think. Thank you for your help!

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Images, 2000 version:

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Blast Corps / Blast Dozer [N64 – Beta]

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Blast Corps (Blast Dozer in Japan) was one of the earliest RARE games for the Nintendo 64. Using various vehicles, we had to clear the way for a truck full of nuclear material, so the dangerous cargo would explode only in a safe area. Certainly one of those games that you love or hate it, but without a doubt a truly original title.
Anyway, during the development Rare removed some of the strangest vehicles and tools, such a Scorpion-like mech, a strange throw-punches machine, a mechanical armor and a small tractor with a front paddle.

[English Translation by yota]

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Uno dei primissimi giochi RARE per il Nintendo 64, è stato questo Blast Corps (Blast Dozer in versione JAP). A bordo di una moltitudine di mezzi diversi, era necessario distruggere ogni edificio che impedisse il passaggio ad un camion pieno di materiale Nucleare. In questo modo, il pericoloso carico sarebbe esploso in una zona sicura. Se tutto questo vi sembra strano, una volta provato il gioco potreste rimanerne innamorati all’inverosimile. Oppure odiarlo. Qualunque sia il vostro giudizio, sarete daccordo nel cosiderarlo un titolo davvero originale.

Durante il suo sviluppo, il design dei mezzi a disposizione del giocatore, si evolse in diverse fasi. In alcune immagini e filmati beta, possiamo infatti vedere che in origine erano stati inseriti una serie di macchine e mezzi robotici molto stravaganti e particolari. Possiamo infatti notare una specie di Mech Scorpione, una strana macchina tira-pugni, un armatura meccanica ed un piccolo trattore con pala anteriore. Tutti questi mezzi sono stati rimossi dal gioco.[/spoiler]

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Hybrid Heaven [N64 – Beta / Tech Demo]

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Konami was one of the first software houses to announce full support for the Nintendo 64, after the happy and profitable experience with the SNES. In addition to Castlevania 64, one of the first games announced for the console was Hybrid Heaven, a strange cross-game between Turn-based RPG, action, adventure and fighting, that promised an open ended gameplay.

In the early images and videos released, the project had an incredible graphic for its time, much more definited than the one in the final version.  When Hybrid Heaven was finally released after many delays, players found themselves in front of a very different game, graphically poor and with a linear gameplay.

Probably the early media released were just Concept Renders and when Konami started to create the game on the real N64 hardware, they found out that it was impossible to reach such level of details. We dont know exactly how many parts were removed (some places and characters seen in the concept renders were not in the final game), but we can speculate that the developers had to heavily cut the project, because their original concept was too ambitious for its time.

italian_flag.jpg [spoiler /Clicca qui per la versione in Italiano/ /Nascondi la versione in Italiano/]La Konami fu una delle primissime Software House ad annunciare il pieno supporto alla nuova macchina a 64 Bit di casa Nintendo, dopo le felici e redditizie esperienze con lo SNES. Oltre al precedente Castlevania 64, uno dei primi giochi annunciati fu questo Hybrid Heaven, strano incrocio fra RPG a turni, azione, esplorazione e picchiaduro. Dalle primissime immagini il titolo faceva graficamente paura e sembrava avere tutte le potenzialità per divenire l’ennesima Killer Application per l’N64. Eppure, quando il gioco finalmente venne completato dopo anni di ritardi, i giocatori si trovarono davanti un prodotto molto diverso, graficamente povero e dalla giocabilità fin troppo lineare. Del progetto originale probabilmente si era salvato ben poco.[/spoiler]

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Jeff Gordon XS Racing [Cancelled]

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Jeff Gordon XS Racing is a racing game released in 1999 for PC and GBC, but originally planned for Nintendo 64 and Playstation too. Jeff Gordon is a champion of NASCAR and he would have been the mentor of the player in the training mode of JGXS. Despite ASC announced a very realistic physics and AI for each car, the final PC version,  probably identical to the cancelled versions, it’s only a mediocre arcade game. Since the Nintendo 64 and the PSX had already  a lot of good racing games, perhaps cancelling the home console versions of Jeff Gordon XS was a wise decision.

italian_flag.jpg [spoiler /Clicca qui per la versione in Italiano/ /Nascondi la versione in Italiano/]Jeff Gordon XS Racing è un oscuro gioco di guida, uscito nel 1999 per PC e GBC, ma originariamente previsto anche per Nintendo 64 e Psx, a cui appartengono gli screenshots che trovate in questa pagina.

Il grande campione delle corse NASCAR, Jeff Gordon appunto, avrebbe fatto da mentore al giocatore per il training e poi da caparbio avversario nelle gare del gioco. Certamente c’era ben poco che facesse sperare in un titolo quantomeno interessante. Nonostante ASC avesse annunciato una fisica particolarmente realistica e una AI diversa per ogni auto in gara , il prodotto finito su PC, identico alle versioni cancellate a parte la grafica, è soltanto un anonimo arcade. All’epoca non poteva neanche contare su una cosmesi all’altezza degli altri esponenti del genere su computer.

Siccome il Nintendo 64 poteva già vantare una serie di imbarazzanti titoli di guida, forse la cancellazione di Jeff Gordon XS è stata la decisione migliore che ASC potesse mai prendere nella sua carriera. [/spoiler]

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