Action Adventure

Road Trip [Xbox 360, PS3 – Cancelled]

Road Trip is a cancelled zombie-apocalypse adventure game that was in development in 2009 / 2010 by French studio Hydravision Entertainment (mostly known for the popular survival horror game Obscure) planned to be released on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Initially known as Project T, the game was meant to be a more mature and open-ended take on the “zombie survival” genre, with a gameplay mechanic similar to State of Decay (released only 4 years later) and a characters-driven storyline, with a strong, non-romantic relationship between the two main protagonists, a man and a woman, somehow similar to what Naughty Dog did many years later in The Last Of Us. Road Trip was ambitious in scope and was likely Hydravision’s last chance for success, as the studio went bankrupt in 2012.

Popular books, comics and movies such as The Walking Dead, World War Z, 28 Days Later, Life After People and I Am Legend were the main influences for Road Trip. The studio wanted to create an open ended survival-horror game focused on action, immersion, and the feeling of freedom, while keeping pressure on players as much as possible, to surprise them with huge zombie hordes.

Road Trip was meant to be different from other third person shooters in that the player was going to have to deal with a constant sense of omnipresent danger. Instead of being in a shooting gallery and just walking toward the enemies, the player would be pushed into difficult situations and forced to figure out the best way to deal with the situation. Players would have never been completely safe in Road Trip: infected could be already roaming in the areas or appear suddenly. Zombies could pop up at anytime and from anywhere like open doorways, through windows, and even from the ceiling. These monsters would never give up, and they would hunt their prey aggressively as they were able to scale most obstacles.

Luckily players could use the environment to protect themselves, taking refuge inside a building and barricading it (pushing furniture in front of an exit to block it, closing and locking doors, windows, shutters, nailing wood boards on exits, etc.), slowing the enemies down while fleeing or using various items to help kill dozens of zombies at once (shooting a gas tank, wired grenades, etc.).

In this post-apocalyptic zombie world cities have been deserted (they are too dangerous, plus diseases are spreading quickly because of all the rotting flesh). A small proportion of the population has managed to adapt and survive in suburban areas, but most died in the first few days. There’s no electricity to be found, but petrol is still usable, providing you can find it in abandoned gas stations. 

Tomb Raider: Ascension [Cancelled / Beta – PS3, Xbox 360, PC]

Tomb Raider: Ascension [Cancelled / Beta – PS3, Xbox 360, PC]

A reboot of Tomb Raider was developed by Crystal Dynamics and released in 2013 to welcoming applaud and incredible reviews. However, it seems that the development process took a rather sharp turn. This new Tomb Raider project was started in early 2009 and was originally meant to be a much more different game than the final one.  Dubbed Tomb Raider: Ascension (not to be confused with the 2007 fan-made movie), its conception was a world away from what gamers got in the end. Taking inspiration from such titles as Resident Evil, ICO and Shadows of the Colossus, Lara’s reboot début was to be filled with giant supernatural enemies, a child companion that followed Lara, horse combat and explorations in a lavish open-world environment.

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Concept art was already released immediately after the initial game announcement which holds lots of things not included in Tomb Raider’s final draft, and the concept lead many people to believe Tomb Raider was going to become something of a horror-genre game. Before the final Tomb Raider 2013 was released, EIDOS published  a promotional Digital BookTomb Raider – The Final Hours” containing images and a video with the lost Ascension prototype:

“The Tomb Raider name never appeared on Guardian of Light and there was a reason – Crystal was saving that for the next project, what was internally known as Tomb Raider 9, or Tomb Raider: Ascension. Obvious biblical references aside, the team led by creative director Tim Longo was asked to come up with a radically different approach to a Lara Croft adventure. And that’s exactly what they did.

In early design meetings the team started thinking about other games that could inspire a new approach. The emotionally rich role-playing game Ico, the survival horror of Resident Evil, and the towering mythical creatures of Shadows of the Colossus all served as early inspiration. In Longo’s first pass at the design Lara Croft teamed up with a 6-year-old girl named Izumi […] as they adventured through a mysterious island inhabited by ghosts and monsters. Izumi would crawl into small places to help the player, thus creating asymmetric gameplay.

Eventually the player would dicover Izumi’s magical ability to manipulate water and interact with the island. After a few months of work the concept was deemed too ethereal and difficult to understand for Tomb Raider. Izumi was excised and at first replaced by a monkey that would accompany Croft on her adventures. When that didn’t work out the kids and animals were replaced by a more menacing presence on the island: colossal monsters.

In this second full pass at the concept design Lara would ride on horseback and battle against these monsters as they hurled trees at her in sequences reminiscent of a God of War game. Further refinement of the colossal monster concept shifted the art direction into the real of horror, with large zombie-like creatures that would roam a fog-soaked island.

What was intended as a confidential focus test from the Nielsen Group soon became public when one of the participants leaked images and details onto the internet during the summer of 2009. A “Rumored Leaked Photos of Tomb Raider Reboot” thread of the Tomb Raider forums quickly amassed some 3,687 posts from fans who expressed shock over a game that was more Resident Evil or Silent Hill than Tomb Raider. Others worried that setting a game entirely on an island abandoned the Indiana Jones-like globetrotting that was a hallmark of the series. […] Ultimately the horror direction was a shocking twist and focus tests confirmed that the team was “moving in the direction of making the greatest art house game that no one would ever play” […]

In the final game plot there are still some nods to the Ascension name, as we can read in Wikipedia:

Escaping the ancient monastery where she is taken by the Oni, Lara hears from Sam that Mathias is going to put her through the “Ascension“, a “fire ritual” to find the next Sun Queen that will burn her to death if it is unsuccessful. […] Lara realizes that the Ascension is not a ceremony to crown a new queen, but rather a ritual that transfers the original Sun Queen’s soul into a new body; the Sun Queen had learned to become effectively immortal by transferring her soul into a young girl’s body each time she grew old.

Below is listed the most significant changes to Tomb Raider in list form: 

Aegis: The Awakening (Sennari Interactive) [GBA – cancelled]

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Aegis: The Awakening was a fantasy action adventure for the GameBoy Advance and was announced early in 2002 by its developer Sennari Interactive, the same company that was responsible for GBA ports of games like Powerpuff Girls and Driver 2. Aegis: The Awakening was mentioned on Sennari’s website under GBA titles and was marked as “concept developed”; only a brief description for the game was given:

“The city of Aldara is besieged by an unknown enemy with powerful allies who hope to gain the secrets of magic that certain residents of the city hold. The player must take the role of guardian of the city, one who has unfathomable powers that have lain dormant over the centuries. Seek out the individuals that the enemy wants in order to gain powers and abilities that these people can awaken within you. Seek them out to defend the city and learn your heritage, to learn that you are a member of the legendary protectors of the earth, the Aegis.”

The concept development status of the game stayed unchanged until the end of 2003; I could retrieve no valid reasons why Aegis was cancelled besides their change of focus towards the cell phone market. There is little to none information on the game to be found besides the old Sennari announcement made in 2002 and an article on Gamespot in which the game is mentioned (see part of the article below). Date of cancellation? My guess is late 2003.

Sennari 2002 line-up – Gamespot – February 2002:

IGN 2002 - Sinnari Lineup

Images:

The Guardian [XBOX – Cancelled]

The Guardian is a cancelled adventure game that was in development in 2002 / 2003 by The Whole Experience (WXP Games) to be published by Capital Entertainment Group for the original Xbox. The game’s protagonist would die in a car accident during the introduction and then players would use his ghost to interact with NPCs to resolve different tasks. The Guardian featured an interesting gameplay mechanics involving NPCs hidden thoughts, that could have been read by the ghost, absorbed and used to manipulate the thoughts and reactions of other NPCs. Evil ghosts would also appear during the adventure, suggesting some kind of demonic presence to be eradicated from the game’s world as the final objective.

WXP created a great playable prototype to showcase their game’s main features, in collaboration with Seamus Blackley and Kevin Bachus, but unfortunately the project was canned in late 2003 when Capital Entertainment Group had to close down for lack of funds.

After The Guardian’s cancellation WPX worked for Activision on Greg Hastings Tournament Paintball for Xbox, in 2007 they released “Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action” on the Xbox 360 and worked on other projects for Majesco Entertainment, Disney, NVIDIA and Sierra Online, but in the end the studio closed down in 2010.

Thanks to EDW for the contribution!

Images:

Videos:

 

Wuppo [PC – Beta]

Wuppo is a 2D platforming action-adventure game with RPG elements. You play as a little Wum who is just clumsy and who has no special skills or powers. The protagonist gets kicked out of the Wumhouse, where most Wums live together, so the adventure starts with looking for a new home. While searching for that new home, the Wum gets into a lot of exciting adventures for which wit and charm are used and many puzzles will have to be solved.

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The developers Lars Korendijk and Thomas de Waard have been friends since highschool and they have worked together on short movies, animations, stories and games since then. After high school both guys went to college and Lars graduated as an animator and Thomas as a composer. Wuppo started as a fun project to work on outside of school/college, but after both guys graduated, they started to work on the project fulltime, using Knuist & Perzik as the name of their indie team.

You can definitely see that these developers have been gamers for a while and they had many sources of inspiration for Wuppo. The first inspiration would be ‘An Untitled Story’, which made Lars start on his own platformer in the first place. The Rayman series was a shared inspiration for both developers, as they look back on Rayman 2 & 3 with much nostalgia. Other games that helped shape Wuppo to the game it is now were:

  • The Mass Effect-series – influence on the interaction with NPC’s, who all have their own stories
  • Undertale – a more personal touch in the relations with NPC’s
  • Paper Mario – the humor in dialogue and questions were inspired by this title
  • Banjo Tooie – inspired to make a world that feels unique and ‘real’ and to make locations that have a real function in the world.

Differences to the final game
The game has changed a lot during the 7 years it was in development! The entire world has been deleted to start over from scratch once, and the story has been rewritten multiple times. Wuppo’s development could be roughly divided into three phases.

Version 1 was called “Wubblyking”, made in Gamemaker 6.1 ~ 8. The story was about the Wums, then called Wubblies” whose king disappeared. Every Wubbly wanted to be the new king. The developers called this version very ‘random’ – there was no real connection between the different locations and characters.

Version 2 was also made in Gamemaker 6.1 ~ 8. This version already contained parts that stayed in the final game like an early version of the “Wumhouse” and “Wumgarden”. The story was again very different – the protagonist was a world-famous plumber whose wrench got stolen. Still there were no other races than the Wums and the lore/history of the world wasn’t in the game either.

Footage of this version:

Version 3 was made in Gamemaker Studio and is the version people can play right now on Steam.

Thomas and Lars were very perfectionist about the game and especially the last area changed a lot. It has been changed completely from the beta and that had a big influence on the story as well! The ‘Fnakkers’ were originally going to build a big machine in an underground factory to kill off the Wums, but Knuist & Perzik decided that the ‘fnakkers’ shouldn’t portray Evil itself. They were much more interested in challenging the player to feel empathy for its archenemy. The end result is a game with no clear line between good and evil. Every person and end-boss has its own story and motives, which might be wrong or bring others in danger, but they never do so on purpose/for fun.

Tough choices
The toughest moment for Knuist & Perzik was to decide to delay Wuppo to make it better. The last area of the final game was one of the things that slowed down the development. It took a couple of months before they felt like the concept was refined. This was also the time they started to look for a publisher – which they found in SOEDESCO, also a Dutch company. They finally released the game on September 29th 2016, to great joy of their fanbase.

In the future Knuist & Perzik would like to make new games if possible, but for now they will keep supporting Wuppo and create additional content for it.

Thanks a lot to Lars Korendijk, Thomas de Waard and Esther Kuijper for their help in preserving these memories from the beta development of Wuppo!

Images / comparison:

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