action adventure

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!

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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 and Thomas de Waard for their help in preserving these memories from the beta development of Wuppo!

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Captain Blood [Cancelled – PC, Xbox 360]

Captain Blood is a cancelled pirate-themed action adventure based on a series of novels by Rafael Sabatini, that was in development for PC and Xbox 360 since 2003 by Russian studio Akella (the team behind titles like “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Age of Pirates”). The game was never officially canned, as of May 2016 you can still find its website online and in the last 13 years it had multiple reboots: Captain Blood easily became a legendary vaporware and was labeled by some fans as “The Russian Duke Nukem Forever”.

When still in early development, Captain Blood’s leads Dmitry Demyanovski and Andrei Ivanchenko decided to open their own team “.dat” and left Akella: the remaining team restarted the game with Renat Nezametdimov and Yuri Rogach taking the new lead. At E3 2004 Captain Blood was officially announced by 1C Company, the Russian publisher of other games made by Akella, showing a gameplay trailer with open sea naval combat and realistic sword fighting system.

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This second version did not last much longer and in 2005 Captain Blood suffered more heavy changes, becoming like a pirate version of God of War, with fast-paced over-the-top fights, finishing moves, quick time events, lots of blood and gore. Akella was split in two different teams, named respectively SeaDogs and SeaWolves, with the first working on Age of Pirates, and the latter to develop this new version of Captain Blood.

In 2007 for some unknown reasons SeaWolves were sold to 1C, along with Captain Blood. New people took lead of the project and it was updated to a more powerful 3D engine. At this time the game looked great, like a mix between Fable 2 and God of War, but because of the new acquisition by 1C many of the original developers left the team.

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Even with some internal issues, SeaWolves and 1C continued working on it and in 2010 Captain Blood seems to have been completed, ready to be published. Unfortunately another complication fell against the game: Playlogic (the company that would publish it in Europe and USA) sued 1C for some disagreements over the license and this blocked the release of Captain Blood. We don’t know what happened, but maybe Playlogic tried to get some money to save themselves from their economic troubles, a move that did not help them at all, as in August 2010 they were declared bankrupt.

In 2013 someone found a playable review copy of Captain Blood for the Xbox 360 at a flea market and bought it for about $4: it does not seem to have been leaked online yet, but we hope that one day someone could be nice enough to upload it for everyone to enjoy and preserve.

Thanks to Ross Sillifant for the contribution and to Stanislav Costiuc for his great article on this lost game!

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Strelka Stories [PS3 – Cancelled]

Strelka Stories is a cancelled action adventure game planned for Playstation 3 that was in development by CyberConnect2 (Tokyo Studio and Fukuoka office), as a new chapter in their “Little Tail Bronx” series of anthropomorphic animal characters and fantasy floating world, composed of three main chapters: Tail Concerto (1998, Playstation), Solatorobo: Red the Hunter (2010, Nintendo DS) and Little Tail Story (2014, Android and iOS). The series is not widely known to the main public and sales were not great, but thanks to its fun gameplay, light hearted animal characters and interesting world-lore (mixing Jules Verne-steampunk style technology, mechs, magic, Laputa style floating islands and airships) it grown a cult following of fans in the last 18 years.

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Strelka Stories was originally announced in July 2010 when CyberConnect2 were celebrating their 15th anniversary and opened a teaser site for this new PS3 game, showing artworks featuring their usual anthropomorphic animal characters, a 19th-century fantasy town (feeling like something out of a Studio Ghibli movie, especially if you think about Sherlock Hound) and a space-conquering theme.

Over those artworks there are a series of sentences in Japanese, that can be roughly translated as ““I will surely go to space, surely”, “To the children who depart someday”, “The world’s first man-made crystal power plant, it was built against the press-cutting international public opinion”, “This country was always engulfed in restless shadows” and “The road was collapsing, they gathered Strelka, a rocket engineer…”. By reading these, we can speculate that Strelka Stories could have told the story of how the world of Little Tail Bronx became a series of floating islands and the efforts of its inhabitants to escape from the collapsing of their planet.

The title “Strelka Stories” is also inspired by the name of one of the Soviet dogs used for sub-orbital and orbital space flight tests in the ‘60:

“Belka (Белка, literally, “Squirrel” or, alternately, “Whitey”) and Strelka (Стрелка, “Little Arrow”) spent a day in space aboard Korabl-Sputnik 2 (Sputnik 5) on 19 August 1960 before safely returning to Earth. […] Strelka went on to have six puppies with a male dog named Pushok who participated in many ground-based space experiments, but never made it into space.”

In November 2010 Impress Watch published an interview with CyberConnect2’s president and CEO Hiroshi Matsuyama where he shared a few more details on Strelka Stories:

“Solatorobo was set in an imaginary scientific world, which targets the current generation of boys and girls. The content for this one [Strelka] will target ‘Adults who were once youths’. I believe those who like Gurren Lagann and Evangelion will enjoy it. We actually didn’t get approval of the project from a client or publisher. It’s a title that we started because we wanted to make it.”

In December 2012 during a fan event for the 2nd anniversary of Solatorobo, Matsuyama said that they were still working on a new game in the Little Tail Bronx series, but he could have been talking about Little Tail Story and not Strelka Stories.

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The lack of a publisher for Strelka Stories is probably the reason why the game was never completed, with CyberConnect2 busy to work on other projects for which they were hired. In fact the studio released many games for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 (such as Asura’s Wrath, .hack//Versus and the Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm series), but unfortunately it seems that Strelka Stories never found support and had to be quietly cancelled. CC2 also planned a Tail Concerto sequel in late ‘90 / early ‘00, but it had to wait 12 years to be finally released (as the spiritual sequel Solatorobo), so we can assume that one day we could still see the ideas conceived for Strelka Stories in a new chapter of the “Little Tail Bronx” series.

CyberConnect2 are a big company today, they are currently working on the Final Fantasy VII Remake for Square-Enix and opened a new studio in Montreal (Canada). In April 2016 Famitsu magazine published another interview with Hiroshi Matsuyama, in which he teased a new game codenamed “Project Venom” or “CyberConnect Creative (CCC)” (it’s not clear if the two titles are for the same game or for two different projects) a self-published digital shooter planned to be released the next year for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. The artworks revealed in the magazine show a fantasy setting with characters similar to the ones seen in “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind” and no space rockets, so we can assume that this will not be directly connected to the Strelka Stories concept.

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MediEvil 3: Fate’s Arrow [PS2 – Cancelled Pitch]

MediEvil was a hack and slash adventure series that consisted of two games on the original Playstation (MediEvil in 1998 and MediEvil 2 in 2000) and a third game on the PSP (MediEvil: Resurrection in 2005). All three games were developed by SCE Cambridge Studio (now Guerrilla Cambridge), and although the series was moderately successful it was never granted the greenlight for a true third installment (MediEvil: Resurrection just being a remake / re-imagining of the first game). However, a concept for a MediEvil sequel on the Playstation 2 was actually pitched back in early 2003, when the developers within Sony Cambridge were considering several options after the less than amazing sales of Primal.

This new game would have been called “MediEvil 3: Fate’s Arrow”, a title that was later reused as an inside Easter egg for the name of a mini-game (Arrow o’ Fate) in MediEvil: Resurrection. Loosely, the story would continue from where MediEvil 2 left off, with Sir Dan travelling back in time to Gallowmere. Specifically, he travels back 100 years before the events of MediEvil 1, and just a few weeks before the Battle of Gallowmere is due to occur. We know that by rights, Sir Daniel Fortesque will be shot in the eye by the first arrow thus freeing up his men to fight on to victory, unburdened by his ‘leadership’. But Dan learns that the timeline has somehow changed: a mysterious new figure has aligned herself with Zarok – an Egyptian sorceress: Kiyante.

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Kiya has played Dan like a fiddle: tricking him into rescuing her, stealing the Time Machine and delivering her into the company of the one figure from history whose evil ambitions (and talents) mirror her own. By using the fabled Anubis Stone she will aid Zarok by raising an army of undead. She will ensure that living Sir Dan doesn’t die so soon and instead sticks around long enough to truly doom his brave compatriots. If that happens, together Zarok and Kiyante would achieve a crushing victory, the earth would be overrun with demons and mankind enslaved.

The aim of the game was for Sir Dan to keep the timeline pure by stealing the Anubis Stone and ensuring that his cowardly living self is firstly compelled into leading the battle charge and falls at the first arrow, allowing Zarok to be defeated and history to play out as it should. This was also to be a chance to reflect on the real story of Sir Dan and in doing so to appreciate the true hero he has become in death compared to the miserable individual he was in life (there would have been a few shades of the British comedy series Black Adder here, season one specifically).

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MediEvil 3 would have borrowed a few ideas from Primal, featuring a companion sidekick character who would be a key figure to the game. In this case, the companion is Lupo – Sir Dan’s originally-under-appreciated, but utterly faithful hound who first meets skeleton Sir Dan at the beginning of the game and then joins him in his journey.  A squeaky dog toy was going to be an item you could throw around to direct his attacks, especially against larger enemies and bosses. Generally he would tear around as an AI character, loosely following you and doing general side-kickey stuff.

The game also would have featured a more open, hub based structure to the world with story driving things forward. Dan and Lupo would travel to both old and new locations of Gallowmere in their attempt to find allies to aid them against Zarok and Kiya and one ally they meet is an eccentric genie named Al-Zalam. The developers were also planning to bring back the Hall of Heroes after it was lost in MediEvil 2.

This third chapter of Medievil for Playstation 2 of course would have also featured some exciting new weapons, puzzles, and power ups. One new addition would be beast riding, where Dan gets a mount in the form of one of those weird elephant-dragon things that were seen in the underwater portion of The Lake from MediEvil 1. Below you can see one of the concept arts created for the MediEvil 3 pitch, with Sir Dan and Lupo riding the beast mount:

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The depth of this game would have expanded the MediEvil universe in a whole new way and would have featured a satisfying conclusion to Sir Dan’s heroic journey. Sadly, this never came to be. At the time this game was pitched, a couple things happened: the popular 24 TV-series license became available to Sony Cambridge, and the PSP became a significant company focus. MediEvil: Resurrection on the PSP was ultimately conceived as a way to re-introduce the franchise with a shorter scale project. A couple elements from this MediEvil 3 concept were carried over into Resurrection – one of them being the Anubis Stone and another being the character Al-Zalam.

This lost MediEvil 3 project for PS2 was never more than a design proposal plus a few lovely artworks made to shown some of the new features and characters, but it would have been a great conclusion to the MediEvil trilogy. In January 2013 Sony restructured their Cambridge Studio to develop Killzone Mercenary for the PlayStation Vita and the team was renamed into Guerrilla Cambridge. Sony did not forgot MediEvil and they tried again to develop a third MediEvil in the following years with different developers, one game for Playstation 3 and another for Playstation 4: this time they even created a playable prototype, but in the end both projects were also cancelled. We’ll have more on the lost PS3 and PS4 MediEvil sequels in the future. 

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