Action Adventure

“PreCore” (Armature Studio) [Xbox 360, PS3 – Cancelled]

In April 2008, after completing Metroid Prime 3: Corruption for Nintendo, game director Mark Pacini, art director Todd Keller, and principal technology engineer Jack Matthews left Retro Studios to start Armature Studio.

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Their early years were not easy: they pitched many games (such as a first-person Mega Man reboot titled “Maverick Hunter” and a military FPS for the Wii) to publishers (such as EA, Warner Bros and Capcom), but never release any project until 2012, when they worked on the “Metal Gear Solid HD Collection” port for PSVita.

As wrote by Superannuation on Kotaku:

“Shorty after the studio’s formation, Armature struck a deal with Electronic Arts through the publisher’s Blueprint division, headed up by industry veteran Lou Castle. Under its arrangement with EA, Armature’s small team was to serve as an incubator of intellectual property for the gaming giant‚ & developing various concepts and prototypes that would then be handed off to another team, with Armature’s staff keeping a close eye on the projects. The Armature deal was one part of Blueprint’s overall mission to figure out ways to counter the rising cost of game development. […] Unfortunately, two months after Armature’s public debut, EA shuttered the Blueprint division, which likely caused the relationship between the two to go south.”

Between 2010 and 2011 Armature were working on an interesting action adventure game, featuring a young protagonist and a robot, somehow similar to Studio Ghibli’s anime “Laputa: Castle in the Sky“. From the few images and footage available it seems players would have been able to explore a sci-fi, post-apocalypse world, with the help of that strange mech. The robot could destroy walls in a cavern and it seems to have an independent AI with its own emotions, as seen in the scene where it covers the protagonist from the rain.

Unfortunately the project was not completed at the time, probably with no publisher interested in funding the full game. Armature switched their time and resources to work on “Metal Gear Solid HD Collection” and “Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate”.

In 2014 the team started working with Keiji Inafune on a new project for Microsoft, titled “ReCore”. This new game show a few similarities with their old prototype, such as the post-apocalypse world and the use of robot companions. That’s why we’d like to indicate this old prototype as “PreCore”, even if we don’t know it’s original title at the moment.

We can speculate Armature were somehow able to reuse some concepts and models from their prototype to develop ReCore. We hope one day to learn more about this and all their other cancelled projects from the late ‘00s.  

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Hurikàn (EA) [Xbox 360, PS3 – Cancelled]

Hurikàn is a cancelled action adventure in development by Electronic Arts in 2006, planned to be released for Xbox 360 and PS3. The project was never officially announced by EA and we found out about its existence thanks to concept art leaked online in 2010.

As far as we know Hurikàn was in development by an internal team at EA, and it was one of many pitches for new projects conceived in those years. Other unreleased ideas were Gun Head, a Road Rash reboot and a game based on Oliver Twist.

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Hurikàn was set in a weather-beaten island, where a mysterious company was working on top-secret researches. Something went wrong during the experiments (maybe a hurricane hit the island?) and their research center was attacked by robots gone haywire, ocean monsters and… even the weather? Artificially intelligent and remote-controlled machines played a prominent role in the game: some of them could help players and NPCs (for example by saving survivors), while others could be aggressive. We imagine this could have been something like a mix between Jurassic Park and Vanquish.

Unfortunately we don’t know anything else about it and the project was quietly canned in early development. From the few images we preserved in the gallery below, we can just say that Hurikàn could have been quite the cool adventure.

If you know someone who worked on this lost game, please let us know.

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Energy (Zeus Software) [PC – Cancelled]

Energy is a cancelled open world adventure game in development by spanish studios Zeus Software between 1995 and 1997, with funds and help from Dinamic Multimedia. While the Tomb Raider craze started in 1996 when the first game was released, Energy’s main female protagonist was already conceived before it and the project was intended to be much more ambitious than Core Design’s popular action adventure.

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While today not many people remember the existence of this lost project, at the time Zeus’s game was announced with high expectations on a few spanish gaming magazines such as Micromania. Zeus Software was known in the spanish market for their 2D PC / Arcade games, titles such as Biomechanical Toy (1995), Risky Woods (1992) and Bestial Warrior (1898). Energy would have been their first 3D project and if only completed if could also have been their first international success.

The team planned a huge open world spread out into many different areas, in which players could freely move around using different vehicles, such as boats, motorcycles and even horses. Players would have been able to talk with dozens of NPCs, to learn more about the game’s story and probably to help them in different ways. Imagine Energy’s gameplay as some kind of Tomb Raider mixed with a smaller-scale The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall. Enemies’ AI would also been especially advanced for its time, Zeus really wanted this to be a high-profile game, to show their talent to the world.

The game had a dark-fantasy setting, with an obscure enemy menacing to destroy the whole world. Yoell, an evil monster from another dimension, invaded the game’s world with its demonic powers, transforming humans into monsters slaves. The last hope for humanity is Yiria, a rebel who escaped from Yoell’s attack and now plan to vindicate her friends. She’ll have to find a magical portal, which could connect to different worlds and be the key to defeat Yoell.

Unfortunately after more than 2 years of development, Dinamic Multimedia fell into economic problems and they had to cut funding. With no more money to keep working on Energy, Zeus had to cancel the project and close down the whole studio. If you know spanish, you can learn more in the scans preserved in the gallery below.

  

Maximo: the Dark Knight [PS2 – Cancelled Pitch]

Maximo: the Dark Knight is a cancelled “Adults Only” (AO) game pitch that was considered by Capcom USA to develop as a spiritual sequel to the Ghosts ‘n Goblins series. After Capcom of Japan shown their Ghosts ‘n Goblins N64 prototype to the press in 1996 (a game that was never released), a year later Capcom USA conceived their own pitch for Maximo on the Nintendo 64. As revealed by William (Bill) Anderson (Senior Game Designer for Maximo) in an interview published in our book “Video Games You Will Never Play”:

“Bill: When I came to Capcom to develop Maximo the N64 was still the hot market, but Capcom USA only had one development team at the time and they were all working on Final Fight Revenge, which I was told would wrap up soon. Well soon doesn’t mean the same thing in Japan I guess for FFR had a producer over here from Japan and he wasn’t in any great hurry to finish the game. So it took a really long time to finally get a start date for the production and by then the N64 wasn’t king anymore and I was asked to change all of my designs to Playstation.”

Final Fight Revenge was available in the arcades in mid 1999, but Capcom USA already started their new Playstation 2 pitch for Maximo: the Dark Knight in late 1998, to be able to start development before Sony’s second console would be released in March 2000. Their idea was to create an action game for adult gamers, with violent gameplay, realistic visuals and a mature storyline. To conceive a dark medieval fantasy setting suitable for their new game, David Siller (Creative Concept and Studio Director for Maximo) got in contact with Joe Pearson, writer and producer for such series as Roswell Conspiracies and Kong: The Animated Series. As written by Joe to Ross Sillifant:

“It all took place in 1998. This was a paid gig from Capcom who approached me through a contact via David Siller whom I had worked with on the first Crash game. At the time, Capcom was seriously considering doing a hard R-rated for violence and sex dark Maximo medieval fantasy game and they wanted me to write up a concept Bible and opening game cinematic/introduction.

This was a dream come true as I was a big fan of Michael Moorcock’s brilliant Elric book series and a real opportunity to delve into my own dark side and cut loose with some edgy over-the-top world building and scenarios. The result you can read for yourself. I think it’s pretty, horrifically successful in a dark fantasy way.

It wasn’t easy as I was in full production as the Show Runner on the 40 episode animated Roswell Conspiracies series, but it was such a rare opportunity to cut loose, I made the time over a long weekend to write it up. Well, Capcom paid me for it, and then shifted over to the G-rated mode for the game itself so I never got to write out the script scenarios for the sexed up “Princess reward levels”.  Oh well, that’s entertainment.”

In this opening scene written by Joe for the undeveloped Maximo: the Dark Knight pitch we can read:

“FADE IN on a tortured landscape of jutting rocks and twisted trees. Flames burn from crevices torn in the barren earth. Smoke and fumes fill the screen. Distant, giant shapes can be dimly seen dwarfing the stunted trees. As the narrator speaks we slowly PUSH IN. The shapes emerge from the smoke—a deformed, one eyed cyclops with huge, misshapen hands and a second, tusked face embedded in its chest, a dead white giant worm, with the multiple legs and clawed tail of an earwig and the face of a baby, a jet black female Centaur with red burning eyes and hair, a sickly green, multi-limbed octopus with the face of a beatific, painted geisha (each tentacle ends in a lamprey toothed mouth), and a hairy, spider-like creature with the head of a ravening wolf, etc. (go wild, use your imagination)

We move past the monsters to reveal Lilith on her titanic obsidian throne. She is supremely beautiful and terrifying. A giant, red skinned demoness, with black bat shaped wings and huge bull like horns (I’m picturing a beautiful female version of the Tim Curry character from “Legend”. Her lower legs and feet are goat-like. She caresses the head of a massive catlike creature with the spiked tail and armor of a stegosaurus. Piles of thousands of human skulls form pyramids on either side of her throne.”

The original draft script for Maximo: The Dark Knight’s prologue is preserved in here.

In the end Capcom USA sent their pitch for this adult-only Maximo to Capcom of Japan, that unfortunately rejected their idea. As told us by William:

“No, no prototype of a realistic Maximo was ever produced. Once we submitted the full game design document to Capcom Japan, along with the concept art we produced they pushed back and said that they wanted all of the realistic looking games to come out of Capcom Japan, so that’s when we had to change the look and feel of the game. It was our intent to make a gritty and dark game from the start, so we were a bit ticked off when our producer rep from Japan showed up with a first playable demo of Devil May Cry, for it had the look and feel of what we had originally proposed. Oh well, nonetheless we ended up with a game more successful than even Capcom Japan had expected, so much so that they asked us to convert the game to Japanese first, so they could do a big launch of the game in Japan, before here in the US.

Their second concept for a Ghosts ‘n Goblins’ spiritual sequel was Maximo: Ghosts to Glory, later released for Playstation 2 in December 2001. Maximo became a cult-classic for the console, but unfortunately the second episode “Maximo vs. Army of Zinsold poorly and the third Maximo game had to be cancelled.

Thanks to Ross Sillifant for the contribution! 

Excalibur (Auran) [Cancelled – PC]

Excalibur is a cancelled action RPG that was in development by Australian team Auran (later known as n3vrf41l Publishing and N3V Games Pty), announced in 2001 for PC. The game was based on the legend of King Arthur and his “Sword in the Stone” Excalibur.

Established in 1995, Auran first came to prominence with the hit RTS “Dark Reign: The Future of War“, which won Strategy Game of the Year in 1997. As one of Australia’s oldest and largest game studios Auran has won numerous technology awards and operates from world-class facilities in sunny sub-tropical Brisbane. Boasting a team of internationally experienced developers, Auran’s staff have worked on a titles including: Asheron’s Call 1 & 2, Star Wars Galaxies, Ultima Online, Mythica, Middle Earth Online, Need for Speed Underground, Magic and Mayhem and many more.

As we can read from the original press-release on Gamespot and Shacknews:

“The game is set in a medieval fantasy world split into three main realms: Albion, Poisoned Camelot, and Avalon. It features ranged, melee, and magical combat, and it includes a wide range of medieval weapons, such as swords, maces, axes, longbows, and crossbows, as well as a number of magical spells. Players will be able to follow the game’s single-player storyline or engage in head-to-head combat in multiplayer mode over the Internet. Excalibur will also include elements of siege warfare, such as catapults, battering rams, and cauldrons of boiling oil.”

– Master the three disciplines of melee combat, range combat, and magic

– Wield swords, maces, axes and other medieval weaponry with dazzling technique

– Fire awesome range weapons, including the legendary long bow and the deadly crossbow

– Cast cool magic spells to help your friends or hinder your enemies

– Fight hand-to-hand over the Internet

– Shoot huge catapults

– Ram castle gates

– Pour boiling oil over your foes

Morph into strange beasts

– Fight savage hand-to-hand battles for Internet supremacy!

In the end Excalibur was never completed: we can assume the project was too ambitious for such a small team, and they instead found niche success in their Trainz simulation series.

Thanks to mihapsx for the contribution!

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