Action Adventure

Beowulf: Viking Warrior [Cancelled – PC, PS3, Xbox 360]

Beowulf: Viking Warrior is a cancelled video game based on the Old English epic poem, in development in 2006 for PC (and possibly Playstation 3 and Xbox 360) by German team 4HEAD Studios (now known as Cranberry Production) before the 2007 animated movie directed by Robert Zemeckis and before Ubisoft’s own Beowulf 2007 tie-in game.

As we can read in its original press-release:

“BEOWULF is a third person action adventure with role-playing elements. Explore the northlands, fight enemies both natural and supernatural, and prove your worth among the heroes of old.

BEOWULF is based on a nordic saga that dates back to the 6th century AD. The game captures the adventure spirit of the early Viking Age, creating a unique visual interpretation of the world of norse legends with state-of-the-art 3D graphics.

BEOWULF is very combat-driven, and features a unique and innovative melee fighting system. It is the first game to bring an authentic simulation of medieval sword-fencing to the computer game medium. The advanced physics simulation system provides a high level of realism and dynamic gameplay.

Features that make the game stand out:

* combat system that faithfully emulates medieval sword-fencing

* vivid characters and beautiful 3D environments

* cutting-edge 3D technology with striking visual effects

* integrated realtime physics for action-packed gameplay

* well-known name and scenario (especially among the Tolkien fan community).”

Images shared by 4HEAD Studios show a few concept art and early renders depicting the most iconic characters and places of the original Beowulf legend, such as the protagonist itself, the monster Grendl, his mother, the Dragon, the Mead Hall. However, no actual gameplay is seen so we can assume the team was still in early development.

Gamespot used to have two teaser trailers of the game, but they are currently unavailable. Beowulf’s tie-in game released by Ubisoft in 2007 was a very different product, since it relied on the latest movie version of the Beowulf character, instead the original poem. Gameplay also deviated from 4HEAD’s concept with RPG elements, and Ubisoft’s game was more an hack ‘n slash similar to God of War.

As we can read on IGN, after Ubisoft announced their game based on the movie, 4HEAD was not able to find a publisher interested in their own version, so it had to be cancelled:

“So today 4Head (now part of DTP Entertainment) announced that its Beowulf project is no more. The company sold its trademarks, web domains and other assets related to the game to Paramount.

“With the announcement of Ubisoft’s offical game based on the movie and the conceivable competitive situation, we were seeing publishers unwilling to support our game,” said the game’s Executive Producer, Gustaf Stechmann. “We thus lacked the resources needed to drive the project’s development forward. Luckily, we had the older rights to the use of the name. The buy-out deal with Paramount was therefore the logical exit strategy.”

Thanks to AkitoKuno for the contribution!

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Serengeti [Xbox, PC – Cancelled]

Serengeti is a cancelled adventure / simulation game originally in development for PC and Xbox in 2001 by Masa Group, a small French company focused on AI-based modeling & simulation software for defense, public safety and games-related markets.

This was an ambitious game that would have been played somehow like Afrika for Playstation 3, but conceived 7 years before Rhino Studios’ own project. You would play as a photographer and wildlife specialist, working in an African natural reserve set in the plains of Serengeti.

Serengeti was about exploring the African savanna, discovering its wildlife and preserving it from dangers (such as illegal poachers). The animal simulation was groundbreaking for its time, using an innovative AI engine that would fully simulate a complete ecosystem, with animals having up to 7 “motivations” (hunger, thirst, territory, mating, etc.). You could sneak on a cheetah and see it start chasing a gazelle, then resting and heading back to the shade. Every time the animals would move and react in a different way, following their “motivations” and creating a living environment to explore.

After a while Masa Group moved its gaming development team into a subsidiary named “Oiko Entertainment”, to expand their video game projects while the main company would continue working on simulation softwares.

More details about Serengeti were found in an old press-release by NatFX, a dynamic 3D plant modeling software that would have been used by the team to generate the game’s savanna with realistic african trees and plants:

“Serengeti’s numerous missions intertwine the player with the life of the park, from capturing sick animals, to recuperating the park’  tourism industry, to tracking rare animals and neutralizing poachers, mercenaries and even kidnappers.

Serengeti’s gameplay is essentially founded on the near-perfect representation of the natural world. The ability to hide behind bushes, tall grass, to take cover in groves and behind tall trees demonstrates the vital importance and direct implication vegetation plays in Serengeti. The vegetation is more than just scenery,  it’s really something that serves a purpose in terms of gameplay.

Set to release in the beginning of 2004 on PC and Xbox, Serengeti will certainly be a first of its kind. Set in Africa, it is an opportunity to use an original universe, different from the usual ultra-realistic war games  which typically occur in similar settings.”

Serengeti’s gameplay and AI-simulated wildlife was way ahead of its time on many aspects, and today it would probably be recognized for its interesting mechanics. Unfortunately in the early ‘00s it was hard to find a publisher for the game.

In the end Serengeti only reached an alpha stage before the team had to stop working on it. It seems Masa Group later closed Oiko Entertainment and Serengeti’s concept could have been sold to Atari / Infogrames, but nothing ever come out of it. The only released game by Masa / Oiko was Conflict Zone, a war-themed RTS published by Ubisoft for Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, and PC.

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Liquid Matrix (989 Studios) [PS2 – Cancelled]

Liquid Matrix is a cancelled sci-fi action adventure game that was in development for Playstation 2 by 989 Studios and Sony in 1999.  989 Studios worked with a few talented artists such as Eric M. Scharf and Rodney Matthews to create concept art for Liquid Matrix. The results was a beautiful mix of old-school sci-fi style mixed with biotechnology and weird-looking aliens.

By looking at these concepts we assume the game could have been something similar to Ratchet & Clank, a fun adventure shooter with many weapons to use and strange worlds to explore. Unfortunately in the end Sony and 989 Studios decided to cancel the project, because it was considered too ambitious and expensive to complete.

Many more games by 989 Studios were canned during their existence, such as DR, Dark Guns, Sorcery, Warhawk 2, Barnstormers and The Diabolical Adventures of Tobu. In 2000 989 Studios was merged back into SCEA as a first party development group and their name was then used to publish sports games under the “989 Sports” brand.

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Shantae 32 bit [Playstation 1, PC – Cancelled]

After being one of the most forgotten hidden gems for Game Boy Color in 2002, in the last few years Shantae became a cult-series, with 4 main games developed by WayForward Technologies for PC, Wii U, DS, Playstation 4, 3DS, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. While Shantae games are quite popular today, most fans still don’t know that the first, original Shantae project for Playstation 1 and PC was never released.

shantae playstation 1 pc cancelled 32 bit game

Thanks to mpx and Youloute we know that this cancelled 32 bit version of Shantae was in development around 1997 and it was even shown on the official WayForward Technologies website in the late ‘90s:

“It is a time of magic and majesty, where strange beasts roam the land and beautiful creatures wield powerful magic. In this world lives a young girl named Shantae… a troubled genie, born without magic, yet the only individual capable of saving the realm from disaster. Following a century of imprisonment underground, three powerful Jins have broken the seal that restrained them, and now seek to drain the world of the magic it needs to survive. As the magic is stolen, the peaceful creatures that once harbored it are left weak and helpless. Shantae, unaffected by the magic drain, is the only hope for peace. But can she possibly battle the Jins and their legion of monsters relying only on the magic she reclaims along the way? It’s up to you to guide Shantae through perilous traps and dangers beyond your wildest imaginings!”

 

“Shantae is designed for the PC or comparable game system (such as the Sony Playstation). The gameplay is full 3-D, with traditionally (2D) animated characters that move in and out of the rendered backgrounds. With this advantage, players can travel down streets, enter tunnels or battle monsters several times the size of the normal viewing area! Perhaps the best feature of this 3-D system is the totally hands-free camera movement. The view automatically zooms in or out, up or down depending on the proximity of Shantae to other important elements. In addition, the paths Shantae can take often split into different layers of depth, allowing the player to walk on near or far surfaces in order to get around obstructions, crevices, or buildings. Also, enemies can attack from any direction in three-dimensional space in order to hunt Shantae down. It’s the long awaited blend of 2-D’s fluid animation and 3-D’s next generation gameplay rolled into one!”

During an interview with Siliconera, Shantae series director Matt Bozon said:

“We had a polygonal Shantae that could be run around in three distinct gameplay ‘gyms’. […] One was a spline-scroller (like Namco’s Klonoa), one was a free-range 3D like Mario 64, and the last was an isometric 3D platformer. We’ve done a lot of exploration in this area… Shantae was a sprite/3D hybrid for PlayStation and PC, and was free-roaming on the PlayStation 2.”

Shantae’s character design was a bit different in this lost game, compared to her current design:

In 2013 during a live streaming the WayForward team played the cancelled Shantae 2: Risky Revolution for GBA, so we can only hope that one day they could also find a playable version of this cancelled Playstation / PC version to show it to the world. Only a few, small screenshots are currently saved in the gallery below. 

Citizen Siege: Wage Wars (Oddworld) [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3, PC]

Citizen Siege: Wage Wars is a cancelled action adventure that was in early planning by Oddworld Inhabitants in 2004, to be released for Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC. After the project was canned in late 2005, it resurrected a year later as an online arena combat game, to be the first of a series of new games related to their multimedia IP “Citizen Siege” (with a CG movie being their focus at the time). In the end neither the game nor the movie were ever completed.

Citizen-Siege-Wage-Wars-Game-Oddworld-Inhabitants

The Citizen Siege IP was already conceived before the release of Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath, as told by Lorne Lanning (co-founder of Oddworld Inhabitants) to CVG in December 2004:

“But with the atmosphere of the world today we were inspired to birth another universe. This one’s Earth in the future – and not too far in the future. It’s a very intense gaming experience, and it’s about martial law and the diminishment of civil liberties. It hits far closer to home than Oddworld does. I expect that if we’re blessed enough to see it through that there’ll be quite a few senators and congressmen who’ll be really pissed off. And I hope they are, because we’re really pissed off at their behaviour.

As the climate changes and the technology allows us to create something more realistic, we want to match that with something that’s contextually relevant and culturally relevant to where our society is today. We’re not afraid to show the darkside of what’s going on.

It would be built at Oddworld Inhabitants, but it wouldn’t be called Oddworld any more – it’s another brand. Our working title for the universe is Citizen Siege, and then we’d have multiple characters birthed within that universe – a place where a state becomes privatised and America becomes Americo.”

Some more details about this early concept of the game were revealed by EDGE magazine in 2013:

“Citizen Siege was based in a near future where the policies of recent White House administrations continued onward unabated; ultimately landing us in a dark totalitarian landscape where people have been reduced to pure commodity. In this world, your healthy tissue is used as collateral against financial debt, and if you sink low enough, you can be ‘re-possessed’ piece by piece.

The hero had been re-possessed, and was now encased in a cheap life support system as he traverses the economic divides of a dystopian city in a mad search to reclaim his body, and bring down the system that stole it. The powers your character employed were of an unworldly nature brought about by an alternative and illegal energy source. This device fuses to his mechanical body after you attempts to smuggle across an economic border. These powers were intended to play out much as we see the central character in InFamous Second Son demonstrates – we called our version ‘Z-powers’.

We designed it and visualized it with a few hundred production paintings, but never entered a full on pre-production phase. The project was verbally green-lit, but we ultimately chose not to pursue any relationship with the publisher. From that point, we instead chose to shop it as a CG animated feature instead of working with a game publisher.”

Citizen-Siege-Wage-Wars-Game-Oddworld-Inhabitants (9)

After the release of Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath in 2005 Oddworld Inhabitants fell into financial problems because the game sold less than expected (possible due to EA not promoting it enough) and they decided to retire from traditional games development. As told by Lorne to Spong at the time:

“We closed the studio because of what the realities of the marketplace are. There is currently only one financing model in the games industry, and that is that the publisher pays for the entire game; it handles the manufacturing, the marketing, the distribution, the advertising, practically everything, much the way it used to be in Hollywood pre-United Artists. […] And so, as a developer, you have limited options in terms of how many parties are actually willing to finance your games, what types of games they are willing to finance, and what are the terms you face as a third-party developer to get that financing. That’s not a very exciting climate“

At that time Oddworld Inhabitants were already working on a few other games, such as “Oddworld: The Brutal Ballad of Fangus Klot”, all of which got canned. A year later, during his speech at GameCity 2006 in Nottingham, Lorne officially announced that they were working again on Citizen Siege as a multimedia project, with the animated movie to be produced by Vanguard Films, the studio founded by John H. Williams (Shrek) and Neil Braun:

“In CITIZEN SIEGE, Lanning and McKenna are creating a new universe where current global conditions are extrapolated into a frightening near future where democracy has all but disintegrated under the rule of global corporatism. Well‐known for their heartfelt characters and socially relevant storylines, Oddworld intends to raise the intensity level as their latest hero, an ex‐patriot, finds himself ensnared in a nightmarish credit racket that leaves him ‘repossessed.’

Williams added, ‘Abe’s Oddysee was a genre busting original game and was the first one I fell in love with. CITIZEN SIEGE promises to be an action thriller that, like other great science fiction stories, also has incredible poignancy to the universal issues of our time. Lorne and Sherry are highly revered as founding masters of CG animation and we think CITIZEN SIEGE is perfectly suited to be a breakout action adventure.

CITIZEN SIEGE will mark Lanning’s first directing foray into feature animation. His announcement comes after a year of silence from Oddworld, when it last announced the company would be redirecting energies away from internal video game development and would henceforth be focused on a broader palette of digital storytelling that would include animated feature films.”

By using the CG movie to secure funds away from traditional gaming publishers, Lorne hoped to develop their new IP into a multimedia success, with Citizen Siege: Wage Wars being the first video game tie-in. A second, untitled game was also announced but without any details.

In 2007 finally Lorne confirmed to CG Society they started working on the Wage Wars game, revealing that it would have been an online multiplayer game. By looking at some of the released concept art made for Citizen Siege, we can see that Wage Wars was meant to be a combat arena in which players would fight against each other. As we can read at the Oddworld Library:

“For Players, the War is Real! Perhaps they really believe they are in the midst of a genuine war, and not in a spectator arena being watched by millions as a form of mass entertainment. Let’s hope they never break free from the Wage Wars arena and spread the battle onto the streets. Hopefully the same removal from reality will not affect gamers who play Wage Wars online.”

In 2008 it was announced that Oddworld cut their collaboration with Vanguard and the CG movie would have been finished with another studio:

“Oddworld Inhabitants’ ambitious movie and videogame project Citizen Siege is still in development, despite the studio no longer working with original partner Vanguard. The project was announced back on 2006, with Oddworld’s Sherry McKenna telling GamesIndustry.biz that the company still intends to develop games as part of its ‘Oddworld 2.0’ business plan. “Citizen Siege is a project near and dear to our hearts so while we are no longer developing it with Vanguard due to the famous ‘creative differences‘, it is still in development,” confirmed McKenna, co-founder of Oddworld. “We still care about creating games although perhaps not in the way we did in the past. We are just in the process of finalizing our new Oddworld 2.0 plan.”

At the time it seems Wage Wars was also still in development, as Maxis co-founder Jeff Braun announced his involvement with a new Oddworld Inhabitant game during a talk given to students of Wilfrid Laurier University:

“According to Wilfrid Laurier student newspaper The Cord, Braun told the audience the game would feature a “revolutionary new 3-D animation system” that would feature “cinematic quality on a ‘1 to 1 scale’ to that of computer-generated motion pictures,” and would utilize the same assets as a CG film version.”

Unfortunately in the end the whole Citizen Siege project was cancelled following the financial crisis of 2008 / 2009. As told by Lorne to Wired in 2014:

“We got a movie deal for Citizen Siege, which EA greenlit as a game but we decided to take to a movie. What happened was the 2008 financial crisis put the writing on the wall for our CGI animated movie with a $50-60m budget. It just wasn’t going to work. Everything got dinged and it went back on the shelf — it was no-one’s specific fault.”