As we can read on Wikipedia, Freelancer is a space simulation that was developed by Digital Anvil and published by Microsoft Game Studios in 2003. The game was initially announced by Chris Roberts in 1999, but it was only released 4 years later, with many cuts and changes from the original concept. In 1997, Chris Roberts began work on a vision he had since he first conceived Wing Commander. He wanted to realize a virtual galaxy, whose systems execute their own programs regardless of the players’ presence; cities would be bustling with transports and each world’s weather changes on its own time.
Roberts promised features such as automated flight maneuvers, dynamic economies, and a multiplayer mode that could host thousands of players, but diminished versions of these features were implemented in the final release. The game’s initial technical demos impressed reviewers, but after the Microsoft buyout and Roberts’ departure from Digital Anvil, critics had doubts about the game. Microsoft instructed Digital Anvil to scale down the ambitions of the project and focus on finishing the game based on what was possible and the team’s strengths.
Brute Force is a third person shooter released for the Xbox in 2003. It was developed by Digital Anvil, one of Microsoft’s internal developers. The team had previously worked on games such as Wing Commander, Strike Commander, and Starlancer. Brute Force was designed to be a first-party game for the Xbox and begun in 1999 / 2000, before the console had launched. However development had begun before the takeover of Digital Anvil by Microsoft, and the title was originally meant for PC. Microsoft promptly turned it into an Xbox exclusive title. Only three months were spent on the concept stage of development, but would spend the next two years on the prototype cycle of development. Brute Force has the distinction of being the last game developed by Digital Anvil, as the studio was closed down officially on January 31, 2006. The staff was integrated in to Microsoft Games Studio in Redmond. [Infos from Wikipedia]
In the video below we can see a comparison between the final character design and some of the early prototypes.
The original Brute Force was a third person shooter developed by Digital Anvil, a team that had previously worked on games such as Wing Commander and Starlancer. The sequel, Brute Force 2, was in development for Xbox 360 but soon cancelled, maybe because of the criticisms on the first game. Digital Anvil then switch to work on other cancelled games as Project Enwor and Freelancer 2. BF2 was just forgotten. Digital Anvil was officially closed down on January 31, 2006. The staff was integrated in to Microsoft Games Studio in Redmond. BF2 vanished forever.
Loose Cannon is a cancelled sandbox style action game that was in development in 1999 / 2000 by Digital Anvil for PC and rumored to be ported for the XBOX. When Microsoft bought Digital Anvil, Loose Cannon was canned and as reported by GameSpot, it seems that the game’s concept was sold to Ubisoft (?) but the project was never completed.
Microsoft’s first move after buying Digital Anvil was to sell off two of its projects–Frontier Wars and Loose Cannon–to Ubisoft. It also took the previously PC-only Brute Force and turned it into an Xbox exclusive, released in 2003.
In the original Loose Cannon press release we can read some of the unseen features of this interesting project:
“Loose Cannon” is a next-generation action-adventure game that offers intense mercenary-style combat on foot and in vehicles. The player takes the role of Ashe, a bounty hunter in a country overwhelmed by crime. The year is 2016 and free-lance law is the preferred brand of justice. Understaffed law agencies are forced to use unregulated bounty hunters to supplement their ranks.
“Loose Cannon” combines an intricate story line supported with stunning visual effects and intense action, Taking the role of Ashe, the player travels across the US making a broad range of choices, from which vehicle to travel in to which missions to accept.
• Action on foot and behind the wheel. “Loose Cannon” seamlessly blends realistic driving physics with fast-paced action on foot. When players choose to leave their vehicles (or are forced out), they may fight on foot, steal other cars, repair their vehicles or even pursue an escaped fugitive into an enemy compound.
• Realistic combat. Stunning graphics, fully animated advanced motion capture technology, numerous units and dynamic characters create an ever-changing interactive environment. More than 15 customizable vehicles, numerous weapons and armor, a working police force and realistic traffic provide for amazing realism and intense combat action.
• Detailed US cities. “Loose Cannon” is set in nine accurately detailed US cities and visually stunning countrysides. Cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York provide color and atmosphere to the missions and storyline. The cities are alive as civilians cross the streets at crosswalks, cars follow traffic laws, and police investigate crimes.
• Multi-layered mission structure. “Loose Cannon” features more than 20 intricately detailed missions laced with Hollywood-quality cut scenes. Progressively challenging missions motivate the player to progress from the West to East coast. Missions include car chases, hostage rescues, escorting convoys, and attacking enemy bases. In addition, optional missions and tasks allow a player to make money to afford better vehicles and weapons.
• Easy to play, difficult to master. With its straightforward, easy-to-learn interface, “Loose Cannon” ensures that everyone from the novice player to the seasoned action veteran can quickly engage the game. Early missions acquaint players with all the tools they will need for even the most advanced levels.
• Multiplayer capability. Support is available for up to eight players via a local area network or the MSN™ Gaming Zone
The first Freelancer was a space trading and combat simulation game developed by Digital Anvil and published by Microsoft, released in March 2003 for PC. The game allowed players to pilot a starfighter and visit many star systems. They can engage in combat with other starfighters to protect traders or engage in piracy themselves. A sequel, Freelancer 2, was in development by Digital Anvil / Microsoft Game Studio for XBOX 360. Codenamed “Project Lonestar“, the game was cancelled when Microsoft closed the studio in 2006.