DMA Design

Zenith (Climber) [N64 – Cancelled]

Zenith (also known as Climber in its early days) is a cancelled action / racing game hybrid planned for Nintendo 64 that was in development by DMA Design, the studio that created such popular games as Lemmings and the first Grand Theft Auto, other than cult titles as Space Station Silicon Valley and Body Harvest. Before working on the new 64 bit console, DMA already had a successful collaboration with Nintendo on the SNES with Uniracers, an original racing game in which players use unicycles to compete in high-speed tracks while doings tricks to gain more acceleration. In 1995 DMA pitched a new ambitious sandbox project to Nintendo for the yet-to-be-released Ultra 64: Body Harvest. Nintendo were quite interested in such an interesting concept, so they worked together with DMA for 2 years, before to split up because of delays and different views on how the game should have been played.

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While Body Harvest was heavily publicized by Nintendo as one of the first games for their new console, another mysterious project was also in development at DMA for the Ultra 64, with a work-in-progress title of “Climber”. Climber was never shown to the public in any form but it quietly popped up in some early N64 release list, also to be published by Nintendo like Body Harvest. Without any more info about the project, some magazines even speculated that the game would have been a N64 version of Ice Climber, sometimes referring to it as “Ice Climber 64”.

Only many years later we found out that Climber was not related to Nintendo’s Ice Climber and DMA even changed the name of the project to Zenith after a while. The Zenith team was composed by a few young members of DMA Design: Andrew Eades, Andrew West, Richard Ralfe, Frank Arnot, Gary Thompson, Doug Smith, Paul Reeves, David “Oz” Osborne and John Gurney.

As it happened with Uniracers, Zenith was going to have an original twist to the racing genre, in which players were able to choose among a good number of characters to combat and run to the top of various towers with different themes (for example medieval and wild-west levels), avoiding obstacles and fighting against other competitors. There was a wide variety of available characters in the early prototype of Zenith, such as humans, strange creatures and aliens. Characters were able to walk, run, jump, climb, hang and swing through the different hazards of the levels and had different combat moves, a few simple punch and kick moves plus a unique special attack.

We had a really innovative split screen effect that showed the leading player on top but as the follower caught up the split would start to rotate until it was vertical as they were side by side. The effect of an overtake was really awesome as the split would turn upside down as the bottom player became the top player. It’s hard to describe in words. I left DMA to go to work for Virgin Interactive but I think you can see the ideas of Climber in the agency towers of Crackdown. – Andrew Eades, Climber Lead Programmer

In this old photo of Richard Ralfe (Level Designer on Zenith) taken at the DMA offices during the development of Zenith, we can see on the wall what could be a group image of some of the characters from the game.

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From the few info available we can speculate that Zenith would have been a more complex and “mature” version of Iggy’s Reckin’ Balls (a rather obscure racing / action game with tower-based levels developed by Iguana Entertainment and released for N64 in 1998), mixed with a little of Super Smash Bros.

Zenith was basically a vertical obstacle course racing game – first to the top wins. [below] is the original concept image for the Zenith project. Drawn by David “Oz” Osborne – Head of Art at DMA… this is currently on the wall of his office. – Frank Arnot

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Unfortunately because of the many problems and delays with the development of Body Harvest, DMA Design decided to cancel development on Zenith and to move that team to help finishing their most important project for Nintendo. As we can read in an old article published on Edge Magazine issue 121:

On its return home, DMA noticed a distinct pattern emerging – more bad news. Body Harvest was being developed alongside another game called Zenith – an original mix of platform and racing action. Zenith was to be canned and several people were given the unpleasantly singular option of joining the Body Harvest project. It was a difficult situation and White found himself “trying to motivate people who didn’t want to be motivated.” When tensions reached breaking point, about ten people decided to leave en masse. White describes the episode as “a lot of fun,” in the same way that crashing your car is a lot of fun. It is easy to imagine that Body Harvest may never have reached completion without White’s intrinsic skills of diplomacy.

We tried to get in contact with people from the original Zenith team and they were able to share a few more memories about this lost game with us, but unfortunately they were not able to find any screenshots left from the project. It seems than on the walls of one of the ancient buildings in the Java level on Body Harvest there is a texture that show characters from Zenith, hidden away as an easter egg from their cancelled title. If you are able to find this texture in Body Harvest, please let us know by email or in the comments below!

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Gore [C64 PC ST – Cancelled]

Gore is a cancelled side scrolling action game planned to be released for Amiga/PC/ST in 1990,  in development by DMA Design and published by Psignosis. The project was canned early in development when it became obvious that there wasn’t enough memory for all the graphics. Some images from this lost game were shared online by Mike Daily on his Flickr account, other scans and info are from Javalemmings and PsygnosisAmiga!

Post by Elian

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Lemmings [Arcade – Prototype]

Lemmings is a puzzle  game developed by DMA Design (now Rockstar North) and published by Psygnosis in 1991, originally for the Commodore Amiga.

The popularity of the game on the Amiga led to its rapid porting to many other platforms, and is considered to be one of the most widely-ported video games of all time. [Info taken from wikipedia]

The Lemmings Arcade prototype was never released in arcades, though a playable version for PC was found and dumped many years after 1991. It seems that they had planned on using a trackball and buttons to control it, though my friend optiK and I have been discussing that it seems to be based more off the genesis build than anything. Still, it feels somewhat incomplete…

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Old Lemmings Into found in the original demo.

This is an original concept art of lemmings made for show Psygnosis how the game was going to look like.

The disk the ORIGINAL demo shown to Psygnosis was on, SAVED when DMA's Dundee office shut down, and donated back to Russell Kay.

The original photo of the old intro. 

GTA 1 / Race’n’Chase [Playstation – Beta / Prototype]

Race N Chase was the original project name for the now famous Grand Theft Auto serie, when it was still just a concept in the DMA Design‘s minds. Thanks to Mikedaily Flickr account we can see a nice mockup from the early development of the first game. And here one of the first versions of the game that was posted on Mike Daily’s page some time ago.

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This was drawn by Mike to see better isometric rendering in the 1st GTA prototype.

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Kid Kirby [SNES – Cancelled]

Kid Kirby was meant to be a “prequel” of the series, a platform game with a younger Kirby (with hair?) that was in development at DMA Design, the makers of Uniracers, Silicon Valley and Lemmings. A little image from this game was already seen in an old magazine, but only recently we found more concepts from the project, thanks to a flickr account from an ex-DMA developer. From an article on Gamasutra we read that Kid Kirby “was to be a showcase for the SNES mouse, but the mouse did not sell that well and the game was not great when played with a joypad, so it never saw the light of day”.

Additional Kid Kirby renders were discovered on a 1995 Nintendo Source Book binder intended for retailers. These pictures were taken by Tomato and Heidi Poe of Earthbound Central.

You can find more about the Kirby series in the WiKirby!

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