FPS

Deadline (Microflash) [PC – Cancelled]

Deadline is a cancelled FPS that was in development around 1992 – 1993 by a little and now forgotten Finnish team called “Microflash”, which as far as we know never released any other video game before closing down. It seems Deadline was promoted in old gaming magazines with a playable demo (one of these was PC Format magazine, which had the demo in their 3.5″ cover floppy disk) but in the end Deadline and its creators vanished into oblivion. Just a few websites like OldGames and LegendsWorld still have some details about this lost project.

The game’s story was quite b-movie alike. Deadline’s protagonist agreed to participate in a cryo experiment and was frozen in suspended animation, but for some reasons he was not awakened in time. Waking up hundreds of years later, he found Earth is now ruled by evil aliens so he just decides to fight them.

One unique feature in the game was a tool that allowed you to restore power to walls in the environment. This allowed you to, for example, activate a chain of walls starting from one that was already powered, to then supply power to a door further away: an interesting environmental puzzle for such an early FPS. You could also buy new weapons from certain wall interfaces.

It seems Microflash showed their Deadline demo at the 1993 London ECTS fair, where they managed to get hired by Cyberdreams, but the collaboration never materialized. There’s an interesting research on Finland ‘80s – ‘90s developers in which they talk a bit about Microflash:

“Mika Keskikiikonen, who worked at MicroFlash, has recalled that their aim [with Deadline] was to create an improved version of Wolfenstein, which the group’s programmer Jani Peltonen in particular did not consider to be well enough built. […] Having acquired its programming skills from Demoscene, Keski-kiikonen had already gained some fame with the Amiga Game Maker’s Guide programming manual published by Tecnopress in 1992. MikroBit and Pelit magazine were advertised relatively often in 1992-1993. See e.g. MikroBitti 5/1993, 67. He was also involved in programming some utilities for Toptronics. MicroFlash’s initial success in 1993 was also noticed in MikroBit and Pelit magazine. See Made in Finland, MikroBitti10 / 1993, 64. Game news, Games 7/1993, 8, Game news, Games 1/1994, 4”

While the beta demo does not look good by today’s standard (and it was quite bugged at the time), Deadline could have been one of the first 3D FPS if ever released.

Thanks to Mat for the contribution!

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Nyx (SharkStorm) [PC – Cancelled]

Nyx is a cancelled FPS that was in development around 2004 by German team SharkStorm. The game was set during a conflict between Russia and Turkey, with a mutant / zombie pandemic unleashed after the use of bio-chemical weapons.

As we can read on an old preview published on the now-closed Gengamers:

“In 2005, conflicts between Russia and Turkey reached their peak. The russian president gives the order to attack Turkey with a biochemical rocket. But the cheap technique Russia uses, fails. The biochemical rocket defects a short moment after it’s start and changes launching-coordinates with target-coordinates. The biochemical rocket flies back and hits the rocket-launching-station. The worst catastrophe in russian history began. People mutate because of the aggressive virus in the rocket. Some of them are dead before they can notice.

Vitali Adanov wakes up after some hours and looks around. In his room there is just silence, nothing sounds in from outside. Vitali asks himself what to do and decides to go outside. He goes through the cold floor and suddenly he hears some strange sounds. Doesn’t matter to him at this moment and he leaves the house. Near the sidewalk he can see a corpse. It seemed to be a woman, admittedly she looks a bit strange. Vitali realizes that she is hiding something in a fabric. Cautious he takes off the fabric and frightens when he sees a dead child in the cold bleach arms of the woman. Vitali is confused and turns around, just not to see this horrific thing. After a short time of concentration and revitalization he sees a group of people coming nearer to him. Vitali wants to know what happened and shouts in their direction but he got no answer. Coming nearer to Viatli he recognizes fresh blood and open wounds all over their bodies. In their faces, a touch of green color

He is shocked, he can hardly not move his feet. One man of the group walks straight to him… Vitali doesn’t know what to do so he makes a step to the man, suddenly the scary hands of the thing rush right to his face and clings in the clenched body of Vitali. With a terrible cry the mutant tries to bite him. Vitali kicks him away and begins to run. The game starts ….

In Nyx you have the mission to reach a research station which is the only place on earth where you have the possibility to find an antivirus for the mutants. During the game’s progress Vitali has to fight against more and more enemies, which were “bred” by the Russian military. During the game, many cutscenes will show moments of Vitali´s past. There you can find the reason why Vitali’s body doesn’t get infected with the substance in the biochemical rocket.”

It seems Nyx was canned when SharkStorm were hired to develop another project, but in the end the studio just closed down sometime later and it’s now forgotten by everyone.

Thanks to Dan for the contribution!

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Ugo Volt [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3, PC]

Ugo Volt (AKA FLOW: Prospects of Mayhem) is a cancelled FPS – TPS Adventure game that was in development by Move Interactive around 2005 – 2007, planned to be published on Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC. The game was officially announced in 2006 and it was shown at E3 of the same year: graphically and stylistically it looked like a strange mix between Halo, Too Human and Fable, with cross-settings between sci-fi and fantasy.

As we can read on IGN:

“Ugo Volt will switch from third-person view to a first-person perspective as players move through these two areas of the game, but we didn’t see much of any gameplay mechanics.

[…] In the near future, global warming melts the polar icecaps and floodwaters ravage the earth, covering all but the highest altitudes. (Waterworld?) Things, well, things don’t look good. Out of the ruins, the World Order Corporation harnesses nanotechnology to construct buildings and sanctuary for the population quicker than humanly possible. As the world’s savior, mankind gives ruling power to the World Order Corporation, which by expertly misleading the population, gradually takes away more and more liberties from the population, and eventually goes so far as to instill a dictatorial leadership, complete with emperor and creepy throne room (Revenge of the Sith?).

In 2031, in order to create the first advanced human prototype, the WOC selects a worthy man and woman to give birth to and raise the child. The prototype will use powerful artificial implants and the test period will last 60 years. If successful, mass production will begin. The child’s name is Ugo Volt. At 15, one of Ugo’s neurotransmitters malfunctions and sends out a shockwave that pushes his father into a pit of molten lava. […] Ugo internalizes his anger toward the WOC and eventually creates an alter-ego bent on revenge.”

By looking at available footage Ugo Volt seems like an interesting project. There’s something fun in its style and setting that could have made it enjoyable to play, just like watching a b-movie with friends. In prototype videos we can see some of the first-third person shooting gameplay: the protagonist uses special powers to resolve physic-based puzzles and some kind of black-hole gun, which attracts objects scattered through the levels to use them as projectiles (somehow like the Gravity Gun in Half Life 2). You could also assembly and edit your weapons to create new ones by mixing their parts together, open up shooting gameplay to experimentation.

Unfortunately it was still in early development when the team had to put the project on-hold, for lack of funds. They started working on a tie-in game for Portuguese TV series Floribella, receiving some money from SIC publisher. This was not enough to keep the company afloat and without any new investor interested in Ugo Volt, Move Interactive was closed down in 2008.

Thanks to Dan for the contribution!

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Spectac (Cauldron) [Xbox 360, PS3, PC – Cancelled]

Spectac was an ambitious cancelled project that was being developed in 2004/2005 by Slovakian studio Cauldron. It was planned to be a prequel to Cauldron’s 2003 game Chaser: a futuristic First Person Shooter similar to Red Faction in tone, set in a time when humanity has successfully colonized Mars. Spectac in turn was to be set before these events, dealing with the hunt for a terrorist group threatening to unleash a viral weapon on the world, and the team tasked with putting an end to their plans.

From what we can tell, Spectac was to be a stealth-action affair, very inspired by other espionage and military-science stealth series such as Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell, but played from a first-person perspective. And like in the latter franchise, the player was to make heavy use of sound and shadows for things such as masking their actions or distracting enemies, along with a strong emphasis on climbing, swimming, and other means of infiltration.

Players would have been helped by other team members, in a feature that would show some inspiration from the Rainbow Six or SWAT series. This would add a strategic element of choosing what individual skill sets would be useful in each mission and what paths they would open. This would in turn allow for greater replayability, as not only could a level play out differently depending on what team members are present, but one could also step in their shoes and play from their perspective. A sniper and a security expert/hacker, named Isis and Evac, respectively, would also be available to help the player at all times.

The engine that had powered Chaser (CloakNT) had been upgraded, and its 2.0 version allowed for many innovative features. The Havok physics engine had been integrated as well, and Cauldron was ready to take full advantage of their new technology by allowing for extensive interaction with the environment in Spectac. For example, to use a simple numeric keypad or keyboard, the player would have to physically move the character’s hand in order to press the individual buttons. The same approach would be used if they needed to swipe a keycard to open a door, or use a mouse at a computer terminal, and so on.

The hand-to-hand combat would apparently also use this system to some degree, with different techniques such as neutralizing an enemy by choking or pistol-whipping requiring active player interaction.

Graphically, the game was to take visuals to the next level as well. The geometry was now much more complex, allowing for more detailed models. In conjunction with the aforementioned first person interaction, the lighting would have offered a great deal of immersion as well, filling the levels with dynamic shadows. Spectac looked a bit like F.E.A.R. another game that became known for its rich lighting and physics interaction, developed by Monolith and released in 2005. In addition, missions in Spectact were to take place in locations heavily inspired by real-life landmarks, such as the Hoover Dam.

All of this, however, seemed to be just a little too much for Cauldron. Spectac was conceived as a possible next-gen title to be released on PC and the then-upcoming PS3 and Xbox 360 platforms, but apparently even the most powerful computers of the time were struggling to run it in 2004. Possibly for this reason, the project was eventually abandoned some time around 2005, after being deemed too ambitious, and never entering full production.

Cauldron themselves would infamously continue on to create lower budget games in a partnership with the Activision Value publishing brand, such as Soldier Of Fortune: Payback and a string of hunting-themed and war-themed First Person Shooters for the Cabela’s and History Channel brands, respectively. We know the team also worked on the cancelled Project Revolution and Seven Days, before being acquired by Bohemia Interactive in 2014 and renamed to Bohemia Interactive Slovakia.

Article by António Pedro Pinto

Thanks to Chris and Piotr for the contribution!

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Decay (Insomnia Software) [PC – Cancelled]

Decay is a cancelled immersive-sim FPS that was in development by Insomnia Software starting from 1998 – 1999, planned to be published on PC by Interplay. Set in a modern / cyberpunk world, Decay was conceived as an ambitious sandbox RPG adventure, somehow similar to what players experienced two years later with Deus Ex. Their goal was to “Create the new breed of games. Games that are more realistic, more dynamic, better looking and with gameplay and storylines that pulls you straight in and makes you feel as if you’re really living in the gameworld”.

Unfortunately Insomnia Software were still a young and inexperienced team: they were not able to fulfill their vision for the project. As we can read in old previews by 3DActionPlanet and other (now offline) websites:

“First off all, in Decay, you can create your own character (like in any good RPG), but this isn’t something commonly seen in FPS games. You can customize your character by dividing your points between different abilities such as strength, speed, etc. and this will have a direct affect on your character and how he handles in the game. Of course it is also possible to further enhance your character’s abilities as you wander through the game, as new ability points are awarded whenever you complete a mission. Hence you can follow your own heart and create a character that suits your gaming style.”

“Imagine a world very much like Blade Runner, where the ecosystem is on its last leg. Pollution levels are so extreme that it’s hazardous to breathe the air and acid rain forces the population to remain indoors. The latter may not be the sole reason for this, however. Crime syndicates are common, thriving on the lack of proper police enforcement to stop them in the cities housing over 200 million people. The syndicates take advantage of the popular demand for drugs and weapons, while organized crime in the form of gangs control the streets by pillaging and plundering.”

“Decay puts you in the role of anti-hero Jake Blisser, a bad-to-the-bone hitman from the near future. You’ve got quite a history to live up to in this persona, as you have been accused of various macabre dealings such as assassinations, mass killings, and other things best left unsaid. You’re back on the streets, this time on the “right” side of the law due to some unusual plot twists. […] Giant corporations control everything, and you’ll have to play it smart with them to survive.”

“The engine they’re using will allow all sorts of realistic environmental effects, ranging from dynamic lighting to a persistent game world where changes you cause stick around and may impact how you approach a future situation when you return to the scene later in the game.”

“You choose the missions you want from your home base, kind of like a safe house, and from there you can plan your mission as in-depth as you see fit. Perhaps the DECAY team will incorporate some blueprints, roadmaps, etc. to help you with this. (Kind of like Rainbow Six?) However, there are many new goodies in store for the gamers. Not only can you choose the missions you want to play, but also you can make new contacts to get access to illegal weapons and tools. In addition, if you want to create a reputation or be respected among the other hitmen, go head-to-head with them. Take out all your competition and become the sole hitman in town.”

“Here’s a cool example of some of the awesome tools you can use to sneak your way into your target’s home: Use a burner to cut your way into the power central and shut down the alarm and the lights. Use hi-tech tools to open security doors. Place explosives at strategic locations to ensure a safe, or at least possible, get-away. Use your knife to slit throats and drag the bodies out of sight. Blow away your target from a distance, but only after you are sure you can make a clean get-away.”

“Also, the highly ambitious DECAY team promises to provide an excellent selection of weaponry so that you can build up your own private arsenal and weapons and tools at your home base. You’ll even have the opportunity to test out new weapons before using them. This is a nice change from the norm of just wandering around and picking up guns and ammo from random locations as if someone just placed them there for the heck of it.”

This sounds quite impressive for its time but unfortunately it was not meant to be. We don’t know what happened to Decay, but in October 2000 Insomnia Software officially announced they had to change their name to Termite Games (possibly due to copyright problems with Insomniac Games) and Decay was cancelled, with the team switching resources to their new online multiplayer FPS “New World Order”.

It seems New World Order shared Decay’s 3D engine, settings and some assets, but it was quite the different game. As we can read in an old interview by CuttingTheEdge with former Insomnia Software’s Producer Nicholas Cederstrom:

“Well, Decay was a really strong single player game with a lot of content. New World Order is a pure action game with less content but it makes up for it in the action department. The game will be optimized for multiplayer gaming. There will be a single player part of the game and a co-op version as well.

The DVA-engine we used for Decay is the engine we use for New World Order as well. We have optimized it and added new features. The look and the feel of New World Order will be similar to Decay but we have made all new levels, sounds, textures and more.”

In 2002 Termite Games was acquired by Project 3 Interactive and renamed to “ Project Three Interactive Studio AB”, then New World Order was published in 2003 receiving unfavorable reviews (Metacritic: 32/100).

Thanks to Piotr for the contribution!

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