FPS

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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Reverence (TSI) [PC – Cancelled]

Reverence is a cancelled FPS that was in development around 1996 by TSI (Three Space Imagery), planned to be published on PC by Cyberdreams. The game looked like a mix between Duke Nukem, Hexen and Exhumed (PowerSlave), with a strange blend of tibetan – gothic – egyptian – norse mythology settings. Luckily a playable alpha of the game was preserved in 2015:

“You have been chosen by the gods themselves to determine the future of the human race. According to them, humans are weak and pathetic and don’t deserve to exist anymore. You need to pick up a bunch of guns and energize yourself with a wide array of spells and defeat them one by one.

The leaked alpha version can be considered almost a full game. It appears to have all levels with most of the graphics, music and sounds. The game is divided into four big realms, each with its own theme. Realm of Osiris, an Egyptian god of underworld full of lava lakes and fire demons; Kokyangwuti, Hopi goddess of life, desert-like world; Frejya, Norse goddess of love whose realm lies under the vast waters and last but not least, Manjursi, Tibetan god of wisdom, who has a vast dominion in mountains.”

TSI was founded by Alberto Menache in the early ’90s, creating innovative motion capture software for games and computer graphics. Their collaboration with Cyberdreams covered at least two games, one of which was the released Noir: a Shadowy Thriller, but then the publisher had to cancel most of their projects. As we can read on Mobygames:

“In 1995 an “internal shake-up” had taken place at Cyberdreams: the investors removed management and installed a “turnaround management team,” that would make a transition to 3rd party publishing. It wouldn’t help. Cyberdreams only managed to publish one more title, Noir: A Shadowy Thriller (1996). In the meantime a lot of projects (almost all action games) were announced / taken into development: Species, Reverence, The Incredible Shrinking Character, Blue Heat, Ares Rising, and Wes Craven’s Principles of Fear. Sometimes they had been in production for years.”

Reverence was canned and TSI moved to other projects such as TV commercials.

Thanks to RareAlone for the contribution!

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Splinter (Stromlo Entertainment) [PC – Cancelled]

Splinter is a cancelled Six-Degrees-Of-Freedom shooter that was in development around 1998 – 2000 by Stromlo Entertainment, planned to be published on PC by Electronic Arts. While the game is basically forgotten today, it was quite hyped at the time by gaming websites and magazines, with journalists seeing it as the next Descent mixed with Half Life, offering complex story and interesting game mechanics.

As we can read on IGN:

“When we highlighted this aspect of the game as well as the combination of organic enemies (e.g. wasps) and manmade adversaries (e.g. flying drones) and compared it with similar elements found in Half-Life, Greg Paltra was quick to add his thoughts: “Half-Life was a really great game. We were already well into development when it came out and we had our first look at it. We could really appreciate what it had to offer. Anyone who played Quake or something and then played Half-Life would realize the difference in the world they had created. I think we have tried to do the same sort of thing with Descent or Forsaken — we’ve got their basic game mechanic, but we’ve added the whole richness of the world and a believable story and a sense of character to really bring that genre to life. I think Half-Life really set the standard for what a game should be for the next generation of software that is out there.”

Players would take the role of a US military trying to retrieve a secret weapon called MERC, a sci-fi craft which can miniaturize itself to go undetected in restricted areas. It seems you would also find yourself miniaturized, exploring such places as ants-nests and shooting down huge insects. As we can read on IGN:

“Splinter is set in present day Blount Island, Mississippi at a secret government laboratory that is home to The Roanoke Project. It is a highly classified attempt by military scientists to perfect the science of nanotechnology and miniaturization. Research has led to the development of molecular robotics, self replicating manufacturing systems and the crowning glory, the Micro Emergency Response Craft now known simply as The MERC. It is a craft with the most advanced weapon systems ever produced and it can be miniaturized to the size of a quarter. Its ability to penetrate the most secure facilities ever devised has made it the most valued piece of military hardware on the planet. One little problem has come up though… it’s missing. “

“The cinematic background and relationships of Stromlo are very obvious in the character driven storyline but perhaps is most visible through the cinematic cutscenes that appear throughout the game. The movie scenes are done completely in CGI by visual effects house Animal Logic. The Sydney based company has worked in television and film with credits including The Thin Red Line and The Matrix.”

“Across the five levels, there are between 5 and 10 sections within each mission. The environments vary a lot, from very organic environments like the ant’s nest to man made environments like munitions factories. The diversity in the architecture, lighting and even the gameplay changes across each mission and within each mission. It’s something that people have responded to very strongly. We’ve got very favourable reports especially compared to something like Descent and some of the other games that are out there where its all been seen and it’s all been done and I think what we’ve got is very new and it’s very diverse within its own content.”

“The range of weapons gains some flexibility with secondary fire for all of your armaments. You start with a basic mini-gun that has a secondary fire like a shotgun all barrels fire together. The strategy of laying a stream of fire into an approach ant followed up by a close-up all barrel blast seems like fun. Other weapons include a heavy cannon, rocket launcher, grenade launcher and flamethrower. The secondary fire of the flamethrower (a big fire ball) and the rockets were probably our favourites in terms of visuals and ant killing mayhem. “

“There will be no floating weapons, or powerups in the game at all. Resources will be collected from organic and man made sources using the ‘Resource bot’. Organic sources such as fungi or dead insects can be converted into fuel for the flamethrower. Man made enemies may have ammunition you can use as well. Your prototype MERC is also fully equipped with all the weapons you will need in the game ¿ however the weapon system has been code locked by Trilling. You will need to link with other crafts you down to upload the codes to unlock your weapons. “

The team was also working on another game for EA, titled “Hydra”, which was also canned in early development:

“We were very lucky that Tony had an existing relationship with EA and we were fortunate at the time that EA Australia were looking to do some work with Australian developers so we had an introduction which led to a co-publishing deal for our first two projects. Stromlo’s second title Hydra will be based on a completely new engine and it will also have a strong focus on characters. It will be a different sort of game. We’ve done quite a bit of work on the new engine and some preliminary work on the concepts and characters but we’re really not ready to talk about it — you’ve really got to get your first one out there and keep your focus on that!”

Unfortunately EA killed the team when pulled the plug on Splinter, as we can read on PC Powerplay magazine (issue 054, 2000)”

“Melbourne-based developer, Stromlo Entertainment, has closed its doors following EA’s withdrawal of financial backing for the Descent-esgue shooter, Splinter. EA allegedly felt that Splinter too closely resembled Forsaken, which sold poorly worldwide. Despite the fact that Splinter was nearing completion, EA pulled the plug, forcing the company to undergo liquidation. Several former Stromlo employees have now moved on to other local companies including Auran and Blue Tongue.”

We don’t know how much of the game was completed before the cancellation, but we can hope someone could find a playable proto in the future as it looked like it could have been a cult-classic if only released.

Thanks to jackgrimm99 for the contribution!

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Tribes Extreme [PC – Cancelled]

Tribes Extreme is a cancelled Starsiege Tribes single + multiplayer expansion that was in development for PC by Dynamix, around 1999. It was meant to offer a proper single player experience, with 12 campaign missions and a new tribe featured in the storyline. As we can read on the Tribes Wiki:

“In the game’s campaign, the “Bone Ripper” tribe of Grievers has completely wiped out the player’s holdfast (a military/civilian homestead where tribes members live), killing almost everyone. In the Greater Tribes, this is completely taboo – battle is highly structured, even ceremonial – you never attack civilians. The player must first rid his holdfast and surrounding area of remaining Bone Rippers, then seek revenge.”

An interview with Tribes Extreme lead designer Scott Rudi published by IGN in October 1999 has some more details on the game:

“The single-player campaign in Tribes Extreme will continue to lean heavily on teamwork. The player will be in command of up to 7 other warriors to achieve the campaign goals. While each AI warrior will be relied on to fulfil its role (sniper, assault, defender, etc), the player can give specific commands to any if they feel it necessary. This way, we can offer a lot of fun for those who like to micromanage as well as those who just want to get in there and blast away.”

“One last thing I should mention is that if you know someone who has been hesitant to get Tribes because of the online-only play (it is pretty scary for the newer user to go online with the experts), this is the game for them. By the time they complete the training missions and the campaign, they’ll be ready to face off against the best out there. At the same time, the AI can be turned up by the advanced user (via campaign difficulty settings) to provide a real challenge. There’s some great stuff for everyone in Extreme.”

“Other than the 24 offline missions (12 training, 12 campaign), we’re shooting for around 10 balanced competition maps and at least 10 general multiplayer maps (not including the Open Call submissions). The balanced maps I’ve described above. The general maps are pretty much the same style as what was released in Tribes, but many featuring new buildings. The nice thing is we’ve been able to pay attention to what works and what doesn’t over the past months and put that knowledge to work in the new maps.”

“We’ll also be including what we call Cooperative maps, where players will be able to fight an AI team, or both teams can have human players supplemented with AI bots, depending what the server has specified. The first (AI team vs. human team) is intended to sharpen the skills of organized tribes in preparation for match play. Usually, people have had to scrimmage or do some other less-than-desirable thing to practice their team skills.”

This expansion was officially cancelled in December 1999, when the team was not satisfied with the work done on the single-player content and decided to focus their resources on Tribes 2.

“Over the past several months, we’ve had two teams focused on two new Tribes entities–Tribes Extreme and Tribes 2. In the past few weeks we’ve been evaluating the status of both, and we’ve come to some conclusions. First, we’ve made the decision to cancel Tribes Extreme “The Retail Product.” We had two goals for Tribes Extreme: To deliver a compelling single player experience and produce new multiplayer content for tournaments, etc.

Meanwhile, the single player component has taken us much longer to wrap our heads around than we originally anticipated and we just don’t feel we have anything close to finished that would be worth charging for or releasing. However, we’ve learned a ton of stuff during the development of Tribes Extreme, and we feel that we have a insanely cool plan for the single player component in Tribes 2”

Thanks to Evan for the contribution!

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