FPS

John Carpenter’s Psychopath [Xbox 360, PS3 – Cancelled]

Psychopath is a cancelled first person adventure that was initially in development around 2004 – 2005 by John Woo’s video games studio Tiger Hill Entertainment (founded with Woo’s partners Terence Chang and Brad Foxhoven), planned to be released for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. The game’s protagonist was an ex-CIA operative called back from an early retirement to stop a serial killer, but during the adventure he would start questioning his own sanity.

Sometime in 2005 John Woo decided to cut their video game division, abandoning most of their in-development projects (Psychopath, Heat, Sundown, Demonik, Shadowclan, Sinner, Executive Assistant, Burglar) and keeping their Stranglehold IP (later released in 2007 with help from Midway). Brad Foxhoven took the remaining assets / game pitches and started a new company with former Tiger Hill creative director David Wohl. The new studio was named “Titan Productions” and they officially announced Psychopath at E3 2005, as we can read on IGN:

“Titan Productions released the first details of its upcoming first-person action game Psychopath, slated for release on upcoming next-gen platforms. The game was developed in collaboration with acclaimed film director, John Carpenter, who offered his cinematic direction and serves as a significant authority for the in-game character designs. […] According to Titan’s announcement, Todd Farmer screenwriter talents have also been sought as a key team member to write for the game and upcoming film with Carpenter.”

John Carpenter’s name was added to Psychopath when the game was still under development at Tiger Hill, during their pitching phase to find both a developer and a publisher. As we can read on Kotaku:

Todd Farmer said the first developer Tiger Hill pitched Psychopath to was People Can Fly, who passed because they wanted to focus on a sequel to Painkiller. Soon after, Sega passed on the game, which is apparently “exactly what [Tiger Hill and Farmer] wanted to happen,” so they could have latitude in finding partners for the game, and develop a film version simultaneously. Thereafter, Konami showed interest, but talks ultimately fell apart.

Tiger Hill thought they could generate more interest in the property from game publishers and film studios if they attached a major name to the project, and Farmer opted for John Carpenter. And Carpenter officially signed on board by March 2005.”

Carpenter talked about Psychopath in an interview with Gamespot in October 2005:

“GS: Psychopath is going to be both a game and a movie. Are you making the movie and turning it into a game or making the game and turning it into a movie?

JC: It’s going to be a game first.”

Carpenter would have mostly helped with direction of Psychopath’s game cutscenes, while working on the following movie if the project would have been green-lighted and founded by a major movie-studio. As we can read on Variety:

“Carpenter will oversee the game and direct its produced scenes and is attached to helm and co-write the film, along with Todd Farmer (“Jason X”).”

In the end Psychopath was mostly a game conceived by Tiger Hill Entertainment, which just wanted to find a popular director name to put on their title, a team of developers to realize their idea and a publisher to get money from. By what we were able to find during our research, the project stalled in early development and probably they never went did much more than a design document with concept artwork.

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Enemy in Sight [PC – Cancelled]

Enemy in Sight is the cancelled spiritual sequel to the Hidden and Dangerous series, in development around 2005 by Illusion Softworks and Pterodo (later merged and acquired by Take-Two Interactive in 2008, renamed as 2K Czech) and planned to be published by Atari for PC. It was conceived as a new multi and single player military shooter, set on 100-square km battlefield. The team wanted to offer interactive environments deformable by explosions, where players could drive military vehicles (tanks, airplanes):

“Centred around a great war between superpowers in the very near future, the game focuses on first person action set within vast battle landscapes. Massive online multiplayer capabilities enhance the sheer scale and dramatic impact of the fire fights and battles within the sprawling, realistic environments. Every building can be destroyed, the landscape is fully deformable, and players can command any of over 25 vehicles in the game, all based on their real-life counterparts and painstakingly designed to scale.”

Some details were shared in an interview by Gamespot with former Atari producer Peter Wyse:

GameSpot: Give us a brief overview of Enemy in Sight.

Peter Wyse: The cold war never died. It just went into a deep freeze until global events brought it to a full boil. You are a soldier in today’s army. You are called into action to fight a conventional war between Russian and American forces using today’s latest technology. You have all of the modern weapons of war at your disposal, from the latest machine guns to the laser-guided missile launchers, from modern tanks to state-of-the-art helicopters.

GS: Tell us about Enemy in Sight’s multiplayer. Will it emphasize team play over lone-wolf tactics?

PW: Modern warfare is about team play and team tactics. We could not build a credible multiplayer game using modern weaponry without building scenarios and battlefields that will rely heavily on team tactics. So there will be scenarios that force players to combine ground, air, and artillery support to strike a target. But we do recognize that going it alone has its own appeal, and for those players that want to test their limits against overwhelming odds, we have created Green Beret mode.

GS: Tell us about the actual gameplay. Could you disclose the modes at this point? Is the game going to be focused on head-to-head deathmatching or on goal-oriented gameplay?

PW: The single-player mode is very objective-oriented, as you’ll be defending or attacking key targets, engaging enemies, establishing new frontlines, and collecting intelligence, to name a few of the scenarios. But the multiplayer and quick-play modes support a number of different scenarios and allow you to tailor your gameplay experience to your own flavor and speed. For example, if all you want to do is drive tanks and run through buildings, there will be scenarios that are very tank-centric. We’ll announce the specific modes at a later date, but variety of gameplay is not an issue.”

Soon the project vanished and in May 2006 Atari sold the project to another publisher due to financial problems. In 2007 part of the Illusions Softworks team left the studio and most of the remaining developers had to focus their efforts on finishing Mafia II, finally released in 2010

Thanks to Dan for the contribution!

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Xevicom Unlimited [PC – Cancelled]

Xevicom Unlimited is a cancelled story-driven FPS that was in development by Xevicom around 2009 for PC. The game was a tie-in for the Xevicom Forever graphic novel by fantasy author Ray Reid, planned to be a new chapter for their narrative. The team had quite the ambitious vision for Xevicom Unlimited, with a semi-open world to freely explore while watching over citizens and eliminating enemies with high-level AI.

As we can read from the official press-release:

“Set shortly after the events of the graphic novel, Xevicom Unlimited introduces players to Xevicom City in the aftermath of the comics bloody finale. Shockwave, the serial murderer whose activities set in motion the comics events, is rotting in prison but events surrounding his capture have further destabilized the delicate balance of power in Xevicoms streets and organized (and disorganized) criminal bands have begun a bloody campaign of retribution against the city’s few remaining vigilantes. For the first time ever, players will be able to take control of the mysterious Prophet in a story that follows his battle to quell this gang warfare whilst exploring his hitherto unknown origins. Through action packed battle sequences to rooftop chases, Xevicom Unlimited will bring the comics world to life like never before.

The game play in Xevicom Unlimited will focus on narrative driven action with a wide selection of heavy weaponry, intelligent enemy AI and exploration of the eponymous city. Indeed, exploration will be a key tactic as the game will feature a semi-open world layout that will allow players to tailor their gaming experience, whilst dealing with the moral dilemmas of vigilantism. The city of Xevicom will be brought to life with a colourful cast of characters, access to the world’s own fictional newspaper as well as the ability of players to manipulate their characters moral standing among Xevicoms citizens.

The game, being developed internally at Xevicom.com, features a new story by the graphic novels author, Ray Reid who said I never expected to be able to continue the story of the Xevicom universe but this new videogame adaptation gives me a chance to pursue that dream in a completely new way.”

After just 3 screenshots released, Xevicom Unlimited was never seen again. We can speculate the team was not ready to develop their first video game with such ambitious mechanics and were not able to fulfill their dreams.

Thanks to Dan for the contribution!

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Vietnam: The Tet Offensive [PS2, PC – Cancelled]

Vietnam: The Tet Offensive is a cancelled FPS that was in development around 2004 by Atomic Planet Entertainment, planned to be published by Oxygen Interactive on PlayStation 2 and PC. As you can assume by its title, players would take the role of an American soldier during the Vietnam war, throughout the historical Tet Offensive to be precise.

Not much else is known about the game, apart from the original press-release and old news from IGN:

“Due in September, Vietnam: The Tet Offensive will feature a range of action-packed missions and an innovative damage system, packed with accurate historical details.”

While some websites have listed this game as published in Europe, as far as we know it was never really released in there. While another Oxygen / Atomic Planet FPS collaboration titled “SAS: Against All Odds” was later released as “SAS Anti-Terror Force”, Vietnam: The Tet Offensive just vanished without traces.

Thanks to Dan for the contribution!

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Nirvana [PC – Cancelled]

Nirvana is a cancelled open world RPG that was in development for PC by Team Nirvana around 2004. At the time it was a fascinating project inspired by beloved CRPGs such as Fallout, but it was probably too ambitious for such a small team, composed of young developers from Germany. Today Nirvana is forgotten by most people, but we can still find details about the team’s ambitious on their old website (translated from German):

In Nirvana, our earth is almost completely destroyed after the third world war. Nuclear bombs changed the world surface, orbital neutron weapons depopulated most cities. In this radioactive contaminated wasteland, various mutations developed. An artificial intelligence created from military research now controls parts of America and Europe. Descendants of the few survivors became nomad tribes, violent gangs, extremist religious communities, anarchists and merchant clans. 

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Player will have to survive in this bizarre ruined world. Their decisions will change the course of the game. Nirvana will be played in first-person view, thus Doom and Unreal fans can play it like a role-play shooter. If you do not like shooters and RPGs, you may prefer to play Nirvana as Tower-Defence City Simulation game. You can build your own post-nuclear settlement and protect it from enemies. Or maybe you want to play as a rich merchant? Players will be able to join existing clans in the game’s world or start their own gang.

Nirvana is a sandbox, non-linear open world game based on the observation of players and their ever-growing expectations with computer RPGs. In a game we seek freedom to do things we can’t do in our dull everyday life. There is no shortage of such games: they are a competition in which players increase their self-esteem, which is often withdrawn outside of the game world. Nirvana relies on a genre-spanning story and multiple styles of play. 

Since expectations for a game vary greatly from player to player, one could think it would not be possible to develop a game that could be loved by every kind of gamers. With linear gameplay, this is hardly feasible. Another problem of traditional games is limited number and type of possible ways to solve a specific task. In Nirvana at least 3 different ways to resolve a task will be available, as well as complete freedom to bypass the task if you don’t want to do it.

For example, a NPC asks you to get an item from a well-guarded building:

  • Player 1: (shooter player) they solve the task by using weapons and combat skills.
  • Player 2: (the strategist) they plan a different route to steal the item without being seen by enemies
  • Player 3: (the sim player) they persuade a NPC to take over the job for them or talk with enemy guards to bribe them.
  • Player 4: (the RPG player) they find the solution that best suits their character class chosen at the beginning of the game
  • Player 5: (the spontaneous guy) they may ignore this request to instead explore the rest of the game world, and maybe solve the quest later or not at all
  • Player 6: (the shortsighted guy) they just kill the client, take their money and then also infiltrate the building to keep the item.

The make-a-character and choose-your-class options will remind you of a role-playing game, while weapon and armor settings will be reminiscent of a classic shooter. For the dealer class you can unlock unique gameplay mechanics that will allow to turn the game into an economic and trading simulation. You can take your own apartment, where to keep all of your belongings weapons, items, similar to the fan-made “Morrowind” apartment mod. In cities you could enter and explore at least 50% of all the buildings, doors will not be locked or just part of the wall texture, something that often frustrate players in open world games such as GTA and Mafia. You can talk with each non-playable character and with some of them you can trade on the street without ever having to enter a shop.

Another source of information for the Nirvana project is an old interview posted in 2004 on Gamers With Jobs:

Q: How many people are actually working on the project?

Carsten Kny: The team currently consists of four permanent members and two external people providing additional support.

 Q: Have you developed games or mods before?

CK: Nirvana is the first project of this particular team, but all of us were involved in the production of games in some way before that.

Q: What kind of locations will the player be able to visit?

CK: Abandoned places such as cities that were hit by neutron bombs, radioactive wastelands, urban locations that are under the command by different gangs and deserts. Rural regions like farm lands were mostly spared the huge disasters. We’ll also have junkyards, ice deserts, mines, lost labs, bunkers, sewer systems populated by mutants. A forbidden zone – territory of the AI creatures, more or less peaceful trading routes. Nomad camps and destroyed industrial areas. And many interior locations like bars, warehouses or old subway tunnels.

Q: And in which part of the world is the game set to take place?

CK: We’ve already watched North America being destroyed in quite a number of movies, so we decided to go for Europe.

Q: Based on the initial information Nirvana appears to be a mix of FPS and action-RPG. How would you describe it and which of the games currently available or in development would you compare it to?

CK: There’s quite a number of things that inspired us. Picture a mix of Fallout and Morrowind. Of course, the battle system will be closer to what you know from FPS titles.

However, we’re also looking at things we liked in other games. The stealth-o-meter in Splinter Cell would be an example of that. It basically scans the texture shading in the nearby environment and displays it on a panel. The shadow panel is a brilliant idea – yet it doesn’t require an enormous amount of coding effort.

Often enough parts related to the gameplay devour less time than those related to the development of the plot line. We always have an eye open for stimuli like this and are curious about what Stalker and Restricted Area may offer .

Q: How are the different characters classes going to affect the gameplay?

CK:Well, there are no mages in the game, but if you’re looking for something similar you might want to be an explorer. A former mercenary is likely to have a hard time establishing a trading business. The trader again is better off avoiding fights – at least earlier in the game – in order to survive. Finding friends among those who have power will not be that easy if you happen to be an anarchist. Finding friends among rebels probably will.

There’s no static, traditional “good/evil” concept in the game. Each group has proper reasons for why they’re behaving the way they do. The choice of your character partially determines which factions you’re friends with or not. And you may change that throughout the game.

Q: It’s also been said that the player will be able to found new settlements which then could be managed by him/her. Could you elaborate on that idea?

CK: Well, Nirvana is a first-person game, so the strategical/economic part doesn’t work the way it’s traditionally being realized.

One will be able to start your own gang once you gained enough reputation among the NPCs. Enough reputation to convince at least five other persons. (Altogether your gang can have up to 15 members.) Upon having found people willing to join your side you’ll have to look for a nice spot to found a settlement. The required building land has to be purchased from one of the big clans. You’ll recognize these locations through signs stating that they’re up for sale. You should take your goals into account before buying land. Once you’ve acquired a building site, the sign will bear the logo of your gang.

If there’s enough money left then you can assign other NPCs to construct a main building. It’s the only one that has multiple purposes. It offers enough space for your character and the following five NPCs: The administrator is the person you have to talk to about constructing new buildings. He’ll also send messages informing you about important incidents when you’re not ‘at home’. The hunter can get enough food and water to support up to 10 people. The medic is in charge of the ward. And, of course, will heal the player for free. If something’s broken or not working properly it can be repaired by the engineer. The guard will help defend your place against intruders with his heavy machine gun.

The more your wealth increases through shares in mines or farms or money earned by solving quests, the more you can expand.

Other buildings that can be constructed: farm, water cleaning station, stock, storage, trading house, quarters, watchtower, MG station and barbed-wire fences or walls. And maybe a bar or labs – but we’re still debating that.

Some of them aren’t ‘universal’ and cannot be built everywhere. There’s no sense in constructing a trading house when there’s no trading route nearby. And an MG station seems pretty much useless if your settlement is located at a nice, calm and peaceful spot.

Q: And all that put into one game… well, that sounds very ambitious, doesn’t it?

CK: Yeah, I guess most people will think we’re crazy, claiming that a non-linear concept requires a lot more effort than a linear one. That’s certainly true when we’re talking about something like hypertext literature, but I think it’s different when we’re talking about game development. The more content you want to offer, the better a non-linear approach works. Morrowind, for instance, wouldn’t have worked that well as linear game and that certainly also would have resulted in a longer development time.

In an extremely linear game you’d have an individual script or parts thereof for every single NPC. In a non-linear game you only need one script that takes values such as skills and variables into account. To phrase it in a more simple way: an NPC has to find out who he/she is at first. And then he/she determines his/her attitude towards the player. The difference between or similarity between variables plays a role in the generates the behavioural patterns. That way also NPCs – and not only your character – can change while you’re playing the game.

As you can read from their own words, the team dreamed of an overly ambitious open world game that would merge many different genres, something like a mix between Fallout, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Deus Ex, GTA 3 and many other role-play sims. It’s easy to see why it was not meant to be.

We don’t know what happened to the Nirvana Team after their game was cancelled. As of today, this article on Unseen64 is one of just a couple of pages online that even remember Nirvana, such as an old article on a Poland website

Thanks to Dan for the contribution! 

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