Open World

DK Project: The Last City Of Heaven [PC – Cancelled]

DK Project: The Last City Of Heaven is a cancelled adventure game that was in development around 2005 by a small French company known as DarkSkyne, composed of former Ubisoft and Eden Games employees. The game was set in a cyberpunk open-world, playable in both first and third person view. The team was trying to create something similar to a mix of GTA, Deus Ex and Mafia, featuring bio-modifications to unlock special skills to manipulate gravity, perform “bullet time” and much more. As we can read on IGN:

“DK Project: The Last City of Heaven is an open-city game set in Skyne City in the year 2030. The story is one of revenge and ambition, as a 20-year-old girl (Nina Stovakov) who has discovered the murder of her father joins the local mafia to take command of her life. You can use bio-implants to increase the capacities of the heroin, letting her jump higher, move faster, and fight with more power. The game also features multiplayer play, and runs on its own unique 3D engine.”

It was meant to have an open-ended gameplay, with a non-linear single-player campaign with multiple-paths like in Fable, Fallout or InFamous. You could behave in a good or evil way, and NPC would react differently according to your behaviour. To explore Skyne City you could steal many different vehicles, while talking to every character you may meet around to build up your own street-gang. Nina was also planned to have her own life-cycle, possibly growing old and being in need of food to stay alive. You could also buy your own house or even build it from scratch. As you can imagine, this kind of sandbox open world game was probably too ambitious for a small team.

In October 2005 DarkSkyne shared a teaser trailer for The Last City Of Heaven to show their project to potential publishers and in 2007 french press such as Jeuxvideo.com hyped up the game to their readers. The team managed to get funds and support from Nvidia and Intel, but unfortunately it was not enough to keep them alive.

In 2010 DarkSkyne closed down for liquidation, alongside Eden World Group, the holding behind DK Project. Work on The Last City Of Heaven was stopped, probably with only an early prototype completed before its cancellation. Some screenshots, videos and concept art are preserved below, to remember the existence of this lost game.

Thanks to Dean for the contribution!

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Crimson Skies 3 [Xbox 360 – Cancelled]

The first Crimson Skies is an arcade flight video game developed by Zipper Interactive and published for PC in 2000 by Microsoft Game Studios. In 2003 Microsoft published a sequel titled “Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge“, developed by FASA Studio for the original Xbox. Both games still have a cult-following, thanks to their fun gameplay and interesting “dieselpunk” story-settings (an alternate history of the 1930s), with a good single-player campaign, plus online and offline multiplayer

A third chapter in the series was in development by Fasa Studio around 2003 / 2004 and planned to be released for Xbox 360. Probably Microsoft wanted to offer one of their “hardcore” IPs for their new console, but in the end the project was never completed. There are currently no screenshot, videos or images preserved

Crimson Skies 3 would have expanded its gameplay by offering on-foot missions and we can speculate that FASA tried to create a much more ambitious project, making it a full open world flying game. High Road to Revenge already had many levels structured similarly to the open-world missions of GTA, where you could fly around and choose different missions located throughout the game map. We can assume in Crimson Skies 3 we could have explored cities with our character and then freely flying around the world using our planes to resolve missions and fight against enemy aircrafts

Unfortunately the game was soon cancelled and the team was moved to work on Shadowrun, the 2007 multiplayer game released for Xbox 360 and PC. Many other FASA games were canned in the mid ‘00s, such as Cesium, Mechwarrior Prime and Shadowrun: The Awakening. The company was then shut down by Microsoft on September 2007.

We tried many times to get in contact with people who worked at FASA on Crimson Skies 3 but without luck. If you know someone who worked on this lost project, please let us know. 

Energy (Zeus Software) [PC – Cancelled]

Energy is a cancelled open world adventure game in development by spanish studios Zeus Software between 1995 and 1997, with funds and help from Dinamic Multimedia. While the Tomb Raider craze started in 1996 when the first game was released, Energy’s main female protagonist was already conceived before it and the project was intended to be much more ambitious than Core Design’s popular action adventure.

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While today not many people remember the existence of this lost project, at the time Zeus’s game was announced with high expectations on a few spanish gaming magazines such as Micromania. Zeus Software was known in the spanish market for their 2D PC / Arcade games, titles such as Biomechanical Toy (1995), Risky Woods (1992) and Bestial Warrior (1898). Energy would have been their first 3D project and if only completed if could also have been their first international success.

The team planned a huge open world spread out into many different areas, in which players could freely move around using different vehicles, such as boats, motorcycles and even horses. Players would have been able to talk with dozens of NPCs, to learn more about the game’s story and probably to help them in different ways. Imagine Energy’s gameplay as some kind of Tomb Raider mixed with a smaller-scale The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall. Enemies’ AI would also been especially advanced for its time, Zeus really wanted this to be a high-profile game, to show their talent to the world.

The game had a dark-fantasy setting, with an obscure enemy menacing to destroy the whole world. Yoell, an evil monster from another dimension, invaded the game’s world with its demonic powers, transforming humans into monsters slaves. The last hope for humanity is Yiria, a rebel who escaped from Yoell’s attack and now plan to vindicate her friends. She’ll have to find a magical portal, which could connect to different worlds and be the key to defeat Yoell.

Unfortunately after more than 2 years of development, Dinamic Multimedia fell into economic problems and they had to cut funding. With no more money to keep working on Energy, Zeus had to cancel the project and close down the whole studio. If you know spanish, you can learn more in the scans preserved in the gallery below.

  

Mercenaries 3: No Limits [Cancelled – PS3, Xbox 360]

Pandemic Studios was the company who developed the Mercenaries series and unfortunately it was shut down in 2009, forcing the studio to cancel 2 projects they were currently working on at the time: Mercenaries 3: No Limits and Mercs Inc.

Mercenaries 3: No Limits would have been the next game in the series following the releases of the first two games: Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction (2005) and its sequel Mercenaries 2: World in Flames (2008). It was meant to be somewhat the same as the previous two games, an open world 3rd person action shooter with some improvements to the formula.

It is sad and frustrating that Pandemic was shut down as there clearly was a passion behind the creation of this new project. EA boss John Riccitielo at the time really wanted Mercenaries 3 to be released and he confirmed during an interview that if it was up to him that it could go on for a very long time.. going as far as a Mercenaries 10 release.

An article by Cnet explains well the financial struggles EA endured in 2009 and the reason why they felt the need to close Pandemic:

“An Electronic Arts spokesperson confirmed the news to CNET, but called it a consolidation rather than a closing, saying that the company merged Pandemic with EA’s nearby LA campus. The core team of developers integrated into EA will continue to work on Pandemic properties.

Hit by weak game sales, EA has been hurting since last year when it warned that 2009 would be a tough one. The company said at the time that it would need to cut staff, trim product lines, and close studios. EA initially announced job cuts of 10 percent of its workforce, then later revised that to 11 percent. In January, EA also jettisoned Pandemic’s studio in Brisbane, Australia.”

Since the studio closed in 2009 and their last game was released in 2008, Mercenaries 3 didn’t go very far into development. For that reason, not much is known about the game and most of it is sadly up to speculation. Fortunately, we do have a little video showing gameplay footage of what could have been, showing off core mechanics for a few minutes with audio commentary.

During the video, there is a radio conversation between the main character and what we can presume is their boss giving them the mission. The game is set in Cuba 2017 and the protagonist is given directives to meet and escort a journalist for the Russian mafia. You meet her inside a church in an animated black and white placeholder cutscene and shortly afterwards they both drive to where the journalist needs to find proof that ‘Blackfire’ has deployed combat drones. The video ends abruptly with the main character trying to shoot a drone with a machine gun and then with a bazooka.

Since the main character in that video is a character never before seen in the series, it is very likely that its model was a placeholder used for testing purposes until they would have finished creating the real main character for this new game, or maybe it was meant to be a different hero this time around. Sadly we do not have more information about this.

There may still be hope for Mercenaries 3 or for the series in general to make a comeback eventually. EA has continued to renew their ownership of the Mercs3 domain in February this year in 2018 and it is set to expire next year in February 2019.

Article by Alex Bérubé

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GTA 3 [GBA – Cancelled]

In 2004 Rockstar Games published Grand Theft Auto Advance, a top-down episode of GTA developed for GBA by Digital Eclipse and set in Liberty City, as a prequel to GTA 3. At least another cancelled version of GTA 3 for GBA was in development before the released one.

In 2001 GTA 3 was announced by Destination Software, which acquired the rights from Take 2 / Rockstar to publish their own version of the game for GBA, to be developed by Crawfish Interactive. Thanks to an old article by Brian Provinciano (not online anymore on his website), we can read more details about this lost GTA portable:

“In November 2002, rumors began spreading that GTA3 for GBA had been cancelled. Destination Software denied the claims, responding, “The game has not been canned. We’ll be making an announcement at the end of the week”. Sure enough, shortly after, news leaked that Crawfish had GTA3 for GBA in development. What’s more, was that the report claimed it was already well into development with an expected 2003 release. Insanely, a week after this report, Crawfish shut down, laying off all of its staff and putting the development in limbo.

According to former Crawfish head, Cameron Sheppard, “Crawfish had many titles finishing and a number of publishers not paying on time. These issues joined meant that the company couldn’t continue quite long enough”. That was, until Rockstar handed it over to Digital Eclipse. Over the next year, Destination Software still claimed they were publishing it, both after Crawfish shut down and after production begun at Digital Eclipse. Whether their claims were truthful or not, when they ultimately lost the license is unclear. However, they were not the publisher by the time Digital Eclipse’s version hit store shelves.

It’s possible that Destination Software was involved with publishing while Crawfish was the developer, but it’s also possible that they’d lost the license by the time Crawfish landed the project. A former Crawfish developer confirmed that “There was one before ours that also got canned“. It’s unclear whether Digital Eclipse was involved with both the Crawfish one and this cancelled one, or if that previous title had been the end of the line for Destination Software. Either way, it would seem that there’s still at least one pre-Crawfish GTA3 prototype out there, somewhere.

In July 2003, several former Crawfish developers began to share details on their unreleased GTA3. This wealth of information described elements which showed up in Digital Eclipse’s GTA Advance, and aspects which did not, such as the controls and multiplayer.

Thanks to Brian we also saved information about the planned story:

“Former Crawfish developer, Dave Murphy explained, “My version was set a few months before the events of GTA3.”. Digital Eclipse’s version also took place prior to the events of GTA3. As for the characters, Murphy explained, “[the game] featured a mix of old characters from the PS2/PC version and new ones based on my colleagues.”. He reiterated, “Many of the characters were based on other members of [Crawfish] staff”. It’s clear that these characters didn’t persist in the Digital Eclipse version.

Murphy continued, “The main character wasn’t the same as the PS2 but he looked kind of similar. He is taken on by the mafia at the beginning of the game, like the original, but stays working for them throughout, as he chases a mafia deserter and a case full of money from the Callahan bridge to the Cedar Ridge Observatory.”. Interestingly, the story is different from Digital Eclipse’s.”

A multiplayer mode for GTA 3 GBA was also planned:

“Multiplayer never made it through to the final version. Although it was planned during the Crawfish development, even Crawfish expected it to be cut. Crawfish’s Dave Murphy explained, “Yes multiplayer was planned but we probably wouldn’t have got it in there, with the time the project running over.”. As for Murphy’s design, he revealed the following: “We decided on four different modes:

+ Liberty City Survivor: Standard death match similar to GTA 1&2 on PC.
+ City Circuit: Racing on pre-set routes round the three islands
+ Car Jack Crazy: Players race to collect a list of vehicles and return them to their garage.
+ Special delivery: All players fight over a package which must be taken to their base.”

In December 2016 PtoPOnline published a video showing an early tech demo / prototype of this cancelled Crawfish version of GTA 3 for GBA, with just a few features and most of the game missing.

Thanks to Ilua Firstov for the contribution!

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