Racing

Split Shift Racing [PS3, Xbox 360 – Cancelled]

Split Shift Racing is a cancelled arcade racer that was being developed by Juice Games (AKA THQ Digital Studios UK) for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. Set in a distant sci-fi future, the game was due to take place in a chaotic “open world” environment that spanned both urban and rural terrain, and featured a transforming mechanic that allowed players to alter their car on the fly.

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Juice games had just finished work on Juiced 2: Hot Import Nights when they began working on the concept for three new games at the start of 2009. Alongside Split Shift Racing, the staff of 80 at the THQ-owned subsidiary were also working on the cancelled flight-sim Stormbirds, and a third as yet undiscovered game and peripheral project titled “FUUB”. Before this, the studio enjoyed two successful game launches with the original Juiced, as well as a PSP spin-off called Juiced: Eliminator, and the team would go on to release Red Faction: Battlegrounds and Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team under the new moniker of THQ Digital Warrington.

Details on Split Shift Racing are lacking, thanks in part to an existing NDA still covering the project. However, we can piece together some of the puzzle from talking a number of sources and various bits of portfolio work by artists that worked on the concept. One source described the project as a “futuristic open world racing title”, which is backed up by some of the concept work on display below, each one showing off designs like semi-holographic digital signboards and geometric sci-fi car models.

It’s not clear just how open the world was going to be in the final product, but an early UI concept design showing a map overview by another artist from the project suggests that instead of having one massive, sprawling world to explore, players would instead have the choice of going to one of several “zones”, each with their own theme. In this instance, we can see the Earthquake Zone, which seems to sport a large portion of off-road terrain, along with a small city pocket in the corner. This is supported by another concept image, this time for the main menu, which features a “Zone” option for players to select.

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Perhaps the most interesting feature was the ability to alter or transform your vehicle to suit the situation. Thanks to a couple of other concept pieces, we can see that the controls have four different functions mapped to the face buttons. These include Speed, Hammer, Climber, and Agile configurations. It’s not clear how each mode affected your vehicle’s performance, but it’s probably safe to assume that Speed was for racing, Hammer for taking down other drivers or breaking through debris, Climber for scaling rough terrain, and Agile for control during aerial jumps. Players could unlock new versions of vehicles from one of the four different styles by playing, and whilst there was an XP progression system in place to allow players to advance, it’s not clear whether unlocks were tied to this system or whether they had to be earned by winning races and events.

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Network features were also set to appear heavily in the game, with a strong focus on asynchronous multiplayer pitting people against each other in a variety of leaderboard challenges and events across each zone. This would have been coupled with an “Activity” page that tracked the player and their friend’s accomplishments, race times, and high scores in the form of a daily feed that others could leave comments on.

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Despite most of the information surrounding Split Shift Racing being under NDA, there are still a few images of in-game footage that show off what we might have seen if the game ever made it to its final release. Unfortunately, we don’t know whether the game itself ever made it to a playable state.

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Development on Split Shift Racing began some time in 2009 under the management of producer Tim Preece, and would go on into the early stages of development until it was cancelled some time during 2010. This saw the development team moved onto other projects, with the majority starting work on Full Impact, a classic American car destruction derby game that would also go on to be cancelled. This string of failed projects can attributed largely by the shifting focus of the company, and THQ’s own goals during the time after purchasing Juice Games in 2007.

With the studio itself undergoing a transition away from boxed retail products and moving solely into digital goods, Juice Games was also undergoing its transformation into THQ Digital Warrington. Unfortunately, as the market continued to shift, THQ decided that instead of using the studio to develop new IP, they would utilize the Warrington-based team to develop secondary games based on THQ’s pre-existing IP, which gave rise to the digital-only Red Faction and Warhammer games in 2011.

Shortly after releasing the first of their two digital games, THQ Digital Warrington was then closed down by THQ in June 2011 due to “lacklustre sales of Red Faction: Battlegrounds”. Talking to Eurogamer, an inside source who worked at the studio claimed that THQ had cancelled several projects over the years, and that they “struggled to find an idea THQ were happy with”.

[EDIT]: Shortly after posting this piece, we received some information that confirmed our report. We also received some extra background information on the project, and some minor clarifications which are posted below:

  • The screenshots containing “real cars” were in fact for a separate project, simply titled “Concept”. This was going to be a “realistic racer” that was set to follow after the release of Juiced 2. Only one track was ever made for this concept however, and the game was never developed further.

  • Split Shift was originally going to be called “Arc”, but the studio had to change the name as there were rumours that the PlayStation Move controllers were going to take that name. The studio didn’t want to risk a dispute, so instead opted to change the name proactively.

  • There were several race events already in the works, ranging from traditional time attack and head to head races, to more original concepts. One such event, called XP scramble was described as a race that “had you running around finding XP orbs that launched randomly from a set point”.

  • As suspected, the cars did have the ability to transform. The four different modes players could transform between were a default car, a racer, a quad bike, and a motorbike. One source described the process as such: “Each offered a different way to race and was up to the player when you wanted to switch.”

  • The first area, pictured in the images above, was a mountainous region that was fully playable and near completion when the game eventually got cancelled. A second area described as “An apocalyptic sinkhole” had just entered the early stages of development but never managed to get much further than a rough concept. One source describes how the whole team was taken to watch the disaster movie “2012” to help give them some inspiration for the sinkhole map.

  • The size of the mountain region was approximately the same size to that of the city area in Burnout paradise
 

Diddy Kong Racing Adventure [GameCube – Cancelled]

Diddy Kong Racing Adventure is a planned but ultimately canceled GameCube game developed by Climax Studios. Thanks to a video research made by PtoPOnline we know that the game was pitched to Nintendo sometime after April 2004 although no official date could be found. The story had to do with Wizpig coming back for a rematch with Diddy Kong and friends. If Wizpig wins, the forest will be paved over. To defeat him, you have to go through several villages (16 to be exact, 3 courses each + mirror mode). These villages were themed after a good character from the Donkey Kong Country franchise (excluding Wizpig’s lair). Each item was under a baddie’s control and to free it, you would have to first beat the baddie in a one-on-one race than show your worthiness by finding an item or something similar. You could control quads, plans, buggies, jet skis and hover scooters, these vehicles were fully customizable.

Upgrading and customizing your vehicle could help you find hidden areas. You were also able to change potion on the vehicle to maneuver across paths and get max speed. You could also jump onto other vehicles mid-race. Many characters from the original Diddy Kong Racing were in this installment although this might have not been this case if this game had actually released due to the rights to some characters staying with Rare who was recently bought by Microsoft. This game would be like many other kart racer games except each character had their own special attack. Characters from other games like Banjo Kazooie and (surprising) Conker’s Bad Fur Day were also considered although since Rare was bought by Microsoft as mentioned before, this was unlikely. There were some unique game modes too like knockout mode, a demolition derby type mode, and even a Simon says type mode. Huge props to Andrew Borman for sharing this interesting prototype!

Article by Joe H

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Space Race [Cancelled Pitch – MegaDrive / Genesis]

Space Race was a game being pitched by Warren Spector to Origin for the Sega Genesis / Mega Drive either on cart form or for the Sega CD. According to pitch documents, Spector was looking for concept approval so they could then create the script. Space Race could have also been developed for PC as well and would have required 4 Megs of RAM and a 320 x 200 VGA. The PC version would have been based on Wing-3 technology and had the possibility of modem/network play.

The game is described as a 3D racing game with a difference and was likened to Road Rash and Super Monaco Grand Prix, but taking that intense racing action into outer space, with the player at the helm of a futuristic space-racing ship. The basic plot for the game would have been based in the distant future mankind has met a myriad of alien races in the solar system, and they together have created a championship of space racing that would pit the very best from each planet against each other.

Some of the design elements promised within the pitch document were that the ships would be customisable so depending on your race style or the course, you, the player would be able to make alterations to your ship to suit.

Some of the tracks are also described, there would be tracks that would have a road type surface, but more interestingly there were tracks that would be wide open and would have no horizontal or vertical constraints and as long as the player touched the appropriate checkpoints they would continue in the race. There would also be enclosed winding tunnels with walls made of energy that if the player touched them their ship would take damage but nothing is described as to what this would affect.

A few race types are mentioned, there could be straight up races where no contact between vehicles would be allowed, but there were also planned demolition derbies where it would be last vehicle standing. When the player wins or ranks in a race, they would earn points for their standing in the Space Race championship and money so they could upgrade their vehicle.

All of the items described may seem like it could be quite hard to implement on the Sega Genesis but Warren Spector said “Technologically, I don’t think there’s anything challenging in here, and the design would be a piece of cake, one of the simplest we’ve ever done.” The proposed budget for developing the game was $200,000 for the Sega Genesis but would have been higher for a PC version.

Also pitched was that the drivers and ships could be licensable allowing for more revenue to be made from the game if it was a success. Spector believed that the only game that was being developed at this time that was close to Space Race was CyberRace for the PC and that looked like it was going to be a hit. CyberRace can still be played using DOSBox emulation, but the game came out with middling reviews and was described as “Stylish but not very good”.

This could be one of the reasons that Space Race was not taken any further than this pitch, but as all of the information that can be found about this game is in this document, it is hard to obtain anymore details. If you do have any more details please feel free to contact us.

Many thanks to Joe Martin for the document.

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Ferrari 360 Challenge [PS2 – Cancelled]

Ferrari 360 Challenge is a cancelled racing game that was in development by Brain in a Jar Games and it would have been published by Acclaim for the Playstation 2. It was one of the first announced PS2 games from Acclaim and it promised an arcade racing engine with two main racing modes, eight different circuits, limited car deformation and two-player split-screen multiplayer. The project was officially cancelled in august 2000, because of high development costs and undisclosed troubles with the Ferrari license.

Thanks to Celine for the contribution!

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Full Auto (Inertia) [PC – Cancelled]

Full Auto, also know as Inertia, was one of the first prototypes in development  (in 1997) at Pseudo Interactive and it’s interesting to notice that it had the same name of a game developed by the same company and released in 2006 for the XBOX 360.  Inertia was a car combat game too and we can wonder if this proto influenced somehow FA 360. As we can read in one of developers’s site, the game “… suffered from problems such as feature creep, code bloat, and scheduling overruns, and was eventually cancelled shortly after being featured at Microsoft’s Gamestock ’99 press event. However, the publisher was impressed enough with the potential shown by the game to continue their working relationship with Pseudo Interactive, which is how PI came to be one of the first third party developers working on a title for the XBox console…the title that would in the end be known as Cel Damage.

Some more info can be found in an old press-release:

Players maneuver futuristic combat vehicles and battle their way through the rich, alien and interactive world of “Full Auto,” an advanced 3-D vehicular shooter game. As a car-warrior for hire, gamers custom-build their battle cars and prepare for intense combat missions and death-match battles. Players pit their skills against evil corporate mercenaries or sophisticated mechs in either single-player or Internet multiplayer mode via the MSN™ Gaming Zone (http://www.zone.com/). Players succeed by increasing their wealth and improving their car in this intense, nonlinear action game.

Unrestrained gameplay. Players devise unique strategies on the fly, manage their resources carefully, and uncover hidden surprises in 27 interactive, unrestrained and highly replayable missions, battle arenas and racetracks.

Customizable vehicles. Players design their battle vehicles from a large selection of options — cars, weapons, engines and accessories — to meet the challenges of precision driving and intense shooting battles.

Huge interactive environments. Players delve deep into the secrets of a strange alien planet as they progress through 17 challenging missions, including exploration, assassination, demolition and high-speed chases. Skills are honed in one of 10 arenas as users compete in events such as races, death-match combat, “Capture the Flag” and more. While a special tutorial mission makes gameplay easy to learn, “Full Auto” is difficult to master.

Thanks to Hey Hey and Vicente for the contributions!

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