Rare Ltd

Velvet Dark [N64 / GameCube – Cancelled]

Velvet Dark is a cancelled spinoff / sequel to Perfect Dark, the cult classic FPS developed by Rare Ltd and published for the Nintendo 64 in May 2000. A few months before Perfect Dark was completed, Duncan Botwood (Production Designer on GoldenEye and Level Designer on PD), Steve Malpass (Designer on PD) and possibly a few more people from the original team started to work on this new concept, that would have featured Joanna Dark’s sister: Velvet.

velvet dark: joanna's sister

The relationship between Joanna and Velvet was never fully detailed in Perfect Dark, but Velvet is a playable character in the coop and multiplayer modes, and she is also unlocked from the start to be used as a bot in single player. We can assume that early work on Velvet Dark begun in late 1999 as in january 2000 Rare filed the trademark for the title and later in february 2000 they even registered the domain name for www.velvetdark.com.

Velvet Dark would have been a third person stealth / action game and not a first person shooter as the original Perfect Dark, as Rare wanted to expand their franchise in different genres, especially when such games as Metal Gear Solid and Symphon Filter were super popular on the Playstation. At the time Nintendo wanted to publish cool third person action games for their 64 bit console, so much that in mid 1999 they announced the Tomb Raider inspired RiQa, a collaboration project with Bits Studios that unfortunately never seen the light of day. Rare were also interested in explain more about Velvet’s mystery and her backstory, other than to take advantage of their new Vicon 8 optical motion-capture system that would have been ideal to use for a realistic third person game.

Velvet Dark render for Nintendo 64 and GameCube

Unfortunately not much was done Velvet Dark before its cancellation: a design doc and some concept arts / renders were made but in the end the project was not green lighted for full development. A photo of the cover for Velvet’s design doc was shared on Twitter by Gregg Mayle in July 2015 and it was marked with the date 30 October 2000. If our speculations are correct, the small team at Rare spent about 1 year on Velvet Dark and many gameplay elements were already detailed.

velvet dark design doc by rare ltd

From the design doc index we can read that Velvet would have use some kind of “serum” to gain new abilities, maybe something similar to the “Nectar” featured in Haze by Free Radical Design, the studio composed by a few former Rare employee. There could also have been squad-based strategy elements (probably an evolution of the bot commands used in Perfect Dark N64) and a possible GameBoy / GBA compatibility. As a spinoff and spiritual sequel to GoldenEye and Perfect Dark, multiplayer was also considered for Velvet Dark.

In August 2000 Nintendo officially announced their GameCube at Space World 2000 and one of the tech demos shown at the event was a 3D rendition of Joanna Dark, implying that a new FPS by Rare was already planned for the new console. Even if some work on Velvet Dark was undertake at least till October 2000, we can assume that the game was not developed further because they decided to switch all resources to create the new Perfect Dark Zero, a popular FPS needed to be successful in the American market. A third person action / stealth game was not Rare or Nintendo’s priority anymore. Rare’s last game for the Nintendo 64 was then Conker’s Bad Fur Day, released in March 2001.

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Crackdown 2 (by Rare Ltd) [Xbox 360 – Cancelled]

Crackdown 2 (by Rare Ltd) [Xbox 360 – Cancelled]

The first Crackdown was developed by Realtime Worlds, a company founded in 2002 by David Jones, former founder of DMA Design, the studio behind the Grand Theft Auto series (that later was acquired by Rockstar). This over-the-top open world game was in development for about 5 years and finally published by Microsoft as an exclusive title for their Xbox 360 in 2007. Realtime Worlds were ready to start development on a new Crackdown while they were still finishing the first one, but Microsoft were not sure about it being a profitable game (they even added a code to access the Halo 3 Beta to promote it) and were taking too much time to greenlight the second title.

After Crackdown 1 was released it became a huge success, surpassing Microsoft’s expectations. Quickly Microsoft changed their mind, wanting to publish a Crackdown sequel as soon as possible. Unfortunately at that time Realtime Worlds were too busy working on their ill-fated APB MMO and were not able to develop a new Crackdown anymore. Microsoft did not want to waste time and asked to Rare Ltd to start working on Crackdown 2.

The same team that created Kameo: Elements of Power worked on this Crackdown sequel for a few months along with other lost games as Kameo 2 and Black Widow, before Microsoft decided that Rare would have been better to create games for their Kinect add-on, boosting the casual gaming market on the Xbox 360. Crackdown 2 by Rare was then canned and the project was given to Ruffian Games, a team formed in 2008 by… former Realtime Worlds employee.

David Jones, former Realtime Worlds CEO, in an interview with Game Industry said:

“The bottom line is that what we thought would happen is that a sequel would be done by a studio somewhere… maybe one of the internal studios, or others that they’ve worked with, and that would be the way it went forward,” […] “I think it was unfortunate that it had to be with a start-up in Dundee… it is challenging to get enough developers in one region as it is, so that was the only little big of negativity to the story.”

During an interview with Retro Gamer Magazine (issue 122) Phil Tossell, former Rare developer that contributed to the Crackdown prototype, shared some memories on the project:

“He spent several months working on an early version of Crackdown 2 and has a particular affection for Black Widow, an aborted first-person shooter featuring a spider mech and an ingenious “jump-and-gun” mechanic. […] I think we were handed a poisoned chalice,” he says, wearily. “We were being asked to make the games we’d always made for an audience that didn’t want those sort of games. The reason we did Black Widow, Crackdown and aged up Kameo was because we were trying to bridge that gap but Microsoft wouldn’t let us.”

Rare still kept a small connection with the released Crackdown 2. As written by Rare Gamer: “save data from Crackdown 2 is used to unlock the protagonist as a playable multiplayer character in Perfect Dark XBLA.

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Banjo Kazooie: Grunty’s Curse [GBC – Cancelled]

Banjo Kazooie: Grunty’s Curse is the cancelled Game Boy Color version of the Rare Ltd. project that would later become Banjo Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge, released on GBA in 2003 by publisher, THQ. Initially established midway through 1999, Grunty’s Curse represents the original vision for the title with an alternate storyline, and levels that never saw the light of day.

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The Story

Unlike the game released, Grunty’s Revenge, the GBC game does not take place mere months after the events of the first Banjo. Instead, it begins “a few years” after it, according to design documents recovered by a former Rare employee. Whereas Revenge features a tale about time travel, in which the newly resurrected Mecha-Grunty escapes to the past in order to stop the titular duo from ever meeting, the plot of Curse tried another approach.

The title would have opened with Mecha-Grunty confronting Banjo and his friends, placing curses on each of them (with the convenient exception of Banjo himself), as her reign of terror resumes. She starts by morphing Kazooie into a “monster” version of herself; a larger blue bird with allegiances to Grunty. Then, she transforms Bottles into a “funny creature”, as the documents describe it, before manipulating Mumbo‘s mind into making him attack Banjo. While the two fight, she takes off with Kazooie in tow.

Page 31 - Story Treatment

The hero, however, is soon able to out-duel Mumbo, releasing him from the spell. A determined Mumbo then chases after the villainous witch, but to no avail. In a planned comedy set piece, the character inexplicably falls victim to all manner of bad luck: a black cat pounces on him, he runs under a ladder, before a mirror falls and smashes over his head. When Banjo catches up to him, he finds that Mumbo has been stricken with amnesia as a result of his injuries. His memory fails him, but he is able to recall that Banjo must collect several magical ingredients in order to relieve Bottles of his condition.

Banjo, however, comes to the realisation that he has forgotten his moves in the time since his last adventure. With Bottles incapacitated, he will need to seek out a new mentor to provide tutorials. Thus, he chases down Grampa Mole, the elderly father of Bottles. As development progressed, Grampa Mole would evolve into Bozzeye, the NPC that teaches Banjo in Grunty’s Revenge during his visit to the past.

Cut Levels

Banjo Kazooie: Grunty’s Curse featured two worlds that were ultimately dropped from the slate as time went on. These were dubbed ‘MohendraBanjo’, and ‘Fiery Furnace’ respectively.

MohendraBanjo was a stage set in and around the ruins of a jungle temple in the far East:

Fiery Furnace, on the other hand, is described as a ‘dark industrial’ themed level filled with machinery and fire hazards:

While MohendraBanjo appears to have been scrapped fairly early on in the project’s life span, Fiery Furnace would make it considerably further. It even appeared in a leaked early prototype build for the GBA game, albeit in a largely unfinished state. Due to time and storage limitations, the team reduced Fiery Furnace in size and adapted it into a small part of the Freezing Furnace level.

Fiery Furnace protoype video:

Lost Enemies

We have been able to ascertain that a plethora of enemies were explored during Grunty’s Curse, before being abandoned. In MohendraBanjo world, for example, the developers imagined enemies based around cobras and scorpions, in line with its far Eastern theme. You can see some illustrations of these lost baddies here:

 Deleted Transformations

According to the design plans from October 1999, Rare had originally intended to include the ‘Bee Banjo‘ transformation that first appeared in Banjo Kazooie. This would have allowed players to fire stingers in a straight line to attack foes, as well as the ability of flight for an unlimited period to traverse larger platforming gaps.

Early in development, the team was exploring the possibility of ‘useless transformations‘ too. These were power-ups that served no other purpose than comedic effect; a hidden extra in the game to amuse players. Only one of them was slated to be added due to storage restrictions, but a number of them were being looked into:

Unused Transformation Functions

There were considerations for a handful of secondary functions for transformations that were left on the cutting room floor:

  • Tank Banjo originally was going to allow players to directly control the crosshair for greater precision. Players would tap the ‘B’ button to switch from directional movement to manipulating the aim of the cannon. In the final game, tapping the ‘B’ button does nothing. In addition, the tank originally fired eggs. The Grunty’s Revenge tank, however, fires missiles.
  • Octopus Banjo originally was set to be able to swim faster by double tapping the D-pad in any direction.
  • Mouse Banjo was intended to have a ‘shrinking’ function mapped to the ‘B’ button. This would enable Banjo to manually reduce his size for a limited period to fit through smaller gaps in his environment.

Alternative Level Titles

The documents provided also reveal numerous stage names that were eventually changed over the course of development. Among these are ‘Cottage Farm’, which became ‘Cliff Farm’, ‘Soggy Bog Swamp’ was revised to ‘Bad Magic Bayou’, ‘Freezing Furnace’ was originally ‘Freezing Fjord.

Game Assets

Although a playable prototype of the game in its GBC form is not to have ever been made, we have learned that the team of artists assigned to the project at Rare produced a multitude of digital art assets intended for one in 1999. These included sprites of some of the main characters, as well as designs for UI screens, like a pause menu.

  

Ordinary Joe (Rare Ltd) [Prototype – Xbox 360]

Ordinary Joe is a cancelled prototype for a new survival horror game, that was in early development for Xbox 360 at Rare LTD, designed by Chris Seavor. There are basically  no info about this project, apart from a short interview with Chris at  Rare FanDaBase:

As for projects finished or otherwise, well first there was Killer Instinct (called Brute Force for a time).. then Killer 2, Killer Gold, Twelve Tales, Bad Fur Day, Other Bad Day, Arc Angel, Getting Medieval, Urchin (really regret not pushing harder on this one), PD Core, and a small team prototype my last job as a designer called Ordinary Joe which despite the innocuous name was my take on the survival horror genre (nothing to do with Jo Dark) .

Also, in another interview at Eurogamer:

Chris Seavor: Yeah. We did some tech for it. It was all right. It was okay. But I knew at that point I was never going to get a team to finish this, so it was just a matter of time. I only worked on it for three or four months, and there were three of us in a corner with a big sign saying, keep out. I really enjoyed that period because we were just being really creative. Even though no-one else could give a s**t, we were being really creative and doing some really good stuff. It’s a pity no-one really seemed that bothered, certainly Microsoft, who were only interested in Banjo. That was fair enough I guess.

We hope that in the future someone that worked on this Ordinary Joe prototype could share some images or videos, to preserve the existence of the project. 

Arc Angel (Rare Ltd) [Xbox – Prototype]

Arc Angel is a cancelled futuristic racing game prototype that was in development in 2003 for the Xbox, by a team lead by Chris Seavor at Rare LTD. There are just a few info about this lost project as a nice article at Pure Rarity:

Chris said that for the record Conker 2 was never scrapped; he just didn’t want to do it at the time and that was how Arc Angel was conceived. A nice easy racing game, or so he thought. During the four months he headed it a fair amount of design was nailed down but it eventually proved to be too ambitious. Also, some team members left the company or moved to other projects leaving Arc Angel with a lack of resources. Eventually the game was cancelled and Chris was put on Quest as lead artist.

Some more info can be read in another article from the same site:

He told me Seavor was initially on Conker 2 but then moved onto a racing project which was cancelled. Supposedly he is now on something MMORPG. This was some really interesting stuff but I wanted to find out more about it so I asked Tony Wong as well. He hadn’t heard about the racer but confirmed that the Conker team has been disbanded. As for the MMORPG, he said he couldn’t comment on it since it was not official.

I remembered a post in the FatBabies forums about Nintendo cancelling a futuristic racer and asked Martin if this was the same game. He told me it was the Rare management — not Nintendo — that had cancelled it and that it probably was futuristic. He explained that Nintendo always leave people alone if they produce good work.

Sadly there are no preserved images or videos about Arc Angel. If you know someone that worked on this prototype, please let  us know! We would love to save some screens in the archive. 

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