K Project (REZ) [Dreamcast – Beta / Prototype / Unused]

K Project was a testbed for the game that would eventually become REZ. The developers United Game Artists came from the now defunct Team Andromeda, which produced the Panzer Dragoon games, and it was from this pedigree that K Project would draw its basic gameplay style of an on-rails shooter. Playing the game consists of guiding a cursor around the screen and locking on to enemies (up so several at once) by holding down a button and releasing it to deliver attacks. However whereas both the Panzer Dragoon series and K Project are both on-rails, K Project lacks certain abilities found in those games; namely being able to change your view at will and branching paths.

Heavily influenced by the works of surrealist painter Wassily Kadinsky, K Project’s unique visual style was an attempt by the developers to invoke synesthesia; or seeing sound. In order to achieve this the only soundtrack in the game consisted of a looping beat playing in the background, and the sounds made by the player as he shoots items and enemies. Nearly all of the music in each level is of the techno or trance variety. Indeed those two genres are so ingrained in the games design philosophy that the final title of the game was said to be inspired by an Underworld song of the same name.

Originally the team had concepts of the playable “character” being in a big chair with crazy woofer speakers and a much more hip hop soundtrack. Then REZ went through a very organic phase, undersea microscopic creatures and stuff, which kind of survived the transition into the current form (as in the final level).

The final version contains tracks that were not in the beta, all of them custom made for the game as opposed to original artist made tracks in the beta. Also visually the finished game has a greater emphasis on a wireframe aesthetic and several different avatars.

Thanks to Jake we found that there was a file in the beta, called 0GDTEX.PVR it had the K-Project CD cover design on it, it was purple and had some purple airplane thing with a human rider and said KPRJ, whereas the same file in the final was green and purple, had a butterfly on it and said Rez.

Also, Jake extracted every single texture from REZ and the beta, finding some more differences. It seems that at some point REZ was going to have a difficulty display on the area select menu. A list of the music artists that were originally meant to be used in the game was also found:

N—-World was Underworld, their music was implemented in the beta, but was never allowed into the final.

Richard.D.James (Aphex Twin)’s music could not be used, and was not implemented.

Ken Ishii’s music was not implemented yet.

The Chemical Brothers are the same as Aphex Twin.

Adam Freeland is the same in the final.

While there were some ideas to make the game a bit deeper, using 2 or 3 buttons, Mizuguchi insisted it stay very minimal so everyone could enjoy it. Thats also why they included the trance mode, where you basically cant die so even people who suck at games can enjoy the game.

From the REZ promo video it’s possible to notice various differences:

Beta target reticules. A square (seen in the work in progress video #3), and a circle.
Text is displayed at the bottom of the screen, and only for the Password protector and items.
Area2 uses the beta boss area.
Area4 doesn’t have the ‘dot’ texture implemented yet.
Beta area1 enemy.
Different coloured ‘fish’ enemies in the area3 boss.
The player seems to have different colours for different levels. I don’t ever remember a bright green version of the player in Area3, or a white one in Area4.

In the “test” files from the beta, Jake also found the original “bigger enemy” from stage 1, that it was later changed towards the end of the game because the art director decided he didnt like it, and made the final “bigger enemy” with the one big fin hanging down. The beta enemy had bright blue tentacles and waved all over the place. Some more old moldes from the early protos are hidden in the code too:  it took a while to nail down the aesthetic and how  to approach everything visually in REZ.  Those “squares enemies” all transformed into different shapes in time with the music, and the other two are prototypes of undersea microscopic life, that were almost decided on before the team found the tron-like aesthetic they ended up going with.

More interesting beta elements where noticed by Chris while trying debug menus the leaked Rez beta on his dreamcast.

I’m going to call the debug features “modes” for the moment because I dont know the proper terms. Setup: DC controller in port A, Keyboard (hello kitty jp board) in port B, DC mouse in port C Emulation has issues if you want to access Mode 2 debug. Keyboard has disabled keys if hooked up to a PC (see images).

Mode 1 debug
-Nothing overly noteworthy other than accessing the normal debug tools (on the final as well tcrf covered this well)
-Hitting the key circled in black brings up a nice quick select menu (this has been covered but the actual key is of note)
-Hitting the key circled in red toggles the Mode 1 debug console input

Mode 2 debug
-Accessed by hitting S2 on the keyboard (circled in blue)
-Allows a whole new set of tools I haven’t seen anywhere so far (See images and video if needed)
-F1-F6 all have a tool set with it
-Mouse is usable
-Right clicking allows the options of “debug menu” “user menu” “font size” (small medium large) and “exit” (boot to DC home menu and “main loop”)

-Stage 06 – boss rush (bosses are different in how you attack them, as well as how you piece back the white character in the end – see video ive attached)
-Sound test binary missing (no surprise. SNDTEST.BIN)
-Stage 06 final segment (rebuilding the character) contains FMV copied directly from the Digital Film Library (cannot find the source itself)

The second video below was also recorded by Chris, it shows off Stage 06 and contains some removed models and mechanics.




Unity (Jeff Minter) [GameCube – Cancelled]


Unity was a shoot ’em’ up being developed by Jeff Minter and published by Lionhead Studios for the Nintendo GameCube . It was in development from the beginning of 2003 until its cancellation at the end of 2004. It was to feature Jeff Minter’s trademark psychedelic graphical style, meshed with an interactive music component. The music was to be provided by someone who was well known and appropriate for the game’s style, but the participant was never revealed.

Unity was so highly anticipated that the UK games magazine Edge featured it on its front cover, with a full 8 page preview in the same issue. However, the project slipped off the release schedules soon after. Some of the UNITY technology could have been reused for Space Giraffe, the Jeff Minter’s game available for the XBOX 360 Arcade and PCs. [Infos from Wikipedia]

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Oltre ad essere una delle più grandi icone del mondo dei videogiochi (o forse anche per questo), Jeff Minter sembra avere una particolare predilizione per i progetti falliti. Sono infatti ben note le sue collaborazioni con Atari e VM Labs, puntualmente terminate con il fallimento di Jaguar e Nuon. Meno conosciuto, ma altrettanto controverso, è forse questo Unity per Gamecube, titolo annunciato nel dicembre del 2002 e sviluppato sotto l’egida di un altro nome celebre del settore, Peter Molyneux, che avrebbe pubblicato il gioco attraverso i Lion Head Studios. Unity è stato sviluppato completamente dal solo Minter, nel suo “tempo libero”, fra un giro per i boschi ed una controllata alle pecore della sua fattoria inglese. Il programmatore è infatti un personaggio decisamente particolare e folkloristico del panorama videoludico: un po’ Hippy di altri tempi, Jeff è arrivato alla fama nei primi anni 80 con la sua Llamasoft, producendo quasi sempre da solo dei titoli molto bizzarri per Commodore ed Atari (Attack of the Mutant Camels, Sheep in Space, Gridruner, ecc.). Minter in seguito ha sviluppato il Virtual Light Machine, un sintetizzatore luminoso per il Jaguar CD, che produceva immagini e luci psichedeliche, attraverso l’ascolto di qualunque CD musicale.

Il progetto VLM è stato molto importante per aver dato le basi allo sviluppo di Unity. Come potete vedere dagli screenshots in queste pagine, Unity non era altro che l’ennesima variazione dello stile preferito del suo creatore: uno sparatutto ambientato in uno spazio particolarmente fantasioso, una specie di REZ molto più integrato con le variazioni musicali della colonna sonora. Il motore grafico / sonoro modificava lo scenario al ritmo delle canzoni, evolvendo continuamente tramite il sintetizzatore luminoso, creando in questo modo le più bizzarre tonalità cromatiche.

La novelty consisteva nel fatto che rispetto ai precedenti shoot’em’up di Minter, Unity avrebbe dovuto vantare anche sezioni libere, a là full-range mode di Star Fox 64, oltre che alcuni livelli a scorrimento laterale. Il giocatore avrebbe preso il controllo di un astronave luminosa, una Fenice che volava per scenari lisergici, sparando ai nemici che somigliavano a meduse, anchessi creati seguendo le tonalità sonore.

Strano a dirsi, ma un titolo che sembra cosi dipendente dalla musica, era stato presentato per l’unica volta in video nel 2004 senza sonoro, lasciando anche un piccolo mistero. Jeff non ha mai rivelato chi fossero gli autori della colonna sonora di Unity, ma affermò più volte i contatti con un nome celebre del panorama musicale elettronico, forse gli stessi Underworld, che hanno accompagnato la visione di alcuni Tech Demo del motore grafico VLM.

Unity è stato purtroppo cancellato, probabilmente a causa della lentezza dello sviluppo (portato avanti dal solo Minter), che era arrivato ormai al periodo finale della vita del GameCube. Con l’uscita delle nuove console (XBOX 360, PS3, Wii), sarebbe stato un suicidio commerciale concludere il gioco, su di una console ormai morta.

In seguito Minter ha lavorato sul visualizzatore musicale incluso con l’XBOX 360, il nuovo VLM chiamato “Nuon”, che molto probabilmente ha riutilizzato parti del progetto Unity. Il Nuon Engine è stato poi utilizzato anche da Space Giraffe, sempre di Jeff, uscito nel 2007 per Xbox 360 Live Arcade. Purtroppo il titolo per GameCube, ironia della sorte per un sintetizzatore luminoso, non vedrà forse mai la luce. Il motore grafico / sonoro di Unity sopravvive però nei 2 progetti per XBOX 360 e possiamo sperare che il progetto originale venga un giorno recuperato per Wii, magari grazie ai download su HD.

Non è infatti un caso che Space Giraffe sia stato rilasciato mentre Unity no: al di là del fatto che il Gamecube non era esattamente la scelta migliore, progetti così inusuali sono perfetti per la sempre crescente pubblicazione di titoli distribuiti solo in formato digitale.



Unity: Gamecube Beta Demo