RTS

Hordes (System 3) [PC – Cancelled]

Hordes is a cancelled real-time strategy game that was in development by System 3 around 1998, planned to be released on PC. At the time the company was quite beloved by gamers, thanks to such titles as The Last Ninja, Myth, International Karate, Putty and Constructor, but they also worked on many fascinating cancelled projects. While Hordes is listed on the official System 3 website under their unreleased projects, not many details are available online.

A short preview and a few screenshots from the game were published in Edge magazine (issue 55, 1998) and concept art is available on Dan Malone’s portfolio.

“Tipping the usual good VS bad story on its head, Hordes is a PC strategy game of commendable difference. The player controls one of three unholy “Clags” gods: Arclite, Cankor and Blacrot, each of whom has a particular theme. Blacrot’s hordes, for instance, can attack with various rot-based weapons. […] Hordes is intended to be far more action based than many of its contemporaries, with the player having 36 counties to battle through before reaching the seat of the Light Queen Edwinia. With 3 different forces to play, 36 levels and a totally non-linear plot, Hordes should have a serious amount of longevity.”

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Epsilon Conflict (Starbreeze Studios) [PC – Cancelled]

The Epsilon Conflict is a cancelled sci-fi RTS game that was in development around 2001 by Starbreeze Studios and O3 Games, planned to be released on PC. The game was focused on the pro-gaming/ e-Sport community and the team recruited two top StarCraft players (Guillaume Patry “Grrrr…” and Victor Martyn “[9]eVERLAST”) to help design gameplay and mechanics.

The project was still in early development when announced and unfortunately they never showed any screenshot. Players would have been able to choose between three factions (similar to the Zerg, Protoss and Terran in StarCraft) and lead their army in a multi-scenario campaign with optional missions. Epsilon Conflict would feature almost 40 different types of units and 9 heroes with unique abilities, gaining experience and new skills, just like in an RPG.

Starbreeze Studios and O3 Games focused most of their efforts on the multiplayer mode, with an Anti-cheat system and audio / text chat between teams and allies. We can find some of the planned features in the original press release:

  • Easy and transparent rules of the game that allow you to fully develop your tactical potential.
  • Adapting SI making its own strategic decisions.
  • Navigation point system.
  • Campaign for single-player gameplay with integrated training.
  • A dynamic story evolving in 30 missions, with several decisive tasks.
  • Cooperative mode for single player.
  • Campaign editor.
  • An open storyline with an easy way to expand with additional campaigns and scripts.
  • Anti-cheat system in multiplayer mode.
  • Innovative system of communication between teams and allies.

And interview with Marco Ahlgren (lead designer of the game) was also published on Stomped:

“There will be 3 totally different sides in the game. They will have different production systems, supply systems, tech trees. In short they have totally different game play. That allows for a rich playing experience where you can just play another side when you start to feel bored of one type of game play. We reveal no details about the different sides at this point though.

36+ heroes. We are making a lot of cool/crazy units. This is one of the design phases that I enjoy the most. The craziest units have to be carefully tested though. But you would be surprised if you saw the wicked stuff that we come up with.

We have studied the present multiplayer modes on some different RTS titles. That experience tells us that making 25 different multiplayer modes is no good. The community will settle for the 3-4 best ones anyway. We will have 4-5 well worked through modes. The whole game is suited for tournament play.

We want to make the single player experience more like an “InteractiveMovie” where you as player should get sucked straight into the game and forget the world around then waking up after 5 hours saying, “Wow.” =)

We are working on a E3 prototype at the moment. It is all up and running already, but there is still a lot of functionality left to be implemented. If we wanted to, the project should be signed already. But it is very important to get the “right” publisher for this project. The publisher has to be of a certain size and it is very important to belong to the publishers highest priority titles. It is very easy to get lost somewhere amongst 50 title releases. We demand an 100% commitment.”

A year and a half after the start of the project, the Epsilon Conflict  was canned. Rumors say the game turned out to not be as fun to play as they hoped for and Starbreeze Studios apparently feared it would not withstand competition against other RTS.

If you know someone who worked on this lost game and could help us preserve screenshots or videos, please let us know!

Thanks to Josef for the contribution! 

Clan Wars (DMA Design) [Cancelled – PC]

Clan Wars is a cancelled real time castle siege / tower defense strategy game set in medieval Scotland that was in development around 1998 – 1999 by DMA Design, the studio that created such popular games as Lemmings and the first Grand Theft Auto, and was later renamed to Rockstar North.

Previews for the game were published in a few gaming magazines at the time, such as Next Generation (issue 51, March 1999)

“DMA’s third title for ’99 is perhaps the  most interesting (and certainly the most  commercial). Still in the early stages of  development, Clan Wars is a real time  action / strategy game with (surprise, surprise) a unique twist. Instead of mining  resources, amassing forces, and crawling  around a map a la Command and  Conquer (and every clone since), you  simply decide whether to attack or defend for the duration of each battle.

The attacking force spends its money on building siege engines and arming its  troops, and the defending force spends its  resources building the best castle it can to  defend itself from the attackers. Once the  building period is over, the game switches  to the battle, which is played out in fully  scalable realtime 3D.  And this time, the  graphical bells and whistles are all present  and accounted for.

As in Tanktics, the real joy of the  game comes from manipulating the environment. Building a castle to withstand the onslaught of either a CPU  or human opponent, is — quite literally —  only half the battle, but it is incredibly  engrossing, it’s easy to see why. iIt’s a toy  that appeals to the kid in all of us — the  kid who never grew up and still has a  great time messing around with building blocks (or, in this case, parts of castles).”

The game was probably canned when DMA was bought by Gremlin Interactive and the team had to focus on finishing Body Harvest for the Nintendo 64. As we can read on Nostalgia Nerd’s article on the history of DMA Design:

“Riding at the peak of it’s creative output, DMA Design was then duely snapped up by British publisher Gremlin Interactive in late 1997. Impressed with DMA utilising their 3DMA graphics engine efficiently, and with plans for newer titles such as Clan Wars and Attack (both of which were cancelled) Gremlin wanted to closely collaborate with the existing DMA team and Dave Jones was quickly shuffled to the role of Creative Director.”

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Crimson Order (Kinesoft) [PC – Cancelled]

Crimson Order is a cancelled squad based tactical game similar to X-Com and Rainbow Six, that was in development by Kinesoft around 2000, planned to be released on PC. The project was quite hyped at the time, but possibly too ambitious for a small team mostly used to work on PC ports of existing games. IGN and Gamespot were quite impressed with the game’s concept, as we can read in previews and interviews published on their websites:

“The way you play the game is by controlling Mark Prophet (with a point and click interface – mouse with keyboard shortcuts), and by giving your team orders. They act out the orders based upon their background, skills, equipment, and experience level. Leadership and command decisions are more important than micro managing and frenetic clicking. Essentially each level is very much like a sandbox, and you can complete any objective in any way you wish, given the tools you carry or can find.”

“If you were a fan of X-Com: UFO Defense and Rainbow Six, then there’s a good chance that you’ll like this one. It’s really a great little mix of those types of games that seems to be mixing into a nice little concoction. It takes the omniscient view of the X-Com type games and adds in the real-time strategy and control of a squad based tactical action game. What you get is a smooth and easily controllable piece of work that many gamers will likely be very excited to see.”

“Objectives in the final game range from infiltration, search and destroy, search and rescue, and full destruction of enemy installations. You lead a team of resistance fighters behind enemy lines and your job is to disrupt their effort.”

“Don’t think that you’ll be able to use the same troops every single level until you have a super squad either. In order to keep this from occurring, fatigue has been made an important part of your consideration for whom to bring in with you. Characters actually need downtime to relax and heal.”

“Every character that you see in the game, both enemy and friendly, will have certain features attached to them as well. They can all hear, they can all see (in the direction they are looking), and they can also think. An idea that they are kicking around is the idea that characters will also have a scent trail so that dogs will be able to hunt your team down.”

“As Prophet fights his way through the game, he will come across additional characters who will join the resistance. Some of these characters must be liberated from enemy prisons. As the pool of available characters grows, selecting the best team members for individual missions will become more important.”

“The architecture of the Tan’Khar will also reflect their physiology, armor pieces will fall off of your soldiers when they get damaged, and even different levels will have very different looks that will reflect the functionality. For example, if you are in a refugee-processing center, you will see the groups of prisoners being shuttled around and well as guards wandering on patrol both inside the complex you are in and outside the walls.”

“So all of this will take place over 19 missions and five major locations (with varied environments in each of these) in a close quarter combat tactical exercise. You’ll get the chance to participate in a storyline that Kinesoft hopes will keep gamers enthralled.”

“The game also features huge living environments that will react to the way you play the game. AI in the game is also impressive looking with enemies reacting in different ways to different situations. The really cool AI is actually the script running the members of your team. You can give them commands that will make them act on their own in specific ways.“

As far as we know the team never showed any in-game screenshot from Crimson Order, so we are not sure how much of the game was really completed before its cancellation. Unfortunately hyping up the project did not help their case and Kinesoft closed sometime in 2001, after filing a lawsuit against SoftBank for issues on a previous contract.

Thanks to The Kinsie for the contribution!

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Tribal Lore (Gremlin) [PC – Cancelled]

Tribal Lore is a cancelled “tribe-building resource management” strategy game that would have been published by Gremlin Interactive in the late ‘90s. The team used a sophisticated mix of polygons and sprites for the game’s graphics, which looked quite impressive for its time. Gameplay would have been similar to Command & Conquer and Age Of Empires, but with a Celtic mysticism twist.

We can read some more details from the original Tribal Lore PR, preserved by the Gremlin Archive among some concept renders:

“Tribal Lore is a 3D magic ‘n’ combat strategy game, with a mind-blowing AI, set in a mystical pseudo-Celtic environment. Set in the mythical ‘Land’, Tribal Lore explores the relationships, alliances and frequent squabbles among four arcane races: the Cruithná, the Shamanka, the Bruann and the Nammad.

Players can choose to take control of any one of the four tribes, each with its own distinct graphic and gameplay nuances. The careful management of the environment will allow growth of wealth & technological resources, allowing the construction of an array of  temples, armouries, strongholds and fortresses.

Exploration will give access to magical sites allowing accumulation of major power. In Tribal Lore, magical power comes from your surroundings, and can be ‘tapped’ via dolmen, menhirs and other standing stones. Your druids can channel this energy in a variety of ways: morphing the terrain, affecting weather conditions, devastating foes or empowering heroes.

Further options including a scenario game (with missions & a slowly unfolding plot experienced from four perspectives) and full four-player network capabilities put Tribal Lore in a league of its own.”

Fantasy novel authors Jay Northearn worked on the game’s story, and shared some memories on the game’s cancellation:

“All seemed well, then wham – out of nowhere the publisher pulled the plug and the project, and all my work, was forever consigned to the slush pile. I was later told it was a financial decision made by people far removed from studio development. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

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