RTS

Captives (Impressions, Sierra) [PC – Cancelled]

Captives is a cancelled real-time strategy / puzzle / adventure game, with an interesting gameplay somehow similar to a mix between Lemmings, Choplifter, Lost Vikings and Blast Corps. The game was in development by Impressions Games (mostly known for such games as Caesar, Global Domination, Pharaoh) around 1996 – 1997, to be published on PC by Sierra Entertainment.

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Next Generation magazine wrote a nice preview of the game in their May 1997 issue, but even if Impressions and Sierra are still quite loved by PC gamers, today Captives is mostly forgotten by everyone. Only a few pages about the game can still be found online in some old websites and Sierra fansites.

“It could be argued that the action/puzzle genre, which took off with the publication of Lemmings in the early ’90s, has languished since the advent of real- time strategy games like Warcraft II and Command & Conquer. Now developer Impressions is trying to remedy that with Captives, a new spin on the formula. The game takes place in a far-off planetary colony, under attack by some decidedly unfriendly aliens, who have taken numerous hostages.

The player takes the role of Dak Ransome, a professional hostage rescuer, who enters the domed city in his combination rescue wagon and tank. Gameplay resembles a  combination of elements from Lemmings and the classic Apple II game Choplifter.

The main idea is to locate a group of hostages, free them using the firepower of the tank, and then use the skills of the rescued captives to open up new areas and free additional prisoners. The four types of captives are civilians, engineers, scientists, and soldiers; only a limited number of each can be found in each of the game’s 25 to 30 levels. The developers are quick to point out, however, that like in Lemmings, many levels will have multiple solutions.

The most noticeable break from the tried and true is the use of a three-quarter, isometric perspective, as opposed to the side-scrolling, 2D which has been the norm, even for such recent action/puzzle releases as Lost Vikings II. While not yet fully 3D, the perspective still manages to open up the playfield considerably, giving a sense of scale and size often missing from the more simplified graphics of a Lemmings or Humans.

Overall, the game should  combine a fast pace with humor and an easy-to-use interface. Multiplayer support is planned, and a level editor should be released sometime shortly after the game itself hits the shelves. With its high-res graphics and new approach, Captives could fill a niche the computer game industry hasn’t really seen in a while.”

It sounds like this could have became a fun and fascinating cult-classic, but unfortunately something went wrong during development: Captives was never released. By looking at the screenshots and short trailer available, it looks like the game was quite far in development: maybe one day someone could find a playable beta to share it to the world? It would be great to preserve this lost piece of PC gaming history.

Thanks to Moritz for the contribution!

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Codename: Xtreeme Forces [PC – Cancelled]

Codename: Xtreeme Forces was a squad based real-time strategy action game, combining elements of fast-paced first person shooter with wide perspective and worldview of a RTS. Development started off in November 2003 by Raptor Entertainment, with a release scheduled for 2005 on PC. A playable demo was also made available for gaming journalists. Raptor Entertainment developed their own 3D engine from scratch called “XF Engine”, to use for their commercial projects.

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Gameplay was described as anything but a typical shooter. It was planned to have players interact and talk with many different characters and objects during their missions. All of this was to have a somehow realistic gameplay and different characters relationships. 

Squad-control and RTS-based mechanics were to be implemented too. Additionally, the game’s advanced A.I would have helped to carry out realistic dialogues with NPCs. Missions would open out as you play along, alternating between parts of break-necking action and intense strategy planning.

 The story of Xtreeme Forces was described as following

“The Soviet Union was born in violence. The bitterness of its birth left behind a hankering for peace. This drive for stability was subverted by the still nascent Communist government into its own ends. A comprehensive effort was made to institutionalize the rule of the party and to centralize it. The economy was nationalized and a virtual one- party rule was established. A centralized bureaucracy was entrenched within all organs of the state and eventually within all facets of life. The revolution then turned stale and became exactly what it professed to abhor.

The builders of the soviet empire had systematically destroyed any semblance of self expression and will the populace might have had, making them dependant on the state for everything. Central dependencies were actively created and imposed on the people with ruthless brutality. The empire was thus tragically flawed and when it collapsed under its own ideological discrepancies, it left behind a vacuum. And chaos quickly slipped in to take control.

The Soviet Union had stood for years as a bulwark against ethnical and regional strife. The dissolution of the empire let loose the tensions and discord which had been simmering  for centuries and had been controlled with swift and brutal repressions of a police state. Added to the potent mix were the legitimate aspirations of the people which had been denied for so long under the soviet empire.

As the state started to collapse itself, it became increasingly difficult for whatever little structures of authority that were left, to accept the voices of independence. Wars erupted and the years of perceived or real slights and differences erupted out into the open.  

The joker in the pack was of course the Mafiya. For years the ‘vor y zakone’ had been the lubricant which had kept the state machinery humming. It thrived on chaos and began to move in where the state left off. The Mafiya networks transcended all boundaries and permeated all walks of life. Ruthless and armed with purpose when no one around them had any, it became strong and firmly entrenched within the fabric of all that had once been Soviet. And then there is you……”

A whole range of different vehicles (such as trucks, jeeps etc) and a wide collection of weapons would have been available in the game. A multiplayer mode was in development as well, but it was set to come out at a later point of the games lifespan. Xtreeme Forces contained a custom level-editor as well. Finishing the story-mode would have taken about 12-13 hours of gameplay.

Due to the lack of support from publishers, the team had to give up on Xtreeme Forces in 2004. A new design document was written in 2008 in an attempt to revive the game, but unfortunately they still did not fund a publisher interested in funding their project. By then, the game was fully abandoned.

Initially Raptor Entertainment started working on Xtreeme Forces in order to test out their 3D engine, possibly to use it for other, following games. In the end it seems the team never released any commercial project and they soon vanished without traces. 

Article by Vipaah, thanks to Raupidu and Dan for the contribution!

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Hogs of War 2 [Cancelled – Wii, PS2, PC]

The first Hogs of War is a turn-based strategy game developed by Infogrames Sheffield House (Gremlin Interactive), released for the PlayStation in 2000. While the game received average reviews at the time, it soon became a cult-hit and many years later (2008) Infogrames officially announced a sequel for Wii, PlayStation 2 and PC, titled Hogs of War 2. A Nintendo DS version was also announced, but we can assume it would have been much different from the others.

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Hogs of War 2 artwork was preserved by the Gremlin Archive in their awesome book, with some more details about the project:

“Hogs of War II was started as a concept by the Infogrames Sheffield House team, but never materialized. Was cancelled at Gremlin by Infogrames, passed by Sumo Digital and then cancelled again by Atari (Infogrames) after Blitz Games (Oliver Twins) had started a DS version I think.”

Some images from this cancelled sequel are preserved below, to remember its existence. At the moment we don’t have any screenshot from the lost Nintendo DS version.

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Goblins (Psygnosis) [PC – Cancelled]

In the mid / late ‘90s Psygnosis was one of the most prolific and loved development teams for the original Playstation, releasing such fan favorite projects as Wipeout, Destruction Derby 2 and Colony Wars. At the same time they also worked on lots of cancelled games that never seen the ligh of day: titles such as Team Buddies 2, Entropy, Blood Bowl, ODT 2, Mutatis and many more remain forgotten even by most of their hardcore fans.

Goblins is another lost Psygnosis project we don’t know much about, that was in development for PC (and possibly Playstation?) around 1997 by their San Francisco office. Some images and 3D animations were published online by former developers, such as Cristopher Gray, Egan Hirvela and Matthew Carlstrom, preserved in the gallery below to remember its existence. 

As far as we gathered it would have been some kind of real time strategy / adventure game, in which giving orders to a group of Goblins.. somehow like a mixe between Pikmin and Lemmings. In the end it was canned when the studio closed in late 1997 / early 1998:

“You’ve heard the rumors for months that Psygnosis’ San Francisco-based internal developer studio was closing its doors. Well, the company is confirming those rumors today as it trims about 20 employees in its latest in a series of belt-tightening measures to achieve cost efficiency and higher profitability. Officially, Psygnosis says that the main reason for the studio closure has to do with location. The company’s US headquarters is located only 15 miles south of the city, and having two locations seemed inefficient.”

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