simulation

Mario Motors (Yoot Saito) [Nintendo DS – Cancelled]

Mario Motors is a cancelled racing / car engine simulation game that was in development by Yoot Saito (Seaman, Odama, SimTower) and Nintendo for their DS. While the game was never officially announced, Saito talked about it during his conference at Reboot Develop 2018. As we can read at Destructoid:

“”During one meeting, Iwata-san asked me a question: ‘Saito-san, what have you been interested in lately?’ I immediately understood what he was getting at, so I answered ‘sculpting chunk.’ Miyamoto-san said ‘huh?!'” (To help explain to the audience what he was referring to, Saito talked a bit about how things like watches, camera frames, and MacBooks are made. Sculpting objects out of metal chunks spoke to him and it was an idea he “really wanted” to make into a game.). […] This kind of sculpting is really appealing to a middle-aged guy like me […] I explained this crazy idea to them and they really listened to me very carefully in complete silence, and finally said ‘that sounds interesting, let’s give it a try. […] The concept eventually morphed into Mario Motors, “a game where you created engines.”

Saito summed it up as “shaving and sculpting out of a chunk of metal to make a cylinder [which then] decides the ability of your engines.” For part of the game he wanted to teach players how acceleration works in an interesting way and thought about having them blow into the DS microphone. “I scrapped this idea because this would cause children to get out of breath,” he explained.

As for why Mario Motors never moved ahead, Saito said “I can’t tell you why, but please guess.”

A few Mario Motors images were shared by Saito and we can see a “2008” date and a Nintendo DS Lite in there, but we don’t know when its original idea was conceived. A similar interactive concept was playable at E3 2004 when Nintendo had a “Carving tech demo” to showcase DS’ touch screen. As we can read in an old Kikizo E3 report:

“The Carving demo removed any doubts I had about DS’ touch screen sensitivity. The demo started by making your selection of a log, a steel cylinder, a watermelon, or a Mario wood sculpture. Whichever item you select is sent to the top of the screen and laid horizontally, then spun. At this point your touch pen becomes a razor sharp carving knife. Touching the object on the very edge only makes a skin deep incision, while moving in deeper cuts away an increasing amount of meat. Most impressive was the surgical precision of the carving on the DS touch screen.”

From the few Mario Motors images available, it looks like Mario would have been instructed on how engines work by an older version of him (?), with white mustache and air.

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Dinosaur Zoo (Dogfish) [PS2 – Cancelled]

Dogfish Entertainment was a rather obscure studio established in October 2000, created by former employees of Bullfrog Productions (Syndicate Wars, Dungeon Keeper 2, Dark Omen). The team worked on many different prototypes, trying to pitch their ideas to publishers. One of these concepts was for a park management game, kind of like a Jurassic Park Sim titled “Dinosaur Zoo“, which around 2001 was green-lighted by Sony as a first-party game, along with another game titled “Horrorville“.

Dinosaur-Zoo-Dogfish-PS2-Cancelled

A prototype and 3D engine were created for the game, but it was still in very early development when it was canned because Blue Tongue Entertainment and Vivendi Universal Games bought the official license to develop a “Jurassic Park Simulator”, later released as Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis for PS2, Xbox and PC. Dogfish though their original game would not be able to compete against the “real” dinosaur zoo IP.

In 2002 Sony decided to cut their collaboration with Dogfish and the company had to close down. Developers went to other companies in the Guildford area, such studios as Big Blue Box, Small Rockets and Lionhead. Every Dogfish prototype is now lost forever, with not much saved from oblivion.

Thanks to Mogens for the contribution! 

Shinbatsu (Gainax) [Sega Saturn – Cancelled]

Shinbatsu (神罰, Divine Punishment) is a cancelled strategy / simulation game that was in development for the Sega Saturn around 1995. The project was being produced by popular animation studio Gainax, just a few months before the first original run of their cult-series: Evangelion.

Shinbatsu-Divine-Punishment-Gainax-Sega-Saturn-Cancelled

Character design for Shinbatsu was done by Kenji Tsuruta, mostly known for his Spirit of Wonder manga. Unfortunately we don’t have much more details about this lost game, but VGDensetsu found a page with a few screenshots and a short preview in Sega Saturn Magazine (March 1, 1995).

If you can read Japanese and could write a short summary of what they wrote about this game, please leave a comment below!

Shinbatsu-Divine-Punishment-Gainax-Sega-Saturn-Cancelled-Magazine 

Geopolitic Shima ni Okeru Kokka Kobo Ron [NES / Famicom – Cancelled]

Irem developed and published many games for the NES / Famicom, such as Holy Diver, Hammerin’ Harry and Deadly Towers. They also had many projects that were never released, and this “Geopolitic Shima ni Okeru Kokka Kobo Ron” is one of them.

This is a really obscure and forgotten strategy / simulation game planned for the Famicom, and only a couple of images were found in a japanese magazine by Youlute.

Geopolitic-Shima-ni-Okeru-Kokka-Kobo-Ron-Irem-Famicom

It seems players would have been able to plan their war against enemy armies, to control the whole world. As it happens with old, cancelled 8 bit games, we don’t know much more about this one: at least we can now remember its existence. Maybe one day someone could find a prototype and share it with the world. 

Serengeti [Xbox, PC – Cancelled]

Serengeti is a cancelled adventure / simulation game originally in development for PC and Xbox in 2001 by Masa Group, a small French company focused on AI-based modeling & simulation software for defense, public safety and games-related markets.

This was an ambitious game that would have been played somehow like Afrika for Playstation 3, but conceived 7 years before Rhino Studios’ own project. You would play as a photographer and wildlife specialist, working in an African natural reserve set in the plains of Serengeti.

Serengeti was about exploring the African savanna, discovering its wildlife and preserving it from dangers (such as illegal poachers). The animal simulation was groundbreaking for its time, using an innovative AI engine that would fully simulate a complete ecosystem, with animals having up to 7 “motivations” (hunger, thirst, territory, mating, etc.). You could sneak on a cheetah and see it start chasing a gazelle, then resting and heading back to the shade. Every time the animals would move and react in a different way, following their “motivations” and creating a living environment to explore.

After a while Masa Group moved its gaming development team into a subsidiary named “Oiko Entertainment”, to expand their video game projects while the main company would continue working on simulation softwares.

More details about Serengeti were found in an old press-release by NatFX, a dynamic 3D plant modeling software that would have been used by the team to generate the game’s savanna with realistic african trees and plants:

“Serengeti’s numerous missions intertwine the player with the life of the park, from capturing sick animals, to recuperating the park’  tourism industry, to tracking rare animals and neutralizing poachers, mercenaries and even kidnappers.

Serengeti’s gameplay is essentially founded on the near-perfect representation of the natural world. The ability to hide behind bushes, tall grass, to take cover in groves and behind tall trees demonstrates the vital importance and direct implication vegetation plays in Serengeti. The vegetation is more than just scenery,  it’s really something that serves a purpose in terms of gameplay.

Set to release in the beginning of 2004 on PC and Xbox, Serengeti will certainly be a first of its kind. Set in Africa, it is an opportunity to use an original universe, different from the usual ultra-realistic war games  which typically occur in similar settings.”

Serengeti’s gameplay and AI-simulated wildlife was way ahead of its time on many aspects, and today it would probably be recognized for its interesting mechanics. Unfortunately in the early ‘00s it was hard to find a publisher for the game.

In the end Serengeti only reached an alpha stage before the team had to stop working on it. It seems Masa Group later closed Oiko Entertainment and Serengeti’s concept could have been sold to Atari / Infogrames, but nothing ever come out of it. The only released game by Masa / Oiko was Conflict Zone, a war-themed RTS published by Ubisoft for Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, and PC.

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