simulation

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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Frontier (Origin Systems) [PC – Cancelled Pitch]

Frontier is a lost PC game pitched by Warren Spector  to Origin Systems with a planned to ship date of Q2 ’94, and was described as a system simulation of the taming of the old west. The high concept of this game was that the player would be a pioneer and they would have to explore and settle a new nation. The player would have to choose what route they would take, the Oregon Trail, the Santa Fe Trail, what time of the year they would travel, how many settlers would travel with them and where they would eventually stop.

Origin systems logo

Once the player had decided where to settle they would then choose what they would like their settlers to specialize in like farming, mining or becoming a rancher. The player would then have numerous natural disasters they would have to deal with like earthquakes and floods, natural predators, “Indians” (Native Americans), and what is described as “bad men”. There would also be NPC players that would be direct competition to the player.

The players initial goal was to attract new settlers to their settlement so that they can start a community and make a prosperous new town, this would lead to trains stopping at the town, mail routes, and banks. Ultimately the goal was to attract the county seat and then the state capital so that your settlement could request to become a state, but the player could decide how they would get there, striving to keep their settlers happy or becoming a rich tycoon.

Interestingly this game was pitched as more of an educational game that was akin Civilization, Sim City and Railroad Tycoon, they were looking to attract the audience of these games but were also looking at it being utilized in schools. This would have been Origin’s first simulation, and as far as I can see this game went no further than this pitch document.

Many thanks to Joe Martin for the document.

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Simcity 3000 [Beta – PC / Mac/ Linux]

In 1997 Maxis announced Simcity 3000 and had a full trailer. The trailer was rendered full in game using the game engine. The trailer was not well received due to fan concerns that the game would be too powerful for then current gen hardware. Maxis later announced that the spring 1998 release would be pushed to Spring 1999. In under a course of 1 year, Maxis redeveloped the game from scratch, which turned out to be the game we got today. The full 3D aspect Maxis wanted for the simcity series finally returned 10 years later in the 2007 game, Simcity Societies.

The video below is the exact trailer shown at E3 1997:

The official reason for the delay and redevelopment was:

Originally, Maxis planned to make SimCity 3000 a full 3D game. Although employees thought the idea was impractical, the management pushed the idea. After a year of development, the game was graphically on par with SimCopterand Streets of SimCity. The game was displayed at the 1997 E3; the experience is still considered an embarrassment and the game was expected to fail at the time.

Later, in 1997, EA acquired Maxis. Luc Barthelet was assigned as general producer to Maxis. He decided that 3D graphics weren’t viable and brought Lucy Bradshaw to lead the project. The 3D graphics were scrapped in favor of sprite-based graphics. Instead of focusing on 3D, they expanded the core gameplay. This version of the game did better at the 1998 E3 and was well-received upon release.

The game that was scrapped would of featured a sim mode and drive mode, which were not present in the final build. However, they were restored in Simcity 4.  The full 3D aspect returned in the 2007 game, Simcity Societies. 

More photos of the scrapped build can be seen below:

Thanks to the Simcity Wiki for the information.  

F-Tank [Tech Demo – Saturn / PSX / PC]

In development by Titus Software, F-Tank was a 3D futuristic tank simulation planned for PC, Saturn and Playstation. The game main attraction was the compatibility with a Virtual Reality headset to enhance the player immersion. The VR-project was never released for these platforms, but it seems that the game evolved into “Metal Rage: Defender of the Earth“, released in 1996 for PC-Dos.

Scans from Mega Force issue 36, CD Consoles 4 – february 1995 + CD Consoles 8 – june 1995.

Thanks to Youloute for the contribution!

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Mafioso [XBOX – Cancelled]

Mafioso is a cancelled strategy / simulation game for the original Xbox, in which the player was going to be an italian gangster, on his way to became the boss of the city. The project was created by Teleplan Development Studio, but probably they never found a publisher interested in the game. Teleplan was closed and Mafioso was never released. As we can read from the official press release:

Mafioso features advanced AI, incredibly detailed characters and vehicles, a complex reputation and diplomatic system, a feature-rich economical structure with legal businesses, money laundering operations and illicit activities, all set up in a huge 3D urban environment.

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