SRPG

Blue Vault (Elixir Studios) [PC – Cancelled]

Blue Vault is a cancelled sci-fi strategy game similar to Syndicate / X-Com, that was in development in 2004 by Elixir Studios, the team lead by Demis Hassabis, a skilled programmer who co-created Theme Park and worked with Peter Molyneux during their Bullfrog and Lionhead days. Players would take the role of a secret team of agents with the mission of stopping aliens from invading our planet, while hiding their existence from the population.

At the time Elixir Studios had released two interesting but ill-fated games: “Republic: The Revolution” (2003) and “Evil Genius” (2004). Blue Vault would have been their third project, offering players more than 30 missions to resolve using strategy combat, managing the squad’s finance, keeping up the team morale and upgrading their skills. During missions civilians must have been protected but at the same time you had to not let them know what was really happening. As we can read from IGN:

“Blue Vault’s strategy element involves the usual research, resource-gathering, unit recruitment and skill advancement, but the team is going into a lot of detail that’ll be “almost to an RPG level” according to Sutherland. There’ll be 40 unique unit characters, each with their own features, toolset, stats and hopefully, voice. “X-COM missions were quite similar with very little characterization. We want to push the character element further, so you really care about your teams. Imagine each Blue Vault operative shouting orders or screaming in agony with a different voice.”

Some more details were published in PC Zone Magazine (issue 141, May 2004):

“[…] tension is the crux of the gameplay, so  even if you manage to deal successfully  with an interplanetary nuisance, if you  scare the bejesus out of too many people  – what Elixir is calling ‘culture shock’ –  you’ll fail the mission

Ops are your standard tactical soldier,  whereas Indigo Ops are your elite  troopers that utilise alien technology.  Obviously, the latter are more adept at  dealing with space tourists, but you have  to be careful not to freak out bystanders,  who will notice their strange uniforms and  hybrid weaponry.

Engineers, on the other hand, repair  stuff, allow you to recover valuable alien  artefacts, hijack cars to build barricades  and also reinforce any cover-up with  visible evidence, such as releasing  weather balloons to explain that bizarre  ‘meteorological event’ annoyingly  witnessed by dozens of people.

Finally, there are your Conspirators –  the ‘Men in Blue’ who’re crucial for crowd  control and ensuring that you protect the  populace from mass panic caused by first  contact. This is where Elixir’s ‘stimuli system’, also used to a certain extent in  Republic, comes into play, where  individual Al-controlled characters react  to things they see and hear. So, if a member of the public has a  glimpse of alien technology, for example,  or is confronted by a Blue Vault soldier  pointing a gun at them, they’ll become  fearful, but this will soon recede if you  manage to tell them to move out of the  danger zone. However, if the person is  left in the vicinity of an alien visitor, they  will go into culture shock, meaning they’re  so scared and irrational that they  become a danger to themselves. In this  case, you quickly have to use your  Conspirators’ special persuasive powers  to calm people down, or you’ll quickly fail  your objectives. Up to 1,000 people can be rendered on screen, with up to 3,000 polygons each.

Blue Vault has a total of six alien races  and 15 different model types with  emergent behavior, so it’s extremely  important how you deal with the  combat and containment of these  creatures. “If you get it wrong, say a  friendly alien race comes along and you  decide to blow them back to the Stone  Age, the next time they appear, they’ll be  aggressive,” says Hewitt,  “take the time to find out about them, work with them, then next time  they’ll be more helpful.” Elixir is working towards a total of  more than 30 scripted missions, ranging  from rescuing and escorting a stranded  alien so it can repair its vehicle and  launch, to a spaceship full of warlike  alien convicts that crashes in a  downtown leisure zone on a  Saturday night. There’ll also be  random spanners in the  works, such as an  epidemic of  intergalactic  spores that bury  themselves in  human skin.”

Unfortunately in 2005 Elixir Studios was faced with serious financial problems. Their publisher abandoned Blue Vault, possibly because Republic and Evil Genius did not sell as expected. It seems the team tried to pitch the game to other publisher, possibly using a possible “Men in Black” license, but without any luck. With no money to keep the studio alive, Elixir had to close down: Blue Vault and all of their other planned projects (Republic Dawn: The Chronicles of the Seven , Evil Genius 2) were canned and lost forever.

Thanks to Ross Sillifant and Josef for the contribution!

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Goddess Saga (Team Eternity) [GP32 – Cancelled]

Goddess Saga is a cancelled strategy RPG that was in development in 2002 by Team Eternity for the ill-fated GP32 handheld console. The game was quite hyped at the time for its gorgeous graphics and interesting gameplay mechanics. Players would have been able to choose between 19 character classes to create their own squad, to fight turn-based battles with dozens of warriors on the field. The adventure would follow a 24-hour time cycle, with passing days that could affect battles and quests.

Unfortunately most screenshots that were once uploaded on the official website seem lost forever. If you have a backup of those images, please let us know!

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Project V13 (Strategy RPG Version) [PC – Cancelled]

Project V13 was the codename originally used for Interplay‘s original attempt at creating Fallout Online, an overly-ambitious MMO that was initially in development in 2006 by Engage Games Online, then by Micro Forté and in the end by Masthead Studios, before to be finally cancelled.

The original Project V13 MMO was canned after a lengthy court case with Bethesda as Interplay lost the rights to make the MMO using the Fallout IP. Interplay could have probably tried to rework their MMO into an original IP, but we can assume they understood it would have been difficult to successfully develop and complete a quality MMO without enough money and without a recognized IP to work with. That’s when they decided to redesign their game as a classic isometric turn-based strategy RPG using a new setting, but still similar to the original two Fallout games. This kind of project is something they could have easily completed with way less money, using their previous experience on strategy RPGs.

To work on this second version of Project V13 Interplay decided to reconstitute the previously closed Black Isle Studios, using their fame to hype up the game, even if only Mark O’Green and Chris Taylor were back from the original team. In december 2012 Interplay and Black Isle opened a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to create a prototype of their new strategy RPG, raising slightly over $6000.

Donating to the campaign gained access to the Black Isle Forums on which they posted updates and pieces of concept art from the game, as well as a picture of the tabletop prototype that they were using to test out the rules for the digital game.

Here’s the original details available on the Black Isle website / crowdfunding campaign:

“Project V13 (PV13) is the first planned Black Isle Studios release in years, a post-apocalyptic strategy RPG. You will create a character to represent yourself within the game world. Your character will be a hardy adventurer from a variety of backgrounds; one of the last remaining humans, a new breed mutant, or a technologically advanced cyborg. The choice is yours.

Once you have determined your character’s background, you will found your “colony”. From a deserted city, a broken down military base, or even the ruins of an oil pumping station, the colony will be yours to rebuild and control. Attract non-player characters for guards, peons, scientists, and other activities. Or, if you are the type that so desires, shanghai the NPCs. Put them to work rebuilding your society and improving your colony.

Meanwhile, you will experience grand adventures to gather the resources and ancient technologies as well as fight back the enemy hordes. Your character will gain experience, advance skills, learn new talents and gain access to incredibly powerful equipment. Or die trying.

Explore the world, meet friends, and fight your neighbors for control of resources. PV13 will be your chance to rebuild a devastated world.

Project V13 cancelled Black Isle second SRPG

About the Team

We’re an experienced team of game developers. We love the post-apocalyptic genre and want to do something exciting with it. PV13 has been in development for years, but we’ve had to make some major changes recently. We believe the changes are for the better and we’re excited about working on this new iteration of PV13.

We Need Help

But we can’t do it alone. We need to raise money to put together a prototype. We need more developers and staff. This is a big world we’re developing.

The prototype will be a “proof of concept“. It won’t have the entire world or a finished game. We’ve got some great ideas, but they haven’t been tested in the crucible of actual play. We need time and money. We’ll have most, if not all, systems in the proof of concept. We’ll be able to run around the world, interacting with NPCs and objects, basic combat, building and worker management, and test the other core gameplay mechanics.

We can then use this prototype to raise the additional funds necessary to complete the game.

Our backers will have immediate access to a private forum, where you will be able to interact with the developers. You’ll have the earliest possible access to the friends and family beta test towards the end of development. You will be able to influence the game’s ultimate direction by providing valuable feedback.

Sounds great, but what will you do with my money?

We have been working hard behind the scenes to resume operations as Black Isle Studios. Since we are no longer constrained by licensing issues, we have the opportunity to build a new IP from the ground up and there is a lot more latitude to unleash our creativity, try some new ideas and even incorporate your suggestions. Our goal at this stage is threefold: 1) prove to management that you want Black Isle Studios resurrected – and all the history and tradition of excellence that goes with it; 2) to continue to staff up BIS and complete our PV13 game design; and 3) to develop a tech demo/ proof of concept for our design that will open the doors to additional funding.”

Unfortunately feedback on this new project was not very good, only hardcore fans of Black Isle and old-school strategy RPGs supported the crowdfunding campaign, it was not enough to really develop a playable prototype and raise more funds. Interplay quietly removed any references to Project V13 from their website, the supporters’ Forum were closed down sometime later and there are no official statements on what happened to it.

As wrote by machiavalium on Reddit:

“After seeing it and realizing it was months past the deadline, I decided to check it out again and see where the project stood. It hasn’t changed much at all, in fact the ability to donate was still up and running until August 15th, 2014, eight months past the original deadline and two months past the Forum deadline. They ended with only $6,630 (Campaign Successful!), with donations trickling in once every couple months according to their feed.

They haven’t provided public updates since January 3rd, despite continuing to take donations for another eight months. Did anyone around here contribute? Has anyone heard any news? Or was it really just a shady cash-grab by Black Isle/Interplay?”

Only a few concept arts and a photo from the tabletop test-game remains to remember this unreleased project. On September 2016 Interplay sold off all their remaining intellectual properties and video game assets, ending their long troubled existence.

Thanks to True Patrician for the contribution!

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Heroes of Might and Magic 5 [PC – Alpha / Beta]

Heroes of Might and Magic 5 is a turn-based strategy game developed by Nival Interactive and published by Ubisoft in May 2006, as a reboot of the series. As we can read on Wikipedia Ubisoft acquired the rights to Might and Magic as far back as 2003, when 3DO filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. At the time New World Computing were already working on a new 2D Heroes of Might and Magic for 3DO, but when Ubisoft bought the franchise they ditched NWC’s versions to start a new, fully 3D game. In 3 years the new version of HoMM5 changed a lot and thanks to a leaked alpha version of the game we can see many of these “beta differences”:

– the interface is completely different in nearly every respect with a lot of prototype stuff

– hero portraits are completely different (Isabel is a photoshop of Kate Beckinsale)

– many creatures have different textures

– the priest/inquisitor has a different model, which was replaced when Games Workshop confronted Ubisoft for plagiarism

– many structures have different models and textures

– different sense of scale in the adventure map, much closer to Heroes 3 (in retail version everything is bigger and more “epic” than practical)

– battlefields of varied size (some battlefields are smaller than the one size in retail)

– the town screen is very different, a static 3D shot similar to previous games (in retail it’s an elaborate flyover)

– only one scenario/map, and the map doesn’t exist in the retail game

– only one faction (Haven)

– there is no world of Ashan (Ubisoft’s fictional world from the retail game), it’s set in Axeoth (the world of Heroes 4)

– different and reshuffled/repurposed music

Thanks to Erwin for the contribution!

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Mobilesuit Gundam MSPlatoon.com [WonderSwan Color – Cancelled]

In 2001 Bandai announced Mobilesuit Gundam MSPlatoon.com for WonderSwan Color. However the game concept, known during production as “the Net Gundam“, first concept was in 1997 when developers at Bandai started to think to create a Gundam game designed to work over the Internet. MSPlatoon.com was a strategy game that allowed gamers to play as a soldier for the Republic of Zion or the Earth Federation and engage fights in operation plans announced every week by server-side so to battle with other humans online. Over the time you could even become a leader of your chosen side.

The online component was guaranteed through the WonderGate, an add on that allowed the WonderSwan to access to NTT Docomo network, or through a special cartridge to connect with a PC (see image below). This interesting title, the first multiplayer online game for a dedicated handheld system, was planned to be released in autumn of the same year but seems the concept was far too ambitious so Bandai quietly cancelled the project.

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