Stealth

Velvet Dark [N64 / GameCube – Cancelled]

Velvet Dark is a cancelled spinoff / sequel to Perfect Dark, the cult classic FPS developed by Rare Ltd and published for the Nintendo 64 in May 2000. A few months before Perfect Dark was completed, Duncan Botwood (Production Designer on GoldenEye and Level Designer on PD), Steve Malpass (Designer on PD) and possibly a few more people from the original team started to work on this new concept, that would have featured Joanna Dark’s sister: Velvet.

velvet dark: joanna's sister

The relationship between Joanna and Velvet was never fully detailed in Perfect Dark, but Velvet is a playable character in the coop and multiplayer modes, and she is also unlocked from the start to be used as a bot in single player. We can assume that early work on Velvet Dark begun in late 1999 as in january 2000 Rare filed the trademark for the title and later in february 2000 they even registered the domain name for www.velvetdark.com.

Velvet Dark would have been a third person stealth / action game and not a first person shooter as the original Perfect Dark, as Rare wanted to expand their franchise in different genres, especially when such games as Metal Gear Solid and Symphon Filter were super popular on the Playstation. At the time Nintendo wanted to publish cool third person action games for their 64 bit console, so much that in mid 1999 they announced the Tomb Raider inspired RiQa, a collaboration project with Bits Studios that unfortunately never seen the light of day. Rare were also interested in explain more about Velvet’s mystery and her backstory, other than to take advantage of their new Vicon 8 optical motion-capture system that would have been ideal to use for a realistic third person game.

Velvet Dark render for Nintendo 64 and GameCube

Unfortunately not much was done Velvet Dark before its cancellation: a design doc and some concept arts / renders were made but in the end the project was not green lighted for full development. A photo of the cover for Velvet’s design doc was shared on Twitter by Gregg Mayle in July 2015 and it was marked with the date 30 October 2000. If our speculations are correct, the small team at Rare spent about 1 year on Velvet Dark and many gameplay elements were already detailed.

velvet dark design doc by rare ltd

From the design doc index we can read that Velvet would have use some kind of “serum” to gain new abilities, maybe something similar to the “Nectar” featured in Haze by Free Radical Design, the studio composed by a few former Rare employee. There could also have been squad-based strategy elements (probably an evolution of the bot commands used in Perfect Dark N64) and a possible GameBoy / GBA compatibility. As a spinoff and spiritual sequel to GoldenEye and Perfect Dark, multiplayer was also considered for Velvet Dark.

In August 2000 Nintendo officially announced their GameCube at Space World 2000 and one of the tech demos shown at the event was a 3D rendition of Joanna Dark, implying that a new FPS by Rare was already planned for the new console. Even if some work on Velvet Dark was undertake at least till October 2000, we can assume that the game was not developed further because they decided to switch all resources to create the new Perfect Dark Zero, a popular FPS needed to be successful in the American market. A third person action / stealth game was not Rare or Nintendo’s priority anymore. Rare’s last game for the Nintendo 64 was then Conker’s Bad Fur Day, released in March 2001.

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Silent Scope Reboot [Xbox 360, PS3 – Cancelled]

The original Silent Scope was developed by Konami for arcades in 1999, with multiple console ports for Dreamcast, PS2 and Xbox. The game was an on-rail shooter in which to use a sniper rifle to hunt down terrorists, rewarding players with higher score for precise kills and making it more slow-paced than traditional light gun shooters. The game was quite popular and Konami soon developed two sequels, with “Silent Scope 2: Dark Silhouette” released in 2000 and “Silent Scope EX” in 2001.

Most people don’t know that in 2011 Konami wanted to create a reboot of the Silent Scope franchise and asked to Day 1 Studios (the team that had recently worked on F.E.A.R. 3, now known as Wargaming Chicago-Baltimore) to work on a Silent Scope third person shooter for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. The idea was to make this new Silent Scope a stealth based game, as a more arcadey Metal Gear Solid: set in the near-future, this reboot would also have had sci-fi elements as the main enemy that could move so fast that he appears to teleport around.

Day 1 Studios were able to create an early prototype, with a playable demo in a shopping mall to test how the game would have been played, but in december 2011 Konami decided to cancel the project and the studio had to laid off 95% of the team. This was the end for the Silent Scope reboot.

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Heist [XBLA/PSN/PC – Cancelled]

Heist was a stealth action/adventure game being developed by TrapDoor, the independent studio responsible for 2012’s Warp. It was planned as a digital title for Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Network and PC platforms.

Heist Trapdoor Cancelled Temporary Logo

An early logo for Heist.

The Indie Stealth Game That Never Was

Work began on the project codenamed Heist in early 2012, “almost immediately after” development on Warp had commenced, according to one former Trapdoor employee. The game was a high concept, ambitious experiment in creating a 2D stealth experience with slick visuals, seamless combat and intelligent, dynamic AI.

Heist Tradpoor concept art - ballroom level

The greater narrative planned for Heist still mostly eludes us, but the central premise revolved around the player assuming the role of a nameless thief to infiltrate a number of top security complexes, stealing valuable items of interest and escaping undetected. Enemy forces carried taser weapons capable of downing the player in a single hit, meaning stealth was key. 

Splinter Cell: Blacklist [Beta – Xbox 360, PS3, PC]

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist is an action / stealth game developed by Ubisoft Toronto, Ubisoft Montreal and Ubisoft Shanghai, published for PlayStation 3, Wii U, Xbox 360 and PC in 2013. As we can read on Wikipedia, in November 2010 Jade Raymond from Ubisoft Toronto announced that the studio was developing a new Splinter Cell game.

During the Microsoft’s press conference at E3 2012, Splinter Cell: Blacklist was officially revealed with a beta video that you can see below. One major difference is the plot and interactive torture sequence in the beta. After a major uproar from critics, it was announced by the creative director of the game, Maxime Béland that the now dubbed “interrogation” sequences are rendered cutscenes and the only choice made by the player is to either let the target live or die.

Ubisoft responded with an official statement regarding the removal of the controversial scene:

“As with other game features, the storyline evolves as part of the standard development process. Based on how the game has progressed, we felt that this scene no longer fit in the context of the game, so we decided to remove it. Splinter Cell Blacklist, like previous Splinter Cell titles, has always tried to keep the topics and themes relevant and current. Splinter Cell Blacklist explores moral choices and dark themes through the concept of the Fifth Freedom; a recurring theme in the franchise.”

“Definitely we are not going to see when the game’s coming out that there are torture scenes in it. That scene is not there any more,” said producer Andrew Wilson “The first thing I’d say about that is that possibly there was missing context – and in an unabridged snapshot, it seemed like pretty tough material.”

The second major change is the plot: in the beta the group known as The Engineers are a quasi-league of nations rather than a borderless terrorist group that has the national backing of twelve unnamed nations found in the final game.

The level itself was unchanged during development other than who inhabits the camp and level introduction. The camp in the beta was labeled as “ Jadid Basecamp”. In the final game, only the location is given: Mirawa, Iraq. The introduction of the level in the beta has Sam Fisher wearing an enemy uniform and carrying a body into the camp. In the final product, Sam Fisher is air-dropped into the level after enemies near the LZ (landing zone) are eliminated by sniper support.

  • Some minor changes between the beta and final game are:
  • The level’s name colors are changed: green in the beta, white for the released game.
  • Changes in the HUD (heads up display) such as weapon icons.
  • The choice to either kill or spare Jadid Haidos isn’t in the beta.
  • Jadid Haidos’ model is changed between the beta/ released game.
  • Icons for the mark and execute are changed.
  • Sounds for in the process of being detected and finally being detected are changed. Also, the words “Warning” and “Detected” do not appear in the final game.
  • The icons for the three play styles: ghost, panther, and assault are not in the beta.
  • There is no ability to call in an air strike from the Paladin as shown in the beta is not available in the final game.
  • There is no ability to use explosive breaches as in the beta.
  • Drone strike are not as readily available as in the beta.
  • The mission’s endings are changed between the beta and the final game.

Jeff Wheaton noticed a number of notable differences (in chronological order of the video):

  • The level shown is not in the final game. No exact designs are taken from it, though many of its assets do appear.
  • Sam is never wearing the enemy uniform in the final game, nor are there any player-driven animations of him carrying an unconscious or dead character.
  • At no point in the final game do button prompts appear in any language other than the selected localization
  • The animations for most of the stuff in the cutscenes are absent from the final game.
  • The icons for marks in the final game are slightly different.
  • A lot of cutscene dialogue never appears in the final game.
  • A lot of HUD differences
  • Several plot differences. In the final game, the Blacklist is masterminded by a borderless group of individuals calling themselves The Engineers, not a group of nations.
  • Different sound for being detected. The final game also does not feature a “Warning” message.
  • The Ghost, Panther, and Assault point indicators are absent from the entire demo.
  • There is no instance of being able to trigger a UAV strike in the manner shown in the demo in the final game.
  • Jadid’s dialogue is different than it was in the final game, and no Spare or Kill option is given.

Very interesting nonetheless! Thanks a lot to Jeff and Matt Redmond for the contribution

Beta Video:

 

Thief: Deadly Shadows [Beta – Xbox / PC]

As we can read in Wikipedia, Thief: Deadly Shadows is a stealth game developed by Ion Storm and published by Eidos Interactive in 2004 for Xbox and PC. After Looking Glass Studios, the developer of the original two titles, went out of business in 2000, many former employees moved to Ion Storm Austin. Here they began developing the long-anticipated third part of the series, Deadly Shadows. It is the last game produced by Ion Storm before its demise in February 2005.

The idea originally was that Thief: Deadly Shadows would let you customise difficulty similarly to in System Shock, with you able to tweak how smart the AI was, what your objectives were and so on. It’s a feature which survived until the last betas, but was suddenly cut out of the final game due to the extra work it created for testers. Instead, Thief: Deadly Shadows only has the usual Easy/Normal/Expert skill settings from the older Thief games.

You can get more detail on the cut, as well as RPS co-founder and comics writer Kieron Gillen’s take on the game, in the Unlimited Hyperbole Podcast. If you have more info, screens or videos with beta differences for Thief 3, please let us know in the comments below!

Thanks to Joe Martin for the contribution! 

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