Survival Horror

The Dark Half: Endsville [Playstation, PC – Cancelled]

The Dark Half: Endsville (also known as The Dark Half Interactive) is a cancelled survival horror / adventure game based on the homonymous book by Stephen King. It was officially announced in early 1997, in development by Bits Studios and to be published by THQ and Orion Interactive for Playstation and PC. Unfortunately it seems they never released any screenshot from the game, but details about the project can still be found online in various forms.

In April 1997 IGN wrote:

“T-HQ announced today that it has signed an agreement with Orion Interactive to jointly publish The Dark Half, based on the novel by horror writer Stephen King. The game will be developed by the UK’s Bits Studios.

Also involved in the development of the game will be writers Matt Costello and Paul Wilson, who previously worked on PC titles The Seventh Guest and The Keep, respectively.

Revolving around protagonist Thad Beaumont’s struggle with his evil alter ego, The Dark Half is promised to be a 3D, third-person adventure game, “that will accurately reflect the Stephen King novel,” a T-HQ spokesperson said.”

During their E3 1997 report IGN also wrote:

“A new game for the PC and Playstation will be based on the King novel The Dark Half. The game will be based on Stephen King’s novel about a writer who must struggle with his evil alter-ego. It will be a real time, 3D adventure that contains 28 levels in seven different worlds. The Dark Half: Endsville is forecast for a 1998 release.”

GamePen’s E3.NET published another press release for the game:

“Stephen King, master of disturbing prose, is coming to the PlayStation and the PC next year in fiendish style with “The Dark Half.” The game will be based on King’s eerie tale of writer Thad Beaumont’s struggle with his murderous alter-ego, George Stark. The novel will be transformed into code through the use of two different game engines, one for the pre-rendered world of Beaumont, and one for the rendered-on-the-fly nightmare world of killer George Stark.”

We also know that Jeffery Lieber (mostly known for co-writing the Lost series) would have been the game’s producer, thanks to an old blog post by Paul Wilson:

“I was delighted to see “story by Jeffery Lieber” in the opening credits.  Jeff and I go back to the mid-1990s when Matt Costello and I were scripting the “Dark Half Interactive” project for Orion Interactive; Jeff was acting as producer.  He’s not the least bit squeamish but Matt and I managed to gross him out with our “Birthing Woman” interaction (don’t ask). The project was orphaned and became vaporware when MGM bought Orion.”

More memories about working on the game can also be found in Paul Wilson books “Repairman Jack, and More” and “Aftershock & Others: 16 Oddities”.

If you know someone who worked at Bit Studios in 1997 and could still have some images from this lost game, please let us know!

Thanks to eSpy for the contrbution!

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Jacks of Evil [PC – Cancelled]

Jacks of Evil is a cancelled horror FPS which was in development between 2003 and 2004 at Fear Studios. Unfortunately, little information is known about this game and the team behind it. It was planned to come out in July 2005, but the exact period and reason for its cancellation remain undetermined.

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As stated by a developer in an old interview on GenGamers, the backstory was as following:

“You’re working in secret organization, that opposite Dark Forces. It’s name is “Jacks Of Evil”. People in this organization call each other as “hunters”. Killing creatures of Dark Forces, such as Demons, Vampires, Zombies etc – is their usual work. You are a professional hunter. Your name is Aleksey Gromov. Once our hero is sent to Shanta city in Siberia. It seemed to be usual work, but… something went wrong. It seems that happened we all were aware of. People and Evil cooperated to help each other.“

The Studio also described some ideas they planned to implement in their canned FPS, such as slow-motion effects with motion blur and a damage system. Werewolves, Vampires, Zombies, and Demons were some of the classic enemies players would have to hunt down during the game, giving it some recognizable characters in the horror genre. More ambitious concepts and mechanics were also considered by the team:

“It’s planned to make a game scenario with key scenes, that can be generated randomly. I.e. you are walking through the room and then suddenly you’re attacked by a Vampire. Youīre losing the battle, then loading your save-game, walking to this place and … there is no vampire! And of course there will be different story lines. Probably there will be 3-4 different endings. I think that’s enough for such games.“

Fear Studios also wanted to implement a multiplayer mode, featuring mod-support (to be available soon after the game would‘ve come out) to bring even more variety to the game. 

In the end we can speculate the team did not find a publisher for their project and Jacks of Evil was quietly canned.

Article by Vipaah, thanks to Dan for the contribution!

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Nightfall (Core Design) [PS2 – Cancelled]

Around 2002 Core Design had already completed a few games for PlayStation 2, such as Project Eden and Thunderhawk, both released in 2001, and they were going to complete Herdy Gerdy, an action / strategy puzzle game. During this time they were also working on a cancelled survival / action horror game titled Nightfall, of which unfortunately there is limited information available.

Former Core Design developers we talked to, remember that Nightfall was going to be a game about surviving in an island overrun by werewolves, after the main character crashed there in a helicopter. It seems that before Nightfall the team tried to pitch a videogame adaption of the Preacher comic to Vertigo / DC Comics, but that was soon canned so they tried to develop their concept into a new, original IP. It’s possible that the idea about a Preacher video game was conceived during the same time in which independent filmmaking studios Storm Entertainment and Electric Entertainment announced the pre-production of a Preacher movie, but after a while the film was pushed back (and never realized) because of financial issues.

People that were able to see an early Nightfall prototype remember that it looked great for a PS2 title, but not much work was done on it before the cancellation. After Nightfall was cancelled, Core Design developed such titles as Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness, Smart Bomb and the cancelled Fighting Force 3, until they were sold from Eidos to Rebellion Developments Ltd.

We hope to be able to preserve more info about Nightfall Unseen64 in the future, but for now it remains one of the most interesting and obscure lost games, by one of the most important software houses from the late ‘90s.

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Cleric (Plutonium Games) [PC – Cancelled]

Cleric is a cancelled game that was in development for PC by Texas based studio Plutonium Games, and from what we have found, this could have been a quite unique and interesting project. It was a First Person Survival Horror (game) mixed with puzzle elements, action and role playing.

There were plans to release it around the month of December in 2003 but that didn’t happen. On April 14 in 2004  it was announced it was put on indefinite hiatus or cancelled altogether according to a post on the main website of Plutonium Games. There were hints that they had difficulties finding a publisher for their game:

“After a long trip, it looks as if Cleric may not be made for a long time to come, if ever. I want to thank everyone that has supported us over the years. This site will remain up as will the forums. I have recently (3 months ago) taken a job with another studio (Destineer Studios) as a 3D Artist on their tactical shooter project “Close Combat – Marines: First to Fight“. Who knows? Maybe a few years down the road, I’ll get the opportunity to start Plutonium Games back up again. Until then, I’ll be building up my portfolio & experience with Destineer. Thanks again for all the great support!”

The website isn’t up anymore, and no more information can be found about Plutonium Games anywhere on the internet, so we assume the company no longer exists.

As for more information pertaining to how the game would have turned out, here’s a brief story and design summary. Cleric’s story is set in 16th century Russia and the dead are walking again. Women are disappearing and it is up to Reverend Father Aronos Schuler (the main character of the game) to investigate this mystery and to put an end to the plight of the undead. What was interesting is regardless of his position, he was meant to be a character of little faith and the story would have developed around the mystery of the undead of course but also of the Reverend’s internal struggles. Multiple path scenarios were considered with multiple endings as well depending on the player’s actions throughout the game.

Players would have had 2 different holy symbols to use for their main weapons. These would have given a series of different abilities like flying, sensing danger, re-animating the dead, healing and summoning, to list a few. Some traditional weapons like swords, maces and old muskets would have also been weapons the Reverend could find during his travels. Fore more story and gameplay details, you can check an old Gamespot preview and their image gallery.

Judging from the video, you can tell the focus wasn’t exactly just about shooting since the musket would need reloading after every shot. You have a symbol that repels the undead used like a holy cross and if held long enough, they start to catch fire. It seems the mission was to escort a woman to a shelter whilst protecting her from the undead. Later in the video the reverend approaches a statue and acquires a miracle power that lets him summon lightning to strike the undead!

Lastly, for the last bit of information we have for Cleric, there’s a very interesting interview with CEO/Lead Designer Matthew Doyle of Plutonium Games.

If Cleric had not been cancelled, we believe it could have been remembered as quite the cult classic of its time.

Article by Alex Bérubé

Thanks to Dan for the contribution!

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Justice for Hire (Midway) [Playstation – Cancelled]

Justice for Hire is a cancelled action adventure / survival horror game that was in development by Big Ape Productions, planned to be published by Midway for the original Playstation. BAP was a small studio based in Novato (CA), that worked on such games as Herc’s Adventures, Gauntlet: Dark Legacy, The Simpsons Wrestling and Celebrity Deathmatch. Sometime in late ’90s – early ’00s they got hired by Midway to develop Justice for Hire, but the project was never officially announced and there are no details about how it would have been played.

Only a few screenshots are saved in the gallery below, to remember the existence of this lost game. Justice for Hire featured pre-rendered backgrounds and was set in a modern-day city, exploring worn-down apartments and basements. We can speculate the game could have been similar to Resident Evil or Fear Effect.

In 2003 Big Ape Productions closed down, after most of their projects did not sell as expected by publishers. We tried many times to get in contact with former BAP developers, but with no luck. If you know someone who worked on Justice for Hire and could help us to preserve more details about the game, please let us know!

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