third person shooter

Ghost Wars (Digital Reality) [PC – Cancelled]

Ghost Wars is a cancelled strategy shooter that was in development around 2004 by Digital Reality (mostly known for Imperium Galactica and Sine Mora), planned to be published in 2006 on PC by Hip Interactive. The game was quite ambitious for its genre, as you would have been able to play it as a traditional real-time strategy game or impersonate each soldier in your unit to play it as a first / third person shooter.

“Based on the Government Special Operations Group, “Ghost Wars” takes players into the clandestine and secret war against terrorism. Players take control of air, land and sea units of an Elite Special Forces group across multiple top secret missions. With the graphical quality of a first person shooter, “Ghost Wars” will offer gamers the most accurate depiction of modern day warfare to date.

Through Battlefield View, “Ghost Wars” brings the theatre of war to life. Gamers are not only tested on their strategic senses, but also on their ability to react quickly under enemy fire by directly controlling individual units. By setting up, equipping and planning troops’ activities, gamers will need to utilize state-of-the art weapons and technology to defeat terrorist networks.”

The game was also playable at E3 2005, GameSpot published some favorable comments on the demo:

“You’ll have the typical type of units, including soldiers, tanks, helicopters, and such. However, what makes Ghost Wars unique is how you control them. While you can just use the typical kind of point-and-click movement, you can also select a specific unit and zoom the camera in to take its viewpoint. If you choose a soldier, you’ll go into first person, and if you pick a vehicle, you’ll go to third person. From there, you can control that unit manually, attacking whatever you like. Soldiers can also get into parked vehicles on the field and drive them.”

“Units in the game will be upgradable in a number of ways, letting you specifically level up individual units to improve their performance on the battlefield. And you’ll need to level up, because Digital Reality is endeavoring to make the opponent AI in the game quite challenging. AI units will run for cover and hide inside buildings, meaning you’ll have to bring in your tanks and choppers to take those buildings down. And boy, can you. Though not all the deformable objects were in, the developers showed us quite a number of big-time building and vehicle explosions that looked pretty impressive.”

While Ghost Wars looked promising, Hip Interactive closed for bankruptcy in late 2005. The game was canned, with many more of their projects, such as “Call of Cthulhu: Destiny’s End” and “George Romero’s City of the Dead”.

Thanks to Dan for the contribution! 

DogTag (DiezelPower) [PC, Xbox, 360 – Cancelled]

DogTag is a cancelled shooter that was in development around 2005 by DiezelPower for PC, Xbox and Xbox 360, to be published by British company Digital Jesters. It was going to be a third-person squad based shooter, featuring cover mechanics and basic orders that could be given to teammates. It would encourage players to use the environment for defensive and offensive maneuvers, with blindfire, flanking and enemies that would counter tactics being used against them.

For the gaming press some of its elements drew comparisons to other cover-based shooters such as Kill.Switch and the then-upcoming Gears Of War, but DogTag had a slightly different gameplay style in mind. By mixing the fast action gameplay of traditional shooters and the slower, tactical combat of games like Full Spectrum Warrior, DiezelPower wanted to create a breed of game in which both these styles would come together. It would create a gritty, but arcade-like tactical shooter, in which players would have to think to defeat their opponents, but could also have fun in fast-paced shooting. Online co-op was also going to be a major feature.

The story would have certainly helped with that grittiness. Described as “controversialby publisher Digital Jesters, the plot focuses on one of the civil wars that frequently ravage a large number of nations in Africa. After a United States-backed group is forced to retreat from the conflict, the U.S. sends in a battalion of Marines to replace them. For reasons unknown, however, the colonel of this battalion revolts and leads a mutiny against his own country. The U.S. once again send in a small elite force tasked to bring the colonel back for questioning. Hell breaks loose when they arrive in Africa, as they are immediately met with heavy resistance from the rebelling American forces, starting a long fight that would pit U.S. soldiers against each other, something rarely seen in a video game.

The most obvious inspiration for the storyline would probably be Apocalypse Now, but it is also eerily similar to another controversial title that would come out in 2012: Spec Ops – The Line (which also featured streamlined tactical combat and a story about a U.S. force led by a mutineering officer and the special ops team sent it to capture him, with the setting changed to an evacuated Dubai stricken by a catastrophic sandstorm). But if the storyline in DogTag was intended to be as psychological or as critical of violence as it was in Spec Ops: The Line, it is unknown.

DogTag was to be released in 2006, and would have been a next-gen title at that point in time. Initially, it would only be released on PC and Xbox, but an Xbox 360 port was planned later on with added content. However, it seems the game was not meant to be.

Towards the end of 2005 publisher Digital Jesters became the center of controversy when it faced several accusations of wrongdoing from many of their business partners. These accusations included lack of payment for games developed by external studios, price changing and selling of games in territories not covered by their contracts, and doing business under different names in what seemed like an attempt to escape financial troubles. Despite a substantial investment that Digital Jesters claimed had left them “110 percent financially secure”, KaosKontrol (the company that owned DiezelPower) petitioned the UK High Court to force Digital Jesters into liquidation, in what is known as a winding-up order. Legal action was also threatened against the key people in the company directly and many of their publishing deals were cancelled. The Digital Jesters website disappeared not long after that.

KaosKontrol claimed that it still owned the rights to DogTag, that its development was not affected and was ready to seek out another publishing deal for their game. However, nothing else was heard about it. With the team presumably unable to find another publisher and left in financial trouble (and possibly accumulating legal fees) they had to close down some time afterwards. DiezelPower themselves seem to have survived in some form and are still around to this day, with their two most recent games, Nation Red and Versus Squad, being available on Steam.

Article by António Pedro Pinto

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Reign Of Thunder (Day 1 Studios) [PC – Cancelled]

Reign Of Thunder is a cancelled mech arena combat game that was in development by Day 1 Studios around 2011 – 2012, planned to be released on PC as a Free to Play title. The team previously worked on the Mechwarrior series for Microsoft (with a cancelled Mechwarrior 3 pitch), so fans were quite interested in a new mech game by Day 1 Studios.

The game was going to support up to 16 online players, with fully customizable mechs to fight in deathmatch, team deathmatch and objective based modes. As we can read in their (now offline) official website:

“Reign of Thunder is a free-to-play fast paced multiplayer action oriented Mech combat game currently slated for the PC. The game features deep customization options allowing players to create and customize Mechs to match their play style, choosing from thousands of weapon, shield, and gadget combinations. Players can also join factions and form clans to support community engagement and team play.”

Some more details were shared in an interview by Neowin:

“Ever since we shipped MechAssault 2 we’ve been eager to return to the Mech genre and really take advantage of current generation hardware.  Recently a window of opportunity to do this presented itself so we’ve jumped into this game with incredible enthusiasm.  It’s been something we’ve talked about doing for a while and now we’re finally able to bring this opportunity to life.

One of our goals for Reign of Thunder was to create a property we could have ownership of.  The other universes are well developed, but the next step for Day 1 Studios as an organization was to create something we own and have control over.  Reign of Thunder was the next logical step in our business plans. Additionally, we wanted to take the game in a creative direction that just would fit some of the licensed products.

At the moment the bulk of the gameplay experience revolves around online competition.  There is a training mode to allow players a chance to familiarize themselves with how their Mech controls and get to know the maps.  At the moment all of our efforts are being directed towards the online competitive experience.”

Reign of Thunder was announced in February 2012, but just a year later Day 1 Studios were bought out by Wargaming, renamed to “Wargaming Chicago-Baltimore” and the game was put aside to focus the team on World of Tanks console ports.

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Starfall (Hyboreal Games) [PC – Cancelled]

Starfall is a cancelled loot-shooter RPG that was in development around 2005 – 2006 by Hyboreal Games (later known as UI Pacific), a forgotten team formed by former Blizzard North developers, who previously worked on such games as Diablo, Diablo 2 and the cancelled version of Diablo 3. You can imagine it as a third person shooter with settings and gameplay similar to a mix between Halo and Diablo, plus a comic-book art-style. We can speculate it would somehow have been similar to what Borderlands became when published in 2009.

As we can read on the old Hyboreal Games website:

“The company is establishing a new best-selling game franchise by applying the proven formula of mass accessibility, addictive game play and longevity through replayability. Hyboreal Games was founded by Eric Sexton, Michio Okamura and Steven Woo, all industry veterans and former developers for Blizzard North where their contributions were essential to the success of the highly acclaimed Diablo franchise which has sold well over 13 million copies worldwide.

Hyboreal Games has enlisted the outsourcing services of FlipSide Game Studio in the development of the first project. FlipSide Games was founded by Jon Morin, our long time friend of nearly a decade and former co-worker at Blizzard North. FlipSide Games has already been hard at work helping us on the First project for the past few months.”

Unfortunately the team never showed any in-game screenshot for Starfall and only some concept art is preserved below, to remember the existence of this lost project. We can read some details about their concept for the game in an old interview by Shacknews:

Shack: Have you been in talks with any publishers or other sources of capital, and are you concerned about the financial challenges of this endeavor?

Eric Sexton: We have just started talking with publishers about our current project. Starting your own business is always challenging, but the team is confident in our project and our experience as game developers.

Shack: What can you tell us about your first title?

Eric Sexton: Our current project is a 3D, Science-Fiction, Action RPG. It’s Halo meets Diablo with all the fast visceral game play of third person shooters merged with the character advancement and item collection of a role playing game. You can explore the planets of the galaxy, customize your spaceship and choose the path of your character while deciding the fate of the galaxy.

Shack: The few pieces of concept art available for your project suggest a perhaps more colorful or vibrant aesthetic than that of the Diablo series, where most of the team’s roots lie. Is this indicative of the direction of the game?

Eric Sexton: We do want to go with a slightly lighter look. The art we have up on our page is a preliminary direction, but we are still exploring the “look” of the game universe.”

Hyboreal Games soon vanished without any trace, so we can assume they never found a publisher interested in Starfall.

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Ugo Volt [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3, PC]

Ugo Volt (AKA FLOW: Prospects of Mayhem) is a cancelled FPS – TPS Adventure game that was in development by Move Interactive around 2005 – 2007, planned to be published on Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC. The game was officially announced in 2006 and it was shown at E3 of the same year: graphically and stylistically it looked like a strange mix between Halo, Too Human and Fable, with cross-settings between sci-fi and fantasy.

As we can read on IGN:

“Ugo Volt will switch from third-person view to a first-person perspective as players move through these two areas of the game, but we didn’t see much of any gameplay mechanics.

[…] In the near future, global warming melts the polar icecaps and floodwaters ravage the earth, covering all but the highest altitudes. (Waterworld?) Things, well, things don’t look good. Out of the ruins, the World Order Corporation harnesses nanotechnology to construct buildings and sanctuary for the population quicker than humanly possible. As the world’s savior, mankind gives ruling power to the World Order Corporation, which by expertly misleading the population, gradually takes away more and more liberties from the population, and eventually goes so far as to instill a dictatorial leadership, complete with emperor and creepy throne room (Revenge of the Sith?).

In 2031, in order to create the first advanced human prototype, the WOC selects a worthy man and woman to give birth to and raise the child. The prototype will use powerful artificial implants and the test period will last 60 years. If successful, mass production will begin. The child’s name is Ugo Volt. At 15, one of Ugo’s neurotransmitters malfunctions and sends out a shockwave that pushes his father into a pit of molten lava. […] Ugo internalizes his anger toward the WOC and eventually creates an alter-ego bent on revenge.”

By looking at available footage Ugo Volt seems like an interesting project. There’s something fun in its style and setting that could have made it enjoyable to play, just like watching a b-movie with friends. In prototype videos we can see some of the first-third person shooting gameplay: the protagonist uses special powers to resolve physic-based puzzles and some kind of black-hole gun, which attracts objects scattered through the levels to use them as projectiles (somehow like the Gravity Gun in Half Life 2). You could also assembly and edit your weapons to create new ones by mixing their parts together, open up shooting gameplay to experimentation.

Unfortunately it was still in early development when the team had to put the project on-hold, for lack of funds. They started working on a tie-in game for Portuguese TV series Floribella, receiving some money from SIC publisher. This was not enough to keep the company afloat and without any new investor interested in Ugo Volt, Move Interactive was closed down in 2008.

Thanks to Dan for the contribution!

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