third person shooter

The Sandman (Silicon Knights) [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3]

The Sandman is a cancelled third person shooter / action game once in development at Silicon Knights around 2009. While the game was never officially announced by the company and we don’t have any details about its story and gameplay, by looking and the remaining concept art preserved in the gallery below we can speculate the main character was somehow able to control some kind of “dark matter”. This power would form different objects and demons around the protagonist, with an effect similar to sand flying around him. This is probably the reason for the “Sandman” name and as far as we know the game was not related to the omonimous Vertigo comic in any way.

The world found out about this lost game because of some old resumes, leaked concept art and a disastrous legal case. As we can read on Wikipedia:

“On May 2012 Epic Games defeated Silicon Knights‘ lawsuit (opened in July 2007) and won its counter-suit for $4.45 million on grounds of copyright infringement. Silicon Knights was directed by the court to destroy all game code derived from Unreal Engine 3 and to permit Epic Games access to the company’s servers and other devices to ensure these items have been removed. In addition, the studio was instructed to recall and destroy all unsold retail copies of games built with Unreal Engine 3 code, including Too Human, X-Men Destiny, The Sandman, The Box / Ritualyst, and Siren in the Maelstrom.”

Some more details on the fall of Silicon Knights were published on Kotaku in October 2012. On May 2014, following the loss of the court case, Silicon Knights filed for bankruptcy. As far as we know, every The Sandman file had to be deleted, so it could already have been lost forever. As Epic Games had access to Silicon Knights’ server, someone may have saved parts of their cancelled games. We can only hope one day someone may be able to share more screenshots, footage or details from these projects.

If you know someone who worked on The Sandman and may help us to save something more from the game, please let us know.

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Shatterman (Angel Studios) [Hasbro Toaster VR – Cancelled]

Shatterman is one of the few games in development for the ill-fated Hasbro Toaster VR by Angel Studios (the modern Rockstar San Diego). The studio was founded in 1984 to create computer graphic videos for such projects as the legendary movie Lawnmower Man (1992).

We don’t know if Hasbro was impressed by the first person shooting segments of Lawnmower Man or if Angel Studios was chosen by coincidence, but those parts in the film could give us an idea about how Shatterman could have been conceived. At the time Angel Studios was still mostly a CG video production company. In fact, most of Shatterman’s team were recent college grads with little to no experience working on a commercial game.

However, they did have all the hardware needed to create awesome looking games thanks to Silicon Graphics workstations, one of the most powerful hardware at the time. This probably helped them join the legendary “Dream Team”, a group of studios organized by Nintendo in the mid ‘90 to create ambitious games for the “Project Reality” (the early codename for the Nintendo 64).

Shatterman could have been Angel Studios first game if the Hasbro Toaster VR would have not been canned in mid 1995. In 1996 they were finally able to release their actual first commercial game (along with Zono): Mr. Bones for the Sega Saturn.

Hasbro Toaster’s graphical power was probably over-hyped at the time as in reality its games would have looked somehow like a mix between Super FX Chip powered SNES games (StarFox) and early 3D arcade games (Virtua Racing or Virtua Fighter), with texture-less polygons and vivid colors. As recalled by Allen Battino, former Angel Studios’ Senior Art Director:

“I don’t remember much about Shatterman, but what I do remember is that he was designed to have the least amount of polygons possible while having a heroic look that would be glasslike and break up in shards effectively.”

While the default play view mode was third-person (with the camera right behind the in-game character), players would view the action through their VR goggles as in some kind of direct first person view. Once hit by too many shots, the character would break into pieces in a quite impressive effect (for the time). There’s not too much information known about Shatterman’s story. The plot would follow the life of Shatterman, a futuristic film-noir-inspired detective, who would drive from location to location as he takes out the bad guys.

Why he was driving and where he was driving remains cloudy, however the driving sections should be noted. Angel Studios was responsible for pioneering open world racing games with the popular PC-exclusive Midtown Madness in 1999.

Unfortunately, Hasbro’s technology and lack of real hardware made things a bit complex to create. As noted by Paul Skibitzke, one of the programmers who worked on Shatterman:

“The VR features we supported (3D rendering, stereoscopic rendering, head tracking) were not at all difficult to develop or use in a videogame. They’d been supported on our Silicon Graphics (SGI) hardware for a couple of years at that point, and the Angel Studios game engine was built with support for them.

However, actually using those technologies was hard on the body and mind. Between low frame rates, low goggle resolution, slow head tracking, and sheer weight of the goggles, you were likely to get nauseous and/or a sore neck after 15 minutes of using the hardware. So most of the time, we would test the game from the computer monitor, without goggles.

As far as the features of Hasbro platform itself, all our work was done on SGIs.  We never actually got any Hasbro hardware! We were told that it would effectively be a game console, with orientation-sensing 3D goggles, and a controller.”

Only a single combat area and an early city driving prototype were completed before work on the project stopped.

For Angel Studios, Shatterman was an interesting proof of concept for the anticipated platform, but the lack of actual hardware to develop on made it clear that it was useless to plan a whole game for a vaporware console.

Shatterman was not the last virtual reality game that Angel Studios worked on. Their experience with VR helped them sign a contract with Disney to create the Virtual Jungle Cruise at DisneyQuest in 1998, which seems to still be available at the Disney World Resort in Orlando.

After releasing some other games for various consoles, such as the Resident Evil 2 port for the N64, the Midtown Madness series, and Smuggler’s Run, Angel Studios was bought by Take-two in 2003 and renamed Rockstar San Diego. They then moved on to work on such popular titles as Red Dead Revolver, Midnight Club and Grand Theft Auto V.

This article was originally published in our book “Video Games You Will Never Play”. 

Aftermath [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3, PC]

Aftermath is a cancelled top-down shooter / RPG hybrid that was in development in 2009 by WhiteMoon Dreams, planned to be released for Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC. The team behind this lost project previously worked on such popular games as Fallout, Descent, Ratchet & Clank, Medal of Honor and many others. The game was pitched as “Diablo 2 with guns”.

As we can read in the old press-release for their demo (currently unavailable):

“Well, the best and simplest way to describe this game is to say it’s “Diablo 2, with Guns!” We wanted to make a fun retro-style shooter (ala Robotron or SmashTV) with some light RPG elements (like leveling up your characters, upgrading your weapons, skill trees, etc). Unlike most retro-style shooters, we wanted to keep the art quality to next gen standards. (But we still love you Geometry Wars!)  Also, we wanted to focus on cooperative multiplayer, so you and your buddies can shoot up the place either gathered around the same console or over the ‘net.

The story behind Aftermath concerns a group of 4 Wanderers who exist in a post-apocalyptic Earth.  They are tasked to save humanity from hordes of mutants, domineering military forces, and murderous robotic entities.

So for the art style, our original inspiration believe it or not, came from Burning Man, which is the annual art festival held every year in the Nevada desert.  All the crazy, funky clothing, art, and music was a direct influence to how we wanted to present the characters and environments in Aftermath.”

Some more details about the game’s story were found in their old website:

“Our story takes place on Earth, a few generations from today. Only a few years earlier, we experienced the LastWar, which devastated the Earth and everything that lived upon it. The cause of the War is a mystery; it was impossibly brief and no one who survived knew the details.

In the years following the cataclysm that ensued, the few scattered survivors of Old Earth struggled to scratch whatever living they could out of the radiation-wracked ruins of their former world. It wasn’t easy. The oceans had dried into vast salt deserts, dotted here and there with a few fetid pools. Plants and creatures now mutated at a terrifying pace into increasingly dangerous and alien forms. In the midst of this desperate fight to survive, memories of the old world faded away.

There were a few, though, who remembered. Amid this chaos arose an order of survivors, who came to be known simply as The Wanderers. They sought to reclaim the knowledge of Old Earth and spread it to the scattered tribes, to replant seeds of knowledge that had been lost and fight for the future. They alone braved the vast wastes separating these far-flung oases of humanity, fighting for those in need, trading, and teaching. With them came a new hope for this struggling world.

Now, a new threat has arisen. It had been thought that the robots of Old Earth; those who had survived the attacks at all, had long since run out of power. Suddenly, Wanderers began to discover oases that had been slaughtered en masse, and those few who survived described armies of mechs marching out of the wastes, killing everything in their path. The Wanderers now accepted a new mission: to find the source of this new evil, and to destroy it. As a Wanderer, this is now your mission as well.”

WhiteMoon Dreams were trying to find a publisher for Aftermath and their second project titled “Warmachine”, but in the end they only found support for the latter, finally published as “WARMACHINE: Tactics”. Aftermath was quietly cancelled and lost forever. Only a short gameplay video is currently preserved below.

In 2017 the same team published Starblood Arena, for Playstation VR.

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Mercenaries 3: No Limits [Cancelled – PS3, Xbox 360]

Pandemic Studios was the company who developed the Mercenaries series and unfortunately it was shut down in 2009, forcing the studio to cancel 2 projects they were currently working on at the time: Mercenaries 3: No Limits and Mercs Inc.

Mercenaries 3: No Limits would have been the next game in the series following the releases of the first two games: Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction (2005) and its sequel Mercenaries 2: World in Flames (2008). It was meant to be somewhat the same as the previous two games, an open world 3rd person action shooter with some improvements to the formula.

It is sad and frustrating that Pandemic was shut down as there clearly was a passion behind the creation of this new project. EA boss John Riccitielo at the time really wanted Mercenaries 3 to be released and he confirmed during an interview that if it was up to him that it could go on for a very long time.. going as far as a Mercenaries 10 release.

An article by Cnet explains well the financial struggles EA endured in 2009 and the reason why they felt the need to close Pandemic:

“An Electronic Arts spokesperson confirmed the news to CNET, but called it a consolidation rather than a closing, saying that the company merged Pandemic with EA’s nearby LA campus. The core team of developers integrated into EA will continue to work on Pandemic properties.

Hit by weak game sales, EA has been hurting since last year when it warned that 2009 would be a tough one. The company said at the time that it would need to cut staff, trim product lines, and close studios. EA initially announced job cuts of 10 percent of its workforce, then later revised that to 11 percent. In January, EA also jettisoned Pandemic’s studio in Brisbane, Australia.”

Since the studio closed in 2009 and their last game was released in 2008, Mercenaries 3 didn’t go very far into development. For that reason, not much is known about the game and most of it is sadly up to speculation. Fortunately, we do have a little video showing gameplay footage of what could have been, showing off core mechanics for a few minutes with audio commentary.

During the video, there is a radio conversation between the main character and what we can presume is their boss giving them the mission. The game is set in Cuba 2017 and the protagonist is given directives to meet and escort a journalist for the Russian mafia. You meet her inside a church in an animated black and white placeholder cutscene and shortly afterwards they both drive to where the journalist needs to find proof that ‘Blackfire’ has deployed combat drones. The video ends abruptly with the main character trying to shoot a drone with a machine gun and then with a bazooka.

Since the main character in that video is a character never before seen in the series, it is very likely that its model was a placeholder used for testing purposes until they would have finished creating the real main character for this new game, or maybe it was meant to be a different hero this time around. Sadly we do not have more information about this.

There may still be hope for Mercenaries 3 or for the series in general to make a comeback eventually. EA has continued to renew their ownership of the Mercs3 domain in February this year in 2018 and it is set to expire next year in February 2019.

Article by Alex (Brub)

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Commando (Namco) [Playstation – Cancelled]

Commando is a cancelled third person action / shooter game that was designed by Stephane de Luca for Namco, planned to be released on the original Playstation. Stephane pitched the project to Namco thru Virtual Studio, which at the time were also working on Snow Break for Playstation and Ar’Kritz the Intruder for DOS PC.

Stephane with the help of a few more developers such as Pavlos Germidis worked at Virtual Studio from october 1997 to september 1998. In just 3 months they developed a short prototype for Commando, used to show off its 3D engine and main mechanics. Stephane worked on the game’s 3D engine, its tools and game programming while Pavlos worked on the artwork design, the story pitch and the CGI movie which would introduce the game.

Commando would have been an interesting take on the 3D action genre. The game was divided into different missions, each set in a different area on Mars full of enemies and huge final-bosses. You could steal and control enemy mechs and bikes, there would have been different ways to resolve a problem such as killing an enemy or avoid it with by flying away using a jetpack. It was a bit more open-ended than similar third person shooters of its time.

The deal for Commando was that Stephane would create the game and handle everything directly with Namco. Only the financial aspect would go thru Virtual Studio, which would get 30% of the price for being a financial go-between. Many trips to Japan were required in order to find an agreement on the game design, technical features and financials terms. The contract was finally signed by Stephane in Tokyo at the Namco building.

Unfortunately it seems that Virtual Studio misunderstand its part in the whole deal. When Stephane directly signed the game with Namco, Virtual Studio were surprised to be limited to a financial partner and quickly changed their mind about the deal. In the end the game had to be cancelled.

Only a few, tiny screenshots from the Commando prototype are preserved below, to remember its existence.

Thanks to Stephane for the contribution!

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Videos (Intro CGI):
 

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