third person shooter

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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Metal Arms 2 [Cancelled – Xbox, PS2, GameCube]

The original Metal Arms: Glitch in the System was a third-person shooter developed by Swingin’ Ape Studios and published by Vivendi Universal and Sierra Entertainment in late 2003, for Playstation 2, Xbox and GameCube. While the game did not sold a lot, it soon became a cult classic and many loved its fun gameplay in the story mode and multiplayer. The game story ended with a cliffhanger and the team did start on Metal Arms 2 soon after the first game, but unfortunately the project was stopped when they were signed to work on Starcraft Ghost for Blizzard Entertainment. StarCraft: Ghost was initially in development by Nihilistic Software, but in June 2004 they were removed from the project and Blizzard gave it to Swingin’ Ape Studios to continue.

Swingin’ Ape were just a small team and to assure quality work on such an important and hyped game as StarCraft: Ghost they had to use all of their resources and were not able to continue their Metal Arms sequel. Only a few concept art and early ideas for Metal Arms 2 were conceived before the cancellation of the game. One of the developers remember a few details on the characters that you can see in the gallery below:

  • Goliath: The next-generation Titan, designed for crushing/smashing Droids like ants.
  • Pinto (pictured here after one has been captured and repurposed by Droids): A light, fast hit-and-run buggy that can carry 4 grunts (1 driver, 1 gunner, 2 clinging desperately to the sides).
  • Commando: An elite Mil shock trooper, similar in abilities to the Droid Commando but more heavily armored.
  • Corrosive Suit: Krunk was going to turn the wrecked shell of General Corrosive into a mech suit that Glitch could jump into and use like a vehicle.”
  • ATAB: I don’t remember what it stands for, but it’s an armored Droid troop carrier. Troops can ride on top, and the shields on the legs allow them to use it for advancing cover in combat.
  • Droid Explorer: An old, battered robot that’s been off exploring Iron Star for years. For so long, in fact, that he completely missed that whole Mil/Droid war thing.
  • Droid Engineer: Mister Fixit, able to build/repair just about anything.
  • Droid Trooper: The first Droids actually designed for combat, rather than re-purposed from some other job. Fairly effective grunts.
  • Droid Commando: Elite combat troops (or at least as “elite” as Droids get). Faster, stronger, smarter, and more heavily armed than the Troopers.

While work on StarCraft: Ghost proceeded, in May 2005 Blizzard Entertainment decided to acquire Swingin’ Ape and they became part of the popular company. After a while StarCraft: Ghost was also put on indefinite hold and never completed.

Thanks to KRaZiGLiTcH and Josiah from the WeWantMetalArms2 fanpage for their contribution!

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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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Warfare Afghanistan (Conflict Reboot) [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3]

Warfare Afghanistan is a cancelled third person team based tactical shooter that was in development by Pivotal Games in 2007 / 2008 for Xbox 360 and PS3. The project was meant to be a reboot of the Conflict series of which the last chapter was Conflict: Denied Ops, published in 2008 by Eidos Interactive. Conflict: Desert Storm 1 & 2 were loved by many fans for their fun coop multiplayer, in which each mission has to be played with a bit of strategy, using the special skills of each character to be able to survive and to complete the most complex objectives.

Unfortunately the last games in the series lost the charm of the originals and Denied Ops was mostly a linear, single player experience: it was clear for the team that they had to reboot their saga, to earn again the love of their fans. Planned to have a full coop campaign up to 4 players offline (split-screen) and online, Warfare Afghanistan would have returned to Conflict’s roots, to create a compelling gameplay, with strategy and collaboration between players at its core.

The game’s story and setting were also meant to be something deeper than the usual shooter. The team wanted to create something like Spec Ops: The Line in terms of realism and players’ experience, by hiring a military consultant and slowing down the pace of the game, following a plot that handled the Afghanistan conflict, with all its moral dilemmas.

Unfortunately Warfare Afghanistan was still in early development when Pivotal Games’ parent company Sales Curve Interactive / Eidos (now Square Enix Europe) decide to disband the studio in August 2008, probably because of internal restructure and low sales of their last game. Only a pitch prototype was done before the cancellation, with basic cover, animations and melee mechanics: by looking at the footage available we can only imagine what could have been and it’s sad to know that the team did not have a chance to win back again the heart of their fans.

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AquaNox: The Angels’ Tears [PS2 – Cancelled]

Aquanox is a series of action / shooter / simulation games set in a distant future in which humans mostly live underwater and use futuristic submarines to explore the ocean. It all started in 1996 when Massive Development released Archimedean Dynasty / Schleichfahrt (considered as the first chapter in the saga) then in 2001 the same team published AquaNox and a couple of years later they delivered AquaNox 2: Revelation. All the games were published for PC only and even if there are some basic differences between the 3 titles, they always had a mix of “flight” simulation, shooting and RPG gameplay: players were able to fight their way in 360° underwater combats, shoot down other submarines, conquer enemy bases, talking with NPC characters, explore the sea to find hidden treasures, complete different mission objectives to gain more money and upgrade their vehicles.

A new chapter in the Aquanox series was planned for Playstation 2 but unfortunately it was cancelled when it was almost completed. As always the project was in development by Massive soon after the release of AquaNox 2, when JoWooD (their parent company at the time) wanted to enter the console market and deemed Aquanox as the perfect game to start. Initially Aquanox 2 was ported to PS2 but it did not fit the new hardware and controller, being not that much fun to play. To secure a great console debut, Massive Development took the next 2 years to create a completely new game, as a third chapter in the series, that would have been titled Aquanox: The Angels’ Tears, with new missions, features and storyline.

Aquanox: The Angels’ Tears, the cancelled PS2 sequel

As we can read in the official press-release for the game:

AquaNox: The Angel’s Tears is the story of an action packed treasure hunt, presented as a playable under-water road-movie. The game is a fast-paced 3rd person shooter, where the player steers his vessel through the depth of the oceans 3000 meters under the sea, 650 years into the future, 300 bars of pressure. The sun is a fading legend of former centuries. Nobody has ever seen it. Man now calls this world: ‘Aqua’. Eight humans crammed into a freighter. Eight mercenaries, shrouded in mystery, hunting for a legendary treasure. Eight hunters dreaming of the Angel’s Tears. This dream will change them – and history. The greatest love story of their time!

Angel’s Tears would have featured fast paced underwater shooting along with a mature storyline divided in 32 main missions set in the deep seas of Aqua, an advanced score and experience system, 4 submarine ships with different stats and tactical uses, fully upgradable weapons and other equipment to improve player’s chance to survive to the hardest missions that were planned.

Massive Development wanted to make Angel’s Tears the best Aquanox game ever, but unfortunately in 2005 JoWooD was on the edge of going bankrupt: they had to cut a lot of their cost and decided to close down Massive Development as the new AquaNox was already 99,9% done. At this time the Aquanox: The Angel’s Tears was submission-ready to be accepted by Sony and to be officially published on PS2, but the devs wanted to polish it up more before to release it as their last game, so they introduced a few easy bugs to make it fail the first submission. When AquaNox PS2 failed the Sony submission the situation at Massive Development got even more sour as JoWooD refused to pay all their outstanding wages. Because of this the project wasnt handed over properly at closure of the studio and nobody was able to finish it although it was really 99,9% done. AquaNox: The Angel’s Tears was forgotten for many years, hidden away in some directory, until Nordic Games ended up with the rights to Aquanox and all its assets after the insolvency of JoWooD in 2011.

Nordic Games got in contact with Unseen64 to share some of the documents they found about Angel’s Tears and we are now able to preserve more screens and videos from this lost game. People that were interested in Angel’s Tears will be happy to know that this is not the end of Aquanox as Nordic Games though the series deserved another chance and conceived a new project: Aquanox Deep Descent, a complete reboot of the Aqua saga taking into account the scientific advances made since the first game.

As a love letter to fans of games that will never be, Deep Descent will not only revive the AquaNox experience after the lost Angel’s Tears, adding 4 players coop mode and an even bigger ocean to explore, it will also integrate assets and research from another cancelled THQ underwater action game known as Deep Six, originally planned for PS3.

We are happy to see a team like Nordic Games to understand the importance of preserving lost videogames and huge props to them for the help in saving more documents from the cancelled AquaNox: The Angel’s Tears! We can’t wait to see what they will be able to do with Aquanox Deep Descent, a project that could take the series to a new level and will became a memento to remember two interesting cancelled games. Aquanox Deep Descent was fully funded a few days ago thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign but you still have a week to support the project with your pledges and be able to play this game as soon as it will be released!

Super thanks to Nordic Games for the contribution! Also thanks to Manuel Hansen for additional support

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