third person shooter

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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Firo and Klawd 2: Holiday Highjinks [Playstation – Cancelled]

Firo and Klawd 2: Holiday Highjinks is the cancelled sequel to the original 1996 game developed by Interactive Studios Limited (later known as Blitz Games) and published by BMG Interactive for Playstation and PC. The game was a top-down shooter with pre-rendered graphic, in which an ape police detective and an odd job cat) had to explore a series of branching levels while killing all the enemies.

The first Firo and Klawd was considered quite a bad game by reviews at the time, and while we did not find any actual sales data we can assume it sold poorly. As far as we know Firo and Klawd 2 was just in early conceptual phase before the company decided that it was not worth creating a sequel to a low-selling game. The project was then cancelled and vanished into obscurity: the image preserved in this page remains the only proof of it existence.

If you know someone who worked on this game, please let us know!

Video from the first Firo and Klawd:

 

Durango (Radical Entertainment) [Playstation, PC – Cancelled]

Durango is a cancelled vehicle based action adventure that was in development by Radical Entertainment in late ‘90s for the original Playstation and PC. At the time Radical was mostly known for their work on such games as the Independence Day tie-in, the NHL Powerplay series, Blood Lines and Grid Runner, being able to create games that sold enough to keep them alive and in good relationships with their publishers.

During those years many companies were developing their first 3D games and original ideas for new titles were welcome: Radical Entertainment pitched a good number of projects to publishers, and Durango was their concept for an interesting sci-fi adventure / shooter.

Not many details remain after the cancellation of the project, but from what we were able to gather it seems Durango would have been a vehicle based shooter divided into different levels, each with a series of missions to complete. Players would have been able to use different sci-fi vehicles, items and weapons to reach their objectives.

If you know someone who worked on this game and could help to preserve more details, please let us know!

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Holy War [PC – Cancelled]

Holy War is a cancelled game that was in development between 2003 and 2005 by Gamelords, a portuguese team that would later become Seed Studios. The game was produced with an in-house 3D engine and financed by Linha de Terra Studios and Norhold Investimentos.

Holy War was set in the conflict between Israel and Palestine, reproducing real world locations, weapons and people. A multiplayer mode was also planned, allowing players to choose which faction to fight for.

An early demo developed in 2005 was shown for the first time during the event “Games 2006” bearing only the minimum features necessary to get publishers’ attention – four maps (including the wall built by Israel and the Gaza Strip), part of the tutorial, some weapons and some computer-controlled characters for single player.

Filipe Pina is a developer who worked on Holy War at the time and in an e-mail interview he was able to explain some more details about its development:

“While developing the game, we were in constant contact with a Palestinian and an Israeli that helped us make everything as real as possible. The guns of the Israeli, combat equipment and everything else was faithfully recreated. The Palestinians used guns from the Russians among other things.”

The demo also provided some interesting features:

“(…) the demo used “normal maps”, real-time shadows and a day/night system. It was one of the first FPS to allow gameplay in both 1st and 3rd person. It was also possible to drive vehicles.”

The team received very good feedback from publishers praising the game’s graphics and gameplay, but the controversial theme  – even if it had brought them free advertisement – provoked some fear on investors.

To quote an interview with Bruno Ribeiro (another developer who worked on the game), about a meeting with members from Take Two Interactive:

“We managed to show the game to some members of a very famous publisher. Initially they were very excited by our work, but that changed once they noticed that the theme wasn’t a generic one. They started to see characteristic elements of Israel and asked “will there be any suicide bombers?”. As soon as we said yes, they immediately said “That is going to be a problem”.”

The team was pressured to change the theme to a more generic setting – “maybe some American soldiers killing terrorists” – but publishers refused to support a videogame that represented a more realistic and delicate situation.

Gamelords considered having a digital release on PC for Holy War but without any support from publishers and having to totally finance the project themselves, they were not able to continue working on it. Despite the cancellation of their Holy War project, Gamelords learned a lot during its development and allowed them to gain a valuable work experience for their future as Seed Studios.

It’s also important to mention that the tools and technology developed by the company for Holy Wars were later reused for other projects, even outside the area of videogames.

In the gallery below you can see some sketches, renders and screenshots from the Holy Wars demo, gently provided by Filipe Pina.

Article by Jump/Error, original version in Portuguese on the Videogame PT Blog!

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Project Nano (Epic Games) [Cancelled – PS4, Xbox One, PC]

Project Nano (Epic Games) [Cancelled – PS4, Xbox One, PC]

Project Nano – also known as Blueprint – is a cancelled third person, open world cooperative shooter being developed by Epic Games. The project was going to become their new major IP following the popular Gears of War series, and was scheduled to be released for Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC. A few details about this obscure game were already leaked online in November 2013 thanks to VGLeaks but we’ve managed to gather some more info about this ambitious project thanks to an anonymous source.

Nano started development in 2008, around the same time Epic were also working on Gears of War 3. GoW3 was later released in September 2011 as an Xbox 360 exclusive title, but Nano was meant to be Epic’s “next gen” IP, a multi platform (PS4, Xbox One) series planned to be a successful trilogy. Epic put a lot of time and money in creating the Blueprint trilogy, a “noir adventure in the grim and desperate world of 2043”, but unfortunately the series was abandoned after a few prototype demos. The studio had to put Blueprint on hold in 2010 / 2011 while they were struggling to complete Gears of War 3, initially planned to be completed in early 2011 but then postponed several times. It seems that after GoW3 was shipped they continued to work on Nano for a while, albeit without success.

While Nano was never officially announced by Epic, they did show some parts of the game in their Samaritan Unreal Engine 3.5 tech demo revealed at the 2011 Game Developers Conference. Looking at Samaritan we can have a better idea of the style and graphic quality they were targeting for Nano, even if the playable prototype was still too early to look nearly as good as this tech demo.

In mid 2013 former Epic Games design director Cliff Bleszinski wrote a bit about the difficulties behind the development of Nano (and Samaritan) on his personal Tumblr, as reported by Kotaku:

“Q. What was that “Samaritan” demo that Epic produced a while back?

One day I’ll be able to give the full story on that. It’s really a doozy. If journalists nag Epic enough and they give the OK I’d be glad to give details.”

Cliff’s comment about Nano / Samaritan was later removed and another Epic spokesperson gave another comment about the demo:

“We don’t have anything new to say about the Samaritan demo. Really! It was a “doozy” of a learning experience – after all, it was Epic’s self-proclaimed love letter to hardware manufacturers. Samaritan shows what developers can do with Unreal Engine 3’s DirectX 11 feature set, and in terms of R&D, it helped us realize new ways to optimize Unreal Engine 4 for next-gen game development.”

We can assume that Blueprint was already in development hell at that point, but somehow Epic was still working on Nano in 2014, when they quietly announced a new IP at GDC, as reported by Polygon:

“After selling Gears of War to Microsoft earlier this year, Epic Games is building a new game and intellectual property to carry the studio forward. During the “Animation Bootcamp: Animation Prototyping for Games” panel at this year’s Game Developers Conference, lead animator Jay Hosfelt detailed the studio’s revamped design philosophies as it builds its new game without a publishing partner. No name or release timetable was given, though concept art and character models shown during the panel resembled the unnamed hero of Epic’s 2011 “Samaritan” technical demonstration.”

Even if later this was denied by Epic Games’ PR manager, we can confirm that the main character model used in the Samaritan tech demo was indeed a character from Nano (Owen) and even the street level shown in Samaritan was available in one of the early Blueprint prototypes. By reading Epic’s comments, it’s easy to see how they don’t really want to talk about what happened to Nano, so it’s not easy to gather details about its development and cancellation.

Even if it’s not directly related to Nano (as far as we know), it could be useful to also show what Epic were able to achieve with their Infiltrator tech demo shown at the GDC 2013:

By looking at this footage we can imagine how playing Nano could have looked like in Unreal Engine 4 if only it could have been completed. Unfortunately it seems that only a series of early prototypes were created for Nano, before it was finally cancelled or at least completely changed into a different project still to be announced.

It’s interesting to notice that these Nano prototypes have plenty of music from The Dark Knight movie that was released in 2008, as well as some from Transformers. The few songs used were “A Dark Knight – Hans Zimmer”, “I’m Not a Hero – Hans Zimmer”, “Aggressive Expansion – Hans Zimmer”, as well as “Arrival To Earth – Transformers Score”. Temporary music of course but gives you a glimpse of the type of music they were trying to achieve for the game. Another great example of them working on the project in 2010 was the Toronto G20 summit, as they used a few pictures of Toronto Police cars being destroyed as well as some of the riots that took place as temporary UI assets and inspirations.

The game was still pretty early in development at this time but they keep working on it for a few years. All gameplay levels in the Nano prototype are just grey-boxes, there are a few “art levels” such as the Samaritan demo area for example, with a more finalized graphic style, but they just didn’t go that far in at that point to apply more details to any of the levels.

The Blueprint trilogy would have revolved around a tyrant government, with the main protagonists belonging to the resistance trying to defeat them. They would partnered with an intelligent AI system which is on their eyes, cleverly named “IRIS” (Internal Retinal Information System). IRIS was the in-eye implant system that enhances the protagonists’ vision systems. It would inform them about the world, characters, data from raw in-game exposition, mission objectives and combat potential within individual fights: it was basically the game’s HUD provided via a story mechanism.

Nano was set in the near future (2043) in an open world resembling the DC and New York area, where Nanotech chips have been installed into people’s necks as form of ID and several other things. The company providing this technology to the government was called MetaCorp. They provide the government an extreme arsenal of droids that patrol the streets along with peace keepers. Examples of their technology are the barricades on some streets, giant flying droids called BullRam and Springers as well as smaller ones called TechTick. Players would join the resistance to try to take down MetaCorp and the government through various means.

In this near future dystopian New York a pair of nanotech-enhanced dissidents would search for answers and revenge as they unravel the mystery of their missing family members only to spark a revolution against the totalitarian regime. The two main playable characters were Lyrik and Owen: early in the game both would acquire Nanotech powers, a Handforge (some kind of “3D Microprinter” which lets them use nanotechnology construction technology to recreate 3D objects when needed) and the IRIS Augmented Reality Systems. Thanks to Nanotech they would improve their strength, stamina and receive amazing abilities such as phasing through gates, fences, doors, etc. With the Nanotech, you could ground pound and survive heights anyone would die from and abilities to hookshot to higher places.

Lyrik and Owen are not initially members of the rebel faction: once they join, they must earn the trust of the group and would eventually rise up the ranks to be respected “captains” of rebel operations.

Other than what was already leaked online thanks to VGLeaks, we were able to gather a few more details about the two protagonists. Owen Mackinnon was meant to be a cool-headed antihero, smarter than most, trusts few, likes fewer. Haunted by his past, Owen sees the events in DC as an opportunity to get out of debt and forget the problems in his life. His story arc would have been one of redemption and acceptance, as he comes to understand it’s ok to rely on other people, and to be relied upon. Lyrik Syverson was instead meant to be the driven idealist. She begins her story searching for family members taken from her. Intense and focussed, her personal story becomes a political one as she fights against the system – and starts winning. In the eyes of the government and MetaCorp, Lyrik is a very dangerous individual: her goal is to make the world right at any cost, and to kick the security forces out of DC.

The two main protagonists had mostly the same abilities, except Lyrik had a staff for combat and Owen a knife / swords. Both can use guns and the same abilities shown in the Samaritan demo. The game was meant to be an open world stealth game with Nanotech powers, somehow similar to titles like Infamous, Crackdown, Prototype and a bit of Assassin’s Creed. The missions would progress pretty much like in GTA: the difference is that you would have been able to hide in the crowd like Assassin’s Creed. Just like GTA, doing “illegal” actions would increase your police level called “Threat Level”.

Combat in Nano was a mix between first person and third person shooting, plus beat-em-up with energy swords and an extremely interesting way to get around the city by hacking flying cars, using energy beams to climb walls and buildings, jumping around on poles and riding energy cables. You could also use stealth to resolve missions if you wish to take that route instead. Players would have a bunch of weapons at their disposal, such as LMGs, rockets, grenade launchers, assault rifles, pistols, swords and many more. You would be able to upgrade weapons as well as your abilities, plus learning new ones or purchase blueprints for new abilities at Shops. Just like the Gears of War series, Nano was meant to be fully playable in coop, with a possible multiplayer deathmatch mode too.

We’ll never know exactly what happened to Nano, but Epic Games’s expectations for their Blueprint trilogy were very high, targeting 5+ million sales worldwide for the first chapter with an expected release in 2015, and expecting the game to win many GOTY awards for that year. The studio also wanted to create their own version of Rockstar Social Club / Battle.net to be somehow used with Blueprint, as well as some kind of mobile app for the game to be able that lets players connect to social media. We can speculate that this part of the project turned into Epic Launcher for UE4.

While there are not official reasons why the Blueprint project was never completed, it’s possible that Cliff Bleszinski’s departure from Epic in October 2012 could have put the last nail in the coffin for the game. Former Epic Games president Mike Capps also retired from the company in December 2012, just a few months after a Chinese company acquired most of their share capital. We can speculate that this sudden change of management and leaving staffers could have been fatal for an ambitious and risky project as the Blueprint trilogy, in which Epic already invested a lot of resources.

After selling the Gears of War IP to Microsoft in 2014, at the moment Epic are currently working on three projects: a new free to play Unreal Tournament, a MOBA titled Paragon and Robo Recall for Oculus Rift.

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