“How did you get the opportunity to work for Ubisoft?
My best friend Frederic Markus worked on a game called Starush for Amiga, Atari ST & PC while I was finishing my military obligation. Then, I tried an approach to join the team. We had a strategy to show something big to Ubisoft to be able to make another (console) version, me as the main programmer. We decided to show a huge boss on the Amiga platform, something the current programmer for this game was not capable of… Ubisoft had no more than 50 employees at this time. I remember showing my Game Boss Demo to Yves (best Big Boss on earth), he told me “ok, I don’t know the project you will work on but here’s some money, consider yourself working for Ubisoft. It was the beginning of my career.
Tell us a bit more about the first game you worked on:
I ended up making ZODIAC (Starush inspired) on the Sega Mega Drive. It took me a year and a half, with Laurent Cluzel as graphic artist, making the engine, coding the tools, alone in my apartment… No internet at this time… The game was 100% finished, but Sega Mega Drive began to slow down at that time and unfortunately Ubisoft decided not to release the game. Only 2 roms exist at this time, Laurent’s and mine. Maybe someday I will give to the Mega Drive Emulator Scene a copy”
As posted by VGDensetsu on Twitter, a Zodiac prototype was shown by the Conservatoire National du Jeu Video (CNJV) at the Bibilothèque National de France (BNF). In there we can read Ubisoft decided to cancel the game because of the competition from Thunder Force IV and the high cost of cartridges, that would make hard to profit from its release.
As far as we know, the game ROM is still not released to the public, but we hope Frederic could share it in the future.
Attack of the Killer Rabbids from outer Space, later retitled Killer Freaks from outer Space, was a first person shooter developed by Ubisoft Montpellier that would eventually become ZombiU for the Wii U.
Originally planned as an untitled horror shooter for the PS3 and Xbox 360 in 2010, the game was already intended to be a part of the Rayman spinoff seriesRaving Rabbids wherein earth was attacked by a much more frightening “cousin” of the Rabbids. Early concept art depicts them as being very similar looking to the Rabbids but with sharp teeth and, in some instances, missing their eyeballs. Also revealed in concept art were designs for different types of enemies such as a basic trooper, a shield trooper, a giant Rabbid, UFOs, and a variety of other alien vehicles. Multiple soldiers can be seen fighting the Rabbids in some of the art, suggesting that would the player would not only be taking the role of one of these soldiers, but there would be co-op multiplayer as well.
This more “mature” tone and the level of violence in the game began to cause concern among the game’s developers as they felt it was begin to stray too far from the child friendly franchise. “We thought about making them cousins to the Raving Rabbids,” designer Jean-Karl Tupic-Bron stated in in an interview with Polygon, “but quickly decided to split [it off]- This is not what Raving Rabbids is all about.”
In response to the issue they changed the invaders from “Killer Rabbids” to “Killer Freaks” and officially revealed the game under that title at E3 2011 as a launch game for the Wii U. While the Freaks remained very similar to the Rabbids in size and stature they were given a much more reptilian appearance to differentiate them from their earlier counterparts. Set in a post-apocalyptic London, the game pitted 1-4 players against hordes of the Freaks with an arcade run n gun style of gameplay complete with a point system. An early trailer and gameplay video revealed a variety of weapons that could be used against the Freaks ranging from handguns and shotguns to a buzzsaw launcher and electricity gun.
Despite the early footage getting a positive response the team still wasn’t satisfied with what the game was turning out to be. The driving force behind this was their desire to create an experience tailor suited for the Wii U, something that the fast paced shooter that they had made didn’t deliver on. Another reason was that the Freaks, despite being well liked by the team, were too small and forced players to look towards the ground for a majority of the game. It is because of these pacing and gameplay issues that the team decided zombies were the next logical step.
Many of the aspects were completely overhauled in the transition to ZombiU, with Tupic-Bron citing the one vs many book and film I am Legend as a major inspiration towards the change. First and foremost the pace of the game was significantly slowed down, hence the change to zombies as they are generally depicted as being slow and stumbling. They introduced a focus on preparation, patience, and inventory management as opposed to the frantic gameplay in the previous installment.
This allowed them to utilize the Wii U pad more effectively, as it was now used for vital gameplay features such as displaying the map and organizing the player’s inventory. They also abandoned the more comical aspects of the game in favor of a darker and more serious tone. Co-op was also removed and instead was replaced by a unique “one death” in which every survivor the player controlled only had one life, and the next survivor the player controlled would have to make their way to the now zombified previous survivor and kill them for their supplies. One of the only aspects that remained relatively unchanged was the vs multiplayer in which one player would control an army of aliens/zombies with the game pad, while the other would try and survive as long as possible with a Wii-mote and nunchuck.
ZombiiU was released on November 18th, 2012 and ports for the Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC were released on August 18th, 2015. News of a sequel in development began to spread when creative director Jean-Phillipe Caro mentioned working on a prototype, but It has since been 100% denied by the Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot as the game was not financially successful for the company. It has been more recently revealed that this proposed game would have re-instated co-op gameplay like in the previous installments. Ubisoft Montpellier continues to work on big franchise games such as the next Ghost Recon and the sequel to their cult hit Beyond Good and Evil.
Heroes of Might and Magic 5 is a turn-based strategy game developed by Nival Interactive and published by Ubisoft in May 2006, as a reboot of the series. As we can read on Wikipedia Ubisoft acquired the rights to Might and Magic as far back as 2003, when 3DO filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. At the time New World Computing were already working on a new 2D Heroes of Might and Magic for 3DO, but when Ubisoft bought the franchise they ditched NWC’s versions to start a new, fully 3D game. In 3 years the new version of HoMM5 changed a lot and thanks to a leaked alpha version of the game we can see many of these “beta differences”:
– the interface is completely different in nearly every respect with a lot of prototype stuff
– hero portraits are completely different (Isabel is a photoshop of Kate Beckinsale)
– many creatures have different textures
– the priest/inquisitor has a different model, which was replaced when Games Workshop confronted Ubisoft for plagiarism
– many structures have different models and textures
– different sense of scale in the adventure map, much closer to Heroes 3 (in retail version everything is bigger and more “epic” than practical)
– battlefields of varied size (some battlefields are smaller than the one size in retail)
– the town screen is very different, a static 3D shot similar to previous games (in retail it’s an elaborate flyover)
– only one scenario/map, and the map doesn’t exist in the retail game
– only one faction (Haven)
– there is no world of Ashan (Ubisoft’s fictional world from the retail game), it’s set in Axeoth (the world of Heroes 4)
Kanaan is a cancelled first / third person open world shooter that was in development by Argonaut Games in late ‘90, planned to be published in 1998 / 1999 by Ubisoft on PC. While many other lost games from Argonaut were widely known, this one seems to have been forgotten for many years, until in January 2016 Werta Oldgamesru noticed this title and posted about it in our Unseen64 FB Forum. The project was quite an interesting twist on the classic shooter genre, because of its open world environments and anthropomorphic animal enemies. As noticed by Ross Sillifant, a two-pages preview of the game was featured in Edge magazine September 1998 issue, where we can read a lot of details about its gameplay:
“Think dark tunnels, think robot enemies, think bleak future worlds. The stereotype defined by ID’s seminal Doom has been adhered to with a near-religious reverence by developers worldwide. So perhaps, it’s salient that Argonaut, a traditional console game company once strongly linked to Nintendo, should be chipping away at the genre’s mould. Argonaut first person foray is currently dubbed Kanaan, although the search for a name to replace the development tag of “Chaos” has been a protracted wrangle. While the game’s futuristic setting is nothing new, its dog-themed alien enemies are refreshingly different. Guiding lone human Gabriel Cain, the player must stop the invaders from capturing his home planet of Camrose. Cain is one of two surviving members of Camrose’s crack Chaos Squad, the other being the group’s traitorous captain deSoto. As the game progress, new plot elements are introduced, including Cain joining the underground resistance. New weapons, locations and environments will gradually be uncovered as Cain struggles to defeat the alien foe. His eventual target is the alien leader Commander Kray, who must be brought down for Cain’s final victory.
Through the careful use of tessellation techniques, Kanaan has been gifted with vast environments. […] However, the game also contains a large number of structures which can be entered, the action blending smoothly from interior to exterior. Using Kanaan’s powerful 3D engine fully, certain buildings will feature balconies, giving the player the ability to look across an area and attack enemies from a distance.
In order to move swiftly around these incredibly open areas, the player can capture and utilize a variety of vehicles. These includes jeeps, cars, trucks, speedboats, helicopters and bombers, each with their own armoury available at Cain’s disposal. […]
While Kanaan’s standard viewpoint is first person, Argonaut has strong opinions regarding character depiction, and to that end an additional third person camera is selectable. […]
Cain also has access to a sniper weapon (as seen in Goldeneye) so he can pick-off foes from a great distance by zooming in through the weapon’s sights. Traditional first person puzzle elements also emerge, along with console systems which reveal conundrums that block progress.”
A few more memories about Kanaan’s development can be found in websites of people that worked on it. Simon Grellrecalls:
“Kanaan was the first game I worked on at Argonaut. I did most of the character and vehicle designs but unfortunately it was canned shortly before it was due to be released”
In an interview with Julian Alden-Salter posted in the GameOn Forum, we can read:
“I spent 5 years at Argonaut working on Hot Ice (unpublished), Alien Odyssey (unpublished), Croc, FX Fighter Turbo and Kanaan but was made redundant when the project I was producing (Kanaan) was canned.”
As the game was almost complete when cancelled and even Edge was able to try a playable demo, we hope that in the future someone could find a video or even a prototype of Kanaan that could be saved.
Thanks to Werta Oldgamesru, Maik Thiele and Ross Sillifant for the contributions! Screenshots saved from AVOC by Fabio Cristi
Tonic Adventure is the cancelled sequel to Tonic Trouble, a 3D platform game developed by Ubisoft Montreal and Ubisoft Montpellier, released in mid 1999 for N64 and PC. Tonic Adventure was being made from 1999 to 2000 (perhaps for Dreamcast or the soon-to-be-released PS2) by the same team that worked on the original game and Rayman 2, but it seems that the project was canned in early development, maybe because of low sales and mixed reviews of the first TONICT. Only a few concept arts were found in the portfolio of a former Ubisoft artist, preserved in the gallery below to remember this lost game. We can speculate that after Ubisoft found out that Tonic Trouble would have not been a popular IP as they planned, they switched resources from Tonic Adventure to more marketable games as Rayman M and Rayman 3.
If you know someone that worked on Tonic Trouble 2 and can help to preserve more info about this cancelled project, please let us know!