Cinematech Episode 184: “Canceled Games”
This ep was all about fairly recent (at the time) games that had been announced but canceled. An interesting thing about this ep is that when it showed games in the queue, there was a big red “CANCELED” stamp on the game that was going to be shown next. Several of these games were originally supposed to be published by Majesco and/or released on PCs and/or the original Xbox.
Timecode: 0:09: A trailer for Full Throttle: Hell on Wheels. Announced in 2002, this was to be a sequel to one of Lucas Arts' classic graphic adventure games, the biker-themed Full Throttle. Hell on Wheels was supposed to be a Genre Shift from graphic adventure to action adventure. It would have taken place in a town called “El Nada” and would have introduced new biker gangs to oppose main character Ben's Polecats gang, such as the Elvis-themed Hound Dogs. This game was supposed to be released for the PC, PS 2, and Xbox, interestingly enough. Unlike Sam And Max, FT did not bounce back from cancellation. It's kind of funny to note that it had an idea for a gang of Elvis impersonators long before Fallout: New Vegas (multiplatform, 2010) actually had one. Even more amusingly, New Vegas itself took some inspiration from a canceled Fallout project: Fallout Van Buren.
Reasons for the cancellation included the passing of the voice actor for Ben, main character of FT, in 2002. It also seemed that the developers believed that the game was shaping up to be a disappointing installment in the FT series. With the former fact in mind, I'd guess that there will never be another new FT game ever again.
1:37: Speaking of Sam and Max, here is a trailer for the canceled Sam and Max: Freelance Police game, also announced in 2003. Sam and Max was actually a comic book before it was a Lucas Arts graphic adventure. It chronicles the New York-based investigations of Sam, a canine private detective who wears a suit and fedora, and Max, his hyperactive, comically violent fluffy little bunny rabbit partner. Together, They Fight Crime!, the fate of justice itself in their... paws. This trailer is actually pretty funny:
- Narrator: "In a World… where evil lurks around every corner...”
They show a rat with a gun bigger than itself chasing another rat around.
- Narrator: ”Where villains rule the streets with impunity and 'hope' is a four-letter word... a mighty force for justice will return.”
A human crook is seen trying to pry open the window of Sam and Max's car.
- Narrator: ”And Heaven help the guilty.”
Suddenly, a filing cabinet falls onto the robber's head, knocking him out cold. The camera pans up to show Sam and Max leaning out of their office window.
- Max: “Banzai!”Sam: “You crack me up, little buddy.”
What follows is a humorous montage of Sam and Max going about their business. The phone rings, and Max dives for it, but Sam picks it up, and Max crash-lands somewhere offscreen.
- Sam: “Commissioner! How's the rash?”
Max jumps up and down on the guy that tried to carjack Sam and Max's car.
Then, they show the duo dancing under a disco ball.
- Max: “This is so degrading.”Sam: “Shut up and dance.”
They finally flash the game's logo, which Sam pushes aside.
- Sam: “Holy bouncing Buddha, Max, we're in 3D!”Max: “Eh, it's been done.”
The game was supposed to come out in Spring 2004. It didn't. However, Sam and Max did eventually return to PC gaming in episodic form from Telltale Games.
2:44: A trailer for Black 9, which was to be a third-person action-RPG from Majesco for the PC and Xbox. This trailer was created in part to resemble a TV news broadcast complete with ads. Set in the future year of 2080, the backdrop for the story involved conflicting factions such as “Earth Now”, an ecologically-inclined group, and the Genesis Corporation, which developed products such as neural implants. There is something Harsher in Hindsight about an ad for “MPM”, or “My Private Money”, whose financial havens offered complete identity and assets protection. The game's genre and the ideas they promised in this trailer, including the opportunity to side with different factions, reminds me of the Deus Ex games.
6:27: Strident: The Shadow Front, a sci-fi action game by a publisher called Pentagram which had a decent-looking CG trailer. The characters looked kind of cool. The game was supposed to come out for PCs.
8:14: Duality, another sci-fi PC game by Pentagram. The trailer showed what appeared to be actual in-game footage of third-person action and stealth, along with some CG cutscenes. One level appears to be set in New York, where the Statue of Liberty is visible. This game looked like it had potential to be a cool title.
12:36: Dragon Empires, a fantasy PC game by Codesmasters. The trailer shows real-time weather effects and some nice vistas, and promises “A world so real you won't want to leave”.
The story behind the game's development is kind of fascinating. It all started when Codemasters wanted a new MMORPG because their Realm game was becoming dated. Codemasters passed on Dark Age of Camelot and started from scratch to create DE.
14:54: Announced in 2003, a trailer for the extremely canceled Ultima X: Odyssey for the PC, coming off of the heels of the universally praised Ultima IX. This was supposed to be an MMORPG as opposed to the main, traditional, single player Ultima games. The CG trailer shows a sexy, red-skinned demoness helping the Avatar fight off a two-headed troll.
If what Electronic Arts did to the Ultima series makes you sad, then may I point you towards the Worlds of Ultima sub-series, which includes The Savage Empire and Martian Dreams? They can be had on Good Old Games for the low, low price of absolutely free. MD has a cameo by Ultima Underworld designer Warren Specter, which is pretty cool.
19:04: Finally, there is B.C., an Xbox project from a satellite studio of Peter Molyneux's Lionhead Studios that just didn't manifest. It was supposed to be an action-adventure game that took place in the days of the caveman. For this ep, they showed a few clips of Molyneux talking about the game during various events. This is what he had to say about the game at E3 2003:
- Peter Molyneux: “What we're gonna be showing is B.C.. Um, it's a game in development. It is... just to briefly tell you what B.C. is, the idea originally was to have a really simple, platform-like game but set in this amazing, incredible simulated world. And this world is a prehistoric world. There are – there's every kind of dinosaur you can possibly imagine. It's an incredibly brutal world. There's blood, there's gore, there's everything you could possibly imagine.”
They showed some footage taken directly from filming a small TV next to Molyneux, so it suffers from some glare, but it still looks fairly impressive. In the lower-right corner of the screen, there are some button prompts: B for throwing whatever is at hand, the Black button for dropping whatever is at hand, the Y button for “roll call”. Could there have been some sort of gameplay involving escorting your tribe of cavemen? They also show a dead T-rex, which looks pretty detailed.
Then, they went back a little bit to show Molyneux talking about the game at E3 2002.
- Molyneux: “We realized that balancing and refining and getting the gameplay is what's just so important, and that's why I can't give you a release date, because I kinda know — I have to to build the whole world, and then spend months and months balancing it, getting as many people as possible playing it, and actually we need as many people as possible to come in at Lionhead and help us test the game.”
And that was it for B.C.. It was canceled due to being too ambitious. It's kind of a shame, since it could have been a very interesting adventure.
Links: Unseen 64, the prime source for information on canceled games or beta versions of games that were actually released