I’ve long admired Luca and the rest of the Unseen 64 team, who have formed a community around their desire to collect information on cancelled games. Over the last few years Unseen64 has, along with The Cutting Room Floor, become one of the biggest and best sources of information about games that never saw the sun.
So, when Luca told me was planning to publish a book about the games they’ve explored, I was honoured to contribute a foreword to the book, as well as my own research into a number of games such as Deus Ex 3: Insurrection and Thief 4: Dagger of Ways.
The completed book, Video Games You Will Never Play, took two years to write and is over 500 pages long. It includes analysis of over 200 cancelled games and projects, including Jade Empire 2, the port of Halo to Nintendo DS and the Sleeping Giants RPG created by Warren Spector’s Junction Point Studios.
You can buy Video Games You Will Never Play from either Amazon or Createspace, in full colour or black and white. The editions are identical, save for different front covers and that the black and white version is a bit cheaper.
Createspace: Video Games You Will Never Play color edition or black and white
Amazon UK: Video Games You Will Never Play colour edition or black and white
Find out more about this book at Unseen64
Discover more articles by me about cancelled video games
In 2014 I spent six months researching two cancelled Deus Ex games that had been in production at Ion Storm Austin before it collapsed. Neither of the games were announced at the time, but with help from the Dolph Briscoe Archive at the University of Texas I was able to uncover design documents, concept art and more.
In the end I wrote a feature on the topic for Eurogamer, called Ion Storm’s Lost Deus Ex Sequels.
Both games were cancelled ahead of release and suffered from protracted, troubled development. The first attempt, called Deus Ex: Insurrection, was led by Art Min – a long time collaborator with Warren Spector. The second, called Deus Ex 3, was developed by Jordan Thomas, who later worked on Thief, BioShock and The Magic Circle. I spent a long time speaking to both Art and Jordan about their visions, the collapse of Ion Storm and the legacy of Deus Ex.
Each of the games would have been very different and Jordan’s in particular sounds especially exciting – an open world version of Deus Ex that would have been similar in structure to Crackdown. Sadly, it wasn’t to be and the studio was closed by Eidos before development began in earnest.
Here’s a quote from Jordan Thomas about the closure of the Ion Storm and his feelings about it almost a decade later.
“There’s a reason the place closed and it was chiefly hubris. There are many people who will tell you that the publisher f***ed us but, no. No. The method failed. Making a smaller, more intimate Deus Ex was on nobodies mind. Including mine.”
It took a long, long time to research all this and write about it, so please – read the full article to find out more. You can also contact me if you’d like a copy of the original research and documents I uncovered.
In 2015 I gave a lecture at Videobrains in London about my exclusive research into a cancelled Thief game that was in development at Ion Storm before it’s collapse almost a decade previously. The lecture was based on an article I wrote for Eurogamer, in which I interviewed a developer who worked on the project and shared some of the original design documents.
You can read the full Eurogamer article, The Modern Day Thief Reboot That Never Was, for more information on Thief 4 – but I’ve also included my slides and script below.
The game itself was called Thief 4: Dagger of Ways and was designed chiefly by Harvey Smith, who later carried at least part of that vision over to Dishonored. Thief 4 would have been a modern day reboot of the Thief series, reviving the characters in a dark and seedy inspired chiefly by Blade and Silent Hill.
You can read the Eurogamer article for more information on Thief 4: Dagger of Ways, or contact me for the original files and research this talk is based on. You can also check out my other Videobrain lectures, Easter Eggs: A Love Letter to Love Letters in Games and Deleted Scenes: Disney, Doom and Deus Ex.
Continue reading “The Deleted Scenes of Thief 4: Dagger of Ways”
In 2015 I wrote for Trusted Reviews about the development of the 2014 reboot of Tomb Raider by Crystal Dynamics, focusing on content that was cut from the game before release and alternate directions the team pitched.
The article focused on two different pitches that Crystal Dynamics proposed, the first an unnamed survival horror version and the second known as Tomb Raider: Ascension.
Primarily a survival horror game, Tomb Raider: Ascension would have taken place on an entirely different island, with an entirely different cast. In 2013’s Tomb Raider reboot, Lara starts off young and timid, relying on the encouragement and support of her crewmates – but in Ascension, Lara would have been much more seasoned to start out with. She’d also have been accompanied by a six year old girl called Izumi.
Meanwhile, the survival horror version of the game would have pitted Lara against giant, invulnerable colossi that stalked an island she was shipwrecked on.
You can read the full article, The Story of the Tomb Raider That Was Never Made, for more information or contact me for access to the original research.
In 2012 I was commissioned by RockPaperShotgun to research and write about the development of Half-Life 2, focusing on the content that was cut from the game during development. I also played restored versions of that content using the Missing Information mod for Half-Life 2.
I thumb open my copy of Raising The Bar and take a fresh look at what lays inside. A quote from Gabe Newell’s foreword immediately pops out: “It doesn’t matter what we cut, so long as we cut it and it gives us the time to focus on other things, because any of the options will be bad unless they’re finished, and any of them will be good if they are finished.”
The majority of the article focuses on the Borealis, an ice-locked research ship that was cut from HL2’s plot early in development. The Borealis has since shown up in Portal 2 and is hinted to play a major role in the future of the Half-Life series.
You can read the full article, Unlimited Hyperborea: Half-Life 2’s Missing Information, at RockPaperShotgun or contact me to get access to the original research.