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Guest post by Frank Gasking

We are simply spoilt for choice these days when it comes to what to play. The games industry is now well over 40 years old and the vast range of titles available to us is growing by the day, with a worth now greater than both the music and film businesses combined.

Regardless of our gluttonous options, there are many games out there that never actually made it to your screens. You probably even know several yourself – maybe that certain demo you played of an exciting new first-person shooter, only for the development studio to go bust. Or perhaps you recall online screenshots and video previews of a new MMORPG that promised so much yet faded into obscurity; never to be seen again. The experiences are no doubt vast and plentiful.

For many, the frustration of not being able to play some of these ‘missing’ games has made the desire greater to want to play them, or at least find out what happened. In many cases, there are valiant attempts to digitally preserve and make unreleased games available for you to play or look at (regardless of how complete), giving a glimpse of what could have been and help ensure potentially years of hard work isn’t lost forever. Crucially though, it is also important to try and hear the stories from those involved in the developments themselves, to share lessons, positives, and mistakes alike for other game developers to take on board for their own future productions.

The author of this very article has been investigating the subject of unreleased games for over twenty years, recently completing a multi-format book on the very subject and paying tribute to ‘the ones that got away’ in The Games That Weren’t. More details and information on pre-ordering can be found at

With the PC/Mac, you could probably write an entire book just on those platforms alone. Here we take a teasing glimpse at a small selection of some titles that have been covered:

Carmageddon TV
Target platforms: PC, Xbox, PlayStation 2

After the release of Carmageddon 2 in 1998, Sales Curve Interactive (SCi) unceremoniously dropped the original Stainless Games development team, resulting in the controversial series going completely off rails (anyone recall the inept Carmageddon: TDR 2000?). Carmageddon TV was yet another misjudged effort back in 2005, with internal conflicts between development studio Visual Science and publisher SCi causing the most damage overall. After several disastrous iterations, SCi decided enough was enough and put the game to rest. Thankfully Stainless Games would later regain rights to the entire franchise, meaning that the series is now in good hands once more.

Target platforms: Apple Macintosh and PC

Feeling there was more to just building cities, Maxis wanted to take things further with a full Mars exploration simulation, where you could plan and charter a journey to the famous red planet to then colonize. Due for release around 2000, SimMars was in development for several years and underwent various deliberations and changes throughout, causing numerous delays along the way. When a certain upcoming title named The Sims started to show real promise, the team was moved onto that development to finish it. When The Sims took off in such an unexpected way, it resulted in focus remaining predominantly on the series for years to come; SimMars would remain indefinitely shelved as a result.

Fallout 3
Target platforms: PC (Apple Macintosh likely to have been in consideration)

Not the same Fallout 3 released by Bethesda Game Studios back in 2008, but a completely different third title in the series that was being developed by the prequel’s development studio Black Isle Studios. Codenamed Van Buren, the game had a similar visual approach to the first two games but was created within a fully 3D engine. The team developed an impressive technical demo within a short space of time (which you can find online via various sources) but the project was cancelled when Black Isle Studios was closed due to financial problems at their parent company Interplay Entertainment back in 2003.

That’s not all
You can read more about the above games from their creators and of more PC/Mac titles in the upcoming Games That Weren’t book, due for release in July 2020. There are also a few surprises in store too, with a selection of titles not covered until now - including a Gears of War style third-person shooter, and a story on a surprise completed conversion of a popular Sony PlayStation title.

‘Digging the dirt’ on unreleased games
The book has been underway for just over five years. Why so long? To tell a solid story about an unreleased game requires plenty of investigational work beforehand. You must become a ‘Digital Detective’. Not only is it a case of going through old magazines and websites, but you need to try and get details from those directly involved in the game itself. That kind of information can be golden, revealing information not yet known or further leads.

Where possible, you try to get multiple input and sources, as often memories can blur and distort over time. Part of the challenge though is often in finding those sources in the first place. Many are often completely off the grid, and sadly you’ll occasionally find some people are no longer with us. Sometimes people don’t wish to look back, which you must respect, with some cancellations too painful to reflect on due to personal/sensitive reasons. With more recent titles, you’ll find many will be unable to talk at all, due to signing Non-Disclosure Agreements.

Once you have your research, you can slowly draw out a good timeline of events (depending on how much you can find out) and weave a game’s story together. If you’re lucky, assets can be revealed, even complete builds if you hit the jackpot – though legalities mean that this is rare. Often the only way to play some titles is when an ‘unofficial leak’ is made via an anonymous source.

What else does the book cover?
The book gives an illustrated snapshot of unreleased games from 1975 to 2015, across the arcade, home computer, console, handheld, and mobile platforms. More than 80 games are covered in total, with five specially created 'Hardware That Weren't' blueprint pieces, and interviews regarding titles such as Sex ‘n’ Drugs ‘n’ Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Many games are expanded upon in detail, with those involved sharing their often-untold stories and recollections, as well as attempting to solve some mysteries along the way. Assets are shown for most titles, some never seen until now. Where assets are lacking, there are specially created artist impressions, giving a unique visual interpretation of what could have been.

If you like your gaming books and fancy something different from your usual retrospectives, then hopefully this is the book for you. To find out more and pre-order, please visit

Competition time
Win one of three signed copies of The Games That Weren’t book!

All you must do is answer the following question: What PC/Mac game were you most disappointed to see never released and why?

Post your entry in the forum thread below before June 15th, 1 PM UTC, and we'll pick and reward the three most interesting answers.
Star Trek: Secret of Vulcan Fury

There's no question that it was the biggest cancellation disappointment of all times.

Because others have said that already, to say something that hasn't mentioned before, I was also very disappointed that the following chapters for The Tales of Bingwood: Chapter I - To Save a Princess were never released. Although I don't think they were ever officially cancelled, they just never got made.
ArjyYu: I do understand that my post is off-topic here - but is there any chance that No One Lives Forever will be re-released on GOG?

I miss Cate so much...
I have both games in physical form (albeit the censored German versions), the first from a cover-mount CD/DVD of a games magazine, the second one a regular retail version. I would love to add these to my library here though. Until that happens though (if ever), I remember there was some website that hosted the entire series in patched form, playable on modern systems.


As for games that never were released... anybody remember Urban Decay? This should have been the second game by Andrew Spencer Studios, following Ecstatica. The game should pick up Ecstatica's ellipsoid-style graphics but instead of the medieval/fantasy setting it would have had a modern urban/city setting, complete with gangsters, shootouts, helicopter chases, etc. At some point they changed direction and wanted to go with a polygon-based engine instead - and soon after Ecstatica 2 was announced and Urban Decay just vanished from existence.
There was an Unreal engine first person squad based X-COM game in the works around the turn of the century. Admittedly it could have bombed. It was in the works around the time that Interceptor and Enforcer were released so perhaps high hopes were unwarranted.

But even if they would have fluffed it at the time, the idea of playing a Rainbow Six-esque tactical shooter against alien invaders that was backed up with research and squad development is something that still sounds really enticing today.
There are many games, but from the past decade I did want only one game and that is Prey, the bounty hunter variant, that was sadly never released.

Here is the E3 trailer from 2012:

And here is all the gameplay one can find:
The Lord of the Rings: The White Council and Project Awakened.
Post edited June 05, 2020 by GuarD_u
Loom was expected to have 2 sequels, named Forge and the Fold. It's such a pity that we didn't see a continuation.
The game that I have been expecting for the most as a kid it's been a proper Monkey Island 3 with the ending of the main story.
Matthew Smith was the reclusive British programming genius behind 8-bit platforming smash hits Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy. The Mega Tree was going to be his long-awaited return to the series for its third and final act, with releases planned for the Commodore 64 and PC. An alternative title was Miner Willy Meets The Taxman, likely based on Smith's personal experience of becoming unexpectedly rich at the age of 18.

Smith, influenced by Nintendo’s Mario franchise, was going to have Willy traversing side-scrolling levels instead of just single-screens, collecting coins as Willy climbed the tree branch by branch. But Smith's perfectionist tendencies meant progress was slow, and the plug was pulled after 3 months. A frustrated Smith disappeared into a hippy commune in Holland for the next decade. Only some development disks stored by the graphics artist remained to tell the tale of what could have been the UK's answer to Super Mario Bros, a lost game that could have changed the course of videogame history forever.
Always felt there was supposed to be a proper Third game after Tomb Raider:Underworld.

The story was left open and on a cliff hanger.

I don't know if there ever was a game planned, not that I can find, but that is what I wish had been made.
Easily Starcraft 2.
While the title was belatedly used for some sort of tacky, melodramatic demon epic, there has never been an acceptable continuation, in style with the original story, from where Starcraft: Brood War left off. And that is one of the greatest missed opportunities of 21st century gaming so far.
I really wish I could have tried StarCraft Ghost.

Outcast 2: The lost paradise

and Omikron 2 or Omikron 2: Karma

both got announced and never got made which is too bad because they could have been weird games with great soundtrack and visuals like the original Outcast and Omikron :D
I recently played two of Troika Games' classics, Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, and Vampire: the Masquerade - Bloodlines.

As most people know, these games were not commercially successful, and especially after playing them I found that quite sad. A lot of games I know and love, I do so in spite of the obvious budget or time constraints (KOTOR 2?), knowing that their success was in some ways sabotaged. Playing these classics, I could see the scars of troubled development, lack of playtesting and cut content.

Anyway, I read that Troika was planning to do an Arcanum sequel in the Bloodlines engine (which was Valve's Source engine). I even found an early design document for the game. And it got me thinking, what if Arcanum had been successful instead of Morrowind and got its sequel? As I described it:

"In an alternate reality where this game wasn't rushed, it could have been ported to the Xbox, where it saw moderate success that funded Troika's Arcanum franchise. Their much-awaited sequel replaced Oblivion as the Xbox 360's first must-have RPG.

Spurred by success on console, the isometric CRPG never went out of style. To this today, fans of first-person CRPGs lament that they never caught on. Morrowind, a game in a strange fantasy setting with steampunk elements, is rushed to PC after Microsoft approaches Troika instead of Bethesda Softworks. Despite its compelling gameplay, the interface is confusing and the game is riddled with bugs. The developer never becomes a publisher, and closes its doors in the next 2 years. Troika, hot off the success of Arcanum, purchase the Fallout IP. 3 years after releasing Fallout 4 on the Xbox One, Arcanum 666, a Hell-based MMORPG survival game spin-off, is released to resounding critical and commercial success.

[some time later]

Despite my AU, it seems that Troika intended Arcanum's sequel to be first-person and use the Source engine.
Imagine a future where games still use Source as the outdated engine of choice.

Valve's Steam never takes off, as the company shifts its focus on developing Source as a popular games engine.
Gamers express frustration that 'Troika is still using that duct-taped Source engine. Their games have been buggy and unstable for a decade.'"

That musing inspired me to create the image I've uploaded. A speculative glimpse at the Good Old Game That Wasn't.
arcanum.jpg (201 Kb)
Ultima 9 as originally envisioned! There were tech demos (fully rotating camera, in pseudo top down view, just as Ultima 7 and 8), info about the story... I was very excited for it, but it disappeared in development hell and the released Ultima 9 is something completely different: it wasn't terrible, but it wasn't great like Ultima 7, 8 or the Underworld games.
The Dreamland Chronicles: Freedom Ridge by Mythos Games (Julian Gollop). His next big game after X-Com Apocalypse that was beset with production problems and got cancelled (and apparently had various bits 'borrowed' for other unrelated games). It would have been interesting to see how the game turned out as I have been a fan of Julian Gollop since Chaos onthe ZX Spectrum. At least we got Phoenix Point as a new game from him but I was always curious how DC:FR would have turned out as it seemed quite forward thinking at the time...

Minor notes: Into the Shadows by Scavenger looked pretty at the time but not sure how "real" what we saw was. I also remember famous games like Dick Special, even if it didn't particularly appeal to me, and Palace's Barbarian 3 that never got far.
Duke Nukem Forever (1998).
The original version of Duke Nukem Forever used the Quake II engine and a trailer for it was shown at the 1998 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) conference. The trailer saw Duke riding a pickup truck, firing a large turret gun, physics-based gameplay, strippers, shooting aircraft out of the sky as it chases you down the highway, some old man western prospector character, Terminator-like endoskeletons and a whole lot more craziness. Unfortunately, the game didn’t come out for 13 more years and the original design of the game featured in that awesome trailer was completely gone and never released to the public. I’m a big Duke Nukem fan... that hurt that we never got that game, but not as much as playing the version that was released.