Welcome to Games That Weren't (Also known as GTW), a site dedicated to unreleased/incomplete/cancelled games and prototypes on both consoles and computers. As well as news, reviews and features, we have platform specific projects with downloads, photos, scans, screenshots, videos, reviews and interviews. Our main platforms consist of the C64 and Amiga, where there is a full digital archive of games being preserved for both machines.

Please note - we are a non-profit digitization project, aiming to digitally preserve history of unreleased/incomplete/cancelled software which would otherwise be lost for good. If for any reason there is anything that you do not wish to be on the website, please contact us for removal.

Latest news

GTW book pre-orders now open!

I’m pleased to announce that pre-orders for our Games That Weren’t book are now open at http://www.gtwbook.co.uk

To give a bit of background to regulars of the site (as well as new visitors)… Primarily my aim was to produce something special to mark 20+ years of the Games That Weren’t archive. Originally I thought it may only take a year to write such a book way back in 2013, but I had completely underestimated. It was really important throughout the creation to try and make something special and enjoyable to others, and not just rush it out for the sake of it – so 7 years later here we are today.

Giving an illustrated snapshot of a wide range of unreleased games from 1975 to 2015, The Games That Weren’t book includes titles across a variety of arcade, home computer, console, handheld and mobile platforms. Many games are expanded upon in detail, with those involved sharing their untold stories and recollections, as well as attempting to solve some mysteries along the way. Assets and screenshots are shown for most titles, some never seen until now. In the case of games that don’t have anything to show, there are specially created artist’s impressions, giving a unique visual interpretation of what could have been.

Covering more than 80 games, five specially created ‘Hardware That Weren’t’ blueprint pieces, and interviews on titles such as Star Fox 2, The Games That Weren’t showcases and pays tribute to well-known and not so well-known unreleased titles (with new details and information), as well as titles never heard of until now.

http://www.gtwbook.co.uk

I really hope you enjoy it and i’m very excited to see people get their copies in August.

Frank 🙂

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Vectrex: another lost redesign

Whilst doing research into one of the Vectrex titles covered in the upcoming Games That Weren’t book, there was a surprise in store when Gary Bergmann (Senior Electronic Project Engineer at Milton Bradley) put us in touch with Tom McDonald. Tom used to work in the model shop at Milton Bradley at the time of the Vectrex, working on models for the likes of Dark Tower and more.

The Vectrex had other redesign attempts to try and continue the platform’s life-span, but sadly didn’t make it. These included a Colour Vectrex, but also a Mini Vectrex – which the National Video Game museum famously acquired a prototype of back in 2018. There was even talk of a handheld colour Vectrex in the late 80’s that would sadly never materialise.

However, Gary mentioned that Tom had worked on yet another Vectrex redesign which would never see the light of day. A new casing intended to replace the classic dark grey shell that we all know and love.

Tom informed GTW that his prototype was simply meant as just a visual improvement to make the standard-sized Vectrex look more appealing to the consumer. Therefore only a full-sized shell prototype was produced to show marketing the potential new look and get initial feedback.

Unfortunately, the redesign occurred just before Vectrex was dropped from the line, so further work and refinements were cancelled. It never got a stage of ever housing any electrical components inside. The team were even asked to throw the early model away, but thankfully Tom grabbed it and has been the guardian of it ever since.

Here are a full gallery of photos showing the prototype casing, which Tom kindly provided:

As you can see, there are some small similarities with the Mini Vectrex, primarily the vibrant “VECTREX VideoSystem” logo and use of luminous orange/red colours that really pop out at you.

We believe that this might be the first time the case design has been seen before outside of Milton Bradley because of how early it was in development at the time. Mat Allen though has seen the controller in the past separately, with the stick on the right-hand side. If you are aware of any press showing the design and any further details, please do get in touch – as we would love to pass anything onto Tom and add to this page as well.

Photos (c) Tom McDonald.

Posted in Prototype | Tagged | 1 Comment

Make My Day game fully recovered

Following on from the release of Mirage, we are pleased to announce the preservation and recovery of yet another title in the form of Make My Day. A full diagonal scrolling Western game which was intended for Power House back in 1988.

After providing a copy of Mirage for the site, Mark Clements very kindly sent a copy of Make My Day down via post the other day. Thankfully the disk preserved first time without any issues at all.

The additional bonus of the recovery is the inclusion of a previously unheard Matt Gray tune on the title screen. Enjoy!

https://www.gamesthatwerent.com/gtw64/make-my-day-2/

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Cold Steel (Super Nintendo)

1992 Ocean Software

Brian Flanagan has been in the games industry for over 30 years, working on well over 40 shipped titles. He once worked at Ocean Software for around 10 years, working (uncredited) on Operation Wolf and then infamously on the first version of Operation Thunderbolt on the Commodore 64, which saying was a bit of a mess is a slight understatement.

We chat with Brian (with some added input from Dawn Hollywood) regarding an intriguing SNES platformer called Cold Steel. Not really covered in any depth or detail as far as we know, apart from the odd mention online and in the press. Developed back in 1992, and which could have been one of Ocean’s early SNES releases following the likes of The Addams Family, had it been completed.

GTW- Thanks Brian for taking time to speak to us about the Cold Steel project. So when was the game being worked on roughly and for what platforms?

Brian – It was an ongoing project from about 1991-2 and was SNES only.

GTW – Can you tell us a little more about what the game was to consist of and how it was going to play?

Brian – It was pretty much “Castlevania” meets “Strider” meets “Ghosts and Goblins”. The main character was an armoured warrior type character that did wall jumps by ramming his sword into a wall or pillar mid-jump to jump further.

Part of the inspiration for Brian’s Cold Steel game design. Super Castlevania (SNES).

GTW – Ah, so was it to be all multi-directional platform action?

Brian – Yes, it was mostly left to right, but a lot of vertical action too, where you could stab your sword into the wall and do wall jumps.

Gary Bracey also suggested the idea of having the character start as a child and get older as the game went by, which wasn’t a bad idea, but considering that cartridge size was always a major issue, multiple characters would add to that and increase cost.

GTW – Interesting concept from Gary. Was this just jettisoned then because of potential cartridge size issues then?

Brian – To be honest, getting a 16 Megabit cart would have been a struggle, and doing maybe 3 different characters didn’t grab me anyway. I dunno if starting a game as
a kid has a good initial grab as a cool and dynamic character from the get go.

GTW – So did you come up with the idea and pitch for Cold Steel yourself then?

Brian – Yeah it was all my idea.

GTW – Were you creating and following a design document or was it a case of making everything up as you went along?

There was a very flimsy design document. Most of it was just gradually iterated, sprite character, animation etc. No concept art to speak of. I was doing a lot of the graphics at home. It was a bit of an obsession for me at the time.

GTW – Sounds like though that the main character was quite large compared to most games of the time as well?

Brian – I’d say the main character wasn’t any bigger than say, Super Castlevania or Strider’s.

GTW – So, Dawn Hollywood (née Drake) was working on it with you doing some enemy sprites (who i’ll bring into the conversation in a moment). Who else was working on the game with you?

James Higgins did some programming before he left Ocean, then another guy also took over the programming for a while. He didn’t stay at Ocean very long and I honestly can’t remember his name. He had a habit of punching himself in the head when he got things wrong.

GTW – I guess whatever works for you!

GTW – Dawn, although it sounds like your involvement was very brief – I thought i’d try and include any recollections you have as well. What do you remember about the project?

Dawn – I vaguely remember working on it. I just did some sprite work. Probably worked on it for a few months, then that was it, cut dead. Which I thought was a great waste of our time and effort. I enjoyed working with Brian though, he was very focused about what he wanted, which helps when it’s an ‘original’.

GTW – Any plans for multiplayer?

Brian – No, none. Adding another large character sprite would have eaten up VRAM and bogged the game down, and again cart size = money.

GTW – What were your inspirations overall whilst creating the game? You seem to love Japanese culture, and have even lived there now for some years – so perhaps Japanese games gave some kind of influence at the time?

Brian – To be honest, once I got a PC engine and a MegaDrive console I kinda lost interest in EU / US developed games. All the major arcade game makers were making their own arcade ports and the difference in quality was miles ahead in terms of graphics, and most importantly accuracy to the originals.

GTW – Can you recall any of the level themes or environments planned for the game as a whole? (City, Alien world, Underground etc)

Brian – Yeah, we had a forest that had pillars bursting up from the ground, an airship, a castle, that’s all we got graphics wise. I think the castle and forest was all we had in the game though.

GTW – So a few levels implemented at least?

Brian – Nothing finished. We never got the pillars bursting up out of the ground, and a lot of enemies were never implemented properly. It only really got just as far as character game play and some parallax backgrounds. Oh and a Mode 7 background scene that had half submerged wooden frameworks with platforms.

GTW – Very nice! Although clearly not getting too far, were there any plans for other genres of game to mix things up between stages? Maybe making further use of Mode 7 for a 3D section for example?

Brian – Not really. We just had Mode 7 doing rotating platform structures, where the platforms were attached to the structures like pedals on a bike – so they remained level while the platform structures rotated.

GTW – Were there any particular challenges that you can recall during development apart from the storage space?

Brian – None really. I was really into reading up on the SNES technical docs and had pretty much figured out how everything could be achieved. Being the sole artist/designer on the game was probably the hardest thing, but I managed to produce a few backgrounds and sprites.

GTW – Ah, so you was also helping out on programming side, as well as doing the art and design work?

Brian – I wasn’t programming – only designing and doing the GFX! There were just the 2 programmers that had a stab at doing work on it overall.

GTW – Cold Steel seems to be the one project that you’re most disappointed to have seen cancelled. It sounds like the game was coming on pretty well – so why was it cancelled in the end?

Brian – Probably because it wasn’t a license, or another license came along that was deemed more lucrative. Actually I wasn’t holding out too much hope as the general enthusiasm was a bit low and I was mostly doing everything myself. I knew it would never get where I wanted it to be at Ocean.

GTW – Must have been too early then for music/sound effects?

Brian – Yeah, no audio was ever done.

GTW – And what happened after the cancellation?

Brian – I think at that point I moved onto the ill fated “Shadow” movie license, and after moved on to the further ill fated “Tribe” projects,

GTW – Looking back now, is there a game that eventually got released that you thought to yourself – “That just how I imagined Cold Steel would have been!”?

Brian – Like I said it was just kind of a mix of Castlevania meets Strider.

GTW – The big question – has anything survived of the development that could be shown today?

Brian – Sadly, if there is anything remaining of evidence the prototype existed, it will be on a video tape at my parents house, buried in the attic somewhere, and I’m a bit far away from there to go digging. I recorded all the in game footage we had, but I really don’t know if I still have the tape.

Dawn – Unfortunately I don’t think I have anything to show for it either. I can always go through my old disks as see if there is any remnants, but doubt it.

GTW – Although Dawn has long left the games industry, Brian – you are still very much still a part of it all today. What are your feelings on producing a game today, compared to your Ocean Software days?

Brian – Tools and knowledge bases make things so much easier, but the amount of team members on a modern game can make things very slow going and strip you of most of your autonomy and input depending on the team hierarchy and corporate structure.

As a UI designer, my biggest worry is fragmentation, as game resolutions are become so big that pixels are losing their meaning. Huge, detailed 4k UI could become near illegible on a switch handheld, or even worse now that the future of gaming may be streaming. How will a TV size UI be legible when you stream to a phone? We`ll probably have to do entire UI`s 3 or 4 times over.

GTW – Seems to lack a lot of the fun and simplicity of the old days (in my own opinion), which may perhaps explain your current retro themed project as we conclude our discussion.

So recently you’ve been working again on classic Nintendo platforms and have a brand new game on the cards?

Brian – Yes, I’ve been busy working on a NES and Famicom game called Saru★Kani Panic! for 8 bit NES and Japanese Famicom. We’ll be going to Kickstarter to get the game manufactured when it’s finished! Some new WIP footage can be found on YouTube (GTW – see above!). If you’re on Twitter, you can get updates from @work3studio

GTW – That looks seriously cool Brian – i’ll keep an eye out for it, and i’m sure others will too.

Thanks to both Brian and Dawn for taking the time to share your recollections and hopefully some video footage or sprite work will some day surface for us to update this page and show.

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Unreleased Mirage (C64) added to the site

A surprise to kick off the weekend for you all, with the full and unreleased Mirage game that was never released by Mark Clements.  Mark was better known for his Summer and Winter Camp music, but also did a lot of coding work too, including a few games.

Not seen for over 30 years, this is a neat single screen shooter with some cool end of game bosses to shoot.

Check it out at: https://www.gamesthatwerent.com/gtw64/mirage/

Posted in Commodore 64, GTW64 news, News, Prototype | Leave a comment

GTW64 update for June 2020

It’s that time of the month again, and another update, including some artwork added by Stoo Fotheringham that has been under our noses for some time.

Heebie Jeebies loading screen found

Heebie Jeebies

8 new entries added

Crypt of the Dragon, Orpheus in the Underworld, PHM Pegasus – Advanced Battle Disk, Stoo Fotheringham art assets, The Guild C64 conversions, The Magician’s Ball, Zambeezi, Zenulas

11 updates added

Atic Atac, Bailiff, Battle Ball, C64GS cartridge titles, Escape From Colditz, Flimbos Quest 2, Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade V1, Inspector Gadget, Joust, Rockball, Sonic the Hedgehog

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Elric: The Almon’s Mission

Elric: The Almon’s Mission was an RPG title being developed by Psygnosis way back in 1995, based on the character by Michael Moorcock. The game was intended for release on both PC CD and Sony PlayStation, and was brought to light to Games That Weren’t by contributor J.M. Ratkos, who found details of the game from an old E3 press kit from Psygnosis.

Some screens recovered show what seem to be some early cut scene images and title page imagery:

In addition to the images, there was a description as follows about the game itself:

Michael Moorcock is a master of the art of science fantasy and Elric is one of his greatest creations, the last of the Menilbonean emperors and a formidable warrior.

In this fantasy role playing adventure for PC CD and Sony PlayStation, you take on the role of this classic fantasy character in an epic battle with Almon, the dark wizard, who is promising to rejuvenate the kingdom, but who’s true motives remain unknown.

With three cities, two villages and eight dungeons to explore in real time,  fully rendered 3D, The Almon’s Mission is a complex and engaging  fantasy adventure with the depth to satisfy the most demanding role playing gamer. Utilise a vast range of spells, magical options and weapons as you unravel the mystery of the Almon, as Elric, a legendary hero without equal.

Intriguingly it seems that the game underwent a possible redesign/redevelopment when the game was later renamed to Elric: The Necromancer, still for Psygnosis and being developed by Haiku Studios. It may well have just been a name change in the end, and we’re yet to get confirmation. More details (including screens and assets) for this later edition can currently be seen at both https://www.playstationmuseum.com/vggraveyard.html and https://www.unseen64.net/2008/04/11/elric-psx-cancelled/

The game would just disappear, even though Psygnosis stated back in 2000 that the game was just on hold and were seemingly hopeful it would be released later that year. According to one of the artists, David (Moonchild) Demaret, a decent engine couldn’t be found or arranged to get the game working properly and it was cancelled as a result.

Not long after the cancellation, a second attempt at a title featuring Elric was put into production, called Stormbringer: Elric of Melniboné. Developed by a different studio called Snowball Interactive for both PC and SEGA Dreamcast. This was also cancelled –  more details of which can be read over at Unseen64 about that particular production.

Thanks to J.M. Ratkos for the recovered information + screens.

Sources: 

Posted in News, PC, Playstation | Leave a comment

The long lost Tilt conversion (Commodore Amiga)

Many of you growing up with Codemaster’s 8-bit budget games may remember a quirky title called Tilt, where you control a 3D maze and rotate it in various directions to guide a ball to an exit point, whilst avoiding a range of obstacles.

Sounds very simple, but it was a deviously addictive title which scored well across the different formats it was released on. It even featured Commodore Format’s very own Roger Frames on the front cover, proudly declaring its “Corker” status from its 93% score. You can read more about the C64 game here: https://commodoreformatarchive.com/1-tilt-codemasters-version-93-issue-1/

A blown up screenshot from the Amiga Power review. Apologies for the poor quality – will try and find a higher-res version in the future.

Around a year or so after the release, it was oddly to be the turn of the 16-bits with the release of an Amiga budget conversion (it is unknown if an Atari ST version was ever planned/started).

Created by Michael Troughton (who would eventually become lead programmer for Psygnosis’ Brian the Lion) whilst he was in University, the game was reviewed in issue 9 of Amiga Power by Stuart Campbell (see below).

According to Michael’s brother Robert (who brought the conversion to our attention), the game *may* have been one of the first games on the Amiga to have proper 3D graphics running at 50FPS – helped likely by the fact that Michael had experience within the demo scene at the time. Although visually it looked quite crude (as with the originals), it received a more than reasonable 73% and was available for the bargain price of £7.99 too.

Although fully paid for his efforts, unfortunately, this was to be the last time the conversion would ever be seen again, with it never surfacing or appearing in shops. Why was this? We’re not exactly sure – even David Darling was at a loss as to why it was cancelled when Robert asked him directly.

Actually, it seems that it could have been down to a trademark issue with the name “Tilt”. Italian-based Genias would release a different maze-based puzzler around the same time, which would ironically review the very next issue of Amiga Power. The much cheaper Codies budget game would come out on top out of the two titles, but it would be just the Genias title that would surface. So was it Genias who perhaps put a stop to the Codemasters game?

This seems to be the most plausible reason so far, though nothing was communicated back to the developer. Sadly as the years have gone on, Michael no longer has anything of the conversion. So the hunt now begins to see if it can be saved.

Review copies are very likely to have long gone, with Amiga Power seemingly the only reviewer too. Often they were sent back to the companies afterwards or binned after various clear outs over the years.

Codemasters though have recently been sifting through their vaults, so we will try to see if they can take a look. It all depends though if the game ever got to a mastered stage, or just remained on a master disk. It is alternatively hoped that friends of Michael may have obtained or kept a copy of the game themselves, and will someday surface in that way.

If you know anything more about the conversion – then please do get in touch!

The original review from Amiga Power, issue 9.

Posted in Amiga, Features | Leave a comment

Joust (C64) found!

Great news, but collector Ken Van Mersbergen (known to many as Dutchman2000) has found and preserved the long lost AtariSoft conversion of Joust, which we have had an entry on for some time here.

Ken got in touch with GTW yesterday and informed us that the game was recovered from the archive of a retired programmer who used to work for Roklan.  It was found on an 8-inch CP/M disk that was labelled “Popeye” and had the full source code and hex image to be able to create a CRT image.

We learn that the game was coded by Joe Hellesen at Roklan Corporation, and Ken plans to show the game in public for the first time since 1984, at the VCFMW/ECCC show in September (if it goes ahead).  The CRT will be released after the show, or earlier if the show doesn’t happen and will be added to the GTW64 site.

For now, enjoy the screenshots and a massive thank you to Ken for preserving another piece of gaming history.

Posted in Commodore 64, GTW64 news, Prototype | 19 Comments