Showing posts with label Cancelled. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cancelled. Show all posts

DeeDee Planet - Newer Beta Version Uncovered and Preserved

In 2021 we reported on the public release of an all but complete build of DeeDee Planet, the quirky and endearing Dreamcast game that was intended to be a spiritual successor to ChuChu Rocket!, which was sadly shelved just before going on sale. This release was made possible by a stalwart of the Dreamcast scene, Pcwzrd, who managed to source the beta from an unnamed developer, ripped the contents, and put it out into the world. What really put the icing on the cake though was the implementation of online play in 2022, thanks to one of the gurus of Dreamcast server revivals, Shuoma, thereby enabling dozens of folks to experience the game as it was meant to be (cursing your inexplicably skillful opponents as they rain missiles down upon you from their levitating sheep).

Well, here we are in 2023, and the DeeDee train still appears to have more track to traverse just yet. Today, BANANABREAK, a prolific preservationist with a lot of work already under their belt, has kindly released another DeeDee Planet beta (available to download here). This version was allegedly acquired from an ex-Sega UK employee who worked for the team in charge of Dreamarena, the online service that was available across Europe. Could this mean that a localised version was tentatively in the works? It would be a bit of stretch to claim so, but if anyone out there would like to produce a translated version complete with cover art in the majestic PAL-blue style, then we certainly wouldn't turn our noses up!

The GD-Rom containing the latest DeeDee Planet beta to be found and digitally preserved by BANANABREAK.

What we do know (or at least, assuming the scribblings on the GD-Rom are correct) is that this beta is around 10 weeks newer than the version that was previously available. To my uninformed eye, there are no obvious differences between the two builds. However, given that the purported reason for the game's abandonment by Sega was a problem with the game's server connection, it could well be the case that changes affecting this part of the code are in-fact there, hidden away behind the scenes.

Pcwzrd and Shuouma did run some tests with this new build. Pcwzrd had this to say about it:

As far as we can tell, nothing changed. Nothing obvious anyway. Shuouma says the game is still sending the same corrupted stats back to the server so [Sega] didn't fix that. Shuouma thought that they may have possibly tried to implement a fix for something but it didn't work. That might have been the point at which when they just gave up and cancelled the game.

Can any of our eagle eyed readers sniff out the differences between these builds? Are we going to see even later builds gracing the internet in years to come? As always, do let us know your thoughts in the comments.

P.S. As a little treat for anyone who is as enamored with this game as I am, I have recently scanned a promotional flyer that was produced for the game. A preview is available below, but a higher quality PDF is also to be found over at Sega Retro

The 18th of May release date touted here sadly wasn't to be, but over 20 years on from being scrapped DeeDee Planet's developers can rest easy in the knowledge that their work wasn't in vain.

Title Defense: Dreamcast's lost boxing sim

Think boxing on the Dreamcast and no doubt your mind will be instantly transported to the cacophonous auditoria of Midway's infamous Ready 2 Rumble; an ebullient Afro Thunder pacing around the ring with the kind of swagger only normally reserved for arcade boxers that looked - through a contemporary lens, at least - like playable CGI creations.

Yes Ready 2 Rumble and its sequel Ready 2 Rumble: Round 2 pretty much had the boxing genre sewn up on the Dreamcast; so while other systems before and since have enjoyed a wealth of options when it comes to digital pugilism, Sega's own great white (now possibly yellowing) hope only played host to the two Midway propositions. This is especially curious since previous Sega systems offered an embarrassment of riches when it came to boxing titles, with games like Greatest Heavyweights on the Mega Drive and Victory Boxing on the Saturn being two particular highlights from my own sordid youth. Arguably the most famous boxing franchise of all time is Punch-Out!!, but seeing as I was a Sega kid, I never really dabbled with those games until later on.

At the risk of turning this into a stroll down my personal memory lane of boxing games, it's time to take a detour through a lesser-travelled ginnel. See, the Dreamcast may have only received the two Ready 2 Rumble titles as officially released boxing games, but there was scheduled a mandatory challenger to face Midway's undisputed champion. In the opposite corner to Ready 2 Rumble, and hailing from the south coast of England, wearing superlative hi-res visuals and offering an impressive array of inventive gameplay modes, stood Climax Studios' Title Defense

Or at least it did, before the camera panned back around and it had vanished from the ring leaving nought but the faint whiff of Ralgex and dissappointment.

Source: DC-UK / Out of Print Archive

Announced in March 2000 by Portsmouth, Hampshire based Climax Studios, Title Defense promised a more realistic simulation style approach to boxing for the Dreamcast. Acutely aware of the long, muscle-bound shadow cast by Ready 2 Rumble, the game's designers were keen to distance Title Defense from Midway's arcade rooted punch fest at seemingly any and every opportunity. While not a Dreamcast exclusive, the fact that the Dreamcast was the only 'next-gen' console gamers could actually purchase at the time of Title Defense's announcement meant that it was the lead platform in many ways; and also presumably the reason Sega's system was the focus for a lot of the early media.

"Climax today announced it has begun development on Title Defense, a cutting-edge boxing game for PC, Dreamcast, Nintendo Dolphin, PlayStation 2 and X-Box. As addictive as a pure arcade game, but as detailed as a serious simulation, Title Defense is being designed to provide the all-round thump-'em up experience that previous boxing games have failed to deliver. 

"Making full use of the power in PCs and next-gen consoles, Title Defense will use high-resolution 3D graphics to bring TV-style mug-punching to glorious life. It promises to be a heavyweight game in every respect, weighing in with a fluid control system, advanced AI and punch-by-punch interactive commentary."

- Climax Studios, 9th March 2000

In the months following the initial press release, various members of Climax Studios' development team were interviewed by the gaming press, extolling the virtues of their Ready 2 Rumble-killer, and detailed the various features and gameplay modes that Title Defense would offer over the competition. The game was also featured in magazines of the era, with UK Dreamcast magazine DC-UK printing a four page spread focussed solely on Climax Studios' upcoming Dreamcast releases in the June 2000 edition. Naturally, this feature included a 'first look' at Title Defense, which showcased the game's impressive graphics and detailed some of the modes players could look forward to.

Source: DC-UK / Out of Print Archive

These modes included a sparring session, an exhibition fight mode, a curious sounding 'shadow boxing' mode (in which players would spar against a 'ghost' version of their own fights, apparently), and of course a full on career mode. 

Speaking to IGN in May 2000, Climax Studios' Business Development Manager Chris Eden said: "There's a career mode in there, yeah. The plan is, in terms of game modes, there will be a sort of straightforward arcade style mode where you'll go through and you'll fight 'X' many fighters, yeah? That's something we really need to do to keep the arcade gamers happy. But what we plan to do is put in a career mode, that'll require so much progression into the game. And that's something people hadn't really thought about before. For example if you look at real life how many fights does a boxer have? What's the level of opponents they fight? Things like that. Boxing isn't a sport where you fight anybody all the time, and games like Ready 2 Rumble don't show the hard work behind a boxing career or anything like that. Something we're sort of looking at as well is a small management mode where you'd be able to manage a stable of boxers and you'd be able to take part in the fight itself."

DC-UK's Climax Studios feature, July 2000

It wasn't just the variety in gameplay options that impressed though. The visuals, from the scant screens that were available looked truly outstanding. While clearly very early, the shots that were shared with magazines and websites of the era depict some excellently detailed character models - somewhat reminiscent of the superb models seen in Ultimate Fighting Championship - and some large (albeit empty) venues which would no doubt have eventually have been filled with roaring crowds. 

Again speaking to IGN, Chris Eden stated: "Title Defense is mainly really nice technology. People talk about physics as the new Rock and Roll in games and that's true, we've got a very detailed physics model in Title Defense and it allows us to model where the muscles work, and stuff like that. When the characters move, the muscles bulge and deform realistically, that's essentially how it works. And that is what will set us apart from games like Ready 2 Rumble, this total realism, like watching a boxing match, the movement the physics of it all."

What's especially interesting about the visuals of Title Defense is that the fighters were apparently not animated using motion capture of real boxers, but instead relied on manual hand animation. This time speaking to Game Interviews, Chris Eden said: "The game is fully hand animated at the moment. We did toy with the idea of using motion capture but to us the benefits of animation outweighed those of mo-cap."

Alas, there is no known video footage of Title Defense in motion, so quite how well this animation style held up is something of a mystery at this point, but still an interesting little fact to note.

Source: DC-UK / Out of Print Archive

While Climax were quick to point out that Title Defense was at the opposite end of the spectrum to Ready 2 Rumble when it came to gameplay and feel, the one similarity both games would share would be the lack of any official boxing license, with EA Sports having the exclusive rights to real world fighters tied up in its pre-Fight Night era Knockout Kings franchise. 

"EA has most of the boxing licenses sewn up, I think. As we've seen with Ready 2 Rumble and other games, a license isn't necessary for boxing as it is for like football, yeah? If you look down the line and looking at a boxing game, we've got this idea of this game with a player to interact with, and an awful lot of the people you meet are going to be other players," Chris went on to explain during his interview with IGN. "In a game world like we envisage people will generate their own reputations and careers. Licenses are essentially about having pre-generated reputations that you're up against, yeah? But if you start thinking about a boxing universe then reputations get generated by players, which I think is far more interesting."

Real Racer IX: Cancelled Game or Student Assignment?

I was browsing the hellscape of Reddit the other day, looking for something to frustrate me, when I found a rather interesting photo featuring demo footage of an unreleased Dreamcast game called Real Racer IX. Despite being tangled up in the antics of the Junkyard, I'd never heard of it. Not even a murmur. Real Racer IX never saw any kind of release, whether it be official or unofficial. All we have is the photograph below to serve as evidence of its existence.
This photo was taken during the Spring Tokyo Game Show of 2001, which was held from the 30th of March to the 1st of April. It shows a chap doing his best Wesley Snipes impression in a trendy leather jacket, as he plays the demo of Real Racer IX. Next to him, a much smarter-looking guy is watching him play. Obviously the assumption here is that the guy on the right was probably someone who had some kind of involvement with the development of the game, and was overseeing the demo booth. The game itself, like its name suggests, is a racing game, appearing to be of the long-distance running variety.
The gameplay onscreen shows a female athlete running down what looks like the longest, loneliest highway in existence. Despite the woman being the only runner on screen, the HUD shows a position counter of 6 out of 6, meaning there was bound to be a mob of computer opponents lurking somewhere around the corner ahead. The guy playing was probably just a bit rubbish.
Doing a reverse image search on the photo in question, I was led to one result: this old article on a Japanese gaming website called "Game Watch", detailing the Tokyo Game Show of Spring 2001. Browsing through, there's some bits about presentations from Nintendo (showing off the upcoming Game Boy Advance!), as well as Capcom and Konami, and it appears that Microsoft were gearing up to unleash their first ever game console into the Japanese video game market, with what looked like a pretty heavy advertising campaign, featuring Bill Gates holding a Burger in one hand and an Xbox controller in the other. This can be seen in the photo below, trapped under the most unphotogenic bowl of Ramen I've ever seen.
Relegated to the end of the article, is the only bit of Dreamcast-related information, and that is where we find the photo that prompted this entire search...

Playable Demo Of Cancelled Dreamcast Game Agartha Discovered

Here's a turn up for the books. It seems that No Cliché's long-lost Dreamcast adventure game Agartha does indeed exist in playable form...and below you'll find some video of it running. The video was posted to the Assembler forums recently and upon asking about the origins of the demo, it appears to have been discovered in a bundle of GDs purchased on eBay some time ago. The most important takeaway here though, is that the footage shown in the video below confirms the existence of a fully playable section of one of the most enigmatic games ever teased for the Dreamcast:

The story of Agartha is an interesting one, and up until now it was thought that the game never actually got past the concept stage, with various rumours swirling around the internet that the images released to the press back in the day weren't actually from a build of the game running on genuine Dreamcast hardware. Happily, we can now report that yes, there is a playable version of No Cliché's long-lost snow-bound adventure out there.
The game was to be No Cliché's second major foray into the Dreamcast library after Toy Commander, and is set in 1920s Romania. The main theme is supernatural in design, and the search for the entrance to the mysterious titular city of Agartha is a key plot thread. The video gives a glimpse at the interactions players could expect with card-playing villagers, a look at the menu screens and items, and some of the snow-covered outdoor areas. There's also a (fairly gruesome) demonstration of the real-time lighting used in the engine. Sadly, the promising title was cancelled and promptly vanished after Sega announced discontinuation of the Dreamcast.
Naturally, the Agartha shown in the video is very early, but the fact that a playable version exists is pretty incredible. The footage here (and the image below) is taken from an emulator, but the GD does run in a Dreamcast too according to the owner. It's slightly annoying that all we're allowed to see is this video (but hell - it's better than nothing!), and we're hopeful that at some point the owner will release it for everyone to have a good look at.
In the meantime, why not check out this previous article exploring Agartha's cameo in Toy Racer?