Waypoint Weeklies: Vaporware

I wouldn’t really call that vaporware. It’s sort of playable (in demo form) and it’s not like Nightdive seems to be in danger of disappearing with it unfinished - they’re constantly releasing less ambitious updates to retro games, including “big” stuff like the recent Quake release. A roundabout way of saying I assume they’ll eventually finish it, similar to other long-in-dev Kickstarter projects like The Long Dark, which still doesn’t have the planned story mode complete after… eight years, at this point?

It’s no Star Citizen, is what I mean. What was that proposed story mode? Squadron 66 or something?

The Magical Realms of Tír na nÓg: Escape from Necron 7 – Revenge of Cuchulainn: The Official Game of the Movie – Chapter 2 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa. Rest easy heroes, one day there will be another game for true doom murder heads

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Actually, I remembered one. 7th Guest 3: The Collector. It was announced in 2013 and failed its crowdfunding campaign twice. The company that owns the 7th Guest property pops up every couple of years and talks about how the franchise could still continue. I love FMV games. In fact, i’m getting ready to stream Phantasmagoria for October. That said, I think I’m one of a dwindling few who loves them. So, I think it’s safe to say that this game, or any sequel, is probably never going to happen.

I’ll have to go with Final Fantasy Versus XIII, whatever original ambition or plan Nomura had for that game, which was never finished. We’ll never know the true story about what happened or how much of the planned game made it into Final Fantasy XV, but definitely something dramatic happened. (People like FFXV, I found it incredibly boring, whatever.) The fact Nomura has now based the entirety of the next Kingdom Hearts game around his dead project makes it all the more fascinating.

What drives me nuts is the issue of a character named Stella, who was the one figure from Versus XIII who did not make it into Final Fantasy XV. Instead her role as main heroine was taken by Lunafreya, one of the least impressive Final Fantasy women in terms of agency. (Lunafreya’s role in the plot is just depressing.) What happened that specifically Stella couldn’t play that role? Who is Stella? What purpose was she supposed to play that never happened?

Exciting stuff to see Nomura protest vehemently with Kingdom Hearts III’s secret endings. Will Stella live again? Will Versus XIII be restored?

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Remember Agent or Deep Down? I think Jason Schreier interviewed Shawn Layden and asked him about Deep Down and he genuinely didn’t know what happened to it. Some real mysteries out there in the games industry.

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I could talk about vaporware forever, but a few in specific (now that Dread is coming out) come to mind for me.

First, there’s Dead Phoenix, the unreleased member of the “Capcom 5” for GameCube. It was going to be a flying rail shooter, and it probably would been fine, but god what a cool name. Then there’s Raven Blade, another lost GameCube game, that Retro Studios was working on before they pivoted fully to Metroid Prime. Reich was a game about fighting Nazis with telekinesis that fascinated me for a while. I also probably spend an unhealthy amount of time thinking about Vectorman 3.

I think these are the ones that interest me the most, though:

First is Project F-Stop, a game that by all account seems to no longer exist. Valve is of course known for having games vanish in the development pipeline. Prospero still piques my interest to this day, a game that would probably have been messy and weird, but like… you can’t pitch “Borges influenced sci-fi shooter with libraries” and not have me excited.

But F-Stop surprises me because it was so clearly a project that people were excited by at Valve, yet seemed to have vanished.

Shortly after the release of the Orange Box, Gabe Newell was concerned that Valve was focusing too much time on releasing games, and not on experimenting/innovation. To combat this, he thought up the ‘Directed Design Experiments’. In essence, Valve would shut down development on games and let the employees do whatever they want. Valve would turn into a creative playground for four months, with no stress or pressure from developing full games. One of these experiments was titled F-STOP; A project that made Gabe Newell think “Fuck yeah!” after seeing it. Valve were sure that this could be the mechanic for the next Portal game, thinking that Portal as a franchise would have a new mechanic each game, with a common link of Aperture Science experimentation.

But none of this ever came to fruition. However, apparently someone was able to share some of the original F-Stop code and assets and show what the game was going to be:

Second, this is a game I had almost completely and utterly forgotten until I started writing this post. There was the time when Capcom announced they were rebooting Mega Man as a gritty first person shooter. Now, when I first heard this, I thought it was a terrible idea, and I know I wasn’t alone. But when I looked it up just now, and watched some demo gameplay… it actually looks like it could have had potential? Like, yeah, it’s not I go to Mega Man for, and yeah, it’s just a demo… but this maybe could have whipped? We’ll never know for sure, but it sure is a trip…

Lastly, while it never got far, I find the story being “Project W”, the Ubisoft created Final Fantasy, pretty fascinating. George Weidman (Super Bunnyhop) delivered an expose on it a while back.

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I’m still waiting for Coconut Monkey’s Gravy Trader to come out.

For me, it has to be Mighty Tactical Shooter, or MTS to its friends, a Kickstarter’d game which was going to merge scrolling shoot’em ups ala R-Type and Gradius with pause-and-plan gameplay. (The idea being that you would ‘plan out’ the next few seconds of your ship’s actions, including diverting power between guns and defense, aided by predictions of the next actions of any enemies on screen - and then everything would play out simultaneously, Frozen Synapse like.)

Over time, though, the lone developer (in my opinion) added too much extra stuff to the game plan (a complex time travel plot, personalities for the shipboard systems, additional mechanics feeding into resource management), and a combination of the increasing weight of development, and other issues outwith MTS, caused the project to enter a long hiatus, finally being officially cancelled earlier this year after several years of silence.

It’s a sad story, and I don’t blame anyone for it being canceled, least of all the dev.
But it would have been nice to see the idea work.

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I will never forgive valve for taking In the Valley of the Gods away from us

edit: or maybe I should lean away from the GamerRage™ and say instead that I really hope valve lets them finish that game after they’re done with their half-life stuff.

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Actually hold up — I do have another one that’s a little more niche than HL3. I’m not sure if it’s really vaporware, just an empty spot in an ongoing series, but it was definitely planned at one time and is definitely never coming and I really wish it had. It’s Pokémon Z.

Pokémon Z would have been the third entry in Gen 6, with X&Y. Pokémon third versions can be… controversial, in that on one hand they’re another way to squeeze money out of fans (i.e. suckers, i.e. me) who will pay full game prices for mildly remixed content, but on the other they’re typically far and away the best way to experience that generation’s particular region, story, lore, etc. Crystal, Emerald and Platinum are widely regarded among the series’ best, but rather than do a third version after Gen 4 the series has done 1 set of (truly excellent) canonical sequels in BW2, a pair of iterative versions that I personally dislike for reasons I won’t bore you with in the Ultrasun/moon pair, and, for SwSh, a pair of DLC expansions. The only generation that’s gotten nothing — not a third version, not a sequel, not DLC — was 6.

Which is a shame! Because X&Y were probably the pair of main series games that offered the most room for improvement. Kalos had a lot of potential that never felt fully explored, had some really neat lore surrounding its legendaries inspired by some lesser known creatures from Norse mythology (a group of deer, a blind eagle, and a wyrm that all play a role in maintaining the balance of the World Tree). Some of what was planned for Zygarde was eventually worked into Sun and Moon — a really cool set of formes and a fetch quest that felt weird and out of place in a region the thing itself had no connection to. I would have really liked to see what that game turned into, but alas it was not to be.

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I just want to point out that Wikipedia lists Star Citizen as Vaporware and I got a pretty good laugh out of that. I do not think I have ever seen a weirder development case then Star Citizen and if I found out next week that all the ships are now considered NFT’s and they’re working in a crypto currency I would not be surprised.

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Im more familiar with vaporware as the music genre, being in that lane (or coming from it’s wake) as a musician myself.

Vaporware is very ironic to me ( not sure if this is a commonly agreed upon sentiment or not.) It’s clearly satirical, often stretching samples of cheesy pop hits - check out eccojams for this. Of course, eccojams creator, oneothrix point never, and another vaporware musical pioneer, vektroid, who made the seminal ‘floral shoppe’ under a different alias, have gone on to make more sincere music, not to mention PC MUSIC - an entire label created by people raised on this stuff and morphing it back into original pop music. But I digress. The roots of the genre is to critique nostalgia, to morph something pop culture loves until it’s unrecognizable. That’s why it’s a perfect late stage capitalist art - satirizing but not really critiquing, a mood more than a battle cry against the inhumane system we live under.

What does this have to do with dead games ? Think of all the products, the design by committee games, both released and unreleased. The flailing about system sticking big money on whatever is suppose to hit, something in line with whatever is popular right now. Dead games fail for many reasons but often the market didn’t see in them anything worth releasing, whether kickstarted or not. And the smaller projects unreleased or dead on arrival due to ambitions are now back in the cycle, another product to be used, satirized, fed back into the system as an object of derision - something to avoid when ‘doing it right’. But we don’t think of the failure too often. The hours of labor, daydreaming, wishing then going unplayed, un-talked about, unloved by broad culture. Washed back into a self devouring machine ready to only satirize when it’s ready.

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You know that the music genre is vapourwave, right? And that it derives from the vapourware concept ironically?

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Is it too early to say Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2? :stuck_out_tongue:

Other than that Everquest Next is the game that really comes to mind. That was the last game i got really hyped up for, even buying into the Landmark alpha. The systems just sounded perfect for me, the gameworld being made in voxels and with a focus on exploration, destructible terrain, action combat, and a dynamic ai. After that ive always approached games with a healthy dose of scepticism.