Original image

10 Video Games Canceled Before Release

Original image

Maybe the teams behind these video games just didn't gel. Maybe the creative direction of the games lost momentum. Or maybe trends and tastes changed, rendering these games obsolete. For whatever reason, these 10 games never made it to store shelves.

1. Star Fox 2

One of the most popular video games for the Super Nintendo was the original Star Fox, which came out in 1993. Nintendo placed a “Super FX” chip inside of the video game to extend the life and graphics of the SNES, which resulted in accelerated graphics and the use of 3D polygons in a 2D platform. When Nintendo announced Star Fox 2, which was to be released in 1995, fans were eager to play the sequel.

Throughout the development of Star Fox 2, Nintendo released screenshots, narratives, characters, and other details about the game to journalists and publications like Nintendo Power. The company promised that the game would continue the battle against Emperor Andross and would have expanded gameplay with a true 3D shooter.

During the game's development, however, Nintendo Game Director Shigeru Miyamoto decided to make a clean break and save 3D gaming for the upcoming Nintendo 64. Although Star Fox 2 was completed (and released in Japan), its release was canceled in the U.S. partly due to the superior-looking PlayStation and mainly because of the then-impending launch of Nintendo 64. Ultimately, the Nintendo 64 wasn’t released until a year and a half later in 1996. And while Nintendo eventually released Star Fox 64, which was a full 3D shooting game—and the sequel fans wanted—leaked source codes allowed serious gamers to emulate the gameplay.

2. Mega Man Universe 

In 2010, Capcom announced that it would release Mega Man Universe for the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade the following year. The company promised that the new video game would have similar gameplay to Mega Man 2 and would give the player the ability to customize their own levels and stages. But a few months later, Capcom canceled the game and apologized to Mega Man fans who were anticipating the new release.

Capcom didn’t disclose a specific reason why they canceled Mega Man Universe, instead citing “various circumstances,” which might have included the exit of the designer of Mega Man Universe, Keiji Inafune.

If Mega Man Universe had actually been released, it would have been the first time the character would have been called “Mega Man” in his native Japan. Historically, the character was called “Rock Man," but was changed when the video game was imported to the United States.

3. Star Wars 1313 

In May 2012, LucasArts announced a new Star Wars game that would be a more mature and gritty take on “a galaxy far, far away.” Star Wars 1313 promised a third-person action adventure game that would center on the bounty hunter Boba Fett as he rose to power in the seedy underbelly of the urban-planet Coruscant.

But in October 2012, the Walt Disney Corporation acquired Lucasfilm and its subsidiaries, including Industrial Light and Magic, THX, and LucasArts for $4.05 billion. In April 2013, Disney shut down LucasArts and canceled all video games in development, including Star Wars 1313.

4. Super Mario’s Wacky World 

In 1991, Nintendo had a partnership with Philips Electronics to develop a CD-based add-on for the Super Nintendo. The deal included licensing Nintendo characters for the video games Link: The Faces of Evil, Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon, Zelda’s Adventure, and Hotel Mario for the Philips CD-i video game console.

Needing a hit video game to sell more consoles, Philips developed Super Mario’s Wacky Worlds in 1993. The game took place on Earth rather than the Mushroom Kingdom, and promised to be the sequel to the classic video game Super Mario World. But Wacky Worlds was canceled after poor sales of the Philips CD-i.

Nintendo eventually released Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island for the Super Nintendo in 1995.

5. B.C. 

First announced in 2001, B.C. was an action-adventure video game developed by Intrepid Computer Entertainment for Microsoft’s Xbox. The game took place during the prehistoric era and followed a small tribe on the brink of extinction. Players would control the tribe and make it evolve, migrate, and survive against dinosaurs, simians, and other prehistoric beasts to be the most dominate species on the planet.

Although enthusiasm was very high, Microsoft canceled the prehistoric video game in late 2004, several months after B.C.’s first trailer was released. While Microsoft didn't comment about why the game was canceled, video game designer Peter Molyneux told VG 24/7 in 2008 that his studio, Lionhead, had to focus on either B.C. or a video game called Fable.  "We couldn’t do both simultaneously: it was just impossible for us to do that and maintain any quality at all," he said. "So many people ask about it and I find it absolutely fascinating that they do, because in a way some people here and at Microsoft said, ‘You know, we just don’t quite understand what the B.C. game’s all about.’ But everybody seems so enthusiastic about it."

6. Sadness 

In 2006, Polish video game developers Nibris and video game studio Frontline announced that the survival horror game Sadness would be one of the early release titles for the Nintendo Wii (then known as the Nintendo Revolution). The proposed game would have a black-and-white aesthetic instead of full color, play on psychological horror rather than jump scares and gore, and would fully utilize the Nintendo Wii remote.

Nibris parted ways with Frontline in 2007 because of "artistic differences." A script, concept art, soundtrack, and live-action trailer were the only things produced, but the final nail in the video game's coffin came when Nibris shut down completely in 2010. 

7. Kirby Adventure Games

Between 2000 and 2010, Nintendo only released four core traditional platform Kirby games for home consoles—Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards for the Nintendo 64; Kirby Air Ride for the Nintendo GameCube; and, for the Wii, Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Kirby’s Return to Dreamland. The total could have been seven: In that time, HAL Laboratory developed three other Kirby games that were eventually canceled.

With the working title Kirby Adventure, the Nintendo GameCube game would’ve been the first multi-player and single-player Kirby game. It was originally going to be released in 2003, but was ultimately canceled. A Kirby 3D game and Kirby pop-up book game were also developed for the GameCube, but were never finished or released because of Nintendo and HAL Laboratory's high standards and ambition.

Instead, Nintendo released Super Smash Bros. Melee, a fighting game featuring various Nintendo characters, for the GameCube.

8. The California Raisins: The Grape Escape

In the late '80s, the California Raisins were at the center of pop culture. The fictional band of anthropomorphized raisins had an Emmy Award-winning TV special and an animated series, along with hit songs and commercials on behalf of the California Raisin Advisory Board.

In 1990, Capcom developed a single-player side-scrolling video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The gameplay was very similar to Disney’s Duck Tales video game, and retailers were ready for a bestseller—but Capcom canceled the game weeks before its release date due to the California Raisins' dwindling popularity. 

9. Dead Phoenix

Dead Phoenix was one of five exclusive titles dubbed the "Capcom Five" that the company developed for Nintendo’s GameCube and announced in late 2002. The 3D shoot ‘em up game centered on a winged man named Phoenix and was set in a fantasyland full of dragons, monsters, and a mythical floating city.

Although Capcom released the other four games in the Capcom Five (P.N.03, Viewtiful Joe, Resident Evil 4, and Killer7), the company canceled Dead Phoenix in 2003 due to development issues and Nintendo’s high standards for excellence.

10. Sonic X-treme

The Sega Saturn, released in 1995, was the first home console from Sega without a Sonic the Hedgehog game attached to it at launch. The fully 3D Sonic X-treme was slated for release for Christmas 1996, but when the game's designers and developers couldn’t hit the target date, Sega eventually canceled the game.

There were only a small handful of Sonic games released during the short life span for the Sega Saturn, including Sonic Jam and Sonic 3D Blast. Sega discontinued the Saturn in 1998, only three years after its initial U.S. release, but fans would finally get the fully 3D Sonic video game they had been waiting for with the release of the Sega DreamCast and Sonic Adventure in 1998.

Can you out-fact the Facts Machine? Go to this post and leave a comment with your own amazing video game fact. If your fact is deemed sufficiently Amazing, you could win the mental_floss t-shirt of your choice.

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

Original image
Name the Author Based on the Character
May 23, 2017
Original image