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Final Ratbag game surfaces as The Wheelman


Thanks to the person who pointed out to me that the newly released Vin Diesal game called The Wheelman has its development origins right here in Australia. In fact, The Wheelman was the open ended world / vehicle centric game that Ratbag games was working on in 2005 before publisher and owner, Midway, unceremoniously pulled the plug on the Adelaide studio right before Christmas.

In an annual report by Midway back in 2006, Wheelman is listed as the title which Ratbag Games was working on...

During 2005, we acquired two privately-held software developers in principally all-stock transactions initially valued at a total of $7,714,000. In August 2005, we acquired privately-held Ratbag Holdings Pty Ltd. and its subsidiary companies (“Ratbag”). Ratbag was a software developer located in Adelaide, Australia that prior to the acquisition was working with us in the early development stages of The Wheelman, a video game we plan to release in 2007.

An interesting comment about The Wheelman was posted at Digital Life last year when it was noticed that Wheelman would be suffering deveopment delays..

A. Non
July 28th, 2008 at 7:00 am

This title has an interesting history. It was originally being developed by Ratbag as one of their own IPs. Midway then bought them, took everything related to the game, fired everyone at Ratbag, shutdown the company and then gave everything relating to the game to the current creators. I wanted to see Midway go down but I realised that it’s just a company and the suits that work there would just find another place to infest if that ever happened. BTW I never worked for Ratbag, I just had friends who did.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 30/03/09 - 5:24 PM Permalink

Just to clarify: The Wheelman was indeed the final title that Ratbag was working on, but the IP was never theirs, it was Midway's. The core gameplay that features in the just released game is *exceedingly* similar to what Ratbag had developed - the vehicle combat is nearly identical.

I'd love to see some video footage of the old PS2 version again - I know it exists out there, it just needs to be leaked.

Submitted by souri on Mon, 30/03/09 - 11:42 PM Permalink

I think that poster probably got it mixed up with Scavenger...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/04/09 - 11:18 PM Permalink

I have a copy of the Final build(also Scav, Raid & Slipstream), I've been tempted to do some video capture and upload it to youtube for all the world to see...I'm one of the core vehicle systems guys who co designed & prototyped most of the driving mechanics at Ratbag. Looking at the final games high level feature set there really isn't anything that has been added from our original formula and what we had working. It stings even more to watch some of the Midway UK production teams videos boast about how they created the concept...

Submitted by souri on Fri, 03/04/09 - 12:44 AM Permalink

Send the raw footage to me! I'd love to put it in our youtube channel. Msg me in private if you're up for it or just send it to our P.O box.

Anyways, I'd be very curious to see it!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 04/04/09 - 3:00 AM Permalink

I doubt the footage is worth it, I'm guessing the very early concept is there but just looks awful. Ratbag might have had the idea but I doubt they had the quality to execute it well. Prove me wrong and post it on youtube.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 04/04/09 - 5:34 PM Permalink

Sounds like someone doesn't know what they're talking about :-)

Did someone from Ratbag cut you off in traffic or something?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 05/04/09 - 4:17 PM Permalink

I'm pretty sure that we never showed scav "publicly" at E3. There was certainly never any footage released.

Which is a real pity - it was looking awesome.


Submitted by megaderek on Sun, 05/04/09 - 6:15 PM Permalink

We released a trailer showing gameplay from Scavenger sometime in 2005.

It was a flash video embedded on the Ratbag / Scavenger site which is still cached on the internet wayback machine, unfortunately the video hasn't been cached so you can no longer view it along with most of the Scavenger media.…

Submitted by souri on Sun, 05/04/09 - 9:26 PM Permalink

We have an archive of Ratbag's site before it went down too (the wayback machine has a few broken pages, but ours is still good)

Unfortunately, I couldn't grab the Scavenger mini-site. It loaded flash files within the main flash file, so without knowing what those files were, it's hard to grab.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 06/04/09 - 10:38 AM Permalink

you are comparing those screenshots to game of the year fallout 3? are you for real.. so typical of the australian game dev scene to talk themselves up. As if ratbag did anything revolutionary, dukes of hazzard was a mess of a game.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 06/04/09 - 2:59 PM Permalink

Powerslide was okay... not bad. Melbourne house created the better test drive lemans game which was reviewed by IGN as the best DC game for the platform. Also a better rating than what Powerslide received. But still it is like past ratbaggers trying to toot their own horn again as usual. I mean for aus quite a good achievement , but really where was the competition in Aus so games like Powerslide that sold 200,000 seemed like a huge success. That is just an ordinary number when compared to any racing game released globally.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 14/05/10 - 10:24 AM Permalink

Back in the day it was fun.
I had high hopes when the studio was taken over initally, and was gutted when it was closed. Krome saved a lot of the jobs with their buyout, which everyone should applaud them for.
I've since had the pleasure of working with several ex rat bag employees and have been impressed by their skills and professionalism. (I actually learnt a lot from them)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 06/04/09 - 1:36 PM Permalink

Hi Anonymous Dude :-)

I said that the screenshots look a "bit like Fallout 3". Take a look at them, I think you'll find that they do look at the very least look a bit like that game (which was totally awesome).

Naturally this game was unfinished and was on PS2, so if your point is that it doesn't look as good as Fallout 3 then of course you are totally correct.


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 05/04/09 - 1:21 PM Permalink

I designed prototyped and implemented wrote the core vehicle and on-foot combat mechanics. They are still used to this day in Wheelman, GTA4, and Gears of War.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 11/05/10 - 9:04 PM Permalink

Hey Ex-Ratbagger,
I know this comment is now going to be a year after you've put in your words.

But is there any way the world could see the prototype games?

I was one of the lucky few who would got to play test "The Wheelman"

I really don't recall who i had for the leader of the group, but i would love to see at some stage, the final builds somewhere online as memory of what Ratbag did for the Australians!

Here is some of the only footage i could find of the gameplay test i took part in (i remember the mission quite well now)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 13/05/10 - 8:25 AM Permalink

A Scavenger video is floating around the internet somewhere, it was released at E3 or GDC in 2005, I don't recall which event to be exact. Scavenger was a much nicer refinement of RAID, that had potential but got buried by the Midway buyout. It had a post-apocalyptic tone that would have rocked as a Mad Max game.

There was a very early ingame rendered cutscene Wheelman video released which was updated by Midway to a pre-rendered cutscene shortly before Ratbag was shuttered. There are 'leaked' builds of Wheelman on PC, PS2 floating about, and stacks of video footage available, but you have to know someone. Some were leaked to tsumea when Wheelman was actually released on 360. I *think* Midway had them pulled from YouTube? Since Midway are pretty much kaput these days, it may not be an issue to have them re-released. Wheelman could have gone either way.. good or bad it was hard to tell.

Raid was a rip off of Mercenaries (Pandemic LA/LucasArts) The original proof was ok, but luckily the game was not green lit as it was all downhill from there. The feel was bad, and gamers are better off for it's cancellation.

It seemed to me as a lowly employee that it was Ratbag's failure to deliver milestones, and poor relationship pretty much every publisher that appeared to lead to a sell or die deal with Midway, this seemed a strained relationship from the start and was obvious even before they purchased the studios. It completely blindsided me at the time of closure, the studios end was already written in stone.

The Ratbag tech was pretty good. The games never got much past average after Powerslide and DTR.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 12/05/10 - 11:24 PM Permalink

I got a chance to play a Ratbag build of The Wheelman a while back, a few copies are floating around (friend of a friend type stuff). It was a very impressive prototype techwise, shame they never got to put it on the shelves.