Tacticular Cancer: We'll have your balls

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Development Info More on Obsidian's cancelled and unproduced projects at Eurogamer

Discussion in 'RPG News & Content' started by Infinitron, Sep 12, 2017.

  1. Make America Great Again Infinitrongender: ⚧ I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    Tags: Chris Parker; Dwarfs; Feargus Urquhart; Obsidian Entertainment; Prey 2 (Obsidian Entertainment); Star Wars: Dark Times

    It looks like the Eurogamer guys saved all their best Obsidian stories for this week. We've all heard about Obsidian's various cancelled games, but we know less about their pitches that never got off the ground in the first place. Today's article at Eurogamer describes some of these, and in particular the ones Obsidian cooked up in the summer of 2012 when they were scrambling for work after Stormlands' cancellation. These include a Prey sequel which would have been more faithful to the original game than the reboot that Arkane eventually released, a Warhammer 40K RPG based on the Dark Heresy tabletop game, and a Star Wars RPG called Star Wars: Dark Times based on a Dark Horse comic of the same name. I'll quote the parts about the first two:

    "We probably went through about 10 pitches that summer," Parker says. There was a Justice League game pitched to Warner Bros., there were two separate Might & Magic games pitched to Ubisoft, one smaller, one open-world. But the proposals Obsidian really remembers are Prey 2 and Warhammer 40K.

    "Prey 2 everyone was really excited about," Parker says. This was before Dishonored developer Arkane set to work on a Prey reboot (released this year). This was in the aftermath of Bethesda shelving Human Head's Prey 2. "Ours had more ties to the old Prey," Parker says. "You're a human bounty hunter and you've gotten transplanted to where all the aliens are. You're a badass bounty hunter in this sci-fi setting."

    Mechanically it was exactly what you would expect from Prey, a first-person shooter, married with what you would expect from Obsidian, a role-playing game. There was to be a big hub where you could interact with all sorts of different people, for example. On the surface it sounds a lot like where Human Head was going with Prey 2 - be a bounty hunter on an open alien planet and improve powers and gadgets along the way - but Obsidian was apparently never told much about that game. "[Bethesda] were very close-lipped about what was going on with Human Head," Feargus Urquhart, studio co-owner and CEO, says. "They had a specific 'what they wanted the game to be' - I don't actually know if that was what Human Head was working on or not."

    The pitch Obsidian worked up had a lot to do with dealing with different aliens. "Usually in sci-fi games we humanise - we interpret aliens from how they would react if they were human - so we design a lot of aliens as humans in suits," Urquhart says. "What was important was having the aliens not just be aliens in suits. They have completely different desirous wants and needs, they react to different things they see, and they see things in different ways. How could we have aliens in this world really feel alien?"

    There was also going to be Parkour, jetpacks and grappling hooks - mechanics "to try and take the shooter into three dimensions", Parker says. "Since it was sci-fi we really wanted to play with vertical space."

    But the Prey 2 pitch didn't go anywhere. "Bethesda talked to us about the opportunity, they never promised anything," Urquhart says. Perhaps two years after buying Arkane, Bethesda had Arkane Austin in mind for the game. Whatever went down, what Arkane eventually made bared no resemblance to what Obsidian had in mind.

    The Warhammer 40,000 pitch, meanwhile, was ill-fated from the start, what with THQ owning the licence at the time, and THQ being down the swanny (THQ would go bankrupt in December 2012). But Obsidian remembers it fondly. "That was a cool pitch," Urquhart says.

    "The Warhammer 40K pitch is 28 pages - I just looked at it a little while ago," Chris Parker says while Urquhart, in perfect synchronisation, finds and opens the pitch on his computer and scrolls through it. It's very decorative and detailed but I don't catch any detail as he whizzes through.

    "We wrote a small novel about how awesome this game would be," Parker says. "The idea was: there's a pen and paper off-shoot of 40K about the Inquisition, and it's more individual character-based and you travel around different planets." He's probably referring to Inquisitor, the 2001 Warhammer 40K spin-off, although it wasn't pen and paper. Inquisitor focused on a small group of characters: a shadowy Inquisitor with a couple of henchmen, and carte blanche to root out evil in the world (Games Workshop doesn't support Inquisitor any more but rulebooks are available online). A perfect set-up for an Obsidian RPG if ever I heard one. "We built this role-playing game about you being this new Inquisitor and having these crazy resources and going to all these planets," Parker says, "and there's nothing that's not at war in Warhammer 40K."
    Apropos of nothing, the article also has some details about one of Obsidian's cancelled games, the Snow White RPG Dwarfs - what it was about, and what may have led to its cancellation.

    But to have a game pitch amount to nothing pales in comparison to having a game cancelled part-way through - and Stormlands isn't the only rug Obsidian has had whipped from under its feet. In 2006, Obsidian was making a Snow White and the Seven Dwarves role-playing game for Buena Vista, the game-making division of Disney. "The idea was a prequel," Urquhart says, "a far, far prequel of Snow White."

    "It was supposed to be a much darker world," Parker says. "There's a lot of dark elements to Disney but it's kind of hard to see underneath all the flowery animations. They wanted to capitalise on that and say, 'Here's a story about the Seven Dwarves in a much earlier, earlier state.' The actual character you played was going to be more of a typical RPG character, called the Prince [or Princess, presumably], a young man or young girl, and you would end up bumping into those dwarves and going on this adventure and solving all of these things."

    The dwarves themselves were going to act like different tools for different situations. "They had very specific powers and you would travel with two of them," he continues, "and their powers would combine in different ways, so based on who you were fighting against you might want to have, say, these two dwarves with you because they would combine and do these different things. You would also, in a similar fashion, use them to solve different puzzles in the world. For example, this dwarf was the blue key for blue doors, so to speak."

    Obsidian worked on the Dwarves game for roughly a year - but then Disney changed its mind. "I don't think it was really that big of a surprise," says Parker. "There were some fundamental differences between what Disney had originally wanted to do and what we were doing. The project we were working on was more lighthearted than they had pitched. What they had pitched originally was very very dark: the dwarves were slaves of giants in mines, then they escaped from the mines and were living on their own, and you meet up with them and they are these hardened, angry dwarves. Ours was like, 'OK yeah all that's fine but we'll leave a slightly lighter pitch on all that's going on,' so there were some disagreements there. Also the way we had taken the mechanics: we were trying to be a little bit more revolutionary and I don't think that worked for them."

    Officially, though, and this was a gut-punch for Obsidian, the project was terminated for 'cause'. "In other words," says Parker, "the game we were making was not good enough."

    Obsidian was told art quality specifically was the problem. "The tough thing for us was the direction we had from them was they were more concerned about the technological feasibility of having a streaming world in Unreal [3]," Urquhart says. "So we focused on the gameplay and technical aspect for the prototype we put together, so you could go around this world, go inside and outside, and then you get into a big boss fight. It just wasn't super-pretty yet. So we were told 'the art's a big problem'.

    "Fast-forward 12 years," he goes on, "and we've heard more little bits and pieces." Maybe Roy Disney hadn't approved Buena Vista offering the Snow White IP out, maybe new Disney boss Bob Iger had different ideas about how classic IP should be used. "These all added up to it," Urquhart says.
    Seems like they're finally starting to run out content. What next? In the comments, Eurogamer's Robert Purchese admits that this media campaign isn't building up to some big reveal, but they are going to publish an article about what little they learned about Obsidian's secret project later this week.
     
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  2. aw shucksgender: ⚧ Magister

    aw shucks
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    what a mfiagnicent article ia dm alway s so sdeolighted to re adabout obsdian enternaten adn their mansy good angames
     
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  3. Make America Great Again Azalingender: ⚧ Arcane Patron

    Azalin
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    Is it too much to ask for Obsidian's secret project be a revived 40k Inquisitor rpg?
     
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  4. Tigranesgender: ⚧ Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    Tigranes
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    Serpent in the Staglands Torment: Tides of Numenera
    It's amazing how Obsidian kept wanting to make action RPGs - and even, action RPGs with ambitious reinventions of the action side (ELEX JETPACKS). Given that they could never do even the basics of action properly, you wonder how much of this was misguided ambition and how much of it was a perceived necessity to survive as an AAA studio. In the end, for all its flaws, it might be for the best that Obsidian accidentally transitioned into "do menial labour for Russians, fund medium sized old school RPGs". But hey, we'll see what the Cain/Boyarsky is trying to do.

    Me, I'd have taken a Prey labelled RPG built entirely around the idea of actually alien aliens and not a bunch of furries
     
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  5. CrunchyHemorrhoidsgender: ⚧ Liturgist

    CrunchyHemorrhoids
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    Not rpg enough for Sega, not original enough for Microsoft, not dark enough for Disney? :lol:
     
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  6. Make America Great Again Rogueygender: ⚧ Arcane Sawyerite Sawyerist Sawyer's Bride No Fun Allowed

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    New Vegas improved Fallout 3 and Dungeon Siege III got it right. :M
     
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  7. Iznaliugender: ⚧ Arbiter

    Iznaliu
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    Because the perception was that non-action RPGs were dead. Remember; this was before any of the Kickstarters; the only non-action RPG that was big was NWN2.
     
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  8. aratukgender: ⚧ Savant

    aratuk
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    Huh. I guess Paradox really did foot the bill just to promote the Tyranny expansion, then?

    Maybe Paradox buys Obsidian, if they love Obsidian enough to fly reporters in to write the history of every success, failure, and pipe dream. Annual revenue of ≈$75 million… they could probs afford it with a little financing. Would nearly double their headcount, but they need some warm bodies to farm out those White Wolf games. Who gets to tell Sawyer that Deadfire will be moving in a different direction, now titled Changeling?

    More likely than Bethesda buying Obsidian, anyway.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2017
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  9. Make America Great Again Darth Roxorgender: ⚧ Prestigious Gentleman Wielder of the Huegpenis, Hater of Eternity

    Darth Roxor
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    I guess it's really too much to expect game journos to take the tremendous effort of searching for approximately 30 seconds to find out that he is referring to Dark Heresy. Jesus Christ what a cretin.
     
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  10. MRYgender: ⚧ Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

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    "Seven Dwarves"?!
    :decline:

    And Roxor worries about WH40k getting proper recognition.
    :decline: x2

    Also, "dark Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" manages to achieve both the absurd and the cliche at once. "Before he was Grumpy, there was a woman he loved...." "The fairy tale is over," indeed.
    Show Spoiler
    [​IMG]
     
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  11. Quantomasgender: ⚧ Educated

    Quantomas
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    As MRY rightly pointed out in another threat, the costs for Paradox were mostly paying the travel expenses of a couple of Eurogamer staff and some ads for Tyranny. All in all it's a pretty smart image marketing campaign and they mostly planned to do the Tyranny ads anyway. Wouldn't be surprised to hear that the Tyranny sales are up.

    What strikes me most is this apparent disconnect between Obsidian and reality. I am no longer sure they have a good grasp on what gamers truly desire. Worse yet, the management appears not to understand that for most publishers not doing what they want is a red flag. If you ask me, Obsidian should step away from doing work for publishers. And doing Kickstarters the Larian way will improve their connection with the player base. Right now it feels too much like Obsidian is just doing lip service when they claim to listen to their fans.
     
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  12. Make America Great Again Lady Errorgender: ⚧ Arcane

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    :negative:
     
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  13. Make America Great Again Infinitrongender: ⚧ I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    Yeah, I was thinking that sounds more likely than some discontinued miniatures game I'd never heard of.

    What are you talking about, the Internet is full of FO:NV fanboys who'd love Obsidian to get the opportunity to make more console action-RPGs. More than a few Codexers too.
     
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  14. Make America Great Again CyberWhalegender: ⚧ Arcane

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    TBH I still haven't figured out why they didn't:

    a) instead of growing the company simply make another studio in eastern Europe (relatively cheap labour)
    b) make a YUGE! crowdfunging campaign for a NV style FPRPG

    Those two things plus a good preproduction phase (so they don't get sidetracked during the production) would probably make for a relatively cheap wannabe AAA open-world title.
     
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  15. undecafgender: ⚧ Arcane Patron

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    Perhaps they should disregard the "a" for what it stands for in their aRPG regardless of what kind of perspective and gameplay they aim for otherwise. Or rather than having it "action RPG", go for "adventure RPG" where the action could well be decidedly different than what you would normally expect from an aRPG. Do something more in line with the what the studio is good at instead of forcing that action thing up.
     
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  16. Ladonnagender: ⚧ Prophet

    Ladonna
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    I think Cyberwhale hit the nail on the head here; they should have capitalised on their biggest achievement and worked up a giant kickstarter for a New Vegas knockoff. So long as they could have kept their shit together, this would have payed off for them big time.
     
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  17. J_Cgender: ⚧ One Bit Studio Patron Developer

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    That would mean that they have to downsize probably to half, laying off a lot of people. Obsidian is still a well known company, and they are at a good position at the moment. Why would they give up their current position?

    Their games have quite a lot of fans, so I don't think they are working on projects which their fans don't enjoy.

    Where did you get that from? The only project they probably haven't enjoyed is the tank MMO, which was only taken to survive. Other than that, they were always passionate of their projects. You confuse not being able to do whatever they want with not being exhusiast about their work.
     
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  18. Make America Great Again Infinitrongender: ⚧ I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    "Let's take a gamble and found a new studio in a country we don't know in hopes of becoming Star Citizen 2 while our company is running out of money and dying. What could possibly go wrong?"

    You're also forgetting that in mid-2012 it wasn't clear yet that FO:NV was the enduring phenomenon it's turned out to be.
     
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  19. The Wallgender: ⚧ Educated

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    I hate to repeat myself from other thread but this (basic logic) needs to be seen by Feargus and Tim:

    You DON'T have to make your rpg anything less complex/ more dumbed down then New Vegas. Millions it sold proves that. We already have Fallout 4s and Skyrims on the market. Not New Vegases. There is huge demand for New Vegases. Could someone from Obsidian just forward this last point to Tim and others at Obsidian?

    In case it wasn't obvious to Geometric Tim and Action Feargus the important part is bolded, in italics and underlined. I guess millions bit should be enlarged so that point gets across more easily. There you go, now it is. Also whether you have publisher or not, do some Kickstarter/Figstarter for stretch goals, like you did for Deadfire. I think that Paradox being publisher is not that unlikely. Unusual and out of their league? Sure....up until now maybe. Everyone has to make their fisrt 'Oblivion' or 'Skyrim' (please be neither of those mechanically and story wise) and enter higher league in terms of both sales and recognition. This might as well be Paradox's entrance to bigger guys league. Cities Skylines and EU4, CK2, Stellaris etc. brought them out of niche club. This might as well be their (risky but highly rewarding) next step.
     
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  20. Make America Great Again CyberWhalegender: ⚧ Arcane

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    I'm talking about post-POE success era, obviously. If there is one big flaw in Obsidian's upper management, it's their complete lack of courage. Who Dares, Wins.
     
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  21. Make America Great Again Infinitrongender: ⚧ I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    Well, I'm not going to complain about a company being patriotic and providing local jobs. Hell, they actually got a Russian publisher to fund their operations in California, which is quite impressive.

    I haven't heard of many American game studios migrating wholesale to Eastern Europe, so I assume there's a reason for it. I'm sure there's lots of piecemeal outsourcing though.
     
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  22. Urthorgender: ⚧ Learned

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    Legit this publicity spiel has gone on slightly too long but a super dark 7 Dwarfs game for Disney you can't make that stuff up
     
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  23. J_Cgender: ⚧ One Bit Studio Patron Developer

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    I assume it is the same reason why Eastern Europeans don't migrate to Afghanistan.
     
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  24. Prime Juntagender: ⚧ Arcane

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    It's real easy to talk about shifting production to a country with cheaper labour. Doing it is harder. Especially in software, where the productivity difference between a marginally competent coder and a great coder is two orders of magnitude or even more.

    We outsource some stuff to a company in Eastern Europe, and it's not cheaper than doing it in-house -- the added overhead from management, communication, and QA eats up any savings in labour costs. The reason we're doing it is flexibility: if we need a specialist pronto we can get them without going through a heavy recruitment process. This makes particular sense if the thing we want to do doesn't fall in our core area of competence -- for example, we just outsourced a Microsoft SharePoint plugin which would have been pretty expensive for us to do because we don't do any Microsoft development in-house. And this only works because we've built up a solid working relationship with the outsourcing partner so they know us and we know them.

    And games are also software.
     
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  25. `Helliongender: ⚧ Learned

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    If they wanted a "dark and gritty Disney title" they should have worked on a FPS/RPG based on the life of the hunter that shot Bambi's mother. Lots of potential there.
     
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