I Am Alive is a PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 videogame envisioned by French developer Darkworks. First pitches of the game already appeared during the early 2000’s when Darkworks was still working on USS Antarctica (a PS2 game which was planned to be published by Capcom but then cancelled). In 2003, the studio worked on Time Crisis Adventure / Cold Fear, originally to be published by Namco. When they ditched Cold Fear, Ubisoft jumped in and became publisher of the game. This laid the foundation for a partnership between Darkworks and Ubisoft, which finally allowed Darkworks to realize their “Alive” project with production beginning in 2005, even though gameplay and environment might have been changed when compared to the original 2001/2002 concept.
As we can see, in 2007 the game was changed a bit. While being first concepted with dark and brown colours, they decided to go for a more realistic style two years later.
I Am Alive was originally planned and ready for a release in early 2009, but Ubisoft was not satisfied with the game’s direction in spite of this initial version being nearly complete. Therefore the game was brought to Ubisoft Shanghai where they wanted to change parts of the game only at first. Then however, they restarted the project completely and also tried implementing a multiplayer mode. This did not work out either, therefore I Am Alive was restarted once again in 2010 and was finally release in 2012, as a much different game.
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Months after the release of Cold Fear, Darkworks started planning out their next project, a game their General Manager, Guillaume Gouraud had high hopes for. Concept artists and writers went to work on an apocalyptic horror game. However, pre-production on what was then known only as Alive, was lengthy and itinerant. The team went through various iterations on the original concept. Says our source about the pre-production, “We went from a zombie survival game to a squad-based action game with rollercoaster rides to a single-avatar pseudo-stealth one (also with rollercoaster rides though).”
Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot called for all hands on deck. If Ubisoft was going to pour money and resources into Alive, they would need to ensure that Darkworks remained on track. For Hascoët, this meant entrenching Ubisoft employees at Darkworks headquarters to work alongside the team. This approach ended up creating a stressful work environment for the Darkworks employees. “Ubisoft thought it would lead to a greater collaboration (and of course, greater control), Darkworks thought of it as a hostile takeover and proof that Ubisoft didn’t want to let them hold the creative ownership,” says the anonymous former Darkworks employee.
The trailer hinted at an open world, cinematic storytelling, pre-calamity flashbacks, and open-ended combat scenarios. I Am Alive’s public profile was suddenly off the charts. Though the illusion successfully fooled fans, back in France, things weren’t going well. Perhaps foreshadowing the future of the project, Ubisoft didn’t include the Darkworks logo in the E3 trailer.
Then disaster struck. The project was pulled from Darkworks in January 2009. The team’s hard work left on the cutting room floor. “Ubisoft was fed up with Darkworks.” Says our source of the situation. “To their credit, the game wasn’t very good in its current state and it already cost them a lot of money.” The team was devastated.
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