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Plague of Darkness [XBOX/PS2/PC – Cancelled]

Plague of Darkness (also known as The Plague) is a canceled action-adventure game developed by Widescreen Games and published by Namco Hometek for Playstation 2 and Xbox around 2003-2004.

The game was announced during the ECTS 2003 for a release planned in the summer of 2004 as we can read on Gamezone:

“Gamers Beware: Namco to spread gaming fever next summer with Plague of Darkness title to infect action adventure genre on PlayStation®2 and Xbox®.

Leading video games publisher Namco Hometek Inc. promises intense, nonstop action in its newest thriller, Plague of Darkness (tentative title), announced today.  Scheduled for release on the PlayStation®2 computer entertainment system and the Xbox® video game system from Microsoft, Plague of Darkness will ship in the summer of 2004.  Developed by Widescreen Games in Lyon, France, Plague of Darkness will feature Xbox Live functionality, complete with downloadable content, as well as PlayStation®2 online support with exclusive extras.

“Plague of Darkness will raise the bar in the action adventure genre through its haunting original storyline, close combat elements, stunning graphics and intense action,” said Jon Kromrey, Producer at Namco Hometek Inc.

“We think gamers will be infected with its immersive and addictive gameplay.”

In Plague of Darkness, Namco transports players to ravaged Medieval Europe during the time of the Black Death. Eight brooding environments with 58 sub-locations will put players to the test, each containing new objectives, enemies and obstacles. A linear storyline with deadly puzzles, fascinating characters and chilling discoveries allow players to experience unique game play mechanics and participate in over-the-top fantasy combat. In a time where advanced weaponry doesn’t yet exist, players have a multitude of basic weapons, special tools and magic at their disposal. Over five weapons are featured in the game, including a variety of swords, crossbows, daggers and the ability to cast magic spells. The game’s outstanding cinematic effects set an additional ambient tone for Plague of Darkness, immersing players deep into the dark world environments.

The game’s story features a Knight of the Order, Douran, who sets out on a mission to bring down a terrible demon.  The demon has been haunting the land of the living by feasting on the black souls of the dead, in order to bring about its own resurrection. During the course of his adventure, Douran encounters other characters that may hold answers to the mystery behind the demonic plague, but can he trust them? In the course of the story, the hero fights the omnipresent evil demon by using the game’s sacred relic in a quest to spread peace throughout Europe.”

In December of the same year, Gamekult revealed a little more about the game:

“In a medieval Europe ravaged by the Black Plague (1348), the young knight Douran sets sail for the island of St. Angui, to join Jacques de Villemort, the head of the Order, and his father, whom he has seen attacked by an evil spirit in a recent nightmare. Offshore, Douran sees a thick dark fog with a Death’s face, which quickly takes the form of a claw to trap the ship and capsize it. At the back of his cabin, our hero hears the horrified laments of the members of the crew, before seeing the strange tablecloth rush under his door … Small peculiarity, the combat system will propose to assign tarot cards to get special spells. Equipped with an online function on Xbox as on PS2 to obtain new equipment, Plague of Darkness is scheduled for next June in the United States.”

In April 2004, Sliced Gaming Australia shared a bit more about the game design:

“As you progress through Plague of Darkness you’ll be able to upgrade Douran’s weapons, magic and armour Role-Playing Game-style. As the game has an emphasis on action and combat, Douran will have more combat-based moves than simply attacking; he’ll also be able to block enemies’ attacks and even grab them to execute throw moves. Twenty-five enemies will be featured in the game, some with non-magical attacks and some with magical attacks.”

However, Plague of Darkness quietly vanished without a trace after this. We can speculate that something went wrong during it’s development process and Namco decided to pull the plug. Oddly enough, a partnership between Widescreen Games and Namco will eventually come to fruition with the making of Dead to Rights 2, released in the end of the 2005 year, after a troubled development.

Article by Daniel Nicaise

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Spirit Under Control (Widescreen Games) [PC, PS2, Xbox – Cancelled]

Spirit Under Control is a canceled futuristic sci-fi action/adventure game that was developed in the mid 2000’s by Widescreen Games for the PC, Playstation 2 and Xbox. It seems it was set in the distant future, on a planet called Jun. The main feature of this project was the use of a capacity named “spirit” which would have allow the player to take control of various characters such as the enemies in order to solve various situations. We can speculate that its gameplay could have been very similar to games like Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, The Nomad Soul and Messiah.

Few information are currently available on Spirit Under Control, as the game was never officially revealed to this day. It was discovered on the now-defunct website of Widescreen Games. Here was what we could read about this title:

Game Overview

Spirit Under Control is a 3rd person action / adventure game in 3D real time dedicated to PS2, XBOX and PC.

The adventure takes place on Jun, a mysterious planet located in a remote solar system.

The gameplay of Spirit mixes skilfully Action and Adventures, it is based on the use of a super capacity called “spirit”. The spirit makes it possible to remotely take the control of the enemies.

Key features: An action game with a brain

– Explore a fascinating universe: a world populated with exotic aliens with exciting powers you can take control of.

– Use your spirit powers to solve complex and puzzling situations.

– Take the control of different characters to experiment various gameplays.

Game Genre : 3rd person action adventure game

Universe : Space Western

Platforms : PS2 / XBOX / PC

Playable PS2 demo

Target : mature audience

It seems that Spirit Under Control was playable as we could read it on the general information section, but, to this day, no such playable demo was made available on the web. Only four tiny screenshots are available here to remember the existence of this obscure, interesting project. It isn’t the first lost cancelled game made by Widescreen Games. In the same category, we could add titles such as Amon Ra, Ghostman or even Paparazzi.

If you know someone who worked on Spirit Under Control and could help us preserve more screenshots, footage or details, please let us know! 

Eternal Darkness 2 [Wii U, Xbox 360, PS3 – Cancelled]

Eternal Darkness 2 is a canceled Survival-Horror action/adventure game developed by Silicon Knights from 2009 to 2012, for Wii U, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3. It was the sequel of Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, released in 2002 for the GameCube.

Few information regarding Eternal Darkness 2 are currently available as the game was officially confirmed after its cancellation in an article from Kotaku, dated from October 2012, about the difficult development of what became the last game from Silicon Knights, X-Men: Destiny.

First rumor surrounding Eternal Darkness 2 came into light in November 2011 when some media hinted that the development of the game could have began on the Wii U:

Silicon Knights cuts force team to refocus on “one of its most requested titles for the next generation.”

Massive staff cuts hit the X-Men: Destiny developer Silicon Knights last week, slashing the Canadian developer nearly in half after a publisher, that remains unnamed, pulled out on a project the team was working on.

The project in question, which also remains unnamed, is still in development according to developers. A Silicon Knights spokesperson has said recently however, that “the company is currently refocusing and returning to its roots, working on one of its most requested titles for the next generation.”

While the name Eternal Darkness 2 has not been mentioned, it seems the most likely candidate for a next generation revamp and a perfect fit for the Wii U controller. Despite vast amounts of love for the original, Eternal Darkness has never seen a follow-up, but this could be the news we’ve all been waiting for.

In March 2012, the same article got a little update:

Silicon Knights boss Denis Dyack mentioned in a recent GI interview that his studio is working on their most requested game, another strong hint Eternal Darkness 2 is in development for the Nintendo Wii U.

To quote: “We’re really excited and we’re working on our next generation stuff. We’re working on an IP that’s our most requested and we’re really excited about that. We’re going back to our roots. I’m really looking forward to a point in time when we can talk about it.”

A few month later, in June 2012, another rumor came about possible cancellation for Eternal Darkness 2. Initially coming from NeoGaf’s user Shiggy, it seems that the loss of the infamous lawsuit between Silicon Knights and Epic Games regarding the use of the Unreal Engine 3 during the development of Too Human was the main reason.

For those unfamiliar with the story, here is a summary:

In July 2007, Silicon Knights sued Epic after experiencing issues with the development of the Unreal Engine 3 on Too Human:

According to the suit, which seems more than $75,000, Epic Games misrepresented the abilities of their Unreal Engine 3 when selling the license agreement to Silicon Knights. The suit says that Epic failed to “provide a working game engine” to Silicon causing them to “experience considerable losses.”

The developer was rumored to be experiencing problems with the Unreal Engine platform last summer, but later denied speculation it was dropping the platform and commented that the game was still “progressing very well.” Silicon Knights eventually decided to drop the Unreal engine and instead build their own, according to the suit.

Silicon also claims that Epic has been “sabotaging” Silicon Knights efforts to make a game by using the money earned from their licensing deals to make their own games rather than to provide support for their engine to Silicon and other licensees.

In a nutshell, SK claims that Epic used a slicker version of their Unreal Engine for Gears of War and released a hamstringed version to SK and others, in order to show them up at E3. They also failed to release the Gears version until much more recently, SK claims. They also claim that Epic made several very specific statements about what the engine could do, but which it was never able to deliver on including the number of on-screen characters and lighting effects.

The suit is based on a dozen causes of action including fraud, negligent misrepresentation, intentional interference with contractual relations, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, breach of warranty and a violation of North Carolina’s unfair and deceptive trade practices act.

The suit also says that Epic missed the deadlines for providing both the 360 and PS3 engines. Finally, the suit alleges, the SK gave up on the engine and built their own, which is what Too Human use.

Further information regarding the contention could be viewed here:

A key point of contention is the E3 demo of Too Human, which was not well received – the suit alleges: “The final development kit for the Xbox 360 was released by Microsoft in early September, 2005, meaning that Epic was obligated to deliver a fully operable version of the Engine to Silicon Knights by no later than March, 2006.” “That delivery date is significant, since compliance by Epic would have given Silicon Knights time to prepare an appropriate demonstration version of its Microsoft Xbox 360 game, Too Human, for the very important industry trade show, E3, two months later in May, 2006.” It continues: “Epic apparently was able to achieve a very useable version of the Engine for the Xbox 360 – the version that it kept to itself, for use only on its Gears of War game (as discussed below), to the detriment of Silicon Knights and Epic’s other licensees, as set forth in more detail below. Epic’s plan to avoid its obligations and hoard all of the necessary functionalities not only harmed Silicon Knights and all of Epic’s other licensees in the industry, but also gave Epic a clearly unfair advantage in the industry.” How so? “That advantage was nowhere more evident than at E3 2006, where Gears of War was awarded “Best Game in Show” and garnered nothing but laudatory press. By contrast, Silicon Knights – one of the only other [Unreal Engine 3] developers to publicly display a playable demonstration of its game – saw Too Human roundly criticized in the videogame press for its technical problems and generally unpolished appearance. The damage to Silicon Knights caused by Epic’s misconduct was manifest, because E3 attendees were able to compare Too Human with another game running ostensibly the same game engine, Gears of War, with vastly superior results.”

Less than a month later, Epic countersued Silicon Knights for copyright infringement, misappropriation of trade secrets, and breach of contract:

Silicon Knights claimed that Epic breached its contract and failed to deliver a workable version of the engine on time, forcing the developer to start building its own engine for Too Human, and delaying the game in the process.

Epic has returned fire: Yesterday the company filed a motion to dismiss the original suit, and then filed its own countersuit against Silicon Knights. In its defense, Epic said that Silicon Knights failed to show that the company misrepresented the truth or ever intended to deceive the developer.

It also took issue with Silicon Knights’ portrayal of some terms in the licensing agreement. While the original suit claimed that Epic had committed to delivering a working engine for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 within six months of each system’s final development kits being sent out, the motion to dismiss claimed that Epic was obligated merely to “demonstrate” that the Unreal Engine 3 would run on the Xbox 360 by March of 2006. The motion made no mention of the PlayStation 3 deadline.

Regardless of how the judge rules on the motion, there’s also Epic’s counterclaim to sort through. In short, Epic accused Silicon Knights of trying to steal the Unreal Engine 3 technology.

“Indeed, the plain language of the Silicon Knights’ complaint makes clear that Silicon Knights wants to take Epic’s licensed technology, pay nothing for it, and use it any way it pleases,” the counterclaim reads.

According to Epic, Silicon Knights had full access to the Unreal Engine 3 code and support network for an evaluation period of roughly nine months before it entered into the license agreement. The developer also got a break on the regular licensing fee because it committed to use the engine exclusively for all of its Xbox 360, PS3, and PC games.

As such, Epic accused Silicon Knights of breaching the contract by creating its own engine for Too Human and developing the game–and a second game with Sega–using that new engine. Additionally, Epic sued the developer for copyright infringement because Silicon Knights said in its original suit that the new Too Human engine was based on Unreal Engine 3.

Epic said the new engine is an unauthorized, derivative work that violates its licensing agreement and constitutes a misappropriation of its trade secrets. It also noted in the months prior to the countersuit that Silicon Knights accessed “virtually all” of the Unreal Engine 3 documentation that Epic makes available to partners online, “consistent with an effort to archive documentation for use outside the scope of the license agreement.”

Epic is seeking damages in excess of $650,000, as well as an order that any code or games that infringe on its copyright be destroyed. Only Silicon Knights’ next project after Too Human–the as-yet-unannounced game to be published by Sega–is referenced directly in the copyright-infringement claim.

The case was settled only in May 2012 with a victory for Epic Games:

Epic Games Wins Lawsuit Against Silicon Knights, Awarded $4.45 Million

Epic Games secured a significant victory today against Canadian company Silicon Knights when a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina found in favor of Epic on all claims.

The jury rejected Silicon Knights’ claim that Epic breached its Unreal Engine 3 license agreement with Silicon Knights. The jury also found in Epic’s favor on all of its counterclaims, namely that Silicon Knights breached the license agreement, misappropriated Epic’s trade secrets, and infringed Epic’s copyrights in the Unreal Engine 3 code. The jury awarded Epic damages totaling $4.45 million. Epic has 30 days in which to file a request to the court for reimbursement of attorneys’ fees and costs. The court previously had thrown out Silicon Knights’ fraud claims after nine days of testimony.

Now let’s go back to what really interests us here, with the rumor emanating from NeoGaf concerning the potential cancellation of Eternal Darkness 2. Here is what we could read on this subject in June 2012, only a dozen days after Silicon Knights lost its lawsuit against Epic:

In the wake of Epic’s victory in the Unreal Engine suit brought by Silicon Knights, Nintendo has apparently opted to halt development of Eternal Darkness 2. NeoGAF user Shiggy offers a summary of the situation, excerpts of which appear below.

“Last year, Silicon Knights and Nintendo started to work together once again on a new title. Based on the fact that they already had Wii U dev kits and also based on Dyack’s comments, it was Eternal Darkness 2.”

“So as already mentioned, the studio was solely dependent on Nintendo’s goodwill since late November 2011. But then the trial against Epic took place last week, and SK lost it. SK was ordered to pay 4.5 mio USD to Epic, and additionally they may need to pay for Epic’s legal fees. The company’s debt rose to a new level.”

“When Nintendo saw that they would need to pay an additional 10 million USD to have the company survive that develops the game, they didn’t seem to like it, especially as they wouldn’t get anything in return.”

“NCL reviewed its decision and it appears as if Eternal Darkness 2 is cancelled for now. Hence, many of the 40-man team were laid off, leaving the studio in limbo now.”

Needless to say, neither Nintendo nor Silicon Knights have commented on this issue one way or the other, and it is a distinct possibility that Shiggy’s appraisal is a hoax rather than a rumor. That said, and despite the absence of any corroborating evidence whatsoever, Shiggy’s description is eminently believable, and may prove to be entirely factual.

It is indeed difficult to know if this rumor coming from NeoGaf is to be taken seriously, even today. By the way, user Shiggy also shared some potential information regarding another cancelled Silicon Knights game which was The Crucible: Evil Within.

But whether this is true or not, the Kotaku article mentioned at the beginning of this article remains the real official source confirming that Eternal Darkness 2 was in development for a certain period:

All eight interviewees that I spoke with for this story say Silicon Knights was splitting its team between work on X-Men: Destiny, and work on a development demo.

What could it be? Too Human 2, perhaps, which Dyack has repeatedly promised that the studio intends to complete as a trilogy? Or perhaps the same Sega-funded project which was cancelled in 2009; a game code-named The Box, and later, The Ritualyst?

The answer is far more exciting: Eternal Darkness 2, which Kotaku can reveal that SK was working on in parallel to the Activision contract.

“SK didn’t take the development of X-Men: Destiny seriously the entire time I was there,” a source says. “They were working on an Eternal Darkness 2 demo that they could take to publishers. While I was there, they were even siphoning off staff from my team to work on it. Denis is not an X-Men fan either, so he didn’t care much for the license. To him, it seemed more like a job to get us by, until ED2 could be developed and sold to a publisher—which never happened.”

Another source said that “SK had about 60% of the development team working on X-Men: Destiny and the other 40% working on ED2. (…) This 60%/40% staffing estimate was backed up by multiple sources.

Yet despite this reportedly split effort, the ED2 demo also failed to come together in a satisfying way, sources said. “The farthest they got with it when I left SK was, literally, one two-level church interior,” says one former employee. “It was really bad, as I recall. It took the side-team a long time to even get that far. Bad tech, combined with a team composed of people who had not shipped a title since Metal Gear really hurt that demo. Other than that, I can’t explain why things went so poorly for them [except that] a lot of key people responsible for the original Eternal Darkness are long gone.”

The result coming from the loss of that lawsuit was a total disaster for Silicon Knights: all projects in development were definitively cancelled: The Sandman, Siren in the Maelstrom, Too Human 2 and 3 or even the mysterious King’s Quest alongside the already mentionned The Crucible: Evil Within and this Eternal Darkness 2. Denis Dyack left the studio in July 2012 to found Precursor Games with other former members of the company, while the rest were laid off. As of 2013, only 5 employees were still working within the studio:

Too Human developer Silicon Knights, still battling a $4.45 million judgment that favored Epic Games, is down to just a few employees, has closed its office and has sold off office equipment and game assets, Polygon has learned.

The company laid off most of its employees last summer, a source tells Polygon. Around the same time, a core group of Silicon Knights employees, including founder Denis Dyack, created a new studio: Precursor Games.

Precursor Games, formed about 30 miles west of the now-empty offices of St. Catharines, Ontario-based Silicon Knights, also purchased some of Silicon Knights’ assets, including art assets, desks, chairs and even computers, a move that spurred an examination by Epic Games attorneys, according to court records. The studio is attempting to fund development of Shadow of the Eternals, a spiritual successor to Eternal Darkness.

Precursor Games CEO Paul Caporicci told Polygon that Precursor has no relationship with Silicon Knights, but did verify that new studio purchased some of the old studio’s equipment.

“Silicon Knights was selling off extra assets to laid-off employees and we, along with others, purchased some of them,” Caporicci said. “Like so many others who have been laid off in this difficult economy, we are simply trying to turn a tough situation into something positive. This helps gives us an opportunity with Shadow of the Eternals to give the gamers something that have been wanting.”

Shadow of the Eternals was put on-hold after two failed attempts on Kickstarter.

In December 2012, NeoGaf’s member Mama Robotnik wrote a post-mortem of Silicon Knights and shared many pictures supposedly from various cancelled projects made by the studio. Regarding Eternal Darkness 2, it seems that the game was planned for Wii U, but also on Xbox 360 and PS3:

At least one portfolio website of a former Silicon Knights concept artist seems to make reference to the project suggesting that the ambition was for a 360/PS3/WiiU release.

How this multi-format release would have worked – given Nintendo’s ambiguous partial ownership of the Eternal Darkness IP is unclear. Regardless, with X-Men Destiny a critical and commercial bomb, and reportedly only five employees remaining in the once hundreds-strong organisation, Eternal Darkness II is almost certainly utterly cancelled.

Some of those alleged renders could be from different games by Silicon Knights. For instance, this one can be seen in the gameplay video of Shadow of the Eternals, the cancelled spiritual successor of Eternal Darkness:

Same thing with this one which apparently was more related to The Crucible: Evil Within/The Box/The Ritualyst:

Besides this whole bunch of cancelled games, Silicon Knights had a lots of released stuffs that saw contents being cut in the end or stuck in development hell: Too Human began its development intially in 1997 on the Playstation and the Sega Saturn, with a totally different setting. The game moved onto the GameCube in 2000, before being put on-hold and released in 2008, exclusively on Xbox 360. Eternal Darkness was first planned for the Nintendo 64, before being released for the GameCube, and X-Men: Destiny apparently started as “a massive sandbox area with navigation puzzles and next to no combat powers or abilities” with also some features being dropped in the final product.

History seems to be repeating itself today for Denis Dyack: after Shadow of the Eternals was put on-hold following two failed attempts on Kickstarter, Precursor Games closed its doors in September 2013. He founded Quantum Entanglement Entertainment in October 2014 with the ambition to relaunch the development of Shadow of the Eternals and make it a crossmedia movie license. No information regarding what happened during a period of more than 3 years has been disclosed to date. Finally, today, Dyack is at the head of Apocalypse Studios, since January 2018, which has been developing Deadhaus Sonata for more than 4 years now, claimed to be a spiritual successor to Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain. The game initially used Amazon‘s Lumberyard Engine before switching to Unity in April 2022. Xbox One and Playstation 4 versions were also apparently planned, but given the evolution of the console market with now the Xbox Series S/X and the Playstation 5 as its successor, it’s clearly not impossible for these releases to be cancelled.

Potential concept arts and 3D models for Eternal Darkness 2. Still to be confirmed, might be from other cancelled Silicon Knights games.

Official artworks/concept arts from Eternal Darkness 2 – circa 2009. All provided by Jonathan Standing. 

Darkborn [PC, Xbox One, PS4 – Cancelled]

Darkborn, previously known as Archenemy and Project Wight, is a canceled medieval fantasy First-Person Role-Playing Game developed by The Outsiders from 2015 to 2020, and published by Private Division, for the PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4.

Darkborn was set in the medieval time where vikings shared the world with a forgotten species of creatures. Player embodied one of these creatures named Darkborn, whose purpose was revenge against a band of vikings marauders known as The Pale Enemy, after the latter have slaughtered its species for blood rituals. Over the course of the game, you would play multiple generations of these Darkborn as you learn the motivations for their bloodshed.

First information regarding this game were hinted in February 2015 during the announcement of the creation of The Outsiders:

Former Battlefield developers David Goldfarb and Benjamin Cousins today announced a new game studio, The Outsiders, which is working on a PC role-playing game. (…)

(…) In a separate interview, he told Eurogamer that the company’s first game will be an RPG. “I’ve loved RPGs all my life and have been shoehorning elements of them into games I’ve made over the years with lesser or more success,” he said. “I’m interested in systemic story stuff. I know Ken Levine has recently been talking about this. I have another way I want to try and do it. But I think it won’t be a game of cut scenes.”

It wasn’t until November 2016 that Project Wight was officially unveiled by its developers, showing a short gameplay video of the game:

“There are currently 12 people working at The Outsiders,” says co-founder David Goldfarb. “Our background is a pretty broad mixture of experience. Ben Cousins (co-founder) and I come from DICE, as do the other two founders.

Wight is a low fantasy RPG set in the Dark Ages, and the twist is that you play as a creature that would usually be the enemy in another game. “The player will experience life on the other side of the sword as a creature attempting to survive the extermination of its species by humanity,” says Goldfarb. “The creature starts out young and extremely vulnerable, but will eventually grow strong enough to turn the tables on its persecutors.”

One of Wight’s biggest inspirations is a book by John Gardner called Grendel. “I read it a long time ago,” says Goldfarb. “It’s Beowulf, but written from the perspective of the villain. That inversion was interesting, but it also meant something. I was always siding with the outcast.”

“There was some kind of dislocation in me it spoke to, I guess. That feeling of not understanding the world you were in, why you were there, or why things were cruel in it. And as time wore on it became clearer and clearer that there was a game there, and maybe the time had come to make it. So we did.”

Project Wight, which doesn’t even have a name yet, has a long way to go. But I’m already sold on the idea. As for what the moment-to-moment play will be like, Goldfarb stresses that team is still working hard to figure this out. “It’s too early to say, but we are definitely not making a linear experience. But how exactly that takes shape is still years away.”

Thereafter, the project became more silent. In December 2017, we learned that it would be published by Private Division, a new label from Take-Two Interactive, supposed to fund independent titles from small studios made up of industry veterans:

“We didn’t want to cede control of this thing, essentially,” says The Outsiders co-founder David Goldfarb, whose studio is publishing its first game with Private Division. “You always hope for the best, but maybe in some cases, and I know from talking to friends of mine, you lose control of the thing that you spend an enormous amount of energy and time on.” For The Outsiders, controlling its IP is essential for its other business endeavors.

After being silent throughout the entire 2018 year, the game resurfaced as Darkborn in April 2019. Gameinformer wrote a preview about it:

(…) The Darkborn may not deserve persecution, but judging by their bloodthirsty battle skills, you can see why the humans fear them. In the few fights we see in this demo, the Darkborn exact revenge on The Pale by eye-gouging, severing limbs, grisly decapitations, and even a ripping a still-beating heart from the ribcage of one unfortunate grunt. Many of these gruesome attacks are earned via Darkborn’s “death gift” system.

No matter which age your Darkborn may be, you can earn new death gifts by interacting with the dying kin you encounter in the world. In this demo, we see a few of them in action. Deep Sight operates like an investigative mode that highlights your path forward and any enemies in the vicinity. Stealth Bite gives the whelp a powerful stealth takedown. Thorn Throw gives the Darkborn a ranged attack, and the Whip Attack is an effective tool for stunning enemies before going in for the kill. (…)

However, troubles occured for the game as we learned from Gamespot in July 2019, that Private Division parted ways with The Outsiders in the end of 2018:

The game, which was re-revealed as Darkborn in April this year, is now moving ahead with a different publisher. Private Division confirmed to GameSpot that it ended its publishing arrangement with The Outsiders in 2018.

“Private Division ended our publishing agreement with The Outsiders at the end of last year,” reads a line from Private Division’s statement. “We supported the studio financially for several months after ending the deal, and we wish David Goldfarb and the rest of the talented team the very best with the game and their future endeavors.”

It is not immediately clear why Private Division and The Outsiders split up, or what financial considerations might have been in place related to the business separation. Private Division declined to share further insight on the matter, while The Outsiders CEO Anders Pettersson tells GameSpot that the Swedish studio plans to share more details “after the summer.” Also unknown is if The Outsiders will or already is seeking a new publishing arrangement, or if the studio will self-publish Darkborn.

Unfortunately, Darkborn was officially canceled in April 2020 as stated by The Outsiders on their official Twitter account:

Over the past four years we have been working on a game property we loved very much. This was once called Archenemy, became Project Wight, and finally, Darkborn.

Last April we released a gameplay trailer for Darkborn, knowing that it might be our final release. In spite of our best efforts to continue, ultimately we had to make the difficult decision to halt development on the project. Perhaps one day we will return to it: we all hope so and genuinely appreciate the support of everyone who followed us over the years.

But one door closes and another opens.

We have been working on something else.

On something new. Something awesome. Something we really love.

We look forward to being able to share it all with you.

That new project was Metal: Hellsinger released in September 2022. The Outsiders was acquired in June 2021 by Funcom. In August 2022, David Goldfarb explained a bit what went wrong during the development of Darkborn:

Speaking to NME in a recent Boss Level profile, Goldfarb said that Darkborn – which was cancelled by The Outsiders in 2020 – suffered some major issues in the development cycle, including a big change to the game’s structure.

“It didn’t start as an open world game,” shared Goldfarb. “It became one, and that’s why we got fucked. If we had done it another way, maybe we would have been okay.”

Goldfarb added that Darkborn was cancelled due to publisher Take-Two deciding to part with The Outsiders, which “couldn’t get anyone to pay what it would have cost to continue, because of a lot of complicated legality around IP ownership and the publishing rights to the game.”

“A lot of people think we made this decision to abandon that project. That’s not true, okay. We really wanted to make that game,” added Goldfarb.

Beyond publishing issues, Goldfarb said the team “never really cracked” first-person melee combat, and described it as “probably the hardest thing in the industry.”

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Raiders of the Deep (Xbox One – Cancelled)

Raiders of the Deep (codenamed Project Submarine) is a canceled futuristic military Free-To-Play multiplayer First-Person Shooter developed around 2013-2014 by Spark Unlimited for the Xbox One.

Information about this game are pretty scarce as it was never announced. Following information about the story, game design concepts and features were shared in a PDF file by former Spark’s developer Sam Wey:

I was given the responsibility to compose a game design pitch document and PowerPoint presentation for a triple A title to be pitched to Microsoft. I managed the support of two artists and was able to bounce ideas off of the veteran designers around me. Now that Spark doesn’t exist anymore, I think it’s safe to show this.

In the near future ice caps have melted and most of the earth is covered in water. National governments have been rendered powerless in the face mega corporations that violently battle for power. These corporations store and transport valuable data caches in offshore submarines piloted by bands of “deep sea raiders”. Corporate espionage has taken the form of violent confrontations between these underwater pirates. They plunder each other for these valuable data caches, risking life and limb for wealth, power and prestige. The aesthetic of this near future is sleek but grounded in a gritty realism of believable, familiar technology.

Raiders of the Deep is a free-to-play, competitive multiplayer, first-person-shooter that utilizes ship customization, level orientation changes and free flowing water simulation to dynamically change map layout and combat strategy. This will be a uniquely next gen experience only made possible by the next generation console technology, the incredible FX capabilities of Unreal 4 Engine and Phys-X GPU water simulations. It is a game about assembling your level from pre-made rooms, customizing them with items bought and earned, and then squaring off your ship against your opponent’s – creating an online arena that’s always half familiar, half unknown. It’s a game about assuming the role of a mercenary on a submarine of your own design or fellow clan member’s vessel – giving orders or executing orders while leveling up distinct character classes. It’s a game tailor made for league play, one that allows for true leadership and teamwork, raiding-like rewards, side “bets” before matches, taunting and bribing – it’s perfect for eSports or competitive gamers of all skill levels. Most of all, it’s a game that will start small, focused and fun, and can expand – based on player feedback – in a variety of exciting directions.

Key Features

  • Your Ship, Your Way: Submarine customization – Choose from predesigned ship layouts or swap and rotate rooms, then add decorations and themes. Tons of customization options to buy or earn to make your level truly reflect your personality and strategic approach.
  • Truly Dynamic and Interactive Backgrounds – As your submarine sinks, damaged rooms will flood and the whole environment will turn on its side and even flip upside down. This will instantly change map layout and as a result map strategy changes. Destroy ship systems to cut lights or overtake the command center to gain control of auto-turrets. Use the level itself as a tool and a weapon to overcome the odds.
  • Free Flowing Water Simulation Gameplay – This will define the next generation gaming experience with water simulations only possible on the Xbox One with the help of Unreal 4, Phys-X, and Thunderhead cloud computing. Flood compartments to change the playing field. Force opponents to surface for air to setup a headshot. Lurk under the water surface and take the enemy by surprise. As the submarine tilts, water will flow from one compartment to the next.
  • The Madden of Shooters: Playbook System – Play like a well practiced clan even with complete strangers. Setup custom or use pre-loaded context-sensitive “plays” before breaches and give on-the-fly orders or follow the orders of your teammates for bonus XP. Plan your own sequences on Smart Glass and share them with friends. Use teamwork, fake-outs, traps and advanced tactics to outsmart and outgun the other clan.
  • Free to Play / Free to Win – A fully featured shooter with no entrance fee. In-App-Purchases for extra in-game currency or specialized costumes / items are available, but everything is based on Pay to Enhance (and show off), not pay to Win.
  • Knowing is Half the Battle – Each time you play, one half of the multiplayer online battle arena will be yours (or your clan’s), the other half will be a mystery until you board your enemy’s sub. Bazillions of possible combinations.
  • Clan Classes – Cloak yourself as a Saboteur and map out the enemy’s ship for your team, quickly hack equipment or find shortcuts as an Engineer, go guns blazing and lay traps as a Raider or stomp through corridors slowly as an armored Deep Diver. As the game grows so will the number of Classes…
  • Level Up and Collect – Advance in four different classes, unlock tons of weapons andabilities, and personalize your character’s look to a staggering degree.
  • A True Team Sport – Fully supports Tournament Play and eSports with optional clan rooms, specialized leaderboards, pre-set play times, uniform elements, league web pages, and recording and uploading match videos to brag and review replays to sharpen tactics.

At its core, Raiders of the Deep is a version of capture the flag enhanced with point control. Before a game begins, players will enter a lobby where each team will vote on a map layout for their respective team as well as what room to place the data cache (flag) in. When the conflict begins, the two teams’ ships dock with one another. The ships will be connected through airlocks. The goal is to board the enemy’s ship through these airlocks, find “data caches”, hack them, and return to the command room of your ship with the data. These data caches could be anywhere the opposing team voted to place them, so no two games will ever be the same. The control points will enable or disable defense systems; easing access to the rooms that contain the data caches. This will be the main gameplay mode but it will only be one of many types of gameplay offered.

Breach or Be Breached:

  • Battles will begin with you either assaulting the enemy’s ship or defending your own, but the gameplay then stretches between the two sides.
  • Set up Breach Plans as the Attack – Select where to enter. Set up fake outs. Try to bribe members of the opposing ship.
  • Set up Traps as the Defender – Determine where the opposing team will breach. Place traps. Take cover.

Attack and Defend:

  • The heart of the gameplay is the gathering of data caches from the opponent’s ship.
  • Combat – Battle opposing team crew members.
  • Find Data Caches – Various rooms have different amounts of data, hack the systems or defend hackers while they collect the data.
  • Return Enemy Data to Your Command Room – Take the data back yourself or guard the data carrier.
  • Complete Side Objectives – Some rooms are connected with ship systems, hack these for various bonuses (cut out lights, turn off / take control of auto defenses, etc).
  • Defend Data Caches – Try to keep the opposing team from hacking your ship’s systems by laying traps and taking defensive positions in key rooms.
  • Eliminate Data Carriers – Take out the enemy carrying your data before he is able to upload it in their Command Room.

Collect Winnings:

  • Overcoming the other team isn’t just for bragging rights…
  • Earn XP and Cash – These are used to level up your character class and buy new character and ship items.
  • Roll for Rare Goods – When you win your team will get a variety of rare items, which can be “rolled” to see who gets them.

 

Ship Customization

The player will be able to build his ship in an offline mode on the XBox One or by using their Smart Glass app on a phone or tablet. The player will be able to move each of the ships rooms where he feels is strategically the best. He will then hide his Data Cache in a safe in one of these rooms. The player will be able to save out different ship load outs that he can then access during online play. This customization will enable each match to be different depending on how the Clan would like to defend or attack.

Point Control

While the core of the gameplay is capture the flag with data caches, it is the Point Control mechanic that will keep map strategy dynamic and interesting. The Point Control element will have different strategic effects on gameplay. The defending team will have many defensive features on their ship which will be countered by the difficulty of defending so many vital systems rooms. Attacking teams will have the benefit of quickly changing targeted rooms. Attacking rooms in a strategic sequence will cause a cascade of chaos that will win the match.

For example, taking out an opponent’s reactor will take out command center functionality which weakens the defense turret systems. The weakened defensive systems will give the attacking team access to assault the medical bay which slows reinforcements which in turn, buys them time to find and decrypt the data caches.

Water Core Game Mechanic

Water will be the wild card in every firefight. It can be your savior in one battle only to suffocate you in an icy death in the next. Water will dynamically change level layout and strategy through both changes in orientation of the whole submarine and water levels of each compartment.

Example Gameplay Beats of Action:

When the firefight began, the pump room was dry. As the gun battle rages, the hull is damaged and water begins flooding into the room. A thousand pounds of pressure forces water through the hull of your submarine and is altering the layout of the arena. Soldiers on the low ground begin wading slowly in the waist deep water and being picked off by the enemy in the high ground. As water overtakes the high ground, troops resort to diving deep and sneaking up on the enemy with combat knives. Water fills the compartment to the ceiling and the few survivors are now clustered at and gasping for air in the few air pockets where they can keep their heads above water. Reinforcements breach a blast door and water flows into and floods the other compartments while drones seal the damaged hull.

Water mechanics:

  • Water’s effect on players

○ Knee high water slows down players

○ Waist deep water slows players more; crouching allows you to hide under water.

○ Fully flooded compartments will only have a few air pockets above water and most combat will take place under water.

 Water’s effect on the environment

o Damaged rooms start flooding, flooded areas of the ship will start sinking and the whole ship will start to tilt effectively changing the layout and strategy of a given arena.

  • Natural Water Simulation Behavior

○ The flow of water from one compartment to the next will cause players to slide.

○ The volume of water is maintained when water flows from one compartment to the next.

○ If both compartments have the same level of water:

■ then no water level change will occur.

○ If one compartment is filled to the ceiling and then the hatch is blown open to an empty compartment:

■ then players in the empty compartment will get knocked off their feet from the flooding water and the players in the full compartment will be pulled into the empty compartment.

■ active stand up minigame- after being thrown off their feet, players will scramble to get up again to continue combat. Skillfully using the two analogue sticks to rebalance and orient yourself quickly will allow you to shoot or find cover first. It’s the difference between a quick jump up on to your feet (best) and a hobbled slow stand up(suboptimal).

 Different character classes and loadouts will favor dry room fighting versus wet room fighting.

  • Example of wet loadout

○ wet suit

○ rebreather

○ gas powered harpoon

■ most ballistic weapons will not fire underwater. the harpoon gun provides superior underwater ranged combat. It impales players and pulls them in for a brutal melee kill.

  • Example of dry loadout

○ heavy armor

○ thermal vision

○ freeze grenade

■ a well aimed and timed freeze grenade will freeze your opponent in the water, float them to the top, making them vulnerable for execution.

Playbook System

We all wish we could be as coordinated as a clan but most players never have the opportunity to have this experience because most just jump into public matches. The playbook system will come with proven “plays” that will automatically delegate responsibilities to team members. Instructions and timings will appear on their HUD and waypoints will appear in the world. The following are example plays:

  • Offensive Plays

○ Breach and Clear

■ Player A begins torching the airlock hatch to breach it.

■ Players B and C gets in position to cover angles on airlock hatch.

■ Player D primes flash grenade to be tossed in the second hatch is breached.

■ Players E, F, and G prepare to rush in.

■ 3, 2, 1… BREACH!

■ Player D tosses in flash grenade which promptly explodes.

■ Players B and C provide cover fire while Players E, F, and G move in and clear the room.

  • Defensive Plays

○ Ambush

■ Players A, B, and C hide behind columns

■ Players D, E, and F hide behind supply boxes.

■ Player E provides sniper cover from above.

■ Wait for breach and wait for all players to commit to entering the room.

■ Fire!

In other competitive multiplayer games this level of teamwork and coordination is out of reach for 99% of players. This system of automated delegation and timing system will give players a sense of cohesion even on public matches. The XP and in-game currency rewards for good execution will incentivize teamwork. Any team member can call plays but players of higher level will overrule lower level players.

Secondary Game Mechanics

Classes

The player will choose to play as one of the following classes. Each will have distinct weapons and abilities to suit different play styles and counter enemy tactics. Some classes will be inherently better at wet or dry combat. The wet and dry loadouts will modify these characteristics so players can adapt to the current state of the battlefield.

Saboteur – This light class will be a master of speed, stealth and reconnaissance. When cloaked, enemies will only see a faint distortion at regular intervals. Saboteurs will provide vital information to fellow teammates by removing the “fog of war” from the minimap for their teammates. While too weak to stage an offensive alone, by employing the cloak and infiltrating rooms before breaches they will provide spotting of enemy locations for their teammates.

Raider – This heavy class will be the bread and butter of combat providing both defensive and offensive firepower. If a lighter class opponent does not use the environment to their advantage, the Raider will dominate in a head to head firefight.

Engineer– This medium class is vital in his support of the team through his mastery of structural, electrical and software engineering. The engineer can hack enemy turret systems, decrypt enemy data caches faster and find shortcuts for the saboteur. When divers damage the hull and compartments start flooding, the engineer deploys drones to repair it.

Diver– As the most adept swimmer and demolitions expert, this medium class is vital to any boarding party. The diver can set charges to destroy a ship’s hull and vital systems. Destroying a ship’s hull causes flooding which alters the environment in the diver’s favor. The diver is also fastest at breaching but requires the support of other divers and raiders to survive a firefight.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Sam Wey left Spark Unlimited in July 2013, just after the release of Lost Planet 3. He is credited in the ‘special thanks’ section of Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z, the last game released by Spark, in March 2014.

In May 2015, Spark Unlimited ceased any activities in game development. As we can read on Polygon, it seems Raiders of the Deep might have been canceled in the process:

Los Angeles-based Spark Unlimited, the developer behind Lost Planet 3, Legendary and Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z, is no longer making games and has laid off all of its employees, a former employee of the company told Polygon today.

John Butrovich, Chief Technical Officer at Spark Unlimited, confirmed to Polygon that “it’s the end of Spark as a game developer.” Principal members of the studio “have decided to move on to other things,” Butrovich said, and confirmed that Spark Unlimited co-founder Craig Allen resigned as president and CEO from the company late last year “to pursue other ventures and interests.”

Butrovich said that Spark’s in-development free-to-play game was canceled, as were other projects at the studio, leading to the company shutting down game development.

If you know someone else who worked on Raiders of the Deep and could help us preserve more screenshots, footage or details, please let us know!

Images:

Some pages from the PDF file