BOOM: Unleashed (AKA Project Amazons) is a cancelled online multiplayer focused first / third person shooter / brawler for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, in development by UTV Ignition Games Austin (formerly True Games, which made the MMO Faxion Online) around 2010 – 2011 before their closure. While the project was never officially announced, its title was trademarked in January 2011 and rumors about its existence started appearing online.
Players could use many transforming weapons and vehicles / mechs hybrids. You could customize your character with different heads / torso / legs, choosing your weapons then join in post-apocalypse cities to hunt down other players. When using weapons there was a classic first-person view, then when riding vehicles / mechs it would change into a third person view. Vehicles could transform depending on the terrain and combat strategies, for example a bike transforming into an over-bike in water or a car becoming an anthropomorphic mech.
BOOM: Unleashed was canned just some months into development: as far as we know UTV Ignition also planned a single-player campaign, set in levels being destroyed by natural disasters. As it happened with many other cancelled games during the economic crisis of the early ‘10s, we’ll probably never see much more from this lost project.
Thanks to Dan and The_Phantom_Mask for the contribution!
Reich, sometimes known as Reich : Downfall, is a canceled First-Person Shooter made from 2007 to 2010 by Ignition Florida, formerly Artificial Studios, for the publisher UTV Ignition Entertainment. Planned for the PC, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 systems, the game was set in a distant future where Nazis have won the second World War and rule all around the world. The player would have take control of Janus Cross, a former officer of the reich, who associated with a sect of resistance fighters possessing telekinetic powers, or Psi-powers, called The Chosen, in order to take down the reich. It featured a heavily modified Unreal Engine 3 which allowed large scale destructible environments as well as the use of telekinetic powers and weapons to defeat your foes, especially by using environment as a weapon.
Some features of the game were:
Unreal Engine 3 (modified with deferred lighting, physics engine was custom-made).
Game was based on the idea that “Ambrosia” fueled your “psi-powers”.
‘Psi blades’ were blades attached to arms (think Baraka from Mortal Kombat’s franchise). This was eventually ditched.
Art direction for 6 month was to not have any curves in art, so everything was flat like boxes. Many people hated it.
Planned release for 10-10-10
Before reading the details preserved below, keep in mind that every commentary byJeremy Stieglitz (founder and project director at Artificial Studios) was made on Youtube dedicated videos, but were deleted over the years. According to him, development of the game began in mid-2007 with a prototype within his company, before taking a more concrete form in November of the same year with massive recruitments, according to many LinkedIn profiles of developers who worked on the project.
In discussion with various publishers, the studio made the decision to be acquired by the English publisher Ignition Entertainment on February 6, 2008. Following this announcement, some details about Reich (then known under the codename R6) were disclosed by Stieglitz:
“It’s using physics in a way few action games have before, the way you can interact with the environment and use the environment as a weapon.”
The purchase of Artificial by Ignition was due in particular to the takeover of the latter by the Indian company UTV Software Communications at the end of 2007, allowing the company to get additional funds for an extension in the AAA market. Artificial was rebranded Ignition Florida. During the first year of development, Reich was managed by Stieglitz as creative director with the art director Steven Stahlberg on board. During this period, some management issues were already deplored by some anonymous developers on Develop-Online and Spong.com, evoking poorly managed funds in the recruitment of seasoned developers as well as inexperience within the leadership and a certain immaturity, as recall by three sources:
“The blame falls all on the shoulder of Vijay Chadha, CEO of Ignition, who from the start put a 24 year kid named Jeremy Stieglitz in charge of the whole studio a boy barely out of college who could not even balance his check book let alone a multi-million dollar AAA game. Stieglitz spent millions on getting employees to Gainesville, Florida, paying thousands to fly them down for interviews and hiring no talents and giving them outlandish salaries. The biggest mistake of all was when Vijay Chadha, with pressure from UTV their parent company and the 60% Disney shareholders suits, wanted Ignition to present a premature slice of the game “Reich” to Microsoft and Sony, the visuals werent ready nor the gameplay as it was all a mess.”
“(…) The aforementioned Jeremy was the first (manager), and while he had a vision for the game, it was a terrible one. He would constantly edit the story that the writers would come up with to insert his own stupid ideas. He couldn’t keep his hands off of any aspect of development, sometimes even editing code (which would break things for unknown reasons until the engineers found out what he had done). He had no sense of how to design a game from start to finish. He had no concept of money management — even once throwing himself a housewarming party on the company dime and spending nearly $3000 on alcohol alone.”
“(…) Jeremy needed a good right-hand man to curb his worst tendencies and let him focus on what he is good at. Instead he ended up surrounded with the incompetent, the deranged and a bunch of massive egos. Some of these egos were “untouchable” and interefered with the game’s direction. Hiring exceptionally talented artists from non-gaming backgrounds can work well (see those concept pics?) but not when they end up thinking they’re running the show and start violating every practice that’s needed to make a game dev studio function properly. This is a common theme with Reich and Wardevil.”
Reich Steven Stahlberg’s version (2007-2008)
In the spring of 2008, a first presentation to the executives of Ignition as well as UTV, took place. The publisher’s feedback was then to rework the art direction, the project was visually rebooted and new recruitments took place. Jean-Pierre “JP” Targete succeeded to Stalhberg when the second version started. The latter nevertheless remained within the company as an artist until October of the same year. Two Ignition ex-developers wrote:
“(…) The concept artists actually saved the game development from being ditched in a major presentation to Ignition corporate UTV in 2008. Some 8 million or more was poured into the studio at that milestone. If this did not happen many employees would probably have been canned and development stalled.”
“There were two major presentations if I remember while we were there, one was in May of 2008, there was no new 3D art based on the art-style at that time and the cinematic had some issues, and right from the source, Vijay Chadha and UTV approved extra funds based on the progression of the art style and the concept art but as always the tech and physics was always strong. This was the 2nd art reboot. Now there was another major presentation to the Ignition heads and UTV’s CEO Ronnie Screwvala in September of 2008 I think which did have concept art, gameplay, 3D art and the Reich soldiers vs the Psi freak cutscene thats been posted etc so you might have been refering to that.
Reich’s level demo ‘museum’ shown in May 2008, before the art reboot.
The development of the second version continued without too many additional problems, and the game was once again briefly mentioned by the press in July 2008:
Ignition Entertainment has licensed Epic’s Unreal Engine 3 for a new FPS under development at its Florida’s studio. Described as a ‘groundbreaking’ new game, the title is a new IP for release next year which will ‘bring something fresh and exciting to one of the industry’s core genres’.
“Epic’s Unreal Engine 3 is an extremely versatile engine,” said Jeremy Stieglitz, game director and lead designer, Ignition Florida.
“So when deciding on technology for Ignition Florida’s first next-generation video game, there was no questioning that Unreal Engine 3 is the way to go.”
“Ignition Florida is pushing Unreal Engine 3 in a very exciting direction, especially in terms of environmental capabilities,” added Mark Rein, VP, Epic Games. “These guys have the chops to create some remarkable games, and we have complete faith in their technical and creative abilities.”
Reich’s level demo shown in September 2008. 2nd version lead by Jean-Pierre Targete (2008-2009)
Reich’s cutscene showing troopers confronting an escaping scientific experiment gone wrong named ‘Psi freak’.
However, new twists occurred in the spring of 2009. Ignition Florida recruited the late Paul Steed, known for working on a few games in the Wing Commander and Quake series, to oversee Stieglitz in terms of leadership in addition to Exigent 3D, his own outsourcing company specialised in video game visual development. Following his arrival, Targete left the studio in April 2009 and Steed became the new art director of Reich, as stated by someone:
“The art director and artist who worked on these resigned from the company when Paul Steed and Exigent an outsource studio were brought in to help with management.”
With the help of his own company which took care of the art direction, a third version was launched and all the work done by Targete was trashed. Stieglitz himself would say that one of the main problems in Reich’s development was “findingthegoodartdirection” to create a dystopian futuristic universe ruled by the Nazis. Very quickly, a change of atmosphere took place within the studio, the game, meanwhile, also undergoing constant changes in terms of gameplay mechanics, game design, visual development or even scripted scene (where Stieglitz wanted to make Reich the “God of War of First-Person Shooter”, Steed took more inspiration from classic 90’s shooters). Many artists found themselves made redundant and replaced by others from the Exigent 3D studio. A tech demo/target render was shown in closed doors at E3 2009. In the end of summer of the same year, Stieglitz left his post at Ignition Florida and Steed got his duties as the creative director as declared by another ex-developer wanting to stay anonymous:
“During the time I was there Paul Steed *somehow* was promoted again and again from Outsource Art Director to Studio Art Director and eventually to Creative Director over all facets of the studio, including Tech/Code and Game Design. How he managed to falsify those credentials I’ll never know. Of course while this was happening, he was still the managing owner of the outsource company producing the majority of art for the studio. When in charge, he essentially played games with the artists – where he would give them a task and the one who completed it closest to his satisfaction got to keep their job. He fired most of the artists just to fill Exigent’s work orders and make himself more money. If that isn’t a severe conflict of interest, I don’t know what is. Even poor corporate management wouldn’t allow for something like that to happen…”
Reich’s level demo ‘quarry’ shown behind closed doors at E3 2009. 3rd version lead by Paul Steed (2009-2010)
During this period, many developers resigned due to his most borderline attitude (drunkenness at work and moral and physical harassment are the things that most often occured alongside unjustified layoffs), but also criticized his artistic vision which displeased and was qualified as generic, in addition to some frauds, as will indicate to me in 2015Cory Collins, former animator on the game:
“There were a lot of similarities with Killzone, as our outsource company basically stole their artworks and painted over them, then tried to pretend it was from them.”
Another developer wrote:
“I left not long after Steed was hired. I remember when JP and Jeremy were running the show not many people were fired and at least there seem to be progress. Don’t get me wrong it was by far a perfect but it seem to have been moving along. I feel if we would have stuck with the original direction and see it through and have completed the game much of this could have been avoided. The problem is, firing and then re-hiring and then going in a new direction is not only time consuming but a waste of money. I mean gameplay wise their were some great concepts that were created like the Statue-mech, the Psi-freak, the Reich dog. I heard Steed trashed all the hard work that had been done and started over. Looking at the pre-Steed artwork, it seems it had more continuity. What Steed provided seemed generic something you could see in a poor-man’s version of Bioshock or Fallout with no true vision.”
And another one said :
“Its just his actual visual design sensibility that was stupid. For instance there was some period of time where we were designing some golem looking non-playable character. We went through various approaches. I guess Paul got frustrated and decided to model it himself. It looked like some goofy looking low poly boulder snowman that some kid taking a first year course might make. At a different point, we’d been going through revision after revision of the weapons over and over. Just when he’d settle on something, the following week, he’d change his mind. When it came to designing a sort of energy shotgun, there were literally dozens of concepts to choose from. Apparently he liked none of them and decides to design and model one himself. It was literally a weird, ugly as hell nonsensical combination of breakopen overunder shotgun and pump action shotgun, that looked like 2 very low poly low detail shortbarreled Mossberg 500s stacked atop each other. The weapon was mostly primitive shapes for god’s sake. I should also add that he kept pushing and pushing and pushing for stuff in our game that would get us an Adults only rating, even when it was obvious that there’s no way in hell we could afford to sell a game like that. Stuff like a giant spider raping a female non-playable character, or having sex with a female nazi officer right in the intro. I wish I was joking.”
About his abusive attitude, two different sources wrote:
“I worked with Paul Steed at Ignition Florida for a total of three months. I moved my entire house and family to Gainesville. I left the studio solely based on Paul Steed’s abusive behavior. This was a year ago before any fears came to light about the studio possibly closing down. The man would walk into the studio completely shit faced and make creative suggestions that he would completely not remember the next day and would ask you why you made those changes. He asked me once “Please make this cave entrance look like a nice juicy wet pussy” he was completely serious with this request by the way. He would yell at employees and belittle them in front of everyone constantly.”
(…)”Hell, he seemed like a nice enough guy when I first met him, but that impression did not last long.
-He once fired a guy for taking a vacation he was approved for. For his sister’s wedding no less.
-He once fired a guy for coming in a little late on a weekend despite the guy commutes on a bicycle and was one of our better artists.
-He most certainly did have numerous pending sexual harassment claims against him.
-He would talk shit about his employees
-Most definitely got intoxicated on the premises
-Definitely got in fights, there’s been a few employees that have or have almost taken knuckle sandwiches from him both in and out of the office.
-Definitely would forget the changes that he’d have requested the day before and then go off about how you aren’t taking the work seriously.
-He’d often circumvent everyone and try to include his own laughably amateurish attempts at 3D modeling into the game.
-And then all the incredibly stupid artistic, and managerial decisions
Hell, when he was in charge, morale had hit rock bottom, people left in droves, I knew many people that quit just because of Paul and no other reason. I knew people that arranged their resignation with Human Ressources to specifically not let Paul know that they were leaving, because they were afraid of how he’d react.”
Development delays were piling up, deadlines were missed and developer morale sunk while at UTV Ignition no one seemed to care about what happened. Nevertheless, a video showing gameplay clips as well as a short multiplayer demo were still shown at the Tokyo Game Show 2009.
Reich: Downfall Tokyo Game Show 2009 trailer
In early 2010, however, following numerous complaints accumulated and video footage showing Steed’s behavior, the executives at UTV Ignition made the decision to demote him of his functions and forced him to work indefinitely at home. He remained nevertheless still art director but his role of project director was taken over by Richard Kidd, who had never worked in video games before. Three different ex-employees wrote and shared their personal experiences during that part of the development:
“Paul Steed. I don’t know too much about him, since he came on board right before I bailed. (…) I got a call a few months back from a friend at the company that told me an incredible story. The story of how Paul got himself fired. One night, an engineer was working late and when he went to leave, he found Paul drunk and passed out cold against the studio doors. When he reached down to wake him up, Paul punched him square in the face, knocking him down. As soon as corporate found out, he was fired immediately. I was then told that finding Paul in various states of drunkenness throughout the day was a common occurrence.”
(…)”Many weren’t so lucky they got verbally abused and some physically by Steed who in a drunk rage punched a programmer for no reason who was working late one evening. (…) Steed has a reputation of getting drunk at bars and fighting small weak programmers.”
“Early this year, we almost got him fired. Almost. By that point all the complaints about Steed had finally reached some boiling point with his superiors at UTV. All the hostile workplace complaints, pending sexual harassment claims, and numerous complaints about his mismanagement of resources and personnel, had forced UTV to step in. (…)UTV insisted on interviewing the entire departments. The Wednesday prior to the Monday corporate visit, Paul, probably seeing that shit was going bad for him, got ridiculous drunk late the night on the office premises, wandered around, urinated on things, and threw up on one of the building entrances before passing out. Then reflexively sucker punched someone who tried to help him up. This was caught on security cam. He never showed up to work the next day, by that afternoon though almost everyone heard what had happened. (…) During the Monday interviews with UTV. The whole studio pretty much threw Paul under the bus. (…)However due to his conflict of interest type situation where he owned the outsourcing studio that we used, we couldn’t totally be rid of him. So instead he got knocked down about 3 positions from the top and forced to work from home indefinitely, and was replaced by Richard Kidd.”
The new management continued to stall game development and many millions of dollars have already been squandered on the project. As stated by three sources:
“Several months ago, I called a friend of mine that still worked there and asked how the game was going (post-Steed departure). He said that they had literally just been sitting around for weeks, waiting to be told what game to make. Again, waste of money.”
“(…) The project had been going downhill for a while. I’ve read it elsewhere, but it’s very true how work was constantly being thrown out and redone most often for story reasons. That wasn’t good for morale. I was hired after Steed left (corporate was actually approving new hires right up until about a month ago), and I don’t think we made any real progress the entire time I was there. As of last week, the story itself was one of the most cliched and uninspired bits I’ve ever seen, but the powers that be were so devoted to it that they were constantly sacrificing anyone’s attempts to make the game fun because it needed to fit their god-awful story. (…) The leaked videos of the first iteration look more fun to me than what was being worked on last week, because having that much fun didn’t fit into the story anymore.”
“(…) They had a regime change after Steed and a few others were fired but they hired quite a few good people into the company too late. The fall from my perspective was done under Steed and then their mistake with the Senior Producer who focused so much on story it was ridiculous and didn’t care about gameplay. From what I know, he made them change levels that were near completion to something totally different just so it’d fit the story. And did it more than once wasting all that time the designers and scripters put into the level. All the good employees with good training were all still too low on the food chain to do anything about it so they had to follow directions.
Gameplay glimpses of the 3rd version and a bit of the 4th version from Joel Benefiel
However, in May 2010, shortly before E3, Ignition again decided to cleanup by firing Kidd and replacing him with Scot Kramarich instead, while Steed announced his departure from the project with his outsourcing company. As two formers employees wrote:
“Around 2 weeks before I left, Paul just kinda disappeared with a very white washed email about exploring other options or some crap like that. We figured at the time he either got tired of being sidelined or UTV finally found out how to can his ass.”
“I was there when UTV tried to bring back Steed again in May and everyone was leaving or talking about leaving. It was around that time Vijay Chadha the CEO of Ignition seemed to disappear from the picture. Both him and his brother who headed up US publishing didnt show up at E3. Then I heard Ajay got fired. Vijay went off sick at exactly the same time and has not been seen since. But its pretty obvious something happened there. Especially as just around then Ignition hired new managers in London. A coincidence?! But there has never been any formal announcement or anything about a change of CEO or him leaving or anything.They came over around same time and fired Kidd, just before E3. And we had been hearing through our grapevine Paul Steed was coming back and was in town. He was telling people on the team he was coming back and people started leaving or talking about leaving in droves. But instead of Steed coming back they promoted up Scot Kramarich to head the team instead. One of the guys from London told me the Ignition marketing team had categorically rejected Steed’s game concept as unsellable. So it seems some people in Ignition did know what they were doing. But sadly not the ones calling the shots. You really got to ask what kind of idiots would rehire a guy after he abuses staff and swindles money out of the company into his own pocket ?”.
Jason Kaehler was then the new art director and a fourth and final visual reboot was underway, recycling many assets from the third version in order to accelerate the development of the game and reduce development costs as much as possible, as three differents sources said:
“The game went through several art directors and 3 game directors (hence, 3 reboots)”
“The Executive Producer was doing good stuff and brought in good people to try and save this thing. We did have to reboot, but it was for the best. We were actually making a game finally. It’s not their fault the dick-heads before them Jeremy/Steed/Kidd pissed away cash.”
“The sad thing is, after rebooting at the end of May ’10 and fixing all the mistakes previous management had made to where they could actually finish the game and ship Q3’11, management dropped the ball in a huge way. They put a hiring freeze in place to keep the studio from hiring the essential artists needed to complete the game (you know, the ones Paul Steed fired?), and yet complained about the art quality (which was primarily Paul Steed’s previous art as placeholder). The team had 3 levels finished with gameplay, waiting for art which couldn’t be delivered due to the freeze, and 3 more in production during the studio closure. The management that the studio received in the last few months did a great job of cleaning up and getting schedules in place (another failing of Paul Steed) and we caught by surprise just as much as the rest of the studio because everyone was on their way to finishing a good (if not great) game.”
4th version destruction prototype by Jesse Rapczak
By the way, the story of the game was slightly modified : this last version saw the whole concept of the sect of the Chosen as well as the character of Janus Cross being ditched. Instead, you played as Grimm, a former veteran soldier, who found himself left for dead after the Reich attempted to do experiments on him, leaving him with telekinetic powers in the process. He was then recovered by the Resistance, with on board, the character of Morgan, leader of the latter.
Mission intro script named ‘Zeppelin Assault’ by Travis Greene
Final Nail In The Coffin
It will be too little too late, however; in Fall 2010, a demo of the game was apparently shown and collected a rating of 5.0/10 while the publisher expected a rating of 8.5/10 according to Gamesindustry, UTV Ignition took the decision to close Ignition Florida, laying off 70 developers in total and cancelling once and for all Reich on November 3, 2010. In the end, it’s 3 years of development, 4 different versions and 23 millions dollars of budget which were invested in Reich. Several assets and some tech ideas were to be reused for another FPS from Ignition, BOOM: Unleashed, which will also be canceled in 2011 for other reasons, as implied by a former Reich’s developer:
“Whatever hope Ignition had of making that money back is gone now. Instead of launching a AAA title, they’ll swallow that loss and release a cheap digital download.”
“According to Shane Bettenhausen, the form that Reich originally took “isn’t there anymore.” Whether this means it’s changed genre, altered its sexy, over-the-top themes, or something else, remains to be seen. The studio working on it merged with a browser-based free-to-play dev called True Games.”
That same politic would be applicate by the company for WarDevil, becoming Project Kane, a slightly less ambitious title set to be released for console’s digital platforms, following the success of Blacklight : Tango Down.
Nearly entire level demo of unfinished Mission 04 from the 4th version. Video provided by Damien Bull
Why It Failed
In the end, the chaotic development and cancellation of Reich is due to inexperience. The development studio had never worked on AAA games before, same thing for the publisher, quite modest in its previous productions, which had suddenly decided this change of market without knowing what it required. Interestingly, many of the people who worked on the game were on their first try for a AAA game at this time,it was even, for others, their first game at all in the industry, as an anonymous developer wrote:
“Jeremy didn’t need a “right hand man” because he had two left hands and was pretty much crippled by his lack of managerial skills, he needed experience working under someone who knew how to direct a AAA game, unfortunately he didn’t have that and Paul Steed wasn’t the answer. Jeremy’s a brilliant guy and an awesome programmer and I think with some time he will develop into a decent game director but at that time he was not ready.”
“The problem was that Ignition took a great, small independent outfit and decided to immediately grow them into a big-money AAA studio without stopping to think that it might not be a good idea. (…) Having seen the way people were relocated to Florida then hit with pay cuts, changes of responsibility etc. it’s no wonder morale was shot. There isn’t a team in the world that could have “risen above” the crap that was going on there. I left Ignition not long after the move to the new building in Gainesville. I was tired of all the lies, egotism and rank incompetence and the effect that was having on a team that had a great kernel of talented devs. Since then it’s just been one more sick/hilarious story after another.”
“This comes as no surprise. It’s been a couple years since I left Ignition Florida behind, and the friends I have that still worked there when the studio was shut down had nothing but horror stories throughout Reich’s development. Laying off/firing talented and seasoned developers, and hiring untalented ones to replace them at lower salaries to cut costs. Result: the game was redesigned from scratch 3 times (maybe more), after millions had already been dumped into each iteration. (…) In the end, nothing went right. Nothing. There were some very talented guys there at various stages of the first iteration, which I was a part of, but things went to s**t incredibly quickly when we realized our game director had no idea how to direct a game.”
“(…) Ignition and it’s investors are chumps who don’t know a thing about business, let alone game design. (…)I suppose one wonders why Ignition continued to put so much faith in Paul… it’s because Paul never delivered a game. He would deliver a movie to corporate every single time because the game was unplayable, unpredictable, and scripted/edited movies are great for pretend time with the executives who know nothing about what real game development looks like.”
“(…) Basically all iterations of the game suffered because of one main reason:The corporate heads at Ignition didn’t know how to control nor run a US based game studio. They made some seriously bad choices in managers and directors down the line.”
WarDevil, also known as WarDevil: Enigma, WarDevil: Unleash the Beast Within and later, rebranded as Project Kane, is a canceled futuristic post-apocalyptic action beat them up game developed at least from 2003 until 2011 by Ignition London, formerly Digi-Guys, and published by UTV Ignition Entertainment, first for the Xbox and Gamecube, then for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.
For years, WarDevil was a nebulous project, long considered as a vaporware and whose development seems to have been very chaotic. Between probably excessive ambitions, money management problems from the top and controversies concerning the veracity of this game, WarDevil remains a very interesting obscure canceled title, and whose disastrous management seems to have been only another story in the video game industry. A story that could be attributed to its publisher.
It all started in November 2004 when the first information about WarDevil was shared with a hundred screenshots and a trailer released by some dedicated media. As we can read on Eurogamer, the game is already intended at this time for the Xbox 360, still called Xbox 2 back then:
Digi-Guys, a hitherto unsighted games developer based at Pinewood Studios here in the UK, has released a short and breathtaking teaser trailer for its next-generation game WarDevil: Unleash the Beast Within, believed to be on its way to Xbox 2 before the end of 2005.
The trailer is available in various sizes from the official WarDevil website here, and although it’s impossible to judge whether it’s running in real-time on actual console hardware or not, it’s nevertheless an impressive glimpse of what developers are confident next-gen tech will be able to do.
“Designed as both a short movie and a videogame,” according to Digi-Guys’ website, WarDevil has been in development for “over 15 months” and aims to stand tall among its next-gen neighbours thanks to glorious 3D visuals and a filmic narrative, which pitches the player into the role of a “WarDevil” in a near-future world “ruled by the iron fist of the Chun Federation”, where you must discover how to quell “the Beast Within”.
Although billed as a “next-generation 3D title” in most of the on-site literature, tellingly the developer mentions Xbox development tools on the recruitment pages of the side, and as a result it’s been widely linked to Xbox 2.
That said, there’s no solid confirmation WarDevil won’t appear on other formats. Hopefully we’ll hear more in the coming days and weeks as the website is updated with more information and media.
Probing further, Digi-Guys is also preparing to start work on full-length CG motion picture and game projects, according to its corporate web presence, with work on both taking place under the same roof at Pinewood Studios in the UK – and set to commence in early 2005.
The game reappeared with a new trailer during the Tokyo Game Show 2005, revealing some details about the in-house engine that powered the game, named Real Time Engine 1080, or simply RTE 1080:
The WarDevil RTE 1080 Engine has been developed by Digi-guys to realise the graphical depht & complexity that’s required for the WarDevil project.
Unlike other Engines, the RTE 1080 is designed to work in HD (1920×1080) and to create a visual style that surpasses the look & feel of conventional ‘Pre-Rendered’ FMV sequences.
The goal of the RTE 1080 is to achieve in-Game graphics that compare to the quality of the Pre-Rendered sequences creating a true Cinematic Game Playing experience.
WarDevil Tokyo Game Show 2005 trailer
Change Of Video Game Platforms
The project resurfaced again in May 2006, during E3. By this time, Digi-Guys announced that WarDevil wasn’t planned for the Xbox 360 anymore, and became a Playstation 3 exclusive. Another video tech demo was shown during the event, revealing a new design for the main character. IGN wrote this conclusion:
Meanwhile, what about the gameplay? There’s only so much to talk about right now –we spoke with the team at Digi-Guys briefly, and they said that the demo was basically a last-minute project kicked onto the PS3 to prove its tech. The game will not be playable here at E3, but it is promised to be fully playable at TGS. The trailer was meaty stuff, and while it’s disappointing that the game was not playable in any major form and was also missing a lot of technology, the fact that the team was kicking out 1080p is a feather in their cap.
Like many of the PlayStation 3 demos being shown at the Sony booth, the WarDevil demo claims that it is running at 1080p, and though there’s no way for us to really determine how true that is, we’re certain that it’s running in some kind of HD resolution. Not a whole lot happens over the course of the demo, but there was a certain cinematic quality to the demo. There’s no question to us that what we saw was running in real-time, as there were a few moments of slowdown. What we’d really like to see now is some actual gameplay.
UTV Ignition Comes Into Play
During this period, things revolving around WarDevil become a bit more hazy. Obviously, the game wasn’t shown at the Tokyo Game Show 2006. In December of the same year, it was announced that the Indian company UTV Software Communications acquired the English publisher Ignition Entertainment. The press release announced this acquisition as well as the ambitions of UTV revealing that Ignition is the publisher of WarDevil, although so far no communication on this subject has been revealed. Was Digi-Guys still in partnership with Ignition Entertainment, since their only game, Strike Force Hydra, an obscure shoot’em up marketed around 2003/2004 on Gameboy Advance and Playstation 1, was already published by them? Still, Ignition is mentioned for the first time on WarDevil following their takeover:
Mumbai-based UTV Software Communication has staked company’s claim in the virtual gaming business.
The company has acquired a 70% stake in Ignition, which is currently developing a graphic intensive game exclusively for Sony Playstation 3. (…) Ignition’s WarDevil will give the company access to the console gaming market (like Sony’s Playstation and Microsoft’s Xbox), which accounts for 61% of the gaming software industry. Ignition’s game WarDevil, a Rs 85 crore (around 10 millions of U.S. $) project, will find its way into millions of Sony Playstation 3 in 2008.
According to Hexus.net, following the final acquisition of Ignition by UTV, Digi-Guys became a subsidiary of the publisher:
Digi-Guys are a wholly owned subsidiary of Ignition – with its roots in both Videogames & High End CGI, Post-Production & VFX for movies. Based in it’s own high-end facility inside the world famous Ealing Studios (London, UK), the studio’s remit is to push far beyond the confines of conventional ‘next-gen’ thinking and produce unique, innovative and platform leading Videogames & Digital content across all media, utilising a broad spectrum of Games & Movie CG experience.
One year after the finalization of the deal between Ignition and UTV, WarDevil was shown again, in the spring of 2008, with a new trailer on PSU.com, in addition to new screenshots showing a redesign of the main character:
Some details the developers have told us:
– They are not finished with the game yet, still adding improvements both gameplay-wise and graphically
– They are making good use of the SPU’s and streaming off of the Blu-ray disc
– Their goal is to get the Blu-ray film & game to look as identical as possible so there is no transition between the game and cinematics
However, it was in November 2008 that the title was the target of controversy. On the PSU forums, a person under the pseudonym of ‘Leearcher‘ declared to be someone close to the development of the game, and accused the developers of lying about the technical capabilities of the project and that everything from the beginning was pre-rendered. Here are some of the messages written on this subject:
With WarDevil hiding out since it’s last showing back in May, PSU contacted the Digi-Guys to get an update on what’s going on with development. According to our contact, the developers have moved back into stealth mode but will be revealing new details on the project soon.
“We’re back in ‘below radar’ mode at the moment… so there’s no news or info I can share yet,” wrote the Digi-Guys representative. “[However] there will be some soon.”
Leearcher: The images you have on your posts here are completely faked. Not one of them is done in real-time. PERIOD.
They are no where near completing this game based on the information I have.
They have been working on the same 3 levels, one of which was recycled from a previous “attempt” at the project before Ignition/UTV merger for the last 3 years.
It’s supposed to be a game with 20 hours worth of play, and a 2 hour feature film?
Get real. The levels are so small you could walk though them in 5 minutes and be like “what? That’s it? **** that”.
An exclusive to what exactly? Whilst that might sound exciting to some (press release? hah), for me I smell more lies about to puked out from Whitehurst and company with an attempt at some form of credability to their statements borrowed from PSUforums.com for this exclusive news update. Laughable to say the least.
Alleged WarDevil investor said:
Here is the real goods on WarDevil.
The project is a complete and total scam. I have intimate knowledge of the management team at Digi-Guys (also known internally to its many current and former staff as Digi-Lies) and they are about as qualified to produce (or direct) a video game as I would be qualified to be the Project Manager.
They have no “engine”. The entire demo has been faked through pre-rendering those “cutscenes” which are not done in real time at all. Actually to my knowledge NONE of the stuff reported on their site in the demos are actually done using the “engine” but really what it is, is simply a sophisticated 3D scene file player with some smoke and mirrors. It’s not playable at all.
Yes it does motion blur but it looks worse now than when the project introduced it into the original engine on the Xbox 360 or the first rounds on the PS3. It’s actually a horrible looking thing to see on screen.
The project has been delayed time and time again for one single reason. The project director is a complete hack/con artist. He’s lied to not just one batch of investors but now also to their new owners UTV to secure financing when it seems they have absolutely no desire to ship the product whatsoever and he has lied time and time again to a list of some of the most talented artists in the world who have done duty at that company only to be ripped off (the artists can never show any of their work because it will never release and the Non-Disclosure Agreements are crap but they will threaten you with an army of lawyers if you talk, well guess what Andy! **** YOU, the jig is up and we are going to fight you) with the excuse that its a great opportunity to work on a game title like this. ********!
That company is a complete joke. It’s management is a joke. It’s run like a day care center with one big fat spoiled brat right in the center of it. Andy Whitehurst.
You’re con days are over.
Wardevil is NOT a title you want to hold your breath for. It’s unlikely it will ship in the first place, even though the delusional fool in charge “director, andy whitehurst” has admitted it would be more like late 2010 before it ships. And many people doubt even that. They have missed every single demo for the last 3 years I am told by weeks, even full quarters from what they planned out.
UTV, if you are reading this. Cut your losses and **** can Whitehurst immediately and cancel him out of his contracts on the basis of fraud. It’s that or you are going to have to start explaining some of the bullshit thats been going on at Digi-Lies.
What might seem like a pointless anecdote nevertheless took on a certain importance when the same day, we could read on PS3Center.net:
Forums exploded earlier this week when a forum poster on PS3forums said that the PS3 exclusive WarDevil was vaporware. ‘Lee Archer’, a supposed investor in the studio, said that the title would never be launched, and insinuated that the higher ups on the project were rotten to the core. The topic has since been deleted and ‘Lee Archer’ banned, though his comments on other WarDevil topics remain visible.
Now Digi-Guys has taken legal action against the poster, but details still remain slim on their project. Since then, Digi-Guys are unable to post anything until this matter has been settled in court. Digi-Guys wrote “they understand that this will be frustrating to the real fans of Wardevil out there but at this time are unable to comment further.”
As of right now, PCN has been unable to reach Digi-Guys for further comments.
The controversy does not stop there, since several months later, in July 2009 more precisely, this same ‘Lee Archer’ wrote this time on Gamefaqs this:
I have to speak up here on this subject. Now for fear of what happened on PSU last fall after posts were made on this subject by “leearcher”, I am going to keep this short and simple. No one in gamer land should ever for one second believe that the images in the latest trailer from Digi-Guys is realtime, in engine, or ingame in anyway whatsoever. It’s a completely pre-rendered piece using Lightwave and Fusion to produce those images. This statement does NOT violate any NDA whatsoever, since even Digi-Guys themselves do not put the RTE1080 logo on the material any more.
This next statement also doesn’t violate any NDA whatesoever. During the course of this “game” being developed the number of staff turnover at Digi-Guys has been astronomical. By now, best estimates are that it’s well over 200 staff who have come and gone, with many more staff trying desperately to get out of the company and find work else where to this day.
Fact: To date, no independently verified “in-game” game play has ever been witnessed by anyone in the press. Fact: The real reason this is a PS3 exclusive is not because Digi-Guys wanted to focus on one platform, but instead, and this is harsh, but shows just how these guys operate – had to go with PS3 because they originally showed a tech demo of the game on the Xbox 360 using hacked Xboxes to do it, and when Microsoft raised the question of “where did you get these dev kits/boxes?” and it came back they didn’t have legal kits – MicroSoft walked away possibly threatening to sue (although that part is unconfirmed, but they apparently left the meeting very unimpressed and we can understand why).
So when Digi-Guys say they wanted to focus on one platform the reasons they are giving to the public for that decision are essentially false. Of course they wouldn’t really want to admit to this in public, so I am sure someone will throw another lawyer into the mix here soon and threaten some kind of legal action. However this information is old. Really old. Pre-2007. But it is still the truth behind the PS3 exclusive decision.
Fact: It is almost the end of July 2009, and the latest announcement of any significance was in response to the original posts on PSU, claiming those statements were, and we quote “baseless” and that in Q1 2009 new information and media would be released. Many assumed this would be screenshots, in-game stills, verifiable game play etc., or otherwise further information of some kind that would indicate that these original “baseless” statements were indeed false, however nothing to date has materialized proving otherwise and that the title would still be on track for 2009 release.
Fact: No lawsuit ever materialized over the PSU forums controversy last fall.
Fact: A Digi-Guys representative claimed that since “legal action” (in the form of a lawsuit) was proceeding, they couldn’t discuss it any further. This is a blatant misrepresentation of the FACTS and could be construed as a fraudulent statement. If at any time Digi-Guys continues to hide behind that “legal action is underway” statement, they are in effect lying, and are using it to stall for whatever reason. You can draw your own conclusions. But please keep these FACTS in mind.
The people who are “Leearcher”.
A video game? A movie? Both!
Meanwhile, Digi-Guys had indeed made another announcement, in January 2009, indicating that new information would be released, revealing WarDevil Chronicles a 2D animated feature supposed to introduce various characters and scenarios throughout the main WarDevil project:
According to the Digi-Guys, Wardevil Chronicles is an accompanying 2D Cartoon/Anime that will be used to debut various characters and scenarios throughout the life of the main WarDevil Project.
“We may do more – and expand the Project in many ways, as we’ve had great fun creating the 2D style – it’s designed to be very different to the high-end/CG look of the main Project. We’ll be releasing new material in 2009, but when/how is in the hands of our Publisher – therefore, we must keep to their schedules. WarDevil is progressing to plan – it has a long development process as we’re creating an Engine, a Game & Short Movie and each of these elements can take a lot of time on their own,” said a Digi-Guys representative.
Edge Magazine Presentation
It was in October 2009 that WarDevil finally seemed to reveal itself, after 5 years of information scattered here and there. The game made the first cover of Edge magazine, issue number 207. Here is a summary of what we could read about the demo shown and some development trivia:
It’s with some trepidation that we walk through the gates of Ealing Studios to find out if WarDevil, a game that most people still associate with a 2004 technical teaser clip, is anything more than CGI fluff.
Another worry is that this visit, which for creator Digi-Guys is the first of its kind, has been arranged as a ‘technical reveal’. And it’s a reveal that’s coming five years after the game’s announcement. Andy Whitehurst, the studio’s founder and the game’s project lead, has a lot of explaining to do.
“Every now and again something needs to shake the industry up,” he says. “I hope that either WarDevil or its pipeline can do something like that.” Our mistake, the demo suggests, was expecting the myth to be simply that WarDevil, a thirdperson action game set thousands of years in the future, was vaporware. It’s not, but that quickly becomes irrelevant.
Some more about that Xbox demo, first, as it casts Whitehurst’s rhetoric in a substantially different light. It was developed in 2005, when you’d expect all eyes to be on Xbox 360. Such is the nature of Digi-Guys’ new pipeline, though – designed as it is to render Hollywood-grade visuals at true 1080p, at an unbroken 60frames per second, using just one core of a modern Console CPU – that the demo would have to do much more with much less to be valid proof of concept. “Hold me to it and hang me, because the reality is that if we don’t do it this way, it’s not a project,” says Whitehurst. “If we reduce the textures, there’d be no point in doing it.” So on come the black block of a chipped retail Xbox, and his words are put into action.
Using creatures and environments familiar to both the teaser video and now the game itself, it’s a smooth stroll through and arid, sun-drenched scene: the cloister of a temple carved into a moutain, apparently, opening out into an arena full of richly detailed pillars. Biomeks adopt various positions before a Virtua Cop-style shooting system takes them down. This, importantly, is not how WarDevil will actually play.
Let’s return to what this means for WarDevil itself, and another demo that brings things bang up to date. The background for this one is a visit by Sony reps in October 2005, by which time Whitehurst had built his HD studio. They saw the Xbox demo – and remember, this is the same year that Doom 3 struggled it’s on to the same console – and were suitably impressed. “They said: ‘Here’s some devkits. Let’s see what you can do’. So we got a very quick build running, then there was this whole shebang for the E3 2006 PS3 launch, with everyone having to submit what they were doing.” WarDevil was lucky enough to be picked, and together with Heavy Rain was one of few non-aligned projects on show. “It was good for us and it wasn’t, because we were just 16 people at the time, with all the pressure of doing it.”
That’s not the only reason for PS3 becoming WarDevil’s lead platform. “Sony’s hype was right,” says Whitehurst, echoing those old, oft-forgotten claims that the architecture of Cell and it’s satellite SPU’s is ideal for the future of HD gaming, as opposed to the present, which is ruled by DirectX. “It’s advantageous fo our thought process. There’s better filtering on 360 but the whole thing comes together better on PS3.”
Currently pencilled in for behind-closed-doors display at September’s Tokyo Game Show, the PS3 demo of WarDevil is frustratingly small. The texture streaming system is still under development, though it’s expected to boost the current texture bandwith to support 1K (1024×1024) textures for every four square metres of gameworld. Characters meanwhile, already boast seperate 2K (2048×2048) textures for their faces, torsos and limbs.
The demo is essentially a short section of gameplay and introductory cutscene in which the WarDevil, an ‘ultime killing machine that can make 10,000 men lay down their arms’, shows his stuff against the troops of his nemesis, The General, using a God Of War-style mix of blade attacks, martial arts and supernatural powers. Given his name, the WarDevil himself is a suprisingly lithe and humanoid figure, decked in a ornately festooned armour resembling that of Lieutenant Colonel Kroenen, the clockwork Nazi in Hellboy. The environment, meanwhile, is a weathered canyon splashed with vibrant ancient motifs, juxtaposed with a central pillar full of perfect angles and bronzed metal.
Much like Hideo Kojima when demoing early footage of Metal Gear Solid 4, Whitehurst’s trick when presenting this brief section is to stop the action and detach the camera, bringing it to within touching distance of various characters. As promised, there’s no discernible point at which the edges start to soften. Chainmail retains its crispness as the links fill the screen, skin reveals its pores and subcutaneous layers, and the standard of decoration in the various crests and engravings is never compromised.
This almost exact reproduction of the team’s concept art – there are now 75 staff on site, a third of them from the CG animation industry – is what Whitehurst calls “living, breathing concept art”.
WarDevil, you see, isn’t just a game. The selling point of Digi-Guys’ pipeline is its speed when rendering everything from high-quality movie material to in-game action, and Whitehurst has no doubt that it can deliver WarDevil as both a game and Blu-ray movie, albeit one with a forecast duration of just 40 minutes. “Rather than taking hours and hours per frame, the movie side renders in about 45 seconds per frame, maybe a minute and a half maximum. So by the end of one day we can all have movie footage and game footage rendered side-by-side using the same assets.”
It’s enough to convince us that WarDevil will happen, and in fascinating form regardless of whether it actually works. Whitehurst share a telling fondness for David Lynch‘s Dune, and WarDevil, with its rival factions of FreeState Brotherhood and Chun caste – “Masters of the Sky, Overlords of the Earh and keepers of the Beast” – seems no less idiosyncratic.
Video provided by Samat Algozhin
Despite this presentation, WarDevil was officially canceled in September 2010, nearly a year after it was shown to Edge. As we could read on Gamesindustry, Digi-Guys was originally scheduled to shut down the following month with an undisclosed number of staff laid off. It was also at this time that we learned the existence of a second game in development codenamed Project Kane. One of the decisions considered by UTV Ignition then was to outsource these two titles:
Developer Ignition is to close the doors of its London studio, GamesIndustry.biz has learned.
The company is in the process of laying off an undisclosed number of staff, and has wound up internal development on upcoming titles Wardevil (already much-delayed) and Project Kane.
However, both games have apparently passed proof of concept stage, with Ignition hinting that their future – if they have one – may lie in outsourcing.
The company will retain a corporate headquarters in London, but now seeks to work primarily with external developers in more of a publishing role. GameIndustry.biz understands the Ealing-based studio is to close on October 31.
Said Hassan Sadiq, Group Chairman at Ignition Entertainment in a statement, “Throughout the last year Ignition has gone through a number of changes, including bringing in a strong new management team with a core focus of working with the world’s best external developers to bring AAA content to emerging downloadable platforms.
“This week saw the pre-scheduled completion of a six month proof of concept project on the War Devil / Project Kane titles internally, which the board and studio management are currently evaluating as to whether the required quality will be achieved by completing internally or with an external partner.”
However, UTV Ignition backtracked its decision in November 2010 by resurrecting WarDevil, renaming it Project Kane. To date, it is not clear if the two projects were merged, or if simply the development of WarDevil was restarted from scratch and modified in its initial design. An Ignition internal studio based in London was established in order to continue the project:
While it seemed last month that the saga of Ignition London’s WarDevil had finally ended in cancellation after five years in development, Ignition today revealed another twist in the tale–development will indeed continue, under the name Project Kane.
“Following a comprehensive audit of the title, assets and internal team, we have decided that a core team responsible for the Project Kane prototype will take the game into full production, led by the key vision holders,” said UTV Ignition group chairman Hassan Sadiq. Outsourcing and an internal team will handle development together.
“We have cherry picked from some of the world’s best teams to build our UK studio,” said design director Julian Glover, “which includes personnel whose combined previous development credits include Burnout 3, Crysis, Little BigPlanet, and Heavenly Sword. We are extremely excited to fast-track development of Project Kane.”
Scam or too ambitious?
As Ross Silifant told us in the comments on this same page, it seems that in its WarDevil form, the game has never reached the playable stage once. These comments were made by Jim Bagley who was coder on the project from 2002 to 2010. He also confirmed that the game was initially planned first on Xbox and Gamecube, before moving to Xbox 360, then Playstation 3:
Ross: Rumour had it you were working on a PS3/360 game, if true, what was it and what happened to it?
Jim: This is true, I was the only coder working on a PS3 game, called WarDevil, the investors canned the project before it was completed, for reasons of a financial nature. Which was a shame, because at the time, it was the only PS3 game to my knowledge that was rendered at 1080p and looked amazing!
He has also confirmed that the game started out planned for GameCube and Xbox, before moving to PS3 and the E3 PS3 Demo was just a tech demo. Game never reached a playable stage.
Years later, in February 2019, voice-over talent Kit Harrisontweeted about the game and its presentation to Edge:
Heavens, I do miss WarDevil now I’ve remembered it. I must have read that issue of Edge a hundred times, and that game – the story for which was one that got me interested in being a part of the industry forever – pretty much only largely exists as that cover story.
I wrote that feature. Went over to Stockholm (sic). The demo they had was mind-blowing. Must’ve been all smoke-and-mirrors, but what smoke-and-mirror.Weird to think that’s all the outside world will probably ever know of that project. It was incredibly ambitious, unfortunately maybe too ambitious.
Project Kane version
Seasoned developers came on board at Ignition London trying to save this title which was, according to Tom Bolton, set to be released on Playstation Network and Xbox Live Arcade, using the Unreal Engine 3 instead. Unlike the previous iteration, it seems this time it managed to reach a playable state.
But it was already too little too late; in June 2011 after 7 months of development, UTV Ignition took the decision to cancel every in-house games, closed every internal development studios, and only focused as a publisher for downloadable titles:
Ignition Games’ transition to a pure publishing operation continues, Develop reports, with layoffs at the company’s London studio following those last week in Austin. Anonymous sources told the site that the London team was told of the layoffs on Friday. As Develop puts it, “redundancies have been issued across the entire London development outfit.”
This once again brings work on WarDevil to a halt. The game was canceled last year following an earlier round of layoffs in Ignition’s UK operation. Development started again later that year under the name Project Kane. Develop was unable to confirm this, but heard reports that Ignition was willing to let the project continue if an external developer signed on to complete it.
Another project that knew the same fate with this decision was Reich: Downfall, later becoming BOOM: Unleashed, which was also canceled, rebooted then canceled again, following an incredible disastrous development cycle where UTV Ignition’s inexperience in AAA management took a huge part in it.
Following its ultimate cancellation, it seems that some people have no regrets from Digi-Guys/Ignition London’s closure, as we can read from VFX supervisorKelly Myers, who worked on WarDevil in 2007-2008, on Liberty3D:
News came earlier this week that Ignition London (aka Digi-guys or Digi-Lies depending on who you ask) has finally been forced to can Project Kane, WarDevil, Enigma, or whatever the hell it was they were working on after 9 -10 years in development. The article link below says 5 years, but that’s since Ignition bought them and turned them into the UTV family of companies. The actual development time on that “title” was closer to a full 10 years and was a complete waste of money. I worked at Digi-Guys and I can tell you the problem was not with the artists, but with MANAGEMENT. Good riddance! The only question now is, what are they going to do with all that awesome hardware they spent millions on and didn’t use for anything? (…) Digi-Guys/Ignition management was always vague because they were always clueless.
Andrew Whitehurst (the “creative director”) was the worst pixel f*cker I’ve ever had to work for, with etc. Totally insane person with no idea or clue as to what he really wanted until he “saw” it, and he would piss around to try and look and act like a “director” when all he was really doing was wasting money and embarrassing himself.
Someone else wrote:
I had dealings with this company years ago when they were starting up this project, and they were the biggest collecton of stupid wankers I ever heard of, it’s enough to put anyone off working in games for life.
Kelly Myers: Totally nutty people and when it really came down to it, complete scam/slime jobs. I feel for the artists that “stuck with it” because all they got in the end was pink slips.
WarDevil is an interesting beast. Above all, it shows that at one time, a lot of media left the impression that everything said and shown by the developers was absolute truth. Today, it is more and more common to see AAA titles being downgraded between their first presentation and the released version. Already in the middle of the 2000s, at a time when social networks were not yet as democratized, certain titles did not hesitate to show themselves in gorgeous videos, only to, in the end, not meet expectations. Think Killzone 2 and its trailer at E3 2005. A practice that still seems to work after so many years, and, as much to say that today, a project as intriguing as WarDevil would not last long on the internet.
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