Obsidian Entertainment

Dwarfs (Obsidian’s Snow White RPG) [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3]

Dwarfs (also known as “Seven Dwarves“) is a canceled action adventure game from Obsidian Entertainment, once planned for the PS3 and Xbox 360. The game was intended to be a tie-in to a Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs prequel that was in development at the time. Both the game and the movie were planned to be cornerstones to a new franchise aimed at boys to go alongside its other properties.

This wasn’t Disney’s first attempt at expanding the Snow White story. Walt Disney himself had considered it due to public and internal popularity of the characters despite his own dislike of sequels. However nothing ever came of them until the mid 2000s when Disney’s home video department DisneyToon Studios decided to work with the story. Their idea was a prequel with a darker tone intended to explain the organs of the cast, taking inspiration from The Lord of the Rings. The plot would have been about the seven dwarves journeying together with a young girl to stop an evil wizard finding an ancient dwarven power. However, things are not what they seem as it is revealed that the dwarves have been manipulated by the young girl who is the daughter of the wizard. She betrays the dwarves and curses her father, proceeding to take over the kingdom and thus setting up the original movie.

Soon after the project started, it began to develop an internal following. Many saw Dwarfs as the seeds to a new franchise to go alongside Disney’s Fairies and Princess lines. In order to get the fledgling franchise off to a good start, a video game was proposed. Obsidian was approached due to their history and skills developing deep RPGs, such as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II and Neverwinter Nights 2. The game, known as “Project New Jersey” internally, was intended to be a third person action adventure with a much darker tone than even the prequel movie. Kevin Saunders (game designer at Obsidian for such titles as KotOR2 and NN2) was the Lead Designer on Dwarfs, and he gave a short description of the opening of the game on his Formspring account:

“This wasn’t a happy-go-lucky Disney game. Disney’s Buena Vista Games wanted dark and I gave them dark. In the opening sequence, for example, you, as a teenage prince, awake in your bed to haunting sounds. Exploring the dark castle, you come across a terrifying shadowy creature that you kill in a desperate struggle – its cries shifting from a supernatural shriek to that of a human woman’s bloodcurdling cry of death. The illusion is then dispelled, and your mother, the Queen, lays dead before you, the bloody knife that killed her in your hand. This wasn’t a cinematic – it was all a gameplay sequence that you’d actually play out“

Saunders’s Formspring post also names some of the proposed team. Obsidian built a team of veterans for this project. Josh Sawyer (who was the lead designer for Icewind Dale 2 and later director for Fallout: New Vegas) was picked as the systems / combat lead. Brian Menze, a longtime artist for both Black Isle Studios and Obsidian, was doing the concept art for Dwarfs. Saunders described Menze work as “So much personality and character, reminiscent of Disney’s classic characters, but weathered by the grim realities of a dark fantasy world”. Brian Mitsoda, known for being a Writer for Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, worked as the creative lead on the project and along with Kevin Saunders on the story. When asked about Dwarfs, he said:

“If I could resurrect any project that I worked on, it would be this one. This was essentially our action-RPG version of a Pixar movie crossed with a first-party Nintendo game. I don’t know how much is still covered by NDA, but it was obviously inspired by Disney’s classic movies artistically, although script-wise we definitely wanted to capture the characterization and emotion of Pixar films. Conceptually, it was a darker fairytale type of story, but it was mostly focused on the journey of the teenage protagonists as they journeyed around the land meeting up with these eccentric little men and using their unique powers to advance through the plot. It had a lot of heart, great monster and character concepts by Brian Menze, and very interesting level potential.”

With an enthusiastic and experienced team coming together and a plan set in place, things looked set for work to begin on a great new game. However, things weren’t looking so good for the movie, with difficulty for Studio Executives and their desire to add their own touches to the film. Having to constantly fight to keep the movie true to its original vision, director Mike Disa (who previously worked on such titles as Pocahontas, Fantasia 2000, Atlantis: The Lost Empire and The Origin Of Stitch) felt burnt out with the project.

In particular, a repeated insistence by studio executives of having the character of Dopey to talk in the movie and then to explain his mutism in the original movie as trauma from watching his mother die. As Mike told during an interview with Integratedcatholiclife:

“Essentially the studio executive wanted Dopey to talk! [Laughs in disbelief.]  It just comes down to my respect for great films.  Snow White is today still the best animated film ever made. Those characters are spectacular.  It’s a sad statement on our industry that the best film was 80 years ago, but it’s still the best film.  I would never walk into a sequel and do anything to disrespect the core of the characters like making Dopey talk.”

Around this time, Pixar’s creative director John Lasseter took over Disney’s animation departments and was reviewing the current projects. At first it seemed like Dwarfs would be safe but as the executives pushed for more influence, Disa’s confidence on his project dropped. Not wanting to pitch an idea that he didn’t believe in, Disa left the project and Dwarfs was canceled as soon as Lasseter got a look at the new script. This was also the end for Obsidian’s game.

Many of the team who worked on Dwarfs were sad to see it go. Brian Mitsoda described his feeling as: “I think if it had come out, it would be considered a classic today. It still hurts to know we’ll never finish it. If DoubleBear (Mitsoda’s own company) ever gets big enough, I would totally do something similar to it”. His wife, Annie Mitsoda, described the game as her “One that got away”.  Feargus Urquhart, Ceo of Obsidian, talked about the game in an interview with Kotaku: “It was a lot of fun, we feel we turned in a really cool prototype. We worked on it for about a year. It’s one of the games here that the team just loved working on. And unfortunately – which, it happens in this industry – you have changes of focus at a publisher.”

Since Dwarfs’ cancellation, Obsidian has moved on to other high profile projects like Fallout: New Vegas, and other licensed games like South Park: The Stick of Truth. However this wasn’t the last time Obsidian had a licensed game canceled on them: you can check out the article on Aliens: Crucible. Other lost projects conceived by the team were Futureblight, a post-apocalyptic RPG for Take-Two Interactive, a couple of pitches for EA and Ubisoft, and “Project North Carolina”, an open world adventure to be published by Microsoft for their Xbox One.

After so many canned games Obsidian’s future could have been bleak, but in 2015 they finally released Pillars of Eternity thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, and it was welcomed by gamers as one of the best RPGs of the last decade.

Article by Philip Dempsey, originally published in 2016 in our book “Video Games You Will Never Play” 

BackSpace (Obsidian) [Cancelled – PC, Xbox 360, PS3]

BackSpace is a cancelled sci-fi RPG that was in early development by Obsidian Entertainment from January to April 2011 (around the same time they were finishing Dungeon Siege III), to be published by Bethesda on PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. The project was pitched as “Sci-Fi SKYRIM with Time Travels” and it was led by Jason Fader (who also worked on Obsidian’s cancelled Aliens RPG, Fallout: New Vegas, and the System Shock remake at Nightdive Studios).

While the game was quickly canned by the studio and it was never officially announced, Kotaku published a short article on the game in 2013, showing off remaining concept art created by Obsidian and sharing a few details on its gameplay:

“BackSpace is a single-player action-RPG set in a scifi space environment with simple elements of time travel. The combat is paced similarly to Skyrim, but slightly faster since there is no concept of blocking. The easiest way to look at it is a mix of Mass Effect, Borderlands, and System Shock 2 for gameplay and setting.”

“It was to be developed in some sort of partnership with Bethesda, I’ve heard, and it’d use the same engine as their ridiculously-successful role-playing game Skyrim. Although BackSpace wasn’t an open-world game, players would be able to travel between a number of planets as well as one large space station.”

“This station is huge,” a BackSpace design document reads. “It can be compared in size to The Citadel of Mass Effect [or] Babylon 5. The station has several locations devoted to diverse research fields which would allow us to have vegetation overgrowth, high-tech disasters, and mutations of science as visual themes.”

“[…] a technical error would fling your character ten years into the future, and you’d spend a bulk of the game hopping back and forth between the time of the attack and a dismal, alien-occupied future. Quests in the game would task you with hopping between timelines in an attempt to save humankind.”

In 2017 Jason replied to a few questions on Reddit, sharing even more details on what happened to BackSpace:

“I was working closely with Bethesda on BackSpace. Since there were no other projects lined up after the Old World Blues team finished their work, I took it upon myself to try to find another project for the company. I reached out to Bethesda and directly asked them what type of game they’d be most interested in publishing next. From there, I started working on a pitch based on a prior game I made, ThreadSpace: Hyperbol (story only, not gameplay). The gameplay was something designed around Bethesda’s interests at the time. No other publishers were pitched on it, to my knowledge, but there was interest from a 3rd party in creating a TV show based on it.

I actually started working on the project a bit before that by myself after hours. Probably as early as October (2010). It was an “after school project” for a very long time, and after a few months, more and more folks would join me after hours to volunteer their time to help. I don’t think we actually worked on it by day until the final month for the prototype. Then the layoffs happened. Then I stuck around for a few more years. Then the big layoffs (including me this time).”

In April 2011 Obsidian had to lay off part of their team, including many of those developers who were working on BackSpace. With financial difficulties in keeping the team active they worked on South Park: The Stick of Truth and many cancelled ventures (such as Stormlands for Microsoft), until they found success on Kickstarter with Pillars of Eternity.

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Let’s play Aliens: Colonial Marines? Let’s see some more of that Aliens game that you’ll never play

While every Aliens fan is currently playing Aliens: Colonial Marines (but not the cancelled PS2 version), we still remember that Aliens RPG that was in development by Obsidian Entertainment for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, but noone will ever play this, because it was cancelled. Keep in mind that this video is from an unfinished development version of Aliens Crucible in 2008/2009, but it’s still nice to see it playable in-game, there was good potential in the game. Some days ago an animation reel from Aliens RPG was leaked too.

 

Fallout: New Vegas [X360 PS3 PC – Beta/Cut/Debug + DLC]

Fallout: New Vegas is an action FPS/RPG developed by Obsidian Entertainment and published by Bethesda for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. Before the game was released changes were made to the game near the end of development. Most of what is documented below can be found in promotional screenshots, videos, and developer diaries.

During initial development, Fallout 3 super mutants appeared in the game as placeholders. Possibly until the New Vegas super mutant variant was created. For example; Neil – a friendly super mutant you meet at Black Mountain – originally appeared as a Fallout 3 super mutant in the beta. You can compare what Neil looked like in the beta to what he looks like in the final below this paragraph.

BETA:

Screenshot of Neil in the final product from: http://www.fallout.wikia.com

FINAL:

Another character that was changed in New Vegas is Mr. House. Mr. House uses a master computer to communicate to the player in the Lucky 38 casino. At the time, Mr. House appeared different on the computer screen in the video: developer diary #4 – factions.

Screenshot of Mr. House in the final product from: www.fallout.wikia.com

BETA:


FINAL:

The final character that was changed in New Vegas is Sunny Smiles. Sunny wears the same armor in the final like she does in the beta, however her appearance in the game changed somewhat. 

Aliens RPG: Crucible [Cancelled – Xbox 360 / PS3]

Aliens: Crucible (also know as Project Connecticut) is an RPG based on the Aliens films franchise that was in development by Obsidian Entertainment for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. The game was going to be published by SEGA, but after some economic problems, it seems that they decided to cancel all their Aliens games. Probably Aliens: Crucible gameplay could have been similar to KOTOR II and NeverWinter Nights 2, two other RPGs developed by Obsidian.

Thanks to Dominus Elf for the contribution!

Here are some more info about Aliens Crucible by a former developer, that were shared in the RPG Codex Forum:

I’ve talked about this game before…

There is a lot of could-ofs, should-ofs, and all that.

The problem with making successful horror games with the Aliens franchise is that the Aliens have been revealed… a lot. There is no mystery with them anymore. After 4 movies, countless comics and novels, countless video games – where the Alien and Alien variants have been killed multiple times, you have to tread new ground if you want to do something original. The horror with the Aliens no longer lies in the unknown, so we were going for the environment.

For example, the second or third time you watch Alien, it is no longer scary. My second playthrough of Amnesia was easy and scare-free.

NOT COUNTING JUMP SCARES! Jump scares are not true horror, though they can be used to effectively alter the tension temporarily.

Josh did have some ideas though on how to add horror and tension, and we had several scenarios into the game. Most of us were or had played SS2, Amnesia, and Call of Cthulu, but horror was not the goal of the game, survival was.

This was a game of limited resources and perma-death. If a party member got face-hugged, your choices were to mercy kill them, put them in a sleeper and wake them sparingly if you need them, or let them pop – but the bottom line was that once they got impregnated they had an expiration date.

As for the Alien variations, there are things that are simply expected by publishers and the fan base. The xenomporph variations also have a history in the aliens universe anyway. The first thing Josh and the concept artists did was to create the lifeforms the xenos would impregnate first. We also used some insect themes for the various xeno roles, from drones and scouts, to soldiers and queens. As covered in countless comics, novels, and films, the xenos take traits from their host, the idea being it would better enable them to survive in a dangerous habitat. One of the big mysteries Josh and the writers were exploring was what the caldera and how were the engineers (space
jockeys) doing with the xenos.

The goal was not to kill all the bugs, but to simply escape from the caldera where you were trapped. Don’t get me wrong, there was still a lot of killing of both xenos and humans in the game. Combat was real time – but we had a companion wheel to context system so that you could issue commands to your squadmates. For example, you could highlight a door with your reticule, and then based on what your squard could do, it would show you your options, like weld door, open door, or if you had a bomb, plant bomb on door.

As far as tech goes, we were using an earlier version of Onyx – which would later be used to create DS3. Our tech was stable, but we had pipeline issues to resolve but by milestone 25 or so were in pretty good shape.

Anyway, it is what it is at this point.

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