Video Games Stuck In Development Hell: Part 2
While playing a game may sometimes be a short experience for players, hundreds, if not thousands, of work hours created it, even more so for longer titles. Game development is complicated, and crossing the finish line to hit release is a feat unto itself.
However, sadly, not every game makes it across that line. A few end up somewhere informally known as “development hell.” It’s here that games might reside for months, years, or in some rare cases, over a decade. In Part 1 of this development hell series, we detailed the development history and path to development hell for five games – Pikmin 4, Skull & Bones, Beyond Good and Evil 2, In the Valley of Gods, and Dead Island 2 – and below, in Part 2, we’ll examine five more.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2
Development hell doesn’t always have to indicate length – sometimes, a game’s development can go sideways in just a short period of time. Case in point, publisher Paradox Interactive’s Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2, a title announced in 2019 that has since been almost canceled, swapped to multiple developers, and more.
When Bloodlines 2 was announced in 2019, there was a ton of excitement around it. It was a sequel 15 years in the making, after all. Things seemed to be progressing well after Bloodlines 2’s announcement, too. It received trailers showcasing the Brujah Clan, the Ventrue Clan, full story videos, and more. Paradox Interactive announced in 2020 that Bloodlines 2 would be coming to Xbox Series X, and then right after, the publisher announced it would target PlayStation 5 as well.
That’s a lot of content about Bloodlines 2, right? Surely the game was well on its way to being released. Well, in August of 2020, Paradox and then-developer Hardsuit Labs announced that Bloodlines 2 was delayed to 2021. Let’s call this moment in the sequel’s development timeline the moment it entered hell.
Shortly after that delay, the game’s lead narrative designer, Brian Mitsoda, and its creative director, Ka’ai Cluney, announced they were no longer working on the project at Hardsuit Labs. Two months later, Paradox Interactive announced that Cara Ellison, Bloodlines 2’s senior narrative designer, had left Hardsuit Labs.
Fast forward to February 2021 and Paradox Interactive announced that it had fired Hardsuit Labs from the development of Bloodlines 2. A month later, Hardsuit Labs suffered layoffs. According to PC Gamer, Paradox Interactive picked another studio to work on Bloodlines 2, a studio it hasn’t formally named, and the Bloodlines sequel was delayed “indefinitely.”
There’s no word on how the development of Bloodlines 2 is going at the moment, but hey, Paradox Interactive announced Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodhunt, a battle royale set in the same universe as the Bloodlines game, and released it into early access, so that’s pretty neat.
Ah, you knew this one would be here, didn’t you? Perhaps one of the more infamous examples of a game stuck in development hell, Capcom’s Deep Down might have been straight up banished to the shadow realm. We saw a teaser for the game in August of 2013, and the following month, we received a trailer revealing the dragon-slaying action game was actually set in 2094 New York.
That same month, Game Informer went hands-on with the game. We played it! Deep Down received another trailer in December of 2013, too, so things were looking great.
Capcom then signaled that it would be released during the PlayStation 4 generation with a trailer to celebrate its launch. One more trailer was shown during the Tokyo Game Show in 2014, and Deep Down hasn’t appeared since then.
Where’s Deep Down today, in 2021? Who knows? Hopefully, Capcom, but its silence seems to indicate otherwise. Even former Sony boss Shawn Layden has “no idea” what happened to the PS4-exclusive title, as reported by PlayStation Lifestyle last month.
Deep down, we know Deep Down has probably been quietly canceled, but until Capcom says so, we’re filing it as stuck in development hell.
Wild was announced at PlayStation's Gamescom showcase back in 2014. A demo featured the game's procedurally generated world that showed humans controlling animals in a prehistoric world.
The game appeared one more time during PlayStation's 2015 Paris Games Week conference, and then in 2017, director Michel Ancel posted some spoiler-free screenshots. Things then went quiet for years. Some assumed Wild was canceled, and others thought its development was simply taking a while. But in September 2020, the situation became more apparent: Ancel was retiring from game development, right around the same time he was being accused of toxicity at work, as reported by GamesIndustry.biz.
Ancel announced at the time that Beyond Good and Evil 2 and Wild's development would continue despite his retirement, but Video Games Chronicle reported back in August that Wild's development had been shut down for good.
However, neither PlayStation nor Wild's previously Ancel-led development team, Wild Sheep Studio, publicly stated the project was canceled. So, on paper, it remains stuck in development limbo.
Rockstar North announced Agent as a PlayStation 3 exclusive at E3 2009. Set in the 1970s, it was to be a Cold War spy-centric title. And then we heard barely a peep about it for six years – other than some reported screenshots from the game uncovered in 2011 – until 2015.
Screenshots of Agent’s environments, maps, and locations appeared online via a former Rockstar artists’ internet portfolio. Now, this didn’t mean development on the game was continuing in any capacity, but it was the first hint of Agent-anything the game industry received in years so it was exciting.
Once that excitement wore off, though, most went back to assuming Agent was either stuck in purgatory or outright canceled. Rockstar released other games that weren’t Agent, after all. Three years passed, and then finally, in 2018, we received more news about the game, although it wasn’t what hopeful fans were looking for: Rockstar had abandoned its trademark for Agent.
And that’s all folks – not really much of a game out there to expect when the literal trademark for Agent was abandoned by its developers. In fact, Rockstar removed Agent from its website, as reported by Polygon. But hey, that didn’t stop Game Informer from reporting on this story about Rockstar developers facing false charges and possible jail time while in Cairo, Egypt, on a reference trip for Agent.
Agent is probably canceled, but like others on this list, it is being placed in the official chambers of development hell until its developer officially announces its demise.
Payday 3 has been in production for years, with Starbreeze Studios CEO Bo Andersson Klint telling Polygon in 2017 that “It is with great satisfaction that we can also announce that Payday 3 production is officially initiated and at a full design stage.” At the time, Klint said Payday 3 “will be done when it’s done,” as you can’t rush the game.
Then, a year later, Starbreeze Studios filed for restructuring. Klint stepped down from the studio, too, and we didn’t think Starbreeze would last another 12 months, which would have meant the downfall of Payday 3.
With so much financial struggle occurring behind the scenes, it felt safe to say that Payday 3 was sitting somewhere on a backburner while Starbreeze figured out its future. Time passed, and then in March of this year, Starbreeze announced that it had landed a new publishing deal for Payday 3 with Koch Media and that a 2023 release window had been set.
And so Payday 3’s climb out of development hell is looking brighter and brighter. It's even more promising now that more information about the game – specifically, how its heists will hone in on digital currency – has been revealed, as reported by PC Gamer. The release window is years away, though, so who knows what might happen between now and then, but it’s nice to hear that a game many thought wouldn’t survive Starbreeze’s restructuring has found new life at Koch Media.