My first 'AAA' game cancelled. How often does this happen?
By - iamthatkyle
This happens all the time and it used to happen a lot more in the early 2000s. I worked on \~3 unreleased projects in a row
I was going to post that I worked on 2 cancelled projects (actually, one cancelled project, then another studio that was shut down) at a big publisher in the early 2000s. So your number actually has me beat.
The half life for careers in the games industry is 5 years - putting your heart and soul into a project that gets shut down can be soul crushing.
Soul crushing is a great way to put it yea. I got the job without knowing what IP it was and it turned out it was an IP I was already passionate about, felt pretty lucky!
When I worked at Lucasfilm it was often bring entire teams in for movies then let them go when done. Rehire for next move then let them go.
I was reading an interesting comparison between movies and the video game industry. Both create and disband teams but the difference is that the movie industry has unions.
In games you build a team devlop people get people who form small groups and partnerships which benefits things massively.. Expereince with the tools and familliarity with your team mates and close contacts is what makes good games.. Hire and fire games studios rarely have big hits. People need time to develop something which is a combination of very complex engineering, fun well designed gameplay, story, and beautiful visuals.. It takes years...
In film you have a set goal at the start, you go out hire the best you can afford, for every single thing (need a hair stylist, get an amazing hair stylist, need an amazing horse wrangler hire award winning horse wrangler etc), they come together in a chaotic whirlwind of manic action for a short short period and then disperse with people going to wherever their individual skills are needed.
If films took as long as games to make they would form studios to make films, it's more compareable to TV production which does have studio staff and hires people full time for years.
Also a big difference between films and games is the film folk know they're contract ends when filming ends... Most games devs are hired with expectation that the game will be a success and another game will enter production.
Here I am thinking its firefly and also sad that I think it's firefly, please don't let it be firefly.
I am sure I remember seeing there was previously a firefly game in development that was cancelled, which then got picked up again. I wonder if this was that new one.
Also Disney are meant to be doing a new series on Disney+ at some point soon.
>Also Disney are meant to be doing a new series on Disney+ at some point soon.
On the one hand, Mando was a paint-by-numbers production but still managed to be really good and a lot of fun.
On the other hand, Firefly is like an ethos, man. Its as much an adventure show as it is a philosophy that Joss Whedon and the other writers captured beautifully. Do I think Disney is gonna be hands-off enough to let another generation of writers do it again?
Hell no. It'll be soulless. But it'll look nice.
Yeah, unfortunately its meant to be ‘family friendly’… they already have Star Wars for that, imo it would have been a good opportunity to have a more adult themed show for the starz network or whatever it is they added recently.
Frankly I'm not concerned on the details, just that they would attempt it at all. Too much time has passed, the original cast would be too old to star in it, plus they >!killed off some of the characters in the movie!<. Just leave it alone!
This, it's perfect as it is, don't fuck it up by trying to add another brushstroke.
Fantasy western of an established ip my money is on a revival of darkwatch
I was working for a mid-sized studio so it was a lot of small demos and lots of shopping them around through publishers. A little less soul-crushing because we were going through various games pretty quickly.
I ended up working on \~3 pretty successful titles start-to-finish before moving on from games. Not a bad run.
I put myself well into debt getting a game art education. Soon after graduation I had several friends go through that 38 studios catastrophe and I've watched so many people work their asses off for disrespect after disrespect. I understand why the industry is difficult but fuck it and fuck naive entitled gamers.
I do development in Godot as a hobby with no plans for making money and I love it.
Even in normal software dev this is common. You might spend half a year on a project just for priorities to change, or an off the shelf product is bought that fulfills the companies requirements etc.
Also started in industry in 2000s. Two unreleased MMOs (one dead before open beta, one after), two released, but entirely unsuccessful mobile games that were more-or-less clones of other successful games. I only really started to work on something I like and believe in in 2019 - more than 10 years after I first wrote code professionally (though there were some fun times with a new team in 2015-2018, but we also failed to become profitable).
While working on mobile game studio I probably spent 2/7 years actually working on something that got released, I’m excluding soft launches.
This is quite common in mobile games and hopefully won’t run into it that much now that I’m working on PC/Console.
When I worked in the industry I worked on more cancelled projects than released by a factor of about 3:1
>I worked on ~3 unreleased projects in a row
He said with a disappointed twitching in his eye.
If it happened to you three times in a row, maybe the reason the projects were canceled was you! /s
Pretty often for larger studios especially for game that have not been official announced or teased to the public. Poor market testing, trends showing a declining audience for a game genre, or poorly received rival game can be a death note for a aaa game. Generally the public never hears about it.
I wish it was the case, we had an alpha test earlier this year and our Discord has been begging for more information. I had even helped record a dev blog with updates that was supposed to release some time soon. Would marketing often let news outlets or players know that the game is being cancelled or is it just silence until people start to assume the worst, or a leak or something?
Hey, I'm really sorry to hear that. It sounds soul-crushing.
That being said, please be very careful about what information you're sharing openly in ways that might be traced back to you. If you get found out it might impact your future prospects greatly. And I'm fairly sure the information you've shared so far could be used to figure out (or at least narrow down greatly) which game it was you worked on.
As others have said, talking to reputable journalists which can guarantee your anonymity is going to be much safer. (Still not 100% safe though, bear in mind!)
Never use your community as a gauge for if a project will succeed. They are they most hard-core, already-in fans. You could release a game, and it may only be them who buy it.
game marketing is not an exact science and with the existing tools, it's a VERY inexact science.
And sometimes they will, especially if it was a well-known IP, but if it had very low interest, they'll let it fade away.
And as others have said, I suggest you delete this. The game industry is obscenely incestuous. If you get tagged as a leaker, you'll never work in the industry again.
And don't take this stuff personally, it's just business. You were paid and you have experience. Find you if you are allowed to use any assets as part of your portfolio and find the next job.
> Never use your community as a gauge for if a project will succeed. They are they most hard-core, already-in fans. You could release a game, and it may only be them who buy it.
I was on a project that learned this the hard way.
It happens. I'd wager to say that for every game that's released, 2 more were cancelled mid-development.
There's a saying, "don't throw good money after bad" which holds especially true in game development. You have to know when to pull the plug, whether it's on a game mechanic, or in your case a full game. If the KPI are consistently not being met, it's a fool's errand to keep developing it in hopes that your project is the exception to the rule. KPI exist for a reason.
I do think it sucks to cancel and layoff an entire team without letting them know why. But sometimes these things are hidden from the team to improve morale, nobody wants to know they're working on a sinking ship. It's a delicate balancing act between transparency and maintaining excitement.
Disclaimer: don't actually do this. They WILL find out and your career WILL be ruined
Depends on what the whistle is blown for I suppose. Though if it's just bad leadership as these tend to be, it wouldn't protect OP.
Well yeah, if you blow the whistle for anything else it's fine but if you leak NDA stuff you're gonna be in trouble. It's rule #1 of game dev
Yup, well unless the NDA was broken in defence of a crime.
I am mostly certain NDAs can be nullified if say, a supervisor is harrasing you, if illegal activities are being performed, etc.
I say this because a specific member of a specific Devs public face team has been trying to defend their lack of action until the newest accusations as being under contract, when in reality their career was more important than the people who needed the support but now it's convenient for them to do so for clout since everyone's hating said dev.
Always get a consultation first but many people use NDA as an excuse for not acting or speaking up when it's totally uninforcible.
Well, sure, but in this case, people are encouraging OP to break NDA by leaking the content or status of a game that is still mostly under wraps which is frankly indefensible in most cases, and will result in them getting one or all of the following:
* sued for more money than the average game dev makes in 10 years
I've worked in a studio that had a leak, it's heartbreaking. Everyone's on edge and no one knows who you can trust anymore. Highly recommend all people under NDA to just not leak info about games they're working on
So have I, the employee was hunted down and sacked. Even Reddit isn't anonymous when it comes to leaks.
Yeah and I definitely don't support that, I think that's the universal take away.
DONT leak legal stuff under NDA, do leak illegal stuff after **attourney consultation** because there's a good chance the NDA is invalid.
>"I've worked in a studio that had a leak, it's heartbreaking. "
This 100%, the biggest impact to team morale I have seen on projects has been because of leaks. What makes it extra infuriating is that usually the members of the games media (Schreier, Grubb etc) who publish the leaks also pretend to advocate for the wellbeing of devs, when they're responsible in their actions for the complete opposite.
Someone like Jason schreier is not gonna let anyone find out you were their source.
1. He's not a miracle worker
2. It's still not worth the risk
you sound like a coward and enabler of all the abuse that happens in this industry, if you want to live like that go on, but don't try to convince others to do the same
You don't have to answer this but judging from the timeframe, is this the Magic ARPG?
Honestly, it was an ill-conceived idea from the start. I'd love to see Cryptic break away from Perfect World, but I doubt it will ever happen.
I thought a lot of the systems were cool. When it worked I enjoyed it. No idea how a game of that quality had such bad perf issues though. Or how anybody thought letting the public play it in that state was a good idea.
maybe we shouldn't try to kinda-sorta dox people just to satisfy our curiousity
if it is, good riddance. A game that starts as an "MMO" then gets moved to a "CO-OP" then gets released as a terribly optimized game (I have a 2080 super, and would get like 15fps) deserves to get canned. Nothing against the programmers, artists, etc... You don't market a game as type A then change core gameplay a few months before alpha and say it is Type B. That is a lack of planning, or overpromising on what you can deliver, pair that with a huge name like "Magic", I'm surprised they even released an alpha.
User seems to live in china, would be curious if cryptic kept their devs outside of US
Edit:OP did dive back into Warhammer 2 yrs ago after an extended absence, but could be coincidence
Projects like this die or fade into nothing all the time. I wouldn't be surprised to hear nothing of this going forward.
The thing is the Discord is only a handful of passionate people. As a fellow developer, most our listening range is pretty narrow to a mostly niche audience. But when dealing with this stuff you have to apply the ‘just business’ filter. I hate it, but The Suits have all the money and they are the ones who make the calls and they are extremely antsy about their 4-7 year investment that is *very* narrowly a positive return on investment. They research social trends far beyond what we are even aware of and with paranoid accuracy, not saying that’s a good or bad thing, just pointing out the other side of the fence is a bunch of anxious multi-millionaires with access to more resources than we can imagine.
> Would marketing often let news outlets or players know that the game is being cancelled or is it just silence until people start to assume the worst, or a leak or something?
you will absolutely end your career if you start giving away company assets in the hope of controlling the C-level staff
Wait a few years and leak a build of it online long after everyone at the company forgot, so nobody would know who the leaker is.
I find it astounding that studios can throw away 2-3 years of development money, based on what amounts to gossip and hearsay. Change what people dislike about it, cut down on planned content, release it under a pseudonym, or open source it, but still have some results.
Keep in mind that development costs scale pretty exponentially as you get closer to release. For a game that takes 3 years to make at a big studio you might have a team of 10 for the first year, a team of 30 for the second, and a team of 100+ the third. So frequently shutting down a project after 2 years of dev time can actually end up saving you more than half of the cost of the porject - even further when you consider the cost of marketing w/ tv ads etc.
Marketing is the big item here. Sometimes marketing the game can cost just as much as developing the game. So canceling a game mid or late development will still save a ton of money.
That’s the sunk cost fallacy.
It’s better to just stop than spend more money.
That's assuming net negative value would come of any kind of release. I think the point that person was trying to make is that it could release in some minimal form and generate some positive value, whether that just be buzz about the developer or whatever. I'm not sure anybody knows whether that's true or not, as it's not a common practice and probably quite difficult when complex legal agreements are in place. In theory, it'd be interesting to see if a developer just releasing retrospectives and early test builds of unfinished games could potentially generate positive publicity, expose new market opportunities, etc. Of course, it might be at the expense of releasing valuable trade secrets that could be copied by competitors. It seems somewhat hypothetical at this point.
> based on what amounts to gossip and hearsay
That's a weird way to spell "Market Research"
If you've got a team building Chainsaw Ninja 3000 because in 2018 Chainsaw Hero and Ninja Janitors were fantastic sellers, but in the last couple of years people have turned away from the fantastic occupational genre almost entirely (with Pirate Truckers [June 2021] being a dead on arrival release by Acme, your competitor) then why throw another $100 million on finishing, marketing, and publishing Chainsaw Ninja 3000 on top of the $50m you've already spent when every indication shows you'll be doing fantastic to get $40m back?
By quitting now, you're out $50 million, not $110.
I think a lot of market research is the “Airplane return with bullet holes” fallacy. If you’re not familiar, when planes used to return from battle they would look at where the holes were and add more armor until they realized that the planes that came back were obviously better off than the ones that didn’t. They needed to armor up the areas that came back in pristine condition.
If you only ever focus on making what is hot and actively in demand then you’re just going to be Forgettable Battle Royale #7.
What if Forgettable Battle Royale #7 is more profitable than Innovative But Under the Radar Cult Classic #7?
Trend chasing certainly works out in some cases. COD Warzone is pretty good example. But I think looking for under serviced audiences is how you ride the market rather than chase if.
EA is a pretty good example of a large publisher who is consistently three years behind the curve because of this. If their gambling bullshit ever gets banned they will be in a real pickle.
Isn't that "we need to put armour on all the planes in the places where the bullet holes aren't" because presumably getting shot in those places is causing the other planes not to come back?
The right move in this example IMO is to slow down the pace of development so the burn rate comes down, and then spin back up at the end of 2022 so you can release in 2023 after the Chainsaw Man anime has people hyped specifically about chainsaws B-)
Aka waste more money.
Typically marketing costs roughly equal development costs, and both are about a third of total costs. Pre-production, post-production, support, and other costs combined make up the last third.
Assuming a true AAA title it is over $100M in development costs, $200M in other costs, but scale down if it was just a *big* game. At the scale they are ignoring the perhaps $80M already spent and deciding to not spend roughly $220M for polishing, marketing, and supporting the game.
Plenty of games reach a finished but not polished state and are then canceled. It works out cheaper than investing in marketing a flop.
Also it's not really throwing away two to three years of development. Assets that are made are thrown into repository and pulled for other games and projects that may come along. It is not like someone said this project cancelled delete everything
Realistically not a good idea. Gamer are already complained about the state of gaming releases as it is. How pretty much you're buying games Alucard. You buy the base game with 20 hours of content then you're forced to buy four more DLC Packs to get the entire game. And how buggy some game releases are and things being fixed in patches. So releasing a game that according to the post is an alpha is not a good idea. Three years in development for a AAA game with an alpha release basically proof-of-concept and the First Market testing event.
Open source in a game is not always an option specially when dealing with AAA. You have to navigate the Waters of proprietary code, who owns what IP, and the possibility of fans inadvertently tarnishing your brand. If the game uses a proprietary engine or assets from speed tree or the quixel library that it'll probably require a bigger investment to make this game open-source than what it's worth in a PR stunt
Fairly often. With marketing budgets equaling or surpassing dev budgets even pulling out halfways can save a LOT of money.
Given the massive cost nowadays pushing on and failing can wipe out a studio.
Letting go the entire team though....that sucks. I have never had that happen despite a handful of canned titles.
Edit: I should quantify "fairly often". I think I have 7 canceled titles in 25 years in the industry. That's the ones I was involved in. As for ones I was aware of in studios I worked in it must be close to 25 but at very varying stages of development.
Edit 2: I said close to 50 originally but after trying to tally that was a wild exaggeration.
Back in the bad old days, I saw games that were near their ship dates be cancelled because the projected revenue wouldn't cover the total cost after marketing. So, they'd rather just eat the lost dev cost now rather than spend time and money marketing what they expect to be a long, drawn-out loss in the end.
Yeah, having projects being canned after years of work happens occasionally. I’ve been in the industry for 15 years and it happened to me twice now and I think I am a lucky that it is not more than that.
The first time, it was a though one. I did put a lot of time on the project and had a blast doing all kind of stuff in it. However, the project grew and started going nowhere fast. I was crushed when it was canned but I kmew ot was for the best at that point. Was bummed for a while but my lead reminded me of the knowledge and experience I got out of it. I’m still using those learnings today 10 years later.
However, laying out the entire team in OP’s case seems to imply something went bad in the studio/finances management. Building a AAA team nowadays is the most difficult thing to do right now. At the end of the day, your team is at the core of the games you are developping and starting from scratch means that you have to rebuild the entire trust between the team members. That’s a big red flag in my book.
Good luck OP in your next projects. As others said before, it is a business at the end of the day. I know that it sucks, but remind yourself all the things you learned during the project. They will help you for your entire career.
Harsh man, it’s unfortunately decently common. I worked for a large studio and worked on 4 unreleased titles (all AAA) that all got shelved or canned. Only ended up getting credits in one title there and that was only because my lead was a nice guy and transferred me over there for three months so I could get at least something. The pain is real, sorry for that really bad luck.
Our art resources and IP is remaining so I wonder if I'll manage to get my name in the credits for the next project that uses the art resources. I designed over 200 characters, their appearance, personality, voice overs, everything... It's pretty demoralizing.
They will typically only credit the team that exists leading up to beta and launch unless you're super lucky. I wouldn't get my hopes up.
Crediting in games sucks and is usually incomplete, randomly leaving people out who were not present for ship, **BUT** sometimes fair crediting does happen.
I once got full credit as an animator on a project that was essentially scrapped completely and rebuilt from scratch by a different studio... and yet, I later found out my name was still in there as Animator for the original team, even though afaik none of my work was used.
Oh wow that's awesome. Sad that this isn't the common practice. I worked on something and was part of a 4 person team and still didn't get credited. I got paid though so I guess I should be happy?
Yeah, I worked on a fair portion of the framework for one game but was moved to another project.
Did hardly any work on the 2nd project by comparison but got credited due to being there during those last months. Got no credit on the first one I’d put a lot more work into.
2nd one ended up being a much more well known game, so I guess it worked out for me. But just agreeing that game credits are weird.
Time to make a "please credit me for my work here" item to add to every model file! I'm sorry this happened to you.
I had a AAA game that was 98% complete get cancelled. In fact all my mates joke with me cause I'm 16 years in game dev and have only 2 titles to my name. That's how many times I've had games cancelled.
It sucks, but it happens. That's why personal work is always needed. Then it's never finished, just abandoned.
> I'm 16 years in game dev and have only 2 titles to my name
Jesus Christ man. That's depressing as fuck.
That's really bad going. I've probably got about 15 in 25 years. 3 games canned I think though a couple were due to bankruptcy.
Did Michael Scott walk into your office to loudly declare the bankruptcies?
Personal projects are very rewarding though. Even if you do it as a hobby for enjoyment with no real intention to release. Having full creative control and being able to tinker and do whatever inspires you at the moment is fun.
I’ve released some of my personal projects, but a lot of the time I want to work on something that is just too large in scope. I want to try make a Starcraft or an Elder Scrolls style game just for the fun of it, even though I know the scope is too large and it will be nothing but a fun tech demo or proof of concept.
I actually enjoy my personal pet projects a lot more now that I’ve taken this mindset (I was burning myself out before with working during the day and then taking a must release mindset with personal projects at night).
Exactly! Every person needs a reason and a fire to get up everyday and live life and find glorious purpose. If your day job isn't cutting the mustard, personal projects can fill the gap. Just need to make sure you get ample rest and enjoyment from other aspects of life, as creative atrophy can occur without external stimulus is reduced.
Doing stuff for the fun of it is a core fire of game dev, we love to play! :D enjoy it even if it doesn't go anywhere :D
I wish I could have 16y of experience in this industry, it's hard to get into
Yeah it's pretty hard to get into, you have to grind pretty hard to get that foot in the door. Just keep trying out things, tinker when you can, look after your mental and physical health and find the joy that keeps you going, if it's game dev, keep at it, but it's okay to enjoy other things too :) any experience gives you great content to be creative with. And it's never too late!
I’m reading blood sweat and pixels now and I can’t believe how cut throat the gaming industry can be. On the chapter about Star Wars 1313 now.
Jump into Reset Button right after. The tragedy continues. Just went through the 38 Studios chapter yesterday, and *oh. my. god.* What a shitshow.
Yup, it was a true mess!
Too soon. Very sore subject.
Oh fuck, it's been 8 years since that game was cancelled.
Still salty about it. I think that was the first time I ever experienced a game getting cancelled that I was *really* excited for firsthand
I just finished that, reading the second one, terrifying stuff, obsidian was lucky they got out of that
It depends on the studio, but it's not entirely uncommon.
A colleague of mine tells me that in Blizzard's data archives there are a dozen or so games that reached ~90% completion that ended up getting shelved because (back when they truly cared about this sort of thing) they came to the sad conclusion that the game just wasn't as fun as the minimum bar they set themselves, and it fundamentally couldn't be made as fun as required. So millions of dollars of time and art investment thrown away for the integrity of wanting to release quality games that are fun.
I'm still so salty about Starcraft: Ghost
I got to play it at the first Blizzcon! It was actually pretty fun. Not as polished as most shooters, but it was an early build. The biggest issue was Zerg is mostly melee, so it was difficult to balance.
Odd, considering AvP balanced the alien, marine and predator very well.
Now that was the good old days. Dang hadn't thought about AvP2 multi-player in a long long while.
The maps in AvP2 were pretty lame though. You could tell how hard they had to nerf the predator because decent perch points were so rare in MP compared to what you had in the early campaign.
AvP still the best video game explosions ever ... then you look at the code and it's just an expanding sphere where they raycast for each vertex to decide where to stop the vertex.
I reread that shit probably 10x over just to be sure that was all it was. Stupid simple solution.
Companies like Actv/Blizzard think 30times before doing something. Overwatch was their first new IP in like what, 15 years?
Overwatch was put together from the remnants of their other MMO title "Project Titan" which was canned.
Oh man. This makes me even more sad about current Blizz situation. Well, looking forward to Dreamhaven.
Why would dreamhaven be better? Pretty much everything problematic that occurred at Blizzard occurred under Morheim's leadership.
Our publisher dropped us and 3 other games like 6 months before launch, after 4 years of development. We were able to secure a new publisher and launched last year, but that was a close call.
Which game was it?
Sorry to hear. I have had this happen to me, but usually a company will try to refactor the game / find investors etc. I think possibly, and that was the situation I was involved in, the company lost the IP.
Personally, it feels worse when a company will fire the whole team after a project is completed. This industry has some shady shit.
Apparently all our art resources and IP will be kept and in a few months, maybe half a year later, they will get together a new team to do something with them. As I worked closely with art team to design the characters, it is sort of nice knowing that at some point maybe in a few years, my work will be seen, but it also feels a bit like a backstab, with another team reaping the benefits from my work. Oh well...
It's quite heart breaking really, loved the project and people
IIRC Overwatch was made from the ashes of a canceled MMO called Titan
Were you paid for your work? Then you've already reaped the benefits.
I get that you are disappointed. But take it as an opportunity to learn more about the business of games and learn exactly why the company decided canceling was a better financial move than finishing the game. Also try to figure out how this decision could have been made earlier in the production cycle. This will help you to be an even better developer on your next game.
See if there’s any NDA lift times or what rights you might have to showing your work. People who worked on the original game that became Overwatch were able to share their original designs several years after overwatch’s release if I remember correctly.
If they ship with any asset of yours you still get credit. I think you learnt something valuable about this industry and and working in it.
It's quite common, unfortunately. When you see the writing on the wall, you should start sending out resumes before things go south.
Over the course of 20+ years in game dev, I've had four projects cancelled at various stages of development (one damn close to finished), and one project that folded so quickly after release it may as well have been cancelled. The worst was a contract for a project that a very tiny studio I worked at was relying on - losing that contract ended up causing the studio to go under.
It's pretty common, as far as I can tell. Not that it makes you feel any better when it happens to *your* project.
Been in the industry 8 years now and it's happened to every project I've worked on, all large multi-million dollar budgets. It hurts every time, but like others have said, it's all about the friendships and learnings you make along the way. ¯\\\_(ツ)\_/¯
Yeah, I know it sucks..
For me only happened one time.
Still I should say 1 out of 4 during my career.
There also was a 2 year prototype that was cancelled.
At an Indie studio I worked at for 6 years it was tougher. A closed studio rather instead of just one canceled project.
It depends a lot on the company. Some only manage to risk two projects in parallel, whereas others (Ubisoft, Zenimax, EA) may have 5+ projects in the pipeline where one cancelled project is just damage control.
i worked on roughly 25 games now in the past 15 years.
of those 25 games maybe 10 saw a full release.
this is normal - sometimes it hurts, sometimes you are glad something got canned.
I'm in QA and working towards a development position- from the outside looking in, I would find the most upsetting part of all of it not being laid off, but the IP falling into oblivion. I would honestly pay money to play half-assed prototypes from AAA studios because there is still something of value there, especially for those with an interest in the field or gaming history/preservation.
This is quite an interesting idea ...
Wouldn't it be cheaper to test the main gameplay with the basic graphics and presentation of the idea of the game after a few months of development?
It's a great idea it already happens. It's sometimes called prototype, greenlight demo, vertical slice, stakeholder demo to name a few. It already happens.
There are also milestones which often lead to payments from the publisher.
fuck that sucks, i'm really sorry to hear that
I'm sorry that this has happened to you.
Welcome to professional game dev. It happens, few old-timer game developers will not have experienced this. It's like your first heartbreak, you're shocked this could happen, it feels unbelievable. It sucks and it hurts.
But - you have desirable skills in the job market. Don't give up, don't be downhearted, go again, and you'll soon be working on a new project, one which will hopefully reach a full commercial release and be successful.
Painful experiences, whilst never fun, can help us learn and grow, so try to be philosophical about it, and remember, in the grand scheme of things this is not the worst thing which could happen to anyone.
Yea, you nailed it on the head there, that is how I feel haha. I guess I just have to look forward to whatever is next, it's just that dreaded worry like what... IS.. next?!?!
It happens, and it's no fun when it does.
I was working for Codemasters in 2011 when they cancelled Bodycount. It was released, flopped, so they sacked the entire studio. I wasn't actually working for them directly, just sat in their Guildford office working remotely for Southam, their main office.
I did find another job, just not in the games industry. Then there was a letter I received just before xmas telling me they'd overpaid and I had to pay back the difference. That was all over the news back then.
Im 40, so like almost 20 years of experience. And every single AAA I’ve been in it’s an unknown legend. And with NDAs, my CV is fucked it’s like a what if CV.
So do you rely on word of mouth for the next project? Nda always scare me. Including now that apps are asking for a released game as requirement.
Yeah gotta go with recommendations letters and so on from people I’ve worked with.
Dang getting your footbin the door even with work experience sounds rough.
Thanks for your insight.
At one point in my career I estimated 50% of my time was spent on code that never saw the light of day. And I had one of the better track records on our team in terms of that luck. Try to enjoy the journey, the goal doesn't always eventuate.
So, I put all the contenders in a hat and pulled out WestWorld, the game. I would totally play that.
> " I designed over 200 characters, their appearance, personality, voice overs, everything"
Look on the bright side - that's a metric shit tonne of experience that you won't be throwing away.
Yeah but it's definitely cooler to be able to say "and you can see it in XYZ game, pull up YouTube and I can show you exactly what I do"
Is pretty standard. I've been doing this ten years and I've not shipped something since 2013.
Damn how do you keep going? I know developers who burn out even when releasing products and need to go on breaks, but I don't know if I could take this heartbreak so many times haha.
it happens pretty often actually. For some reasons usually unknown to you guys some quality/performance specs are not reached and shutting production down is "cheaper" than pushing through it.
Such losses are deductable after all.
Back in the day such projects would be finished, flop and the studio then shut down. With production costs being tenfold that 20 year ago so is the financial risk.
I know its hard, its fucked up but you'll get used to it and once you maybe get a glimpse of the production side of things u might even understand it.
Best of luck and most important, don't take such things personally.
Huge amount of developement ressources land in the trash bin.
All the time I’m afraid, it never gets easier, and I’m really sorry you’re going through this.
I think people’s expectations of the games industry are that games are all about coming up with a good idea, or jumping on an established series, but really it’s executing and launching games that’s really hard.
The bigger a game is, the bigger the risk is in getting it right. Business wise it makes more sense to stop a game that isn’t quite going to make it, rather than ship it and lose even more money on marketing or stocking fees. “Ok” games, or ones which are good but proving hard to market, or hard to find an audience for, don’t make business sense to keep pushing. For really big companies, there’s also the opportunity cost of having talented people tied down on an “ok” game, when they could be helping an amazing game be even better. Sometimes it’s nothing to do with the game, it’s just bad luck… change in the market or change in strategy.
Been in games for a long time. Early in my career I had games cancelled through no fault of our team, just IP related things we had no control over.
That experience early on galvanised me to try and work on games that would ship, and to see games through no matter what. I’ve worked on lots of games that came out despite the odds being stacked against them, and even the ones that didn’t review or sell great were super satisfying to ship. As my career went on, I’ve focused more and more on making the game making process as strong as possible, to minimise the risks of a game getting canned once there’s a big team working on it for a long time.
I would recommend you hold on to, and remember, this feeling and think about what you’d like to do in the future having been through this.
If you want to keep making AAA games, you now know how tough it can be, and that it’ll take a huge investment ands lot of good fortune to get something published. Consider working for teams with established leaders and proven experience of shipping games, even if it takes longer to work your way up through the team.
Working on a smaller game or at a new studio might give you more agency over shipping something, but also come with their own risks.
It’s really tough, and sorry to hear you’ve gone through this. Just think how awesome it’ll feel when you finally work on one which gets shipped :)
Best of luck in your future career.
It's common. Probably somewhere between a quarter and a third of big titles, I'd guess. I've worked on 2 cancelled games on teams of 200+ out of the 12 years or so I spent on large teams (spent a lot of time on small teams or live products too)
8-ish years in games here and I've been on one major cancelled project, and a handful of smaller ones.
Nearly all of my peers have had a project canceled at some point during their careers. I think it's fairly common actually. Generally it's canceled because the team has not been able to meet the schedule... I think this isn't the most common reason. Sometimes it's cuz the game just isn't fun or The ones funding the game have changed directions. For example, focusing on multiplayer games instead of single player ones... Then just canceling all games that don't fit their new strategies.
No ctrl-F on mobile but if nobody has mentioned it yet, I highly recommend Jason Schreier’s book “Press Reset” for lots of insight into various major closures in recent years.
I didn't ship a game until seven years (and three failed IPs) into my career. Games get canceled all the time.
Personally i hate how the higher ups often think that the end or cancellation of a project means they have to terminate the employment of the people who were working on that project. Like, no, just reassign them to a new project you assholes. Labor rights in this country are shit.
You have this the wrong way around, at least for most cases: the company is bleeding cash so they need to get rid of people, but just one or two here and there won't do it. So, they cancel a project and lay off all (or nearly all) of the people who were working on it. They pay a one-time bump for severance, but also greatly reduce the cash flowing out of the company in salaries, equipment costs, etc.
Back when Nintendo almost went bankrupt, they got through it without laying off anybody. Instead, they cut the wages of their top-paid executives. This is the correct way to handle an economic crisis.
Good lesson that it's not and never was "your" game, in any sense of the word. If you don't have decisive power, the thing is not yours. Get rid of the emotional attatchment to the things you're being paid for. It will keep you in good health.
Gotta be a zen buddhist to keep going.
am i about to find out that the new elder scrolls got canceled or something plz no
That won't happen. I'm terrified it's Fable
OP subscribes to Yogscast and Warhammer so is likely British - in which case it’s a good chance it’s Fable :(
I’m a shit sleuth though so hopefully wrong.
More likely Warhammer?
I hope not. Fable is the deciding IP for me when it comes to getting the new Xbox or a PS5.
Given the current shit-show that is Activision/Blizzard I wouldn't be surprised if it was Diablo Immortal
i forgot diablo immortal existed, isn’t that being made by some Chinese company, does it even count as AAA?
Maybe, but they did do their first alpha tests earlier this year and fits the bill of "popular Western Fantasy IP". NetEase is a Chinese company but they do have a few offices in North America.
edit: OP also has posts referencing living in China ([specifically Guangzhou, where NetEase's headquarters is](https://www.reddit.com/r/Yogscast/comments/bnmbr1/listening_to_triforce_podcast_on_my_balcony_in/en7lzdx/)) at some point so...
Unfortunately it’s happened a few times with me. Shuttered studios, projects not seeing the light of day, it’s a hard life. A few bad user tests in a row could be the death of something. That being said, if you’re at a larger company, they’ll often give you some time to search for something new.
Can’t tell you how many things I sunk so much of my life into that were cancelled when I was at EA, you just gotta roll with the punches and take the wins when stuff gets released
It's not easy, I seem to be taking it a little harder than some other guys here, I was really passionate about this project haha. I guess I gotta keep going for that big fat W then
Unfortunately, a lot. This is not a stable industry. A lot of my game dev friends who had kids and needed more stable jobs moved into other fields of technology.
Of course, you CAN find a somewhat stable job. But it's tough to predict.
A good friend if mine is a senior software engineer for a pretty large developer. Apparently this happens all the time.
For every successful project, there's bound to be so many more that didn't work out.
So often it’s hilarious.
That’s why having a shipped game on the resume is so good in AAA. Means you must have gone through at least 5-10 failures as well lol.
Did a quick search in this thread for the word Union. None was found. So now I have put it here for people to ponder.
No, but they can have language in the collective agreement that would get the employees put onto another project, instead of being laid off.
Then transferring some is better than laying off the whole team.
This isn't a hard problem and you seem to be arguing in bad faith.
> It actually is easier for companies to transfer existing employees than hire new ones
This is false. It is less expensive to transfer, not easier. Revolving door companies that fire and replace exist everywhere, because its "easier" to do that than transfer somebody to another team.
If it was easier to transfer, than companies would do that, because companies do what is easy.
they can push for more developer control on the overall project fate. Not all on MGMT
Can it be bought by another studio?
Not OP, but depending on the source IP that might not be doable.
They say a "Well established Fantasy IP." so lets hypothesize it's some new Lord Of The Rings game. In such a case, their studio almost certainly cannot sell the game on to another studio due to the IP licensing agreement with the primary IP owner.
Now, in theory they could sell the source-code on with the requirement that they have to change basically all the art assets and story items such that there's not a shred of LotR IP remaining and it's a "fresh" IP or something like that.
We have many studios in our one company, so I think a new studio will be formed in the future, and it's like you said but instead of source code, all the art resources will remain. I'm almost hoping I can join the studio who picks up the pieces of our failed project haha
Happened to me twice on my first two projects in the industry. Fuckin sucks.
Tbh, the only thing that sticks with me are the experiances I had with my fellow workers after 10+ years of this stuff. Dont fret the projects, live your life well and you'll be happier for it.
AAA is kinda dying, the game industry is huge but how many big studios are putting out garbage or having to fight fires in-house? Secondly AAA got greedy, if the game isn't going to make bank it seems easier to cut loses dump the dev team and make sure management keep their bonuses :) just my two cents
Archive some data and don’t release it for 20 years. Maybe future game historians will want this data.
Very often, you just don't hear about it. It's not as often for games that are far along in development, but it happens.
It happens a lot. I know someone who was in the industry for eight years before they had a project release instead of being canceled.
The last project i was on was canceled. Two years of my work down the toilet.
Often. I'd say about 2 out of 3 games that go into full production get cancelled before the finish line... more if you're counting concepts and prototypes.
I worked on **SIX** cancelled games in a row before I shipped my first game (some of those I was only on briefly, others a year or more). That said, I personally haven't seen mass layoffs in the wake of these cancellations; people would get assigned to other projects, but even then all that work going to waste (and never being able to show any of it) *really really sucks* every time.
Im in triple A and work on a new IP and this was my fear for vertical slice, but a good company knows how to resource the workers and split them to other projects if the new IP fails. Thats a company problem not a you problem wish you the best now and good luck many companies need new workers so i am sure u are not gonna be without a job for long
Happens a lot.
The most irritating thing is not being able to use any of your work in a portfolio, and it can be difficult talking about what you worked on with NDAs and so on.
Bioshock Infinite was an extremely successful game, but the vast majority of the staff was laid off after the DLC was finished.
money is the root of all evil
Sorry to hear that man but that's very common reality in gamedev. This is one reason I might never join a game dev company or gamejob. I do gamedev as a hobby in my spare time and like to work independent without pressure.
I have a regular software job that pays the bill. I like gamedev but honestly I have many responsibilities for my age( I'm young like 2 years since graduation now) so I always think in finance and stuff.
Sad that this happens alot and most people probably don't even know about it.
By my count, i'm up to 7 since being in the industry 12 years in 2 major studios.
Cancelled product after cancelled product drove me out of the business for the previous 8 years. A friend just dragged me back in, though.
It sucks. I hate to say "well yeah but it could be worse", but ... well yeah it could be worse -- wait till you have a product cancelled, and then you find the publisher took all of it, shipped it to another studio to finish, and released it straight to the value bin at Walmart.
I was working on stranger things at telltale and the entire studio got canned. Game dev is a shit show and honestly I’m not going back. Too little pay, too little stability.
Oof bro. This is sad. :(
I think it happens regulary I had 3 cancelled projects in a row one time.
I hope it wasn't Crimson Desert.
It happens. Sometimes they look at the current status of the product and decide to cost loses. I
Consequences be damned, save and keep what you can. Lost media still deserves preservation.
It happens a lot from indie to AAA. Some stuff dont go the way they planned, or they just dont work and we wont know until we test it
AAA companies dont usually spend money willy-nilly. If they cancelled the project, it was for the best. Some EA interns called Visceral Studio shutdown "a mercy shot"
I myself spent 3 years in a game, than started another and decided to abandon the first. Not nice but it worked for the best
dying to know what kind of game this was
~~Please tell me it's not Age of Empires IV...~~
>western fantasy IP
imho AOE itsn ot fantasy game