Darksiders II was in my "get to when things die down" pile, as I truly enjoyed my time with the original. Unfortunately, it seems I have all the time in the world to catch up, as due to THQ selling off its assets and winding down to its final days, the Darksiders IP is without a home. Also without a home is Vigil, the developer of the Darksiders franchise as well as the upcoming project Crawler (and evidently it was shaping up to be something special). While there has been a great deal of fallout from THQ's descent, there seems to be more to Vigil's story than most of the others. For those who haven't been keeping up, here's a bit of a recap on the recent goings on.
While many of the other franchises & dev teams found homes, Vigil did not, and according to an intereview with Jason Rubin (via Gameinformer), it's one of his biggest regrets.
To be clear, I am not claiming that everything I did was successful or that my time at THQ was without failings. I failed to find Vigil a home. Having just finished a product, Vigil was farthest from release of their next game, and we were not able to garner any interest from buyers, despite a herculean effort. Additionally, they were working on a new IP, which meant even more risk for a buyer.
Before that interview was released, a few things leaked out via some of the devs of the now defunct Vigil studio. First there was this goodbye letter from Lead Combat Designer Ben Cureton, which was posted on NeoGaf.
My name is Ben Cureton, and I was the Lead Combat Designer at Vigil Games. I'm sitting at my desk among... what appears to be a warzone. The walls look bare. It's quiet.
The seats are empty.
We've all been on edge for the past couple months... and more so, the last couple weeks. I mean, I'm sure you can imagine what it's like to wonder if you will have a job tomorrow. Most of us here joked about it just to keep the mood light, but we all knew what could happen. Now I look around and I realize... it did happen.
Am I sad? Well yea. I've been in this industry for 20 years. Seriously. Two decades. I've been laid off more than once. It sucks every time. But am I sad I don't have a job? Not really... I'm sure I'll get another one eventually. I'm sad because it won't be THIS job. It won't be at Vigil. That's why I'm sad. The people I waged war with are no longer together. The people that I bled with, vented with, argued with (often times LOUDLY), and kicked back with... these people will never be together again in the same combination.
Not that it was perfect. But what is perfect? Did I like coming to work? Yes. Was I proud of the work that I did? Yes. More importantly, was I proud of the work that WE did? Absolutely. I knew, without a shadow of the doubt, that the project we were working on (Codenamed: Crawler) was going to blow people away. In fact, it DID blow people away. We did, in TWO months, what many companies haven't done in a year. The pride of knowing that no one was doing anything like us was so satisfying, it kept us coming to work and giving 100% every single day, even through the dark times.
... so maybe you can imagine what it feels like when you read the list of who bought what only to discover your name is not on the list. Why? Did we do something wrong? Were we not good enough? Were we not worth 'anything?' Imagine that.
Vigil was filled with people that I would put up against the best in the industry. People that made my work better, people that made me a better designer, and people that made me a better person. And now they are gone.
Their seats are empty.
It's OK, though. I guess this post makes it sound a bit melodramatic. Seriously... if you work in the video game industry you have to be resilient. Doing what you love often comes with a price - anyone who has been around for a while can tell you that. Today, that price has been paid. That being said, I'd still never dissuade anyone from following their dreams if their dream is to make video games. While it's not as romantic as it sounds, it's sure a hell of a lot of fun.
So don't cry for the people at Vigil. We made games for game players. I have no Horror stories from working here... only Honor stories. Through both praise and critiques alike, our goal was always to make a product as if we, ourselves, were the end-user. We may have gotten pushed and pulled in certain directions by forces out of our control, we were always in it to make games for game players. And that's what we did.
I can only hope that those spared from the other companies remain employed long into the future. There is not much worse than false hope, and these people deserve to continue making great games. You may not know their names, but they exist, and they bleed, sweat, and cry for your entertainment. I mean that honestly, with no negativity. They do it... no, WE do it... because we want you to have a good time.
In closing, I can only say thank you to the fans of Vigil games. Your support means more than you can imagine. Your feedback (both positive and negative) gave us long-lasting insight that we will all take with us, wherever we may go. You are the reason we made Darksiders 1 &2... and you are the reason we will continue to make games.
And with that... my seat is empty.
Lead Combat Designer
P.S. This is no place for a horse.
The questions of "were we not good enough?" and "were we not worth 'anything?'" truly stick out, and mostly because they are far from the truth. Rubin talks about this in his interview, giving credence to the fact that Vigil's unannounced project, while very exciting and buzzworthy, was far from completion, which gave way to fears of paying for potential. The letter does give good insight into just how difficult being a developer in the games industry is. The word layoff shouldn't be a word you have to get used to, but it seems to be a requirement if you're in the games industry or an NFL coach. Sad reality there.
We got a small peek into what might have made it into Darksiders III via a tweet by Lead Designer Haydn Dalton, and it sure blows to know we might never see it.
There was a shimmer on a slither of hope, that at one point, there'd be a Darksiders III: 4 Player Co-Op; It rode off into the sunset today.— Haydn Dalton (@haydndalton) January 24, 2013
But maybe there's hope. THQ will start selling off its other IP's and back catalog probably sometime next week, and Head of Platinum Games Atsushi Inaba recently tweeted that he might be interested in a bid, if the price was right (translated from Japanese via Kotaku).
THQのスタジオ＆IPバラ売りオークションで『DARKSIDERS』売れ残ったってマジか。買いたいなあ…安く…— 稲葉敦志(Atsushi Inaba) (@PG_inaba) January 24, 2013
Could you see a Platinum developed Darksiders? Regardless of how you feel about Platinum's previous work (most of which I rather like, not that you asked), I think it would be nice to see Darksiders in the hands of a competent studio. Maybe its rosy thinking, but I would love to see some of the Ex-Vigil team brought in to work on Darksiders III, wherever it lands. Guess we'll have to wait and see, but here's hoping.