Boss Key Productions, the developer behind competitive first-person shooter LawBreakers and battle royale game Radical Heights, is shutting down. Despite some favorable impressions for LawBreakers and the sense of Radical Heights starting to carve out a niche for itself among the many other battle royale hopefuls, the games simply didn’t make enough money to sustain the studio. Co-founder Cliff Bleszinski (also known as CliffyB) announced the closure on Twitter with a heartfelt note:
A statement: pic.twitter.com/LwJD54bCwLMay 14, 2018
Although Boss Key only released two games to the public, Bleszinski revealed more concepts he and the team had hoped to make. The first is an intriguing blend of old and new ideas under the codename “DragonFlies” because, well…
Here’s one of the games I wanted to do codenamed “DragonFlies.”Basically you were ninja/samurai in airships riding dragons fighting zombies with friends in a PVE “feudalpunk” setting on floating islands. (the airships = your “aircraft carriers”, the dragons = your “planes”) pic.twitter.com/yX2ivPwezbMay 15, 2018
Yeah. It’s about dragons. That fly. Bleszinski described the setting as “feudalpunk,” with floating islands players would travel between. In this game, dragons would be akin to fighter planes launched from a carrier, and Bleszinski said he hoped the game would do for dragon riding what Halo did for vehicles – if Halo also had you hatch Warthogs (the car, not the animal) from eggs and raise them.
Oh and yes, you’d find dragon eggs, hatch them, and raise them. pic.twitter.com/73XAPBjHzKMay 15, 2018
The next game shared by Bleszinski was codenamed “Rover,” but may have launched under the title “DOGWalkers”. Sort of a combination between Star Trek: Bridge Crew and Steel Battalion, five teams of five players would enter into an enormous walking tank known as a Destructive Ordnance on the Ground (DOG), then work together to take out enemy teams.
Here’s another one, initially planned for VR, codenamed “Rover” but was shaping up to be “DogWalkers” – DOG stood for Destructive Ordnance (on the) Ground.Inspired by WW2 tank crews/battles/the movie Fury. 5 v 5 v 5 v 5 v 5 Zoid looking walkers fighting it out in MP. pic.twitter.com/2UkGtwk2iHMay 15, 2018
In this game, each player would be assigned a specific role, and would have to perform actions to not only attack foes, but protect their team. So if the mech took a hit and started to leak toxic gas, players would have to don gas masks. If a leg was damaged, they’d have to rappel down the side to perform repairs. Personally, I really dig this one. Frantic co-op games like Bridge Crew or, looking further back, Spaceteam, can be tons of fun. And I love the vaguely Metal Gear-ish look to the DOGs too.
On the opposite end of the grim-n-gritty spectrum, we have “Donuts!”, a game about cartoonish anthropomorphic animals racing down a river in inflatable tubes.
Here’s the silly/fun one – basically a VR spiritual sequel to Toobin, only everyone are animals – and a way to fight Seasonal Affection Disorder. (Mario Kart on water with animals in VR.) Called “Donuts.” pic.twitter.com/wNKef9QsS4May 15, 2018
Bleszinski said he imagined Donuts! as a spiritual successor to the 1988 Atari arcade game, Toobin’, and he hoped it would help combat Seasonal Affective Disorder. Basically, Mario Kart but with water instead of asphalt, animals instead of Nintendo characters, and played in virtual reality. Players would drink ginger beer for health, toss crushed cans at enemies, and slam both hands downward to jump over obstacles. Sounds to me like a more interactive version of PlayStation VR Worlds’ luge demo, which I’m all for.
Unfortunately, publishers didn’t bite. Speaking specifically about DragonFlies, Bleszinski said the game was pitched to Microsoft, Sony, EA, Activision, 2K, and Warner Bros. No dice. Bleszinski bemoaned his interactions with publishers, saying that they were simultaneously too dismissive of ideas that were similar to existing products and too hesitant to jump on novel projects:
One problem with publishers, generally? You pitch something and the response is often “too similar to something we have or out there so no” or “this is too unique so we can’t do a proper financial model for it.”I respect them but as a creative it’s frustrating.May 15, 2018
It’s rare for someone in the industry to be this forthcoming about their experiences, and I hope Bleszinski feels better having at least a portion of these ideas reach the public and getting frustrations off his chest.
As for us, the would-be players of these games, keep in mind that games are made and destroyed by the development process. DragonFlies *sounds* really cool, but so did Lair and Scalebound. DOGWalkers’ art gets my blood pumping, but would the game be fun for every role? Donuts! could be a tremendous joy, or a motion sickness-inducing nightmare. It’s easy to read these ideas and imagine a fully-formed game playing exactly the way we want. But that’s not how development works, and it’s terribly unfortunate that Boss Key won’t get to execute on these ideas.
If there is a silver lining to this, it’s that while Boss Keys’ specific visions will probably never come to pass, now that these concepts are out there, maybe someone else will take the ball and run with it. Maybe it’ll even be you?
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