The Game That Could Have Been

Yes, internet news, Kingdoms of Amalur would have been free to play. The idea was to have no cost for the client and no monthly fee–as few barriers to adoption as possible.

Curt’s “atom bomb” comment was referring to how we planned to market the title. We would have revealed the game, teased its ongoing storyline and world-changing events, demonstrated cool gameplay, and shown off its gorgeous world, characters, and best-in-class animation. Then, when the audience saw how vast and fun the game was, we’d reveal that there was no cost to play it.

It wasn’t going to be crippled. You weren’t going to be kept from certain parts of the world if you didn’t pay. The transactions were intended to enhance your experience, to give you more options (like buying vanity appearances, stuff for your house, pets and mounts, etc.), but would not limit your play of the core game. And there would be a premium membership option, much like a subscription, that gave you perks and currency so you wouldn’t need to fiddle with microtransactions if you didn’t want to.

Here is an environmental fly-through made by the head of our city building crew for our May milestone presentation to the team–an event that never happened because the studio went under. It was shot in engine with population turned off; again, this was built as an internal asset to show off art, not as a game trailer. It does an incredible job of demonstrating how gorgeous the world of Amalur was.

There’s a lot more I’d like to tell you about the game, such as how our fully planned four-year story arc was driven by player participation. How the theme of choice and consequence permeated our systems, content, and world design. How the choices players made during our chapter-based story arc would cause permanent and lasting changes to each server–changes that could be different from other servers. How expansions to the game world had already been mapped out and were tied into that chapter storyline, so the world would grow in a very organic and logical way rather than feeling like expansions were tacked onto the core game by a new team that was bored with the work that had been done before. How our storyline had a real conclusion–because you can’t tell a great story without an ending.

But I should probably keep my mouth shut. The glorious state of Rhode Island now owns the assets and code that would have been our game, and some company might come along and buy it… though anyone who does won’t be releasing the same product we had planned to put out–only a pale imitation of it.

I wish you could know what we were shooting for during the years we labored to build Copernicus… a game that was loving crafted, that was starting to show how fun it would be, and that absolutely did have members of the dev team playing it, no matter what anyone else might tell you.

But sadly, we’ll never really know what could have been.

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Steve Danuser, also known as Moorgard, is a a writer, editor, and game designer.

16 thoughts on “The Game That Could Have Been”

  1. Gorgeous. I really wanted to play this game. I loved Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, and was all prepared to buy the novels, figures, and future games. The servers ending up different would have been so cool to experience. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. I feel like crying reading that. It looks stunning, and the way you describe it, it would be the first MMO I would actually want to play.
    The fact that government owns it now….makes me sick.

  3. Thanks for giving some more insight yet again it’s always interesting to read what were the plans for the game.

  4. This almost made my cry. So sad that it will never see the light of day. The art direction is amazing, and I love the idea of the way you all were going to market it. Don’t know what the gameplay would have been like, and of course that is important, but I sure would have liked to give this a run.

  5. Pretty nice video. You can begin to imagine what a close to release trailer might look like… really special. I wonder how this game would have stood up to the current and future behemoths of the surely crazy triple-A MMO landscape. If it had made it to launch, polished, and F2P… definitely a winner, but we will never know.

    I’m sad to see your writings turn ever so slightly bitter and remorseful MG, even though noone could ever blame you for feeling that way. Your writings whether about a game you’re involved with or just a news post from the old Everquest days, have always been fascinating and enjoyable. And for many people, reading about a game they won’t play for a while or can never play, in this case, was often just as enjoyable or moreso than the game itself, and that’s down to people like you.

    I hope you find your way.

  6. I waited for this game, and now I’ll mourn it along with the sad circumstances surrounding its demise.
    I wish there were some fully featured videos available. Especially some showing combat and exploration, even with rudimentary rendering only. Right now it’s a lot of pretty stuff to look at, but unfortunately we still haven’t seen the meat of the game – and I so wish I could showcase that meat to my doubting friends.

  7. Well I am bitter that I’ll never get the month of salary, unpaid vacation, and expense checks owed to me, but I’ve accepted that. I’m mournful that we won’t get to finish our game, but I’ve come to accept that too.

    Despite the lingering sadness of these posts, I am moving on. I’ll soon be announcing much happier news: the next phase of my career.

  8. Well, call me a socialist (you should, since I am), but it’s a shame that folks in your industry don’t form labor unions and fight to win contracts that guarantee pay, vacation, benefits, and so forth, allowing you at the least a seat in bankruptcy court.

    You can’t say with a straight face that unions would have “too much power” in a workplace like a game studio, where wealthy backers and corporations call all the shots. Having a union there would help to equalize that power imbalance…not enrich mythical “fat cat union bosses.” I’m bitter for you as well brother Moorgard. I wish you all the best at your eventual new workplace which will be, I fear, at the whims of the market too.

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