Limbo Of The Lost – An Astonishing Tale

By John Walker on June 12th, 2008 at 12:08 pm.

Recognise it from anywhere?

A quite remarkable story has emerged about a PC adventure game from Majestic Studios called Limbo Of The Lost. It has, it is alleged, entirely lifted locations and art from at least five other games, apparently proven in a number of screenshots posted by GamePlasma yesterday. Oblivion seems the main target, along with Thief 3 and others. Because, hey, who bought those games? But this is a larger story of peculiarity.

The development of Limbo Of The Lost has been talked about for over a decade, the first announcement of its release finally appearing in 2006 when signed to G2 Games. The press release oddly chose to boast that it had been in development for more than ten years. A lot more than ten years if the following statement is true.

“Originally created as a graphical/text adventure game for the Atari ST and then a traditional point & click game for the Amiga CD32/A1600.”

Not too sure there were many text adventures for the ST kicking around in 1996. Nevermind that the A1600 wasn’t an Amiga model at all.

Is this your skeleton?

Skip ahead two years and the game has released the vaguest of releases via G2 at some point in 2008. According to Adventure Gamers,

“The game’s European release through G2 Games late last year resulted only in a few copies available through eBay or from a small Asian retailer, casting doubt about the legitimacy of the release.”

By 7th May, US publisher Tri Synergy announced that they would be publishing the game in N. America (including the feature, “Immersive (being there) sound effects”). As recently as the 5th June a teaser trailer was released, then swiftly replaced due to failing to meet ESRB regulations with this one:

After watching this, it’s not possible to ignore last year’s “behind the scenes” trailer developers Majestic Studios put up:

Um, isn’t that Poser? And I’m not quite sure you can claim your pencil sketches are an “all star cast”. But the most stand-out part of this surely being the name of one of the characters, “Cranny Faggot”. What? Sure, we get the spoonerism. But WHAT?

Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

You may wonder why we’ve not linked to Majestic Studio’s website. Well, that would be because it’s on GeoCities. It’s like there can be nothing about this story that isn’t brilliant. Anyway, it’s either been whipped down, or overloaded by the attention the plagiarism accusations have brought, and you can fail to look at here.

Right, so the best bit. The screenshots. We don’t want to take anything from GamePlasma, and their fantastic discovery, and they deserve the hits they’ll be getting for this story. So head over there to see the full selection. But below is my favourite.

Limbo Of The Lost
:
brilliant design!

Oblivion:
Bethesda - how could you copy them? Ten years they spent on that!

It gets better. Neogaf posters have been spotting loads more, including scenes that appear to be from Silent Hill 4, Painkiller and Return To Castle Wolfenstein, and screen decor from Diablo 2, while at Just Adventure someone has claimed spoken dialogue has been lifted from Rune. A JA poster also spotted this story about the motley crew behind the game.

RPS readers reckon they’ve spotted more similarities, including further Thief 3 nabs, Pirates of the Caribbean game FMV, and bits from Crysis, Spawn, BioShock, UT2004, and Baldur’s Gate, although we can’t verify any of them yet. Collect them all!

My favourite is the Thief 3 inspiration, linked in this GR thread:

Thief 3:
Thief 3

Limbo Of The Lost:
Limbo

Note the addition of the skulls on the shelf. The skulls from Diablo 2.

Tri Synergy have responded, issuing a press release stating:

“Tri Synergy is just as shocked as everyone else is by the recent screenshot comparisons. At no point during our dealings with Majestic Studios up until the point that the comparison was first publicly made by a third party did we have any knowledge of these similarities. Additionally, Tri Synergy will discontinue distribution of Limbo of the Lost in both retail and online outlets.”

It’s impossible to imagine more won’t show up. We’re trying to get a copy to see what we can find. If you want to play at home, I’ve put all 76 available screenshots here, as a 20Mb zip.

For now, let’s finish with this quote from an interview with Majestic, as spotted by QT3.

Gordon: So have any more recent games influenced your current project?
Steve: The project is more influenced by film and literature rather than other games, we want the experience to be as original as possible and as such we have made a calculated effort to keep away from other games in the genre. Limbo of the Lost is an experience first and foremost, secondly wrapped up in a game media and genre.

Thanks to Michael for being the first to tip us off to this.

EDIT: I can confirm that it’s a real game – no hoax – and that it is a point and click adventure, with a loosely animated character superimposed on static screenshots.

ANOTHER EDIT: Courtesy of RPS reader Joachim, here’s a preview of Limbo of the Lost from the June 1995 issue of The One. Page 1 and Page 2.

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229 Comments »

  1. Ryan Lodata says:

    @abyssUK

    The game is set on 2d environments. The most likely thing that they did was to take screenshots of the individual games and just drop them in Limbo of the Lost. When you think about this game, think about the early Police Quest games.

  2. John Walker says:

    Just for the record, Mattress, it’s still entirely illegal. And they are very much alleged thieves for the moment.

  3. ohmen says:

    Shows how generic a lot of games look. I checked all the screens in that zip file and aside from a sack that looked like it could have come from Oblivion I didn’t ID anything, but since I was looking for similarities I was constantly vaguely reminded of stuff I’ve played that any given corridor could easily fit into.
    My visual recognition skills may suck. But the Oblivion shop and the hall belonging to the Vampire Count are obivous to me without the comparison shots.

    The Hammer: which is UT2004? In the teaser after the suspiciously-well-rendered-hmm-is-that-Crysis looking bit? edit: oh, the gamesradar thread has the shots.

  4. Gap Gen says:

    I guess technically torrenting this game is infringing on the copyright holders, whoever they may be.

  5. rob says:

    It seems they’re using an engine called Wintermute which uses 2D backgrounds, so it’s likely that the ripped off elements are direct screen shots from the various games. A few of them have undergone some photoshopping to make them look slightly different but otherwise they seem to be blatant screen grabs. The animated bits in the videos seem to come from commercial movies or are created by some animation package (as John mentioned maybe Poser?)

    Here is the profile of one of the developers on the engine’s forums. I found this post to be particularly amusing.

  6. AbyssUK says:

    @Ryan
    Really ?? Its 2D, the video clearly shows 3d environments and stuff…my god that’s even lazier than I first imagined! I say we charge them with witchcraft and bring back burning at the stake!

  7. Matthew says:

    Was the title of the game lifted from the 1975 book on the Bermuda Triangle, I wonder?

  8. John Walker says:

    Gap Gen – I suppose you could argue that you already own legitimate copies of the majority of the game’s content.

  9. diebroken says:

    Take a look at a behind the scenes video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=li6-ewgKupA

    The artwork is really suspect – especially the Dragonlore reference (classic DOS days)

  10. mandrill says:

    I want to hear from Majestic about this, either they’ve perpetrated the greatest video game hoax in the world (and on the entire industry it would seem) or they’re guilty of plagiarism of the highest degree.

    The fact that the publisher didn’t notice is a damning indictment of their worthiness to be in the business at all.

  11. tanstaafl says:

    With the storm this has kicked up across the Internet, has anyone from Majestic made any comment at all yet? You would think they would at least have something to say.

  12. Juvenihilist says:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/images/0786911816/sr=1-91/qid=1213277320/ref=dp_image_0?ie=UTF8&n=283155&s=books&qid=1213277320&sr=1-91

    Second Trailer – 2:14 – looks remarkably similar to a certain Dragonlance picture..

  13. Gap Gen says:

    Gap Gen – I suppose you could argue that you already own legitimate copies of the majority of the game’s content.

    Heh, this is true (assuming you own ALL the games it’s stolen from). Then again, the EULAs probably forbid more than just copyright violation.

    I wonder if they’d get off of being sued purely because it’s so unbelievable. Maybe they should employ the Chewbacca defence.

  14. Möller says:

    There is some more information over at Wintermute forum
    http://forum.dead-code.org/index.php?topic=2746.0

  15. John Walker says:

    A man could get upset when people post comments linking to things that are in the post!

  16. Ryan Lodata says:

    Trisynergy, the publisher, has apologized and pulled the game from production. They said that they have contacted Majestic and are awaiting a response. Some sites are reporting that the developers went on “Vacation” after finish the “game.”

  17. Schadenfreude says:

    @ Gap Gen: Never mind the manufacturer’s description, it’s that rather suspicious 5-star review that makes me chuckle…

    Great game that deserves to do well, destined to become a classic of the genre!

  18. Second says:

    Here in HOL you can take a look at the Amiga “version” of the “game”. My brother and I had ran into it some months back thinking nothing of it, but… now, what a story!

  19. AbyssUK says:

    Ha the last post by SBOVIS on that wintermute forum is an advert for a 2d/3d background artist written on the 8th of June! The cheek of the man!

  20. Paul Moloney says:

    It’s worth highlighting the link to the Kent Messenger article which you mentioned above:

    http://www.kentmessenger.co.uk/paper/default.asp?article_id=9644&slide_id=1&newspage=2&searchkeyword=&searchpage=1

    This is great, and am I being unfair in thinking they look like a bunch of chancers?

    P.

  21. Bytex says:

    The final pencil drawing of a kind of floating castle is extremely similar to the cover of (awesome) progmetal band Ayreon’s “Into the Electric Castle” album..this thing has so many cloned images you have to wonder.

  22. Rook says:

    How can this not be the most blatent hoax ever. Look at the real time lighting demonstration and just watch the shadow. It’s hilarious.

  23. cyrenic says:

    I have a hard time seeing this as a hoax. With such a long set up time I think they would have second guessed themselves as the hoax has a Very Real threat of legal consequences. Just my guess. I could easily be overestimating their chances of being sued.

  24. fluffy bunny says:

    It’s not a hoax, I’ve played it myself. It was incredibly strange. I didn’t notice the stolen assets, but I didn’t get very far either. The part about the long development is true too – I still have the issue of The One Amiga where this is previewed.

  25. Duncan says:

    SBOVIS’s 400-odd posts on the wintermute forum would imply to me that this is not a hoax. ;-)

  26. tackle says:

    This is by far the most incredible and bizarre thing I’ve heard of in the gaming world.

  27. Saflo says:

    Incredible.

  28. Mattress says:

    What with the publisher pulling the game, we could just make a claim for vapour-ware…
    On the other hand, Majestic Entertainment could also claim they were just making a stand-alone, paid-for mod of Oblivion, Thief, Unreal Tournament and Vampire Bloodlines… I somehow that’d withstand the scrutiny of the courts though…

  29. mark says:

    tri-synergy is the publisher right? im sure i saw an interview with the main developer who said that prior to majestic, their company was called tri-synergy…
    so is the developer self-publishing then? and if so, doesn’t that mean that the ‘we were just as shocked as you were’ claim is probably bs?

  30. Pidesco says:

    It is clear that Limbo of the Lost is obviously meant as meta-commentary on the current state of game development. It is an epic call for renovation and innovation within the industry.

  31. Lukasz says:

    @mark: nah. these are two separate companies.

  32. fluffy bunny says:

    mark: Tri-Synergy is an established US publisher (pretty small-time, but they’ve been around for ages), and other than publishing Limbo they have nothing to do with the British developers of this game.

    Anyway, I wonder what’ll happen now. I guess Tri-Synergy and the other publishers of this game (G2 Games in Europe, 1C in Russia/the East) are desperately trying to avoid being sued, but will pulling the game from sale be enough? Was it their responsibility to check for such things before they agreed to publish, or can they get away with claiming (probably truthfully) that they had no idea about this?

    I’m assuming the devs will be sued to hell and back, but seeing as they’re tiny I doubt there will be anything to gain from this – they probably wouldn’t have any money to pay.

  33. SlappyBag says:

    Wait wait wait – Surely if they have been developing this for 10 years, how don’t we know every other developer hasn’t just ripped them off?

    Heh =P

  34. tackle says:

    I believe this is hilarious in many ways, it’s just a matter of choosing which way to look at it.

  35. RLacey says:

    I was supposed to be reviewing this for Adventure Gamers. Never have I been so irritated that the press copy I was issued with doesn’t appear to have downloaded properly (attempting again atm)…

  36. Not-A-Bot says:

    @SlappyBag: Yeah, their game is so awesome, all the big developers over the past ten years couldn’t help but take stuff from it. No one’s saying anything because they don’t want us to know the truth.

  37. TychoCelchuuu says:

    I’ve been reading about this all morning. Pretty funny stuff. You have to have some serious chutzpah to try something like this. That and a lawyer.

  38. Alliteration says:

    Is the forum splash page at the Wintermute engine site supposed to say “Create your own oblivion/thief 3/etc” with ‘adventure’ crossed out? I wonder if this was somehow intentional or they were hacked? The frontpage is completely normal.

  39. Gap Gen says:

    Pidesco: A great theory, even if the lawyers might not agree.

  40. Maximum Fish says:

    Wintermute! Hooray for a Neuromancer reference. This thread just got even better.

  41. Optimaximal says:

    Is the forum splash page at the Wintermute engine site supposed to say “Create your own oblivion/thief 3/etc” with ‘adventure’ crossed out? I wonder if this was somehow intentional or they were hacked? The frontpage is completely normal.

    Given how the Wintermute devs are vocally repulsed by Majestics efforts, I think someone was having a bit of fun at their expense.

    That said, whether the people having the fun were WM devs or hackers is open to debate :)

  42. espy says:

    Bizarre. And incredibly funny. Great find!

  43. Second says:

    fluffy bunny, would you be in any way able to scan that particular magazine for us to see? Being an Amiga enthusiast of sorts (I used to be a subscriber to the magazine, too), I would love to see that preview!

    At AdventureGamers, people have pointed out how a character called “FABLE” has been advertising and hyping up the game, under false pretenses, in various adventure gaming forums such as here and here!

  44. James says:

    I’ll still not convinced, I think it’s an elaborate hoax or viral marketing. Nobody is that stupid, surely?

    Either way, very funny stuff :)

  45. Cooper says:

    Seconded for that mag scan.

    This has been keeping me amused for the best part of the afternoon. It’s like a whole new form of meta-gaming…

  46. CakeAddict says:

    This is a joke right?
    …. right?

  47. John Walker says:

    It’s not a hoax! It’s not a joke! Well, if it is, it’s a commercially available one that’s going to get them sued into a black hole.

    fluffy – if you can scan the Amiga preview, email it to john@rockpapershotgun.com and I’ll add it to the post.