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Cliff Bleszinski shows three games that could have been

Dragonflies

The games industry is an oft-cruel place. For every game that gets greenlit for production, another dozen ideas are rejected. With his studio – Boss Key Productions – now closing its doors after the failure of Radical Heights, head man and former Epic lead Cliff Bleszinski has been sharing concept art and pitches on Twitter for a trio of games that publishers rejected before Nexon decided to fund development of LawBreakers.

Of the three rejected pitches that Bleszinski shared, ‘Dragonflies’ (as seen above) is probably the most traditional, but still something that I’d want to get my hands on. A singleplayer/co-op game about samurai/ninja clans that operate out of massive airships and ride high-tech gun-toting dragons against an undead army.

The game looked to have some very neat character designs. I especially like the peg-legged samurai guy down below. Also some art of the various dragon eggs you could find out in the world, and the adorable little lizard-babies that would hatch from them. Quite how the game could be so cute and so edgy at the same time is baffling. It’s like How To Train Your Dragon, but metal.

The problem with Dragonflies was its ambition. Blezinski estimated a 40 million dollar budget for the game, which is a hard sell for most publishers. A multiplayer arena shooter is undeniably cheaper to produce, and less of a financial risk if it tanks.

The second rejected pitch was for a game called DogWalkers, formerly known as Project Rover. It was envisioned as a VR multiplayer team-game not entirely unlike World Of Tanks, with multiple players crewing giant quadrupedal mechs.  Someone handling repairs, someone driving, others manning the guns and so on. The initial inspiration was the WW2 tank film Fury.

While there’s less art for DogWalkers than the other pitches, it’s another immediately appealing concept. It’s easy to see why it was rejected though, considering that VR is still finding its footing and headset manufacturers haven’t even decided on a standard for controllers yet.

The last pitch was for Donuts! Another VR game, it was to be optionally multiplayer, possibly a nod back to Epic’s Jazz Jackrabbit roots, and was primarily inspired by ’80s arcade racing game Toobin. Cute cartoon animals ride rubber rings through rivers and rapids, with the players paddling with their hands to rotate and speed themselves along.

It had some really cute ideas on top of the obvious visual charm. Cans of ginger beer floating in the water could be scooped up and used in a multitude of ways. Drink them for health, shake them and throw them at other players to use as explosive weapons, etc. I can’t imagine how frustrated Boss Key must have been after having that one rejected, and seeing the mechanically similar Sprint Vector so well received.

It’d be an ideal game to play sitting down as well. Sprawl out in an armchair and flop your arms out over the sides for the authentic rubber ring experience. But sadly, it just wasn’t to be. Blezinski is keen to reiterate that these weren’t just his own concepts, but studio-wide collaborative designs that Boss Key Productions poured a lot of heart and hope into. It’s a shame they never came to be, and I hope that the now-scattered studio staff (currently being snapped up by other companies) get to work on their dream game someday.

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Dominic Tarason

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