It has been five years since Introversion last entered the Independent Games Festival, with Darwinia, and the studio have just announced that they have entered their latest game into IGF 2012. However, the submitted game is not Subversion, the stylish, procedurally generated urban heist sim that the team have been working on, which is now on indefinite hiatus. Instead, there is to be an entirely new game, of which we know nothing, apart from the fact that it isn't a sequel to a previous game. Chris Delay was candid as ever in explaining the decision and his words and more of mine are here to enlighten you.
First of all, Chris is keen to point out that this does not necessarily mean the end of Subversion, but Introversion simply aren't big enough to handle multiple projects simultaneously. They've made the decision to concentrate on their most promising project and hopefully we'll know more about that soon.
Subversion has not been cancelled, but I would certainly forget about it for now. We will be going back to that project eventually, but the first thing I plan to do is gut the thing from top to bottom of all the tech fluff that we forced in over the years. Without a core game it’s all a worthless distraction, and I will NEVER again spend so long making tech for a game without having a solid core game in place first. Subversion needs a total rethink from top to bottom, and some long standing sacred cows need slaughtering.
Today is Day Zero of our new plan!
I've seen little of Subversion, although I've read more than enough about it since it was first announced. In a strange way, the news of its vanishing reveals more about it than all the speculation and wobbly-cam footage that's out there. The key point that Chris makes is that Subversion had become a triumph of technology over design.
Around June last year, we pushed ourselves as hard as we could and made a playable slice of the game, and demonstrated it publicly at the World Of Love conference in London. The demo went well, but was heavily scripted. Internally we had come to realise that somewhere along the 6 years of part-time development, we had lost our way. We couldn’t even remember what sort of game it was supposed to be anymore. We’d ended up with a game that looked and sounded brilliant, classic Introversion with its blue wireframe and sinister faceless characters. But there was a massive gaping hole where you would normally see a “core game”. We’d tried and tried to fill that hole with ambitious tech and experimental systems, but you couldn’t escape it.
In the end, after all that development and years of work, you still completed the bank heist by walking up to the first door, cracking it with a pin cracker tool, then walking into the vault and stealing the money. There was no other way to complete that level. And this would be the essential method by which you would complete every level after that. Technology 1, Gameplay 0 - we’ve made the fatal mistake of having more fun making the game than gamers would ever have playing it.
The full announcement is worth reading, with some detail on what Subversion had become and, more pertinent, what it was failing to become. It's useful to hear honest appraisals of the development process, not only for us as fans and commentators, but no doubt for other developers as well. And it's good to know that with Subversion pushed onto the back-burner, there's already something else to look forward to. To the future!