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Creating Grandeur Through Art and Lost Concepts - Two Left Sticks

Creating Grandeur Through Art and Lost Concepts

Games can come and go upon release, but some never even get that opportunity.  A natural part of the beast, that is the games industry, is that games get canceled. For whatever reasons, if a project isn’t shaping up it’s in the best interests of the publisher to cancel the project. This may not be easy for players to accept, and sometimes it can be difficult move on to other projects.


A game deep, or even early, into production getting the chopping block isn’t new. Developing a high-quality game isn’t easy, nor is it cheap; two factors that players sometimes forget.  

Where things get interesting is when a canceled project surfaces months, or even years, later. Usually, this is in the form of concept art or even a prototype video released by a former developer.  Sometimes an arrival such as this heralds the first look at the project, and what could’ve been.

Darkside, the canceled PS4 game from Sony Santa Monica, is the latest example.  Never announced, Darkside was the follow-up project for the team behind God of War 3.  Scheduled to arrive early on for the PS4, the only known details for Darkside was that it was an open-world sci-fi game like Destiny.

At first, those were the only details the public, and a small amount at that knew about Darkside.  As a major new IP by Sony Santa Monica, Darkside excited players since it was going to be a new era for the studio. Additionally, SSM could show off their renowned technical prowess, this time on the PlayStation 4 hardware. Such hope and excitement came to an end in late 2013 when Sony canceled Darkside, as the project was reportedly missing milestones.


Now years later, the first images of Darkside have surfaced in the form of concept art. Depicting alien entities riding massive beasts, the art for Darkside is fantastic. Art can tell a story, and that’s what these images do.  And of course, now, players are beginning to wonder what could’ve been.


In this case, the immediate interest Darkside stems from the gorgeous art and the unique scenarios/characters it presents.  The basic human element of using their imagination is in play as people build a narrative for what Darkside could’ve been.

Often, this is the case when art from a canceled project finally arrives.  At times it’ll affirm the concept the game had to particular players.  For others, they’ll go on a mini-meltdown fueled by disappointment when they see the art.  It’s interesting to see how powerful a few images can be when that’s all players have to go on.


Concept art, such as those for Darkside, serve as the core inspiration for the development team and are mood pieces to aspire to. So it’s not as if these images capture gameplay scenarios or illustrate the visual fidelity. Even then, seeing images are letting the imaginations of players go wild, as they once again ask the question of what could’ve been.


With these concept art pieces having surfaced, Darkside will likely go into the hallowed hall of mythical canceled games.  By no means is that a knock against the game, as it’s instead a simple statement about how players will elevate a game into a revered status.  Darkside now joins Silent Scope and the Xbox One exclusive Shangheist as games the public only received small glimpses of, but will never be in our hands.

A short video for Shangheist debuted at E3, which never mentioned the title or any narrative/gameplay. But the potential of a Microsoft action/espionage game to rival Uncharted or Metal Gear was something that people anticipated. This anticipation soured when Microsoft shifted the focus of Black Tusk, complete with renaming the studio, to the Gears of War franchise.

It’s incredible to see the perceptions of concept art, or in some cases, a prototype video can make such an impact. With details minimal, Darkside could’ve had issues with its gameplay, and a derivative feeling when compared to Destiny, or even Sony’s other 1st party title Horizon Zero Dawn.  Even considering key production elements, a fervor still exists over the cancellation of Darkside.

Will we ever see Darkside again?  Considering that Stig Asmussen, the director of Darkside, is helming the Star Wars title at Respawn Entertainment it likely won’t happen. Like the other promises not fulfilled, minds will continue to ponder what could’ve been.

Ian Fisher
A Chicago native, I'm a six year veteran of the game press industry with a deep passion for smaller indie games and all things Sony.

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