In an age where small developers have access to crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter, more indie projects are being brought to completion than ever before. However, getting a game out wasn't always so easy, and even major developers have had issues in the past. This marks the first installment in our look at games that, for whatever reason, never made it to release. Let's take a look at the ill-fated Wii title, Sadness.
Sadness was announced back in 2006, when Nintendo was still referring to the Wii as the Revolution, and was being developed by Polish software company, Nibris. While not much information was released, it was enough to create quite a stir in the gaming community. The game was to focus on psychological horror, already separating it from the more action-heavy horror titles that had begun to crop up. As for the game's art style, only a few pieces of concept art were ever released. We also know that the game was going to be entirely in black and white, and was toted as 'gothic horror'.
As for the game's plot, Sadness was set in pre-World War I Ukraine. Players were to take control of Maria Lengyel, a Victorian aristocrat of Polish-Hungarian descent, whose goal was to protect her son Alexander after a train crash stranded them on the countryside. Alexander had been blinded by the accident and would begin to exhibit strange behavior, which the developers stated would mimic paranoid schizophrenia. The game was to feature enemies and scenarios that were heavily inspired by Slavic mythology, further distancing Sadness from any game that had come before, or since. In typical survival horror fashion, player choices would change the outcome of the main plot, leading to one of ten possible endings.
Having been developed early on for the Wii, Sadness' concept trailer shows several ways in which the player would use the Wii remote's motion control. The live-action video (actual in-game graphics were never shown, and are stated to have never existed), shows a woman using the controller to aim her torch, which appears to be the only reliable source of light. The trailer later shows her running down a dark corridor, using the Wiimote to knock over objects to impede her unseen pursuer. It's easy to see how this trailer may have heavily inspired Climax Studios, who would later go on to develop Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, also on the Wii.
Unfortunately, that's all fans would ever see of Sadness. Unable to keep up with their workload, Nibris teamed up with Frontline Studios, who would program the game, and Digital Amigos, who would work on the visuals. Even with these three companies working on one Wii title, the game didn't meet its initial release window, which was reportedly around Halloween 2007. Both fans and critics alike began to notice that Nibris still hadn't released a proper gameplay trailer or shown Sadness in any playable form. It wasn't long before Frontline dropped the project, citing “creative differences”.
The internal issues didn't end there, as the very small team at Nibris didn't seem capable of agreeing on their own project. In an old interview with N-Europe, Adam Artur Antolski, the game's script-writer, and the one who is credited with creating most of Sadness' unique elements, discussed the lack of progress, saying that the only in-game object he can remember having been completed was a 3D minecart.
For the actual game – I can't really recall that we'd made something else – but we had worked hard on concept design, and script and stuff like that. Despite the fact we disagreed a lot, for example about Alexander, son of the main heroine...At the very beginning it was very nice and friendly, later it started to be more nervous, when so many expectations came up, which I don't think we were prepared for.
His account regarding the troubled development becomes especially alarming when, in the same interview, Antolski states that he wasn't even sure if Nibris was an officially licensed Wii developer, having been unsure whether they had devkits for the new console. The only kit he knew they had was the Dolphin, which meant that they would be able to develop for the then defunct GameCube. Things didn't get any better from there, with the game eventually being pushed back to 2009, a release window that it also quietly missed. Eventually, Nibris stopped issuing statements regarding the game and the project now seems lost to time.
While many gamers who were excited after seeing the first trailer would say it's a shame that this game was canned, when all of the facts are taken into account, it becomes apparent that Sadness was little more than vaporware. No amount of Kickstarting or company merging would have saved a project that had no direction. Still, one can't help but look at the concept and regret that we'll never see this unique game in action.