Sources claimed to be familiar with Starbreeze have commented that the company was never very interested in The Darkness, now in the hands of Digital Extremes, and that Project RedLime is suffering a troubled birth.
“We aimed to do a 90-plus title, and [The Darkness] ended up being 83 or whatever, and no one was really happy about the reception it got,” former lead designer Jens Andersson told 1UP.
“It sold OK and everything, but… A lot of people appreciated it and liked it and everything, but we were kind of tired of it when we were done, and didn’t really want to work on the sequel at that point.”
This attitude was echoed by two more alleged Starbreeze sources.
“Darkness – we didn’t have any respect for that IP. We changed whatever we wanted to change,” one said.
“The core of the development team always wanted to do original IP,” another added. “Both Riddick and Darkness were sort of a ‘take one for the team’ kind of mentality as they started off. Like, ‘Yeah it seems like a decent IP. We’re not fans, but it’s something we can build on. And if that gets us to generate a new IP, let’s work on this for two years.'”
But Starbreeze haan’t moved onto its own original works. The studio’s current project – codenamed RedLime – will be published by EA Partners, and resurrect an EA IP. It’s widely believed to be Syndicate, but Starbreeze seems more enthusiastic about it.
“RedLime was meant to be the step up from Darkness, where we sort of took all the mistakes we did with Darkness and do them right,” another source said.
Former Starbreeze CEO Johan Kristiansson said the developer has embraced a new tactic with RedLime, working around a “core mechanic”.
“I think we mostly focus on the core gameplay mechanic. We’re trying to be innovative there – and we have something really exciting in our new EA title in this area,” he said.
“… I think now when we start pitching and creating a concept, we always start with the question, ‘What’s the core mechanic? What are you doing in this game that’s different from other shooters, or other similar games?’
“A few years ago, we weren’t too focused on that. We managed to pull off a great genre mix in Riddick, with shooting, sneaking, fighting, and dialogue, but there was no real core mechanic that differentiated it from other games. Now we are trying to differentiate ourselves more.”
But the course of RedLijme has not run smooth, with multiple delays and significant changes at the Starbreeze during its development period. The company’s relationship with EA has not been free from friction, for example.
“Another one of the big reasons the MachineGames guys left was because they could not work with EAP,” said another source. “And that’s kind of interesting, because the main principle with EAP [is that they are set up to leave developers alone].
“They’re working with Epic on Bulletstorm, and Valve… Obviously Epic and Valve can do their own thing and EA doesn’t say much. And that’s how it should be.
“If they step in, which they have done now on Syndicate, where they send producers over there to embed them with the dev team, that’s a really bad sign… Starbreeze did something very, very wrong for a very long time with Syndicate.”
“EA wasn’t the ideal development partner in the early days. That project has been rebooted more times than I can count,” another added.
1UP’s feature is a fascinating look at Starbreeze’s rocky history over the last fifteen years, covering its relationship with Riddick and the loss of key employees to Bethesda’s Machine Games. Check out the whole thing through here.