Warrior’s Lair/Ruin for PS3, Vita Cancelled

Despite being unveiled as a playable game back in June 2011 at E3, the PS3 and Vita game Warrior’s Lair has been cancelled.

Originally titled Ruin, and later renamed Warrior’s Lair, the ‘social action RPG’ was in development by Pain studio Idol Minds and MLB team SCE San Diego Studio. After not being heard of for over a year, we feared the game had been put on the back burner, but it has sadly been announced that the title has been completely cancelled. A Sony representative told IGN:

Sony Computer Entertainment can confirm that Warrior’s Lair for PS Vita is no longer in development. We apologize to those who pre-ordered the title and ask that they contact their retailer directly to cancel their pre-sale.

The line-up of PS Vita first-party and third-party content remains strong with more than 85 titles scheduled to launch for the system by the end of 2013 including Killzone: Mercenary, Tearaway, Doki Doki Universe, Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate, Flower, The Walking Dead, and more.

Interestingly, back in March, someone claiming to be a developer involved with the game posted the following comment on QuartertoThree (via), but we can’t confirm its legitimacy (although he said the game was cancelled, which we now know is true):

It WAS pretty good, actually, although I’m the furthest from unbiased you can be. I had been lead designer on a couple of aborted projects before that, but this one was actually within sight of being finished. I had been involved from the very beginning and had helped develop the concept.

It had a year of full development on it and was (by our schedule, anyway) 3 months away from being done when it was cancelled. There were 50 or 60 people on the team. I led a team of 8 designers and 10 junior level designers. Suffice it to say, Sony had put millions of dollars into it when they killed it.

I can only speculate about why they did so, so keep in mind this is just how I’ve been able to make sense of it. First, I assume it had to do with the weakness of the VITA. Sony internal studios, to me, looked like they never had much faith in it. As far as we were concerned, the game was primarily a PS3 game; we weren’t going to bank on the VITA. But it sure did look and play nicely on the VITA. And the cross-play feature–which was the biggest part of the marketing push for the game–would have been great.

Like I said, we were three months from going into final test (this was one year ago). A LOT of stuff was coming online at that point. We had tuned combat, the classes, and enemy AI for a long time, but the RPG elements of leveling up and equipment, etc, had been missing for a long time. The story progression was just being implemented. But our tools were in awesome shape, the game was quite playable, and we had a ton of content (which had been planned on paper for months beforehand) going in. But I think our partners at Sony weren’t close enough to the project to see or understand a lot of it. They just saw how far we had to go. They were upset that we had had to push the schedule back once earlier by a few months (on one hand, understandable, on the other, I think a case could be made that the original schedule was unrealistic). To be honest, it would have been a rough few months of finishing and polishing. I think we would have made it and would have had a pretty decent game by the end of it, but again, I can’t see things too objectively. I’d say Sony was right to worry, but ultimately made a poor call. I don’t know what other internal considerations might have been affecting them, but it’s definitely the case that around that time there was a lot of bad financial news from Sony Corp. But I have no idea if/how that affected the SCEA studios. There was also a rumor that VITA games in development were given a Metascore rating to hit after the first few games got middling reviews, but I don’t know if that’s true or if it affected the decision.

When they killed it, they said they were going to finish it at their San Diego studio. This was also the story they put out to the press, saying it wasn’t cancelled. While they owned all the work we had done, this was always an absurd suggestion. No one in San Diego knew anything about our tools, our technology, or our design. So I don’t know how serious they ever were about that idea, but a few months later we heard through the grapevine that they had no plans to do so. It’s extremely unlikely the game will ever be released.

Warrior’s Lair (we hated the name, which came from Sony marketing) was going to be a light ARPG. It had all the core features of the genre, although it might have been missing a few things that are common with some of the genre stand-outs. But it also had a couple of innovative features. The combat was inspired more by beat-em-ups along the lines of God of War than by Torchlight or Diablo, with combos and more mobile characters. Killing stuff really was fun. And then there were the social features. You were matched up with rivals, with whom you could compete. Primarily that meant raiding their Lairs, which were dungeons whose properties were determined by relics, collected while adventuring, that you installed in the lair to make it more difficult to defeat. You could pick what monsters you wanted to guard your lair and then a random dungeon was generated based off of that and the relics you had chosen. When someone raided your lair, you split a reward–the more times they died in the raid, the larger your percentage of that reward. All this stuff was working (if not tuned) when the project was shut down.

Warrior’s Lair wasn’t going to set the world on fire. It did not have the budget to compete with a Dark Souls, much less a Diablo. It probably had a number of weak spots. But I also think it would have been worth playing. I think it might have been a bright spot on the VITA line-up, too. From where I sit, it’s a shame that gamers didn’t get their hands on it. While I stumbled my way through that project, learning along the way how to be a lead designer–how to make decisions, when to delegate, how to adapt to schedule restraints and stakeholder opinions–I’m most proud of the design team I had and the work they did.

If true, it doesn’t paint a very pretty picture for what was going on at Sony, and it’s also extremely painful to hear that the game could have been mere months from release.

Are you sad that the game was cancelled? Did you buy a Vita because of this game? Let us know what you think in the comments below.