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Totally crazy, totally canceled indie games, and the people who made them


From World of Goo dev Kyle Gabler to Plants vs. Zombies director George Fan (and everything in between), GDC's "The Failure Workshop" panel was full of thrills. Each of the panel's developers brought a project that never managed to make our acquaintance, offering a detailed explanation of what went wrong.

Gabler, of 2D Boy, kicked the chair out from under his studio's robot-based sidescroller Robot and the Cities That Built Him when he and his cohorts finally decided that it simply wasn't very fun. After months of mock-ups and brainstorming, the game was finally turned into a fairly basic prototype (playable here) that sealed the project's untimely fate.

Next up was George Fan, currently senior game designer at PopCap Games, and his game Cat and Mouse Foosball. Unlike 2D Boy's project, Cat and Mouse Foosball was more or less doomed right from the getg-o. The game was ... less than playable. A live demonstration of the game resulted in many, many dead (virtual) mice -- the goal of the game is to keep the mice alive as they move from top to bottom down a 2D plane. The resulting sense of failure almost turned Fan off of game development for life! Thankfully, though, he stuck with it, and now we have him and his team to thank for the wonderful Plants vs. Zombies, among other things.

Matthew Wegner of Flashbang Studios got on the mic next, explaining the journey from browser-based Off-Road Velociraptor Safari to Off-Road Velociraptor Safari HD, and what went wrong. Wegner said his team of three focused too much on the minutiae of the game rather than actually making it fun. As a result, the developers began to not like their jobs and eventually realized that, if they weren't enjoying making the game, people probably wouldn't enjoy playing it. Shopping the game around to publishers at GDC '09 further confirmed Wegner's suspicions -- he detailed the specifics on a blog post last April, when the final decision was made to halt development.

SpyParty developer Chris Hecker also spoke to a canned project from his past -- a physics-based rock climbing game that, simply put, looked bizarre. Hecker explained that he got too bogged down in the coding of individual movements (among many other things), resulting in him "basicially rediscovering Chaos Theory."

Stardock's Brad Wardell took the cake for the panel with a speech about Elemental: War of Magic's failures, but, well, you already read about that.

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