The Xbox One has suffered some pretty big hits since its release. It had a decent start and the franchises that they had were strong enough to carry the console during its infancy. However, people wanted more than the usual fare and while Microsoft attempted it, they came up quite short. What didn’t help was their major exclusives suffering either massive delays or being cancelled altogether. Scalebound, Fable Legends and other smaller titles that were proudly shown off during E3s were completely shelved. The same happened very early in the console’s lifespan with a promised exclusive by Obsidian Entertainment, the RPG veterans responsible for Fallout: New Vegas, Pillars of Eternity and Tyranny.
The game’s name was Stormlands and it was massively ambitious. Eurogamer is currently having a huge sit down with Obsidian and a part of their interview involved a mysterious cancelled RPG that was supposed to be an Xbox One launch title. Listen to the pitch by co-owner and CEO, Feargus Urquhart:
We were given a proposal, the million-man raid. Conceptually what came from Microsoft was this idea: imagine you’re playing The Witcher, maybe with a friend. What happens if at points in time a giant creature pops up that you can see in the distance and it’s not just popping up while you’re playing, it’s popping up for everybody who’s playing. You all rush this creature and there’s this haze around it, and as you’re all rushing through the haze the game is matchmaking you into 40-man raids who are going to fight the creature.
The entire article is well worth reading and it provides a lot of context and insight into the entire process that Obsidian went through. What was interesting was how Microsoft wanted to push the boundaries of what their technology could do. Trying to innovate as much as they could using the tech they had and by introducing new concepts. That makes sense because they really did try to incorporate Kinect in interesting ways. The gesture technology, all the voice commands, the integration into games. Unfortunately, as we well know, Kinect didn’t work out as Microsoft hoped.
The idea of a seamlessly integrated singleplayer RPG with massive battles was pretty smart for a launch title. The construction around this idea might have made for something epic and Obsidian have proved that they are capable. It’s sad that the game never saw the light of day because Microsoft had planned to turn it into a franchise. The screenshots in the interview also look pretty gorgeous for a demo.
Microsoft seemed to have abandoned their original intent of being as innovative as they can be. Right now they only have the Xbox One X and that is just a raw hardware upgrade. Their first-party exclusives have also dried up considerably and I personally worry about the future of Xbox. Maybe they should look at this idea again.