Boss Key Productions, the North Carolina-based developer behind the unfortunately ill-received first-person shooters LawBreakers (2017) and Radical Heights (2018), is out of business. While both games failed to spark commercial interest, leading to the closure of Boss Key, the studio head and former Gears of War lead designer Cliff Bleszinski took to Twitter in a cathartic post-mortem where he showed off a few VR games the studio had considered before its demise.
Bleszinski showed off two VR game concepts, replete with concept art and mention of some key game mechanics.
The first, which was tentatively codenamed ‘Rover’, but later dubbed DogWalkers, was supposed to be a mech-style tank game inspired by WWII tank battles and games like World of Tanks and Tokyo Wars.
The multiplayer game was supposed to pit five teams of five against each other, with some players piloting, others acting as gunners or repairing, etc.
“The air in the world’s fiction was toxic so any leaks on your walker you’d have to repair quick or get gas masks on etc. Rappel outside to weld legs too, toss wrenches to each other etc,” Bleszinski tweeted.
It sounds like it would have been a blast in VR, considering how role-based multiplayers like Star Trek: Bridge Crew (2017) can create a fun and interesting group dynamic that, for whatever reason, seems to work better in VR than on traditional monitors.
The second game was supposed to be a VR spiritual sequel to Toobin’ (1988), a river race game created by Atari for late ’80s and early ’90s era consoles and arcade cabinets.
Called Donuts, the game was supposed to recall some of the fun of Mario Kart, but the key difference was everyone was supposed to be cute animals.
“You could drink (ginger) beer for health, crush cans on your head, or shake up full ones for AOE attacks. Slam both hands to jump logs. Roman candles to pop tubes etc,” Bleszinski said.
The overall idea is unbearably cute, and would have at very least garnered some serious notoriety. Turtle in fez. Je repete, there’s a turtle in a fez.
More art. pic.twitter.com/R9I64nDJKC
— Cliff Bleszinski (@therealcliffyb) May 15, 2018
It’s a true pity that a studio with such a unique understanding of Unreal Engine—Bleszinski left Epic to co-found Boss Key—weren’t in the position to take a gamble on VR. It’s clear VR doesn’t have a big enough user base to provide the Hail Mary Boss Key was looking for, but we can always dream.
Boss Key was no doubt looking for both a safe bet and a big commercial hit, which caused the studio to push out the half-finished battle royale game RadicalHeights to a decidedly less than resounding effect. In the end, it was largely seen as a desperate cash grab (despite the fact it’s free to play) and bid for relevancy, which in retrospect wasn’t really great last note to go out on, but deathblows are very rarely pretty things.
Rest in peace, Boss Key. May your team of talented artists quickly find work. So say we all.