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.

Image courtesy Cliff Bleszinski

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.

Image courtesy Cliff Bleszinski

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.

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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.

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.

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • MarquisDeSang

    That is what happens when you ignore VR for too long and it’s too late.

    • Gus Bisbal

      what do you mean by this

      • MarquisDeSang

        They should have made a VR game 2 years ago. You don’t make games for now, you make them for tomorrow.

        • Jim Cherry

          But predicting the future is hard.

        • Pyro

          The hardware still isn’t 100% there now, let alone 2 years ago. Thank NVIDIA for stifling advancements.

  • psuedonymous

    “DogWalkers”/”Rover”, a small-team mech combat game similar to WWII? Jeez, did they just take “Chromehounds” and stick it through a Thesaurus before cloning it?!

  • PJ

    Cliffs a prick anyway

    • jay hand

      tell us how U really feel, chis

    • brandon9271

      I’ve honestly never heard of the guy.. must be popular with console kiddies.

    • Jerald Doerr

      Stolen ideas…. takes all the credit..

  • Raphael

    If all developers had the “VR doesn’t have a big enough user base so we ain’t developing for it” there’d be no fucking VR games/software.

    • Sandy Wich

      It’s just an excuse, they know better. Nothing the human race has ever accomplished would have gotten off the ground and we’d still be living in caves if that’s actually how the world worked.

      Can’t expect to sell 40 million VR games at full price, half finished with full microtransactions and DLC.

      Don’t worry though, the day will come.

      At least VR games will look good I guess. :/

    • If all developers had the “VR doesn’t have a big enough user base so we
      ain’t developing for it” attitude, there’d be no fucking VR games/software.

      Forgot to put attitude there :)

  • Mr. New Vegas

    Its a GREAT news that this studio got shut down, EXCELLENT NEWS actually!!
    Why? Maybe some idiots in the dev industry get a hint that MP/Online and F2P is DEFIANTLY NOT THE FUTURE!!

    Single Player narrative games were and still what most people (as in adults) want to play.
    Milking online games is for money-less teenagers that buy one 60$ game and milk it for full year, same with F2P, “survival” and Minecrap games.
    Also Open World games are getting boring and they also NOT the future, repetitive game play that lacks any story is not the future.

    There is a reason why so many people chose Sony over xbox in the console world, people still want great looking SP games.

    • Gus Bisbal

      Couldn’t agree more. Actually I wall add this. Say 100 devs get in a room. NO ONE wants to say, the truth is that 50% of the reason we all succeed is because of the quality of the story. That is a few guys that build that. The rest of us just dress it up. 25% is game play and the last 25% is the art and everything else. Reviewers talk about features and frame rate and blah blah blah but really you forgive it all when the story is awesome. Half life is awesome because you wanted to be Gordon, cutting the throats of oppressive Aliens that think they can come to earth and take our home. Not on my F@#$in watch they ain’t. No one says “we have a winning story and its going to be a master piece.” And that is because Devs don’t get training in story. They get trained in coding. Its not their fault really but its how it works.

      • Mr. New Vegas

        Also, Cliffys case was 100% typical case of: Running after what looked popular.
        First it was team based online shooter, then battle royal, even his unanonced VR games are copy of world of tanks and mario cart.
        Zero original ideas, basically his game company was going to make games they dont like but which are poplar, like if games were commodity: People like Chocolate cake so lets make our version.
        He has Gears behind him, he should of id what he knows best 3rd person shooter with interesting world and STORY, story should be number one priority, this time maybe 3rd person RPG

  • HybridEnergy

    Shame, Cliff B would have made an awesome VR action game to be honest.