All there is to know about Forsaken 2

Some years ago, I acquired a disc on the ASSEMblergames forums labeled Forsaken 2, I didn’t think much of it at the time, I enjoyed Forsaken on PS1 but I had no idea that a sequel was ever in development let alone prototyped… I bought the disc, untested, the seller didn’t seem to care about it and since he had a good rep, I decided to purchase the disc. To my surprise, the disc turned out to be very real and contains a prototype of what the vehicles would look and feel like in this sequel of Forsaken.

Here are some pictures I took at the time:

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On my previous blog, a chap names Paul T. left me a comment on the original Forsaken 2 article I made 4-5 years ago, Paul claimed to be one of the guys who developed that piece of Forsaken 2 and indeed he was. We had a few emails exchanges at the time and I thought it would be good to share one of the conversations, here, unaltered. It gives an account of the development life of Forsaken 2 and some information about how Acclaim worked and its demise. Enjoy!!!

Hi Sabre,

Thanks for getting back to me. That’s really interesting. I knew there was some interesting stuff sold off when Acclaim collapsed in 2004, but we made the demo at the UK Teesside studio, which was closed early in 2002. I guess it was a copy that was sent out to one of the other studios, or perhaps was with some of the junk that got moved from Teesside to the Cheltenham studio.

Looking back, we seemed to waste so much time and effort trying to get games green-lit into full development. Anything we came up with at the UK studios needed approval from the powers-that-be in the ivory towers in the US, naturally, but it took ages to get an answer, and feedback was minimal or non-existent. The process was something like this:

Them: Come up with a game idea.

Us: <some time later> Here’s a design we’ve been working on, whaddya think?

Them: Not really what we’re looking for. What else do you have?

Us: Ok. <Three months later> Here’s another whopping great design document and demo.

Them: Nah, it doesn’t fit with our product range.

Us: … Alright then, how about *you* tell *us* what sort of game you are looking for, seeing as you apparently have something in mind, and we only have a vague idea of what the other studios are working on. Even just a hint would be great!

Them: <silence>

We made a couple of attempts at a Forsaken sequel. The first time around, we were looking at targeting PC and xbox, possibly xbox exlusive. We didn’t have any xbox dev kits at the time, so we were just concentrating on DirectX tech and hoping there wasn’t too much variation between PC and xbox. There was an early multiplayer demo, allowing multiple PCs to link up and fly around the same environment together. I can’t remember if we had any weapons working at the time. We were planning to allow split screen on xbox as well as internet play, so each connected xbox could support up to four players.

If I remember the timeline correctly, the Cheltenham studio had successfully converted Crazy Taxi from Dreamcast to PS2, and were seeing positive results from this. The powers-that-be decided this was a Good Thing, and decided we should work on a Dreamcast->PS2 conversion, too. They had the rights for converting Zombie Revenge, so we were told to shelve Forsaken 2 for the time being, and get cracking deciphering the Japanese source code.

Zombie Revenge was also shelved in order to shift us grunts onto the Shadow Man 2 project. Shadow Man 2 was initially planned as a fairly short project (12 months or so?), building on top of the existing Shadow Man game, but ended up with at least once complete rewrite and PS2 exclusive. They threw pretty much everyone at getting that game done, and what was supposed to be a couple of months helping out turned into a year long slog. Once Shadow Man 2 was complete, rather than put us back on Zombie Revenge, we were allowed to resume the Forsaken 2 project. I think the conversion rights for Zombie Revenge had a limited time span which had expired while we were tied up with Shadow Man 2.

This time, Forsaken 2 would be a PS2 exclusive game, so the earlier work we’d done was pretty much scrapped, except for some of the art assets and physics work. A new design was produced as well, which would make it considerably different to the original Forsaken. There was going to be more emphasis on fast, scripted, single player action, sacrificing some of the freedom of the predecessor. Also, the player could dismount the bike and tackle sections on foot which, unless my memory fails me, you couldn’t do in the original.

At the end, we had a fair sized team working on the project. I was the lead programmer, we had a couple of guys working on a brand new character animation system, one on AI, and a couple of general game systems programmers. There were about the same number of artists and designers, too. The demo you have is what we put together in the few months following the completion of Shadow Man 2. The race section was just a quick “something to do” we built on top of the bare bones of a renderer we were using for testing out ideas for the bike control. Having to work on the demo was kind of annoying, as it was taking away from time that should have been spent on the technical design of the game.

To be honest, I think that the powers-that-be had decided to close the Teesside studio long before Shadow Man 2 was complete and were just killing time working out how to do it. The Teesside studio was started by the Falcus brothers as an independent game studio, before joining forces with Iguana Entertainment, which was then bought by Acclaim. As I understand it, in 2000/1(?) they attempted to regain control of the studio from Acclaim, to become an independent once again. Acclaim refused, and the Falcus brothers and a number of staff were let go. The Falcus brothers went on to start up Atomic Planet, which inherited a fair number of ex-Acclaim folk over the years. I think this was when the future of Acclaim Teesside was decided – I think they kept the place open because they’d already invested too much in the development of Shadow Man 2. It seemed they were only keeping us busy while preparing plans for closing the studio and moving key personnel to the Cheltenham studio.

Once the studio closed, Forsaken 2 was permanently shelved and those who moved from Teesside to Cheltenham were reassigned to existing projects such as Alias and Extreme-G. It’s a sad end to a game with so much potential. I’m glad that the demo survived, though. Thanks for putting the video up on youtube!

I was there when Acclaim finally collapsed in 2004, albeit at the Austin, TX studio. Showed up to work at 7am one morning to find the doors locked and was turned away by a burly security guard. It took a few months before we were allowed back in to collect personal possessions. Four years later, we’re still waiting for the bankruptcy and legal processes to come to an end and see if there’s any money left to pay the unpaid salaries they still owe us. I’m not holding my breath!

I’m still in the industry – after a brief spell in cell phone games, I’ve spent the last three years working on Wizard101 (www.wizard101.com). It’s free to try, so feel free to jump in and have a look! Thanks, Paul

You now know as much as I do about this game, I hope you enjoyed this article, I will shoot a new video and a couple screenshot in the future, if you have any questions, feel free to comment.

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