menu Menu

When Witchfire was not Witchfire

How about a sci-fi post-apo survival sim?

How about a sci-fi post-apo survival sim?

Our new project is a good few years old. If we were just a bit more sane, it should have been released already. Meanwhile, it’s still in a weird pre-pro/production limbo (meaning some elements of the game are in their nearly final form, while some still exist only on paper).


It’s not anything new. It’s actually quite typical for some of the more successful indie developers. Frictional released Amnesia in 2010, their next game, SOMA, in 2015, and there are many more examples like that.

It seems we’ll follow the same route, and I think there are three major contributors to this. First, we risked everything with Ethan, and I mean everything — and there was a long period of decompression from the stress. Second, even though we released the game in 2014, we still worked on it for the entire next year: redoing it all in UE4. So we didn’t actually start the work on Witchfire until late 2015.

But third, and I guess that’s the most interesting part, originally the game was something completely different.

A sci-fi post-apo survival sim.

A shot from an early 2016 prototype. Now imagine an alien mech walking down these streets.

Partially, it was about jumping on the bandwagon. It seemed like the world has moved towards sandboxes like Day Z, Rust or Ark. We liked some of these games but figured we could do it differently. The plan was to make a survival sim for people who enjoy the idea of a survival sim – alone versus the universe – but hate the execution.

We codenamed the project “Astro Project 2” (we came up with this title all on our own!) and worked on it for a year. It had a lot of unique and innovative elements and was shaping up to be a decent game.

Testing the day/night cycle.

But then we realized we liked it, but not loved it.

I think most gamers will know what I mean when I say that some games feel like a product. Calculated, cold, devoid of personality, made for but not made by. In theory, everything’s there …except for the spark. And on the other side of the spectrum, is there anything better than playing a game that feels like its creators actually cared?

And it does not even matter if it’s indie or AAA. The Witcher is AAA and you can feel the love behind every pixel.

So we took a good look in the mirror and asked ourselves if there’s a game that could be valid commercially but also would be something we’re passionate about. Throwing away a year’s worth of work was not easy but the temptation was too strong. Once we realized that we just want to shoot monsters with guns, it was obvious what needed to happen next.

Witchfire has nothing to do with what it once was, during that first year of development. The entire thing is gone, nothing carried over to what we’re working on these days. Not a single idea, not a single asset (okay, maybe except for the grass).

The first Witchfire image we have produced for internal use (to show potential co-operators the new direction for the game; one picture is worth a thousand words and all that). If you look closely, you’ll see a car in the background. The final move was to get rid of the cars and other modern/sci-fi stuff, and move 100% towards dark fantasy (although there will be elements of gaslamp fantasy in the game as well).

This is a cautionary tale. Twelve months of work and money down the drain is not exactly something we’re proud of. Had we been honest with ourselves from the start, it all could have been avoided.

But also, we’ve never been happier than we are now. Hopefully, the passion we have for Witchfire, the final incarnation of “Astro Project 2”, is something that you can feel too when the game is out.

Previous Next

Witchfire Early Access out now on EGS! Buy here
Official website for The Vanishing of Ethan Carter now live! Click here