By Adrian Chmielarz Posted in Game Design, Team on 2020/07/08
The work on Witchfire continues, but there’s nothing to show for now unless you like heavy spoilers that don’t even look good because it’s all work in progress.
So, I figured…
Since most people prefer the entire saga, here we go.
Painkiller didn’t make us rich. It was made for a flat fee, an embarrassingly low one compared to what a production of this quality usually costs. We never saw any royalties, despite the game’s success and countless sequels and remakes.
But – we did manage to save some money. I’m still not quite sure how, but we did. So we moved to a new place, and started working on a new project.
My dream project.
An action-adventure pulp that mixed the worlds of Raymond Chandler and H.P. Lovecraft. A story about a private detective able to communicate with the dead.
I titled it: Come Midnight.
After a few months, we thought we had enough material to start shopping the game around. We had a proposal document…
…some concept art…
…and a tech demo. It had a menu (the options were displayed onto the notebook)…
…and even a loading screen…
…but ultimately the demo was just a tech one, showing off the visual direction…
…and some buzzwords of the month like spherical harmonics:
We have invited all the biggest and the best publishers in the world at the time – the year was 2004 – to visit our studio and learn about the new game “from the makers of Painkiller”.
Looking back, I can’t believe they all came to see this small studio in Poland, but they did.
The presentations went smoothly with one exception. I remember that the boss of Ubisoft went quite mad during the presentation. More or less “What the fuck is this bullshit?” variety of mad. I guess there was a failure to communicate somewhere along the way, and she was expecting a beta, not the pre-production materials. She relaxed a bit when we showed the tech demo (“Oh, so you do actually have something?”) but I still suspect she considered the entire affair a waste of time.
Anyway, most of the reactions were great, and now there was nothing else to do but wait.
Nobody was getting back to us.
We were running out of money, and it was time to panic.
Through the grapevine we learned that even though people liked the game, they were scared of investing into an action-adventure, and, more importantly, they expected a shooter from us.
Come Midnight was dead.
So, disillusioned, disappointed and desperate we started the work on a shooter called Ravenwolf. I can tell you the title because it was leaked on Linked In a while ago, but I guess I can’t tell you more as, unlike Come Midnight, I think the rights are still with PCF. All I can say is that while it was not Painkiller II, it was its spiritual successor in a way, just with a story that actually made sense.
We worked our assess off on a demo for a couple of months, and sent it out.
The phones started ringing.
Ravenwolf was about to happen, the studio was about to be saved.
And then, when we were either at a gaming expo or at GDC – my memory is fuzzy here –a man approached us.
“Oh hey, I see you’re People Can Fly guys? What a coincidence meeting you here. I’m from THQ, and I was just about to send you an e-mail!”
“Oh hi, hi! Is it about Ravenwolf?”
“No, we actually want to make Come Midnight”.
One of the happiest WTF moments of my life.
But it’s never easy with big corporations, so it took us a while before we signed the contract. For one, we had to make a new pitch, here is a few pages:
…and obviously much, much more than this, but documents are not that sexy. The contract was one sided, obviously, but it wasn’t bad. We were ecstatic, and for the next year worked the hardest we’ve ever worked.
In part II next week: what we’ve managed to make before the game got cancelled (spoiler: a lot), videos of the internal demos (almost half an hour of footage), and more art like this: