The company that used to publish the blockbuster Company of Heroes and Metro franchises imploded in rapid and spectacular fashion in late 2012, getting its assets sold off in early 2013 . Some of its holdings, like the WWE and Saints Row games, found homes. But the fate of other members of the former THQ family tree — Devil's Third, spearheaded by former Team Ninja leader Tomonobu Itagaki, for one — is still ambiguous. Danny Bilson, who ran the cores games division of THQ, is talking a bit about the games that got screwed up or orphaned in the company's last few years.
In an interview with VG24/7, Bilson discusses the tortured development of games that either never came out or released to poor reception, detailing where things went wrong. On re-working Dark Millenium Online:
"I think we were calling it Inquisitor; I can't remember for sure. They started to design a game that was going to either be free-to-play or pretty low priced point of entry, that was basically going to be a digital PC title with lots of add-on content.
"We were going to take some of the great stuff they had and redesign it. I remember some things that I really loved, like each player would have their own capital ship and your friends could have quarters on it. You collected all your stuff from your adventures on your ship, and you could customise it.
Then it was much more like a Borderlands kind of game. It was a four-player co-op jump-in jump out, go on these missions with your friends. I was really excited about that. With the commitment of that year we felt we could finish that game and ship it within that year, which would have been summer of 2013. It would have been last summer."
There's a fair bit of teasing about Devil's Third, too, which seems to indicate that news — and that rumoured possible release — will be coming this year:
"I know a whole lot about it. It's funny because that one there's gonna be an announcement about soon. I don't wanna spoil information but I can say I'm very close to Itagaki, and I'm very, very aware of Devil's Third.
I can't say very much because I believe there's an upcoming announcement beyond what he said in January that's pretty specific and very, very exciting. Even though I'm not working for any of these guys I have to respect all the confidentialities. There's an update coming for sure."
Bilson's most revealing comments come in reference to 1666, the game by Assassin's Creed mastermind Patrice Desilets that looks like it will be in limbo for a good long while. Desilets' contract — allegedly the source of much tension when Ubisoft acquired the game — was unusual for THQ and other game companies:
"By our standards, it was the kind of contract that you give to an individual who creates a franchise like Assassin's Creed, and deserves a certain amount of control of his destiny. A lot of what they probably didn't like was that Patrice had a certain amount of independence to build that game and to continue with that team as he saw fit.
I understand that by Ubisoft's standards that contract was way more favourable to the creator than I think Ubisoft was comfortable with.
It was just that he had a lot of freedom on it, and a lot of control — the way other very successful artists made deals, including Respawn, who has Titanfall. They have a lot of control and ownership over that product. When artists in entertainment prove themselves, are very successful and make tremendous money for their company, I think they deserve a certain amount of respect in the deal. And that was ok with me.
Designer Jason Rubin took the reins of THQ after Bilson and it's worth comparing his take on the company's woes with his predecessor's. The Bilson interview offers up tidbits about Guillermo Del Toro's InSane, South Park: The Stick of Truth and Red Faction: Armageddon too, so head over to VG24/7 and read the whole thing.