The End of Too Human?
Kat Bailey over at 1Up.com posted a blog today. The purpose was to posit that the recent Canadian grant given to Silicon Knights signaled the deathblow to the Too Human franchise.
Too Human probably never had a chance to properly sell itself to the masses. Between the multiple delays, the Unreal Engine lawsuit and the now-infamous Denis Dyack vs. NeoGAF episode, the odds were simply stacked against it. But that's not to say that it wasn't at least interesting.
If Mass Effect 2 taught us anything though, it's that vast improvements can be made to an existing experience once the proper toolset is in place. Too Human was an ambitious project with some unique ideas, but a lot of those ideas are never properly realized. The combat, for instance, includes quite a lot of fancy aerials and other techniques, but they feel tacked on after the fact thanks in part to the control scheme. If any game could use some polishing and rethinking, it's Too Human.
The reason I bring it up is that Silicon Knights recently received some $4 million from the Canadian government, which is apparently being put toward a new, multi-platform game. Rumors emerged last year that the studio was working on something called "Siren in the Maelstrom," but there's been no hint that the planned trilogy is still in the works. At a guess, the studio is ready to move ono after the messy development and horrendous PR that came with Too Human. It'll be a shame if they decide to abandon RPGs all together though.
This is not an unreasonable position for one to take. The relationship between Silicon Knights and Too Human's publisher, Microsoft, has likely seen better days. Silence on both parts could be construed as a negative. Funding for an untitled multi-platform game at a relatively small independent developer (albeit one that could handle work on 3 games simultaneously in the best of times since we've been following them) would seem to suggest other games we expected them to be working on are now on the back burner. Too Human 2, "The Box," and "Siren in the Maelstrom" are all anticipated titles or code names that have been rumored for a long time. How many products can a developer handle?
There are a few counter points to this argument. One, since Silicon Knights has yet to publicly discuss any of the three rumored projects, it could be reasonably assumed to that the funding could go to further an existing project. Based on publish reports, Silicon Knights has employed as few as 100 employees, and as many as 125 during the ups and downs of Too Human's development and post-release. There is enough manpower to handle multiple projects either way. This, however, does not strike me as the most reasonable possibility.
A key point in the description of the grant program was that it would be used to immediately create new jobs; 65 to be exact. If Silicon Knights is expected to nearly double in size through the use of this funding and the project it creates, then what are the other 100 employees working on currently? At the peak of Too Human's development, we know there were two teams up and running with a third project on the way. Rumor of cancellations from Sega and an uncertain publishing relationship with Microsoft are certainly concerns, but with 100-165 team members potentially available for development, multiple projects are not out of the question. Some may think that would be too much for a developer that has released only a few games in the last 10 years, but Denis has never been one to follow others expectations.
For those of us who consider a Too Human sequel to be the most anticipated potential Silicon Knights title, the most pressing question is "who will publish it?" It seems clear that Microsoft has washed their hands clean of the franchise. Where silence from Silicon Knights was implied from Denis's previous statements, silence from Microsoft for this long is a rare thing. But before all hope is lost, let us remember these important points: Too Human is Denis's project. The likelihood that he gives it up before its rightful conclusion does exist (survival of his company would obviously come first), but shelving it might be tougher to swallow than some othe projects. Denis is also an excellent marketer of his business. Say what you will about his NeoGAF experience, Denis has found ways to partner with the biggest names in the gaming business, and has now successfully tapped funding from the Canadian government. I consider it highly likely that he finds another publisher if necessary.
So is Too Human dead? My sincere expectation is "no." I can certainly see why many in the press or on the periphery of the gaming world would expect as much. Only time will tell which os us is correct.
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