id Reveals Cancelled Survival Horror Title Darkness: 'We Would Have Been Keeping Doom 3's Faults'

By Nick Breckon, Aug 01, 2008 1:17pm PDT Speaking with Shacknews today, id Software's John Carmack and Matt Hooper revealed details of the company's cancelled big-budget game Darkness.

And as it turns out, Darkness was cancelled in part because it was, well, too dark.

Conceived as a survival horror title, Darkness would have begun with a plane crash, with the game taking place on an island. Darkness also would have included jump-out-and-scare horror, in the vein of the company's last title Doom 3. But after 18 months of work, production was abruptly halted when the developers realized Darkness was covering ground id had previously tread.

"We would have been keeping Doom 3's faults," said Carmack, who agreed that complaints of the "contrived nature of monsters hiding in closets" and overly dark environments of Doom 3 were "completely valid."

Shacknews artist's rendering.
Carmack also explained that the often-poor sales of pure survival horror games factored into the decision. As Carmack related the story, he and id Software co-owner Tim Willits made the decision to cut the game one afternoon, then asked the project leads to gauge the staff's reaction.

As production of Darkness had already been extensive, Hooper noted that the announcement of cancellation was a delicate process within the company.

"There was some fear that we would alienate the artists," said Hooper. "We started just feeling it out. There wasn't that much of a push-back, because the coolest thing about Rage on the design side.. is that we can pull in and add these little elements."

"There were a lot of cool aspects of Darkness," continued Hooper, "especially on the psychology horror side, and some things we could have pushed for, but Rage allows us to.. to me I was just elated, because I got to do a lot more things than I would ever do in the survival horror genre."

"You get to punctuate [the gameplay of standard action titles] a lot more with triumphs and successes, and you just don't get to do that very much in survival horror," added Carmack.

"You know, you want to say 'I'm victorious,' not 'I'm not dead.' It's just a fundamentally more rewarding genre to be in."

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  • It saddens me to hear my favorite developer talking such slack about my favorite genre. I actually liked Doom 3, because of it's survival horror elements. I know Id has been squeezing the Quake fanboys for years and wants to keep making games of that element, which is basically a bunch of overgrown toddlers running about killing each other and blowing up stuff. As a somewhat more mature gamer, that really does nothing for me. I enjoy an engaging story line and having my psyche jarred somewhat. What Carmack is basically saying is that survival horror is just too cerebral for the adrenaline junkies who have forked over their money all these years and he wants to keep milking that fanbase. And as for survival horror not selling well, has this guy not heard of Resident Evil, Silent Hill, or Bioshock? Too bad, Darkness sounds like it would've been a great game.

  • Darkness doesn't have to be a part of survival horror. I don't know about you guys, but the part in Evil Dead II, where Ash drives to the bridge during the day and sees the bridge has been ripped like tin foil is pretty terrifying.

    Daytime can be just as scary if it's done right. Pennywise ripped off Georgie's arm in the middle of the afternoon.

    And yes, there are parts of Evil Dead II that are downright hysterical, but hearing the spirits mutter "join us" in broad daylight, in those dense woods, scared the crap out of me. I guess part of it is because I expect daytime to be the safe time.