By Bryan Smith on April 13, 2015 at 6:39pm
Darkside Games were sadly shut down back in February and their version of "Phantom Dust" was cancelled while Microsoft themselves would make the game. There wasn't exactly a clear answer as to why Darkside Games' version of the game was scrapped.
Kokatu soon heard from five anonymous sources (who wished to remain secret) what happened with Microsoft and Darkside Games. The deal started out as a $5 million budget for a multiplayer reboot of "Phantom Dust." Things were fine until Microsoft came back a week later with new requests.
No more than a week after they’d signed the contract, according to several ex-Darkside employees, Microsoft’s team came back to the studio with a new request: they wanted a single-player campaign. “They decided that fans were gonna want a single-player game,” said a person who worked on the project. “But they weren’t going to change the budget or the tim-eframe.”
Suddenly, what was once a $5 million multiplayer reboot of Phantom Dust had become a $5 million multiplayer reboot of Phantom Dust with a six-hour single-player story mode attached. That meant Darkside would need more designers, more artists, and more programmers, all of which equated to extra time and money that they didn’t have. Still, employees say they were committed to pulling it off. This was their first solo project. They wanted to prove they were good enough to do it. According to one Darkside source, their tentative plan was to build a fun vertical slice—a playable and demonstrable chunk of the game—and use it to persuade Microsoft into giving them more money.
Darkside was in the very early stages of development when E3 came around in June of last year, and some at the studio say they were shocked to see Microsoft announce Phantom Dust there. They were even more shocked to see the game announced through a pre-rendered trailer that nobody at Darkside had worked on, according to studio sources. Perhaps most frustratingly for people at the studio, Microsoft wouldn’t tell anyone that Darkside was developing the game. Darkside was put on a gag order; though the game had been announced, they still couldn’t tell people they were making it. “It was very sad,” said one person on the project. “It showed a lack of confidence in us.” Kotaku
Apparently Microsoft had different images, characters, and a trailer made for E3 2014 that Darkside didn't have any work on.
One former Darkside employee says some at the studio were caught off-guard by the announcement. “We didn’t even know if they were going to show it,” the employee said. “We were basically told, ‘Hey check out the E3 presentation.’ The whole studio’s in the living room, we have a TV going with an Xbox watching the presentation, and then all of a sudden there’s that two-minute CG trailer. And we were like, ‘That’s amazing.’ But at the same time, they didn’t use any of our assets, they didn’t use any of our card packs, nothing. Basically what they showed had nothing to do with the game whatsoever. We had no idea that was even happening… It was like, ‘Holy crap, now fans are expecting characters to look like that, and that’s not what we’re making.’” Kotaku
Darkside then made a vertical slice of their work to show that they were capable of making a game that could live up to Microsoft's expectations. This was the three minutes of gameplay Kotaku found of Darkside's "Phantom Dust" reboot.
So in mid-February, Darkside’s top leadership flew out to the corporation’s Redmond campuses for a meeting that they hoped would get them more money. Darkside made the pitch: to properly reboot Phantom Dust with both multiplayer arena battles and a sizable single-player campaign, they’d need more resources. It just wasn’t doable at $5 million.
Microsoft said no.
“When it came down to it, the game they wanted could not be done,” said a person familiar with the studio. “We could not make them the game they wanted for the budget they had.” Kotaku
Microsoft has last stated that "Phantom Dust" is still planned and in development, but the state of the game and development is left unclear as to what direction Microsoft now wants to take with it. Some of the sources that spoke to Kotaku weren't sure that Microsoft could salvage the game after the budget concerns. Microsoft also declined to comment to Kotaku about the Darkside games and the development of "Phantom Dust."
It is important to note that the sources are anonymous and the accuracy of these statements might be off due to the nature of anonymity.