Ambitious sharks vs divers-deathmatch game, Depth, put on Hiatus. The game's creative director, Alex Quick, enlightens us about the number of factors leading to this decision.
The ocean carries with it a sort of primal fear, one which is easily understandable. Humans fear the unknown, and the vast Oceans are a terrestrial reminder of how much we haven't charted. The sharks factor heavily into that fear too.
My formative years of gaming involved playing a lot of a little known PS1 title called Treasures of the Deep. It involved you, a humble diver, navigating the dark abyss of the bottom of the sea for sunken treasure. One of the main hazards were marauding sharks. The game terrified me. Imagine Slender, except instead of a tall thin man that stalks you through a forest, it's a shark that stalks you through the vastness of the ocean; a mysterious frontier with an extra axis to be paranoid about. It was lo-fi and atmospheric and I loved it.
I loved it not only because it instilled a fear in me that few other games have matched, but because its setting - even to this day - is so unique. Games explore territory as surreal and fantastical as the mindscapes in Psychonauts and landscapes as mundane as boring old familiar cities, but very few take place entirely in the ocean.
Depth is one of those rare games that came along and grabbed me with its setting, and its hook kept me anchored on their site chomping at the bit for any update on the project. Before I go any further, I should explain that Depth is a multiplayer deathmatch style game that takes place between sharks and divers. The sharks are completely distinct in their mechanics from the divers. I'll let this trailer do the rest of the talking.
Recently, to my dismay, I opened up the game's site to be greeted with a solemn message from the game's creative director, Alex Quick.
Hey guys. Alex here, Creative Director for Depth.
I wanted to fill you all in on a bit of news regarding the project : As of about a month ago, Depth was put on indefinite hiatus. The reason for this decision was a combination of things I won't get into too much detail about, but it boiled down to
(1.) Maintaining the project and its staff was becoming extremely costly.
(2.) Aspects of the project weren't "clicking" and needed design love that we couldn't provide it after nearly 3 years of devotion and attachment.
Since all of this probably sounds quite dissapointing, I'd like to stop and mention that depth_isn't_dead. Nobody is throwing out any of the work that
has been done, and the concept (as i'm sure you'll all agree) is one that kicks major ass and needs to get made. If depth can find the right kind of support and direction, I have no doubt that it will rise once more from the murky abyss and bite us all in half with its awesomeness.
P.S Thanks so much guys for all your encouragement and positive vibes :)
I reached out to Alex to inquire further about the circumstances behind the game being put on hiatus. Quick initially expressed frustration with working with new tech and remotely managing his team. "The reasons for putting the project on hiatus are many and varied. I think one of the big ones is that I underestimated how much work would be involved in bringing a game of this scope to fruition on 'next-gen' tech. My previous experience was with the last iteration of unreal engine (2.5) where the content and distribution pipelines were significantly simpler. I also underestimated how complex and frustrating remote management is, where you have people in many different time-zones trying to find a time to come online and chat. It sometimes feels like you're throwing several dozen balls up in the air at once and trying to catch them as they come down ... with your teeth."
As I mentioned before, the sharks and the divers are entirely separate entities. As Quick pointed out, this proved to be a major complication for the team. "So all of these management and infrastructure issues underpinned Depth's design problems. The biggest one we found ourselves facing is that sharks and divers have very little in common. They don't share inventory items or gameplay styles, or HUDs. Nothing. You are effectively creating two games in one and trying to balance both of them so they play nice with one another. That's a pretty tall order for a remote managed team of less than 10 people. Ultimately it was starting to feel like we were grinding our gears and getting nowhere. When you can't find any fun in developing your game, it seems unlikely that players are going to have any fun playing it. The decision to put the project on hiatus was a difficult one, but I believe it is in the best interests of everyone involved. None of this changes how I feel about the concept of a game involving sharks, which I think is unique and badass and really needs to get made."
It's certainly unfortunate that these numerous issues have put a halt to such a promising looking game with such a unique take on the deathmatch genre, but Alex's passion in the core concept and reluctance to explicitly call the project dead provides a slightly less bleak outlook. Don't get me wrong, 'indefinite hiatus,' isn't exactly code for 'coming soon,' but I'll cling to hope for this ambitious project, even if that hope is a little head-in-the-clouds.