Lost: Housemarque’s The Trader
Speak to enough game developers and it becomes ever clearer how much hard work goes unreleased; for every finished game that reaches the physical or digital storefront, there are so many more abandoned, either destined to fade from memory on some half-forgotten hard drive, or turned into something else entirely. In a new series of features, Lost, we intend to unearth the games that never made it.
Here, we begin with a tale from Resogun and Super Stardust studio Housemarque as CEO Ilari Kuittinen explains lost PS2 game The Trader, and what the studio learned from the experience.
“The initial concept for the game was ‘Elite on Wheels’. The main idea was to trade stuff in an open world. It quickly changed into an action adventure with a complex plot after initial feedback. Darius Terrano, the protagonist, was a prince unaware of his origins, and the aim of the game was to fulfill his destiny. Main inspirations for that were Greek Mythology and Shakespeare. The world of The Trader is slightly steampunk: 20th century-technology with more advanced vehicles and press censorship promoted by the ruling class. You explored the world, you shot enemies down. The main gameplay hook was the shooting mechanic, especially in close combat… we wanted to make the gun kata from Equilibrium happen in The Trader.
“This was a self funded project for PS2, I guess it was in development around a year and half, on and off. We completed a demo that showed a 10 minute level, ‘a mission’ so to say, but we also had a freeroaming part where you could explore the environment with vehicles.”
“In the summer of 2004 we made a final effort to sell the project, there were a couple of very interested parties, but somehow it didn’t go through and we had to rethink our proposition.
“We learned some things and had some benefits, first of all we got into PlayStation tech for the first time, that helped us to develop later on for PS3. Another thing was that our demo wasn’t ‘compact’ enough. We created the whole technology and world to prove that we could do PS2 tech as well, but the demo had too much exploration. The level should have been more intense.
“We haven’t really been known for story-based games. That was our attempt… we like to think The Trader had an awesome plot but that genre is so competitive right now. Maybe Naughty Dog should keep doing that, and we should do what we do best.”