Die Zombie Die

Asylum Cancelled

Asylum by DarkBlack Has Been Cancelled - and What Exactly is Going On?

Originally written April 5, 2004; updated June 2004

Special thanks to former DarkBlack Employees for Providing Me with Information

This rant isn't just about the Asylum game; it could also apply equally well to the video game business in general and those who cover it.

Ever since I found out about the survival horror game Asylum sometime around 2002 (or perhaps 2003? I waited so long for this game to be released, it may as well have been 1803), I was very excited about this game.

It looked very creepy, and looked to have all the elements of a great survival horror game.

The graphics looked spectacular. I loved the gothic atmosphere of the game - the big spooky-looking Victorian House, the zombies, the scarecrow, etc.

One can still find screen shots of this game online, and for whatever reason, someone took it upon themselves to mirror the original, offical site on another server, since the original one was pulled down (this mirror site is located HERE).

Below: screenshots from Asylum
Asylum screenshot: Zombie in a tub
Asylum screenshot: graveyard

Initially, one of my first complaints had to do with the fact that the company first behind this game, DarkBlack, really kept its audience in the dark (no pun intended).

Anytime I checked their official site, nary a word was said about when the game was to be released, or why it was taking so long to get the game released (more on this in a moment).

Another complaint I have: some gaming sites, to this day (April 5, 2004), list Fall 2003 as the release date for Asylum, while another one says under the heading of release date "cancelled."

This just threw more confusion on the matter, since I had no way of knowing which site, if any, got their information right.

Next up on my list of gripes is the scarcity of information about Asylum on all the gaming sites (other than a few sites which simply list the bare facts, such as the game's title, its maker, etc).

I was able to find only two pages about Asylum's fate; as it turns out, DarkBlack ran out of money and had to go out of business. Before this, they found a company that was going to distribute their game, a company called Octagon Entertainment.

And what of Octagon Entertainment's role with Asylum? As one individual who used to work for DarkBlack informed me,

"Octagon Entertainment... [is] a firm based in Boston USA who act as games agents - basically selling games to Publishers on behalf of developers. They tried most unsuccessfully with Asylum - main issue was the lack of time."

Update: As of June 2004, I am happy to report that I have received correspondence from two individuals who worked for DarkBlack and who kindly took the time to answer some of the concerns raised on this page. Both have given permission to me to quote them, but have asked to remain anonymous, and I'm happy to respect their wishes.

Both individuals filled me in on the story behind Asylum's demise and each expressed regret at being unable to finish the title. Now, on to some of the reasons that Asylum didn't make it to the store shelves.

In one interview, one of the employees from DarkBlack mentioned that DarkBlack no longer owns the rights to Asylum, nor does Hot Head Studios (Hot Head Studios being mainly comprised of former DarkBlack staff).

We are not told in that interview who now owns the rights to Asylum and what these new owners are going to do with the game. We are once again left hanging. Will this game be made or not? If so, when will it be released?

Though that information was not made available in the interview, I was told by the former DarkBlack staff what happened. As it turns out,

"Asylum was bought by Akklaim ... [so] Asylum is the property of Akklaim ... [H]owever I dont think they had a copy of the source code for the game, and I don't think they are pursuing the game."

As for the Hot Head Studios website, which doesn't contain any information about Asylum, one will find is a site devoted to some product having something to do with race cars (called "Hyper Streetracing").

The explanation I was given for the Hyper Streetracing site is as follows:

"The new site about cars is all to do with one of his [former key player of DarkBlack's] best mates from USA - a guy called Baret Murphy - original founder of Pornstar Clothing amongst other things. From a very quick glance at the website - its all about his latest project - some of the artwork and design has been done by the ex - MD of DarkBlack and HotHead Studios - hence how the website has been used."

We're told in some online gaming magazine that Hot Head Studios is at work on some new video game about vampires called Shadows of the Sun, which some gamers believe looks very much like Asylum (screen shots of this game can be found online; try here, for example).

Why is no mention of Shadows of the Sun made on the Hot Head Studios site? And what exactly was the race car thing on the Hot Head Studios site about? According to one of my sources:

"The staff at Darkblack found a new investor and re-formed as Hothead Studios producing a game called 'Shadows of the Sun', but seeing as though they had come into confilct with a publisher before with Asylum (albeit not their fault) they could not find a publisher willing to take them on, but towards the end they tried ALL genres of games - including the driving game which you mention on your website."

Zombie from Asylum
Above: a zombie from Asylum. Unfortunately, since this game isn't being made, I'll never have the pleasure of shooting this guy.

As for the fate of the Shadows of the Sun game:

"The final twist - HotHead Studios - formed early 2003 - core components of the old DarkBlack team - idea - raise enough money to allow a 6 month development cycle in order to design a new game using the technology behind Asylum and to secure a Publisher deal in order to complete the title..... new idea from old....

Shadow of the Sun. Developed for six months - again MD decided to enlist Octagon Entertainment INC as an agent (again too little too late) and unfortunately the MD, who was solely in charge of selling, never held one meeting or sent one demo to anyone at all in the games industry in the entire 6 months the company existed.

Trying to find updates and information on this very promising looking title (Asylum) was an exercise in utter frustration. I think that the companies who make the games and the professional gaming sites which report on the games owe it to us to keep us more informed about these kinds of things, but they've let us down. The former staff of DarkBlack is one lone example of those who care enough to let us know what's going on (and I for one really appreciate their contribution).

While I still think that most companies and gaming magainzes need to keep us better informed on the status of games that have been announced, most don't seem to feel compelled to do so.

I'm happy to see that at least one gaming publication, IGN.com, has started on the course of keeping gamers updated on games that have stalled. I hope this kind of reporting becomes a trend.

The bottom line for me is that it's a shame that such a wonderful looking title such as Asylum isn't going to be made.

Additional Information:

See the IGN articles about games once announced that are have been in limbo or cancelled

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