Merriam-Webster defines "vaporware" as "a computer-related product that has been widely advertised but has not and may never become available." Here are five vaporware games that have been on my mind more than any others in 2012. Please, developers, don't give up on them!
1. Half-Life 3
Current status: unannounced
Whether it’s Half-Life 3 or Half-Life 2: Episode 3, we’ve been waiting almost five years to find out what happens next. Episode 2 ended on a cliffhanger, and five years is a cruel-and-unusual length of time to make players wait. Rumors get stirred up like dust every now and then, and the most recent rumors suggest that Half-Life 3 is in production as we speak, and that it will be a dramatic departure, thanks to a new, open-world approach. Earlier this year, we learned about Valve‘s extremely unorthodox methods of working, which both contribute to its successful titles and detract from its reliability. Valve doesn’t believe in release dates, only publishing a new game “when it’s ready.” Will Half-Life 3 ever be ready? Your guess is as good as mine.
2. Star Wars: Battlefront 3
Developer: LucasArts/Free Radical
Current status: cancelled
By now, I think everyone’s already familiar with the story of Free Radical developing this game and getting it close to completion. But due to a very convoluted series of events, including financial betrayals, studio closings, and buyouts, LucasArts pulled the plug on it at the eleventh hour. This is a sin that the faithful have never forgiven LucasArts for. I’ve been harping on this for years: Battlefront and Battlefront II were mega-bestsellers. They were fun, well made, and offered endless replay value. Where is the downside in producing another one? Especially when it could benefit from modern technology that wasn’t available seven years ago. Heck, make it an MMO! Make it anything. Don’t get me wrong… Star Wars 1313 looks astonishing. But now that Free Radical has been bought and absorbed into Crytek, that leaves the future of the Battlefront franchise back in the hands of LucasArts. Come on, guys. Make it happen.
3. The Last Guardian
Developer: Team Ico
Current status: still in development (we think)
Meant to be the third game from Japanese developer Team Ico, following ICO and Shadow of the Colossus, The Last Guardian was announced in 2009 for an expected release in 2011. That deadline came and went, and then gamers feared the worst when Ico’s lead visionary, Fumito Ueda, announced his departure from Team Ico and Sony Entertainment at the end of 2011. Ueda reassured fans that he would finish the game, per his contract with Sony, but release dates for Q4 2012 are pretty much set in stone at this point, and there’s still no word of when we can expect The Last Guardian to finally arrive. The game is about the relationship between a boy and an enormous, griffin-like animal named Trico. The boy is trying to escape from the ruins of a vast castle, but soldiers and guards stand in his way. He and Trico form a symbiotic relationship, where they protect and help one another, and the boy is able to acquire Trico’s help in his escape. Like Ueda’s prior games, it’s expected to be an exquisite, emotional story. If we ever get to play it.
4. Prey 2
Developer: Human Head Studios
Current status: unknown
In 2006, Human Head Studios revived an old 3D Realms idea for a game called Prey, about a Native American man who’s transported to an alien ship in orbit over Earth and has to fight his way to freedom. It was a decent game, but nothing special. So gamers were scratching their heads when Human Head announced development of a sequel — a sequel that no one was demanding. That is, until we saw what the developer had in mind. Prey 2 was going to ditch the old school run-and-gun format of the original game in favor of an action/adventure about a human detective/assassin on a mysterious, heavily populated alien world. The world in question was a Blade Runner-esque planet, with dozens of alien races in residence, and it was to be a completely open environment. The main character would progress through the game by taking on assassination jobs, while unraveling an underlying mystery of how he got to this world in the first place. The whole thing was unexpected, ambitious, and it looked incredible. But earlier this year, vague reports surfaced of a conflict between Human Head and its publisher, Bethesda. The reports claimed that Human Head had stopped working on Prey 2 in November of 2011, with no explanation. Bethesda hasn’t officially canceled the game, and neither party is willing to talk about it, but Human Head had dropped some hints of late that they’ve moved on to other things (namely, a revival of their venerable Rune franchise.) Prey did nothing for me, but I want my Prey 2. It’s just too good an idea to fail.
Current status: uncertain
When Guillermo del Toro famously left behind his plans to direct The Hobbit movies, he experienced a creative explosion, lining up movies, TV shows, and even a series of novels. Another idea he had was InSane, a survival horror game to be developed by Volition Inc. and published by THQ. Almost nothing is known about the game, except that it was intended to be the first of a trilogy, comic book artist Guy Davis was designing the game, and it would be a highly cinematic, triple-A experience for an intended 2013 release. Then, just last month, THQ surprised everyone by unceremoniously announcing that they were cancelling the game. No one knows why or what happened, but the intellectual property rights reverted back to del Toro. He could be pursuing it with a different developer now, or he may have put it on the backburner. He doesn’t seem the type to waste a good idea, so I’d bet we’ll see InSane again someday, in some form. Whether or not it will be a video game or something else is anybody’s guess, but it’s del Toro, so wherever it’s reincarnated, I’m there.