Canceled Blizzard survival game was in development for 6 years, and its engine spelled its doom

 Activision Blizzard lawsuit.
Activision Blizzard lawsuit.

We're learning more information about Blizzard's canceled survival game and the circumstances that led to its cancelation.

On Thursday, we learned Blizzard canceled an ambitious survival game set "in a whole new universe" and moved some of its developers to other projects. At the same time, we were learning that Microsoft is laying off 1,900 employees across its gaming division and that Blizzard president Mike Ybarra is stepping down from his position.

Now, a new report from Bloomberg sheds light on the situation around the unannounced survival game. Namely, the project was titled Odyssey, and it had been in development for six years before Microsoft decided to pull the plug as part of the broader reorganization of the company.

Blizzard veteran and former lead quest designer on World of Warcraft, Craig Amai, originally pitched Odyssey back in 2017, and until its cancelation, served as game director. The idea was for a survival game like a more polished Minecraft or Rust.

In the years since, Blizzard gradually expanded Odyssey's development team, but eventually the project suffered technical challenges due to the engine that was being used in development. Bloomberg reports that Odyssey was originally being developed using Epic's Unreal Engine, but Blizzard moved it over to its own internal engine Synapse, which had been used for mobile games, to support its plans for massive maps with the capacity to support 100 players at a time. That's when problems started arising, reportedly due to the engine being "slow to coalesce."

Some Odyssey developers were hopeful that, after Microsoft acquired Activision Blizzard, they would be able to go back to Unreal Engine to finish the project, and Blizzard at one point hoped to ramp up its hiring efforts in an effort to release the game by 2026, but ultimately the project was canceled when the company deemed Synapse not production-ready.

"As difficult as making these decisions are, experimentation and risk taking are part of Blizzard's history and the creative process," said Blizzard spokesman Andrew Reynolds. "Ideas make their way into other games or in some cases become games of their own. Starting something completely new is among the hardest things to do in gaming, and we're immensely grateful to all of the talented people who supported the project."

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