Following a rapid progression of events, HullBreach Studios and Cthulhi Games have retracted their claims to the Sadness brand — the details are available in this updated article.
In follow-up comments to our colleagues at Eurogamer, Cthulhi Games' Jeremy Kleve has stated that the development partnership is currently awaiting formal approval for use of the Sadness IP from the original owners, but confirmed that if permission is denied it won't stop the project progressing.
We very recently have contacted the old developers to obtain rights to the what little IP actually existed and their blessing. Should they work against us we are prepared to change the title of the game and drop any usage of their IP, this however will not slow us down in the least since most of their ideas were just ideas.
Sadness had us intrigued since it began years ago, and we decided recently that we didn't want to let it die off completely. We would have acted sooner if we were capable back then, but as you know the consoles weren't as open to indies as they are now.
Like any console generation, the Wii era had its share of development sagas — projects that were confirmed, teased, ignored and eventually faded to cancellation. Keen Nintendo fans of the early Wii era may, then, remember the trials and tribulations of Sadness. It was the work of Polish developer Nibris and excited gamers through its concept alone.
Pegged as an exclusive for Nintendo's console, it was to use the Wii Remote and Nunchuk in innovative ways to control the character's hands. It captured attention, also, for a promised black and white aesthetic and visuals — utilising the Gamebryo game development platform from Emergent Technologies — along with a horror approach to storytelling. Set before World War One, the limited pitch information stated that players would have to face their fears while avoiding the nightmares of the lead character, with eight endings promised. A black and white psychological horror game utilising the Wii controllers? It's little surprise that fans were keen.
As well as a few screens leaked — pictured below — there was also a live action concept trailer to set the scene.
When assessing the whole saga today, it was a messy affair. The title's development and publication passed through multiple hands, was teased on more than one occasion, while screens that did emerge did so through leaks and mis-communication. Much was written and debated over a game that, in reality, barely existed in a tangible form — we know it was real, was in development, but that it faded and died when the Nibris closed its doors, all rumours of a pick-up by another studio falling flat.
Now, however it is coming back. We can exclusively reveal that independent developers HullBreach Studios — working on HullBreach: Uncloaked for the Wii U eShop — and Cthulhi Games — developing Ex Oblivione for Wii U — are teaming up to collaborate on Sadness as a Wii U exclusive. The project will be discussed and details revealed as 2014 progresses, and it's targeting a 2016 release.
We caught up with HullBreach Studios' Randy Freer and Jeremy Kleve of Cthulhi Games with regards to this reveal and to get some early details.
Nintendo Life: First up, can you give us an initial confirmation and a brief history of your role with Sadness in its past form?
Randy Freer: We're here today to tell you that our two studios — HullBreach Studios and Cthulhi Games — are working together on bringing back the Sadness IP. Your readers are probably looking at their screens in disbelief. Quite understandable! I think we should let them blink a couple more times and let this sink in!
For anybody in your audience who isn't familiar with us or who I am, surprise! I'm the IGN user Twiilight_Prince, who years ago (before starting HullBreach Studios with my brothers Daniel and Robert Gump) released the only three 100% real screenshots of Sadness thanks to Piotr Bielatowicz. I fought trolls for years, proving the game existed across the internet, while nIBRIS regrettably struggled in development with their Gamebryo programmers at Frontline and their graphics partner Digital Amigos, up until Sadness officially went vapor in 2010. Jeremy Kleve and myself have basically been unofficially involved in Sadness across the last 6 years in the background. I have to admit all those years of excitement is probably the foremost reason for me getting more involved in the video game industry today, without a doubt!
So, what are the target platforms?
Randy Freer: This is going to be a Nintendo Wii U exclusive, of course!
Jeremy Kleve: nIBRIS targeted Nintendo exclusively for all of their projects (Raid Over The River, Children of the Night and Sadness) and it just wouldn't do them justice if we made a drastic shift onto another platform holder.
Will it be utilizing the same core plot as the original?
Randy Freer: We really liked the Slavic Mythological concept represented in the original concept. The properties of fear that it would have imposed on players, using psychological methods rather than through mere violent mechanics. It will surely be a challenge to live up these expectations. We hope to include the iconic Sadness characters Maria Lengyel and her troubled son Alex into this new title as the child begins to suffer narcolepsy, nyctophobia and paranoid schizophrenia.
Jeremy Kleve: Without a doubt, the original concept is a huge inspiration to us. We will be sticking to the original idea pretty closely, but don't be surprised if there are some changes here and there in terms of characters, mechanics, and setting. Visually, the new Sadness will retain the Gothic noir scheme with a few exceptions.
Will any of the original source code be included, or is it ground-up development?
Randy Freer: The original Sadness was running on Gamebryo from Gamebase USA, which actually was one of the first companies to pledge support for Wii U with their own engine this gen. However, this new title will most likely make use of the Unity engine.
Jeremy Kleve: Since this is our own realization of the game, it would not feel right if we did not start from scratch. Besides, we are introducing new elements that were never intended in the original brief, including RPG and puzzle-based mechanics.
Randy Freer: Not to mention the shift to 2D.
Jeremy Kleve: Yup, that's the plan thus far.
So this a formal collaboration between Cthulhi and HullBreach?
Randy Freer: Most definitely! We will be closely working together from our respective studios side by side as equal partners on Sadness.
We are confirming both of your studios are actively working to bring this back? Forgive the scepticism, but this is a project that's had many false dawns.
Jeremy Kleve: Yes, without a doubt.
Randy Freer: There are a few gameplay concepts we are working hard to hammer out quickly on the new project, once we have those nailed down, we can then accurately complete our concept submission forms Nintendo requires before development, and at that point we will acquire a product code (WUP) officially verifying the game for development. This won't become the fiasco everybody remembers from years before!
Jeremy Kleve: Looking ahead, as we move forward, one thing is for sure: you can expect Sadness-related revelations at Indie Sanctum 2014 this October!
Randy Freer: Indeed! We will probably update the public on our adventure to bring the IP back to life on Nintendo Wii U via our Twitter now that the cat's out of the bag! So please feel free to scream your Sadness support there as the world watches!
Jeremy Kleve: Don't forget to stay tuned here at Nintendo Life for future follow ups too!
Randy Freer: Thank you for your support!
We'd like to thank Randy Freer and Jeremy Kleve for their time. Let us know what memories you have of the original Sadness saga on Wii, and whether you're excited by the prospect of its revival for Wii U. Be sure to check out @indiesanctum on Twitter as the year progresses for more updates, while we'll also keep you posted here on Nintendo Life.