You may have seen our previous installment of From The Vault featuring the art of the ditched Irrational Games project The Lost, but the story doesn’t end there. The Lost was in development for a while, but things weren’t quite panning out for the game. We sat down with Irrational Games Design Director Bill Gardner to guide us through this experience and get a better idea of what happened to The Lost.
Just after the launch of System Shock 2, Irrational Games had the opportunity to make its first console game, and the team had something just in mind. The Lost was Irrational’s new adventure being built for the PlayStation 2, and eventually the XBox, incorporating influences from across the spectrum. “The Lost was a bit of everything,” Gardner recalls about the adventure/horror project. “It was Silent Hill meets Zelda meets Devil May Cry in the sense that it was a series of levels in linear fashion, but within the levels, there was freedom.”
In the summer of 2003, the small team finished production on The Lost, but it was never published in North America. In the end, Irrational decided the game wasn’t up to their quality standards.
In 2005, things changed for The Lost when Irrational’s Creative Director Ken Levine met the CEO of a development studio in India called FXLabs. This fellow was hoping to bring more of the gaming industry to the Indian market. The pitch was to take the final finished version of The Lost, port it to PC only, and repurpose the game for the Indian market. The idea was approved, and localization of this port was under way.
“They spent about a year or so after we gave them all game assets and they periodically checked in,” says Gardner. “Finally, someone sent around a link to this YouTube video of the trailer for the game, and it had a bunch of Bollywood actors in it. There was this really well known Bollywood actress in the lead role, and just to see their spin on the game was a bit of cross-culture shock.”
*Disclaimer: We don’t speak the language, so we have no idea of what’s being said in this video. We apologize in advance if this is offensive to anyone in any way.
A few months later, The Lost was released and a few team members managed to get copies for themselves. Gardner recalls how surreal it was to the western eye, as the game was more or less the same when it came to the design. Beat for beat, the game was the same – the flow, the level structure, the weapons remained unchanged, but it was repurposed and redubbed for a different market. “You’re playing this game, this otherworldly version of a game you spent a couple of years working on, and it’s just weird,” comments Gardner. “You can’t wrap your head around how bizarre this is.”
With all the considerations and frustrations involved, this hasn’t turned the team off in the slightest. In fact, Gardner has found the upside to it all. “We wouldn’t have been able to make BioShock if it weren’t for The Lost. In a lot of ways, it was what BioShock wound up becoming. We had said with The Lost, we wanted to take a lot of what made System Shock 2 successful,” says the design director. “We learned so much from it, and learning to interface on a console game, while accounting for the tech aspects and considerations on all sides was, frankly, helpful.”