With the completion of this thread, I now have those answers.
This research thread serves two purposes: (1) to look back at the frankly magnificent number of cancelled games in this franchise; and (2) to exhibit the findings of my investigation into Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun, the Climax Studios PS3/PS4 single-player title cancelled by Square Enix in late 2012.
There are ten cancelled games, four of which were Legacy of Kain precursor projects.
Legacy of Kain has a convoluted history since its conceptual origins nearly twenty years ago. Considering there have only been five released games – it’s surprising that such a startlingly wide range of industry players have been involved:
I’m going to post some information about each cancelled game, with an explanation of what happened and any relevant materials I may have come across. Some of these may be familiar, some of them may not be.
This will lead up to Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun, and how that doomed project relates to the upcoming Nosgoth/War for Nosgoth game.
Format: Panasonic 3DO
Developer: Silicon Knights
Cancelled by: Silicon Knights/Crystal Dynamics in 1994
The series started life as a 3DO game called “The Pillars of Nosgoth”, conceived by Denis Dyack and Ken McCulloch:
The “document full of sketches and concepts” as a whole has never been released – but a good portion of the artwork from it has leaked out in different places. These initial sketches are the foundations of Legacy of Kain – the imagery presented recurs in the two decades of released and cancelled games that followed.
The Original Concept
[The Pillars of Nosgoth’s] complex story was outlined in a document full of sketches and concepts. The details and twisted story of Kain were developed and finalized by Denis Dyack & Ken McCulloch. Ken went on to write the scripts for the screen play (cinematics), the in-game stuff and the weapons descriptions. We wanted to create a game where there was no ultimate weapon and armor. A game where you had to use your head as well as your reflexes.
The Vision of Kain
Kain was conceived to be a game which adults would want to play. The character Kain was modeled in part after Clint Eastwood's character in the movie "Unforgiven". In this movie, there were no "good" or "evil" characters, they were all "gray". The vision of Kain was to create a game where the player is put in the position where everyone believes you are evil, perhaps even yourself. We wanted to ask the questions of "What is evil? Perhaps it is merely a perspective". We wanted to create an "anti-hero". Other inspirations were the "Necroscope" series by Brain Lumly because of the great visceral nature, and "The Wheel of Time" series by Robert Jordan because of its rich world and finely woven story lines.
Crystal becomes the Publisher of Kain
Along with several other game Publishers, Crystal Dynamics was sent the "Pillars of Nosgoth" concept and several other proposals from Silicon Knights.
The following image has some of the earliest dialogue in the series – unfortunately it isn’t all eligible. If anyone is better at reading faded blurry writing, please tell me what he end of this says!
The rest of the concept images from The Pillars of Nosgoth (thumbnailed):
Did you really believe that you were the only vampire in Nosgoth? You are just a minor pawn whose powers pale in comparison to my mine.
Oh yes. I am also a vampire. Your greatest flaw my good Kain is that you have a soul. You have a conscience that hinders your will to survive. I do not have that [indecipherable].
Silicon Knights and Crystal Dynamics jointly agreed to cancel The Pillars of Nosgoth for the 3DO around 1994, and used the concepts to create a game for the Sony PlayStation. Silicon Knights FAQ on the development of the game describes the transition as going from building a house – to building a mansion. With the help of Crystal Dynamics and the power of Sony’s console – The Pillars of Nosgoth became larger in scope and vastly more ambitious. The result was Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain.
Format: Sega Saturn
Developer: Silicon Knights/Crystal Dynamics
Cancelled by: Activision in 1996 or 1997
The Sega Saturn version of Blood Omen was advertised alongside the PlayStation release. What happened to it is somewhat contradictory. Sega-Saturn.com, a Saturn news site dating back to the mid-nineties, has a staff member’s editorial still online after seventeen years, in which he explains his version of events:
Next Generation Magazine also published the following story – which backs up this take on events.
If you want an example of just how ignorant Sega can be when it comes to quality games, let me refresh everyone's memories with a game long lost due to ignorance. The game is Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, an RPG/action game where you play a vampire who must fulfill a Blood Legacy before get can finally get eternal rest (or, as he says, "respid", don't ask me what that means). On the Sony Playstation, it marked up some rave reviews and a good amount of purchasers, but, on the Saturn, it never came to pass.
Here's the awkward situation, though Legacy of Kain is a finished game. 100 percent complete. And, better yet, it is a much more polished game than the PS version. I played an eprom late last year (about 70-75% complete) at a local game store and I was shocked at how much better it was. The slowdown was gone, there was a bit more blood, and the voice samples loaded up quicker, resulting in a more whole experience than what PS had to offer (although the PS version still is worth noting).
Now, no one, not even Activision (the publishers of Kain on the PS) has stepped forth to pick up the game for distribution. Why? They're worried about poor Saturn sales. Let me put this to rest (er, or respid)...Sega RPG's have sold phenomenally over the past couple of years. When Dragon Force came out, it practically sold out at a lot of the stores I visited. All the buzz is about in Sega chat rooms these days is regarding Shining the Holy Ark and how cool Albert Odyssey will be. And, really, if there was no need for RPG's on Saturn, would this whole Sega/Working Designs feud be a really big deal?
The situation is this- quality games linger right under Sega's nose and they're too buried in their own reputation and future projects to take a chance on it. Acclaim doesn't have the brains, they'd prefer to take the easy way out with movie-based titles that are as well-programmed as a drawing program on the Apple IIe. And other developers, even WD or their new division, Spaz, don't even know what it's all about. This is a travesty...at a time when Sega needs all they can get, the ignorance of Kain is unheard of.
So I plead with Sega or WD or whoever...Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain is too good to pass up and leave in the development room, and, even if you have to sell it for $39.95, you won't be sorry. At least ask Crystal Dynamics for a demo disk and TRY IT.
Maybe I'm overranting on this, but, hey, with a game as cool as Kain just inches from our reach, I can get overcritical.
Silicon Knights denied entirely that this enhanced Saturn release was complete:
Legacy of Kain - one of America's few homegrown RPGs - will not be released on the Saturn. The highly regarded Crystal Dynamics game was quickly snapped up by Activision for PlayStation, but despite the Saturn version being 100% complete, no publisher was prepared to take a risk on what's perceived as a risky Saturn market.
"Quite frankly I don't know why a publisher has not been found", offered Steve Groll for Crystal Dynamics. "I think maybe they are afraid of the Saturn's smaller user base."
There are three screenshots and a single video of the Sega Saturn enhanced release of Blood Omen:
Is there a version of Legacy of Kain for the Sega Saturn?
No. Development of the Saturn version was started and terminated some time ago. The rumour (Jan 1997) that the Saturn version was complete but no one was willing to publish it was simply not true.
There is also a very brief video here
The screenshots show a number of features not present in the PlayStation or PC releases – a multi-coloured magic meter (which changes hue to red in the video), a drape over the skulls on the GUI, and two small circles next to the blood-vial which have an unknown purpose. The textures also seem to be sharper somewhat – at least in the biggest screenshot. Kain is using equipment and spells from the latter half of the game – and appears to be in late-game environments fighting late-game monsters.
These observations would back up the idea that the enhanced release of Blood Omen for the Sega Saturn, was near completion before being scrapped. It’s a sad outcome, as given the 2D strengths of the Sega Saturn, this could have been the definitive version of the game.
Cancelled by: 1997
The lead artist and writer of Blood Omen 2 was Steve Ross. He explains the substantial contribution he made to the troubled project:
In 1997, Steve Ross was working on an independent game project using the original Quake engine called Sirens. The images were discovered years later by an IGN user called Embla (and catalogued by Ben Lincoln here). Looking at the images and explanatory content Ben has provided, it becomes immediately apparent that the cancelled project was some precursor to Blood Omen 2.
Not my fondest memories. This project took three years while we built our engine from scratch. Trying to art direct this while also doing all the concept work and being a full time environment artist, designer, and UI artist nearly killed me.
The story concept of Sirens read as follows:
Years after Sirens was cancelled, the concepts of two ancient races, banishment into other realms, and a city of horror and decay – would become the foundations of Blood Omen 2’s story. Sirens’ villain race would be brought into the Legacy of Kain universe as the Hylden. One of Sirens’ Daemons (left) shares the atrophied features, gaunt face and exposed teeth of BO2’s Hylden (right):
The City has existed since the beginning of time. Once it was a place of transcendent beauty and purity governed by five beings known as the Aeris. Then, many centuries ago, a catastrophic plague ripped through The City. This scourge cleaved each Aeris into two separate entities: A Siren, a being of light and song, and a Daemon, a dark, vile creature.
The Daemons soon overwhelmed the Sirens beginning a long reign of brutality and horror. They stripped away the Sirens' souls turning them into pitiful empty creatures who wander aimlessly through The City. The Daemons imprisoned the Siren souls in Soul Worlds; strange domains existing beyond space and time.
With no one left to challenge their power the Daemons began to feed on The City's population. They did not feed on the flesh of their victims, but on their souls, their life force. Through centuries of dark rule The City was transformed from a place of peace and serenity into a cruel, hard, twisted place. A place of horror, death and decay.
The ancient metropolis seen in Sirens would become the Hylden City – the final area of Blood Omen 2. Take Sirens’ metropolis:
Contrast this with Blood Omen 2’s Hylden City – with matching murals:
The story of Sirens would go on to have a massive impact on the Legacy of Kain universe – defining the look, architecture and scientific leanings of one of Nosgoth’s ancient races.
To read more about Sirens – with more images and explorations of its links to Legacy of Kain – click here. There is no data to explain why this project was cancelled back in 1997, though interestingly Steve Ross appears to be trying to revisit it as a graphic novel.
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Cancelled by: Activision in 1997
Developer: Silicon Knights
Cancelled by: Activision in 1997
The development of Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain had been an ordeal. Tensions had been so high between Silicon Knights and Crystal Dynamics that the police had to be called in at least once. You can read more about this here . The hostility between the companies meant that working together again would be impossible – but Blood Omen had sold well and Activision demanded a sequel.
This legal document raises some interesting details.
The document explains that Activision asked Crystal Dynamics to begin work on a direct sequel to Blood Omen – Kain II (A). Crystal Dynamics established a scenario and drew up concepts – but these were apparently not up to the standards expected by Activison.
Activision then approached Silicon Knights to ask them to begin work on their own direct sequel to Blood Omen – Kain II (B). Silicon Knights established their own scenario and started their work on the game, but alleges in the document that Crystal Dynamics tried to disrupt progress.
In the end, both of these Legacy of Kain games didn’t progress very far. The only thing known about Crystal Dynamics’ Kain II is that it was not Soul Reaver. Regarding Silicon Knights’ Kain II, Denis Dyack hinted that it could have took the form of a prequel starring the character Vorador:
Due to the complex legal history of Blood Omen, the involved parties have declined to ever discuss Kain II. Suffice to say, no media has ever made it out of either studio.
Vorador was very much like a father figure for Kain. If we decide to do more in the Blood Omen series then it is a safe bet to say that he will be in it. Thus, we would definitely consider a prequel. Through email over the net it appears that Vorador is one of the most popular characters in Kain. Once Ken and myself thought of this character, we knew that there had to be a great deal of history behind this guy. We did not have a chance to talk about this history much in Blood Omen. It would definitely be fun to fully explore the character Vorador.
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Cancelled by: Eidos Interactive in 1998
In 1998, Amy Hennig worked with artist Arnold Ayala to create a new IP for Eidos and Crystal Dynamics: Shifter.
Dennis Dyack once described Shifter as:
And Amy Hennig offers the following descriptions:
Shifter – a game with an angelic theme where you shifted between 2 planes to complete the game.
“Shifter,” loosely inspired by Paradise Lost. The protagonist was essentially a fallen angel of death, a reaper of souls hunted by his former brethren, and now driven to expose and destroy the false god they all served."
Concept art for the game, showing the protagonist:
The hero was an undead creature, able to shift between the spectral and material realms, and glide on the tattered remains of his wing-like coattails. We conceived the spirit realm as a twisted, expressionistic version of the physical world. The hero was bent on revenge after being betrayed and cast down by his creator – like Raziel, he was a dark savior figure, chosen to restore balance to a blighted, dystopian world.
How far along Shifter was in its development before its cancellation is unclear. Dyack asserts that significant progress had been made:
Amy Hennig provides a different story – that Eidos ordered Shifter to be cancelled in its conceptual stages - and its concepts made into a Legacy of Kain game. This caused “consternation”.
Crystal Dynamics did not have confidence that this game would do well as an original title so midway through the development cycle they slapped Legacy of Kain title on it, gave Raziel the Soul Reaver and went on to call it Soul Reaver.
When we were asked to adapt this concept into a sequel to Blood Omen, our challenge was to take all these ideas and merge them creatively into the Legacy of Kain mythos.".
The remaining concept art from the cancelled Shifter IP:
As far as the creative conditions went – we were very invested in our original Shifter idea, so it naturally caused a bit of consternation when we were first asked to adapt the concept to be a Blood Omen sequel. But creative constraints can be inspiring and invigorating, and once we dug into the challenge, the concept evolved in all kinds of exciting ways.
A large number of Shifter's ideas were cut when the project was recreated as Soul Reaver – read about them here.