It's common for games to go through massive changes during development, but it's not common for us to see them. Until Dawn, one of the best horror games of the last decade, was first announced as first-person Move game for PlayStation 3, before it disappeared for several years. When it returned, it was re-tooled for PlayStation 4, swapped first-person for third-person, and with rare exceptions, ditched the idea of motion controls entirely. But what happened to that old version of the game.
Thanks to a leak, we have a 40-minute look at it.
PtoPOnline, a YouTube channel dedicated to finding gaming secrets and preserving history, published the video yesterday, showcasing "an early build of Until Dawn, with minor cuts to deal with some prototype bugs." (If you recently saw headlines about Oni 2, a cancelled sequel to Bungie's old action game, that footage was also found by PtoPOnline. They do good work.)
Though PtoPOnline calls it a prototype, this version of Until Dawn was really far along. But since I can't be sure what version PtoPOnline is playing here, it's hard to say much. But when I interviewed the developers last year for Kotaku, they said the game was "basically done." At the eleventh hour, Sony decided to put the game under the knife and retool the approach.
"The old version was a little bit more skewed toward gamers," said Until Dawn co-writer Graham Reznick. "It was also more of a satire. The second [version] with [protagonists] Mike and Jess going up to the cabin in the PS4 version—that whole sequence is pretty close to the original game, at least in terms of the dialogue. A lot of that was written for the PS3 version and carried over. Most of the original game was like that."
I'm into motion controls, but the version of Until Dawn we got last year felt like the right take. The second half of the game is messy, but that's pretty true of most horror stories? They tend to work better in setup than conclusion. I'm mostly bummed that we're unlikely to see a sequel. Though Until Dawn found an audience, it was a relatively small one. Outside of the mediocre VR spin-off Rush of Blood that ignored everything interesting about the main game, Sony hasn't said much about Until Dawn's future. For now, I'll have to be okay with these leaks.