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Allison Road Hits Dead End

On June 4th, after over three months of silence from the developers, Lilith Ltd. announced they were cancelling the much-hyped Allison Road game.  In a short & sweet message on their official Twitter page, the developers announced:

Their further statement, released earlier today, was equally vague about this sudden & unexpected news.  The Twitter page displayed a link to the game’s community page on Facebook, which reads:

Hi all,
After a long consideration between Team17 and ourselves, we have reached a mutual agreement to end our collaboration on publishing Allison Road under Team17’s Games label.
Sometime things pan out differently than expected as game development and publishing have so many layers of complexity… We’d like to especially thank everyone for their support through-out, it has and will always be appreciated!

For those unfamiliar with this title, Allison Road was an indie project that sprung up after Konami cancelled the upcoming Silent Hills game, which was to be a continuation of the Silent Hill franchise.  The studio released a demo called P.T., that quickly blew up on the internet.  Not only was it graphically impressive & terrifying, but the project had Hideo Kojima of Metal Gear fame, director Guillermo del Toro, & staring Norman Reedus as the unnamed protagonist.  Having played through P.T. (Playable Teaser) myself, I can attest that it looked to be the shot of terror the Silent Hill franchise was in desperate need of.  Sadly, this was right around the time Konami lost their collective minds, cancelled the project, thereby ticking off both their employees & fans.

Naturally, with gamers livid over this decision, numerous P.T. clones emerged shortly after.  Most were just variations of the demo, which is ostensibly a creepy looping hallway simulator.  But the only grabber-on that went a step further & aimed at creating a full gaming experience was Allison Road, in development by newly formed Lilith Ltd. in the UK.

Support abounded for the studio, with them quickly raising money on Kickstarter.  But before they could reach their deadline, Lilith announced they decided to sign on with Team17.  Team17 are the developers behind the Worms series, but also a company that has shown they recognize good indie projects when they seen them, as they’re also set to publish the Kickstarter indie Yooka-Laylee.  At the time, this seemed like a good thing, as by all accounts this could only help Lilith.  Now they could focus on making the game they (& their supporters) wanted while having a backer who would allow them creative freedom.

That is why this cancellation business had come out of left-field.  Sadly, in this day & age, it’s not uncommon for Kickstarter games to be cancelled.  If anything, it’s more surprising when they actually come out.  But usually the signs start to become obvious.  In the case of Allison Road, as far as I heard (or rather, didn’t hear) there were no problems.  The last update on Twitter was back in February asking for character artists, which says to me they were hard at work.  But maybe we should’ve taken the silence as a red flag.

This announcement has left many people asking if Allison Road is completely dead.  Lilith’s wording is a bit ambiguous, & neither has Team17 made any statements.  According to the Facebook statement, the decision to cut ties was mutual, so it can be theorized there were difficulties on both sides.  But it’s unclear whether Lilith will attempt to restart the project on their own, as it sounds like they were unhappy with the publisher side of their arrangement.  But that might be a problem.  Depending on what type of agreement they had, Team17 might now own the rights to Allison Road.  I won’t claim to be an expert on the matter of game publishing & copyrights, but typically when a publisher brings a smaller studio onboard, they essentially buy the rights to their IP.  I’ve seen countless times when a publisher buys up a smaller studio (& their IP by extension) then shuts down the studio but continues to publish games under their copyright.  In short, it’s entirely possible Lilith Ltd. doesn’t even own the rights to “Allison Road” anymore.

And frankly, even if Lilith does still own the rights, I’d be leery about trying again on Kickstarter.  This news has struck a massive blow toward their credibility as a developer, so it’s very unlikely they’d receive the same level of support as before.  I’ve heard of plenty of games that tried a second campaign, but none that have succeeded.  Gamers are already jaded against crowdfunding as it is, & incidents like this don’t help.  I think it’ll be hard for Lilith moving forward, as this black mark will always be upon their name.

I also find it strange, as many others pointed out in their comments, that it took them eleven days from the time of the cancellation announcement to make an official statement.  Especially one as vague as what was offered.  I get the sense that both sides were arguing over how to make the announcement, how to divvy up blame.  That it fell to Lilith to break the news — notice how despite the Twitter post claiming the statement is from both parties the actual statement was made by Lilith (“Team17 and ourselves”) — makes me think their might be bad blood between the studios.

Actually, looking back, I noticed that Team17’s Twitter feed very rarely showed anything about the game.  They advertise the crap out of all their other upcoming titles, especially Yooka-Laylee.  So the fact that there’s nothing about Allison Road (no videos, images, etc.), which was just as hyped, suggests to me that perhaps Lilith wasn’t making as much progress as Team17 wanted.  Perhaps Lilith wanted to maintain control over their product & felt Team17 was being pushy.  Maybe their ambition was simply too great.

This is all just speculation, of course.

Personally, I think we’ve seen the end of Allison Road as we knew it.  If Lilith still owns the rights, I don’t think it’ll be successfully funded a second time.  If Team17 owns the rights, they might bring another team in to do it, but it won’t be the same game Lilith originally intended.  Perhaps it will be another P.T., & maybe inspire other developers to give us what we lost.

– GamerDame


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UPDATE: Allison Road Campaign Cancelled… & Successful?

Two days ago Lilith, Ltd. cancelled their Kicstarter drive for the touted Silent Hills successor, Allison Road.  But that’s not a bad thing.  Quite the opposite, actually, because the developers announced they have partnered with UK publisher Team17 Digital Limited.  Team17 is not only the studio behind the Worms franchise, but they also run an independent label, providing funding for promising indie projects while still letting the development teams work as they see fit.  Titles under their independent label include The Escapists, & most recently they picked up Yooka-Laylee, another previous Kickstarter-funded game that received attention for being a spiritual successor to the Banjo-Kazooie franchise.

In their statement on their Kickstarter page, Lilith, Ltd. reported:

We have decided to withdraw the Kickstarter campaign to allow us to commit 100% to an opportunity that will give us the chance as a team to create the best game possible.  As a newly founded studio, we’ve been completely overwhelmed by your encouragement and huge interest in Allison Road and we’d love to thank each and every one of you for all of the amazing support you have given us during our Kickstarter campaign and beyond.  Really incredibly appreciated… Working with Team17 will give us the chance to make our game unhindered creatively, but at the same time will give us the resources, support and experience that only a 25 year old studio can give.

Backers of the campaign may feel a bit miffed at the sudden change, but I don’t think that’s the right attitude to have.  First of all, with the Kickstarter campaign cancelled, I don’t think anyone is out any money.  Correct me if I’m wrong on this one, but backers are only charged for their pledges after a project has been successfully funded.  If the campaign falls short or is cancelled, you don’t pay.  That happened with me when I backed Shadows of the Eternals, only for it fall flat.  Secondly, with only a week left in their drive, the project was still 100,000 pounds short, meaning the project probably would’ve failed anyway.  And most importantly, I’d like to think that all the support & interest the game received helped the studio find official backing.  No one has said if Team17 approached Lilith or if it was the other way around, but either way, between the talents of the developers & the attention of the community, it showed this project has the potential to be great.  So in the end, the backers did help the game go forward, even if not monetarily.

The devs have also stated they still want to keep the people who originally backed the game involved, though at this point they’re probably still kicking around ideas.  I hope they can come up with some ideas as equally cool as what the backers originally wanted as a reward.  Some of the rewards for the larger pledges allowed backers to have some involvement in the game’s development (like designing a scare or recording a message).  Only time will tell.

Hopefully, though, this change will help Lilith make Allison Road the game everyone hopes it will be.


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