Sad indie news this week as the upcoming Metroidvania platformer Skytorn has been canceled, with no plans to keep it on ice and develop it later. The news came from Noel Berry, one of the devs who also worked on Celeste and helped bring that video game to fruition. The news came down from a post on Medium, where it was explained in detail why the game was put to rest. The chief reason being that the game seemed to lack an identity.
Having worked on the game for several years we constantly struggled with what the game was. To its core it was a procedurally generated adventure game without permadeath, but the procedural elements always clashed with the Metroidvania themes, and I didn't know how to design around that. The story & progression slowly became much more linear as a result of being unsure how to tackle an open & randomized world. Taking out the procedural parts felt like it defeated the purpose of what the game was, so as it shifted towards a more linear adventure, the procedural map stayed but simply got more and more constricted, until the proceduralness of it didn't really mean anything — it was just… there. And this is a LOT of overhead for basically no payoff. Why make a procedural game at all if you don't really get the benefits of it being procedural?
But we kept working on it, polishing it, adding art and content, to what was ultimately a broken core. I thought that we could keep working on it and be able to restructure the gameplay as we went, as we really figured it out. But at some point you have all these systems and then changing anything at the lower level becomes a lot of work.
If we were to finish Skytorn I believe it would require us to throw away a lot of the code & gameplay design. A lot of aspects could be kept — our story, the art, the sounds & music, the general theme — but the gameplay would need to go. And at this point, we've all learned a lot. As much as we all love Skytorn and how much it's meant to us over the last several years, we're excited for new things and new projects. I'm okay saying it was an amazing learning experience, and we'll take all these lessons onto our next project.