StarCraft: Ghost was a promising spin-off from the early 2000s that for reasons unknown never saw the light of day. Its demise is oft-lamented, as early builds of the game looked tantalising, but exactly why Blizzard shelved it has never been clear.
Now, thanks to an in-depth Polygon feature where that site spoke to nine of the game’s developers, it appears that scope creep, shifting goalposts, and World of Warcraft were largely to blame for the game’s eventual cancellation.
According to the feature, development of StarCraft: Ghost began at Vampire: The Masquerade studio Nihilistic Software in 2000. At that point, the game was a third-person stealth-focussed title along the lines of Splinter Cell, wherein players would control main character Nova in battles against enemies in all three of the StarCraft factions.
The development was open-ended, allowing for lengthy debates and significant iteration to occur, but it seems that was part of the problem – no-one was clear on what the game was.
Ghost also suffered from a number of producer changes, and that saw it swing from a stealth title to action and back again.
"It was stealthy, then it felt like it had too much action,” said former Blizzard producer Chris Millar. “Then they needed more stealth. And then what about multiplayer? It became so rough. The Nihilistic team was killing themselves working."
The game’s story was rewritten a number of times, its art style changed, and four years into development, the project was shelved and Nihilistic moved on.
Soon after, Metal Arms: Glitch in the System studio Swingin' Ape Studios was hired to finish the game, much to the confusion of those at Nihilistic.
Blizzard showed a cinematic for Ghost at BlizzCon 2005, and at that point it was an action-oriented game with a heavy emphasis on multiplayer.
However, it seems the game was finally killed off soon after by World of Warcraft, the support of which required all of Blizzard’s manpower. Ghost was also looking outdated by this point.
The whole feature is well worth a read, so head to Polygon to check it out.