Noel Berry, one of the people who helped bring Matt Makes Games’ Celeste to life, has revealed the Metroidvania Skytorn has been canceled. This would have been a procedurally-generated game about an explorer named Névoa exploring floating islands and was supposed to appear on the PlayStation 4 and PC.
In a post on Medium going over the Skytorn cancelation, Berry offered an explanation as to why development ended. A large part is because the team couldn’t pin down what the game was and the direction that should be followed. This meant that if it was finished, things like the characters, music, and story could be kept, but the gameplay would have to be completely redesigned. A few parts of the game remained the same as development continued. Névoa would be a shovel-wielding heroine exploring a floating island with three dungeons. However, after Celeste was finished, the people working on Skytorn released it would need to be completely redone or scrapped.
Here is Berry’s statement:
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.
Here was a Skytorn 2016 preview video, which shows what this Metroidvania looked like at one point during its development.
Skytorn was first announced at the PlayStation Experience held in 2014.