Whore of the Orient cancelled: Producer details game’s demise

Chris Stead 24 June 2016

Whore_of_the_Orient_screenshot

After the incredible success of Team Bondi’s L.A. Noire, the gaming world waited eagerly for its follow-up, Whore of the Orient, but sadly it will never come.

In this week’s Gamehugs podcast – which is put together by PAX Australia content manager Guy Blomberg – the industry veteran spoke to prolific local producer Derek Proud. Proud has worked for a number of big name publishers since hitting the scene in 1991, including Sega, Electronic Arts and THQ, but was also part of Australian film company Kennedy Miller Mitchell (KMM) when it began branching into gaming in 2010.

KMM first made Happy Feet 2 (DS, 3DS, iOS), but then looked to expand when it acquired L.A. Noire developer Team Bondi and set it on a course to creating a follow-up, dubbed Whore of the Orient (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC), with Proud as producer.

During the lengthy conversation around Proud’s career he opened up about that period, about the exciting potential for Whore of the Orient, what the game was going to be like and ultimately its demise. While not using the word “cancel” explicitly, Proud makes it clear that Team Bondi fought to keep the project alive to the bitter end and failed. He admitted that the team was ultimately disbanded and that the game will not come out.

Even more frustrating, it sounds like Team Bondi was acquired from the outset with a mindset that it could be killed off at any time without any major financial repercussions. KMM did not appear to be overly convinced owning a triple-A studio was even worth its time.

It’s sad, sad news, and finally puts a full stop at the end of a tumultuous period for Team Bondi. The studio was heavily criticised for its working conditions during the completion of the Rockstar published L.A. Noire, and – it would seem – was given false-hope of a rebirth by KMM. In the end, many Australians lost their jobs.

While it’s not impossible that the game will get a Duke Nukem Forever like revival years from now, it’s clear the project is currently dead – confirming what many fans had suspected. The setting certainly sounds fascinating and for now, at least, we can only dream of how this talented team could have brought Shanghai to life with its incredible technology and storytelling techniques. Will someone pick up the IP and the technology?

Here is the relevant transcript from the interview.

Blomberg: So KMM kind of came in and grabbed everyone out of Team Bondi and took ownership of the next project, which was Whore of the Orient; were you there when that all happened?

Proud: I was there when it all happened. The guys at Team Bondi had wrapped-up L.A. Noire and they were looking like they were going to have to disband.

Blomberg: Well there were a lot of people from Rockstar that had come down to help them finish L.A. Noire…

Proud: I had heard stories that Rockstar Edinburgh came and helped them out with a lot of things. And in order to get L.A. Noire over-the-line, they went through an enormous crunch period and there were all kinds of horrible times. So my boss [at KMM] came to me and said, “look, there is this triple-A development studio in Australia that looks like it is just going to go the wind, can we pick them up? What should we do?” And I was like, “well, yeah.”

This is the fascinating thing about someone like Doug Mitchell – who is the “Mitchell” in KMM. He is the kind of guy who has the power, the money and the inclination to go, “let’s try this. Let’s set up a triple-A studio and if it doesn’t work, let’s not worry about it.” So I was like, “really, can we do this?” And he said, “oh yeah, Warner Bros will pay for it.” Seriously!

So it came to pass that KMM hired most of the people from Team Bondi, and that was a difficult integration, which I managed to survive. It took a bit of time, but I became part of that team. And this was a team forged in blood and fire. They are incredibly talented developers, and while we lost a couple of them in that transition, I have amazing amounts of respect for everybody that put out L.A. Noire.

Blomberg: So what happened to Whore of the Orient?

Proud: [Long Pause] I don’t want to speak out of school…

Blomberg: But this is one of the big mysteries in the Australian video gaming industry. L.A. Noire was such a great game and that tech – oh wow, that tech…

Proud: Well Whore of the Orient was the spiritual successor to L.A. Noire. We were going to use that tech and we were going to create a game set in the 1930s, maybe 1940s, of Shanghai. Shanghai was the only place in the world you could go to in the 1930s and 1940s if you didn’t have a passport. So everybody who was running from something went to Shanghai. The whole city was run by a gangster called Big-Eared Du and it’s just the most fascinating time, place and setting.

Blomberg: Which doesn’t feel like it has been explored before: not just in games, but even in movies…

Proud: Yeah, it’s amazing. And we were creating a game with all of that rich texture to it. And we fought for it. Brendan [McNamara – studio head], Alex Carlyle [design lead], Vicky Lord [general manager] and Naresh Hirani [project producer] all fought to keep that project alive. And I fought, too, it was something we were all passionate about. But in the end, that was the way it went.

Blomberg: So we will never see that game?

Proud: I don’t think so. That was one of the games and one of the studios I kind of left right at the bitter end. When we got wrapped-up.

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One Response to Whore of the Orient cancelled: Producer details game’s demise

  1. Default Gravatar
    Dennis | June 26, 2016

    What about crowd funding this project, i would happily back this project?

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