Archive entry by Ste Pickford on Tue, 28 Jul 2009
Subject: Vampire Circus
This is the final page of the Vampire Circus concept art sketchbook. I've already posted some of the earlier pages from this sketchbook. Vampire Circus was the first game we designed when we formed Zed Two in 1996, and we started work on it hoping it would be our first release. The puzzle game Wetrix was a spin off from the technology research we were doing for VC, which ended up being our first finished game, and Vampire Circus was never actually finished, despite being signed up as part of a two project deal.
This drawing gives a hint of the reason why it never happened. If you've seen the earlier concept sketches you'll know that Vampire Circus was a zombie / vampire action game, which would have had hoards of vicious, infectious monsters attacking a small party of player characters, with a fairly gritty and bloody look to the game, while still being fun and light-hearted. It would have been novel at the time, but since then games like Dead Rising, and parts of the Resident Evil series have done very successfully the things we were attempting with this game design.
After we'd signed the deal with Ocean to actually develop the game (along with Wetrix, which was to be started first), they then came back and said, "we've bought the license to Universal Monsters - so we'd like you to make your Vampire Circus game into the Universal Monsters game please". This was a kid's cartoon show, based on old horror movie villians, and pretty much bore no resemblance to the gritty, vampire / infectious blood disease based story we were working on. The change was simply because our game had Vampire in the title, which made it the same as Universal Monsters from a marketing person's point of view. I got as far as drawing this one sample sketch, to attempt to incorporate some of our baddie designs into the Universal Monsters style, before we decided that this was bullshit, and we hadn't signed up to make a licensed cartoon game.
Ocean stopped paying at this point, as they were being taken over by Infogrames, so there were other things to worry about. Eventually the dust settled, the acquisition was finished, and we went for a meeting with the French to sort out where the £60k was they owed us for the first stages of development work on both projects (we hadn't been able to pay the wages or the rent during this period). They sat us down and pretty much insisted that we turn Vampire Circus into a 'Taz' game, "because we've just bought the Warner Brothers license", otherwise they wouldn't pay us the money they owed us. Universal Monsters suddenly didn't sound all that bad, but we had no choice. Bye bye Vampire Circus, hello to the most miserable game development experience of my life - Taz Express!