Journey to the Center of Arcanum Pitch Document Unearthed

In an interesting turn of events, unofficial patch author "Drog Black Tooth" posted on the RPG Codex what looks like a pitch document for an Arcanum sequel. While many fans of the title already knew that the sequel was supposed to be a first-person RPG titled Journey to the Center of Arcanum and based on Valve's Source Engine, this document is notable for offering an idea of the possible direction it could have taken.

The Journey to the Center of Arcanum presented in the document is a title heavily inspired by Half-Life 2, Deus Ex and Ultima Underworld, with a storyline based around the search of an extraordinary metal with the power to fuse magic and technology. Here's a snippet directly from the document, describing the core gameplay:

We hope to achieve a similar gaming environment as was presented in Half-Life or Deus Ex. The complexity of the levels in Half-lifeLife, as well as the obvious care that was put into their design, created a game that was both fun and challenging at all levels. The use of puzzles and the intelligent placement of enemies helped players learn the use of the items presented to them, as well increasing their skill in items they previously had. The puzzles in JTCA would make the best use of these items, offering multiple solutions for every puzzle.

Imagine taking the weapons in Arcanum, such as the Tesla Rod or the Elephant Gun, and wielding them in a 3-D environment. The technological gadgets in Arcanum will almost drop into a game like this; lay down the Bear Trap and watch your enemies being trapped, struggling to get away while you pull out your Compound Bow and pick them off from a distance. Items like the Flow-Spectrometer could alter the game-view (think infrared-vision), where Mages and magickal items glow different colors and intensities, depending on their power. Mages will have an enormous number of spells at their disposal, and the size and power of those spells is basically limitless once we've moved into 3-D. A summoned Water Elemental could look just like flowing water, leaving behind puddles when it walks, exploding when hit with electricity or dissolving quietly when it dies otherwise. Fireballs, spewing flaming embers (particles), could track follow enemies around corners. And all of this in the world of Arcanum, with its industrial-age cities and magickal kingdoms and deep, dwarven mines and dungeons. The possibilities are endless.

As thieving in Arcanum very important, we hope to incorporate the best game- play mechanics of games like Thief and Thief 2. By allowing the player to move in the shadows, and to move quietly among enemies, we hope to offer a different kind of playing style than the mage, warrior or technologist. Strategy and success will be rewarded with audio and visual cues. Story elements will also support this playing style, as the Thieves Underground did in Arcanum.


Lastly, we hope to accomplish in JTCA what these others seem to lack; an interesting and intuitive dialogue system. Troika knows how to craft an RPG, and we believe that the use of dialog and quests is very important to developing an interesting story. We hope to take the best parts of what we learned from the dialogue system in Arcanum and incorporate an economical and intuitive framework that propels the story, while not getting in its way. This will make possible the diplomat characters that are so popular in the genre. It also offers a different route for the player who doesn't necessarily want to fall back on the combat solution. In the Troika tradition, we want to offer three distinct paths for the player; combat, thieving and diplomacy. We feel we can do this without compromising the overall integrity of the title. Accomplishing this will put us above the existing titles on the market, who have sacrificed dialogue complexity for other game mechanics. For a successful RPG you need both.

The folks at RPG Codex also have managed to reach to Troika's godfather Tim Cain, who confirmed that the document was legitimate but that it was only meant for internal use at Troika:

Yes, Troika was working on a "Journey To The Center Of Arcanum" treatment, and yes, it was going to use the Source engine.

[...] I have three or four treatments for JttCoA, and they are all different. One I remember writing, and it is full of game system ideas, for skills and attribute changes. Another is written from the basis of using the Tribes engine instead of Source. Neither of those went to publishers either. We just wrote them as a "what if?" scenario to toss around during design meetings. Drog's document looks like one of those.

[...] So to clear things up...yes, this is a Troika doc on one possible treatment of JttCoA. I didn't write it, but I think I know who did. I never liked the "new metal which combines magick and tech" idea, because I thought it undermined the main motif of Arcanum, but the writer liked the idea, so he wrote it up for a design meeting. The doc was never intended to be sent to a publisher, just for us to read for a meeting, but I sent it to show the fan some of the ideas we were considering.

Unfortunately, for now it looks like we won't get much more than leaked design documents. A sequel to Arcanum remains a pipe dream, as the IP is firmly in the hands of Activision, a publisher that hasn't shown any interest in the possibility of resurrecting the property. That said, hopefully we'll see some of these ideas resurface in upcoming titles, like OtherSide Entertainment's Underworld Ascendant.