Anachronox Retrospective Interview

Tom A. Hall, Jake Hughes, and Lee Perry spoke to gamesTM about their time at Ion Storm Dallas and the project that came out of it – Anachronox. The game that can best be described as a Western JRPG was released in 2001 and since then garnered the status of a cult classic. The article touches on the topics of how the game came to be, the meaning of its name, some of the parts that didn't make it into the final cut, and the possibility of a crowdfunded sequel. A few sample paragraphs:

Much like Diakatana, Anachronox’s development cycle was incredibly long, as when it hit the shelves in June 2001 (one month after Ion Storm Dallas shut down) it had been in development for four and a half years. The team as a whole feels indebted to Eidos for sticking alongside them for so long, but even after those four and a half years of development, Anachronox had to be essentially cut in half. There came a point during development where a realisation came over the team that Tom’s original story plan was far too vast for one game. Prior to development, Tom literally created a universe map to the world of Anachronox. As he describes, his original plan for Anachronox had “Dozens of star systems, planets, 400 creatures, and such. And the story I laid out was beyond epic. So at a certain point, Jake and Rich came to me and said this was too big to tell, and that made the stopping point heart-breakingly obvious (sorry folks)! But the concept of Anachronox was made (a riff of Frederik Pohl’s Gateway) so it could possibly grow into an MMO, which was a fairly new thing, Ultima Online having come out around the start of our development efforts. I wanted a universe that all sorts of games could live in.”

Furthermore, according to Lee, “We created a lot (and you don’t understand how much of an understatement that is!) of unused content”. This included the planet of Matrix 0, the homeworld of PAL-18, Boots’ plucky robo-sidekick. As Tom planned, on this mostly created but unused world, “the crew doesn’t have any of the planet’s currency, so they are essentially poor, and they get stuck in rectangular solids with their picture pasted on them! They gradually earn the Matrix 0 currency, getting more polygons, some animations, attachment points, specular maps, and get on to meeting more important, more well-rendered people they need help from!”. This, on top of a pirate-themed world called Port Presence that was completely in black and white, was one of the many ideas and concepts that never made the final cut. Instead the game ends on what was originally planned to be the halfway point, which was a superb story twist that would shame M Night Shyamalan.

Ultimately with the closure of Ion Storm Dallas a continuation of Anachronox never materialised. However, with the rise of websites like Kickstarter, there’s an ever growing movement of fans that want to see what is next in store for Boots and his gang. On whether a sequel could happen, Tom remarks, “Well, really, it cost millions and just had five ads in magazines at the time. So many people have come up to me and said, “Where was this? I didn’t know about it, and it’s so awesome!” But since it is a cult classic, it might be difficult to fund a proper sequel. Although, yes, if that were possible, I’d love to do it of course! I would definitely want to be in control of the sequel. And yes, I have mapped out exactly what happens next and how this arc of the story will end. But there are so many to tell in this universe.”