Darwinia and Defcon developer Introversion stopped working on Subversion nearly a year ago, Eurogamer has discovered.
Subversion resembled a collection of tech demos but "the core game itself wasn't really that great", creator Chris Delay told us.
"What happened was, we were tinkering away on Subversion for ages and ages, trying to make some progress - and we did make a lot of progress on it - but we always had this worry that the core game itself wasn't really that great. There wasn't really much to do.
"We had literally years of tech demos but no sort of cohesive core game. It's the core game that was missing.
"Whenever we stopped and thought about it from a high-level point of view, in terms of what's the player going to be doing, where's the fun going to come from, we were drawing a bit of a blank, all the time.
"We finally faced up to it," he said.
Subversion, an infiltration and espionage game where gamers controlled a team of operatives moving through hostile high security buildings, is officially now on hold.
"It's on hold and we openly told everyone to forget about it for now, pretend it doesn't exist if you can."Chris Delay, lead designer, Introversion
"Yes, that's exactly what it is," confirmed Delay. "It's on hold and we openly told everyone to forget about it for now, pretend it doesn't exist if you can.
"We do plan to go back to it - that's our firm intention, to go back to it after this game. But we wouldn't want to promise it or anything like that, or for anybody to get their hopes up, because we're a small company and we can't work on more than one project at once, so we always have to pick what we're going to work on.
"We had quite a few chats to discuss what we wanted to do and switched whole heartedly onto Prison Architect, and Subversion hasn't had anything done on it since then.
Prison Architect, a game about building and managing a high security prison, "fell out" of Subversion, Delay explained.
There was a Subversion mission where you had to "bust" a team mate out of jail, apparently. "You had to get this computer hacker out of prison," Delay said. "And we started all this work on this prison code code, and it was turning into a massive project just for one level.
"While we were doing it, laying out the prison in our Subversion map editor was actually really good fun. And that's the gestation of it, really - that's where it came from."
Prison Architect will be a PC game and, Delay said, probably also for Linux and Mac.
"It's still too early for us to say a lot about Prison Architect," Delay said. "We find it difficult to pace this stuff, because it's still a while off being released, and we don't want to give it all away at this point.
"It's not a 2011 game, but we're hoping for early next year to be launching this thing."
Prison Architect was recently submitted to the Independent Games Festival - the same competition Darwinia won back in 2006 - and Introversion hopes to launch around the time of the IGF awards (March 2012).
Will Prison Architect win?
"That was a very different time, when Darwinia won. Even now I don't believe Darwinia would sweep the awards," said Delay. "It was a different era then."
Six years ago, Introversion was crowned king of a soon-to-boom indie world. Today, Introversion still clings to those same high points. Mistakes were made, hard times were hit. But Delay is upbeat about the health of the British developer today.
"We get people on the forums and things going, 'Have Introversion gone bankrupt or something?' People really worry about Introversion because we did hit some really rough times, around 2008, 2009 time," Delay said.
"We don't even have an office any more. We got rid of our office; we've come right down to just the core team."Chris Delay
"We don't even have an office any more. We got rid of our office; we've come right down to just the core team. There's only a handful of us. It's like the first days when we started out and there was just three or four of us working on something, all working at home, just on the next new game. We've kind of got back to how it used to be, and we're quite enjoying it now for that reason, because we're able to just go ahead and make our own game again.
"It seems like a simple thing, but we didn't have that for a long time. We had a big team; we were up to 11 staff at one point, which doesn't sound that big, but that's very big for Introversion. 11 staff and a few freelancers all working on console versions of the game and stuff like that. We were a much bigger company then and we were spending a lot of money each month. That's what it ultimately came down to. And it wasn't really that sustainable like that.
"It sort of required us to have big success on the consoles, which Darwinia+ never really achieved. It actually continued to be outsold on Steam, even though the game's been out on PC for ages. The Steam versions and all the PC versions of Darwinia just carried on doing better.
"We thought [Darwinia+] was a bit of a misstep, a bit of a mistake, and luckily we have enough games out now - four main games and one console game - that continue to sell to this day, and that keeps us going."