Lightning-fast action, a "shared and persistent" open world, exciting tech and thousands of players. These were the things promised by Lazarus, an ambitious MMO shooter by indie developer Spilt Milk Studios - and a finished project we'll unfortunately never see. After three years in open alpha, Spilt Milk today announced that Lazarus' development has been cancelled - making it the third game using Improbale's SpatialOS technology to bite the dust this year.
The cited reason? Funding, as ever.
"Lazarus is a brilliant game and the people who play it with us are amazing, but it did not reach a point during its alpha that would give us the confidence that it would launch successfully," Spilt Milk explained in its Steam post.
"We spent months and years with a tiny team, exploring the challenges and opportunities of a new design space - persistence, scale, the kinds of things that the cloud can offer - and in the process providing feedback to help our technology partner Improbable improve their tech as well as making Lazarus brilliant fun, and we're immensely proud of what we achieved.
"Running a game has many elements - things like server costs and software licenses, the cost of maintaining, running and updating the game as it grows with new features and content, and the licensing of all of the services we use to run things like player accounts and whatnot.
"Put simply, if we were to launch Lazarus, the cost of maintaining and expanding the game as we marketed it to more players and worked on our monetisation would put a dangerous financial strain on an independent games studio like ours."
Despite the cancellation of Lazarus, Spilt Milk is apparently "alive and well" and will continue to work on other projects. Players hoping to make the most of Lazarus will have until 12th September to do so, at which point the game's servers "will be taken down forever, and a tear will be shed".
The game's cancellation also raises questions about the viability of SpatialOS: a cloud platform by Improbable that allows a single world to be split across multiple dedicated servers at once, thus allowing for more complex features. So far this year we've seen both Worlds Adrift and "1000-player" battle royale Mavericks: Proving Grounds cancelled, and in 2017 space survival sim Ion similarly got canned. Other games using SpatialOS are still in development, such as Midwinter Entertainment's shooter Scavengers and the mysterious Project C. Fingers crossed these will be able to avoid the fate of their predecessors.