On My Soapbox: Too Human, Destined for Failure?

Filed under: , , , by: Grundy the Man

A couple of weeks ago brought an end to a long, arduous, development cycle that has spanned nine years and three different consoles. Too Human was finally released exclusively for the Xbox 360. Controversy has followed in the footsteps of this title from the very beginning, which begs the obvious question, "Was Too Human destined for failure?"

Humble Beginnings

The main idea behind the series is following the Norse mythology, set against a backdrop of science fiction, in a galaxy far far away. Baldur is the main character, acting as our liaison to the soap opera set in the futuristic theater of space.

Too Human is the brainchild of the founder and President of Silicon Knights, Denis Dyack. He has said publicly that the plot line for the trilogy has been laid out in his mind for over a decade. Amazingly enough, it has almost taken that long to get the first game finished.

Tumultuous Development

Many issues have arisen during the development of Too Human. After being introduced as a game for the original PlayStation way back in 1999, the entire game was scrapped after only a year, in favor of porting development over to the Gamecube. Five years went by and there was still no signs of life from Too Human. By that point it was thought that the game was destined to be enshrined beside Duke Nukem: Forever in the vaporware hall of shame.

Then in 2005 Too Human was reborn under the halo (no pun intended) of Mircosoft Game Studios. It was announced to now be an ambitious trilogy that will come exclusively to the Xbox 360. Excitement grew, as it was also announced that they would be using Epic's Unreal Engine 3. After being in limbo for so long, it finally seemed as if the folks at Silicon Knights were back on track, developing one of the most ambitions titles of the next generation.

From Bad to Worse

At E3 2006, things turned from from promising, to worrisome, as the press received hands-on previews with a build of the game that was said by some to be damn near unplayable. Critiques noted that the camera system was so zoomed out and unresponsive that it was impossible to see what was going on. To add insult to injury, the framerate would come to a halt if there were more than a few enemies on screen. If you don't believe me, check out the footage below:

The framerate is not bad because it is buffering video... It was just that bad.

This is where Silicon Knights made their biggest mistake, they let Denis Dyack talk. In a later appearance on the 1Up Yours podcast, an obviously upset Dyack decided to try to defuse the criticism of Too Human by commenting that the established review system is broken and that games should never be previewed before they are finished. His tyraid continued by further elaborating that the media reporting on game topics were completely wrong in how they approached game journalism. Things became very heated, almost coming to blows between Dyack and then 1Up reviewer, Mark MacDonald.

Soon thereafter, Silicon Knights announced that they had discontinued use of the Unreal Engine. Many within the company had blamed the engine for the poorly built demo at E3 2006. Later on in the year things went a step further as they filed suit against Epic for breach of contract. This is a lawsuit that is still in litigation today.


Denis Dyack has made numerous appearances over the last two years, in an effort to try to salvage something from the burning corpse of a game known as Too Human. The problem is that whenever he opens his mouth, he just further embarrasses Silicon Knights, as well as himself. In his last two appearances on 1Up Yours he was much more restrained, but in typical Dyack fashion he had a written statement that he demanded the right to recite, manifesto style. Instead of coming off like a down to earth person, he did nothing more then further alienate his target audience and look like a pretentious ass.

As reviews have started to trickle in, it seems that Silicon Knights have stumbled at the finish line. They had a title that showed so much promise and vision, that it vainly pissed away. The lesson that needs to be learned here is that strong management and vision is not always a good thing for a project, especially when they are as outspoken as Denis Dyack. He has simply went too far, letting his mouth write checks that his ass (or in this case, his game) cannot cash.

I am sure that this game will sell plenty of copies, because Microsoft will hopefully advertise it to death, but is that really the measuring stick for success? As far as the critics are concerned, many seem to think that it was over-hyped and loaded with unfulfilled promises. I WILL however, purchase this game, but only because I want to assure future sequels. I believe that everyone deserves a shot a redemption. Hopefully, next time around they buy a bigger muzzle for Mr. Dyack.

Keep an eye out for our full review in weeks to come.

Below is Too Human's E3 2008 trailer: