A Mysterious Next-Gen Project Sponsored By Bill Gates, And Other Gaming Secrets

In his LinkedIn profile, a Seattle engineer who joined Activision as vice president of research and development this month states that he is "looking for graphics and systems software developers in the Greater Seattle area," seemingly suggesting that the publisher is establishing an office in Washington. (Presumably this is unrelated to Bungie and Destiny, as Bungie are an independent company with their own proprietary tech base and HR department.)

If Activision were to open a Seattle office, it would be joining a recent trend in the tech world: as The New York Times reported last year, a number of companies—including the likes of Facebook, Zynga, and Google—have set up shop in Seattle in hopes of tapping into the city's talent pool, particularly University of Washington engineer graduates who want to stay in Seattle. These Seattle offices are designed to lure in talent that would likely otherwise head to Microsoft or Amazon.

Additionally, Activision does already have some remote engineering and R&D operations. Activision has a very small tech-focused satellite office in Portland, Maine, and its real-time graphics R&D person works in Spain.

Also of note: The Seattle engineer curiously mentions having worked on a "next generation hardware"-related Xbox project in late 2008 called "Project 434." Another former Microsoft employee describes "Project 434" as "a hand-picked, 35+ person multi-disciplinary engineering team incubating a revolutionary gaming platform and strategic initiative sponsored by Bill Gates." In addition to Kinect, yet another former Microsoft employee working on Xbox accessory and platform incubation circa 2008 says he contributed to some sort of "Motion Wand concept"—an interesting prospect given Kinect's hands-free nature.

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Several weeks ago, Swedish PC game publisher Paradox Interactive registered the domains waroftherosesbloodeagle.com, bloodeaglegame, and arcanewars.com. Late last year, Paradox also filed a trademark registration for "Blood Eagle" late last year, as well as one for "Infested Complex.

Paradox recently did announce a new re-release and voiceover DLC for the Fatshark-developed War of the Roses, but registering domains and trademark registrations would seem to suggest something more substantial—a full-fledged expansion pack perhaps?

Infested Complex recently appeared on the Steam registry under the category "Arrowhead New Dev Comp," indicating it is a new title from the developers of Magicka and the forthcoming Showdown Effect. I would guess Infested Complex is the "unannounced third project" alluded to in an interview last year.

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According to an artist's resume, Mortal Kombat developers NetherRealm Studios are working on "two unannounced iOS games and one android game" in addition to the forthcoming superhero brawler Injustice: Gods Among Us. The latter is likely not one of the same as the former two titles: a NetherRealm employee's LinkedIn page mentions a yet-to-be-released Android port of NetherRealm's late 2011 Infinity Blade-inspired mobile title Batman: Arkham City Lockdown.

On one of the iOS titles, another NetherRealm artist says on his resume that he "Converted multiple environments from console to mobile in UDK"—an indication that the game is based on an Unreal-based WB console title, perhaps Injustice or a tie-in for the next Arkham title. A NetherRealm designer says that one of NetherRealm's mobile titles features "runner-style minigames" supplementing some form of campaign mode.

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Although IO Interactive has made its name with abrasive, gritty games like Kane & Lynch and Hitman, it seems the studio very nearly went down a rather different path several years ago: a former contract concept artist for the studio writes on his about page of an IO Interactive game pitch called "ChimpKing." The artist says then-IO head and current Square Enix Europe chief creative officer Janos Flosser expressed a desire to "make a game with chimps." Unfortunately, the economic crisis happened as work got underway on the pitch, and the only thing to come from the project is the animatic below.

The clip depicts a very stylized, cartoonish aesthetic not unlike that found in IO's only family-friendly title to date Mini Ninjas, which was a conscious effort for the studio to create a game that developers "could enjoy with their kids." Judging by concept art in the artist's portfolio, it generally appears that IO had the same aims with the "ChimpKing" concept, but there are some storyboards showing animals trying to catch their prey.

Interestingly enough, IO went through the process of registering domains for the ChimpKing title in early 2008, suggesting a rough timeline of when IO was working on it and that studio leadership were pretty interested in having this project happen. It is likely that "ChimpKing" was one of 14 titles IO's then-parent company SCi cancelled a few weeks after the registrations.

The concept artist also makes a few interesting observations about other IO titles. He describes Hitman Contracts as a "speed product" with an eight-month development cycle "designed from start as a painkiller to Eidos's agonizing deterioration in stocks." Also, the first Kane & Lynch game "started very differently from how it ended up," and there were "quite a few shifts in character" before the game ended up in its final form.

superannuation is a self-described "internet extraordinaire" residing somewhere in the Pacific Time Zone. He tweets, and can be reached at heyheymayday AT gmail DOT com.