Ghost Story Games

From the Vault: Dungeon Duel

on September 22 2011


If you keep up with our blog and podcasts, you’ve heard about how we throw a lot of work away. Some pitches, like Monster Island, never make it past the documentation stage. Others, like newly-rediscovered RPG/RTS hybrid Dungeon Duel, get more than a handful of assets developed before being ultimately consigned to Irrational’s own dustbin of history.

Dungeon Duel was in development back in 2002, so it took some asking around to find Irrational staffers who still remembered working on it. As it turns out, technical director Chris Kline dug up a folder full of ancient email attachments showing game materials in various stages of completion. A lot of the folks listed in those decade-old CC lists still work here–art director Nate Wells, lead artist Shawn Robertson, concept artist Robb Waters, and creative director Ken Levine–not to mention Kline, of course.

As described in the pitch, “Dungeon Duel combines fast-paced RTS strategy with the addictiveness of card game trading in a unique fantasy setting–a true RTS game built specifically with consoles and their controllers in mind.” You can download the whole document as a PDF, including numerous pieces of artwork and mockups.

The concept art seen above was created by Robb Waters. Here are some more pieces we dug up while researching this forgotten bit of the studio’s past:

Sketched concept of what a built-out scene might look like.

Party and inventory sheet concept.

Fighter class concept and in-game model.

Environment concept created by Nate Wells.

In-game mockup based on Nate’s map concept.

We have to commend Chris Kline for somehow failing to lose track of these materials after nearly a decade. That’s why he makes the big bucks.

Posted on September 22 2011 11:53 am, under From the Vault, Insider
From the Vault Insider
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Comments (16)

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  • 1srkarkan | September 22, 2011 12:32 pm

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    I smell Disciples II.
    DO IT 😀

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  • japester | September 22, 2011 3:24 pm

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    I’m digging the environment mock-up with the water wheel. It’s like playing with miniatures. I probably would have given this game serious consideration. LOL

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  • borrego | September 22, 2011 6:22 pm

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    When it comes to ideas, you guys have some serious range!

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  • juan29zapata | September 22, 2011 6:58 pm

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    Looks like old school gaming! Real retro, awesome!

    Irrational, you really got to go back to some of your cancelled games like Monster Island, they really showed promise!

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  • rye0077r | September 22, 2011 7:27 pm

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    This looks pretty cool. What was it that ultimately got this one shelved?

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  • jayakers | September 23, 2011 2:57 am

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    Radical, in a tubular sort of way

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  • jayakers | September 23, 2011 3:05 am

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    pushed enter too early… but i thoroughly enjoy, not only the ‘From the Vault’ but this project as a whole is mighty cool. i’m not sure if this is entirely valid but it reminds me of the latest Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes mixed with Final Fantasy Tactics (or something in that realm of games)…

    but ya… radically tubular – Nuke LaLoosh

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  • knightcarver | September 23, 2011 6:58 am

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    Wow..pretty cool. Reminds me of the board game Hero Quest.

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  • icegrove | September 23, 2011 8:39 am

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    Nice work.

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  • stefanzamfir | September 27, 2011 7:00 am

    Dear Irrational,

    I’m new here, but in the same time, wherever I am, I never go for easy questions. So:

    What got the game canceled?


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    • ig.eduardo | September 27, 2011 10:35 am

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      Welcome, Stefan! Sadly, this game was a bit before my time, and not all of the devs working on that game are still around, so we may never know. On the upside, perhaps it may be worth looking into the entire process of why a game may not pass it’s concept stage? 🙂

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  • curtislam | September 28, 2011 1:36 am

    Hi IG,

    Just curious, who was the game pitched to? Were you aiming for any particular publisher? If you’re allowed to comment on that, that is.


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  • stefanzamfir | September 28, 2011 5:21 am

    Hello I.G.,

    First let me congratulate you on the quickness of your reply. 🙂

    Second, yes, let’s take a look at the entire process:

    I. The Hardware: the console market wasn’t as big and attractive in 2002, as it is now.

    You had the Dreamcast that just failed and the X-Box that just launched on 2001 and was still seen more like an oddity then like a true contender.

    In the same way, online wasn’t as big back then, or not big enough to be one strong pillar of the game.

    II. The Concept: trying to “un-geek” a geek genre to make it accessible for a wide market is not something that makes the people with money very excited.

    Not enough guarantees that something from a niche market will be able to make the big profit jump.

    III. The Context: no other great success in the genre.

    On the PC, Sid Mayers’ MTG had 2 expansion-packs, but wasn’t a very big seller by no means, even with a huge licence behind it.

    Even a pimped-up/console-only version of SOMETHING suffers if that something is not a great success.

    Even by today’s standards, when consoles are big and online play become huge, I’m not sure it would be done on consoles, for two reasons:

    – console game budgets sky-rocketed.
    – same reason we had above: no huge sellers in both card and strategy genres on consoles.

    Unfortunately, the only way I would see this being founded today is to sell your soul to the two big F: Freemium and Facebook (but I would be so happy to be wrong here).

    Let me know what you think,

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  • nick31 | September 29, 2011 6:22 am

    Great gameplay with an average graphics. I like it.

    Censorship in the Catcher in the Rye t

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  • stefanzamfir | September 30, 2011 12:36 am

    Thanks so much nick31 bot. 🙂


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  • magicmaker | December 25, 2011 8:12 pm

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    That was the big trend, still is really, all the D&D fantasy stuff. Glad you developed something unique instead.

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