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Embattled WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been attacked from all fronts this week, following the release of thousands of confidential memos from the state department. Apparently he’s only released a very small portion, and he says he has a lot more stuff in his storage banks, including five gigs worth of Bank of America documents that he promises will rock their vaults.
But what we are really wondering is, are there any video game news tidbits in there? Something that would shake the pixels from the sky and make the industry flip its collective lid? There have already been a few, and we’re pretty sure that Assange wasn’t behind them. Or was he? We may never know for sure, but here are some of the biggest leaks to come out of the game pipe. Read them quickly before they shut down my Paypal account.
Valve’s Half-Life 2 Source Code
This was a big one. Probably one of the biggest. Back in 2003, Half-Life 2 was the talk of E3 in May, and it was supposed to launch in September of that year. But then the source code got leaked via a Trojan Horse, and things ground to a halt. Valve’s Gabe Newell even pleaded with the community to help them catch the bad guys. Eventually, German hacker Axel Gembe contacted Newell, and the plan was to offer him a fake job as a security expert, so that the FBI could arrest him when he came to the U.S. But Germany found out about the plan instead and arrested him, giving him two years probation. Meanwhile, Half-Life 2 wasn’t released for more than a year. So when is someone going to leak Half-Life 3?
Ending of Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm
Yes, this one is fresh off the presses as we only wrote about it today, and this one is more of a story spoiler than anything else, but it appears that the cinematic ending for Blizzard’s upcoming Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm has been leaked online. While it’s a previz sequence that hasn’t been fully rendered or voiced yet, it definitely represents what we’ve seen in-line with the story from the game’s first installment,Wings of Liberty. Without spoiling anything, Kerrigan and Mengsk still aren’t loving each other, and Mengsk has some tricks up his sleeve. A company named The Third Floor is watermarked onto the video, and would appear to have come from the inside. We’ll follow this and see what shakes out.
Doom 3 Alpha
Back in 2002, employees inside graphics card maker ATI Technologies (which has since been acquired by AMD) leaked an Alpha build of Doom 3 onto the internet. While it didn’t have the catastrophic result of killing the game or sinking creator id Software, it did represent an enormous breach of an NDA with id. Especially since the the fact that even though the game had previously been shown at E3 2002, winning several awards, it wasn’t due to be released until 2004. On the lighter side, id Software designer Christian Antkow had apparently been speaking to someone on IRC about the incident, and while unhappy over the leak, he did go on to say, “On a positive note, people seem to *REALLY LIKE* the leaked sh*t.” So, not all leaks are bad. Especially when consumer reaction is positive.
The Last Guardian Video
Along those lines comes the leaked footage of The Last Guardian, which was being called Project Trico at that point, from May of last year. While a game had been rumored to be in development, no one had seen the project yet, and the (not Sony official) PlayStation Lifestyle blog ran a video well in advance of an announcement. Luckily, it stunned everyone but Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios President Shuhei Yoshida expressed his displeasure with the leak, saying that Team Ico was waiting to release the footage, and he wanted to make sure they were putting their best foot forward and using video that they were happy with. An extended trailer was shown at E3 later that summer, but it wouldn’t be until Tokyo Game Show 2010 that we learned more details.
Duke Nukem Forever will probably be a title that will long be associated with video game legend: a game so long in development that was finally killed in the 11th hour, only to be resurrected and brought back to life by a new company. This is the story that video game developers will tell to their grandchildren one day, sparking hope and interest in their own abandoned projects. But long before Gearbox Software pulled a Lazarus on Duke Nukem, one of 3D Realms’ own employees inadvertently leaked some of the gameplay on his own demo reel. At the time, this was bittersweet, because the game had already been abandoned, and we were seeing what could have been.
Star Wars: Battlefront 3
Next to Kingdom Hearts 3, there is a game that everyone keeps asking for: Star Wars: Battlefront 3. But is it coming? Right now we have no idea. It’s a game of mystery. Originally it was rumored to be in development by Free Radical Design, and then Rebellion Developments, despite never being officially announced by LucasArts. Free Radical leaked some concept art and gameplay for the game onto the web, and then earlier this year there were some game lobbies in existence that seemed to confirm the game. However, nothing was announced at E3. In 2009, Pandemic had supposedly taken over development on the title, but they went belly-up, despite having developed the first two in the series. So what is the current state of the game? We’re looking at you, LucasArts.
Fall of Duty
Back when Infinity Ward came under the iron thumb of Activision, who was in the process of ousting studio heads Vince Zampella and Jason West, G4 was there with the news. This eventually came to rock the gaming world to the foundation, and with both sides suing each other we still don’t have the full story yet. Granted, these sorts of corporate moves generally don’t come out until long after the fact, but thanks to an inside source and some SEC documents, the story was partially revealed. We’ll have to wait until the courts hash things out to see what the real story was … or will we ever really find out? At any rate, exposing these sort of nasty dealings wasn’t really positive for Activision (or Bobby Kotick, in particular), and seemed to swing sympathy towards West and Zampella, now collectively known as Respawn Entertainment. But given Call of Duty: Black Ops’ reception, Treyarch seems to be escaping any sort of scathing backlash. We’ll be keeping an eye on this as things move foward.
Halo: Reach, and Halo 2, Halo 3, and Halo: ODST
Halo has long been the target of hackers, with Halo 2 through ODST all being leaked online before release. Just so Halo: Reach wouldn’t feel left out in the cold, hackers somehow fooled Xbox.com into letting them download copies of the game that were meant for the press, and these were cracked and distributed on the nets. This also led to the ending of the game being leaked online as well, which was a massive spoiler for people who weren’t sure exactly what “The Fall of Reach” seemed to mean. Sure, it’s like leaking the ending to Pearl Harbor where you all know what’s going to happen, but that didn’t matter to Halo purists. Still, it seems like the leak had a near negligible effect on the game with it going on to sell record numbers. Will Halo 4 (5?) get leaked? Even though the game hasn’t been announced or hinted at, signs point to yes.
Breach Source Code Nearly Stolen at PAX East
Yes, this was a near leak, but it was so spectacular that it deserves inclusion. When I was working at Joystiq, a kid got up during the Xbox Live Enforcement Panel to ask if he could get his gamertag unbanned. When Xbox Live’s Stephen Toulouse asked him why it was banned, he said because he had pirated a game and played it early. Genius. So, no unbanning for him. Later that same day I saw Boston police officers hustling him out of the building and snapped a blurry pic. I gave the information to Alexander Sliwinski who did some more digging, and it turns out he had hooked up his laptop to a dangling ethernet cord at the Breach booth, and was copying over their source code.
Granted, it’s obvious that the internet has helped with the depth and reach of leaks these days, and maybe we’ve only scratched the surface. Think there are more big leaks in the works? What’s next?