A shooter for all audiences, with waterguns as main weapons, cute robots inspired by Mega Man, and characters and environments inspired by Super Mario Sunshine's waterpark. That was the concept for a family-friendly shooter High Voltage Software was working on around 2011, with Nintendo providing both supervision and funds, and the plan was for it to be the Wii U's flagship, exclusive first-party shooter.
But alas, according to video game historian Liam Robertson, the project only lasted a month. In his video Robertson unveils how a matter of trust ended relations between the Illinois and the Kyoto-based companies, as the former couldn't maintain confidentiality of the project.
A team of 10 people led by CCO Eric Nofsinger and art director Matt Corso started the development of the concept in early 2011, and they were approached by Nintendo after their experience and commitment to the Wii and Nintendo's unique control systems with The Conduit and Conduit 2 games. The publisher was looking for a family-oriented shooter, and outsourcing the development was the plan before developing an idea of their own.
However, as a malicious response to working conditions at HVS, as reported by Robertson, an employee decided to leak some rough details of the then-confidential collaboration. The leak was taken as not very solid rumours by media and fans back then, but apparently Nintendo asked the studio to find the employee responsible for it and not to let it happen again. As HVS's internal investigation didn't unveil the culprit, Nintendo had no choice but to discontinue the project.
The outcome didn't only mean a canned project but, according to the studio, a severe impact on projects, reputation, and ultimately, working opportunities for their employees.
Even though water pistols and the aforementioned ideas look similar to what Splatoon ended up being, the team-shooter was actually born from a series of ideas pitched by a young team in Japan, mostly the ink shooting/navigating mechanic that is core to its gameplay.
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