Jagex CEO Mark Gerhard has confirmed that RuneScape successor MechScape has been canned just prior to its release.
The decision, he told GamesIndustry.biz, was made in August when the assembled game failed to meet the standards of Jagex's new CEO and his team.
"Initially the reason for building MechScape was that we would learn all the lessons from RuneScape having run it for around four years at the time.
"It got near completion and we discovered, oops, it didn't do all of those things that we wanted it to. So we went back to the original design document and said 'let's do it again'."
Cancelling the project at such a late stage has made for an expensive learning curve, admitted Gerhard, although he agreed the company's continued financial success helped the situation.
"Yes, it's a luxury that we are doing well and we can afford to make the decision. I didn't make the decision lightly because it's effectively cost us tens of millions of pounds. Maybe more."
But it was vital, he said, for Jagex to release a game it was proud of and that its team would want to play. “ It's crucial to me we don't just ship a title because we've built it.”
"The previous game wasn't a game that we want to play. As much as we ended up thinking of it like a baby – we were 'reasonably' proud of it, we thought it was a good experience and we'd achieved something – it wasn't a game ready for launch.
"It was expensive. I hope never again to have to make the same decision twice. But it was the right decision."
Not everything has been lost however, and Gerhard says that much of the game – including its engine - will be reused in the new secret project the Jagex development team is now working on.
"A lot of the content will change," he said, "a lot of the gameplay will change. Exactly what the game will look and feel like I don't actually know because the guys are working on it as we speak. But we've got that arsenal of lessons and everything else."
This new title will be released within a "meaningful time frame" he added with a smile. At Game Horizon's Best of British event on Wednesday, Simon Seefeldt, the company's head of business development, was more specific, saying Jagex's next game will appear sometime in 2010.
Ending on a positive note, Gerhard said the new MMO's development team has been "galvanized" by the decision that's been taken.
"I've been in the organisation for two years now and I've never seen that team so excited since I joined," he said.
"They've spent years of toil on this and never quite got there, and now the entire team, sees what the plans are to change and what the new game will be. There's a real buzz in that studio, which is fantastic. The guys are doing an incredible job of bringing this to market."