Back in September, we reported that the reimagined Golden Axe game would lack any kind of co-op and that decision seemed to have been the death knell for the game. Today, Gamasutra posted part of a more in-depth interview that their sister publication, Game Developer magzine, had with Secret Level's Michael Boccieri. The interview is a fairly open and honest discussion about the challenges and difficult choices they had to make when they took on the task of bringing Golden Axe into the modern gaming age and is worth a full read. Of particular note, however, Boccieri had this to say about the removal of co-op:
At the project's outset Golden Axe was designed to be a cooperative experience. However, the depth to which a cooperative experience was scoped and scheduled was far short of what was necessary to turn planning into reality... A poorly envisioned multiplayer design, key losses on the network technology front, and a lack of animation staff and support led to a general freeze on its implementation.
We here at Co-Optimus would always prefer to see more games with co-op (as Nick and Mike discuss in the latest Co-Opticast), but it's nice to know that not all developers immediately write it off due to a "lack of interest" in the community.
Boccieri goes on to say that even some of the classic aspects that they tried to feature weren't enough to turn things around once the announcement was made to drop co-op.
While the team made a valiant effort to retain other aspects of the classic franchise within Beast Rider—classic locales, a decidedly retro-flavored combat system, and the return of the beasts and gnomes from the original series—these elements proved ineffectual in piquing interest from the press and the hardcore consumer base, jaded by news of co-op's omission.
While Golden Axe: Beast Rider didn't fair too well critically, it should serve as valuable lesson learned for the team if they move on to do a sequel. More importantly, the game hopefully serves as a warning to other developers/publishers: removing co-op from a traditionally co-op game is a sure fire way to lose the gaming community's interest.