True Fantasy Live online was a cancelled Original Xbox MMORPG by developer Level-5.. maybe their only officially cancelled game. In this blog post I will share a few interesting physical items that I've come across but first if you'd like a little more history on the game please check the Wiki in the spoiler box or https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/True_Fantasy_Live_Online
True Fantasy Live Online was an MMORPG in development by Level-5 for the Xbox. After a long and troubled development cycle that lasted almost two years, the game was cancelled on June 2, 2004. Available development and promotional information depict a massive fantasy setting in which up to 3,000 users—each with their own fully customizable character—can set out on adventures with one another, fighting monsters and collecting various items.
Despite being "fully playable" and near completion according to Microsoft around the time of its cancellation, the title's development was littered with complications from the beginning. One such problem was Level-5's inexperience with online network coding and their inability to properly implement voice chat compatibility into the game, a feature never before implemented on such a large scale in an MMORPG. However, Microsoft was very adamant on its inclusion, as it was a key feature to their Xbox Live service.
Relations between the two companies began to spiral out of control as Level-5 struggled to meet the demands required by Microsoft, who in turn grew frustrated at the lack of progress being made on the game. After a short showing at the Tokyo Game Show in 2003, True Fantasy Live Online was delayed from its initial Fall 2003 release into 2004. From then, little was seen or heard about the title, and after being absent from E3's 2004 convention, it was officially cancelled by Microsoft on June 3.
In the months following, Level-5 President and CEO Akihiro Hino stated in an interview that the poor relationship between his company and Microsoft, partially due to the latter's inexperience in dealing with Japanese developers, was one of the major reasons behind the game's cancellation. He implied that the two companies did not part amicably.
In a 2008 interview with Edge magazine, Shane Kim, former general manager of Microsoft Game Studios spoke in regard to failed Microsoft MMORPG projects, including True Fantasy Live Online. While acknowledging that the cancellations were the right thing to do at the time, Kim also felt that such games could have been successful on the Xbox 360 platform.
07/01/21 - Level-5 has made some really lovely games. With captivative storytelling, world building and most importantly (to me) their whimsical art style. I missed out on earlier releases but became a huge fan of their work after completing Ni No Kuni for the Playstation 3.
As a longtime Xbox fan, besides message boards and online outlets back in the aughts I had a subscription to the official Xbox magazine and kept up on the news. I was super interested in this MMO that was supposed to come out for Xbox live, the art style looked great! I was bummed when it was reported cancelled. I didn't know at the time what Level-5 was all about, but what they've come to do over the years makes me wonder even more of what could have been on xbox.
I hadn't thought much of it since but found something that rekindled my interest.
I found this really cool pop-up book style promotional kind of display calendar. Here are a few pictures of it in all it's glory.
I wasn't sure if this could be a pack in for the Xbox Famitsu magazine so I did a little digging. I learned that issue #21 the November 2003 issue included a TFLO pack in
so I reached out to the person who uploaded all of the issues on archive.org
So that's not it, but a new lead for another physical piece of TFLO. Ended up finding a picture of it!
Picture by @kairi0218 - twitter
After searching to no avail I decided to just ask the guy I bought it from haha, well of course that's the best way to learn about something rather than try to find out about it on your own. Here's their response:
"So I got this from a developer who worked on the original Xbox launch and who had also worked on the first Fable. He had saved a lot of stuff (paperwork, marketing, etc.) that he had picked up while working at Redmond, WA. I remember he was not on the True Fantasty team but I think he said they were dumping a lot of items and he grabbed one because he thought it was a cool pop-up."
Heck yeah! A nice little story tied into it! You would think that would be enough to saitiate me but since I've never seen this item before it would be really cool to hear more. I hate watermarking images but I did in the hopes that if anyone out there happens to have a little info they might drop a line.
In the same week of finding the pop-up, A package from Spacepup here on VGS arrived with some Japanese xbox demo discs and DVDs that just coincidentally feature TFLO content! I have been going through the videos on them, and found that these were some of the videos I had been watching on YouTube, also making them easy to share. Lacking the ability to read Japanese, I couldn't find an easy way to learn the videos original sources so here's the results of some digging. I believe the images of these discs are available on archive.org but can't confirm.
Famitsu Xbox Music Mixer w/ January 2004 Dvd
Issue available to read thanks to @swaarm on twitter (pg. 41-47 for TFLO): https://archive.org/details/famitsuxbox200401
Video on DVD:
Famitsu Xbox Spring 2003 Mechassault demo (came bundled with the July 2003 of Famitsu Xbox magazine)
Issue available to read thanks to @swaarm on twitter (pg. 41-44 for TFLO): https://archive.org/details/famitsuxbox200307
Video from DVD:
I am on the prowl for anything else related to TFLO, the us didn't see anything other than magazine articles so it's super cool to get some physical reminders of a game that didn't end up getting released. At least the memory of TFLO lives on in one way or another.
Thanks for reading!
July 31, 2021 edit:
Couple updates! Found a few TFLO items. First is a double sided picture disc calendar set
Second, a neat notecard set from Tokyo Gameshow 2003. Thanks again to spacepup for helping me get this one!!
And for the final part of the update, someone on YouTube has the Pop up! (Well, two of em!)
@1:18 Hans features it, I love his videos! Check out his channel for more cool super obscure Xbox stuff. I asked and he confirmed it as a retail display.
March 20th, 2022 edit:
USA Booklet included in Microsoft published games with upcoming releases, includes TFLO (found in Project Gotham Racing 2, Counterstrike, others) - part no. x09-71121
Hoping to come across more in the future and update this post accordingly, if you know of any other pieces of TFLO merch out there please send me a message!!
The Recycle Bin blog by @Inzoreno
The Game Archaeologist and the What Ifs:
Famitsu wave magazine January 2004 scans:
Big thank you for scanning all the Xbox Famitsu magazine issues to @swaarm on Twitter.
Edited by drxandy