Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura Wiki

Journey to the Centre of Arcanum was the planned sequel for Arcanum. It was announced by Tim Cain in 2000 and was going to use Valve’s Source engine.

However, because of disputes between Sierra and Valve, the project never advanced beyond its conception stages. One of the many working documents used by Troika for design meetings and not intended for public release was released to the public in 2015.[1] It was confirmed as genuine by Tim Cain.[2]


The game started with the revelation that Franklin Payne was missing. The news would be delivered to the protagonist by his wife, who would explain that he built a giant boring machine to dig deep underground in search of a lost civilization. The protagonist would enter the shaft left by the machine, searching a vast underground world. They would encounter old civilizations (primariily in ruins), cavemen, dinosaurs, and most importantly, an ore that allowed for the blending of magic and technology without brining the opposite forces into conflict. These could then be used independent of the protagonist's magic/technology alignment. Finding Payne would have been apparently the finale of the game.[3]


Unlike Arcanum, the sequel would have switched mechanics from an isometric, sprite-based game to a first person, fully 3D game.[4] It would focus primarily on indoor exploration, with caves and vast underground biomes, completely different from the previous game.[3]

Other quotes[]

  • Tim Cain: “The sequel was based loosely on Jules Verne's A Journey to the Center of the Earth, where we planned to continue the adventures of the great explorer Franklin Payne. He has disappeared into the bowels of the earth, and his wife has hired you to find him. We had laid out most the storyline, and it included finding prehistoric monsters, subterranean humanoids, and most thrilling of all, a clue about how magic and tech can be reconciled in the same artifact, something that most learned people had believed to be impossible. Of course, none of this came to be, but our talks about using the Source engine led to our making Vampire: Bloodlines.[4]
  • Leonard Boyarsky: Our general idea was to try to do alot [sic] of the same things we tried to do with Bloodlines, but in the Arcanum setting. The title is based on Journey to the Centre of the Earth, a 1864 science-fiction novel by French author Jules Verne. Rather than making a sequel, they used the Source engine for their third project: Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines.


  1. Google Drive
  2. [ RPGCodex]
  3. 3.0 3.1 Cain on Gaming: Arcanum 2: Journey to the Center of Arcanum: "Hi everyone, it's me, Tim. Today, I want to talk about the sequel to Arcanum called Journey to the Center of Arcanum. So, let me give you some background. Um, for those of you new, Troika Games was a game studio that I started with Leonard Barski and Jason Anderson on April 1st, 1998. And our first game that we shipped was Arcanum. Arcanum shipped in 2001 using a new isometric engine we made. However, even before it shipped, we started thinking about ideas for sequels and that we wanted to make the jump to 3D. We were talking to Valve because the VP of Valve, Scott Lynch, had been the VP who signed us to Sierra for Arcanum, and we were talking with them about their Source engine. And we really wanted to use it. So, we put together a design document, which I still have. I read through it, and I'm like, "Whoa! We were very ambitious."
    Uh, Troika liked to do a lot of things. In fact, Arcanum might commonly refer to as our kitchen sink game because if anybody had an idea, including me, it went into the game. I mean, did we really need fate points? Did we really need the newspaper? Did we really need procedurally generated sectors in the world? No, but we put them in anyway. So, in Journey to the Center of Arcanum, we were going to make the jump to 3D. We were going to have a lot of it take place underneath the world, very much like Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne, the inspiration.
    The storyline of the game was Franklin Payne, who you may have met in the first game, The Big Game Hunter. Franklin Payne has gone missing, and his wife contacts you and hires you to find out what happened. And she explains that he built a giant boring machine, um, very Elon Musk, to dig deep under the ground and search all these underground caverns for what he was hoping to be remains of a previous civilization. So, you end up going down the shaft left by that boring machine and searching for Franklin Payne. And along the way, just spoilers for this 23-year-old design, you encounter old civilizations, most of them in ruins, cavemen, um, dinosaurs. That was gonna be fun. Um, because, you know, we had magic and tech, you might as well throw dinosaurs in there. And one of the penultimate discoveries you made before you found Franklin Payne was the discovery of an ore that let you blend magic and technology into the same item without them being in conflict. And those items could be used then independent of your magic tech bar. So, it was very exciting, and we had all these great ideas.
    It didn't happen. Um, what ended up happening is we were getting along really well with Sierra and Valve, which later, by the way, led to us using the Source engine in collaboration with them on Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines. But instead, what happened is even though we talked about Journey to the Center of Arcanum as early as 2000, a year before Arcanum shipped, when we finished Arcanum in the summer of 2001, even though it didn't ship until September, we started working on a project, and that was Lord of the Rings. Amazingly, I still have the design documents for that, and I got the demo running again, so I'll make another video about that and talk about that because that was really interesting.
    Um, we had some great ideas. Jason Anderson came up with this wonderful idea to let you play in The Lord of the Rings storyline with an explanation for why this particular group of people don't appear in Tolkien's books. We even talked with a Tolkien estate expert about our ideas, and he liked them. But instead, um, that demo got made, and then Arcanum shipped. Journey to the Center of Arcanum obviously never happened. Sierra not only took back the Lord of the Rings demo, but they were going through financial difficulty, so there was no Journey to the Center of Arcanum. That led to us looking for other contracts. We landed Temple and Bloodlines at almost the same time, which is why our team got split, and I worked on Temple, and Leonard and Jason worked on Bloodlines.
    I'm trying to remember some of the other things that would be interesting about Journey to the Center of Arcanum. I mean, the fact that it would have been 3D, it would have been our first 3D game, was really cool. We were ready to make that leap. We were seeing that 3D games had the detail that we wanted. We were especially looking to do a lot of indoor exploration, you know, caves and big underground areas, very different than what we had on Arcanum, most of which was outdoor or very small caves and dungeons. We were also looking forward to making the leap in the system mechanics from an isometric set of system mechanics to ones that worked better in 3D. Interestingly, that was in 2000, eight years later, Bethesda took Fallout one and two system mechanics and made the leap into Fallout 3, which was 3D. So, it's interesting to see how all these companies were doing roughly the same thing at the same time.
    I don't regret that Journey to the Center of Arcanum wasn't made. I'd like to tell people I don't regret anything. However, I am slightly sorry that we announced it and talked so much about it, and then nothing happened. I feel like we got a lot of people's hopes up, and then nothing happened. But anyway, that's kind of the story of Journey to the Center of Arcanum in a nutshell. Uh, if you have any questions, let me know. Otherwise, I don't know, maybe I'll talk about Lord of the Rings next. It'd be fun to show that video. It's nothing special in the Arcane Dimension. It was done in a matter of weeks, but still a pretty cool thing."
  4. 4.0 4.1 Interview on RPG Codex