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Square Enix Montreal director leaves studio after game cancellation

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Hyper Light Drifter designer returns to indies

teddy diefenbach at square enix montreal
Teddy Diefenbach, center.
Square Enix Montreal

After a nearly two-year stint at Square Enix Montreal, co-creative director Teddy Diefenbach has left the studio. Diefenbach, who is best known for working on indie hit Hyper Light Drifter, announced on his personal website that he chose to vacate his position following the termination of his team’s project.

“My team were working on a game that I deeply wish we could have shared with you,” Diefenbach wrote. “But the business strategy of the studio shifted, and our project was sadly no longer compatible.”

Diefenbach signed on as creative director in May 2016, leaving behind the Hyper Light Drifter team at Heart Machine for the much larger company. Joining him at the Montreal studio was Renaud Bédard of Fez fame; the pair collaborated on the game throughout its lifespan.

Polygon asked Diefenbach, a previous contributor to the site, if he could speak to how his team envisioned its canceled game, but he offered little.

“I think the game reflected the interests and tastes of our whole team, and things we love about Square Enix,” he told us. Diefenbach has made public his love for the studio’s classic Japanese role-playing games, like Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger, but Square Enix Montreal has made mobile-based spinoffs of Square Enix franchises, such as Hitman Sniper and Lara Croft Go.

While Bédard and the rest of his teammates have been assigned to other games at Square Enix’s Montreal outpost, Diefenbach is now heading back to Los Angeles to once again focus on indie game development. He has nothing more to announce there at this time, but he told Polygon that his imminent return to independent game design is daunting. Thankfully, the sustained success of 2015’s unique and difficult Hyper Light Drifter is encouraging, he said.

“It’s just as scary to go indie the second time around, but I’m grateful to all the Hyper Light Drifter players for giving me the courage to keep making hard choices to pursue the best games I can,” said Diefenbach. “When fans share love with devs, it goes a long way, and helps us keep pushing.”