thejosh was a member of the modding community that made quite an impact with the release of their first game Trench Warfare in late 2005. That game utilized many features either rarely or never before appearing in other Wolf3D projects and some great visuals to accompany them. The game received much praise, and is still pointed to as an example of one of the better quality games released on DOS.
However that turned out to be nothing compared to what they revealed in June of 2009 with the announcement of their at-the-time new project, Lair of the Mantis.
The visuals in the screenshots, as well as a (now lost) YouTube trailer showing it all in action, were impressive and for many the game shot up to the tops of their wishlists.
The project was built on Wolf4SDL, but so heavily modified and with so many detailed high resolution (128x128) graphics, the game looked to many as if it had to have been built on something more advanced.
Lair of the Mantis had reportedly been in development since January 2008, and the following list of features were slated to be included in the game. (This list is based on information announced by thejosh on various platforms, and what can be garnered from available screenshots)
- HUD elements - From what is visible on the player HUD in screenshots we can spot some features such as the implementation of secondary items (such as what could be an adrenaline shot) and a slick mini-map. There's also armor, but it's uncertain whether it functioned as additional health, or a damage reducer.
- Fifteen weapons - All the weapons are revamped or replaced, with additions like the Flamethrower, and interestingly the knife is replaced with fists that have an alternative power-attack ability along with the normal attack. The archived version of the Lair of the Mantis website lists eight weapons, but the last update regarding the game reported it had increased to fifteen.
- Unique attacks - In addition to the alternate fist attack, there are screenshots that displayed stealth kills, and a sniper rifle with a functioning scope.
- Vehicles that can be driven - Much like in Trench Warfare, the player would have been able to drive a (very detailed) car in the outdoor levels.
- RPG elements - thejosh described Lair of the Mantis as "a sci-fi action/horror mod with a few rpg and tactical elements as well." Judging from screenshots, these appear to be in the form of the player interacting with non-player characters.
- Paragon/Renegade system - Descriptions of the game state that there was to be a good/evil system, with the story changing depending on the choices of the player. These choices appear to be the unique way a player can approach how they deal with some enemies.
- Enemy AI - thejosh boasts about the enemy AI, stating that enemies would randomly utilize multiple different attacks, ensuring a mixture of encounters.
Development updates were sporadic in the months following the announcement, as thejosh reported overhauling a lot of visuals and trying to make the options for player-choice "as open as possible", implying the presence of forking storylines or perhaps an approach similar to Deus Ex where the player could choose between stealth and "run and gun" in their approach to levels.
The last piece of news was in the form of a DHW post on the 23rd of November 2009, mentioning that development at the time was focused on "boring tedious stuff regarding dialogue and alternate levels".
This was also the last day thejosh appears to have been present on DieHard Wolfers. After this post was made they never returned to that forum. Despite this, they continued being active on the Wolf3D Haven message board until January 2010, though almost none of the discussion they had concerned Lair of the Mantis.
While it wasn't unusual for thejosh to go a long time between updates, people started showing concerns when six months went by without a sign of life, concern that increased with the fact that sometime that year the trailer was taken down from YouTube and has since been irretrievable.
It's uncertain what caused the sudden disappearance of thejosh, whether it was a case of getting burned out, or real life intervening, but their sudden disappearance and the seeming abandonment of Lair of the Mantis has been a point of concern for several community members, even after all these years.
Included below are links to thejosh's website and ModDB profiles for the game, as well as a zip file containing existing images released for Lair of the Mantis. Oh how we'd love to get our hands on that YouTube trailer again...