Where do unfinished games go when their developer dies? Daikatana is no real consequence – it was running about as well as it was going to when Ion Storm Dallas folded. Anachronox is another matter – it still needs a good patch or two, but the aforemention Ion Storm is closed. True, some of the developers are using the last “moving out and cleaning up” days of Ion Storm to put the wraps on a new (final?) patch, but what if there’s still a lingering bug or two? (And judging by the “patch from yesterday’s patch” pattern Quake 3 fell into, there’s always a lingering bug or two.) I guess the developers could always go ahead and take the source and stuff with them – or can they? I mean, the “developer” owns the rights to the source, but what happens when the “developer” goes away? Does Eidos (the publisher) own it? If so, what are they going to do with it? Anachronox‘s source is a different animal – its original engine was licensed from the Quake (1) source code, but since id has released that code under the GPL and they had no problem with Raven releasing the Hexen II source code (also derived from Quake), they probably wouldn’t have a problem with it (unless Anachronox also incorporates Quake II source, which id hasn’t released). It would probably be in Eidos’ best interests to have someone working on the Anachronox source should another bug or two come up – if horrible bugs plagued Anachronox (and with a patch already put there’s no real evidence that there are still lingering bugs) then Eidos wouldn’t be able to sell any more copies of the game they just placed in a box on store shelves and then they would lose even more money. They could have the developer fix the bugs – but they just fired them all. What to do, what to do…
Even more perilous is the just-announced news (rumor, anyway) that Dynamix, the developers of the successful game Tribes 2 have been all let go – roughly 300 or more of them. This isn’t a bad thing per se (other than lots of people losing their jobs), except that Tribes 2 isn’t just not finished, it’s really not finished. The patches have been so haphazard some of them undo previous patches. The prevailing logic was that eventually the game would get stablized – but now that seems uncertain. This is different than the Eidos/Ion Storm situation – Sierra has enough internal developers that they can hand off the finishing job to someone else. However, will they bother? Perhaps at some point they’ll just say “good enough” and leave it be. Perhaps the game was re;eased when it was in the state it was in (after being delayed multiple times) because Dynamix knew they were on the chopping block. But why were they on the chopping block? Tribes sold a berzillion copies and Tribes 2 sold plenty (last I heard was 200K units), but still they get the boot. Sierra probably isn’t going anywhere themselves – each time they unveil a new Half-Life expansion/sequel/prequel/stand-alone-mission-pack/pack-of-the-previous-games-named-after-a-precious-metal, they more or less print money. I still like Sierra, mainly because I grew up playing the King’s Quest line of games, but ever since Roberta Williams and her husband sold the company in 1996 (and vanished after the dreadful King’s Quest 8) the company has become a corporate giant and, as a result, has come to represent everything people hate about companies in America – away with the love of the art, make way for the bean-counters. No, we won’t be making another Space Quest game – they don’t sell. Now hunting games – that’s the money! You don’t want to make another Tomb Raider game for us this next year? You want to “tweak the engine” and come out with a different game? No, sorry – please give us Tomb Raider II No? Well then you’re fired – Shelly, please get me another development team to whip out some levels, and pronto!
Granted, I know nothing about the business world – and I sure as hell don’t have a clue what it takes to sustain ones self in business. It always seems like when art and commerce mix, however, commerce wins and then commerce dies because it killed the art – witness TSR, makers of the Dungeons and Dragons products in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s – as soon as the bean-counters took over the company died. Ironically the company was bought by Wizards of the Coast, who have since resurrected the D&D line, but while people have praised them for sticking to their values, they look to also be succombing to the bean-counter mentality.
I’m headed to Dallas in a few hours to go to QuakeCon. While I love id and all their games – they’re going to announce some new ones. I’ll tell you what they are – Doom III and Quake IV, which they’ve farmed out to Raven. Any takers? Notice how id hasn’t come up with an original game premise since 1996? Doom and Quake sequels, a Wolfenstein sequel (farmed out to Gray Matter) and even a Commander Keen sequel on Game Boy Color. Not to say they’re not any good – especially the footage I’ve seen so far of Doom III – but I wish they could come out with something different and new. Who knows perhaps they’ll surprise us all at QuakeCon.
Well anywho, couple these revelations with the fact that Gathering of Developers, the independent publisher out of Dallas has been sold to Take Two, a corporate giant, with 99% of the staff breaking off to form a DVD-Video based magazine (?) and the other 1% moving to NYC, and this is shaping to be one fucked up day in gaming.
Oh well, at least the V12 engine was released. Too bad I can’t buy it just yet.