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You Will Be Missed (Part 2) December 3, 2010

Posted by Maniac in Editorials, You Will Be Missed.
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I’ve been following gaming news for over ten years and I’ve been involved in the industry for over eight years as a staff writer on various sites.  I understand that not all companies last forever, but there comes a time when you are so caught up in the activities of an organization that when it shuts down, a part of you goes with it.  It’s happened to me more times than I can remember, but here’s a list of companies from my experiences that are no longer with us.  They’ve either been shut down, gone bankrupt, or were taken over so badly that they are no longer the same company I loved.  It is a sad story to see such great potential end abruptly but like life we have to move on, but we will never forget.

Troika Games – I’ll be perfectly honest, the only game I played by these guys was Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines even though I know they released two others.  This company had a bad reputation for releasing fantastic games that were held back by bugs that could’ve been polished out with more time.  VTM:B is a game I play EVERY summer since release.  I used to live in California, not too far from LA, and this is one of the few games I played that truly captured the full LA to Santa Monica experience.  I also keep the Deb of Night radio show on my iPhone to listen to whenever it’s late and I’m in need of some nostalgia.  There was so much promise, and it just begged for a sequel.

PBC-Productions:  This isn’t so much a game making company as an independant filmmaking company.  These were the producers of the web series “Captain S” and “Little Miss Gamer”.  After Captain S announced production was going to stop of their highly anticipated second season in May 2009, a website that previously had promises of a new high quality video every week slowly started to lose speed.  The last video released by these guys was in April.  As far as I know, most of the development team members, while they still frequent their message boards, have full-time jobs that prohibit working on more projects.  While there has not been an official announcement of shut down by these guys, there hasn’t been a Little Miss Gamer episode since March.  What makes it really disappointing is I was a huge fan of the Captain S series after he and the Angry Video Game Nerd saved Christmas a few years ago.  I have a Captain S Season 1 DVD proudly displaying in my bookcase.  We sure could use him now.

G4:  Do I really need to devote another site article to how great this station once was?  Yes, the station was once so great that it deserves another mention, but it was all lost after the Tech TV merger.

Ion Storm Dallas: This one really hurts to talk about.  The company had so much promise when they formed.  They had John Romero, at the time one of the best game developers in the world, and the kind of attitude any game development team should have.  Deathmatch would not be something done after hours, it would be part of the business.  Design would be law.  They also had support of people like Tom Hall, who would be having his own crazy game designs made again.  It made Stevie Case the first mainstream gaming sex symbol.  This company became everyone’s news.  They dominated the headlines of gaming news sites for three years.  People leaving, leadership problems, e-mails leaking became common knowledge.  They were featured prominently in Masters of Doom by David Kushner.  The problem mostly stemmed from the fact that these were the guys who made Daikatana, a game so universally hated by people who never even played it, they could never recover from it.  I’ll tell you though, that game was indeed playable after patch 1.2 came and I did make it through the entire game.  Anachronox, which was a game I was fortunate enough to be a part of a planet site devoted to it, was the last game released by the company before its disassembly.  To wrap it all up, an elegy was written on Salon.com for the company, the cornerstone of a whole journey that defined an entire generation of gaming.

Ritual:  Two words, episodic gaming.  That’s what killed Ritual.  They were one of the best companies I knew that would release games so well polished, a simple shooter could become Game of the Year.  This was the company that made SiN.  They were also responsible for Star Trek: Elite Force 2, and the Counter Strike: Condition Zero Deleted Scenes.  Never played any of those games?  I’m very sorry.  One of their head honchos was a man who literally went by the name LEVELORD!  Then they developed the SiN Episodes.  Their plan was quite sound.  Develop a shorter game and release it at a lower price.  Take the money you get from sales of that game and use it to fund later games.  People are going to want to keep buying episodes to see how the story ends.  Well, unfortunately the plan was sound, but the price wasn’t.  They produced the first episode of the series and released it with a budget price in mind, and no price option for purchasing later episodes up front.  They made enough to fund development of the first episode, but there wasn’t enough to fund any later ones.  The company was bought by Mumbo Jumbo who pretty much completely absorbed them.  Since then nobody really talks about the company anymore and it’s a shame, I really wanted to know how the episodes were going to end.

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You Will Be Missed (Part 1) December 3, 2010

Posted by Maniac in Editorials, You Will Be Missed.
3 comments

I’ve been following gaming news for over ten years and I’ve been involved in the industry for over eight years as a staff writer on various sites.  I understand that not all companies last forever, but there comes a time when you are so caught up in the activities of an organization that when it shuts down, a part of you goes with it.  It’s happened to me more times than I can remember, but here’s a list of companies from my experiences that are no longer with us.  They’ve either been shut down, gone bankrupt, or were taken over so badly that they are no longer the same company I loved.  It is a sad story to see such great potential end abruptly, but like life we have to move on, but we will never forget.

Substance TV:  Ditto.  I have since watched a documentary about the downfall of GoD after writing that article, it seems that the financiers were slowly bleeding power from the people of the company that were actually good at running it, like Mike Wilson.  The money they got from being forced to sell what could’ve made them billions went into a pretty well produced DVD magazine that nobody bought on a regular basis.  The official website blamed the post 9/11 recession as the problem with sales of a regular DVD magazine, but really I think it was just that they were too far ahead of the curve that people weren’t yet ready for it.

GameSpyAlready talked about those guys.  I know the main website still exists and delivers new content but trust me, like Rome, the empire has long since fallen.  For E3 2003 I had a t-Shirt sent to me by them to wear to show my allegiance on the show floor.  The shirt was comprised of the Spy logo in gray and greens.  The secret was that all the coloring on the shirt was actually made up of all of the individual websites that ran under their banner.  The lettering on the shirt was in small print.  They actually had enough websites to fill the front of a freaking t-shirt.  That all ended after 2005 with the IGN merger.

Barry Smith’s InkTank:  Barry Smith gained popularity around 2000 when his web comic “Angst Technology” premiered on GameSpy.  The comic was about a typical game development studio and all of the colorful characters that work there.  After several succesful years of drawing, new pages slowly lost steam and Barry shut down production of the webcomic in 2005, after having previously resorted to posting a new comic every month (when it used to be posted every day.)  He turned the site into a random blog not too long after that and brought his comic archives online with it.  Three years later, in 2008, Barry brought his full website back and started cartooning again.  Within no time he was even bringing Angst Tech characters back into his new comic.  But some time ago (within the past few months) Barry stopped posting new strips on the site, and a few weeks after that, the site went down completely.  I have no idea what happened to cause the site to shut down, or why Barry hasn’t written an explanation as to why the site is offline and when/if it will return.  I just want him to know (if he ever reads this) that the Angst Tech arc where the team crunched for a beta release, pitched tents, ended up on milk cartons, and overclocked their central nervous systems defined one of my summers.

Majesco – In 2004 a new publisher came to compete with the big boys and they had some pretty quirky games to show.  Advent Rising, Bloodrayne, Infected (my favorite PSP Game), and everyone’s favorite multiplatform game, Psychonauts were all coming from this publisher.  The problem was that while some of the games were fantastic and reviewed very highly (Psychonauts and Infected), the company threw its marketing weight behind what they thought would sell (Advent Rising and Bloodrayne).  While Psychonauts got several Game of the Year awards, it just didn’t sell many copies.  When the numbers came in at the end of 2005, the company decided to no longer develop AAA platform titles, and instead stick to developing only value software.  That pretty much ended support for most of those games, and killed the chances of any of them seeing a sequel.  That said, they did see fit to take those classic games and put them on every digital distribution channel they can, although I’m surprised Infected is not on the Playstation Store as a download for the PSP Go yet.  Missed out on any of these games?  Fear not, Psychonauts is still selling on the Xbox Live Marketplace and Steam.

I realize now that the list is far too long to fit in just one article.  Tune in next time for the second part.