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You Will Be Missed, GameTrailers February 10, 2016

Posted by Maniac in Editorials, You Will Be Missed.
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In 2006, my Sony PSP received a software update which gave it the ability to play pretty decent quality video files I could store on a Memory Stick.  While I had the ability to convert most of the video files I wanted to the PSP’s new video format, some websites wanted to be at the cutting edge of technology and offered plenty of their site’s video content available to download in that format.  I  downloaded a review of the game Dead Rising for the Xbox 360 to my PSP and watched it. I thought the video was well written, with some great editing, and I agreed with its conclusions.

That was the first time I came across content produced by the website GameTrailers. Yesterday, in an announcement I’m still trying to believe, the people who were employed by the site have announced they were all let go.

I’ve been following gaming news for over fifteen years and I’ve been involved in the industry for over ten 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, and here’s a story about another one. It is a sad story to see such great potential end abruptly, but we have to move on, and we will never forget.

In Summer 2007 I was working a college job and I became obsessed with a game called The Darkness. When I first saw a commercial for it air on TV, I immediately became interested in obtaining it. Usually games rarely released during the summer, but this game has been developed by the studio who made Escape from Butcher Bay, and was based on a comic series with a cult following.  Unable to buy the game yet, I decided to look for all the information I could about it, and that brought me to GameTrailers.  They had just recently reviewed the game and had a lot of other videos about it ready to download. For two weeks I visited that site daily to try and get the latest information I could about games like Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of The Patriots, Halo 3, and Bioshock.

While the site would mirror most of the popular game trailers, it was top notch at their editing quality when it came to producing exclusive previews and reviews of new games. Also, GameTrailers had a lot of amazing and unique content creators.  I’m sure everyone will remember ScrewAttack’s partnership with the site, which brought in series like The Angry Video Game Nerd, but if there was any reason to watch GameTrailer’s content, it was for their Retrospectives.  Seriously, if you ever have a few free hours try checking out their retrospectives on Final Fantasy, Metroid, Metal Gear, or Star Wars. You won’t be disappointed.

Farewell, GameTrailers, you will be missed!

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You Will Be Missed (Part 4) May 11, 2013

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.

After the article I did earlier in the week about the one year anniversary of the demise of Qore, I thought about some other journalistic pursuits that have also been shut down recently, and then I started thinking about a lot of other companies that I can remember quite fondly that are no longer with us.

So, kick back and relax as we dust off the You Will Be Missed series.

Game Developer Magazine – I first got exposed to Gamasutra because of a postmortem they published for Star Trek: Elite Force, a game developed by Raven Software in the year 2000 which I happened to like quite a bit. I was in High School at the time, and was taking Business courses along with my usual workload. One day, the teacher asked us to do research online for any available business articles, and with gaming as my primary interest, Gamasutra was the first site I went to.

A big portion of the same network which hosts events like GDC and websites like Gamasutra.com, was Game Developer Magazine. This was a monthly magazine which was made available for around fifty dollars a year. However, this wasn’t some magazine like PC Gamer or Game Informer, which catered to gaming players, this was a magazine for those game’s developers and featured articles about the best ways to make games. To me, the best part of GDM was there would be a new Postmortem every single month!

In 2005 I got a subscription to Game Developer Magazine, and I immediately became hooked. I discovered that some great games received postmortems in the magazine and that many of the postmortems the magazine published have to this day not been reprinted on gamasutra.com. I only had the subscription until around 2007, so sadly, I know there were a lot of great postmortems that I missed out on in the years since. Hopefully Gamasutra will choose to bring these classic and insightful articles into a free archive anyone can view.

Nintendo Show 3D – Hosted by Jessie Cantrell, Nintendo Show 3D was a bi-weekly short series released for free through the Nintendo 3DS’s eShop. Each episode would be entirely in 3D and on average focus on previews for two upcoming 3DS games and announce any special promotions in the Nintendo eShop. The show would wrap up with a short segment of a random task in 3D. Jessie had a great personality which made her a great fit to host the show. This was the best way to learn about promotions, free content, conventions, and what games were coming out, and it was fun.

Instead of being downloadable like Qore was, Nintendo Show 3D streamed their episodes, similar to Netflix or Amazon, which meant it wouldn’t take up space on an external SD card, but you would need internet access on your 3DS to watch it. The big selling point about this series was that it was shot in 3D, which gave viewers an incentive to watch it on the native 3DS screen. Sure, you could probably watch these videos on Nintendo’s YouTube Channel, but unless you were watching it on a 3DS, you wouldn’t be able to get the full effect.

Sadly, the show has wrapped, and Nintendo is sticking to streaming Nintendo Direct videos on a regular basis through the service. While Nintendo Direct is a decent series which gives some in-depth previews and always seems to break news, the series seems more appropriate for the Wii U than the 3DS. It is not in 3D, and you’d be better off watching them on YouTube or your Wii U.

Well that takes care of some of these journalistic pursuits which are sadly no longer with us, but that’s not the end of the companies that are no longer with us.

Palm Inc. – This was the company that defined the Personal Digital Assistant, as they were the ones who could deliver a portable device that could do just enough that the user needed, had great battery life, a simplistic and easy to understand interface, and one of the best handwriting recognition systems ever developed.

The hectic and much publicized development of what would eventually become the webOS platform is considered by many to be what brought about the downfall of Palm, and eventually lead to it being purchased by Hewlett-Packard. Sadly, I believe that Palm’s party was over much sooner than that. As soon as Palm spun off its software and hardware divisions into separate entities in order to improve the chance of licensing their operating system to other handheld devices, the company could no longer maintain its original design philosophies which had served them quite well up to that point. When the corporate licenses all dried up as cell phones became the dominate personal devices, it should have been a big warning bell to Palm that they needed to reintegrate themselves in order to get the best performance out of the hardware and software they were selling separately, but they chose to go a different route.

I still have my Palm VIIx and keyboard hanging up, still working just as well as the day I bought them. However, I’m no longer able to use most of its best features, like HotSync or palm.net service as technology has long since passed the COM port, and the wireless infrastructure the palm.net service made use of has been shut down for over eight years. I keep it as a reminder of a once great company at its best.

Software Etc. – I know one guy online wrote a really nice article on the fall of Babbages, but I never had a Babbages in my area.   I can’t think of any other store I appreciated having in my area more in the year 2000 as I appreciated having Software Etc.  Software Etc. was like a beacon in an otherwise ignored monument to consumerism.  I don’t normally get sentimental about retail stores because let’s face it they’re a business just like any other, but Software Etc. was anything but typical.  They sold PC games and they were pretty much the only store in my area that had a wide selection of quality games they sold at a decent price.  I could remember going into a Software Etc and buying classic PC games like Giants: Citizen Kabuto, X-Wing Alliance, and Messiah for around $20 a piece, with fully intact packages.  Now Software Etc. is owned by Gamestop, and at least from what I’ve seen in the United States, pretty much all of the venues that had Software Etc. signs have switched to the Gamestop philosophy, and if I want PC games, my options aren’t as wide as they once were.

You Will Be Missed, Qore May 7, 2013

Posted by Maniac in Editorials, Histories, 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.

The year was 2008.  With Sony’s Playstation 3 out for two years and its Playstation Network Store looking like a viable distribution service for interesting commercial opportunities, Sony decided to take a page from the Substance.TV book of development and create their own DVD-style monthly magazine for PS3 owners.  This was no new idea, even in the days when the PC CD-ROM was picking up, there were always companies trying to use this method to create an interactive magazine for consumers to purchase.  The problem was, most of these projects, whether they were on CD-ROM or later DVD, ultimately failed.  If you don’t believe me, I’m probably the only person in the world who remembers what Sweet Digizine was.  But Sony had a unique idea, they were going to focus strictly on gamers and sell using a service they already had access to on a device they already owned.  This would save a ton in distribution and manufacturing costs alone, as unlike previous DVD or CD-ROM magazines, Sony’s would be released exclusively through the Playstation Network without any physical media.  The downside was this would only be playable on the Playstation 3.

Qore’s first year of sales came from a standalone yearly subscription.  The price was actually quite reasonable, it was around $25-$30 US for twelve issues.  In comparison, most yearly magazine subscriptions would have a similar price.  I actually remember purchasing that first year’s subscription and thinking it had a great first year.  Each month would have its own previews and reviews of upcoming games that would appear on the PS3, as well as content on upcoming movies on Blu-Ray Disc.  They offered unique HD featurettes you couldn’t watch anywhere else, and every once in a while, I would get e-mailed a download code for a free PSN game I could keep forever, or early demo or beta access.

The only problem was that Sony was not offering physical copies of Qore on disc, and at the time, PS3’s didn’t really offer big enough hard drives that could hold a lot of issues of Qore.  On the low end, a PS3 would have around 40GB of avalible space, and much of it would be taken up by essential programs on top of required game installation data, DLC, and PS Home.  A normal issue of Qore took up about 1.5 GB of space on average.  While Sony allowed users to redownload issues of Qore whenever they wanted to authorized PS3s, once the month was over, unless there was some feature a user really liked in it, there was no reason to keep it installed.  In fact, I remember not being able to afford to renew my subscription for a second year at a discounted price, and just giving up on the service instead of renewing when the renewal price was raised.  This would probably be considered the precursor to my Playstation Plus feelings.

After the second year, Qore moved from being a standalone subscription service to becoming part of the new Playstation Plus initiative, which offered free issues of Qore, discounts for DLC, and free access to games all for a whopping $50 US a year.  I wasn’t interested in becoming a part of a service which would cut off access to my games as soon as I stopped paying for it, and I thought the price for such a service was unreasonably high, so I never became a Playstation Plus member, and I thought for sure that would be the end of my access to Qore.  Issues continued to be released monthly, and they became stamped with yellow free price tags, making it clear to gamers that only Playstation Plus subscribers would have the ability to download them.

However, by the end of it’s run, something unusual happened.  After a week or so of being released for Playstation Plus subscribers, Sony was actually giving away new Qore issues as a free download to anyone, not just Playstation Plus subscribers.  I thought this must’ve been some mistake in the Playstation Network, or just some kind of temporary sale, so I downloaded all the new issues as they became available for free.  There were some great features on new games I was interested in, including Sorcery, and Resistance 3, and even a great travelogue on Canada.  However, my worst fears were confirmed in April 2012, as they announced during the introduction video that this would be the final issue.  I was crushed.

It has been over a year since the final episode of Qore was posted on the Playstation Network.  I don’t really want to go into why I believed the service ultimately was discontinued.  There could have been a myriad of issues which contributed to this factor and being that I am not an insider on this I would not want to speculate.  I just want to say what a shame it was that such a unique service had to be discontinued, and will join other similar failures like Sweet Digizine, and Substance.TV.  In their heyday they offered great exclusive video content with decent production value, occasional free game downloads, and always had previews to games I was interested in learning more about.  Perhaps with the internet being the de-facto distribution network for so much free information, this kind of product just does not work in today’s economy, even if it’s focused on gamers.

You will be missed.

You Will Be Missed, Lucasarts April 15, 2013

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.

In the past several months, there have been an enormous list of closures in the gaming industry.  Many of these are companies that I would consider to be staples of gaming’s history, and its sad to see them gone.  Without them, who knows what will happen to the industry as a whole with them no longer able to contribute to it.  Will we truly have innovation anymore?

Out of these closures, one has impacted me the most, and that is the closure of George Lucas’s video game development studio and publisher, Lucasarts.

Lucasarts was one of the first major video game publishers on the market, and probably one of the strongest until a few years ago when the publishers started buying each other and increasing in size.  In the past, they had produced some of the best adventure games ever made.  Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Sam and Max Hit the Road, Day of the Tentacle, Grim Fandango, Maniac Mansion, and the Monkey Island series were all published by them.  But lets not forget this was a part of the Lucasfilm empire and they also produced Star Wars video games.  They had a ton of great successes in the early 90s with some flight sim games like X Wing and Tie Fighter, which are to this day considered staples of the flight sim genre.  Since then, they had dominated the PC space into the 00s, with one heck of a catalog of great games to back that up.  Sadly, the glory days on the PC would not last forever, and this tale will not end well.

I first became aware of Lucasarts in the late 90s after I got my first real gaming computer.  I had been a fan of the Star Wars movies since 1994 when the movies started to reair on the USA Network, and I was excited to learn about any new stories which took place in the Star Wars saga, and read a lot of books on the expanded universe.  My father wanted to give me a nice gift for Christmas that year and he saw that Lucasarts bundled together six of their games into a single package called the LucasArts Archives.  When I got the games for Christmas, I immediately started to install them to my PC and started playing them.

Here was everything that a Star Wars fan could have wanted.  The opportunity to play around in the Star Wars universe as if I was there.  Depending on my mood, I could pick any perspective I wanted to view this universe from.  If I wanted to be a smuggler with a heart of gold, I could play Dark Forces.  If I wanted to be a hero fighter pilot, I could play X Wing.  If I wanted to fight from the imperial perspective, I could play Tie Fighter.  If I wanted something simple I could play in short goes like games of Solitaire, I could play Yoda Stories.

After I played through all the games that were included in the bundle, I noticed that about half of them were merely short preview demos.  When browsing through the included Lucasarts Catalog, I noticed that Lucasarts had a HUGE library of games which were available on the PC.  Having missed the early years of PC gaming, it looked like this was providing me a great opportunity to play catch up.  I wasn’t disappointed.  I finally got to live out my fantasy of becoming a Jedi in Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II.  If you would like to hear more about how I felt about this time, you can always check out my Podcast on the Jedi Knight Series.  When the end of the 90s hit, the first prequel Star Wars movie made it to the big screen, and with it some of the final Star Wars games for the PC.  They went out big, with the very enjoyable Episode 1 Racer, a game based around the only enjoyable sequence in Episode 1, and which took advantage of 3D Acceleration, and had a great sense of atmosphere and speed.

However, Lucasarts, once a major player for PC games, was now setting their sights exclusively on the consoles.  The Xbox, PS2 and GameCube offered some impressive hardware and boasted incredible sales figures, and I guess Lucasarts felt that they should start supporting them.  Practically overnight, most of the new game releases became console games.  As the latter prequels started to come out, they switched away from the PC and instead made games for the consoles like Star Wars Starfighter and Bounty Hunter.  While Starfighter got a PC release due to its critical reception and decent sales, many of the other games they released to consoles during this era would never see a PC port.  The PC gamers were promised the best of the lot, the game Obi Wan, which was supposed to be a spiritual sequel to Jedi Knight, as well as a retelling of Episode 1.  Sadly, that game was cancelled, and later brought over to the Xbox, where it was a critical disappointment.  The company wasn’t perfect, it had produced some flops, and not all of them were Star Wars related.  RTX Red Rock for the PS2 was practically unplayable, although it had some great cutscenes.

By 2003, game development was slowly returning to the PC as the generation’s consoles started to get long in the tooth, but in a lot of cases, PC games from Lucasarts would see a release on at least one other game console.  They were also looking away from developing their own games in-house and instead started publishing games made by independent developers who had made a name for themselves delivering some unique games.  This was when they announced that developer Raven Software, which had previously had developed the biggest hit game for the Star Trek franchise with Elite Force, was going to do the official sequel to Jedi Knight, called Jedi Outcast.  They also announced that Planet Moon Studios, which had previously showcased their own unique brand of humor with Giants: Citizen Kabuto, would develop a standalone game with an entirely new IP called Armed and Dangerous.  These games were great, and a ton of fun to play on the PC.

What will probably be the most famous pairing from this strategy was when they teamed up with developer Bioware, who had already made a name for themselves with their role-playing games based on the Dungeons and Dragons ruleset, and published Knights of the Old Republic. While KOTOR is still considered by many to be the finest Star Wars game ever made, sadly this game was followed up by a very disappointing sequel and a lukewarm MMO reception with Star Wars Galaxies.

With the dawn of the current generation consoles on the horizon, Lucasarts showed off what they had planned for the next generation.  An entirely new franchise was coming for us called The Force Unleashed, which was intended to become a major portion of the Star Wars franchise.  We would now be able to explore EVERYTHING that could be done with The Force beyond our wildest dreams, and Lucasarts saw fit to tease gamers by promising we would have the opportunity to pull a full-sized Star Destroyer out of the sky!  Sadly, the game could not live up to its hype and disappointed many players.  Personally, I thought the game’s story was interesting, as well as its art style, but the gameplay was terrible.  I hoped they would fix all the original game’s problems when they announced The Force Unleashed II, which fixed some of the original’s gameplay problems, but was an extremely short game with a terrible story.  Sadly, this is for many the last game most people can remember coming from Lucasarts which is why I think so many people aren’t as upset the company shut down.

With the purchase of Lucasfilm by Disney, I immediately became worried for many of the companies that went along as part of that deal.  Sadly, Disney already has some game development studios of their own, and Lucasarts became obsolete.  Still, I remember them for their entire catalog, not just their disappointments, and I’m very sad to see them go.  They were in the process of making a major future generation game called Star Wars 1313, which looked to be about the underworld of Coruscant.  The game looked amazing, and drew a lot of attention at last year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo.  It looks like that project is now dead with the company’s closure.

Please, raise your glasses.  To Lucasarts.  May the Force be with you all.

You Will Be Missed (Part 3) October 21, 2011

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.

Rare:  This one was requested by one of my commenters on an earlier You Will be Missed.  Rare was one of the best Nintendo exclusive developers in the US for the SNES and N64 generations producing hits that were not only critically acclaimed but fan favorites of their respective platforms.  They produced such hits as Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Killer Instinct, Perfect Dark, and of course GoldenEye 64, considered by many the greatest N64 game of all time.

Then Microsoft bought them for $100 million ($40 million more than they paid for Bungie) and made them an Xbox exclusive developer.  They started off by releasing updated games for the Xbox 1 platform like Conker: Live and Reloaded, but when the Xbox 360 came out of the gate they launched two major exclusives, Perfect Dark Zero and Kameo, one of which was a critical disappointment and the other was not a major seller.  After that, Rare released Viva Pinata, which was a very good seller.  The problem was, Viva Pinata was very different from the action games that Rare’s fans wanted them to continue making.  Since then, Rare has been working on very different kinds of games for the 360 platform.  While games like Perfect Dark and Banjo Kazooie have been ported to Xbox Live Marketplace, Rare’s recent resume has been working on games like Kinect Sports.  While the company is still very much alive and kicking, it has been clear many fans would like for them to go back and continue releasing the unique action games that made them successful.

Lechmere:  This one may be a bit of an obscure one, as with the research I’ve done told me that this place spread only as far as the Northeastern US.  Lechmere was an electronics store on par with what we would consider a Best Buy or PC Richards nowadays, but only it did it years before Best Buy even came to my state.  The difference between this store and more recent electronics stores is that this place knew what it was selling but still operated in a mass market mindset.  The stores were huge, twice as big as what a Circuit City was, and there was nothing electronic they wouldn’t sell.  You could even stock a brand new kitchen with appliances, or demo a video game over at the Nintendo 64 alcove.  My first exposure to most of the major devices in the 90s was in Lechemere, including the Virtual Boy, Playstation, Nintendo 64, CD-i and 3DO.  This is where I would go to see those early PC FMV games demoed as well.  I remember being wowed off my rocker to see movies being released on CD-ROM there for the first time (boy those never took off!)

So if it did everything right, why is it the company’s been dead since back when I was in middle school?  Well, you can blame big business for that.  The story I was told at the time was there was a major conglomerate (I don’t know which one, and they’re bankrupt now so who cares?) who wanted the Maytag name but couldn’t get it.  Because Lechmere had it, they chose to buy the company to acquire Maytag in the process.  When the conglomerate filed for bankrupcy, they took Lechmere with them, and even though the stores had plenty of customers and sales, they were shut down.  My own research did confirm part of this story, but I cannot verify the reason why they were purchased was because of Maytag, so for all I know that story could be bullshit.  Regardless, the company shut down in 1997 and has not been seen since.

In my opinion, no electronics store since has been organized as well as Lechmere did.  Their mindset was big and it worked well for them.  Prices were affordable for items, like music or movies, they actually had a large amount of cash registers open at any given time (you know, because there were people buying things).  This was a lot different then when I had to start dealing with stores like Circuit City, which never had registers open under any circumstances.  They would instead force customers to go to Customer Service to buy their items, and have to wait forever behind people returning a printer they never should have bought in the first place.  I miss you Lechmere, come back, we need you in this world!

FASA Studios:  Formed by Jordan Weisman in the 80s, this company was responsible for the Mechwarrior, Shadowrun, and Crimson Skies games, all of which are considered some of the best games ever published by Microsoft.  The company was bought by Microsoft and for a while they were given a lot of liberty with what they could do.  In 2006, after completing Shadowrun, Microsoft had no further projects for them (even though they wanted to make another Crimson Skies game) and chose to shut the company down.

You can find a FANTASTIC video about the life and death of this company on YouTube, done by someone who calls himself Research Indicates.  It was done very similar to documentaries directed by Ken Burns and provided a lot of great information and factoids.

A lot of the people who were a part of the Crimson Skies team became a part of Bungie Studios and contributed to the space dogfight segment of Halo Reach.  Weisman has since formed a new studio and recently released Crimson Steam Pirates for the iPad (with the backing of the now independant Bungie).

I’d also like to make a small update to some of the earlier You Will be Missed articles I have written in the past.

The Little Miss Gamer blog from PBC-Productions has gotten some life back into it.  Lindsey Briggs has posted a tidbit or two on it as of recently after over a year of lapse.  Unfortunately, PBC has not made any Little Miss Gamer or Captain S videos in quite a while, but I hope to hear more from it!

Barry Smith’s InkTank site is back online, and some of the archives of the older Angst Tech are back up as well.  Barry even put up a new strip shortly after bringing the site back up.  Unfortunately that is all that was added to the site in several months, as the majority of the Angst Tech archive has not been restored, and no further new strips have been posted.

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.

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.