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Once more through the Looking Glass
GameSpy caught up with Tim Stellmach and chatted with him about the recent abrupt closing of Looking Glass Studios.
By - Valoria Opii

Tim Stellmach, aka EvilSpirit.

I recently had the opportunity to quiz Tim Stellmach, aka EvilSpirit, about the fall of Looking Glass. Tim was a long-time game designer at Looking Glass Studios. He got his start as a QA tester on Ultima Underworld way back when and then worked his way up through Underworld 2, Terra Nova, Thief, Thief Gold and Thief II. In addition to designing games, he's also a published author, penning books about game design and GURPS (Generic Universal RolePlaying System). He also has some solid advice for game designer wannabes.

GameSpy: What did Paul (Neurath) and Bill (Carlson) tell you about the closing?

Tim Stellmach: In a nutshell, that Looking Glass was closing down effective immediately, that they had done everything they could to prevent that, but that ultimately it didn't work out. There were lots more details, but I think they're mostly covered in your other questions.

GameSpy: Is there anything about the finances of Looking Glass and/or about the deal with Eidos that fell through that you can tell us?

Irrational Games had an action/espionage title in the works.

TS: Looking Glass was stuck in a position of trying to run a couple of projects that weren't bringing in much money up front. Jane's Attack Squadron was slipping its schedule significantly due (at least in part) to a major redesign of the game partway through, at the insistence of the publisher. We also had an action/espionage title in early development, originally contracted out to Irrational Games. When they pulled out of the project, so did its publisher (Microsoft), along with a lot of expected advances.

This put Looking Glass in a very bad position in terms of cash. The Thief line was bringing in profits, and in the end JAS was only about a quarter out from shipping, but we weren't due to receive royalty payments on Thief II yet and were basically faced with the prospect of running out of money.

Eidos was publisher on the Thief series, among other games.

Management saw this coming, of course, and was pursuing outside investment to get us over the cash crisis. We had basically completed all the due diligence for a deal to be acquired by Eidos. They were sufficiently serious about the deal that in the end they were floating us advances to meet our cash needs. This, of course, was a very vulnerable position if for some reason the money from Eidos stopped coming in.

That is exactly what happened. For financial reasons of their own, Eidos found themselves rather suddenly unable to close the deal. Looking Glass was, in corporate slang, "left at the altar." There was a scramble to find another potential investor interested enough to meet our cash needs, but very little time in which to do so. The decision to close our doors therefore came very quickly.

Next: The status of other projects...

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