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8/29 A Look at GTIS

What’s going on over at GT Interactive, now integrated into Infogrames North America?  Recently on the Yahoo GTIS messageboard, someone asked a number of questions which were answered by Infogrames’ new investor relations guru, John Menditto.

1. He said that the company is absolutely not going to go bankrupt. Was
very stern and confident about this. They have brought in a lot of key management and the company will not go bankrupt.
2. Details about the proposed merger will be coming very soon. (weeks) Did not know what will happen. Said they are still looking to combine operations. Also asked if it is possible that the merger will not happen. He said it was possible the company could remain the same, however they are looking to combine operations. John said that Bruno is aware that an announcement needs to be made to shareholders soon.
3. He said that Bruno has been there every week working to turn everything around.
4. WAS SURPRISED TO HEAR THAT THEY HAVE BEEN ACTIVELY SEARCHING FOR A NEW CEO. The company feels that they need a ceo who is based in the US. They have not found the right person as of yet. Bruno will not hire anyone until he finds the right person.
5. Quarterly conference calls coming November quarter. Waiting for all the new management team to be in place.
6. Earnings will be released next week or early the following week.
7. Will be bringing analyst on board very soon. Said probably November when they start quarterly conference calls.
8. Driver 2 will be ready for this holiday season on all platforms.
9. Duke Forever delayed. Developer has created a new engine that is
fantastic. They are going to try the game with this engine. They believe the game will run "much" faster and better. John said that he had just spoken to the developer. No release date yet.
10. UNREAL 2,3 ARE NOT GOING TO FRANCE. They are licensed to Infogrames
because the GT name is gone. He said that 0 titles have been moved to France. The reason that some titles are on the Infogrames release schedule is because they are a majority holder in GTIS. They will still be GT’s. All games will be licensed to Infogrames.
11. Founders of Humongous did leave the company to start their own internet venture. Not with Infogrames. He kept saying that it was possible that down the road that Infogrames may work with them again.
As of now they are on their own. Said that there is a lot of mutual respect between them.
12. New web site for Infogrames Inc. in development.  Should be ready in October. Will have game release schedule and other current info. Said this will be separate from Infogrames site. Just for GT.

A few items of note:
- Driver 2 will be out this Christmas “on all platforms”
- Duke Nuke’m Forever will be delayed (surprise surprise).  Again 3D Realms is changing the engine (first from Quake 2, then Unreal, and now ??)

(See 8/31 Musings for an update to this story.)

8/29 Dragonstone's Fantasy

By FatBitterD00d

There’s a small company called Dragonstone that is developing Dragon’s Lair 3D for those wacky Germans at Blue Byte.  However, all is not well.  When multiple members of a small development house are all jumping ship at once, one inevitably asks the question, "So why are you interested in changing positions?" From talking to them separately, a picture emerged of a project in its final stages of collapse that's gone so horribly, horribly wrong as to be comical.

First of all, the development contract with Blue Byte isn't with Dragonstone at all.  It's with Dragon's Lair LLC, a holding company owned by veteran Hollywood guy Rick Dyer (not to be confused with Eidos head Rob Dyer).  After he skims off a nice slice of the money that Blue Byte thinks is being spent on development, the project is subcontracted out to Dragonstone.  And what does Dragonstone get for their complying with this setup?  Simple.  Dyer is bankrolling a lawsuit by Dragonstone head Steve Parsons against some little Mac group he used to run.  Parsons is no stranger to mismanaging development teams, because apparently he moved on only after his inspirational leadership there led to an wholesale employee walkout with the ultimatum that he either leave the company or stay on and manage an empty office.  Now he struts around the office at Dragonstone bragging about how he's going to get revenge on them... when he's not busy running a private LCD-sales venture with Blue Byte-funded space and equipment.  At least he has a back-up plan for when he runs the company into the ground.  Sadly, many of his employees don't.

Then we turn to their engineering.  Their "DragonTech" engine is nothing more than the technical marvel known as the Genesis3D engine, a hacked-together mess that anyone and their dog can download for free off the net--but anyone doing game development on a professional level knows better.  We're talking about the technology that powers such top titles as Extreme Paintbrawl 2, folks!  According to one of their soon-to-be former programmers, even with all the rendering turned OFF it barely reaches 60 fps on high-end hardware because of painful overhead and inefficiency, and at their E3 demo they had to use a 1000 MHz Athlon to get it playable.  They've added some new shading code, but you can only polish a turd so brightly.  Suspicions suggest they haven't even licensed so much as they've appropriated it, and are relying on their new veneer to pass the turd off their own.  Parsons even thinks they're going to make money by licensing "DragonTech".  Too bad it's not theirs to license.

Finally, their game design.  They hired someone pretty good at the start, but in spite of Parson's lack of a single design credit he felt his vision was superior to everyone else's.  He appointed himself head designer, and the real designer got a demotion to "assistant designer".  To rub it in he was moved to a smaller office to give the roomy one to their new lead programmer, who cost quite a penny in spite of zero prior experience in the game industry.  This kind of politics on a team this small?  Unbelievable.  Anyway, after the team drifted aimlessly for a few months, E3 2000 was coming up and they had very little to show for the time and money Blue Byte had invested in them, so how do Dyer and Parsons cover their asses?  They scrap the old design and come up with a new look for the game that would justify tossing out all the assets that they should have but don't, and then tell the team they're fired if they don't come up with a playable demo of the new design in 3 weeks.  After lots of painful 18-hour days (for everyone except Parsons, of course) they actually pull it off.  The trouble is, the one level they were showing at E3 was all there was after nearly a year and hundreds of thousands of Blue Byte's money.

So there they are, with only one level semi-playable and half their budget skimmed off or squandered.  How do you finish the game?  Well, Dyer's current plan is to sell the Dreamcast and PS2 versions to someone and use that money to fund the completion of the PC version.  But then what money will fund the development of their console versions?  Good question, but so far it's not one they have to answer because nobody's been foolish enough to bite.  That leaves Dragonstone with plan B: just find people that will work essentially for free.  And no, they didn't contract it out to Indonesian slave laborers. Parsons, in his infinite wisdom, opened up his very own sweatshop right here in the U. S. of A., staffed entirely by high-school interns.  These kids are now putting in 60 hours a to do level design and layout for the upcoming masterpiece that is Dragon's Lair 3D.  Sure, none of them have even had the basic experience of making their own Quake levels for fun at home, but that's OK, because they're eager to learn and work cheap.  I think the real lesson they'll take home is how completely broken this industry is, when so much talent and effort routinely gets flushed down the toilet because of incompetent management.


8/29 Sony, Broadband, and You

By FatSonyGuy

I have some older info in regards to SCEA.  I find it really funny at E3, they did a rehash of the GDC keynote at their press conference, but they added the repeated shouting of one word, "broadband!".  Later, I asked another exec from the European office, who was talking about how excited he was for the broadband stuff, for his opinions on Bluetooth (check out the examples) and he asked me "What's Bluetooth?"  Great...

What most people fail to realize is that even though SCEA's going all gung ho right now on broadband and such, and it's pretty obvious that most people really don't have an idea how they're going to implement it (except to the major press?) and the thing that makes it really funny is if you dig through archives... around '96 or '97, SCEA VP Phil Harrison was working with an ex-SCEA guy on "a modem for the Playstation for the only viable reason we can see why someone would use a modem on the Playstation - Edutainment!"  After much research with kids and such, they realized that the modem wasn't a viable option... gee, I wonder why no one wanted edutainment?

Actually, it was kind of silly.  I was there when Phil's "partner" was in the SCEA booth at E3 showing off their modem and he didn't even mention it, even though he knew a year before a PSX modem had been worked on that would've been shown against the Saturn NetLink (or NutLink as it was called... $200 for that PoS... you had to be nuts to buy one) and would've kicked it's ass.  (Half the price plus the Sony one had a speakerphone so you could talk to your friends while playing.)  But the modem is another story involving EA, cheap PSX DevSystems which SCEA went fucking nuts over, and clueless US divisions of Japanese companies claming "oh, I think we already released a Playstation modem in Japan, so we don't want yours since we have one."

The funny thing is that this ex-SCEA person left the company from San Diego who did the edutainment stuff to go to Sega of America to do pre-launch Dreamcast "online" stuff and people have said he was one of the contributing factors on why the DCnet stuff was so messed up.

Anyway, just another story.


8/24 Now Playing: The Park Place/Sony Soap Opera

We recent a number of responses to our inquiry into what the heck happened to Park Place back in late 1993/early 1994.  Some responses were clearly on the side of Park Place, while others were clearly for Sony.  We sifted through to obtain what we feel is the most objective look into what happened to that company known as Park Place.  Here we go.

The time is winter of 1993.  Park Place had developed successful sports products, most notably John Madden Football and NHL Hockey for the Sega Genesis—you got it, the games kicked off EA Sports (back then known as EASN) into the brand powerhouse they are today.  There were roughly 60 employees at the time for Park Place, which was consider by most to be the premier third party developer.  Development deals had been signed with Virgin, Konami, Gametek, EA, and a few others.  The company even started to branch out into different entertainment mediums such as special effects for movies.

Here is where things get confusing.  With the large number of projects the company was responsible for, deadlines began to slip.  Yet the CEO, Michael Knox, continued to sign new deals, further stretching the company’s limited resources even more.  Around this time, the president and co-owner of the company, Troy Linden, ran off with his secretary and left the management responsibilities to Michael Knox and other co-owners.
Sony had shown a definite interest in Park Place, and forged a deal with Park Place’s lawyer, Andy Zafron, to effectively act as a “mole” within the organization and report back to Sony on the situation there.  As Park Place was missing milestone dates due to its stretched resources, cash dwindled and soon it became difficult to make payroll.  Then, suddenly, Andy Zafron left the company.

It was known that Sony was looking into opening a development house in San Diego in order to do PSX sports games, yet it was surprising to discover Sony had effectively undermined Park Place’s employment staff and essentially supported a mass resignation.
However, it must be pointed out that the blame is not to be laid solely upon Sony.  When Park Place was going to have difficulty making payroll that December, some key folks within the company, who had been in contact with the now departed Andy Zafron, held a meeting where approximately 90% of the Park Place employees attended.  Some report John Smedley, then a producer, as the point man within Park Place who organized this meeting.  Also, it was held at a time when the CEO was out of the office and wouldn’t be back until the following week.

At this meeting, the person who was acting as the Sony contact (possibly Smedley), invited everyone to move over to Sony’s new development house that was going to be opening soon in the San Diego area.  And former Park Place lawyer Andy Zafron was heading it up.  This person further “persuaded” people by revealing that Park Place would not be able to make payroll, the job offer would be open for 24 hours only, and that Sony promised steady paychecks and good salaries.

When the CEO returned the next week, there were a line of employees outside his office with resignation letters in their hands.  As employees left, they ransacked the entire office building of equipment, development stations, source code and design documentation.

As a result of the mass exodus, Park Place was left with approximately 12 people, and it was forced to cancel all projects they were currently working on.  Since the company hadn’t made payroll, it was being sued by the now-departing employees for back pay, as well as vacation time owed.  Word is the CEO lost his wife and kids over the resulting destruction of his company, and he turned around and sued Sony for $300 million for the execution of a malicious plan to undermine his company.  The settlement took nearly 3 years and when the dust finally settled, the only people who got a cut of the money were the lawyers.  However it was proved that Sony had not maliciously tried to put Knox/Park Place out of business and Sony was cleared by the court ruling.
What happened was Sony ended up with a fully operational studio, Sony Imagesoft Studios, which eventually turned into the 989 Studios sports development group.  John Smedley spun off a group and created Verant Interactive, which was recently bought and absorbed by Sony Online.  How different the industry would be today if only a few things happened differently.  Reflect upon it.

8/24 Hell on Earth


8/22 An Open Letter to Deadweights

We received an interesting letter and were asked to print it, so here it is.

To All Deadweights in the Game Industry,

I hate your fucking guts!  Damn I hate you.  You are the death of countless projects and companies in this industry.  You are the death of fun.  You will be the death of me.  Damn I hate you!  I wish I could have my way with you deadweights.  I am not gay, but I would fuck you in the ass for all the people you have fucked.

You know who I am talking about.  It is 10:45AM on a work day and you are sitting here reading emails and surfing the web, banging your head against the wall and squeezing a loaf; everyone else is banging the fucking keyboard and squeezing their mice to make a fucking product for you to fucking ruin -- and ultimately kill.

Yeah, you keep your door closed so people don't know that you are playing games or making long distance calls to other deadweights.  You are sitting there looking at secretly taped video footage and audio recordings.  Damn you are so paranoid--why?

So, all you Deadweights in the industry <you know who you are>, for the good of all the rest of us and the entertainment of the next generation, just quit your job, fucking resign and start selling used cars and snake oil -- you lazy fucks.

Are you a deadweight?  Let's see...

Do you browse the web and answer email all day?  Rather than code, model, design, or lead a team.

Are you losing sleep at night wondering when people will see through all your bullshit?

Do you skip out at 4:30 after you make sure everyone else is working hard?

Do you lie to employees and then lie to your bosses about your project?

Do you make as much as your whole team?

Do you lie so much that you start believing your own lies?

Do you hire people and promise them the world then deliver hell?

You can't name five things you did for your team/project at work today, can you?

Are you monitoring email, web access, and ICQ messages?

Do you lead your team down a path that they hate and you know that you are wrong, but you can't admit that you were wrong?

If you quit right now, you couldn't get another job, could you, huh? <torture, humilation, greed, and sucking up don't count.>


If you answer yes to any of these questions (or lied to yourself), then you are a Deadweight piece of shit and you should commit suicide right fucking now!  Die Deadweight bastards, die!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Disclaimer:  Fatbabies.com does not endorse the writer’s suggestions, so we cannot be held responsible should some crazy decide to kill himself/herself over discovering he’s an industry deadweight.  Any incidents occurring after the printing of this article would be pure coincidence, but most likely fictional.  In other words, it doesn’t exist.  Speaking of which, we don’t exist either, so go look for some other place to cause trouble.  There.  We said it.

8/22 Background Check


8/17 Ritual Entertainment Sez "Fakk You!"

Looks like Texas based Ritual Entertainment (developer of SiN) has again screwed up with their new product, Heavy Metal: FAKK2.  The game released with major bugs, and recent patches have yet to correct some of the problems.  Some gamers still cannot get the thing working properly.

As an aside, did you know that 90% of Ritual’s non-owners who were on the original team are no longer at the company?  Bu-bye.  And Jim Dose, one of the owners, has since left to work at id.  But what is up with QA at Gathering?  Is it just * that * shitty?

So Ritual’s Mark Dochtermann sent along a letter to FAKKYou.com asking gamers in the Dallas area who are still experiencing problems with the game (after applying the just released patch) to help them identify and squash the lingering bugs Ritual is unable to reproduce.  Here are the details:

  We released a patch for Heavy Metal FAKK 2 tonight and honestly thought we had fixed the vast majority of remaining issues with the product, apparently we were wrong.  The truth is since we shipped the product 2 weeks ago we have been unable to reproduce the crash bug that everyone seems to experience.  We have access to over 30 different machines (at the office and at homes) running 98, 2k, and NT, running A3D, EAX and software and we have not gotten one machine to reliably crash time and again.

  Often when we did find a machine that did crash, we were able to cure it by upgrading to the latest sound or video driver or it miraculously cured itself after minimal cajoling.  I am writing this, to ask if there is anyone in the DFW area that is experiencing this problem and would like to help us solve it, please contact me directly at markd@ritual.com.  Ritual Entertainment is dedicated to shipping products that are bug free, and we thought Heavy Metal FAKK 2 was bug free.  I ask that people have a bit more patience with us so that we can do the right thing by our customers.  We shipped a product that had no known major issues at launch time (according to our testing), the fact that it has exhibited these problems in wide release is very distressing to me and the rest of the FAKK 2 team.

Let’s look at his letter and read between the lines a bit, shall we?

We released a patch for Heavy Metal FAKK 2 tonight and honestly thought we had fixed the vast majority of remaining issues with the product, apparently we were wrong.

What he really means to say is:  “We rushed out an unfinished product to make our quarter.  If we had missed the gold master milestone, we would have had to pay a penalty to Gathering, our publisher.”

The truth is since we shipped the product 2 weeks ago we have been unable to reproduce the crash bug that everyone seems to experience.  We have access to over 30 different machines (at the office and at homes) running 98, 2k, and NT, running A3D, EAX and software and we have not gotten one machine to reliably crash time and again.

While we do some internal testing here with our 2 part-time high school punks, most of the testing is done at Gathering of Developers.  It’s their fault, so go blame them!  Bastards.

Often when we did find a machine that did crash, we were able to cure it by upgrading to the latest sound or video driver or it miraculously cured itself after minimal cajoling.

(FS—what the fuck, “minimal cajoling??????”)
If we found a machine that crashed, a swift kick in the hard drive would solve the problem.  Sometimes we’d have to rip out the power supply, but most of the time physical abuse would fix it so the game no longer would crash.

I am writing this, to ask if there is anyone in the DFW area that is experiencing this problem and would like to help us solve it, please contact me directly at markd@ritual.com.

We’re looking for some cheap labor, so if you’re an illegal alien or unemployed and want to test games, drop me an e-mail.

Ritual Entertainment is dedicated to shipping products that are bug free, and we thought Heavy Metal FAKK 2 was bug free.

(FS—yeah, like SiN was fucking bug free?  Go play your own damn products before you release them, Mark!)
Translation:  they don’t know shit about testing their own games, and the GoD QA group failed to find major flaws in this game.

Hear us now and believe us later.  Our games work!

I ask that people have a bit more patience with us so that we can do the right thing by our customers.  We shipped a product that had no known major issues at launch time (according to our testing), the fact that it has exhibited these problems in wide release is very distressing to me and the rest of the FAKK 2 team.

These crash bugs somehow mysteriously appeared during the duplication process from gold master to sealed product.  We will find the bastards who did this and blamed Ritual for the bugs!  We’ll get them!!!  But in the mean time, buy more of our games…

8/17 Sony's PlayStation 2 Woes

by FatAssPS2PhatBoy

After talking to a few friends around the industry, I have concluded that Sony is running around like retards trying to handle the launch but not doing a very good job.  First, most developers haven't even received a finished US PS2 yet.  I heard EA has one, but why wouldn't they.  EA's dick is shoved down Sony’s mouth so far, they had to have one first.  Second, am I the only one that noticed that none of the PS2 ads that are currently running have the ACTUAL launch date?  They all say shit like "Launch Date:  Playstation 2 Launch"  Everyone knows what day it is, why not say the exact date?  Did you guys know that not ONE third party title has been submitted to Sony 3rd party test?  They are a month and a half away with 20+ launch titles and there hasn't been one title submitted.  Smells fishy to me.

Speaking of Test, there isn't ONE title in test at Sony first party test.  Any idiot knows that you can't do a quality job on a one month test cycle.  One last thing, the numbers keep getting smaller and smaller for the launch hardware.  It's impossible to make enough units for 2 different launches and 3 Christmas' at once.  Number I've been hearing so far, under 700K.  That's going to be a Merry Christmas for Ebay'ers.  If you call around, you will find the same information.  Btw, how many games have sold past the 500k mark in Japan?  Looks like a not so merry a Christmas for Sony this year.

- FatAssPS2PhatBoy

8/15 Boneyards Shuts Down, HE Slides

Cavedog's Boneyards player matching service has been abruptly shut down.  A recent post at Annihilated.comfrom Boneyard's Vanya Y. Tucherov put things into perspective:

Before I go any further, Marco, you have permission to reprint this wherever you like, as does anyone else. After having been muzzled by Brandon Smith for months, I'm finally beyond his reaches, if he or anyone else even cares anymore.

Although it's not yet been officially announced, Boneyards will quite certainly be dead very shortly. On Tuesday, 2 August, 2000, all remaining members of what was once the Boneyards team were laid off by Infogrames, the company which now owns GT Interactive and its subsidiary companies, including Humongous Entertainment, the studio which birthed the offspring studio Cavedog Entertainment.

At the time it was announced to those of us who remained, we were not even given the privledge to remove our personal possessions from our offices, but were told instead that we must set up appointments to do so in the future.

No date has been set to "officially" close Galactic War or Darien Crusades, but with sending the last employees packing, they've tacitly closed both, as there's no one left who even knows how to restart the servers should they go down (having just failed to successfully log into GWar, it may now be down permanently). Regardless, there are no more sectors queued and awaiting deployment- each one requires a patch to be built before it can be posted, and I've never finished writing the documentation of how that process gets done.

And so it ends, not with a bang, but a whimper. If we'd even been informed, we'd have done everything within our power to have given you all at least a grand show before the end, but even that's been denied us.

It's been my distinct honour to work with the others who created Boneyards, and to serve the TA and TA:K communities. You guys deserve far better from your online gaming service than this has become.

Vanya Y. Tucherov
who created and/or played the following characters on Boneyards:
TA: Core Tactical Commander tesseract and NEWSBOT
TAK: Zhon Chancellor K'shinsa StormRider, ServerDog WingedElf, and TownCrier

That said, a brave soldier on the bloody shores at Humongous Entertainment had a few comments to make on the new management structure and even more “meetings” about things that have nothing to do with games.  Read for yourselves:

     > -----Original Message-----
     > From: EDITED > Sent: Friday, August 04, 2000 1:46 PM
     > To:   EDITED (E-mail)
     > Subject:      FW: Days numbered?
     > Oh, man, this is funny stuff. Even with Ron and Barb gone, there's still
     > plenty of incompetence left in the gas tank.
    > -----Original Message-----
     > From: EDITED [mailto:EDITED@humongous.com]
     > Sent: Friday, August 04, 2000 1:30 PM
     > To: EDITED Subject: Days numbered?
     >       So yesterday we had our first meetings as new 'Studios'.  I went to
     > the Sports meeting, (I am part of the sports 'Studio') which was lead by
     > Andy Heike with Elizabeth Stringer handling part of it as the new head of
     > the sports 'Studio'.  Together they talked about organization, including a
     > long description by Elizabeth about what has been dubbed 'The Matrix'
     > which described the management hierarchy from here on out.
     >       Just after us, the character 'Studio' had it's meeting, again I'm
     > sure Andy started out the meeting.  I hear that Chris Wilson (new head of
     > the character 'Studio') apparently TANKED when Andy turned the meeting
     > over to him (unspoken reaction "I'm supposed to talk?").  At first he tried to
     > return the meeting back to Andy by asking if he had 'gone over the SKU
     > information."  I guess he was not talking very loud and people in the
     > audience had to ask him to speak up 2 or 3 times.  Then, he apparently
     > made a desperate attempt to recover his composure and dived into a little
     > monologue about his life history.  I just wish I had been there.
     >       The character studio also has the majority of old timers left at HE.
     > Imagine what they must have felt sitting in the presence of their new
     > fearless leader.

Oh how the mighty have fallen, huh?

8/15 Flying Chairs Spotted at EA Seattle

Seeing as how everyone has been following the turmoil in EA Seattle, it probably a good bet everyone can expect more drama before things quiet down in the Rainy City.  With the recent departure of Mike Ryder, it is now time for the infamous Randy Dersham and his minions to take the helm of the demoralized studio.

Those at EA Seattle who don't know about Randy "Chair Thrower" Dersham, take our advice and duck.  This is the guy who was brought in to head the now extinct outdoor sports group, "Captain Jack" as it was affectionately known, to produce high quality outdoor sports titles.  As the legend goes, when Dersham found out that his new stuffed sail fish wouldn't be expensed by the company, he responded by throwing his forty pound office chair across his office, shattering the office window.

This move prompted many artists and programmers to direct their concerns about working with him to the HR director.  The bulk of the remarks centered on how they couldn't work with him if this pattern of behavior was accepted.

Several months later, Dersham sent out a cheap memo to perform damage control for the situation, mentioning that his door was open, most likely it had been ripped off its hinges, for comments or questions.  The moral of the story is that when things don't go his way, watch out.

8/10 Mattel


8/10 Paradox Studios:  The Enigma

More, we have more juicy info on Paradox and the recent departures.  It’s true most of the original team from Thrill Kill is still at Paradox, and it’s true they have worked on the WuTang and X-Men fighting games.

However, it is also true a lot of people have recently left the company.  Some of these were fired (4 employees in the past 5 months) and others left for “greener pastures” (not our words).  That’s 5 people in the past 6 weeks with at least 4 or 5 more with the strong desire to leave “very soon.”

Why are they firing employees and losing talent (on X-Men 80% of the art team and 50% of the programming team have already left)?  In our opinion, it could be because people see the writing on the wall that Paradox is collapsing.

It could be due to some very smart management by Christine Hsu, owner of the company (who bought herself a brand new Lexus SUV with all the options while most of the employees work on folding tables & sit on chairs they found in a dumpster).  Paradox is churning out bad and rushed games without any thought of quality—resulting in fewer and fewer publishers willing to work with them.  Activision threw in the tower after X-Men and the terrible (and still unfinished) Lion King for PSX.  Mattel did the same after seeing the beta of Rock’em Sock’em Robots.  No publishers are willing to try their luck with Paradox, and the repeatedly slipped milestones with Lion King are not improving the overall situation.

At its current burn rate, Paradox will be out of money by the end of the year and are desperately scrambling to find a new publisher with a new project and fresh funding.  It is not known if the company is being sized for a casket at this point in time yet or not.

(there's an 8/15 Musing following up on this story)

8/8 Acclaim Press Release

NEWS RELEASE - for immediate release

Launching U.S. console initiatives proves company executives 'have lost their goddamn minds - what the fuck are they thinking?'

GLEN COVE, NY (August 3, 2000) - Acclaim Entertainment, Inc. (Nasdaq: AKLM) today announced that it has created, in a joint partnership with AIWA Electronics, KORX Electronics, and Uncle Jed's Fish n Tackle Shop, a new gaming console designed to kick Sony's, Sega's, and Microsoft's monkey asses.  The new console, monikered 'Electro-Fischbach 3000' is, in the words of Acclaim head Greg Fischbach, 'pretty fucking cool'.  When pressed to expand on his initial enthusiastic reaction, Fischbach said that
since only the Electro-Fischbach 3000 would be able to play such cutting-edge entertainment software like South Park: Chef's HIV shack, Turok V: Back on the Reserve, and Mary Kate and Ashley: Super Hyper Twin Turbo Cum-Loving Queens II, 'every fucking rug rat in the world will want to get our console in their living room'.

'What, do you think any self-respecting teenager gives a rat's ass about those played-out jizz-dribblers Sonic, Crash and Mario?  'Bitch, please.', Fischbach said.  'I've got a Turok and a couple of hottie blondes just cumming (heh) into their own as MULTIMEDIA SUPERSTARS!  Horny teenage males love that shit - man, you've seen what Eidos does with Lara Croft, they don't even have to try anymore and they sell 8 million
copies of that Tomb Raider VI: The Sagging.  Not to mention we've also got those cartoon kids that swear all the fucking time.  Fuck what Matt Stone says about our games, they're still the shiznit.  Matt Stone and Trey Parker can suck my fucking balls, you put that in the press release.  In fact, that's what the next press release WILL say.  Ingrate motherfuckers.'

When questioned about Nintendo, Fischbach threw a shoe across the room and yelled something about a backlog of Turok cartridges buried in the Nevada desert.

The Electro-Fischbach 3000 has the following KICKASSER (tm) specs:

CPU - 1900 MHz Intel, ribbed for your pleasure
Graphics Processor - 4550 MHz hydro cooled custom-designed chip, co-developed by 3DFX, ATI and nVidia
Total Memory - 1024 MB, beeeyotch
Memory Bandwidth - 100 GB/sec mothafucka
Polygon Performance - 8000 M/sec in HI-REZ(tm)
Storage Medium - 512x dual DVD, 200 GB hard disk, 88 MB memory card
Broadband Enabled - Yes.  In yo ASS.
DVD, VHS, Beta Movie Playback Built in
Communication - Liquid cooled ethernet sub-hypersonic communications port
Connection - USB, FBI, CIA, PE, NWA, BWP, PTC, ECW, but no WCW
Resolution - HDTV support, 3840 x 2160 minimum display resolution

The Acclaim Electro-Fischbach 3000 will retail for $149 Canadian and be available by September 2000, taking the sails outta Sony's launch, so THERE.  The EF-3000 will have 400 titles at launch, most of which will be quality Acclaim in-house products, or the fourteenth variation thereof.

Development kits have been delivered to top quality 3rd party developers such as Square, Capcom, Namco, Naughty Dog, Barking Dog, Happy Puppy, Puppy Chow... 'Actually we dropped the kits off on their doorsteps in the dead of night, but development continues unabated!  Stick that in your pipe, Bill Gates,' Fischbach gloated.

'Buy our console! We can't buy a pack of gum with these stock options!!

And remember, Gates/Yamauchi/Kutaragi = assholes.'

About Acclaim
This press release contains partially falsely true statements. There are certain important factors that could cause results to differ materially from those anticipated by the statements made above.  Such risks and uncertainties include, among other things, the amount of KY Jelly and/or Vaseline Acclaim is able to manage in their inventories, operating overheads associated with such greasy anal-intruding aids, the growth of Greg Fischbach's ego to previously unimaginable proportions, the timely availability and acceptability of management's cock up the gaming public's ass, and the related hammer-like impact upon stock liquidity should any and/or all of these risks occur.  These and other risks and uncertainties are detailed from time to time in Acclaim's reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.  If Fischbach's name is misspelled in the above report, please direct all inquiries to that brick wall behind you. Thank you.

Contact Information

Acclaim Entertainment, Inc.
Karen Q. Pisciotta

8/8 Tyrant in the Sandbox

There’s a small development company headquartered in Dallas, TX called Sandbox Studios.  This little company has a development group in London, Ontario, Canada.  Sandbox has been contracted out by publishers such as UbiSoft, Mattel, Sierra, Universal Interactive, and Disney Interactive to work on games for both the Gameboy and PlayStation.

The company recently hired several experienced dev. team members away from other game companies to work on Disney’s Dinosaur, which was to be completed within 4 months of development time.  As everyone in the industry knows, a game like this (standard character platform) takes around 12 months, but the 9 guys on the dev. team, all hired in January, set to work in crunch mode immediately to get the game out by April.

The game was released on time, and Sandbox was rewarded with more contracts by Disney & UbiSoft.  However, here’s where the story takes a turn down the wrong path.  Our reports indicate that instead of rewarding the guys for their hard work of getting the game out in time, the evil owner-man Steve Bergenholtz has allegedly threatened (verbally and over email) or fired the experienced developers, resulting in several of the Dinosaur team members quitting or being forced out.

Even more horrible is that those who were booted in the ass out the door never received their final paychecks from good ‘ole Steve.  Only after begging and pleading, then finally getting some shark attorneys involved, did those employees finally get the money owed to them—more than a month later.

The promise of post-game bonuses have been nothing but empty promises (aren’t they always?).  Overtime has also gone unpaid.

We’ve dug deep and discovered a few interesting tidbits of information.  Due to the threats of legal action against Sandbox by ex-contractors (all employees are considered contractors there), Mr. Steve had drawn up a contract that almost literally has his contractors sell their souls to the company.  This contract states that the development team members are contractors only, not real citizens, and certainly not employees.  Multiple clauses give Sandbox Studios the benefit of treating them as “employees” (such as total intellectual right ownership) but without the benefits that employees of a company enjoy (medical benefits & paid vacations, for example).

Isn’t it touching to see such a heartfelt industry we work in?

8/3 Mattel


8/1 EA's Q1 Conference Call

One of our readers recently listened to EA’s Q1 earnings conference call with the investment community.  There are some interesting parts, especially where EA makes the claim that EA.com will consist of old Genesis games.  Here are some notes:

EA’s Intro:
- Interactive entertainment software market is always slow in FYQ1 (April, May, June), but was especially slow for EA due to PS2 anticipation
- There was big growth in the sub-$30 software group.  Full price s/w sales growth was flat
- The biggest growth was in the budget category
- The bulk of EA’s Online revenue ($8.3 million) came from subscription revenues (mostly Ultima Online)
- EA is attempting to transition to a mix of subscription and ad revenue
- PS2 and Online products accounted for 12.5% of EA’s totally FYQ1 revenue
- $30m spend on EA.com Online in FYQ1
- Total console market expected to be down 5-10% for this calendar year
- 2.5m PS2 units shipped in for Japan through June
- Sony anticipates 10m PS2 units in all three markets by end of FY – demand should outstrip supply
- EA believes Dreamcast “not a factor especially after PS2 ships”
- EA agrees that console market has been softening, but the questions is “how much, how fast?”
- November 1 is when EA.com will start billing customers

Q&A Session
- Microsoft and Nintendo intend to ship their new platforms next fall – EA expects to support both platforms “on some level”
- PS2 unit numbers:  4m in Japan, 3m in both North America and Europe (10m total) for this FY (ending March).  EA is confident that Sony will meet or exceed these numbers
- EA believes PS2 will be selling “real fast” going into FY02
- EA.com IPO scheduled for “first half of next calendar year”
- Gameboy Advanced handheld is a “likely platform” for EA
- EA.com Online (this is the “EA as AOL’s Game Provider” deal) consists of:

* Genesis sports titles online
* Games to be played through browser such as “a boxing game”
* “Gamettes” – shockwave games, ie., basketball, football
* Matching services – online players use the service to hook up with other online players
- Number of PS2 titles at launch:  press talk has been of 30 (50 by CY end).  EA thinks there will be less than that:  15-20 at launch (25-30 at year end)
- 1.5:1 s/w sell through to h/w sell through for 1st quarter in Japan due to poor content
- 3-4:1 ratio in North America with better content available
- Launch of new PS One product (smaller version of original PSX) will benefit the market – Sony wants to bring in 4m PS One units to North America market by end of year
- S/w sales on PS2 “far exceeding what Sony experienced on PS1”
- EA cites Japanese PS2 s/w sell through numbers of 700k for Ridge Racer and 250k for FIFA as evidence of the strength of the PS2 market for great games
- EA doesn’t think the PS2’s DVD feature has diminished s/w sales, blames poor content at Japanese launch for lower sales
- World wide, sell through is up and sell in is down as retailers attempt to clear channel in anticipation of PS2 launch
- Retailers more willing to buy good s/w with the extra space on their shelves
- Sales of great PS1 games can benefit from the backward compatibility of the PS2 – the newest Final Fantasy on the PS1 sold through 2m almost immediately partially due to this, EA says
- PS2 margins:  full-price s/w at $50 retail, PS1 s/w has been at $40 for a couple years now as Sony lowered s/w prices later in that console’s life
- Currently there are higher margins on PS2 s/w than on PS1 as the costs are the same (COGs, royalties, etc.) – over time, PS2 products will reduce in price (in a couple years they will be down at $40 like the PS1 s/w is now)
- EA is asked to comment on the dot-com competitive landscape.  They break it down like this:
1) mass market, content-for-free ad-driven model – eg., Uproar, Boxerjam, Iwin
2) Traditional games site, Won.net, MS Zone
3) Subscription model – Ultima Online, EverQuest, Asheron’s Call
- They believe the winning online strategy is a blend of subscription and ad-driven; Microsoft, Sony, Sega, and Havas believe in the last model too and are developing products and services to support this, but “aren’t as far ahead as EA”

And there you have it.  Go EA?

8/1 Sega.com Explodes?

Sega.com Goes Agro
by FatCSK

About a week after E3, Sega.Com head honcho Brad Huang e-mails everyone that they would get a 4 day July 4th weekend to congratulate all the Sega.Comers for the successful relaunch of Heat.Net.

Then 2 weeks before the July 4th holiday, new VP of HR, some little man with hardcore littleman's complex named David LOPez, fires everyone at Sega.Com who works in Sales, Marketing, Art, PR and content. Heat tech support, who will also be fired, was left to twist in the wind, unsure if they were actually fired or not, as Sega.Com tried to sell Heat to Mplayer. Heat also tried to fool the Heat members by cancelling, or "re-setting" degrees, but smart members figured it out. Mplayer bought their 51% share of HEAT and then the tech/customer support was handed walking papers.

Even better, head of marketing/PR, Greg CHUMPmeingo, quit the day before everyone under his departments found out they were getting fired. So all these schleps took this guy out for beers to say their goodbye's and the whole time this guy knew they were all axed the next day, he just didn't have the balls to tell them!

Even better, after LOPez and his assistant Cheryl WHOREmenez fired all those people they had to crawl back to some and ask them stay because they shouldn't have let them go by mistake.

So all the fired people have to finish their 2 weeks, as opposed to getting any real severance package. Makes for a nice 4th of July holidy weekend. Better yet, a trip to Marine World was organized and they had to uninvite like 100 fired people.

Even better, new CTO, decides all the tech guys have the wrong vision, let's their leader, some fruit named Scanner, resign, and then all Scanner's loyal minions follow suit leaving a bunch of newbies to make fixes to code they have no background in.

So now that most of the company has been fired or quit, LOP thinks taking everyone out to the movies will be the touchy feely solution to making everyone happy here again. Gee, perhaps if I was 5, but at 32, it's a shallow move made by a little person with no regard for anything other than his shitty black Lexus and his noticeable lack of height and integrity.

In addition to all that crap, they also decide to turn the company upside down by moving everyone's cube so the exec staff can all have cool offices built to reinforce their self importance.

This guy works here 2 weeks and thinks he can step in and fire the company and we'll forgive him because of a movie...what a chump!

SEGA.Com is banking on getting 100 thousand NFL2k1 users online the week the game goes on sale! These are the same genuises who mailed out 1 million free CD's to Japaners DC consumers so they could play 10Six. Out of that million CD giveaway, 70 logged in to play. So if NFL2k1 sells 150 thousand on day 1, maybe 12 people will log into for multiplayer fun. That's a money making strategy.

Also, they want it all to launch by Sept.7th, and there isn't even a working edition of NFL2k1 with the internet functions. Sega.com's own client software, KAGE is in shambles and is being delivered as Kage light and Kage diet, while developers are choosing to use Gamespy over Kage.

Besides all that, just about every department is understaffed! And everyone is being treated like their contribution is not needed or wanted; that we’re all somehow lucky to the ones who were spared.

Welcome to Sega.Com.


7/27 The Painter:  Westwood Analogy

The Painter: An Analogy of the Computer Game Industry
by FatWestwoodSurvivor

Imagine this: You are a reasonably talented painter.  You love to paint.  You’re even good enough that you’ve sold some paintings for a few bucks, and you’ve given away many pieces to friends and family. Now some nondescript guy comes wandering deliberately along and hands you a crate full of brushes and paint, canvas and whatever else you need, and it’s free of charge!  “Isn’t this excellent?” you find yourself thinking.

Now you choose your subject and you sit down and prepare to paint.  You look over your shoulder and here comes the nice fellow who gave you all these free supplies.  He is impressed by your choice of location, but he thinks you should paint something else.  You head over to his suggested location, and it’s terrible, really not good at all.  You have a brief conversation with your benefactor, during which you discuss your concerns over the location and his involvement in painting.  Where has he painted?  What has he painted?  Nowhere.  Nothing.  This man is not a painter.  If you probe deeper, which will
take a great deal of time and several pretentiously named bottles of beer, he will mutter words like producer, director, and if he’s very drunk, manager.  You find yourself wandering away and shaking your head.  Somehow he managed to avoid answering your questions about the location.  Oh well, at least you still get to paint.

Now you’re at this new location, which you are not thrilled with.  Suddenly, your benefactor pulls up in a mini-van, and it’s full of people you’ve never seen before.  At a glance, it’s clear that absolutely none of them are painters.  They all come stumbling out of the van and rush up to your serene bubble of creativity, shattering it.  They want to make suggestions and comments about color.  They have ideas about your subject, how it should be interpreted.  They use words that have nothing to do with art to describe
art.  They all have cell phones and electronic organizers.  They are a dangerous mob of slavering, untalented middle-management zombies who are desperate to be involved with your painting.  Because if they manipulate you enough, if they poke and prod and rip and tear at you enough, it won’t be your painting any longer.

It will be theirs.

After several years of this insanity, you are entirely drained and demoralized.  You have watched other painters come and go, chased away by these yammering robots that have somehow taken over your beaches, your rolling hills, your ocean vistas.  Where there was once serenity and peace, there is conflict and confrontation.  Where there was once the comfort of well-worn brush handles and your best easel, there is now nothing but white noise.

Your painting has taken you two years longer than you anticipated.  You have been forced to use paints and brushes that you knew were the wrong ones for the job.  You have done your best to turn an uninteresting subject into genius.  Ultimately, you feel that you have failed.  The painting may be pleasant to look at, but it is far from your best.  The sky has turned to smog, the beach is covered with sewage and medical waste, and your heart is a cinder.

You hear the wail of tires on pavement, and you think to yourself, “Here comes the mini-van.”  As it rounds the corner on two tires, you see that you are wrong.  It is not a mini-van; it is a brand new Mercedes with the dealer sticker still in the window.  Your benefactor leaps out, takes the painting from the easel, and hurls himself back into his new car.  As it screeches away into the night, you consider yourself lucky, because it is finally over.

You are surfing the web the next day and you learn to your amazement that your painting has sold for a large sum of money!  You click to view the images that accompany the story, and there he is, smiling from ear to ear and holding your work in his hands.  You begin to panic as you scan the article for a mention of your name and fail to find it.  You see the name of your benefactor several times, along with the names of some of his friends from the van, but yours is nowhere to be found.

The computer game industry is rapidly becoming a mindless, hungry giant that is devouring the creativity and passion that has made said industry what it is today.  The best stories and ideas are being driven into the ground beneath the heels of bureaucrats, people who couldn’t have found a place for themselves in the industry 5 years ago if they offered to work for nothing.  I have seen the future, and as terrifying as it may be, the future is middle management.  Watch out; the mini-van is coming.

- FatWestwoodSurvivor

7/27 More on EA Seattle’s Woes

There’s no end to the info that streams out of EA Seattle as of late.  This time we have background on some of the folks there.

EA brought in Steve Stringer from Raven Software, where he did some form of work on the Heretic series.  About 2 years ago EA hired him with big hopes that Steve would bring the NFS series into the next generation of racing games.

Stringer was made the new NFS designer and EA let Hanno Lemke move on to something else.  To give our readers a little background, Hanno was the visionary behind the game that would make it exciting for average people to drive those cool cars that your average person couldn’t afford.  Thus the Need for Speed franchise was born.  Now, however, the series is beyond its original concept.

Enter Stringer.  He took two different approaches to the game, one being a complete remake of the last good NFS 3HP product, and a Gran Turismo killer.  Unfortunately for the series, the high up muckity mucks determine they don’t want a mimic’d game, but rather something completely fresh and edgey.  The Need for Speed series is then canceled.

It was said user expectations had become so high, and there was no possibly of hitting them, so it was better to cancel the series and start over.  Oh yes, dupe the gamers into buying just another iteration of a game, but this time it has a different name!

MotorCity is another issue, having had the loyal community following completely enraged when the product switched to on-line only.  Some NFS Cheats folks have even taken it upon themselves to re-create what the single player would have gotten out of a shipped version of MotorCity.

Fans have been saying they feel EA is failing to realize one thing:  that it’s the people who buy their games who make them money, not their overzealous ideals to re-invent the industry.  Some are pleading that EA should simply shut up, listen and learn, regardless of how good their earnings forecast looks.

7/25 EA Canada & Monopoly Fun

After running our recent Stories on Electronic Arts Canada, someone was kind enough to send in a few “Monopoly” cards from a rival Canadian development studio, ModernGroove.  These cards contrast the “EA way” from the “ModernGroove” way.  Some are quite humorous… We imagine they could be quite an effective recruiting tool considering the smaller talent pool in the Vancouver area.

Get out of jail
Landed on a bad square
EAC Royalties
It's lunch time, where are you going?
Cube space.  No, not a Borg cube.

7/19 SCEA: The Inside Look (Part IV)

Part IV of SCEA: The Inside Look by Someone Sick of Sony

At this point, Jay is feeling pretty good about himself.  He's almost completely achieved his Mission Statement and has a huge following now, or so he thinks.  One thing he didn't think about when planning his tree house was that, if you build a house in a tree, you kinda gotta take care of the tree or you and good ol' Mr. Broomstick are gonna have an unexpected, romantic episode.  Well, after the PS1 titles were cancelled, the tree finally started to give.  Over the next several weeks, the Studio begins to bleed.  Remember the Black Knight scene in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" - yeah, that kind of bleeding.  The PS2 splinter project from Studio Producer #2's PS2 project is cancelled.  They lose a large number of the best artists from all the projects, all but one of their good programmers and both Co-Producers from Twisted 4.  The entire Studio has gone from 10 programmers to 4 - barely enough to get one project completed, let alone 3.  Jay sees that he has a small problem on his hands, so, being wise in the ways of managing people, he informs the company through the producers (he's too much of a pussy to actually hold a company-wide meeting, himself) that he wants a list of everyone who is planning on leaving within the next six months by noon the next day.  To anyone who leaves within six months and doesn't get their name on the list, he offers this bit of sage advice, "I know a lot of people in the Industry and I will make sure that things go badly for you."  WOW!!!  Where was I when that class was being offered?!  Talk about a graduate degree in motivational speaking!  Jay is the man!  Proving that the cumulative I.Q. of the entire top end of the company is not negative, the head of H.R., after catching wind of this landmark event, spanks Jay's pee-pee pretty hard, for all the good it did (I think he liked it).  Numerous people are now coming to Jay to express Their concern over the large amounts of corporate arterial blood that is decorating the halls of now SCEA-PD.  Once again, our Hero, who's nickname is Master Spindoctor Johnny "Mac Daddy" J, knows how to handle the situation.  How to explain to the poor saps who are either too blind to see the writing on the wall or who are either too new to the industry or too incompetent to be able to get another job in the industry that all the good people are leaving?  "Yeah, I know a lot of people have been leaving over the last couple of weeks.  Don't worry about it - that's a good thing.  We've got a lot of great things planned here and we don't want to have to carry their weight as we move forward."  <pauses to wipe spit off the monitor from laughing - sorry, that still cracks me up!> Hee heee heeeee!  That's like saying "It was good that I lost both my legs in that car accident - I'm 75 pounds lighter, now!"

Now, we come to the conclusion of our tale, where Jay completes his quest and rides off into the sunset with his gaggle of inept managers in tow.   Ooops!  Sorry, didn't meant to spoil the ending for you.  Anyhow, over the last several weeks, the Mole has been slowly transferring the artists off his project and on to other projects, including Sports projects - not at all a good sign for a project still in the early stages of design.  Three weeks ago, Jay cancels that project, folds the team in with the left-overs of the Twisted Metal team (who Jay has been personally managing in the interim - the lucky buggers!) and puts the Mole in charge of the whole thing.  Now, we have yet another situation.  One project, one producer and three APs.  Once again, let's examine the choice that Jay has to make.  The Once-ler AP, whose claim to fame is, like all the others in the fan club, that gem-of-a-title Blasto, and he's the favorite great-grand nephew 13 times removed from the dirty old Once-ler himself;  Studio AP #3, who has Steel Reign and Spawn as published titles to his credit, but yet does not have his Official Jonathan Beard Brown Nose Ring; and Studio AP #4, who has Twisted Metal 3 as his only published title as an AP, and, sadly, is also sans puckered lips.  By now, I'm quite certain that you know how to solve this situation for Jay.  Yes, Studio APs 3 and 4 hit the road.  And there you have it!  The only management that now remains in San Diego Creative is Jay and his bumbling band of cronies.  And it took him just over three years to accomplish it all!  When you're good, you're good, right?  Jay is truly the master!

One thing I was asking myself as I watched the last couple of months unfold was, "Where's Shu??"  Surely he's got to see what's going on here!  Surely, he's going to come to the rescue of the Studio, step in, remove the cancer that is the Once-ler Family and replace it with a group of hand-picked managers up to fulfilling the vision that he has.  Surely he'll step up to the plate and show the poor individuals who remain in SCEA-PD some much-needed proactive leadership.  Surely he'll see Jay as a hindrance to his plans for quality and deal with it.  Surely you jest!  Turns out, Shu is a lamb, not a leader; apparently just the nephew of some Uppity-up at Sony of Japan who knows how to design games and has no clue as how to lead a crippled studio like SCEA-PD out of the quagmire Jay has created.  Not to bag too much on Shu, because I personally doubt that there exists, ever existed, or ever will exist an individual capable of  that accomplishing that particular feat.  So, it would indeed appear that Jay is there to stay, with his band of merry men, continuing to suckle at the giant, supporting teat of the enormous entity that is Sony of America.

Long live Johnny J!!!!


7/19 Troubles at EA Canada

For some time EA Canada had been flying high, producing winner after winner for Electronic Arts.  Their sports games were second to none, sales were strong, and employees were happy.  All was well, and it was the place to work if you wanted to develop sports products.

Slowly, however, over the past 12-18 months, things have changed at the Vancouver, BC studio.  The mood has soured and morale there has never been lower.  Recent bonuses, handed out this past May, were the lowest they’ve been in years (EA HQ reports this is due to EAC failing to meet its revenue targets).  EA Redwood City has also been cutting back other “perks,” such as travel and trade shows—limiting E3 attendance to the point where the company won’t even pay for PS2 lead programmers to attend the show.  The company has eliminated development staff overtime and management won’t raise base salaries to compensate.  (Keep in mind this is in Canada, so tax rates are much higher than in the US.)  Additionally, EAC recently lowered the overtime cafeteria dinner allowance from $10.50 to $10.00, saving a whopping 50 cents.

The unfortunate staff has been made to pay a monthly fee for use of the studio gym—a perk that was always promised to be free, since their friends in Redwood City have such an elaborate gym on-site.  To further aid the ailing bottom line, EAC conducted a couple rounds of secret layoffs just before bonuses were paid out.  This totaled about 15 people from all departments.  The idea was sound—to get rid of slacker employees—but by not addressing the remaining employees’ concerns at a company meeting, the management actually stomped on morale even more due to nasty floating rumors about the event.  Axing people just before bonuses are paid out is a bit slimey as well.  It is said some of the terminated folks are now pursuing legal action to claim their bonuses and more severance pay.

EAC has also, since last August, been filtering employees’ web access by blocking “non work” sites.  One of the ways this has hampered work:  an assistant producer who was researching player tattoos for NBA Live attempted to log onto tattoo.com and found it to be blocked.  He had to ask his manager to get IT to unblock the site to give him access to it.  It’s been known for a while that EA has blocked Fatbabies.com from its list of approved, viewable sites.

So what does all this mean to those of you outside of EAC?  The grass isn’t always greener.  What does this mean to those of you inside of EAC?  It probably can’t get much worse, so stick it out.

7/19 Osiris Studios Knows Development

Osiris Studios is working on a few titles for PS2—HBO Boxing and Big Wave Surfing.  We believe both are to be published by Acclaim.

However we hear not all is well over at Osiris Studios.  Check this out:

Apparantly no one reads the design doc.  The Publisher came down to see the progress on the game and the first question they asked was "Where are the 'Huge Explorable Environments'?"  Ummm… hello… BOXING GAME.  The ring is not really big enough to support "Huge Explorable Environments."   Many people were baffled as to how the publisher got the idea that this feature was in the game.  Then it was revealed that one of the company heads had thrown it into the design doc so that it would include more buzzwords to make the publisher feel some warm fuzzies.  Team members had not read the doc in such a long time they had failed to notice that blurb about the levels.

The meat of this story, however, is regarding the Big Wave Surfing game....

A game designer is hired onto the project to generate the design documents.  After a bit, a 300 page doc is created, which then gets chopped down to size after a few reviews.  No big deal, right?  Ok, so now they’re ready to go.  But there’s a problem, the game still has no programmers.  Apparently the 2 programmers who were going to be hired for the project both declined their job offers.

The wait beings and a surfer is hired to consult for the game.

One month goes by, still no programmers.  Management promises they will be hired soon.

Two months go by, still no programmers.  In order to meet a publisher milestone, the designer is forced to create some 3D models and renders them in MAX.  In a fit of frustration, he teaches the surfer 3D Studio MAX.

Three months go by, and this time they have hired 2 programmers!  Unfortunately, both get tossed onto the boxing game (they need to code the “huge, explorable levels,” remember?).  The surfer is let go since his consultation period is over.  The game is currently 3 months into development and still only has a designer.

Four months go by, and they hire two programmers to work on Surfing!  And there is much rejoicing.  But wait!  These two programmers are also moved to the boxing game.  The designer makes a movie of a wave in MAX and submits it to Acclaim as a milestone.  Acclaim is happy with the progress thus far, blissfully unaware of the situation.

Five months go by, and a playable demo is due soon.  Osiris finally hires a programmer, unfortunately he only has Gameboy experience, but he’s excited about PS2 so there is hope.  Time:  2 weeks before milestone.

Six months, E3.  The designer uses MAX rendering to give to Acclaim to show behind closed doors at E3.  Another programmer is hired.  The designer has other plans though, and secretly submits his resume to headhunters to find a better company.

The current situation:
Art freeze is in 6 months.  Company management keeps asking to see a game, to which the designer has to reply that there have not been any artists hired.  Management says, “We don’t want to be hasty in hiring artists.  We want to make sure they will stay with the company and not leave us right away.”  And then the designer is again asked where the game is.  The programmers have now been working for almost 3 months and have a wave generator similar to the one that got the project a publishing deal with Acclaim.

Poor Acclaim… they have high expectations for this game and are completely unaware of the pathetic state that it’s in.

(From Musings, 7/20)

7/20 Osiris Studios Follow-up

We received an e-mail from Mr. Quinn McLaughlin, the CEO of Osiris Studios, after we ran our 7/19 Story alleging poor product development at the company.  Mr. McLaughlin wanted to clear up some of the inaccuracies in the story, so here they are:

- HBO boxing is a PSX title shipping in time for Christmas this year.  We're proud to say it is on time and on budget, and it looks fantastic.  You'll have a chance to check it out quite soon.  Surfing is PS2.

- Regarding "Huge explorable levels," our publisher (with whom we have an excellent relationship btw, the Acclaim PD group is fantastic) has never asked for this.  Why would they? Huge explorable worlds on PSX Boxing?  Ok, "whatever..."

(FS--yes, that's what we thought as well.  Quite bizarre how that would even come up for a boxing game.)
- Regarding "huge exploreable levels" being in the design document -- That is simply ridiculous.  Sorry.  It ain't in the doc.  There are some OTHER fighting games we are looking at for PS2 that do have this sort of thing.  But boxing?  Come on.
(FS--against, we agree.  That would be freakin' weird to see in a design doc, but hey... we've definitely seen worse!)
- About not reacting quickly to hiring programmers--No... we got the programmers we wanted, and got them fairly quickly.  The project began in December with the design staff - game designer and pro surfer / designer - in place, along with artists.  Since PS2 devkits weren't available for another month we had a bit of time to find the right programming leads, who we hired.  It's true they came on a few weeks after we would have liked - but we already had a solid wave technology demo that had been continueing (sic) to evolve on the PC in the time before the devkits arrived, with our existing programming staff.  As far as the new leads, it was a question of a few weeks - not months.

- The surfer you refer to was on staff from the beginning.

- After one month, there were no *lead* programmer.  And no devkits.  We were interviewing a bunch of people; several were turned down so we could get the right fit.

- After two months there were programmers on the project.  Saying we did not have any is simply not true.

- We did some renders for E3 to show our character models in motion.  This complemented a bunch of stuff *running* on the PS2 at that time.  Also, this was not done by our designer.  We asked him to try to do some wave stuff, since he was interested, but our art staff was turning out better stuff that was ultimately used.

- We had our surfing pro taught 3D studio so he could tweak waves in there.

- By three months in we had three programmers (not 2) dedicated to the project.  They were *absolutely not* working on boxing.  If you really believe we were coding huge explorable levels for our boxing game I'd like some of what you're smoking.  Beleive (sic) me, I know how stupid it would be to rob peter to pay paul.  Not our strategy.  Please talk to some other people in our studio if you like to confirm this.

- The surfer is still on staff.  He was never let go.

- None of the leads on Surfing has ever touched boxing code.

- For E3, we did have a movie that was *part* of a milestone, along with stuff running on PS2.  Acclaim knows - and knew - exactly were we were at throughout the project.

- The lead programmer on Surfing has shipped ~10 titles, including several PSX. He was hired well before our playable demo milestone.  I can't give you milestone dates but I can tell you that you're way off.

- Designer circulating his resume?  May have something to do with the fact we didn't want to let him be producer... (he's too good at design)

- Management knows exactly where the game is at... won't tell you dates but what you listed is off...

- We have several artists on staff for Surfing and will hire more as they are needed.  We really are not concerned about people leaving us - moral is great (with one notable exception apparently).

- If you want to believe all we have is a technology demo, so be it.  I'd love to tell you exactly what we have running on PS2 right now - I can't though.

We're (sincerely!) trying to build a company around our employees.  Again, it makes me very sad that in at least one case I (as CEO) have totally failed in this goal - but I can assure you there are a lot of very happy people (and co-owners!) here at Osiris.  Look a bit deeper and I think you will find this to be true.

Thank you for your time and e-mail, Mr. McLaughlin.  Apologies to Osiris and Acclaim for reporting inaccuracies about the development of both your Boxing and Surfing products.  We appreciate you clearing things up for us.

7/17 SCEA: The Inside Look (Part III)

Part III of SCEA: The Inside Look by Someone Sick of Sony

OK, more time passes.  We're up to last November, now.  The Twisted Metal 4 team has helped Jay out of his problem with the Co-Producers by mutinying against the programmers and the programmer Co-Producer, refusing to work with them and demanding that they be removed from the team.  They are kicked off the team, but not released from the company, left to attempt to find a producer who has a team that will work with them.  This never happens.

The remaining producer on the project is a nice, spineless guy, just the way Jay likes them, so our Hero thinks he has that situation under control and is free to deal with this other big, red, flashing light on the Bat Scope.  That blip is Studio Producer #2, who has since assembled a kick-ass team and is making big waves ("Dude, if those waves were in the water, I could surf them instead of being here at work," Jay contemplates) with the PS2 title they've been working on.  At it's core, it is the same genre as Once-ler Producer #2's project, Jay's pet project, but it absolutely beats the ever-lovin' stuffin' out of it in double-blind taste tests.  It's incredibly beautiful, shows off most aspects of the PS2, and will be both original AND fun.  So now, Studio Producer #2 is in the undesirable position of having a great product and not being a bona fide, card-carrying member of Jay's Schmooze Crew and Jay has to make a decision between Game 1 and Game 2.   Game 1 is a fantastic, state of the art PS2 game that will be at first playable in about two weeks and will only miss Launch by maybe four to six months.  Game 2 is a stale, boring, really complicated, hard-to-play PS1 game that has been in development for almost two years and, despite the fact that it uses the amazing piece of technology that is the Blasto engine, they still haven't made first playable and are at least another year out from shipping, unless they decide to make it a PS2 title, in which case they are a minimum of two years away from gold.  Game 2 is Jay's brainchild and baby so, if it is cancelled, he will be wearing enough egg on his face to feed the entire crew of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln scrambled eggs for a week.  Game 2's producer, Once-ler Producer #2, is one of Jay's good friends, favorite puppets and his #1 fan (he's also an ex-artist from - you guessed it - Blasto).  Of course, the clear choice is Game 2 - I mean, after all, Spawn sold pretty well, but that whole Spawn license/Todd McFarlane tie-in just hindered the product's potential, so this game, which can be equated to Spawn: the Eternal without the Spawn license, will do soooo much better, right?!

Bye bye Studio Producer #2 and Studio AP #2.  But, for some strange reason, they are not let go, but simply consigned to the desolate trash heap that they call "External Development" and their team is split up - a small part going onto a new PS2 title and the rest going to the other development teams.  Perhaps they amuse Jay in some strange, twisted way.  This perplexing issue (why they were not canned like the rest of the Studio Producers) as with the question of how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop, may go forever unanswered.

Now, we move ahead in time three months to February 2000.  People are anxiously awaiting the arrival the new VP of Production for SCEA, Shuhei Yoshida and the imminent restructuring that will result in 989 Studios being folded back into SCEA.  By now, Shu, as everyone around here calls him, has had an introductory company-wide meeting and has been working pretty closely with the studio heads.  Shu, who's recent claim to fame is Ape Escape, which took three years with a 100-man development team, is being made out to be a "quality over quantity" man, not so interested in getting a number of decent titles out, but rather one or two blockbusters.

The up-coming launch of the PS2 begins to cast a bleak light on the remaining PS1 titles, Extreme 4 and Jet Moto 4.  Once-ler Producer #2's game, having been "upgraded" to a PS2 title, is quite safe, now (Jay breaths a sigh of relief).  The end of February comes around and Jay cancels Extreme and Jet Moto, combining the two teams so that they will have a team adequate to tackle a new PS2 project.  Now, you have two producers, the Mole from Extreme and Studio Producer #3 from Jet Moto, and only one team in need of a producer, so Jay, once again, must decide who to keep and who to bend over the bench and introduce to Mr. Broomstick.  His two choices are Studio Producer #3 and the Mole.

Studio Producer #3 has only one production credit: Spawn - the Eternal.  Granted, the game sucked hugely, but Kelly Flock threw him on it in its last four months because the previous producer had let things get screwed up so badly that Kelly didn't think the game would ever see the light of day.  And he's got Jet Moto 4.  I got to see and play that game and it was looking fucking AMAZING, which is what everyone else who got to see it said - just 3 months away from Beta, it was a crying shame to see that game get cancelled.  The Mole also has only one production credit: Extreme 3.  That game also sucked hugely, but the Mole was the sole producer on the project, so he gets ALL the credit for the fine craftsmanship that went into that little gem (NOTE:  in all fairness, the Mole was not actually the only producer on Extreme 3.  Studio Producer #2 had been given Extreme 3 about four years ago.  After about a year of the lead programmer reinventing the wheel (turns out, he thought it should be rectangular), the project was cancelled, scrapped and the entire team except for Studio Producer #2 was laid off.  Some time later, the project was restarted entirely from scratch on the Sports side, under the Mole.  There you have it…)

And, the Mole also has Extreme 4 which, though the environments were looking better than in the previous installment, the game play was the same old thing, nothing new at all.  So, there you have Jay's choices - the producer who does Jay daily down at the coffee shop in the mornings and who single-handedly destroyed the Extreme franchise (Damn it, 2D sprites are going to look SOOOO much better than 3D models!), or the producer who still hadn't joined the  Morning Coffee Crew and who was almost finished turning the dying Jet Moto franchise around.  Yeah, not a tough decision to make, so Producer #3 is given the Sayonara Sling out the door.  Studio Producer #3's AP, Studio AP #3, is reassigned to the Twisted Metal team under the remaining Co-Producer, giving him two APs.

Now, let's take a quick look at the score, here.  Studio: 3 producers and 3 APs, Once-ler Family: 1 director, 2 producers and 2 APs.  Some clarifications to make here concerning the score.  The original Studio producer count was 3, but in the current count of 3, only one of them is from the original count, another one has been ejected from his team and is floating around doing nothing and the third one appears to almost be in Jay's camp.  The current Once-ler family count of 2 producers now includes the Mole in the count, since Once-ler Producer #1 left.  The current Once-ler family count of 1 director is also somewhat erroneous, since he really isn't a director at all (at least I couldn't find anyone who would classify him as such) but, for consistency's sake, we'll keep calling him that.  Besides, he likes it when people call him "Director" - it makes his pee pee feel a wee bit bigger.


7/17 Origin Scorecard:  Who's Outta There?

Can You Say "Bye Bye Talent?"
by FatOSIbaby

OSI, Origin Systems Inc., has been going through some seriously tough times recently.  After the huge success of Ultima Online, the company has not been able to retain the talented individuals who made it all happen.  Why?  A number of reasons, all speculation, but which could include the departure of Lord British, the destruction of OSI's culture by Electronic Arts, the failure to reward those who made it all happen, and the wishy-washy nature of EA's commitment to products in development.

Lemme give you a run-down on who's been lost from OSI (and their position/contribution) over the last oh... 6 months, and then where they went.

Lost to Verant Austin in psuedo-order:

Rich Vogel:  Former Producer of Ultima Online (2+ years after launch).  After his stint on UO, he launched another (there have been at least 3 incarnations started and cancelled prior to this) Wing Commander Online project (later re-branded as Privateer Online).  Make a note of this, because the fate of Privateer Online (PO) is the straw that broke the camel's back (so to speak) for all of this. It is believed he engineered the Verant Austin deal.

Ralf Koster (sp?) (Designer Dragon):  This guy should be well known to you.  Most credit him as the heart and soul of Ultima Online.  He was lead designer of UO from before launch until last summer.  He moved with Rich to become Lead Designer on PO.  This guy is a huge loss when you think of online talent.  He's like an Online guru--he and Vogel pack people in at game conferences.  He's the "professor" type.  Very knowledgeable when it comes to things online.

Chris Mayer (Faceless):  Chris was the lead programmer on UO for about a year (summer '98 to summer '99).  He was responsible for tightening up the service and being a bit more professional than his predecessors.  This guy really seemed to know his stuff.  He also moved onto Privateer Online (not sure if he was lead programmer or not, he may have been lead server programmer).  Chris was a programmer in the regular software industry before he came to OSI.  He was a UO Player that sent in a resume and got hired...

Anthony Castoro (SunSword):  Anthony was the Lead Designer on UO after Ralf Koster left.  Here's another guy who really GOT online game design.  He made UO: Renaissance (doubling the size of the world and having a "no PK" area).  He was the guy that was supposed to Lead OSI into the future after Koster left.  OSI made him Lead Designer on OSI's "next big thing" called "Phoenix" when the first wave of people (Vogel and Crew) left for Verant Austin.  A few months later, he bolted too.  It was said he left due to EA only wanting OSI to focus on Ultima, while he wanted to try something new.

Several other guys went with them (guys who weren't online talent yet, including umm...Nick Newhart (sp?) who I think was lead designer on the original Blood, Andy Sommers, who was this amazingly badass 3d programmer who worked on Wing Commander IV and Wing Commander Prophecy.... and several other artists and programmers.

The reason these guys left was because their project (Privateer Online) was killed.   These guys had put together an AMAZING demo in just several weeks.  Company people were talking about it after they had seen it at a company meeting.  The consensus was amazement.  They had fractally generated planets that could be created in seconds but that were miles wide and had plants and terrain features and everything.  They also had multiplayer space combat already in (we're talking the work of like... 5 weeks).

Anyway, they had this kickass game design that they had gotten approved and had begun work.  About that time, EA had some company-wide belt-tightening and every studio had layoffs.  About that time, Privateer Online got killed.  It really sucked.  The whole company was up for it, and it just let the steam out of their sails.  Not only that, no one could give them a really good reason why it was killed.  They were told a couple of things: A) The technology was bad (everyone knew that was B.S.)  B)  There was another project too similar to it in the pipeline. (Rumored to be developed down at Westwood Studios.)  The whole thing left a bad taste in everyone's mouth.  People felt like as if EA didn't know what it was doing with Online.  Sure, UO2 will be successful, but how many 3D Fantasy Massively Multiplayer games can the market support?

A couple of lesser known guys left OSI at about the same time as the Verant Austin people to work with Hasbro:

Todd Bailey (tOAD): The "other" Lead Designer on Ultima Online.  When Koster left, tOAD became co-lead designer with Castoro.  Castoro seemed to be running the show, but nevertheless, they were both leads.  tOAD had a long history on UO.  He was a QA tester, a Game Master, became the Lead Interest GM (running events and stuff) and eventually became a designer and then co-lead designer on UO.

Dan Rubenfield (Lord Pall):  Dan was one of the Original Designers on UO.  He also worked on Ultima Ascension.  Then he left the company and went to work for either Looking Glass South or Ion Storm Austin (whichever it was at the time, Warren Spector's group).  He came back to OSI for about a year as a Designer on UO.

John Moreland (EvilJohn):  John Moreland had also been a test/gm on UO and was one of the Designers on Ultima Online: The Second Age.  He also worked on Privateer Online.

It is not known if was just coincidence or if these guys were also fed up, but they left less than a month after the Verant Austin guys.  What are they working on?  Hmm... lots of Fantasy Online Roleplaying experience... Hasbro owns WATC and TSR... hmm... several possibilities there.

So who just cornered 90% of the game industry's proven successful online talent?  Verant!  EA/OSI just pissed it all away... Verant's got the boys of EverQuest, and now they've got the boys of Ultima Online.  And Hasbro was opportunistic enough to snatch away what was left.

Can't wait to see what they do now...

7/12 SCEA: The Inside Look (Part II)

Part II of SCEA: The Inside Look by Someone Sick of Sony

Jay wakes up one morning after Twisted Metal 3 went out (thus ensuring that his ass doesn't get chewed up, spat out and canned by Kelly) and the Studio has had enough time to get used to his British accent and says, "OK, in order to ensure that I'm the most talented person here, I've got to get rid of anyone who's made something better than Blasto."  He looks around and notes that, not only has Studio Producer #1 produced a number of successful titles (Rally Cross, CART World Series, Cool Boarders, Twisted Metal 3, just to name a few that left the Studio under his management), but, more importantly, he notes that Studio Producer #1 neither goes out to coffee with him in the morning nor kisses his hairy butt on command.  At the same time, he realizes that the Studio Associate Producer, who worked as Studio Producer #1's Assistant and now Associate, has also shipped Rally Cross 2 a week early and is well on his way to designing and producing a very promising-looking Motocross title.  Jay looks in the mirror and realizes that none of the hickeys on his heiny were left by that guy.  Still bent over, he looks between his legs and rereads his Mission Statement, which he has taped to his bathroom mirror, next to a picture of his motorcycle and a picture of him mooning various magazine reviewers.  After putting two and two together, he realizes that these two individuals do not fit into his formula and must therefore be dealt with, post haste.  Studio Producer #1 is "laid off" and moves on to ultimately greener-pastures with a nice fat severance check in hand.  The Associate is told he's to find an external title that meets with Jay's approval or take a hike.  Nose to the grindstone, the Associate Producer comes up with several opportunities for Jay to consider - Crash Bandicoot, Gran Tourismo and Metal Gear Solid - all of which are rejected - WOW, what a surprise!  Just kidding, we all know that Konami did Metal Gear, but, the salient point here is that he could have brought these exact titles to the table and Jay would have turned them away nonetheless, simply to get rid of him, because we all know that a groupie who won't polish your knob is not a groupie worth having.  The Associate reads the writing on the wall and walks.

The remaining Studio Producers, one of which has had the honor of being thrown from one doomed title to the next, only to have them continuously cancelled from under his feet (we'll call him Studio Producer #2), and the other who's only claim to fame is that he managed to get the debacle that was known as Spawn: the Eternal out the door (hereafter referred to as Studio Producer #3) pose no threat to him.  Looking over his checklist, he notes with a disapproving frown that neither of them have been to any of his weed-smoking parties and they have repeatedly refused to kiss his butt cheeks, but he figures they may still come around, so he lets them stay.

The APs are of no consequence, especially since the most promising one of them goes over to the Sports side in a SKU transfer that ends up with the Mole coming to roost in the Creative Studio, bringing with him the members of the Extreme 4 development team that Kelly Ryan had no further use for.  Jay sets up the lead programmer and lead artist from Twisted 3 as Co-Producers over Twisted 4, since you're not allowed to have a product without a Producer.  Jay hopes that elevating them to producer status will convert them to the dark side, further increasing his pool of brown-nosed Yes-men.

Time passes and Twisted 4 somehow creeps out the door.  Jay has sorely underestimated the Co-Producers on Twisted 4.  They still don't drink coffee with him and have fought him tooth and nail the entire way through the project.  He cancels the Official Jay Beard Fan Club cards he had ordered for them in anticipation of their wet kisses on his nether regions and contemplates how to rid the clubhouse of their evil taint.

In the interim, Jay was forced to cancel the project that Once-ler Producer #1 was working on, a project so ridiculous that the second paragraph of the design concept should never have seen the light of day.  Of particular interest is the fact that this project was vigorously green-lit by our Hero, Mr. Beard.  After close to a year in development, people were still choking on half-chewed snack foods in gut-wracking laughter if they happened to be unfortunate enough to catch a glance of it and it was received at the most recent Product Review meeting with a muttering chorus of "You've GOTTA be kidding!"

Suffice it to say this game was REALLY stupid.  Once-ler Producer #1 decides he doesn't want to be a producer anymore (the only decent decision he made while in San Diego) and goes back to doing art, which is what he did on Blasto, and assumes the position of Lead Animator on Once-ler Producer #2's project.  Lead Animator hangs a sign on the outside of his cubicle that reads "I hate this project, it sucks, so quit bugging me about it - I'm playing Unreal."  No, of course he didn't actually have a sign that said that, but the way he interacted, or rather didn't interact, with the artists on the team, he might just as well have put it up.  He eventually marries a severely augmented artist on the Mole's team and returns to Foster City after successfully leeching off the San Diego Studio for two years.


7/12 GameFan Historical Blunder Follow-up

GameFan’s Error of Judgement Part 2
by FatSpiderJ

To follow-up on FatInsider's story, here's some more details on what happened after the GameFan "jap bastards" incident.  I found this stuff out when I visited Metropolis headquarters in LA a few years ago, when I was unfortunately employed by them for another project (if you can call bounced checks payment).  Metropolis (owned by David Bergstein) bought GameFan and helped run it a bit further into the ground--they spent a lot of money they didn't have, launched a few other magazines, got death threats from investors, dealt with a bomb scare that evacuated the E! building, then went bankrupt and regrouped under the name Maximum Holdings.  Eidos now owns a big part of their ass as part of Express.com, so they're still on the loose--and well funded.

Now for a real treat, a scan of the original page!  That's page 115 of Vol 3, Issue 9 of GameFan, September 1995 (though you wouldn't know it because the dopes forgot to put the page number on it).  The issue itself came not only in a polybag, but one that
said "Special Collector's Issue" across the top.  Tee hee!

(ed. -- Click on the image to bring up the full sized version:  a 1.5meg JPEG but definitely worth it!)

GameFan racist page scan thumbnail.  Click for full sized image.

Typing in "dummy text" is a common thing in magazines--art or production will grab or type something silly to fill out the page, to show how the final text will flow (that's why the GameFan text repeats itself, picking up in the middle of sentences over and over--cut and paste and repeat).  Most magazines, however, have the smarts to delete said text and replace it with actual content before shipping--or maybe not even write racist dummy text to begin with.  It was not sabotage--the staffer responsible was "executive producer" David White (um, sorry, I mean "Brad Black").  The ironically-named White was not fired for his stupidity--he was promoted for it.  He was eventually removed from GameFan and moved up the corporate ladder into Metorpolis' corporate office, where he served as their art director or something.


7/10 SCEA: The Inside Look (Part I)

Ever wonder what is going on over at Sony Computer Entertainment of America?  An insider recently submitted an entertaining story to us about the situation there.  It’s about 7 pages long in its entirety, so we will break it up into 4 separate pieces.

Enjoy Part I of SCEA: The Inside Look by Someone Sick of Sony


Well, despite the numerous shots fired at 989 Studios, in all of its many incarnations, up 'til now, Jonathan "Jay" Beard, who recently set the world's record for "Fastest Screwing Up of a Perfectly Healthy Development Studio" has somehow managed to avoid being tagged.  I don't know about you, but I say that it's about time his number has come up.

About three years back, right after the time when John Smedley, the previous Director of PD, left then Sony Interactive Studios America to form what would eventually become Verant Interactive, Kelly Flock was faced with the decision of hiring a new Director of PD in San Diego.  Now, I personally think that, despite the fact that Kelly was out on a cigarette break when his "How to Deal Sensibly with People" class was in session, he is an astute businessman and knows what he is doing when it comes to running a place like Sony Interactive, so the next few sentences are speculative sarcasm and should NOT be taken seriously.  He said to himself, "Self, I've got this great production house here, with a lot of really talented, motivated and otherwise happening people.  What's the quickest way to run it into the ground?  Hmmmmm...." here he ponders for a little bit before ... "Eureka!  I've got it!  Blasto - that game really stank!  Now, if we had that type of a team running things down in San Diego, they'd be tits up in..."  checks his watch... "three, MAYBE four years - max!  All I've got to do is get Jay and a core group of his fan club down there and they'll have the place in a complete shambles in no time flat!"

Now, as I said, that last bit was sarcasm, and I'm sure that Flock wasn't planning the demise of the San Diego Creative Studio (as opposed to the Sports Studio, which Kelly Ryan has running pretty darn well.  It's mostly thanks to him and his gang that us guys on the Creative side have the funds to pay the bills), but I can't possibly imagine another train of thought that would lead to the decision which brought Jay and a dozen (I think it was twelve to fifteen, don't remember the exact head count) of his Blasto Buddies down from the wonderful political cesspool that was/is Sony Foster City.  Now that I think about it, this whole story unfolds much like Dr. Seuss' "The Lorax", where the dirty old Once-ler comes to town and, with the help of his equally dirty relatives, proceeds to screw things up beyond all recognition.  How appropriate that one of Ted Geisel's best stories would be reenacted post-humously for him, nearly verbatim, in his own town!  Anyhow, I digress - I apologize.

The best way to follow the story is to examine Jay's personal "Mission Statement" and then view the steps he took to fulfill this Manifest Destiny of his.


Dude (any Mission Statement worth its weight in controlled substances starts out with the word "Dude"), I'm gonna move out of this crappy weather by the Bay, cruise on down to San Diego and make myself the best personal club house in the world, where I'm the most talented and brilliant person there and am surrounded by all my groupies, Yes-men and lots of colorful puppets - it'll be fowking awesome (that's how it sounds with his accent)!!

You gotta love the simplicity of this thing!  Like any good Mission Statement, it is a single sentence action phrase with specific, achievable goals.  He was certainly paying attention in class that day!  Now, how did he do it?  The best way to keep track of his progress is to give you a head count of the significant parties in both the Studio and the Once-ler Family.

On Jay Day (the day Jay arrives and begins his systematic destruction of the Studio) the score is Studio: 3 producers, 4 assistant producers and 1 associate producer; Once-ler Family: 1 director, 2 producers, 2 assistant producers and one Mole on the Sports Side (artist-turned-producer that worked up in Foster City shining Jay's boots who came down before-hand and would eventually rejoin Jay on the Creative side).  Now, I'm not going to place names on anyone other than Jay, because the names are not important to the story, here, nor are the individuals that actually played the parts, simply because I personally believe that you can't blame the dog for the tricks the master has taught it.


7/10 GameFan Historical Blunder Revisited

GameFan’s Error of Judgement
by FatInsider

We have a little humorous story here, sort of a “blast from the past” piece that some of you might remember.  Remember when GameFan published an issue slamming Namco’s Air Combat and the “Jap bastards” there?  Oh yeah, we sure do… GameFan ran a follow-up issue apologizing and citing sabotage as the culprit.  FatInsider brings the true story of what happened…

Back in late 1995, early 96, GameFan magazine had just published an issue with a free poly bag (I think an AOL CD was inside), had an exclusive on the PlayStation game "Loaded", and was looking good in the console enthusiast circles. The issue had just been put to bed...

Until the printers alert Dave Halverson to the fact that they're missing a page.  A preview page with (I think) a baseball game on it.  A page with puke green backgrounds, and difficult-to-read text, as is the norm for GameFan's colorblind design staff.  Havlerson doesn't want to be bothered with this printing bullshit, so he asks one of the art guys by the name of Brad Black (name changed) to come down off the roof, put out his joint, and re-run the page.  So he does.  He sends it out to the printers, and everyone waits for the mag to come back.

The excitement turns to stomach churning horror when Halverson realizes that the re-run page has, er, how shall I put it?  A SMALL ERROR in it.  Not so much an incorrect fact, as an entire racist rant.

So, instead of the Baseball review, it starts with a review of Ace Combat by Namco.  Brad sent out an EARLIER version of the page.  A page with SAMPLE text on it.  Not the usual sample text, like names in Latin, or XXXXXXXXXs everywhere.  Oh no.  After an initial review of Ace Combat, it had this.


"I don't know what those guys over there at Namco smoke, but I wish I had some. Those crazy Jap bastards love to flip and come up with wacky shit..."

Words to that affect.  It was slightly longer than that, and perhaps had the word "shit" repeated a couple more times, but that was it.  Truth is, that was tame compared to some of the sample text designers put on early versions of the page prior to receiving editorial text.

Halverson's mullet almost caught fire with simmering rage.  He was sooper dooper pissed, especially since:

a) software company copies of the mag had already come out, and
b) there was that poly bag, meaning three Mexican guys had to rip open 200K copies, take the mag out, rip out the page, and reseal it again.

Next issue, a rambling apology in English (and Japanese) was made, with Halverson blaming "sabotage," and vowing that "whoever was responsible will be fired" (paraphrasing).  Neither was true.  Brad stayed and it took GameFan almost a year to recover and actually start talking to Namco again.

Apparently, in 1997, "virgin" copies of this issue were fetching $150 in user groups.

Try and find that GameFan if you can.  The text is outstanding.


7/10 Another Look at EA.com

EA Seattle’s Motor City is in the piss-poor shape it is in because EA.com is panicking (not that MC is the only game that's being whored out, or that EAS is going to be the only group that takes it in the shorts).

According to a recent Bloomberg Stock Wire report, EA is planning to introduce this month a test version of an internet games site in order to avoid missing a September 1 deadline.  Should the company miss the date, it could cost EA the contract with America Online.

Back in November of ’99, EA signed a 5-year, $81 million agreement to provide games to AOL.  According to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, if EA fails to unveil the games by September 1, AOL can cancel the agreement.  EA has already missed a June 1 deadline, forcing it to pay an annual fee to AOL sooner than scheduled.

EA jumped into the internet craze back in late ’99 by signing the deal with AOL.  The resulting hype sent the company’s stock into the $125 range for a short time, when most senior executives sold shares for a pretty penny.  We reported this to you earlier.  As with all quick stock rises, the price fell, and is currently sitting at $83 1/16.

Earlier this year, EA created a separate class of stock to track the performance of the company’s online games unit, EA.com.  America Online purchased 10 percent of EA.com’s shares for $18.7 million, as well as a warrant to acquire another 5 percent of the shares for $1.3 million.  The warrant can be exercised for $40 million.  If Electronic Arts fails to sell shares that track EA.com to the public within 12 months, America Online can exchange the EA.com shares for regular Electronic Arts shares.

America Online will share in revenue EA.com collects from games on Internet sites or online services run by companies other than America Online.  Electronic Arts agreed to spend $15 million marketing the games on America Online over the life of the contract.

EA.com has about 300 employees, and is looking to add people at a frenzied pace.  Some 20 percent of the workers developing the site come from overpriced and generally useless consultants such as Andersen Consulting.  Billable hours?  Accountability?  What’s that?  Exactly.

EA.com had a loss of $54.6 million on sales of $20.9 million in the fiscal year ended March 31.

News Corp. owns 5 percent of EA.com shares after selling online games developer Kesmai Corp. to Electronic Arts.

What is the real reason for all this scrambling about?  Acquisition.  EA is and has been looking to get acquired by a fat company such as AOL.  By pumping up its numbers and hoping to have a cutting edge internet gaming portal, EA can look more attractive to a potential buyer.  But under the pristine surface, the place is rotten.  As more and more layers are peeled away, they’ll discover the rot goes down to the core.  Bon appetite!

7/10 Midway's Black Friday

On Friday, June 30, Midway Home Entertainment let go between 75-100 people in the Chicago, Milpitas, and San Diego offices.

Milpitas lost half its workforce (35 axed).  San Diego lost 9-11 people, and Chicago terminated almost anyone having anything to do with arcade manufacturing.

As each employee went to HR to receive their “you are no longer needed” speeches, IT came by and confiscated their machines and froze their network accounts.  Once personal things were packed, each employee was escorted out.

This happened even after John Rowe announced, not more than 2 weeks ago, that “no one in San Diego will lose their job.  There will be no layoffs.”

7/10 The Crystal Ball on Acclaim Studios London

To shed more light on the situation over at Acclaim Studios London surrounding its recent closure, we have this story for you.  Details were submitted by a recently terminated employee and provide a rather accurate account leading up to the last days there.

We received an e-mail out of the blue, sent by Harvey Elliot, for an immediate meeting at Fairfield Halls.  We were all there joking when we were informed that two of the projects at our studio were being cancelled.  Our “Ferrari” project (the one the stupid fucks seem to think is going to pull them out of a fucking quagmire) was being moved to the wonderful building ruled by suits in Knightsbridge, therefore making 70 to 80 people wondering how they were going to pay their mortgages or tell their kids “I’m sorry, but no birthday present for you this year because daddy is now a loser.”

During the meeting, the spineless Harvey gave the dirty work to John Flynn—he had to make the announcement.  Now John was a fairly new guy on board, and as an HR Manager goes, a pretty good guy that I have respect for.  We could really tell he hated giving us the news that we were all facing the breadline now.  I actually felt sorry for John.  Seeing how Harvey Idiot wimped out made me pissed.

Another shot in the gut was walking past Harvey’s office and seeing him grinning from ear to ear after the meeting.  It was such a “fuck you—I have a job” from him.  When we got back to our desks, we had no access to e-mail or the network.  But it didn’t surprise us, since this was Acclaim.

“Where did it all go wrong?” was the question on most of our minds.  One day you’re working hard programming away or designing a level, the next you’re unemployed.  Of course, the official line was “projected sales blah blah blah, Dreamcast selling poorly blah blah blah, Nintendo not doing as well as we thought blah blah blah.”  But quite frankly I’m sick of hearing that.  Why couldn’t they just say, “Hey sorry guys, but WE fucked things up--we dropped the ball” or “perhaps buying a £5 million building wasn’t such a good idea after all.”  Or maybe even, “You know, maybe we shouldn’t have put all our eggs in a Ferrari shaped basket after all, huh?”

The projects have been canceled, employees are now unemployed, and the horrible management is still around.  Funny it seems to work out that way.

7/5 Computec Media Post Mortem

Computec Media USA - How a large number of very talented people lost their jobs due to the complete incompetence of a select few.  Or - why jokes about receiving bratwurst up the ass don't make us laugh like they used to.  Here we’ll explore the behind-the-scenes happenings of those silly German publications incite, et al.  The trials and tribulations.  The leaders and the failures.  All detailed by the opinions of one pissed off ex-employee.  It’s good stuff!  Stick around if you like sauerkraut, because here we go.

Say what you will about incite Video Gaming and PC Gaming's softcore, mainstream, occasional shots of cheesecake approach, but the truth is that incite VG (and to a lesser extent, PCG) would have actually lived up to the phenomenal pre-launch hype - if the company hadn't been run by complete, fucking morons.

For those of you who don't know, Computec launched MCV, and then talked all kinds of shit about how incite Video Gaming and PC Gaming were going to waltz in and completely destroy the competition.  Bombastic simpleton #1, CEO Torsten Oppermann, and his right-hand moron, Jon Yoffie (VP of advertising) decided to launch iVG and iPC with guaranteed rate-bases (estimate circulation, upon which advertising rates are based on) of 500,000 and 450,000 respectively.  The best-selling game magazine, GamePro (can you believe it?) does a bit over 500,000.  So to recap, Computec launched two new magazines with an untried, unproven, very ambitious format, and charged MORE FOR ADS THAN ANY OF THE COMPETITION.

A fucked up launch strategy if ever there was one.  But the amazing thing is, both magazines actually exceeded those numbers with their debut issues.  Then Germany stepped in with one of its many edicts, demanding that the cover price of iVG and iPC be jacked up by $2 each.  We had been told that iVG would be 99 cents and iPC $1.99 for at least a year, and if that had actually been the case, both magazines would have been the best-selling mags in their respective sectors.  Today, and possibly for years to come.

With the price increase, sales for iVG stabilized in the mid to high 200,000 range, iPC slightly lower.  Subscriptions were rolling in like crazy.  The magazines were everywhere.

But no one was buying ads, because we were still charging an obscene amount for them.  And because Imagine launched a smear campaign - their distributor sent letters to advertisers claiming we weren't selling shit.

By the time those bright sparks upstairs decided maybe it was time to charge a little less for ads, everyone was scared off, waiting for an ABC audit to confirm circ numbers once and for all.  That was supposed to come some time in July, but Computec, despite assuring everyone that they were prepared to stick around for at least three years no matter what, and working on two new US launches, decided to pull the plug.  And they did it in such a nice way:
Monday morning, four days before another issue is out the door - your computer login name is expired.  No email.  No printer.  No contacts list.  Security guards.  Boxes.  TWO WEEKS SEVERANCE.  Thanks for that.  So that's why we worked all those weekends and late nights.

Some random thoughts and wholly deserved personal attacks...

Torsten Oppermann - You incompetent moron.  Too bad you'll have to turn in the keys to your Porsche.  You claim you're out of a job too, but I'm sure there's a boot you can lick in Deutschland.

Bruce Eldridge - What did this guy do again?  Anybody have any idea?  I mean, aside from the one time he sat in on an editorial meeting and told us that "we all have to work together."  No fucking shit, now go sit back down in your office with a window and fill out some TPS reports.

Christian Svennson - Excels at kissing ass.  Thinks very highly of himself, wears extremely tight shirts, gives male employees backrubs.  Stop.  Most of the people he hired were mediocre, and grossly overpaid.  Was it his idea that we should think about doing a one-off, Tips&Tricks style mag for PC gamers?  That was insane.  Bye bye Boxster.

Sharon Lo - Her laugh could cut diamonds.  Pissed away a huge marketing budget with TV commercials that ran for about three days, then spent all of her time trying to get editors on KMEL, like anyone fucking cares.  Did the marketing department need four people?  No.

Gary Harrod (creative director), Greg Rau (iVG editor), Patrick Baggatta (head of incite.com) - The best things that ever happened to this undeserving company.

Tasos Kaifas (iPC editor) - Nice guy. Absolutely horrible at managing people, ineffectual editor.  Still with the company.

Joe Vallina (iPC editor) - Classic Napoleon complex.  Also not so hot at managing people, or editing a letters page.

Nikki Douglas - The worst writer on the face of the planet, paid lots of money, hired by Tasos.  On her first day of work - played Everquest all day.  Fell asleep at meetings, at her desk, leaning against file cabinets.  Stole from the company.  Then sued.

"incite" as a brand name - fucking stoopid.

incite Video Gaming - the only game magazine worth reading, and was about to get a lot better.  The other publishers took notice.  Look at OPM.  Some of that celeb stuff was going to be toned down.  RIP.

incite PC Gaming - No direction, sometimes insipid writing.  Best disk in the biz... when it didn't have glue on it.

incite.com - how do you compete against IGN and Daily Radar when you've got a staff of six?  You don't.

MCVNow - great website for hard industry news, probably the best.  Not a very good way to make money though.

Oh, yeah, stock options!  They were in our offer letters.  We didn't get dick.

I heard from one ex-employee whose boxes of desk detritus were searched by Torsten and Bruce personally - they removed a stapler.  Apparently Germany could use a few good staplers, but not some of the most talented editorial and art staff in the US.

Also heard from PR people who are shocked at how this all went down... and have vowed not to deal with Computec again.  Fuck 'em!  Go imagine!  Go Ziff!  Go anybody!

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