Back In: Black Isle Being Resurrected By Interplay

By Nathan Grayson on August 23rd, 2012 at 11:00 am.

Hmm. Well, this came out of nowhere. OK, not entirely nowhere - we are living in the age of Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition, Wasteland 2, and talk of a new Planescape: Torment, after all – but I can’t say I was expecting Black Isle to just suddenly explode out of the suspiciously human-sized birthday cake that is life. And yet, here we are. Black Isle Studios is apparently back. I mean, look at that picture. It’s as clear as day.

Beyond that teaser, very, very little is known. The website, Facebook page, and Twitter account are registered to Interplay and Herve Caen, the company’s CEO, so it seems legit enough, at least. Will it resemble Black Isle as we knew and loved it back in the Fallout, Icewind Dale, and Planescape days, though? At this stage, it seems incredibly unlikely, given that both Obsidian and inXile – bastions of former key Black Isle staff – aren’t involved in the slightest.

“Doesn’t involve Obsidian at all,” former Black Isle lead designer Chris Avellone told Eurogamer. ”No idea what it’s about. I wasn’t aware anything beyond the name was left at Interplay.”

inXile’s Brian Fargo, meanwhile, took to Twitter with the news, saying: “I just read that Interplay is bringing back Black Isle. Hmmm… Not enough info for me to comment” and later adding that “a game division is obviously only as good as the talent it employs.”

Meanwhile, the last time Interplay made headlines was when it relinquished Fallout MMO rights to Bethesda after a legal tussle blew up in its face. So this is all extremely unexpected.

I’ve sent questions out to everybody I know who might have some information, and I emailed the new Black Isle to boot. For now, meanwhile, Black Isle’s ghost is very enthusiastically asking everyone to sign up for its mailing list with mysterrrrrious prompts like “What’s next?” So hopefully – one way or another – we’ll actually find out something soon.

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136 Comments »

  1. apocraphyn says:

    Hmm.

  2. stiffkittin says:

    My guess is Interplay will be true to form and have absolutely no plan beyond the teaser website and an email address that doesn’t return to sender. Probably just trying to remind people they still exist.

  3. Xari says:

    What? No mouse-over text?

  4. Premium User Badge

    RedViv says:

    The important people are everywhere else. Wonder what they are planning to do with this.

  5. Caiman says:

    Curious. The only gamers who will know who Black Isle Studios were will also be aware of what happened to its core talent. So using the name to imply greatness is coming back seems a little counterproductive until we know what talent is onboard and what they plan on doing with it. Let’s hope it’s not F2P versions of all their classic IP.

    • Quatlo says:

      Incorrect. The same happened with Diablo 3. Most of the poeople I know who bought D3 had no idea what D2 was but it was advertised as THE GREATLY AND MOSTLY MOSTEST ANTICIPATED SEQUEL TO THE GREATES GAME D2. And they bought it. I think they want to do the same thing -> advertise their games as “Game from creators of the greatest cRPG’s”

      • iniudan says:

        Yes, but it is also Blizzard, they may not be what they were in the past, to some, but they are still very much in the light and not festering worshipper of Nurgle like Interplay.

        P.S. Only reason I can see think has to why Interplay is still alive while been in such advanced stage of decay.

        • scatterbrainless says:

          I remember when seeing the gold-rocket Interplay logo on start-up filled me with joy. I remember kids! Get off my lawn.

        • Shuck says:

          “it is also Blizzard”
          I guess this is the attitude that Interplay are banking on. (Blizzard North developed Diablo 1/2; they no longer exist and none of the key developers are at Blizzard anymore.) People see the name and make connections that don’t exist by falling into the trap of thinking that corporations, rather than teams of people, make games.

          • malkav11 says:

            Sure, none of the core Diablo team are there anymore, but Blizzard has had – for my tastes, of course – an unbroken string of quality games. I am not counting on Diablo III to be the modern Diablo game that the original team would have made (that’s Torchlight, or Torchlight II), but I have total confidence that I would enjoy it if they would ever make it possible to play offline so that I could in good conscience buy it.

        • Phantoon says:

          Sorry, what?

          Did you say ‘Nurgle’ and ‘Blizzard’ in the same sentence, and then implying they were not one in the same?

          To clarify, Grandfather Nurgle will never be mean to you. But you may totally get every disease ever from staying at his house.

      • Werthead says:

        The same thing happened with FALLOUT 3, which outsold the combined lifetime sales of the rest of the franchise in about two days. There seem to be a lot of people out there who’ll buy a sequel just because it validates the franchise being successful.

        In fact, I am convinced if they suddenly whacked a ’2′ on the end of DISHONORED when it comes out, sales would noticeably increase.

    • belgand says:

      I’ve always appreciated the gall at when a film is marketed as being “from the producers of” what is generally some really terrible film to begin with. Because, yeah, that’s what I really pay attention to when I watch a film. The quality production work that was done. Signing those checks really made the original great!

  6. Zeewolf says:

    I’m calling it now: Kickstarter.

  7. Yosharian says:

    This is fucking horrible news. Yeah let’s resurrect a dead developer studio without any of the actual people that made it good!

    • LionsPhil says:

      Financially stuggling publisher scrabbles around in IP box for a new flesh suit to wear, news at 11.

      See previously: Infogrames wearing Atari’s skin.

    • AlienMind says:

      Interplay… that was the company who was once by gamers for gamers right? Ages ago, before it was bought by Titus which gone bancrupt in 2004. In other words: Dead, dead, dead.

  8. atticus says:

    So it has been what? Like twelve years? Everyone who ever worked at Black Isle is working somewhere else?

    I’m always positive about companies wanting to make the world’s best RPG’s, but using the old Black Isle name and logo just make them seem desperate.

    “Black Isle Studios is back.” No, it’s not.

  9. NicholasTimothyJones says:

    This has potential. Sure, they don’t have the previous developers there and sure none of them want to get involved again but what about all the new talent they bring in? Why not have it as a company that hires a new generation of developers and allow them to get their foot in the door?

    • caddyB says:

      That’s very optimistic of you. New to the gaming industry, I take it?

      No offense intended of course, I know internet has a tendency of taking playful comments in the worst way possible. I really wish it would go that way, but I have zero hope.

      • NicholasTimothyJones says:

        Non taken. I’m a very optimistic person. I’m only taking an interest in the Industry now because for my current job I’m learning C# and hoping to expand to other languages and eventually have the ability to develop games myself.

        • x-jay says:

          You obviously don’t known how good Herve Caen is at going bankrupt.

      • Yosharian says:

        “That’s very optimistic of you. New to the gaming industry, I take it?”

        I lol’d.

        • NicholasTimothyJones says:

          I did too. As I said, I’m only interested now because I have started learning to program in my current job.
          I have been gamin for years but never bothered with how they were made or the companies that made them until now. I’m still pretty ignorant really.

          • Vander says:

            Inform yourself. Because working the game industry often sucks. Sure, you do something you love, and your bosses will know it, and exploit it.

    • Memphis-Ahn says:

      They should hire me!

    • D3xter says:

      Let’s look at the facts, after Interplay went public in 1998 and was completely acquired by French company Titus Interactive in 2001 by none other than Harve Caen following a few rought years, Brian Fargo and the old management left, most of the talent had left, the company was delisted from NASDAQ in 2002 and the remainders of Black Isle Studios were laid off at the end of 2003.

      Since then they’ve mainly been in the news because of lawsuits and PR stunts and have barely managed to scrape by through sale of the Fallout franchise to Bethesda.

      What they have done since then:
      - Cancel a few bad console games like Dark Alliance III and Brotherhood of Steel II
      - Sold rights to the Fallout franchise to Bethesda, keeping the rights for an MMO, then cancelling said MMO after long legal battle
      - Re-Released Earthworm Jim on WiiWare
      - Licensed the rights for Earthworm Jim HD to Gameloft
      - Opened an Indie publishing arm called “Interplay Discovery”, releasing “Pinball Yeah!” and “Tommy Tronic”, releasing a few more titles later
      - Re-Released a few games for DSiWare (Prehistorik Man and T-Rex Rumble)
      - They had somewhat of a hand in the development and release of MDK2 HD by Beamdog, the same guys that are doing BG: EE now…
      - They also ported a few games to iPhones and iPads
      - The last thing they did is announcing “Battle Chess: Game of Kings”, getting into fiancial straits, launching a KickStarter to help fund it and fail at that

      At some point in 2008 they announced that they “would be back” and their plan of making a Earthworm Jim 4, Descent 4, MDK3 and the Fallout MMO, none of which have materialized.
      There’s currently 8 people working for Interplay.

      Do you really think they will be able to produce and release games even closely resembling what Black Isle did in its heyday?

      • malkav11 says:

        Thank you for answering the two questions I was going to ask, i.e.:

        1) Is there even anyone working at Interplay besides Herve Caen?

        and

        2) Have they released anything at all that’s new in the last, like, five years?

      • TsunamiWombat says:

        What I got from this is we can expect Earth Worm Jim as done by Black isle, so there will be lots of ennui and pointing and clicking.

        Groovy

      • NicholasTimothyJones says:

        I never said that anything will be of old Black Isle Quality. I said it has potential if they bring in new, young talent who have the ability to grow and expand their skills. Just because it has the same name does not mean it has to be the same as the company used to be. It can forge a new image for itself.

    • monkeybars says:

      Then let that new talent make their own names for themselves, not try to piggyback on Black Isle.

      • NicholasTimothyJones says:

        The company needs staff and the talent needs to work somewhere.

        • monkeybars says:

          I’m not sure what you don’t understand here. You can still hire just as many people and call the company Red Peninsula.

          • NicholasTimothyJones says:

            When Black Isle was reforming they needed new staff.
            New talent in the industry need hiring.
            Black Isle could hire the talent.

            I know the company would not be the same as it used to be but fresh minds in the company couldn’t help.

            Plus I’m not saying to band together a bunch of people and call it Black Isle Studios, I’m saying they could hire new upcoming talent along with veteran staff to get the best out of the reform.

          • monkeybars says:

            Black Isle is not reforming. What’s happening is not a reformation. It’s Interplay, who own the logo and name and all that, carting Black Isle out of storage and then applying it to an entirely new team of people.

            What I’m saying, and you don’t seem to grasp, is that they DON’T NEED TO CALL IT BLACK ISLE. That name means a lot to people over 25 years old.

            This new team they’re hiring, these “fresh minds” and “new talent that need hiring,” they will still get hired if Interplay decides to call the company Green Balloon Studios. Green Balloon Studios will need the same staffing as a new studio going under the moniker of Black Isle.

            I’m not sure if you’re really this confused, or just a troll.

          • NicholasTimothyJones says:

            I fully see where your coming from now. I thought it was a reformation of the Studio. God I seem like such a flid now. I guess as you said, Black Isle means more to people over 25. I only started playing games properly at 14, back in 2004. I have played Fallout 1 and 2, Planetscape and Icewind Dale, but only within the last couple of year so I never truly appreciated them or the company that made them.
            I see now that the Studio is nothing of its former self and actually agree with your statement that it could be called anything else and be the same studio.

            Sorry if I angered you and sorry for seeming like a complete bag.

    • mouton says:

      Why use an old company name, then?

      Younger folks have little to no recognition of both the company or their games. Older gamers who are familiar with it, will see it for what it is and probably get a negative bias from the start. It serves no purpose.

      It is like Syndicate FPS reboot – no recognition for the young, hate from the old, pointless use of the name.

      • NicholasTimothyJones says:

        Like all the hate from my pointless post?
        I guess I was being too optimistic.

        Oh and I obviously have no understanding of how anything within the video game industry works. Back to work I go.

        • spindaden says:

          Aww Nick!

          I just wanna give you a big hug. The internet needs more optimism.

          Sure, this is flagrant empty opportunism on the part of Interplay and no good can come from it but don’t let the angry internet men keen to point that out get you down.
          Good on you with the programming and good luck in turning your hand to making a game down the road.

  10. MrPo0py says:

    If I were a betting man, I’d put bet on there being some sort of Kickstarter thing about to happen. But what do they still have rights to?

  11. lordcooper says:

    Never before have I gone so quickly from “FUCK YES!” to ‘meh’.

    • caddyB says:

      Never a truer word spoken.

      • Groove says:

        Ditto. Unless they’ve got something huge they’re not telling us, then they don’t have the previous staff or the previous licenses. Without that Black Isle is a name and a pretty logo, even with the best intentions in the world (I doubt they have those either).

    • TehK says:

      this!

  12. Prime-Mover says:

    http://es.twitter.com/TrentOster

    He seems to know something, though he’s going out of his way to be vague on the matter.

  13. MeestaNob says:

    Seems almost dishonest for Interplay to bring back the Black Isle name when they are totally incapable of developing or publishing anything, and exist merely because not everyone on the planet who knew who they were has died yet.

    To be frank, I almost wish someone would buy up the last dregs of Interplay just to close them down and kill off their remaining IP’s, I’m sick of this nonsense coming up every 12 months.

    • InternetBatman says:

      Pretty much this, except I don’t want to see EA or Activisions take on Black Isle games.

      • diamondmx says:

        How about Zynga?

        Tiny Planescapes
        Icewind Ville
        Dream Fallout

        • InternetBatman says:

          Zynga wouldn’t release anything nearly that original. They would just let someone else do it and then copy it.

  14. Dowson says:

    What licences do they even hold onto?
    Fallout has gone to Bethesda, the D&D games were just licensed themselves
    I guess they may own Dark Alliance?

  15. JackDandy says:

    Very, very suspicious.

    Especially since it has pretty much nobody from the original team as employees.

  16. UncleLou says:

    Questionable and dubious as it all is, I’ll try to take the optimistic approach and see it as a declaration of intent and a commitment to a certain target audience.

  17. x-jay says:

    That’s the bet they saw the buzz surrounding the re-re-re-release of baldurs gate optimized for mobile devices and such, and thought “I can see the color of money here!?”

    This combined with the recent Kickstarter ramblings of a spiritual successor to Planescape Torment this dick move was inevitable.

  18. Maxheadroom says:

    So for the last few years they’ve been resurrecting long gone but much loved titles and slapping them on generic First Person Man Shoots (Sysdicate and in all probability XCOM), now they’re doing the same thing with whole studios?

    Probably shouldnt be surprised really. If I was a clueless corporate suit I’d think this was a wonderful idea too that will make millions (with absolutly zero chance of blowing up in my face in less than a year)

  19. doma says:

    This is just silly.

    Its like if EA made a division and called it “Bullfrog” og “Westwood” just because they can.

    Everyone who did all the great work for BIS are long gone to Obsidian or Inexile.

    Please ignore Herves attempt to get more money for his dead studio.

  20. Zarunil says:

    Hopefully they will get a decent team together and develop games in the same genre as old Black Isle. If they attempt any other genre they won’t get nearly the same amount of attention from the media, as I’m sure they are well aware.

    The worst that can happen is that the game will suck and they will go under again.

    Best case scenario, we’ll get more great games in a genre that desperatly needs it. I don’t see the downside to bringing back the BIS name.

    Edit: now watch as they announce an Icewind Dale first-person manshoot, followed by me eating my socks.

  21. rustybroomhandle says:

    This is a sad attempt to cash in on names of former BI figures and properties that have resurfaced as prominent part of the current zeitgeist.

  22. Belua says:

    I know that all important (well, probably simply all) people who made up Black Isle are working somewhere else now, and that this is just an empty name now. One that only gamers recognize who also recognize this sad fact behind it, just like others have said above. Because of that, it doesn’t seem to make sense as just a marketing thing, because the target audience would be pretty limited and probably not well receiving (as evidenced by the comments here).

    But I have hope. I may be overly optimistic here, but perhaps it’s instead made up of people who do know the name. A new generation of developers who knew Black Isle and what they made, looked up to them, and now want to step into their footprints.

    At the very least I hope it’s a statement. That what they want to do is bring games with substance, games that will be remembered for more than a few months and won’t be replaced by their buggy sequels after a year.

    A man can dream, right?

  23. Hatonastick says:

    It’s obviously a money making scheme by Interplay. They are hoping to harvest thousands of email addresses which they can then sell on to a marketing firm for an absolute fortune — or at least enough to maybe get a counter meal and a few beers.

  24. stretchpuppy says:

    What’s the chances of them bringing on some of the original employees?

    • Shuck says:

      I would say about zero, considering the company is teetering on the precipice.

  25. Raziel_Alex says:

    This makes me sad. But I’ll wait until they announce some “modern-RPG” that explodes in their face and we all have our laughs while Obsidian does wonders with the next Planescape and the next-next Fallout.

  26. InternetBatman says:

    I’m not buying it. Everyone of quality has gone their separate ways.

  27. NathanH says:

    Using the Black Isle name rather than a new name for a development team is a very shrewd business decision: it means they don’t have to pay anyone to draw a new logo!

  28. Premium User Badge

    Lars Westergren says:

    JE Sawyers concise tweet: “lol black isle lol”.

    Or as someone wrote on Bluesnews: “So Black Isle wakes up in a morgue with no memory of how it got there…”

  29. Bobby Oxygen says:

    Herve Caen doesn’t know when to give up. Or how to run a business.

  30. woodsey says:

    And the award for the most cynical announcement of the year goes to… INTERPLAY!

    Well done folks, come on up to the stage so everyone can punch you in the gut you desperate, desperate people.

  31. Hoaxfish says:

    well according to the Eurogamer article:

    Interplay boss Herve Caen said: “It really feels like getting the band back together as we’re seeing opportunities not available to us before. Given our unique position, expanding online and mobile platforms, and renewed interest in our proven properties, I see an incredible success potential for Black Isle Studios.”

    No idea who or what band he’s referring to, when all the known bandmembers don’t seem to know anything.

    • BatmanBaggins says:

      “renewed interest in our proven properties”

      Well, there you have it. He saw all the buzz around the new projects of former Black Isle members and just couldn’t stop himself from trying to get a piece of the pie.

    • Raziel_Alex says:

      As Jay Wilson likes to say, F*ck that loser.

  32. Vinraith says:

    Faux Interplay creates faux Black Isle, neither of which have anything to do with the groups of people that originally bore those names. Hardly news, is it?

  33. Luke says:

    I feel they’ve missed an opportunity to re-brand a la Gandalf.

    “White Isle” maybe doesn’t have the quite the same ring to it, but you can’t pass up stupid gags like that if you’re serious about rp.

  34. Skabooga says:

    Resurrection is such a strong word. Maybe more like ‘being exposed to electric shocks to induce muscle spasms’.

    • Shuck says:

      That would imply that even a corpse remains. I think in this case, all that remains is a death mask – i.e. the visage of something that’s completely gone.

  35. bill says:

    you see, I’ve never understood why publishers continually close studios that have a good reputation in the first place. If the Black Isle name alone is with resurrecting, then WHY DID THEY CLOSE T IN THE FIRST PLACE?? Dumbasses.

    I mean, if you look at a big publisher like EA or Activison they have such a catalog of renowned studio names, but they’ve just packed them up in a box and then rehired the same developers again under less famous names. it’d be like Activision closing Blizzard and then re-hiring the whole team under their new studio: Unknown Games.

    • HisMastersVoice says:

      Because you can shelve or sell a name so much easier than a whole studio.

      That, and this industry has a higher than average level of commanding ineptitude. Back in the day, it came from coders and engineers trying to be businessmen and failing horribly. Nowadays, it’s mostly due to CEOs appointed by companies that have no idea how game development works, doing their job (draining as much money as possible, as fast as possible) all to well.

  36. Thoric says:

    I hope Herve blows his last funds on this and then him and his mustache disappear from the industry forever.

  37. RakeShark says:

    Could be worse, they could have gone the extreme EA route named a new Interplay DRM system “Black Isle”.

  38. Cold Steel says:

    So they’re done rebooting IP’s and reboot entire Studios now. Of course without the minds that made the first iteration good.

    Yeah no, I’d rather support a Kickstarter project without those publishers.

  39. Sparkasaurusmex says:

    Does the name Black Isle entitle them to some IP rights or something?
    Obviously it won’t actually be Black Isle without the people.
    Is it possible they are doing this so they can use the franchise to litigate or something?

    • Bobby Oxygen says:

      I don’t see what rights they could possibly protect by doing that. If you take away the Fallouts which they sold to Bethesda, and all the D&D games that they no longer have a license for, all you’ve got left is Lionheart, which I doubt anyone would actively fight to retain rights for.

  40. Tuor says:

    In other news, Eidos Interactive has reformed Looking Glass Studios! New Thief game on the way… will be multi-platform first person shooter that uses motion technology as well as touch screen technology and will even be available on handhelds!

    (Okay, I’m lying.)

  41. HothMonster says:

    The future of the games industry, sequels to production companies. I’m surprised it doesn’t have a subtitle;

    Black Isle: Games and Stuff. (Obviously I am not a marketer.)

  42. Premium User Badge

    alexheretic says:

    You must gather your developers before venturing forth

  43. Enkinan says:

    Damn, let my fond memories rest you assholes.

  44. Beelzebud says:

    These morons had the greatest RPG studio in history, and put it in ruins in an attempt at a lame Xbox cash grab, and then once that failed they had to fire all the real talent, and close up shop. Frankly they don’t deserve to use that name.