Gas Powered Facing Major Layoffs, May Halt Kickstarter

By Nathan Grayson on January 19th, 2013 at 9:00 am.

Right then, let me try laying this one out on paper, because I’m still having a hard time comprehending it. So, a few days ago, Chris Taylor and Gas Powered Games announced a rather massive Kickstarter. Wildman, they said, would need $1.1 million in its tank before it could get off the ground, but they had it all planned out. So we got some gameplay footage, and everything seemed to be proceeding apace – minus, perhaps, the Kickstarter itself, which was acting less prehistoric hare beast and more tribal tortoise mutant. But apparently, that wasn’t good enough. So now, mere days after kicking off its Kickstarter, Gas Powered Games is kicking most of its employees to the curb. And according to Chris Taylor, Wildman’s Kickstarter might end up on the chopping block as well.

In response to a flurry of rumors that began circulating late Friday, Chris Taylor released a series of statements explaining the situation. Confirming the layoffs to Gamasutra, Taylor explained that “the studio is still operating, but we had to slim WAY down to conserve cash reserves.” Further elaborating in response to Polygon, he then cast some pretty serious doubt over Wildman’s future – at least, where Kickstarter is concerned.

“These layoffs are substantial, but it’s not everyone. We still have a fully functioning company, IT, HR, Operations, etc. And have retained some key people. [I'm going to ask Kickstarter supporters] if I should continue and then rehire people, or terminate the campaign now.”

And so he did, explaining in an impassioned video update that he was planning to gamble the entire company on Wildman’s success, but – at the last second – decided against it because that could mean tossing his entire studio out into a very, very cold economy. Thus, he elected to lay off many people now so others can keep their jobs in the event of a worst-case scenario. Now, though, he’s put the big question forward to supporters: should he keep going full-steam ahead (in spite of a semi-stagnant Kickstarter) and hopefully rehire everyone at the end, or should he cut his losses and call it quits now?

Regardless, things sound pretty dire, but at least no one’s playing any funeral dirges just yet. Still though, it’s awful to hear about more industry layoffs – especially in light of the fact that everything seemed a-okay. Unfortunately, Gas Powered Games was quite evidently putting on a brave “nothing to see here” face when, in fact, it was bleeding out and needed a cash transfusion stat. I certainly don’t think that’s the only reason Taylor and co put Wildman on Kickstarter (there’s clearly a lot of passion at GPG, and – to their credit – it looks like they’ve already put a good deal of work into this project), but I imagine it was a pretty major factor.

A cynical mind, meanwhile, might view this entire thing as a calculated publicity stunt, but again, I highly, highly doubt that’s the case. Odds are, we’re looking at good people in a bad situation. Because that’s just how life tends to work. Taylor, if nothing else, is sticking to his guns and potentially putting his company’s fate directly in the hands of the community, and – symbolic gesture or not – that’s pretty, well, wild.

So then, what say you? Do you think Wildman’s diamond-hewn arms are strong enough to carry an ailing Gas Powered Games, or should Taylor and co regroup and take a different approach?

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177 Comments »

  1. Terragot says:

    Edit : sorry, similar smell in the air where I am. Best of look to the devs, its a shitty time for everyone without a media name to use for exploitation.

  2. Funso Banjo says:

    You can’t blame anyone other than Gas Powered themselves.

    Companies don’t go broke if they make quality products and keep up with the changes in an industry, and hire and cut staff as the market expands and contracts.

    Right now, there are companies made up of two or three people, releasing great games on Steam, IOS, and other platforms, while some companies are trying to create games of similar quality with large studios comprising 50-60 people. Which is a bit silly.

    It makes sense to keep your workforce small in this market unless you are Valve or someone equally large and can be assured of large income each and every month.

    • jalf says:

      Err, BS? Companies *do* go broke despite releasing quality products all the time. Especially in the games industry.

      Of course GPG is to blame for their failing to be profitable (I mean, it’s their company, there’s no one else to blame), but the whole “if only you’d thought to release quality products” shtick is both unpleasantly condescending and, well, ignorant.

      • MadMatty says:

        Yup, all 4 games mentioned upfront in the video has ratings between 75-90% , Demigod only being pretty good, after the multiplayer patching. Not mentioned is Supreme Commander 2 (did Chris work on that?) and Age of Empires Online, which didnt sound great to me.
        Hes a very competent guy in many areas, but seems hes run out of any major Ideas…. ideas which made Supreme Commander, TA, And Dungeon Siege 1-2 such winners in their field… nothing superfantastic, but these games had mechanics that made them stand out in a crowd. Hmmm dont like the look of Wildman tho, i cant say ive played an RTS/RPG ever, that was much fun… but who the hell knows from some prototype scetches

        • MadMatty says:

          Well TA and Supcom were Superfantastic- several great key features- Supreme Commander is still my favourite RTS to date, and it came out in 2006

          • Hanban says:

            Playing Supreme Commander now! It was too demanding for my PC when it came out so I had to put it aside. Now, however, I can run it and boy is it great! Wish there were more like it! (Tried SupCom2 but it wasn’t that engrossing)

          • B1A4 says:

            @Hanban: Try AI WAR: Fleet Command. It does everything better than SupCom

      • Bassen_Hjertelos says:

        Looking Glass Studios come to mind.

        • fish99 says:

          Exactly what I was going to post. Looking Glass made some amazing games, both Thief games, System Shock, Ultima Underworld 1+2, Terra Nova and they played a major role in the making of System Shock 2, and they absolutely did not deserve to go out of business based on the quality of their games.

    • Gormongous says:

      Only dumb people lose their jobs. Only lazy people go broke. The public always buys the best product. Justice is alive and well in the world. Nothing bad ever happens to undeserving people.

    • Gnoupi says:

      Mucky foot would like a word with you.

      In general, it’s not enough to have a game scoring great reviews, you also have to have people buying it.

      Supreme Commander, Grim Fandango, Psychonauts, Beyond Good & Evil, Startopia, Quake III,…
      All those games had great reviews, and are often quoted in the “great games we remember about” lists. Yet, they were all commercial failures.

      • Teovald says:

        You just listed some fabulous games every gamer should play one day. And they were indeed semi or full commercial failures.
        Quality and popularity are just not the same.

      • drewski says:

        I’m not necessarily against your PoV, but I don’t think Mucky Foot – which produced one cult management game, and a film knockoff so unremarkable it doesn’t even have it’s own Wikipedia page – is really evidence of a high quality studio going to the wall despite their good products.

        And obviously Double Fine are still around precisely *because* they know how to make money off niche titles.

        • Gnoupi says:

          The movie knock-off came when it was already going bad, and they needed money. Urban Chaos wasn’t so bad, though. But I agree, it’s mostly Startopia.

        • Bhazor says:

          Double Fine aren’t doing that well.

          I mean they had to crowd fund a point and click adventure game and have basically been doing really small games since Brutal Legend was (unfairly) panned.

          • Hoaxfish says:

            They’re also in a position to get a Sesame Street tie-in for Kinect, a game which reviewed fairly well, and targets the very heart of the family-orientated casual market.

            All in all, I think Double Fine were working on a smaller scale business plan than GPG. I don’t think Double Fine has produced anything as dev-resource heavy as Supreme Commander, and I think GPG also realised that size of production was going to kill them (hence the “smaller is better” vibe in the recent interview).

            Double Fine pretty much started the upswing in Kickstarter, a head-start they’ve run with and followed up with stuff like Humble Bundle/Amnesia Fortnight. Not to mention they’re still sticking to some traditional publishing with Sega/The Cave.

            It’d probably be a bit naive to think Double Fine lucked into the Kickstarter wave, so I imagine they’re being fairly shrewd with what they have, and what they can spend.

      • Kamos says:

        I simply do not believe that these games have not eventually paid themselves. Even if these games are “flops”, in the sense that they haven’t sold millions of copies on day one, they are GOOD, and sooner or later word of mouth does its job. I think more devs should study Solium Infernum’s case, it was an interesting case of a dev using an inverted marketing strategy and of a game actually receiving an increase in sales as time went by, after a somewhat discouraging start.

        • jalf says:

          Well, you can obviously believe what you like. Just be aware that it doesn’t actually change reality.

          Out here in the real world, most “traditionally developed” (as in, big game studio rather than small indie team) games do not pay for themselves. The AAA games industry has always been tided over by a few huge hits, which paid for all the many many commercial failures.

          Again, you can believe whatever you like, but I think you’d do the developers in question a big favor if you didn’t spread those beliefs around as fact. It must be pretty discouraging to lose your job because your studio goes bust because a game didn’t sell enough, and then have people tell you that “surely word of mouth was all it took, and the game was actually profitable”.

          • Shuck says:

            Yeah, people just don’t get how few games are actually profitable. (The number I see most is about 20% of games that hit shelves. Of course, most games never make it to market.) The industry has always been hit-driven, and given the enormous costs of making a AAA game now, the failures are hugely expensive, requiring ever-bigger hits to pay for them. This dynamic is also true now for even indie games, as their cost and development time is at least where top games were twenty years ago, but revenue is a fraction of that. Small indie developers can last longer without a hit because they can survive longer on less money. Still, your expenses have to be pretty darn low (i.e. one or two developers) for word of mouth to increase sales from the point of failure to success.

          • Kamos says:

            Well, you two can choose to read what I have written however you want. But what I have written is simply that these games eventually pay their own cost of development. I have certainly not said that they eventually make the developer rich, nor have I said that they keep the developer afloat no matter what its operational costs, nor have I said that these games are capable of making up for whatever unfavourable contracts the publishers force upon developers. In all likelihood, a company will be long gone if its investment takes YEARS to make a small profit.

        • Stromko says:

          I think he’s saying that first-month sales shouldn’t be the end-all be-all that the industry makes them out to be. A really good game without much marketing, people are going to pick it up eventually. Hopefully the studio has survived long enough that they can make a profit off those late sales.

          It helps that now we have digital distribution, so we don’t have the situation where you couldn’t find a copy of Psychonauts by time the world realized how good it was. We’re no longer in an environment where 95% of us in the States are at the mercy of whatever Gamestop and Walmart see fit to stock.

          As for GPG, they’ve made some gems and they’ve made a lot of mediocre games. Wildman looks mediocre as f**k so I don’t have a good feeling about any company that’s reliant on it to keep them alive.

          Hopefully they can get a quick, cheap, clever and fun game out that will keep them alive. That’s going to take a lot of luck and a lot of brilliance, but I think they’ve got at least some of the latter so there is some hope.

          • Shuck says:

            It’s called the “long tail” because those subsequent sales make up just a thin fraction of previous revenue. The tail for video games is even slimmer, as the first month sales are still hugely important, despite digital sales. If it’s a multi-platform release, most sales are going to be on consoles. Consoles are still driven by first month sales. If it’s PC sales, then it’s the first few months that are generally the most important, after which prices get slashed. (This is because most people are still buying what’s hot and new and being actively marketed.) It doesn’t much matter if the game has great sales a year later, if it’s being sold at $5 (or less) rather than the original $50.
            Games that fail tend to fail big; a stream of revenue might lessen the loss at best. (But DLC, which gets its best sales in the first couple months after release, does a much better job of actually turning a loss on the primary game into a profit.) It’s only games on the cusp of profitability after initial sales that tend to become “successful” due to long tail sales. And that’s generally going to happen when the games had inexpensive development in the first place (Psychonauts was comparatively cheap to make.)
            Edit: And of course if the publisher and developer are two different entities, then there’s that whole dynamic that comes into play. The actual developers aren’t necessarily seeing any of the money from the sales, including the long tail.

          • jalf says:

            I think he’s saying that first-month sales shouldn’t be the end-all be-all that the industry makes them out to be.

            The keyword there is “should”. Which is different from “are”. In reality, first-month sales *are* important, because they make up the vast majority of your revenue. As I said in a previous comment, you don’t have to like it, and you don’t have to believe it, but that doesn’t change the reality. The reality is that first-month sales *are* important. Not because some game studio boss has dictated that “we will consider first month sales to be important”, but because the first month(s) are when the vast majoriy of the games’ sales are actually really made. It’s where the money is, whether you like it or not.

          • Kamos says:

            @jalf: whether you like it or not, “should” and “are” are entirely dependant on a given developer’s strategy. Things are as they are only because in most cases developers have chosen a high risk business model where they have unrealistic expectations for how many copies they are going to sell. And that was my point. More devs should try to use a strategy where they eventually get their money back if their game is actually good, instead of using a strategy where you either get your money back on day one or you go bankrupt.

            I’m not claiming that this is something that any developer could pull off. Actually, I doubt anyone but a small indie dev team could do it. However, even if you choose to “ignore the real world”, there IS an example of this being pulled off in the real world, and I have given it to you above. Solium Infernum is a game from an indie dev that not only did not sell well initially, but received an increase in sales as time went by and finally made a huge profit (compared to what the developer expected).

    • Mo says:

      Looking Glass, just to add to the pile.

    • Diziet Sma says:

      It smells like a troll and looks like a troll… could it be?

    • Kasab says:

      Troika and Black Isle are two others. Sometimes flawed but always well-written games with a brilliant sense of place and a great atmosphere. The combat was almost always shit, though.

    • Infinitron says:

      This might be true, but only in this age of digital distribution. Before that, good companies that made good games did go bankrupt.

    • goodgimp says:

      Oh so very trite of you. Bad things never happen to good people as well, amirite? You obviously have zero experience in the real world, let alone the business world. Good companies made up of good people making good products go out of business every single day. Especially in this industry and this economy, it is fucking *hard* to make ends meet.

    • luukdeman111 says:

      As if, GPG never released quality products…. Hell, they even went into the free 2 play market so they ARE keeping up with the changes in the industry… So of course you can’t blame anyone other than GPG themselves but why do you want to discourage people that want to help them out?

      And also, cutting your staff when the economy goes down a bit might be clever from a business standpoint but it’s not a very nice thing to do towards your employees…. Simply firing everybody because they’re a waste of money is just a dick move, especially if you’re a nice and passionate person who cares about their employees….

  3. Hunchback says:

    It’s been a year that i am jobless… I am an IT engineer with a high-quality diploma…

    Go Go economic crash :S Everything is going to hell

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      Have you looked into the software / harware side of tech companies supplying the oil industry? I dont have any suggestions, but I am thinking companies like GE / Bentley Nevada that are very IT heavy with control and monitoring systems. Oil is the one place where the economic crash just is not happening (I am employed in the industry and its stunning how insulated it is). May be a crap suggestion, but thought I would try to help a fellow gamer out. Being broke sucks.

    • Moraven says:

      Data management and IT is huge in the oil industry. Especially when they are trying everything to get more oil out of the ground. That involves a lot of data and research to make it happen.

  4. jalf says:

    My thoughts: it’s pretty bad form to create a $1 million Kickstarter to determine not just the fate of the product being made, but the entire company, and not be up front to your potential backers about this.

    I mean, the “risks and challenges” section on their KS certainly doesn’t mention anything about “oh by the way, we’re effectively broke, so there’s a pretty good chance that even if we meet our absurdly high goal, we’ll end up taking your money and still fail.”

    Seriously? I just lost a lot of respect for Christ Taylor (him talking about “the wackiest” update when you’re discussing massive layoffs doesn’t do much to help, but really, that’s just the icing on the cake)

    • Shuck says:

      Given that that’s true of perhaps most Kickstarter game projects, I guess they didn’t feel it necessary to explicitly state it.

    • Eschwen says:

      Actually, there were many interviews that Chris did in the initial round of press where Chris talked pretty candidly about this being an ‘all in’ bet for GPG that would determine the fate of the company. Maybe it wasn’t clearly stated on the Kickstarter page, but it had been communicated pretty openly and honestly.

      • jalf says:

        I think there’s a difference between “this will determine the fate of the company”, and “the fate of the company might be so that it’ll even determine the fate of this kickstarter”.

        The former is about what the kickstarter means for the company (which is obviously important to anyone involved with the company, but less so to those considering backing the kickstarter). The latter is about what the company means for the kickstarter (and is goddamn essential for KS backers to know about: the state of the company might actually prevent us from finishing this game *even if we take your money*)

      • Eschwen says:

        Very true. I agree with you.

        I would add, however, that any Kickstarter that you’ve funded that is not from an established company is in the same boat. Those KS’s basically say “Our company and this product won’t exist unless you fund it”. This is the same as an established company that is on the ropes, because that also says “Our company and this product won’t exist unless you fund it”. It’s the same message. The only difference is how you look at it.

    • orionite says:

      Agree with you completely. Either he knew this was going to happen and didn’t say anything until after the kickstarter went live, or he only realized that he couldn’t keep on the staff during the month of the kickstarter, a few days into it. Either way, to me pledging is as much about the game as it is about the business behind it. I’ve cancelled mine.

  5. Crimsoneer says:

    I’m pretty damn sceptical. Your cash reserves don’t just disappear overnight – they knew about their financial status when they launched the kickstarter. I don’t know, it’s a little weird.

    • Moraven says:

      Reminds me of 38 Studios in a way. Tho a bit smaller of an implosion. But 38 knew how dire their situation was and hid it until the last moment. Hopefully the GPG people being layed off are getting job placement support.

      • Stromko says:

        Such a shame about 38 Studios. Amalur was not a bad game, with the reviews it was getting and the right steam sale they could’ve pulled in tens of millions, but the studio died so soon who knows who is getting the money now.

        • dheinecke says:

          The game would have had to be available on Steam for a Steam sale to be of any use. Being an Origin exclusive didn’t do it any favors.

          • ffordesoon says:

            Uh, it was on Steam. Unless the copy of the game sitting in my Steam library is a joke.

            Your comment does bring up an interesting point, though. How many people thought it was an Origin exclusive and didn’t buy it because of that?

      • MellowKrogoth says:

        From what I understand Chris precisely didn’t want to do the same thing as 38 studios, who closed *after* they were out of cash, and didn’t pay everyone their dues. At least the people being laid off by GPG are being fully compensated.

    • Shuck says:

      Working in the industry, I see this all the time – companies never want to let on that they’ve run out of money*, presumably so that their higher value employees don’t go running off to another job before the company is through with them. I’ve seen so many companies that refused to acknowledge that they had already run out of money, even as employees hadn’t had a paycheck in weeks, because they were either hoping to secure more funding or just wanted to get as much (unpaid) work out of people as possible so they could get to the point where the management would have something of value to sell off.
      Unfortunately this tendency means that the employees get completely screwed on a regular basis. At one of my last companies, I know coworkers had turned down other job offers a month or two before they were unexpectedly laid off. Most of the people I know in the industry have, at least once, either relocated only to lose their job within a month or two, or ended up being owed months worth of back wages when the company collapsed.

      *And I’m talking about situations where management knew they didn’t have any money. Unexpected shortfalls do also happen – “sure thing” deals fall through, publishers occasionally screw over developers by not paying them money they’re owed, etc. (That last one happens way too often; I know a number of studios that closed as a result.)

  6. mLocke says:

    I have a feeling this has something to do with the fact that they’ve “finished” Age of Empires Online.

    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/01/08/end-of-an-era-age-of-empires-online-ceasing-updates/

  7. monkwon says:

    That’s a pretty powerful video update and it almost made me pledge, almost. I do hope they get through this though.

    Has anyone noticed how much he looks like the older brother of John Barrowman from Torchwood?

  8. Mo says:

    Between his humour, enthusiasm, and honesty, Chris Taylor is such a great industry figure. It’d be a real shame to see him (and GPG) go.

  9. Kid_A says:

    I’m suddenly actually kind of glad I waited a little to see how this developed before pledging. I don’t doubt they’ll make the $1.1mil, especially with the “rally around the beleaguered dev” story now; but I do worry about them actually being able to complete the game if they’re in that bad a financial state.

  10. Valerius Maximus says:

    Kind of funny how he said that they needed to make the abomination that is Age of Empires online in order to make end’s meat.
    Look where they are now.

  11. Aterdux says:

    I don’t think Chris Taylor is the only one in the industry to go to Kickstarter to resolve financial issues – many devs including us go there in order to find extra funds to either develop, finish or even market their game. So the only thing is the communication – I certainly think that if their situation was mentioned in the pitch video or at least in Risk and Challenges section, the start of the campaign could have been even stronger! And making sort of analysis what went wrong and admitting to mistakes wouldn’t have hurt either.

    But it’s also interesting to see what it takes these days to get press coverage :)

  12. WildcardUK says:

    Having known a game dev in the past, the business model within the industry sees a lot of studios barely surviving from contract to contract. It’s not about quality, it’s simply how it works for a lot of studios, crazy as it may be. I think Chris took a gamble to save his company and employees and now it’s not going to plan, he’s made some tough decisions.

    I don’t really pledge to Kickstarter but I have backed this because, as a gamer, TA and SupCom were formative games for me. I feel I owe them for that so this is my chance to maybe pay them back.

    Regardless of opinion or outcome though I wish all the employees luck in finding work. It’s tough times indeed.

  13. Ed says:

    “IT, HR, Operations, etc” oh err, and a few game developers.

    At least they have their priorities sorted.

    • Loopy says:

      Well obviously they’re not going to rehire more developers until they are sure they have the funds there to actually develop something with. However they still need staff to run the day to day business, take care of paperwork etc.

      I’m sure they have a skeleton staff of key developers just for testing idea and concepts whatever happens.

    • trjp says:

      Anyone thinking that the festering den of shitfuckery that is HR’ is somehow more important than the ‘talent’ – does not deserve to

      a – run a company
      b – make games
      c – breathe air, quite frankly…

      HR is a euphemism for “people I’ve employed to do the things I don’t want to do like sacking people, keeping their wages low and generally spoiling any possible ‘fun’”

      • Scroll says:

        They also hire people as well. So eerh, they are quite important. A large developer doesn’t manage itself.

        • trjp says:

          HR doesn’t hire people – they wouldn’t know how to recruit anyone above a cleaner (“Can you clean – yes – you’re hired”)

          They might do the paperwork but you get actually talented people to do your hiring, unless you want crap staff.

          See also Agencies – if you use one of those to hire ‘talent’ – people with complex creative skills – you are a moron.

          HR (and Recruitment Agent, to be frank) is one of those jobs people with no talents whatsoever but who can be nasty and shout a lot and be pushy – failed salesmen perhaps – will end-up in – ideally those people wouldn’t exist and we’d do the job properly but…

          • jalf says:

            In many companies, HR *does* hire people. That’s often a terrible idea, and sometimes, it’s mitigated by also involving the people who actually understand the job, but yes, often HR is responsible for hiring.

            And other than that, I’d say HR has some important responsibilities. It’s their job to ensure you have a good working environment, that employees are treated fairly and so on. You’re right, they’re not *more* important than the people who actually work on your product, but they fill a fairly important support role. Someone has to do it, and at larger companies, your boss simply won’t be able to do it competently (or at all). It’s not black/white…. :)

          • TimMc says:

            Depends on the industry. In the software development sector, HR usually don’t know enough to hire people. Generally employees are found by a third party agency, which pass CVs to middle management in the corporation, whom will figure out if they want the person.

          • pigman says:

            He doesn’t have to be paying someone soley as HR. As others have said, depending on the industry, size of business and owners preference, he could just mean the role is covered.

            Someone to ensure those who have been made redundant are dealt with legally, and receive full due; and maybe even to ensure those still employed are paid accurately and on time.

    • Tukuturi says:

      I worked for a company that referred to HR as Human Capital, which made us all feel even more like slaves.

  14. AlienMind says:

    http://www.reddit.com/r/gaming/comments/16uw88/help_save_gas_powered_games_by_chipping_in_to/

    Please upvote and read the comment of BrainStorm808 .

    It’s clear to me such a man doesen’t do “publicity stunts” with jobs as the matter.

    • karthink says:

      HERE is the comment.

      • Hoaxfish says:

        To be honest, a lot of that just sounds like treading water until you drown.

        It’s nice to see the employees getting paid etc, but it just comes across as a bit futile if it’s at the cost of the company’s overall “well being”. That’s not to say anyone should go super-evil corporate slave-masters to survive, but some days you just have to admit the company is about to collapse under it’s own weight and make sure everyone gets to the lifeboats.

    • jalf says:

      I don’t think anyone doubted his dedication to GPG or to the games he’s making.

      But none of that answers the question of his competence (how did he let the company get into this state?), or his trustworthyness (launching a kickstarter without even hinting to backers that “oh by the way, we’re broke, so even if we take your money, there’s a fair chance we’ll fail, and be unable to give you anything in return”)

      And honestly, I think those are more important issues. The important question for people considering backing his KS is not “is the guy dedicated”, but “is he going to be able to finish this? Can I trust him to take this project to completion?”

  15. lomaxgnome says:

    The real question becomes, what good is a million dollars to them? Two to three months? It would pay those 40 people about 25k a year to work on that game. I find it hard to believe they were making that little before today. And does anyone think they can have a finished product done in a year and suddenly selling and saving the company anyway? Especially in a fairly niche genre dominated now by free to play games?

    I don’t know how he could have been on such dire straits and feel like this kickstarter would save things, and maybe at the last minute he realized that and thought better of it. At best a project this size would support maybe 10 people making it, and he obviously had a bigger company than that. It seems like he’s done the right thing here and while it’s a shame to see a company fall apart, as many others here have said, it unfortunately happens all the time.

    As much as everyone seems to think Kickstarter is the savior of the small developer, it’s only going to work for just that, a small developer. Even the $3-4 million double fine and a few others have gotten really isn’t all that much in the grand scheme of things. Somehow the attitude seems to be that everyone is going to get their dream game custom made for them based on a small pre-order, and we’ve seen schemes get grander and grander and it may be convincing some of these developers that the world has changed when it really hasn’t. The big games of the world still make more in their first day (even “flops” like Darksiders 2 and Max Payne 3) than any of these kick-started games have ever gotten.

    • D3xter says:

      “The big games of the world still make more in their first day (even “flops” like Darksiders 2 and Max Payne 3) than any of these kick-started games have ever gotten.”

      Except that developers contracted to do the work get near to nothing from that, first they have to “pay back” the publisher in royalties: http://www.obscure.co.uk/blog/2007/02/26/the-myth-of-the-developer-royalty/ and then at some point they might make what little remains of the big pie: http://www.theaveragegamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/GamesCostBreakdown_PieChart.jpg and get to keep that money.

      KickStarter money is essentially as close to “free money” as they will likely ever get, that they won’t have to pay back and any additional sales aside from the KickStarter rewards flow back directly into their coffers, using mainly Digital Distribution they get ~70-80% of every game sold even.

      It is very likely that games like Legends of Grimrock (that apparently sold 600.000 copies while the developers were expecting only a tenth of that) make the people that matter a lot more money than your latest “Max Payne 3″ (that will get them laid off instead).

      • lomaxgnome says:

        That’s true, and (hopefully) Kickstarter will continue to be good for small developers like those that made FTL and Legends of Grimrock. But GPG made “big budget” games until this week. A team of 50 has more expenses in a month than a team of 5 does in a year. The current scale of kickstarter isn’t going to support that.

        What’s disturbing me is it seems like some of these groups (like Star Citizen for example) are trying to leverage the hype of Kickstarter to get additional funding from elsewhere, because they know what they will get from Kickstarter won’t even begin to cover the total cost of the project. The cynic in me thinks Chris Taylor (by all accounts a great guy) had something in place that was going to provide funding, but when the Kickstarter didn’t take off like a rocket in the first two days, that funding got cold feet.

        Personally, I’d love to see the Kickstarter model take over the entire entertainment industry. I want to see the Whedons and Straczynskis of the world pre-selling seasons of TV shows and getting $50 million in involvement. Likewise with music, art, video games, you name it. I want to see all the big publishing cartels replaced by direct interaction with developers and direct support from fans, instead of being controlled by the advertising industry. But until we start seeing projects getting hundreds of thousands of backers and tens of millions of dollars, the existing system will continue to dominate. And mid-size companies like GPG, who are too big for Kickstarter but too small for AAA budgets, are currently the ones that are going to suffer the most.

        • TimMc says:

          Kickstarter is good for demonstrating gamer interest if nothing else. So many games are produced that no one really wants, and the investors have no idea until the sales figures appear.

          Poor support for Caveman clearly shows (to me) a lack of faith in the premise. The mechanics of the RTS/RPG marriage sounded off and disinteresting. Plus I have never been particularly interested in GPG’s games in general. Their investor is probably happy to know this, and backed out.

          On the other side, Project Eternity showed that gamers REALLY REALLY want story driven CRPGs. Same with Star Citizen.

        • Shuck says:

          I don’t really see Kickstarter scaling up much beyond where it is now (in terms of the size of the largest projects it supports). People just aren’t good at delayed gratification, and we have the studies to prove it. Which means the money a campaign will raise on Kickstarter is less than it would get in sales, even if everyone potentially interested in the project knew about it and it was guaranteed to be released. So if sales aren’t supporting it (or barely), it will always fail to raise the needed funds on Kickstarter, even in ideal circumstances.
          Also, people have strange notions of what media costs to make, so you always hear grumbling about greedy or unrealistic developers when a game tries to raise even a fraction of what it needs to finish development. Almost no Kickstarter game campaigns have actually raised the full funds they need for development – there’s always a significant percentage being covered by the developers themselves, usually by burning through their savings. So they’re counting on further sales just to break even. For many, that’s not going to happen.

  16. DizzyrupTor says:

    While this situation is a shame for the staff of GPG I still have not forgiven them for their woefull support of the supcom community (for support read abandonment) and the dumbed down disaster that was Supreme Commander 2.

    Oh chris Taylor how far you have fallen…..

  17. JackDandy says:

    He made a terrible bet. And in such an oversaturated market, too…

    It’s too bad, but I think the show’s over for him.

  18. Tasloi says:

    I’d go with the regroup and take a different approach option. Don’t see the Wildman thing being very successful.

  19. RvLeshrac says:

    Manager logic: Best way to increase cashflow is to lay off most of your staff, then stop producing anything of any value to anyone.

    I guess it worked for the banks, at least.

    • derbefrier says:

      You have no idea what your talking about.

    • TimMc says:

      Its probably an incredibly loyal thing for him to do as CEO. His staff get layoff payouts and told to find new jobs, rather than getting nothing when he goes bankrupt in a month.

      As the creator of the company, GPG is his baby and he is basically letting it die now.

      • Shuck says:

        I wouldn’t assume the employees are getting much (or any) severance pay. In the US, that’s not actually required of companies. On the other hand, he’s not actively screwing over his employees by waiting until the company has already run out of money and everyone is owed several months’ worth of back pay, which is laudable, I guess.

        • Eschwen says:

          People did get some severance (relative to amount of time they worked at GPG) and payment for remaining PTO.

          • Shuck says:

            PTO pay is legally required, but it’s nice that people are getting severance pay. Can’t say I’ve ever gotten any, working in the industry.

  20. Moraven says:

    Anything about the seniority who staying taking a paycut? Did not think so.

    Nintendo had a bad year (or was it last). Pay cut across the board to upper management. It is more of a cultural thing but you would think it you would get more fan support by management taking a cut first and telling fans. Then everyone took a cut. Then they had to let go staff.

  21. Oak22 says:

    I must have missed something with all the Wildman announcements and whatever. I thought that Taylor was pretty much saying GPG was done when he said Kings and Castles wasn’t going anywhere soon, but they had this new game Wildman. I figured when he was announcing a Kickstarter for a measly 1.1 million dollars, that would mean a small team for a relatively short time. In other words – this is not SupCom.

    Ok – fine. New company. But then he apparently says that he’s thinking of scrapping the Kickstarter too? So … not a new company? And worst of all, (somehow?) asking the Kickstarter fans if he should keep his company going? What do Kickstarter fans know about your company? All they want is a good game.

  22. Eschwen says:

    Sigh. There’s nothing about senior staff taking pay cuts because there’s no more senior staff. On top of that, I’d be surprised if Chris himself drew any more pay from this point forward.

    As some people have pointed out here, the Kickstarter was for 1.1m but the hope was for much more. Shutting down isn’t the result of thinking we wouldn’t make the 1.1m, it’s the result of knowing what our company would become and what we’d have to compromise to make Wildman if we just barely got the 1.1m.

    In addition to the AoEO cancellation (which was the company’s major source of ongoing funding), there had been 2 other unannounced projects in development. Over the last few months, both were cancelled by their respective publishers for reasons wholly unrelated to the development that we were doing. No company can survive without any paying projects

    To all the people saying “Do SupCom3!”, well, we can’t. We don’t own that IP anymore, because as some people have pointed out, we sold it to Square Enix (along with Dungeon Siege IP). Why would we do that? Well, the biggest reason was Demigod. We funded that game ourselves and went into debt to do it. Stardock helped with funding to finish it, but the entirety of early development was done by GPG alone, funded out of our own pocket. When Demigod resulted in a commercial failure, we still had loans for the development costs that had to be paid back and the IP’s were sold to do that.

    People need to understand that Kickstarter is a last-resort for nearly every established developer who uses it. Every time you see a well-known company put something up there, you need to understand that they are not doing that while also turning down $10m deals from a publisher. A Kickstarter is a huge sign to the world that the developer in question is on the precipice of failure.

    Edit:
    I want to respond a bit to people who blame GPG for failure to ‘support’ some of their games. The financial reality of the way contracts work in the game industry makes it so that ‘support’ doesn’t exist unless the publisher wants it to exist. Very few contracts outside of online or persistent titles contain any money whatsoever for patches or post-release support of any kind. The support that GPG has provided its products over the years (in the form of patches) have all been paid for by GPG itself, not by the publishing partner.

    Now, you may not think that’s such a big deal. But game industry contracts are like loans. Say GPG gets $5m to make a game. When that game ships, GPG makes royalties on a sliding scale. So GPG gets 10% royalty on the first 50k copies, 20% on the next 150k copies, and say 30% on any remaining copies. That royalty money that GPG makes goes to pay back the $5m in development costs first, so the developer makes NO MONEY WHATSOEVER until the publisher has already made a very healthy profit.

    During this time, GPG still has bills, payroll, etc. So it has to sign new contracts to keep money coming in. Which means the people who work there are working on the products that have actual money coming in and milestones that have to be met. With nearly no chance of making any money from shipped product, why do people expect the developer to fund post-release support for that product?

    So please, if you want to get mad about product support, focus your anger on the publisher.

    • nomilarac says:

      Yeah right. So the mother of all evil is Demigod. And who is to fault for the disaster Demigod was at release? SIGH.

      About the edit and the “we don’t support our games post release more ‘cos publishers don’t pay for it”. So, who’s to blame for the abandonment of Demigod, if GPG self-funded it and was mostly self-published?

      I LOVED Demigod, mind you, it’s the game I’ve dedicated most online time ever, but, as others, I’ve not forgotten nor forgiven the way you treated your Demigod customers. I don’t wish any bad to anybody, but I’m not surprised at all you’re not getting all the support and backing you expected. They call it Karma, i call it you reap what you sow.

      • Eschwen says:

        I never said Demigod was evil. I worked on it. It was a beautiful and fun game. There were many many issues that resulted in the Demigod release failures, and you only know one side of that story: Brad Wardell’s. That’s primarily because Brad likes to play internet warrior more than anyone at GPG, most of whom really preferred to make games. General vitriol towards GPG is the result of us taking the high road and acting like professionals when our partner spewed hate and misinformation as far and as wide as possible.

        Be as mad as you like, but please don’t aim it at me. I just lost my job and am simply trying to help people understand the details of these situations.

        Edit:
        I do want to address one more thing about Demigod though.
        - GPG released Dungeon Siege. It had multiplayer. There were no connection problems.
        - GPG released Dungeon Siege 2. It had multiplayer. There were no connection problems.
        - GPG released Supreme Commander. It had multiplayer. There were no connection problems.
        - GPG released Space Siege. It had multiplayer. There were no connection problems.
        - GPG released Demigod. It had multiplayer. There were MAJOR connection problems.
        - GPG released Supreme Commander 2. It had multiplayer. There were no connection problems.

        Which one of those stands out to you? What’s unique about the one that does?

        • nomilarac says:

          I’m sorry you lost your job, and i’m not mad at you nor at anything VGs related (if anything, at my own unemployment). I’m not in the mood for guessing games either, but I take you’re pointing blame of the Demigod fiasco towards the Stardock’s side of things. That’s fine, i don’t like em either, but if it was their fault someone should have clarified it a LONG time ago.

          What you didn’t address is this (and the main point of my post), you tell us to blame publishers for lackluster post-release product support, yet you point Demigod as the culprit of GPG financial woes. Wasn’t Demigod self-funded and mostly self-published? Is there anyone-else but GPG to blame for the Demigod fiasco and the following lackluster (to say the least) post-release support?

          Just trying to point some faulty logic there, and trying to explain why some or most of the VG community see GPG as a company that releases (better or worse) games and then just forget about them, no matter how broken they are.

          And again, sorry for your situation.

          • Shuck says:

            From everything I’ve read, the major screw ups were on Stardock’s side of things. Publishers can really do a lot to screw up a game release, and they did so in Demigod’s case. Such as taking over the creation of the multiplayer functionality and then failing to have it working when released, for example.
            Eschwen didn’t say it was entirely self-financed and self-published, but only that GPG put up a substantial sum of their own money into the game that they failed to get back. I’m not seeing a logic flaw here.
            Post-release support duties come down to the publisher. That’s how the industry works. If you were unhappy with the way the game was supported, blame the publisher. Especially in this case, where the publisher itself created some of the problems that were then poorly handled.

          • Eschwen says:

            Shuck basically has the right of it here. We financed Demigod development internally until we ran out of ability to borrow more money to continue. This entailed us then looking for publishing partners to help finish it. Since we had already put millions (yes, millions) of our own dollars into it, it was a different situation than is normally the case. GPG and Stardock ended up being invested in Demigod about equally, and Stardock was the publisher.

            After release there were many issues with our relationship with Stardock. We had no money and our credit line was already at limit (used to fund the development). Demigod revenue went to Stardock since they were the publisher/distributor, and we only received funds when Stardock paid us. Stardock used payment delays and other shenanigans as leverage to attempt to extract additional work from us. I’m sure you can imagine what that did for the relationship.

            Could we have done more to support Demigod after release? Possibly. I’m not saying we don’t deserve some blame for it. But we have spent our entire existence spending money from our own meager cash reserves to pay our developers to put together post-release support for all of our games, without any publisher funding. All while the publisher continues to collect revenue, and we see nothing.

            As the creators of our products, don’t you think we WANT to support our games? All of the patches for SupCom2 were done without publisher funding, but we did them because we loved the game and we wanted you guys to love it too. We released weekly or bi-weekly patches for SupCom2 for months after release, all done by the development staff in spare time while still doing their required work for paid projects. We love our games. We want you guys to love our games. Sometimes we don’t get the opportunity to support things the way we want to, but it’s not always something we bear sole responsibility for. That’s all I’m trying to point out.

          • nomilarac says:

            Ok, thanks for clarifying, a lot. I might have missed it, but it’s the first time I read an explanation like that, i guess that’s what you get when you host the official game Forum in StarDocks servers.

            If I can take any more of your time, could you clarify what’s the status of Demigod IP? Is it GPGs? Is it SDs? Is it jointly owned by both? I’m not sure you were ever aware of the rough diamond you had in your hands with it. I would have gladly pledged for a proper Demigod sequel (since the original game is a lost cause by now), so I’m interested in what hands is its future in.

          • Eschwen says:

            Technically it’s in the hands of both. GPG owns the IP, but Stardock has right-of-first-refusal. That pretty much means that neither party can do anything with it unless they both agree what that thing is. Your guess is as good as mine if anything will ever come of it.

          • jalf says:

            If GPG published Demigod, then sure, let’s say it would be reasonable to expect them to handle post-launch support as well. But if the game commercially flopped, and they had to go into debt just to be able to release it, why (and how) would they spend *more* money they didn’t have to support it? Sometimes it’s better to cut your losses and move on.

            GPG isn’t/wasn’t there to serve your personal needs, but to make the best games they could. And if supporting Demigod better would just have led to the company going bust sooner, do you really think that is what they should have done?

        • draginol says:

          It pains me to hear you claim that I have been critical of Gas Powered Games or that we mistreated them in some way.

          Demigod was an outstanding game. When people talk about the connection problems, they are talking about two things.

          First, the initial launch connection issues, where the proxy servers were overwhelmed at the launch and had to be expanded on — this is something Stardock handled.

          Second, there were some general network performance that was the result of Demigod being peer-to-peer. Unlike Supreme Commander, a typical Demigod game was 4 on 4 or 5 on 5. That’s 8 to 10 people having to connect to each other and send packets back to each other every few frames. A Demigod 1 on 1 or 2 on 2 or even 3 on 3 game plays beautifully multiplayer (just like Supreme Commander). And if you’re on a LAN, 5 on 5 works perfectly as well. But 5 on 5 where the 10 players might be connecting from other continents stretch the peer-to-peer networking model beyond the breaking point back in 2009 (ironically, given faster and better network connections today it’s no longer an issue).

          As good as Demigod was, it was not designed to be a LoL competitor. It was an RTS with MOBA game mechanics. It came out well before LoL.

          Bear in mind, Stardock only got involved less than 9 months before the game shipped. If someone is suggesting that Demigod was supposed to be some sort of e-sports game, then I would have to disagree as those kinds of features and design would have had to be in long before we signed on. It was pitched as an RTS with Dota-like gameplay.

          As for withholding payment, this never happened. Stardock, at one point, loaned GPG money prior to the game being released to ensure no one would have to be laid off. I have always admired and supported Chris’s loyalty towards his team and did everything I could to support that. We even paid beyond what was required to get the 2 extra demigods made and to get a good intro cut scene in (Chris and I would create these contract addendum on napkins, I have one signed on in my office, that’s the level of trust we had/have for each other).

          There isn’t a “villain” in the Demigod story. GPG produced a good game and Stardock helped support it and continues to support it to this day (we still run (and pay for the worldwide network of multiplayer proxy servers). Not being a phenomenon like LoL doesn’t make Demigod a failure.

          -Brad (Stardock)

          • Eschwen says:

            I appreciate your reply Brad, but having to sell our most valuable assets (intellectual property) to pay back development loans on Demigod certainly made it a failure to GPG, regardless of how you view it.

            I’m not going to respond to your technical assertions. I’m sure it sounds good to people who don’t really have much technical knowledge. As far as the payment situation goes, we’ll just have to agree to disagree. I’m sure you don’t feel like you did anything wrong, but from my perspective it’s your word vs. Chris’ word. One of you is batshit crazy. The other I’ve known personally for many years. Take a guess which one I believe.

          • draginol says:

            Re demigod loans. Fair enough. Though I’m not sure what More Stardock could have done to help.

            Re technical. I’m not sure why you feel the need to insult me. I already asked if you could find a single post or comment by me that anyone might consider insulting to GPG. I can’t imagine Chris disagreeing with what I wrote previously here as its the most succinct, factual outline of the networking situation. Chris and I are pretty good friends and have talked about this before.

            It’s irrelevant anyway, suggesting that Demigod wasn’t some megahit because it had networking issues at launch is a cop out. By that argument, WoW and LoL itself should have failed.

            The single biggest problem Demigod faced was timing. It came out less than a year before LoL which was f2p and its pretty hard to compete against free. Once LoL got going, Demigod’s sales and user base took a big hit. And neither stardock or GPG had the resources to recast Demigod as a f2p eSports title.

          • Eschwen says:

            Well, I’m not sure why you feel it’s necessary to put words in my mouth. My posts are all here for everyone to read. The first thing I said was that there were ‘many issues’ that resulted in the Demigod problems.

            As far as technical concerns go, I’m sorry you felt insulted. Your summary is a gross simplification of the issues, and from my view it’s an attempt to redirect blame away from something you were responsible for and onto something GPG was responsible for. I have actual network bandwidth graphs from that engine showing up and down-stream requirements for 8+ player games, and there was never a point where that was even an issue for anyone with a broadband connection.

            Truth is, it IS the SupCom engine’s fault for slowing down and having problems with 8+ players. I know because we fixed (most of) it during SupCom2 development. But it’s not a networking issue.

            As far as the rest of your post goes, I agree with you wholeheartedly. The connection issues in the very beginning kept word-of-mouth from being particularly good. The long-term performance issues in large matches kept people from experiencing the game’s true potential. And the competition from other products arrived before we had a chance to recover from early mis-steps.

            I will never claim that GPG don’t bear some responsibility for the problems of Demigod. But I also know very intimately the details of Impulse and the pains we went through leading up to Demigod’s launch, so please don’t try to whitewash your part in this.

          • draginol says:

            Re “being insulted”. I generally consider being called “batshit crazy” to be an insult. At least, that’s what the various voices in my head tell me…

            I don’t think GPG did *anything* wrong with Demigod. I responded because you claimed I had gone around badmouthing GPG which I did not.

            This post expresses how I feel about GPG: http://www.littletinyfrogs.com/article/439406/Some_thoughts_on_Gas_Powered_Games

            There are YouTube videos out there that I made at the time (when Stardock people were working 100+ hours a week on Demigod) where I made it clear that the initial connectivity issues were because of the NAT facilitator being overwhelmed at launch which was Stardock’s responsibility.

            We volunteered to take that responsibility so it is on us. Someone had to write it and it made sense, at the time, for us to take that responsibility. The only person at GPG, at the time, who could have potentially written it in a timely manner was Patrick and he was already working superhuman hours. Back then, no Steam NAT facilitator and GPGNet wasn’t available for Demigod (which you of all people should know).

            But Demigod was not a primary cause for GPG’s issues. It was having publishers canceling projects midway through leaving GPG holding the bag.

          • Eschwen says:

            Ha! Well, honestly, you are pretty batshit crazy. I’ve heard that not only do you keep bees as a hobby, but are extremely allergic to them and could die if stung. I think that qualifies as ‘batshit crazy’ in most books. ;)

            As far as the rest, well, what can I say. You know as well as I do that things were said in Skype, sometimes under the faulty assumption that other people weren’t there. Long hours and passionate people results in high emotions, and sometimes things get said that people don’t really feel. But that doesn’t make those things hurt any less.

            You are right, we have had many projects cancelled over the years. Most through no fault of our own. Most with very little or no notice. Independent games development is a shitty business. So, thanks for at least that bit of understanding. I appreciate it.

          • draginol says:

            ;-) I do keep bees. But, you know, so does Chris (well his wife does). I’m not actually allergic to them though. I am, however, notoriously poor at online communication. ;)

            But yea, it just sucks when I see people online trying to slam GPG’s problems on Game X or Game Y that they heard about when it was really the games no one ever heard about that got canceled.

            There’s a real dark side in our industry in the way publicly traded publishers treat indie studios. And unfortunately, as Chris would say, there are enough NDAs that keep us from spilling the beans on them.

            Chris and GPG always took heroic efforts to protect his coworkers and create a fun environment. Our industry would be far better if there were more GPG’s and fewer..well, let’s call them “traditional publishers”.

            The way I look at the Kickstarter project is that it’s an opportunity for GPG to finally be truly independent. Rather than being answerable to publishers, they’d be only answerable to themselves and their fans. A much much better system me thinks.

          • Eschwen says:

            Definitely a better system for the people that matter: Devs and gamers.

            The internet rumor mill is a cruel mistress. She can make you or break you. When you have the gag-ball of an NDA in your mouth, she mostly breaks you.

            And just for the record, GPG did NOT make Dungeon Siege 3! I repeat, WE DID NOT MAKE IT. WERE NOT INVOLVED IN ANY WAY. NADA. ZIP. Had to get that off my chest. Thanks. ;)

    • crinkles esq. says:

      I’m really sorry about the loss of your job, and hope you find new work soon.

      I have no skin in this game, but it sounds like Chris really bet the company not with Wildman, but with Demigod. And perhaps that was a bad financial decision, if GPG could not survive one commercial failure and was thus forced to sell its most valuable IP. Making another SupCom or Dungeon Siege instead of Demigod might not have been as fun, but GPG would probably be in a more stable place right now.

      • LionsPhil says:

        “One big bomb can sink you” seems to be S.O.P. for game developers because they’re always living so hand-to-mouth. Hell, it can even hurt the Big Guys, if the Big Guys have shareholders demanding that every last asset is sunk into trying to grow. Look at THQ and how much they lost on those drawing tablet things despite having a bunch of good games under their wings.

        Makes you wonder if Valve really have a huge moneypile, or if it’s all being burnt on R&D almost as fast as it comes in.

        “Make what sells” is the path to EA, too.

      • Eschwen says:

        As an independent developer, I think Demigod was a shot to do something on our own that could make us truly successful. Dungeon Siege and SupCom made our publishing partners a lot of money, but didn’t make us anything. In order to make the money, you have to pay for the development.

        Demigod was never intended to cost as much as it did. It was supposed to be more like a SupCom ‘mod’ similar to how DoTA was a WC3 ‘mod’. It was supposed to be done in 6-9 months and done by a small team operating off margin. But then it grew and it grew, and ambitions got bigger, and the team got bigger, and pretty soon over a year had gone by and we couldn’t fund it anymore.

        As the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

  23. mihahalu says:

    my buddy’s mother makes $82 every hour on the computer. She has been fired from work for 5 months but last month her income was $19402 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more on this web site http://www.Cloud65.com

    • Oak22 says:

      I take back what I said about Chris Taylor joining Uber and doing Planetary Annihilation. Bad idea. This offer is far more lucrative.

  24. herpaderpa says:

    Regarding Demigod, Brad Wardell is being a bit evasive on how the networking model was broken by Impulse.

    Impulse needed to provide NAT traversal so everyone in a peer-to-peer network could directly connect to each other. A poor implementation of “NAT traversal and what happens when it fails” is why people were playing bots instead of people, or it just hung. The NAT traversal was failing, because all of the firewalls in our routers and modems weren’t allowing us to directly connect to each other.

    Steam, on the other hand, provides amazing NAT traversal. If you and I can’t connect to each other, it becomes a proxy server and routes all data between it and each player, and it does so reliably and seamlessly with a minor drop in performance. This is why 8-player SupCom 2 games are fine, and why 10 player SupCom 2 would also be fine. Because Valve’s shit works. Impulse’s did not. That is the only difference between SupCom 2 and Demigod.

    Games for Windows Live also doesn’t provide proxy servers when NAT traversal fails, which is why Age of Empires Online has connection problems.

    Poor NAT traversal is a problem. Poor implementations of proxy server fallbacks are a problem. Peer-to-peer networking isn’t a problem. It’s proven tech that’s worked for years, and has solutions that have been available for years.

    • Eschwen says:

      You sir, are a very smart person. Thank you for this.

    • AIAndy says:

      The NAT issues were only one part of the problem. A serious one, but one that mainly influenced initial connection between the players.
      Unfortunately even when that worked it was highly unlikely that you got a good game going in 5 vs 5. That is because the amount of data Demigod sent for multiplayer synchronization was quite high and in a 5 vs 5 every computer had to send that data to 9 other computers. If the internet connection of a player could not handle that amount of data or any of the 45 connections between computers were too slow or unreliable, then not only one player lagged, but the game was slowed down or staggered for everyone.
      Whoever chose that scheme for multiplayer synchronization is reliable for a good part of Demigod’s failure.

      • Eschwen says:

        The lack of good performance in 5v5 matches is not what hurt Demigod. To claim otherwise is, quite frankly, a pretty ridiculous attempt to rewrite the history of the game’s launch.

        What hurt Demigod was the fact that no one could play over the internet when the game launched. At all. For weeks. That had nothing at all to do with how much data was sent by clients performing tick syncs in 10 player matches, and has everything to do with NAT traversal and proxy issues.

        • AIAndy says:

          The choice of a different multiplayer scheme would have seriously reduced the amount of NAT traversal needed. With the one described below it is enough if connections to one player can be established from all other players instead of having to get connections from all to all.
          Nonetheless the NAT/proxy issues at the start were a serious screwup. They probably had quite some effect on the commercial success.
          But in the long run the game never recovered because 4vs4 and 5vs5 were usually unplayable and that means the game could not play to its strength with always 3vs3 on mostly the same map. And even in 3vs3 you could be unlucky with players and have a slow game.

          • Eschwen says:

            This post I will agree with. But as I said to Brad, it wasn’t really networking issues that caused the later problems with performance in big games. That was an engine issue.

            The only issue I had with your original post is remembering the order of things. The poor word of mouth immediately after launch was primarily because people couldn’t play at all. That’s a NAT/proxy issue. Once that was fixed, there were perf issues in the large matches that people really needed to experience to see the game’s potential. That’s an engine issue. Those two things both happened, but in that order.

            So, we can argue which had a bigger impact. The fact that people couldn’t play for weeks after launch? Or the fact that perf in large games was poor when people could play? I honestly have no idea. I know what I think personally, but everyone is going to have their own conclusion.

          • draginol says:

            I don’t think any Demigod-specific trait kept it from being the phenomenon it might have been. The game reviewed well. It was a good game and it sold well right up until LoL became available as a F2P game.

            You and Ivan and the gang did a fantastic job creating a state of the art visual experience. But sometimes, games don’t become as successful as they should because of bad timing.

            Had Demigod come out a year earlier, it would have been able to get past its growing pains without having two Moba-style games to contend with. And had it been designed as a F2P game in the first place, different choices would have been made (such as the cost of new demigods, creating a bigger meta-game experience, etc.).

            In both cases, it doesn’t mean that GPG or Stardock “mesed up”. The two teams worked very well together under very tough conditions (tight deadlines).

          • Eschwen says:

            Yeah, I agree with all of that.

            I would emphasize your point about the F2P model. Both GPG and Stardock missed the boat on that one. Then again, so did a lot of other companies at the time. At that time, most western devs didn’t think the eastern-style microtrans model would work here. Existing online titles were doing too well with subs, and the retail model with expansions was the only proven one. Props to Riot for that.

          • draginol says:

            Definitely. I remember being at PAX and looking at LoL at the Riot booth and thinking “This is never going to work.”

      • herpaderpa says:

        Almost every real-time strategy game ever released used peer-to-peer networking. It’s only more recently that they started using authoritative servers like Battle.net to manage and synchronize all of the network traffic. In fact, I’m pretty sure DOTA (and by extension, WarCraft iII) used and uses peer-to-peer. That seemed to work OK, at least with Battle.net doing NAT traversal.

        So really, almost all RTS games historically used peer-to-peer networking, all historically all have done pretty well with connecting players using your GameSpys, GPGNet, Steam, etc.. Demigod alone seems to have problems. You can blame the architecture, but it seems weird to do so in light of all of the successful uses.

        • AIAndy says:

          Warcraft 3 uses a very specific form of multiplayer synchronization which does not have the scaling issues with 10 players. It was programmed to be fully deterministic so given a starting state and a sequence of inputs with time stamps, the resulting state is always the same. That means you only need to transfer the inputs and some checksums to detect desyncs which is a low amount of data (there are only so many clicks or key presses you make per second).
          Then it is not really peer 2 peer as the host who starts the custom game (which others then join) is made the server. All players only need to connect to that host and all input data is sent there. The time it arrives there is the timestamp for the input and then the input data is sent from the host to all players with that timestamp which results in the same game state on all computers. All games but the host may lag up to a certain amount of time behind.
          The host internet connection is the only one that needs to be somewhat good and since the game has no NAT traversal code, the host needs to have certain ports open/forwarded, but only the host and those who could not do that stopped trying to open custom games as no one was able to join their games.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Heck, isn’t deterministic input-sending how a whole bunch of the LAN-era games did multiplayer, including FPSes like DOOM? It’s only since having to deal with the spotty, delay-y connections of the Internet that we started getting crazier things like Quake’s dead reckoning and UnrealEngine’s resimulation to make stuff up until the connection can burp out an updated state snapshot.

          • AIAndy says:

            Yes, it is a very common synchronization scheme as it was rather easy to implement in the single-threaded time (although you have to be careful not to mix the unsynced UI state and the synced game state and it tends to be hard to find that kind of bugs). Nowadays with multi-threading it is harder to keep everything deterministic but it is still a good choice.
            Shooters are very sensitive to lag so more complex synchronization schemes were developed with some speculative and correction elements (so you get the impression that your input has an effect as close to instant as possible).

          • Eschwen says:

            What sort of multiplayer scheme do you think the SupCom engine uses?

            That’s right, a synchronous one. The only thing transferred between players is the input state and a checksum. This is the way the engine has worked for every iteration of every game ever made on it, from SupCom, to Demigod, to SupCom2.

            Edit:
            I will definitely agree, however, that having one player act as the server to perform packet-relay services for all of the input/sync packets is a better architecture. Even better, IMO, is having dedicated servers that collect the sync packets from every player which then sends out a single combined update packet once it receives every player’s information. This allows the server to perform checksum analysis and detect desyncs, which allows it to inject a player ‘drop’ notification to all of the other players when something goes wrong.

          • AIAndy says:

            This is a very interesting discussion :)

            If Demigod just transmitted input and checksums, why was the bandwidth used so excessive?
            The average player does not give a lot of commands per minute. Maybe 100 or so (good RTS players peak at several hundred APM). Lets take a high example with 4 commands per second (which would be 240 APM).
            A command consists of the selection, the command id and the target. If the selection consists of a list of unit ids with on average 3 units selected in Demigod and all ids an int with another int for the number of units in the selection (it might be better to transfer the selection itself as a separate command), then a command consists of around 24 bytes, so around 100 bytes per second. With some checksums and timestamps, the result should be around 200 bytes per second as actual data to transfer (per target player).
            Why was the actual bandwidth used in Demigod far larger than that (and usually running into the bandwidth limit of some people in the game with several 100KB/s total)?

          • Eschwen says:

            The actual data sent is somewhat more complex than that. But let’s look at a basic example:
            1) You send your input data for the next tick and your checksum for the previous tick results to all other clients. This checksum may include more than a single value for debugging purposes (i.e. what system went out of sync, etc.).
            2) You wait to receive all other’s input data and checksums.
            3) As you receive another client’s information, you tell all other clients that you’ve received information from that player.
            4) You wait to receive everyone’s confirmation that they received your information and all other player’s information. If someone doesn’t respond within a timeout, you resend your information.
            5) Once you know that everyone has everyone else’s information, you continue to the next tick and start the process all over again.

            As you can see, steps 3 & 4 result in something that grows at a much higher rate per player when larger numbers of players are involved. That’s the main crux of the issue. Hope that helps.

          • AIAndy says:

            Thank you for the information. What was the usual tick frequency?
            Lets assume a tick per half second.
            1) would be the data packet with around 2 commands at 24 bytes each plus protocol overhead and a checksum (more than one won’t be needed in the release version) so lets say 150 bytes per target player. That means 9*150 bytes = 1350 bytes in a 5vs5.
            3) needs one packet per other player if you wait until you got all information (or maybe an earlier packet on a timeout if that takes too long). The size is near minimum for a packet. Lets say with overhead around 100 byte (probably less) to all other players, meaning 900 bytes.
            4) only matters if you get packet loss.
            So the result is somewhere around 4.5KB/s. The real bandwidth usage was far higher though.
            But even under optimal implementation I don’t like that synchronization scheme as it does not allow players to lag behind. Instead the most unreliable connection dominates everything (which is what really happened).

            The advantage of a server / client scheme with one computer assigned as server / host is that not only do you have fewer connections with everything routed over the server but the server can order and timestamp all input and you are not tick based at all.

          • Eschwen says:

            SupCom engine is 10 ticks per second. There is also other information in the packets. Like I said before, it’s not quite that simple.

            The ‘tick’ architecture is required for synchronous multiplayer. You can’t just get rid of it by changing the networking model. Every tick has to have a predetermined elapsed time so that everyone ends up with the same result, otherwise you have to spend time getting the clients to agree to a time slice.

            Client/server also has its own problems. It solves the exponential packet issue, yes. It also suffers from the same issues that any other centralized system does: single point of failure. To solve those you get into handling things like server/host migration.

            But really, I’m not here to debate you. I was just giving you a basic example so you could understand some of what Brad and I were talking about. So there you go.

          • AIAndy says:

            Hmm, 10 ticks per second means 100ms per tick. And if I get the synchronization scheme right that you use, the ping of the slowest connection has to fit into one tick. Not very likely to happen with that many connections between peers over the internet.

            The ‘tick’ architecture is the result of using a P2P synchronization scheme (I guess that decision was made with fewer players in mind which is common for an RTS but not for a DotA-like).
            With a server/client synchronization scheme you don’t really need time slices (although you can still use them of course) as the server decides when an input happened and provides the input in the right order to the clients (so the packets are not only routed over the server, it is a different synchronization scheme).
            Yes, of course you need to deal with host migration in that case but host migration is not time critical as it happens very rarely.

            And I understand well what you were talking about and the information you provided (which I appreciate). I fear though that the synchronization scheme used was never a good choice for a 10 player game over the internet.

          • Eschwen says:

            No, not really. You are making assumptions with information you don’t have.

            But this isn’t a technical forum, I didn’t invent the architecture, and if you’re so confident that you have the right of it, I’m not going to try to dissuade you.

        • draginol says:

          I think you may have fonder memories than most with regards to using GameSpy (or even GPGnet) to get games going. All the way back to TA we always had to become router masters to get P2P games going (opening ranges of ports, etc.)

          At the end of the day, if you honestly believe that Demigod’s success hinged on its Internet connectivity then why wasn’t this the first thing GPG worked in?

          Stardock signed on 9 months before it shipped. If Internet networking was deemed as crucial as you now claim, then why wasn’t Demigod’s early beta already set up to play on GPGnet, ready to go? Sins of a Solar Empire had ICO ready long before the game shipped.

          • Eschwen says:

            This post puzzles me. Demigod was built on the SupCom engine. That engine already had shipped product that operated via peer-to-peer networking on GPGNet. We didn’t take that functionality out of the engine when we started making Demigod. It was still there and it still worked up until we started replacing it with Impulse. I’m not sure why we’d have to work on something that was already functional?

          • LionsPhil says:

            GPGnet

            Ugh. I’d repressed those memories, damn you.

          • draginol says:

            You could ask Patrick or Marr as to why GPGnet wasn’t available. But it wasn’t. If it was, it would have already been being played via GPGNet prior to Stardock getting involved. And that is what we would have used just like we used ICO for SIns of a Solar Empire.

          • Eschwen says:

            So you thought our plan prior to our partnership with Stardock was just to release Demigod without GPGNet or any other form of internet connectivity? Honestly, that doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense logically, and it doesn’t make sense historically for GPG.

          • draginol says:

            I’m very familiar with what Chris *wanted* to do with Demigod. Demigod was supposed to be both developed and published by GPG. But there were some financial issues that came up and Chris had to find a publisher.

            There weren’t the resources to update GPGNet to work with Demigod. The GPGnet developers had been laid off by that point. Our options were to either loan GPG more money to contract out GPGNet updates or assign developers at Stardock to write a NAT facilitator. Since, either way, we’d be paying for that work, it made sense to us to have it done by us so that we could re-use it on future games.

            You and I could argue whether that was, with hindsight, the right decision. We’ll never know. But what is a fact is that Demigod, at no time, ever worked with GPGNet. The first time it supported non-LAN multiplayer was about 3 months before it shipped. And it worked pretty decently until you had tens of thousands of people on it at once.

            You may recall that Supreme Commander 2 didn’t use GPGNet either — for the same reasons.

          • Eschwen says:

            Well, as you’ve already pointed out, Stardock only became involved with Demigod later in development. So to claim that it never at any point worked with GPGNet is, quite honestly, something you wouldn’t know. The early work was all done as a SupCom mod, so it most certainly did work on GPGNet during that time.

            Additionally, we shipped Space Siege mostly without the original GPGNet developers and hosted the GPGNet servers ourselves at GPG. So to say that the loss of those guys (they quit to start a new thing by the way, they weren’t laid off) irreparably harmed GPGNet is somewhat disingenuous. Maybe that’s what you were told, but if so, it was only half-true.

            Finally, the reason SupCom2 didn’t use GPGNet is because Square Enix had a partnership with Steam and preferred that we use it. It really was that simple.

          • draginol says:

            Ok. Please answer this: Did you personally ever play Demigod via GPGNet? Because my preference would have been to have used it if it was already working with it. It certainly wasn’t when we got involved.

          • Eschwen says:

            Of course not. Why would I? I’ve never played Supreme Commander or Space Siege over GPGNet either. That doesn’t mean that they don’t work.

            The point is that we didn’t go through and rip out the GPGNet integration in the engine just for shiggles, that would have been a waste of resources early in the project. In addition, we had expertise (beyond the original developers) in maintaining GPGNet, setting up the servers, and hosting them ourselves. I really bear no responsibility for what was communicated to you. It would have cost additional funding to update the client for Demigod and get new servers running, definitely. Would it have cost more than it cost to integrate Reactor? I don’t think so, but it’s really hard to say. Certainly the hosting would have cost more on our end, as well as the Quazal licensing, but I’m really not familiar with those costs so I’m not going to speak to them.

            The most likely scenario is that both sides discussed the fact that it would cost money either way, and it was strategically relevant to Stardock and the plans for Impulse to have something like Reactor. It made sense for you guys to go that route and increase your value, instead of investing in development work on GPGNet. And that’s totally cool. If I were in your shoes, I’d have done the same thing.

          • herpaderpa says:

            “The first time it supported non-LAN multiplayer was about 3 months before it shipped. And it worked pretty decently until you had tens of thousands of people on it at once.”

            And since tens of thousands of people aren’t in each game of Demigod, what you describe wasn’t a game problem. Again, you continually mix specific game connectivity problems with individual connectivity issues. Even when no one else was online, you would’ve had problems connect 10 players because of NAT and proxy issues, not because of the game itself. Again, an Impulse issue, not a game issue.

            No idea when Valve had peer-to-peer support in Steamworks, but was it really an option for a company to not use their own fledgling digital delivery service? Saying, “Steam didn’t have that feature” seems like another evasive statement; would you have used Steam over Impulse? Really?

          • draginol says:

            You wrote:
            “And since tens of thousands of people aren’t in each game of Demigod, what you describe wasn’t a game problem. Again, you continually mix specific game connectivity problems with individual connectivity issues. Even when no one else was online, you would’ve had problems connect 10 players because of NAT and proxy issues, not because of the game itself. Again, an Impulse issue, not a game issue.”

            I’m not saying that was a game issue. When tens of thousands of people were on the NAT translation servers, it overwhelmed it. Me and my team did many all nighters to address this as quickly as possible.
            That wasn’t a game issue. It was an Impulse issue. We aren’t disagreeing on this.

            You wrote:
            “No idea when Valve had peer-to-peer support in Steamworks, but was it really an option for a company to not use their own fledgling digital delivery service? Saying, “Steam didn’t have that feature” seems like another evasive statement; would you have used Steam over Impulse? Really?”

            If our choices were to pick something that already existed versus having to spend money on creating something new, we would have gone with something that already existed that worked. You’re right it would have been a tough pill to swallow to choose Steamworks and I don’t know what we would have done.

            I do know, however, that given the choice of using something that was already working or having to do new development, we always choose what already exists (as seen with Sins of a Solar Empire).

            If Demigod had already been set up to work with GPGNet it would have been a no brainer to use it. But it wasn’t.

            At the time, the choice was to either spend money contracting people to come in and update GPGNet to work with Demigod OR spend money to build an Impulse::Reactor based NAT facilitator. We chose the latter.

            Like I said to James, I think the case could be made that we should have made a different decision. But at the time, it seemed like the right way to go.

            GPG didn’t do anything wrong with Demigod other than not have a time machine to look into the future. But, at the same time, blaming Stardock for faults in Demigod seems pretty unfair too. We both did the best we could with the resources we had. It was external market changes (the rise of F2P) that prevented Demigod from reaching its potential.

    • draginol says:

      In terms of the initial connection of players, absolutely. When Demigod shipped the servers that facilitated NAT traversal just couldn’t handle the traffic and had to be expanded and made more efficient. This was done in the first couple of weeks and worked well after that.

      Steam didnt have that sort of feature back in 2009 so it’s moot about how good Steam’s service was by the time SupCom 2 shipped.

      However, saying peer to peer doesn’t affect things is inaccurate.

      First, it means that all players have to connect to each other (as opposed to just connecting to a server). There’s a reason why LoL, Dota2′ etc. are client/server. P2p makes the initial setup of the game harder. The more players trying to connect the harder, slower it gets.

      Second, it means during play that every packet you send has to be sent to every single player by the peer client. So if one player hicups, all have to wait. That’s always been an issue in peer to peer (even in SupCom you’d sometimes have to wait for someone to catch up). But in a game with 10 people playing the issue increases exponentially.

      Peer to peer is great in 1 v 1 or 2 on 2. But 5 on 5? Not so much. If someone wants to point us to a MOBA game that’s peer to peer then go for it.

      • Eschwen says:

        I agree, peer-to-peer does have an impact. This is why Supreme Commander used Quazal technology, because it was best-in-business NAT negotiation at the time. And it worked.

        We can argue until we’re blue in the face about the difficulties presented by peer-to-peer. But that one simple fact remains: It was already proven technology. It had already shipped in proven product and was played by millions of players.

        • draginol says:

          Well, GPGNet provided the NAT negotiation, not Supreme Commander itself. Also, I don’t think I have ever heard of anyone playing SupCom 5 on 5 other than on a LAN (that isn’t to say it never happened but it was exceedingly rare).

          The SupCom engine handles the networking between players after the initial connections are made. The fascilitator, however, was always external (GPGNet in SupCom, Impulse::Reactor in Demigod and I’m not sure what it was in SupCom 2, probably Steamworks).

        • Eschwen says:

          If you play an internet multiplayer game of Supreme Commander, you will use Quazal to negotiate the NAT. Hence, Supreme Commander uses Quazal.

          This seems like a straw-man semantics argument?

          Point of the post: It was proven technology.

          • draginol says:

            I am trying, and apparently failing, to articulate the different between what GPGNet did in SupCom and what SupCom itself does.

            Supreme Commander, the engine, its EXE, its c++ code base, whatever you want to call it does not have that functionality in it. That was in GPGNet itself. It connected the players together and then inserted them into the SupCom lobby.

            Similarly, when it came time to do Supreme Commander 2, GPGnet was not used for the same reason it wasn’t used for Demigod. At that point, something else was used to do the NAT translation (Steamworks I believe).

            You may recall the GPGNet was literally, a separate program with its own UI.

            The point I’m trying to make is that the NAT translation wasn’t something that Demigod inherited or could make use of without GPGNet (and Demigod) being updated to support it.

          • Eschwen says:

            You’re quite right, GPGNet was a separate service that Supreme Commander used. We would have had to setup and configure new servers if we had wanted to use Demigod on GPGNet. The time spent on GPG’s side probably would have been relatively equivalent to the time that was spent on the Reactor integration.

            The point that I am trying, and apparently failing, to make is that everything here was proven technology at that time. Peer-to-peer networking was proven technology. Successful NAT negotiation between peer-to-peer clients was proven technology.

            Your original post was somewhat of an indictment of peer-to-peer technology. All I’m saying is that it was all proven tech.

            So, to summarize: I understand that you’re trying to differentiate between the function of GPGNet and Supreme Commander. What I fail to see here is how GPGNet being separate from the SupCom engine has any bearing on the technical merit of peer-to-peer architecture, or how it has any bearing on the fact that peer-to-peer NAT negotiation was proven technology (Quazal) at that point in time. The fact that GPGNet and SupCom are separate is irrelevant.

          • draginol says:

            I don’t mean to sound anti-P2P. Our other MP games over the years were P2P. Sins of a Solar Empire is P2P.

            I was meaning that P2P doesn’t scale super well (at least in terms of SupCom/Demigod’s setup). When Demigod first shipped, each player added 20K (kiloboytes) of bandwidth per second. At 10 players, it was around 200K per second. Patrick trimmed this down to around 12K per second later. Most people with broadband can handle 200K (A T1 level connection required in 2009) per second. But you get a few people on there with sketchy connection where packets are getting lost and you ended up with problems.

            If I were making a 1 on 1 or 2 on 2 game (or even 3 on 3) I’d still pick P2P as long as it wasn’t an e-sports type game.

          • Eschwen says:

            In SupCom2 we solved some of those problems, along with others that caused even bigger issues. I agree, the architecture is not ideal for big games unless you have a mitigating force to prevent the exponential communication issue. If I were building something new today with a need for larger games, I would go a different route for sure.

      • herpaderpa says:

        DOTA is peer-to-peer, because WarCraft III is peer-to-peer.

        Every time this issue comes up, you absolve your company of any responsibility for the network issues. “After the launch, peer-to-peer was the problem.” In other words, it’s GPG’s fault. The Stardock fans blame GPG for coming up with this overly complex scheme that’s been used by the WarCrafts, the Ages of Empires, StarCraft, basically every RTS game in history. And somehow, it’s still GPG’s fault they came up with this overly complex system.

        You may not intend it this way, but that’s always how it reads when you point the fingers at the underlying technology every time people talk about the launch problems.

  25. czerro says:

    Hrm, Chris Taylor looks legitimately emotional in the video, though I don’t understand his statements. He says he didn’t want to gamble his staff’s livelihoods (he already did) which is why he chose to lay a massive amount of his company off (what?!). This project was a gamble, the kickstarter a band-aid to completion. I dunno if that is the intention of kickstarter, or the proper way to have gone about this. I hope Taylor makes his kickstarter, he seems like a genuinely nice guy and I believe he would hire everyone back in a heartbeat if he had the funding, though I think his kickstarter was desperate and misguided.

  26. fish99 says:

    Describing this as a publicity stunt is a bit insulting IMO, but anyway, I wish CT luck in the future. I never played the original TA, but SupCom and FA are the best and most ambitious RTS games I’ve played to date, so I hope GPG has a future.

  27. crinkles esq. says:

    I still consider Total Annihilation the best RTS game ever made. I must’ve played hundreds of hours of TA in LAN play with coworkers back then. I wish somehow Chris could be given the rights and money to make a true sequel to TA.

    I was moved by his video. I could really feel and see the pain he’s feeling about the whole situation — both having to lay off employees and the dire situation he finds his company in. From all the interviews I’ve read, I’ve always found Chris to be a straight-shooter. I hope somehow he can turn things around.

    The description of Wildman seems fairly ambitious for a $1M budget. And yet for all its ambition, I’m not sure the concept or art style really resonates with me. So I feel a bit conflicted about the whole thing.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I’m curious as to why you don’t think SupComm is a “true” sequel, unless you mean just the name and setting, which seem like the least interesting parts to me?

      It has some implementation woes (performance degrading over time, and netcode that cannot recover from a desync being two massive, massive stumbling blocks), but game-wise it seemed pretty on the money to me.

      • crinkles esq. says:

        That’s a fair question, and the answer is probably subjective. The units, the art style, there was something tangible and lovely about the world of TA. Though robots, the units had personality. Perhaps it was their animation, or the variety. Or the sense of weight felt when one blew up and parts scattered everywhere. But whatever the reason, I had more empathy for them. SupCom’s units just felt like grist for the mill. The design felt like another company doing a TA knockoff.

        But Chris wanted a massive game, and I guess details like that became secondary to his grand strategy vision. Perhaps a true TA sequel would need the original art and animation team. Perhaps Chris felt he truly was making a TA sequel, but to me TA was just a touchstone for SupCom; a starting point from which to diverge.

        Fortunately, it looks like the successfully-funded Kickstarter game Planetary Annihilation, featuring many of the original TA team, is more what I would expect from a TA sequel. Hopefully it will still be awesome without Chris Taylor.

        • herpaderpa says:

          “Fortunately, it looks like the successfully-funded Kickstarter game Planetary Annihilation, featuring many of the original TA team, is more what I would expect from a TA sequel.”

          Whether it’s good or not is entirely up to the guys at Uber, but man… it’s more accurate to say that there are a couple of people there who worked on parts of Total Annihilation. It is by no measure “many” of the original TA team. The press bought that line hook and sinker, and ran with it, without spending all of the effort of looking up the credits on MobyGames.

          In fact, one of its artists you’re praising, who the KBot is named after, is Kevin Pun, who you may have seen in the Wildman video. And who is awesome.

          • crinkles esq. says:

            Guilty as charged; I have not done research into which members of the TA team are where now. But I will say the art style and units of PA remind me more of TA than SupCom did.

  28. derella says:

    I feel bad for these guys and hope it works out for them.

    I hope they don’t bet the company on Wildman… I’m not trying to be mean, but it seems like a mediocre game with limited appeal.

    Good luck GPG :(

    • P.Funk says:

      I think that their financial issues and several set backs covering several years following the Supreme Commander days basically pigeon holed them into a situation where they have to rely on mediocre content to get by, not an altogether unusual scenario. Quality usually involves lots of capital depending on the scale of the project.

      I’m interested to see how Uber does with PA given the relatively limited capital they’re using. I’m not even sure how big they are, but if they can pull off a SupCom sized game on that budget I question the need for as many big development firms provided your goals are limited to non cinematic and non recurring MMO content and server support.

  29. Breemis says:

    Wow. I am really sad to hear this. On top of having a long time friend from college who worked for GPG, I remember meeting Chris and a lot of the GPG team at E3 in LA in 2000. Was my frist trip to LA, I’d just graduated from Uni – sort of a graduation trip. Shared a hotel room with said friend and one other. Had to sleep on the floor next to the aircon. Caught a cold. Spilled a hamburger on myself. In spite of this it was a great trip, and I remember at the time being impressed with the culture of the company/ liking all of the people I met. The week left me with a longing desire to one day follow the “dream” and somehow get a job making games. Seeing how ugly the industry is makes me in ways glad that I never did.

    Good luck, to all of you. I hope you land on your feet and find better things ahead.

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