Catastrophic space flight sim Kerbal Space Program 2 has been in the lab for some time.
Earlier this year Last month (wow, time's a thing), it announced a delay until autumn of 2021 for the spaceflight sequel, a lengthy setback even by the standards of other coronavirus delays.
Based on a new report by Bloomberg, it seems the extra year and a half may have less to do with the pandemic and a lot more to do with a big studio shakeup orchestrated by KSP2's owners Take-Two Interactive that's ultimately resulted in Star Theory shutting down.
Back in 2017, Take-Two bought Kerbal Space Program from its developers at Squad. After that, they handed off development of the sequel to the developers at Star Theory. Importantly though, Take-Two didn't own Star Theory, only the game they were working on.
According to Bloomberg’s report, in December 2019 Take-Two contacted every member of the Star Theory development team via LinkedIn with an invitation to join a new Take-Two owned studio to continue work on KSP2. It came as a complete surprise to the development team. According to the report, Star Theory's founders told their team in the following days that they'd been in discussions about selling their company to Take-Two but were dissatisfied with the terms.
Instead of continuing to negotiate terms to buy Star Theory, supposedly Take-Two decided to pull the game out from under the studio and buy the team instead. At this point, Bloomberg say Take-Two hired more than a third of Star Theory’s staff, including the studio head and creative director.
Not everyone left though. Star Theory senior engineer Patrick Meade, among others, turned down the job offer from Take-Two. He told Bloomberg, “I was at a small studio, where the work I did had a massive impact on our success. When I see myself at any large corporation, that is fundamentally not true.”
Starting off 2020 with a gutted team, Star Theory attempted to internally generate pitches and prototypes with a plan to pitch those ideas to publishers at the Game Developer's Conference in March. As we know, GDC was postponed, and Star Theory's life raft sank with it. According to the report, Star Theory shut down on March 4th, giving their employees a month’s pay and two months of health insurance. Some ended up joining Take-Two at that point.
Kerbal Space Program 2 is now in development by around a dozen former Star Theory employees under the new, Take-Two-owned Intercept Games—an on-the-nose name if you ask me.
As previously announced, Kerbal Space Program 2 is being pushed back until autumn of 2021.