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Black Isle Studios Shuts Down Development 392

Posted by simoniker
from the bye-bye-president dept.
Zonk writes "RPGDot has a story up right now about the closing down of development at Black Isle Studios. The information comes from an unnamed Interplay source, who says 'Any time you see the [Black Isle] logo on a future product, know that no one who was associated with BIS actually worked on it', as well as a post by BIS employee Damien Foletto on the Interplay message boards, and a Blue's News story that adds: 'The non-announced [PC] title that the division was working on, Fallout 3 [aka Van Buren], has been 'shelved', to quote management.' BIS, you will be missed." Black Isle are particularly known for work on the Fallout series, Icewind Dale, and Planescape: Torment.
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Black Isle Studios Shuts Down Development

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  • Nasty (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Goldberg's Pants (139800) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @03:40AM (#7666518) Journal
    This is the first developer shut down that has stunned me since Looking Glass (System Shock, the Thief series...) went under.

    Why is it the good companies go under, but the crap ones live on?
    • Re:Nasty (Score:5, Insightful)

      by frankthechicken (607647) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @04:17AM (#7666605) Journal
      The good companies innovate, the bad ones copy success. Guess which one is more likely to succeed. Innovation is a risky business.

      On a slightly related note, has there been a good business project management set-up in relation to the development of games? From everything I've seen and read about, the development seems so hodge-podge, it's remarkable any games succeed.
      • Re:Nasty (Score:4, Interesting)

        by badasscat (563442) <basscadet75.yahoo@com> on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @12:58PM (#7669458)
        The good companies innovate, the bad ones copy success. Guess which one is more likely to succeed. Innovation is a risky business.

        On a slightly related note, has there been a good business project management set-up in relation to the development of games? From everything I've seen and read about, the development seems so hodge-podge, it's remarkable any games succeed.


        Your two statements are both complementary and contradictory. There are two facets to the game industry - independent developers, and developers either under contract to a publisher or owned by one. Independent developers are often the ones credited with being "innovative" (though in my experience in the industry, they're no more or less innovative than developers under contract or the publishers themselves), but they also often float along without direction, developing games when they feel like it based on an arbitrary set of criteria. Occasionally, great games come out of this sort of model. More often, you end up with complete garbage - the kinds of games that get 15-50% reviews in PC Gamer Magazine, which seems to be the bulk of their reviews these days... (and generally, those are deserved scores.)

        So indie developing is haphazard, yes. But Black Isle wasn't an indie developer; they were presumably doled out projects, and given set deadlines and guidelines by Interplay. Apparently, they didn't take too well to this, as they lost $20 million this year alone. Well, that's not very fair - I suppose they had some licensing issues, and there could be other reasons for their losing money, but there's this whole "blame the publisher" thing going on out there that I don't think is very fair either. This is a business, and Black Isle wasn't making money for the business right now. If they were an indie that burned through that kind of cash they'd be just as out of business right now.

        Anyway, publisher-sponsored development is not at all haphazard. Yes, many publishers stick with established franchises and genres, but all of them have a certain percentage of development set aside for new games. That percentage varies per publisher. New games at publishers like these are guided along by experienced veterans of the process - which doesn't guarantee success, but it at least (generally) guarantees a certain level of competence and polish to a new game from a large publisher. (Pikmin and Animal Crossing are two examples of this on the console side - Rise of Nations and MS Train Simulator would be examples on the PC side.)

        PC and console game development is a bit different in that console game development is almost all publisher sponsored, contracted, or owned. That is honestly one of the reasons why the console game industry is in better shape than the PC game industry, and I will never for a second believe anyone that says there are fewer innovative games on consoles than on PC. Anyone who says that does not know anything about the console game industry or the games available today. (Don't mistake what's on the best-seller lists for the entire catalog of what's out there - consumers determine best-seller lists, but publishers know it's in their best long-term interests to develop new franchises even if they don't succeed short-term.)
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @04:19AM (#7666613)
      "Why is it the good companies go under, but the crap ones live on?"

      Because people are voting with their dollars, and crap is king.
    • Re:Nasty (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tero (39203) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @04:23AM (#7666623)
      Mostly because quality costs money. Putting a game through that one extra QA run probably means delaying the shipping date. Unfortunately the trend seems to be just that.. moving away from quality, towards 'assembly line' products (hopefully already licensed, so studios don't have to spend that much $$ on marketing). There are of course execptions (like the Baldurs Gate series and the Knights of the old Republic which do not fall into the 'license-and-ship' trap).
      The gaming industry is more and more starting to feel like just another Hollywood branch. I wonder how long it takes before they'll start redoing old games, like they're doing with all old classic movies now?
      • Re:Nasty (Score:5, Insightful)

        by smithwis (577119) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @04:41AM (#7666683) Journal
        Apparently you don't own a gameboy advance.

        Nintendo has managed to repackage all the old mario games for the snes and nes and sell them for new(almost identical to the originals). This time, they weren't cool about releasing all the games in one cartridge(ala Super Mario Allstars).

        And Nintendo is not the only one doing things like this on the Gameboy.
      • Re:Nasty (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Squozen (301710)
        Already happening.

        http://www.princeofpersiagame.com/index.php
      • Re:Nasty (Score:2, Insightful)

        by hsa (598343)

        The gaming industry is more and more starting to feel like just another Hollywood branch. I wonder how long it takes before they'll start redoing old games, like they're doing with all old classic movies now?

        They are redoing the old games. Just not the way you think of it (putting in them fancy new graphics and releasing them on same platform).

        In gaming industry, they rerelease the games on new platform. Like Sonic Adventure went from DreamCast to every popular console today, with little or no change

      • Re:Nasty (Score:5, Informative)

        by calethix (537786) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @08:49AM (#7667270) Homepage
        Don't forget about Sierra's reillustrated line. They only did it with their earliest games (e.g. King's Quest 1, Space Quest 1, Hero's Quest 1 and a few others).

        They basically took some of their old adventure games done with ega graphics only and updated them to full 256 color vga and better sound. The story was exactly the same but sometimes with a few extras and minor changes.

        I can't think of any games off the top of my head that have been remakes quite at that level.
        • Re:Nasty (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Dachannien (617929) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @03:49PM (#7671571)
          Speaking of Sierra, they canned (a couple of years ago) Babylon 5: Into the Fire. When the developers got some investment together and tried to buy all the IP from Sierra (which, because WB had by then revoked Sierra's license, Sierra was *never* going to be able to use), Sierra declined.

          Now we have countless B5 mods for various games, and a group of (mostly) Russians are working on a freeware B5 space combat sim. [firstones.com]
    • If you stand your ground and don't sell out, you get stamped on by those with more $$$.

      This news saddens me too.

      I'll miss you Black Isle. RIP with Looking Glass and Cavedog.

    • Re:Nasty (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @04:35AM (#7666664)
      This is the first developer shut down that has stunned me since Looking Glass (System Shock, the Thief series...) went under.

      Why is it the good companies go under, but the crap ones live on?


      I have a pirated copy of System Shock 2 and Fallout 2 on my shelf, that's why.

      Individually it's not my fault but if enough people did it...

      Needless to say, I've never felt worse about having pirated games and I would gladly dish out the price for both the old and the new game if I'd just get the sequels for the games I truly loved.

      For what it's worth. Looking Glass, Black Isle Studios, I'm sorry.
      • You can still get Thief 1+2 and System Shock 2 on budget label but whether any of that gets back to the original developers depends on what terms of contract they signed.

        Thief 3 is currently underway by the Deus Ex 2 guys. A System Shock sequel is a bit finicky since the rights to it are with 3 different companies.

        I can't find Fallout 1 or 2 new anywhere. I hope it get the budget treatment one day...

        • You can still get Thief 1+2 and System Shock 2 on budget label but whether any of that gets back to the original developers depends on what terms of contract they signed.

          Also, as much as I dislike Ziff-Davis, if you buy this month's Computer Gaming World ($8.99), you get the full version of Thief 2 (and Deus Ex) on the cover DVD.
        • Fallout 2, for OSX, is still selling on the shelves of the local AppleStores ( at full price too, I might add ). I bought it ages ago, and it is quite an enjoyable romp. Sad to see Van Buren won't see the light of day - I played through Fallout 1 back on Windows, and was looking to see where the franchise would go in the future.

          YLFI
        • I got Fallout 1 & 2 in a $5 dollar bundle (new) from a Best Buy or Circuit City or CompUSA or some similiar store. It was most depressing, because all the other games on the shelf in those bundles were things like Barbies Fabulous Bakeoff.
      • Re:Nasty (Score:4, Insightful)

        by instanto (513362) <tabarth @ o nline.no> on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @05:25AM (#7666770) Homepage Journal
        You cant pin the demise of Black Isle on piracy.

        Poor Management, Xbox, Greed, Suits and Deadlines are probably the more likely reason.

        And maybe because crappy games sell - while stellar games - for a smaller audience - do not sell as much, why should'nt they make a hack'n slash that will sell a million titles, instead of a RPG that will sell 100,000.

        • Re:Nasty (Score:5, Insightful)

          by the_mad_poster (640772) <shattoc@adelphia.com> on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @09:36AM (#7667555) Homepage Journal

          Too true, unfortunately.

          Planescape: Torment was an incredible game. The whole thing revolved around story, not combat, and you didn't directly interact in combat unless you were casting spell or using an item. You were lucky if you got to Level 15 with the Nameless One by the end of the game. While it was important to level up and boost traits, it was not your driving motivation.

          Compare this to Diablo 2. Diablo 2 has one objective - go kill monsters. There's a hair-thin storyline to move you from wilderness to wilderness, but the whole point was to get more gold, new stuff, and higher levels. It was certainly fun, but it was far less satisfying to get another level up because you had killed yet another wraith of some sort than the P:T way of doing things where you could get huge exp through intelligent (and sometimes very bizarre) discussions. The game was so beautfully imaginative that it almost seemed like combat wasn't even necessary at times.

          Incidentally, to see some pretty cool fireworks in P:T, launch Level 1 magic missiles, Ignus's tongues of flame, and Dak'kon's reign of anger all at the same time. That'll take down almost any normal enemy without resistances in a heartbeat (it's great against the Carceri guards), plus it looks really cool.

    • Re:Nasty (Score:5, Insightful)

      by morganjharvey (638479) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @04:38AM (#7666673)
      You ever notice how the companies that produce crappy products and survive are the ones who play dirty?
      Unfortunately, the creative sorts who have fairly robust morals and ethics tend not to survive too often in today's business world. How many companies with crappy products can you name that have succeded primarily because they've flexed their muscles? I can name five in under 15 seconds, and I'm tired.
      Unfortunately, "normal" business practise now seems to include fighting dirty, and it's usually at the expense of the final product. As much as I know people would hate to hear it, every big company does it. Look at Apple, Microsoft, IBM, SCO... Yes, some of them have released quality products, but none of them would really be where they are today without a little bullying. Apple used to be extremely litigious, IBM has done more than their share of strong arming, and I'm pretty sure that you can fill in the blanks for SCO and Microsoft.
      But some of the "favorite" companies fight just as dirty. Perhaps a company should be expected to be able to heft its weight around in order to gain a respectable place in the market. It's not something that I necessarily agree with, but it seems like you can't really survive with out it.
      There's my rant for the evening. I've officially been pointed me down the road towards depression thinking about this. :( -mo
    • Re:Nasty (Score:5, Interesting)

      by 0x0d0a (568518) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @04:50AM (#7666702) Journal
      Why is it the good companies go under, but the crap ones live on?

      My guess is that this is not the case (in particular). Game development houses tend to have awfully short lifetimes. They're often small. If developer Jones and Smith decide to move on to bigger and better things, there may not be much company left worth continuing with.

      My guess is that you just notice when the good ones go out of business.

      Try this. Dig out a bunch of old DOS games and try to locate the development houses that produced them. Some are still around -- id is still happily making games, for instance. A lot of them, however, are long, long gone.
    • Re:Nasty (Score:4, Informative)

      by pixel_bc (265009) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @05:23AM (#7666764)
      > Why is it the good companies go under,
      > but the crap ones live on?

      Good companies don't always make games that sell. Furthermore, third-party developers are becoming extinct -- the publishers have no need for them as they build their own in-house teams.

      They've gone away by no fault of their own, save not being acquired three years ago.
  • by MMaestro (585010) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @03:43AM (#7666523)
    All it states in the quote is that Interplay has cut the BIS team. The rest of the quote is nothing but bashing Interplay
    • by Drakin (415182) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @04:12AM (#7666593)
      Well, some of the reasons could be the following:

      -Interplay has lost at least $20 million this year
      -One of BIS forthcoming products was canned because of a legal mess with WotC
      -thier 2 main consol releases, schedualed for the holidays were pushed back to January (one of them BIS produced), because of another legal issue (this time with a distrobuter)

      In other words, they were hurting for money.
      • Good reasons, but poor conclusion. Theres basicly no question about BIS being a popular PC developer (fans of Fallout 1 and 2 are quite vocal) so economically, cutting off one of your best teams is not a good judgement. Unless BIS burned too much money with no results or seriously pissed off someone up the line, cutting off BIS and going console is a huge, unexpected shift. Especially for a company whos strengths have been in the PC market.
      • All it states in the quote is that Interplay has cut the BIS team. The rest of the quote is nothing but bashing Interplay
      It's there in the bashing, apparently Interplay has decided the future is Console only, and is getting out of the PC game biz, at least as far as Black Isle Studio games are concerned.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @03:52AM (#7666548)
    black isle had a wonderful, hand-made game, made by gamers feel to their products, reminiscent of early origin and sierra. sadly those type of developers are becoming rarer. this sucks. i wish them all good luck.
  • This is terrible (Score:5, Interesting)

    by obeythefist (719316) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @03:54AM (#7666553) Journal
    BIS made some really excellent games, games that are remembered long after their day. Much like the old gold box games that were released way back when by TSR.

    I lost many hours of my life playing through Planescape:Torment and all the other games delivered to us from Black Isle.

    One wonders if Interplay have decided that money is no longer a desireable outcome of the game production money? Have they lost all inclination to produce new classics, as I'm sure Fallout 3 would have become?

    Perhaps Interplay simply doesn't percieve a value in role-playing games like Fallout and Baldurs Gate and the likes on the consoles of the future. Games with writing are to be frowned upon in console-land, as you can't read text quite as nicely on a TV set. This falls nicely into my growing theory that consoles are causing the end of the brain era of gaming, and sending us back into pac-man twitch land.
      • Perhaps Interplay simply doesn't percieve a value in role-playing games like Fallout and Baldurs Gate and the likes on the consoles of the future. Games with writing are to be frowned upon in console-land, as you can't read text quite as nicely on a TV set. This falls nicely into my growing theory that consoles are causing the end of the brain era of gaming, and sending us back into pac-man twitch land.

      Not all companies are going this route. While I must admit I really enjoyed games like Final Fantasy

      • I'm glad you mentioned Disgaea. That game had the most brilliant and engaging writing I've seen in a game in ages. There were a lot of "in-jokes", and the plot was more linear than something like a Black Isle RPG, but it proved that you can have great writing in a console RPG.

        I'm not comparing Japanese RPG's to North American PC RPG's and saying one is superior; that's like comparing apples and oranges. A lot of people will like one and hate the other. But a game like Disgaea proves that it really is
    • by LordZardoz (155141) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @04:32AM (#7666651)
      This is the sort of thing that happens when the intrests of the developer and the publisher diverge. Interplay wanted to make money, and probably worked its developers at a death march pace. No developer can sustain that for an extended period of time.

      Interplay wanted Bioware to churn out its games faster and faster, and make them larger and larger. It also wanted to pay Bioware alot less then what they had coming. Since Bioware was not owned by Interplay, Bioware told them to f**k right off, and went to Infogrames / Atari.

      I guess the same sort of crap went on at Black Isle.

      Black Isle was owned, so they could not just walk away from Interplay. Their core group of experienced developers probably told their bosses to stick it where the sun doesnt shine, and took a walk. That, or they dug in and refused to work a death march. Either way, Interplay decided to shut down the studio.

      Anyway, this is all guess work. But it seems plausible enough to me to explain what happened.

      END COMMUNICATION
    • Let Interplay know (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Slack3r78 (596506) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @05:30AM (#7666777) Homepage
      Please, let Interplay know how you feel!

      pr@interplay.com

      The email I just fired off:
      Dear Sir/Madam,

      Let me open by saying I've been a long time supporter of Interplay, going back to the days of the old Star Trek adventures in the early 90's, and some of my favorite games of all time have been on the Interplay label. With that said, the news that Black Isle Studios has been shut down in order to pursue a console market which myself and many fans of Black Isle's titles have no interest in, I'm afraid that that relationship will be coming to an end. Interplay has demonstrated that they have no interest in me as a dedicated PC gamer, and as such, I can only assume that Interplay is no longer interested in my business.

      While I'm normally not a believer in boycotts, the dissolution of one of the most talented group of developers in the industry in a misguided pursuit of the bottom line is more than I can ignore, and since it seems money is the only thing Interplay is listening to these days, I will be voting with my wallet. Perhaps those involved in the decision to cut Black Isle will comprehend the mistake they've made when the fans that have been so loyal to them move on.

      Regards,
      [Name witheld for Slashdot]
      • by fadeaway (531137) *
        While I think that this is horrible news (I'm a huge fan of BI), I think this is taking things a little far.

        You can't fault Interplay for closing the studio down. BI wasn't making money. Interplay is a business. They can't keep a studio running on merit alone.. =P

        Anyhow, I'm going to go cry for Fallout 3..
  • by Laplace (143876) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @03:59AM (#7666562)
    NOOOOOoooooooo.........
  • by agent oranje (169160) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @04:03AM (#7666575) Journal
    Fallout was one of the finest RPGs I've ever played. Storyline was fantastic, gameplay was excellent... graphics weren't spectacular, but that wasn't the game's selling feature. Fallout 2 came along, rehashing the same old graphics, and same old gameplay, into an absolutely amazing game, superior to the original. The story is excellent, blending along with the first quite nicely, and with much more depth...

    Fallout 3 would have been amazing. I have no doubt about this. The only thing which could be better would be Fallout Online.
    • The story in Fallout was excellent. Is it just me, or does anyone else see some similarities between the Fallout series story and A Canticle for Leibowitz" by Walter M. Miller jr.?
    • >> The only thing which could be better would be Fallout Online

      I can think of nothing worse.

      Nothing would ruin Fallout's compelling world faster than the "kewl d00dz"

    • by szap (201293) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @05:45AM (#7666811)
      Fallout 3 would have been amazing.

      I'd certainly hope so too, but I'd rather have it end at Fallout 2 than have Fallout 3 radically changed to accomodate the publisher's requirements to sell to the "unwashed masses" and remove elements that made the Fallout series good.

      I've said the same thing about Deus Ex 2 ("It'd have been amazing"), and then tried playing it, but it have been a major disappointment for me, esp. the perceived bias towards the Lower Common Denominator of gamers on consoles and I don't want it to happen to Fallout 3.

      Background: Looking Glass created the original Deus Ex under Warren Spector. Looking Glass was closed down, but Warren Spector also lead the development for Deus Ex 2 under Ion Storm and Eidos (of Daikatana fame)...

      • by poulbailey (231304) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:53AM (#7667068)
        > Looking Glass created the original Deus Ex under Warren Spector.

        That's not true. Deus Ex was an Ion Storm Austin product too (and it was published by Eidos of Daikatana fame...).

        > [...] Warren Spector also lead the development for Deus Ex 2 under Ion Storm and Eidos (of Daikatana fame).

        No, he didn't. Harvey Smith was the lead on Invisible War.
    • Fallout 3 would have been amazing

      Never say never.

      Ever heard of the "Theif" series by Looking Glass? Ion Storm is working on Theif 3 right now. Other companies CAN take over, and if the 'major players' all go to one company, its likely they may just do that.

      There is even a stories of Ion Storm picking up System Shock 3 (which would be -amazing-).
  • Bummer (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DiracFeynman (655294)
    Planescape-Torment is one of my favorite games of all time.
    • Re:Bummer (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Negatyfus (602326) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @04:24AM (#7666626) Journal
      What about Baldur's Gate 1+2? Neverwinter Nights? These deserve to be mentioned as well. Black Isle was one of those surprising little companies with heart for what they do that totally stunned me and became my favorite, sort of like SquareSoft on the PlayStation. This hurts, because it feels like the big corporation has won over the fanatical creative artist.
      • Re:Bummer (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Snowmit (704081)
        Black Isle didn't make BG 1 and 2. Bioware did. Bioware also made Neverwinter Nights. You may remember that Bioware cut ties with Interplay/Black Isle over contract problems.

        Nostalgia is cute and all but Black Isle hasn't made a great game in a long time. I won't miss it at all. I will, on the other hand, continue to watch Bioware and Troika. Don't get caught up in the brand names, follow the actual creators.
  • Ahhhh crap! I think that about sums up my thoughts. I always thought it would just be a matter of time before we got Fallout 3. Looks like we will never see it now. Bummer. :(
  • by metrazol (142037) <jwm33 AT cornell DOT edu> on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @04:14AM (#7666596)
    They...they weren't really working of Fallout 3 were they? Because... if they were... and it's...it's 'shelved'... I think I might just... must find tall building... bridge... industrial dough mixer... NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

    I'm going to go cry now...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @04:24AM (#7666629)
    Several of the Fallout guys left long ago, and are working in Troika Games [troikagames.com], the studio that released the brilliant Arcanum [troikagames.com], and is currently working on Vampire [slashdot.org]...

    Black Isle is dead.
    Long live Black Isle!
  • Wow (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bat'ka makhno (207538)
    Are we at a point where the gaming masses have become so retarded as to ensure that only copycat FPS, RTS and sports games ever get produced? Plots, characters, atmosphere, it's all gone, but who gives a shit. As long as we can all get 90 fps in Doom3 and relive our favorite Monday Night Football moments, the industry'll be alright.

    What a fucking waste of technology.

    At least the absolute derth of quality PC games cuts short all of the asshole anti-Mac arguments.

    • Seriously, have you played Star Wars: KOTOR yet? best game in years.
    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Maestro4k (707634) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @04:45AM (#7666694) Journal
      • Are we at a point where the gaming masses have become so retarded as to ensure that only copycat FPS, RTS and sports games ever get produced? Plots, characters, atmosphere, it's all gone, but who gives a shit. As long as we can all get 90 fps in Doom3 and relive our favorite Monday Night Football moments, the industry'll be alright.
      The truly sad part is the rabid fanboys of FPSs who obsess over frame rates and ever tiny detail are a great minority of gamers. It's very interesting to look at the top sales charts for any given month. Generally 1-3 of the top 20 will be FPS games, the rest aren't. In fact, games with little hardcore gamer appeal consistently take up top spots. (The Sims & their 100 expansion packs for instance.) Many game companies (this means you Interplay) apparently can't see the truth out there and shoot for the hardcore audience. The problem is the real money is in pleasing the general audience.

      Before I'm skewered for that statement, let me point out that you don't have to dumb down a game to make it appealing to both hard core and casual gamers. A game with a great engrossing story, decent graphics (they don't have to be the world's best) and a serious fun value (something a lot of games forget about) will please nearly everyone. Sure the frame-rate crowd will complain about the lack of quantum texturing or some such crap, but most people will be happy with it and it'll sale really well.

      The other unfortunate thing is game companies (again, this means you Interplay) that seem to think PC Gaming is dead, when nothing could be further from the truth. Right now PCs are capable of better graphics than any of the current consoles, and the next crop of consoles is at best a year off (if rumors of Nintendo announcing a new console at E3 next year are true). Hell, now's the perfect time to push PC gaming since current consoles are towards the end of their life cycle.

      That being said though, I've ended up a console gamer because of the lack of quality control in PC games. (aka the ship it then patch it approach.) I got sick of finding out I'd have to download huge patches to make a game playable, or need to update to fix a horrid glitch and invalidate my save games in the process. No thanks, I'll stick to consoles till game publishers figure out that consumers want a game that works out of the box. Yes I know that not all console games are perfect, but the extra testing they go through from the console maker as well as from the company making them help out a lot.

      I just worry that with the next generation of consoles all likely coming with hard drives and built-in Internet connectivity that publishers will move the ship then patch mentality over to consoles too. If that happens, I'm afraid video gaming as a whole will suffer in ways that'll be pitiful, and potentially non-recoverable from.

      • Re:Wow (Score:5, Informative)

        by Sivaram_Velauthapill (693619) <sivaram.velauthapillai@Nospam.gmail.com> on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @05:59AM (#7666839) Homepage Journal
        Yes I know that not all console games are perfect, but the extra testing they go through from the console maker as well as from the company making them help out a lot.

        It's not necessarily the testing that helps the console games (although it DOES matter). Perhaps the most important thing is that console games are targetted for one specific hardware system. The problem with PCs is that there are too many combinations and hence harder to test. Everything might be fine on the test system but when you change the video card, the fog effect all of a sudden is messed up (because some old cards do it differently). Or the sound effects are lagging because some sound cards implement echoing differently. And so on. On a console, it either works or it doesn't. If it works on your test system, it likely works on every other console. Not only does this mean that there are less issues to worry about, it also means that your QA resources can be spent testing game flaws (instead of hardware bugs).

        This is not to take away from your point. Yes, companies go with the patch mentality. BUT the fact that PCs are so diverse means that they will always have more bugs. Even when consoles have hard drives and internet patching capability, they will still be FAR better than the PCs (when it comes to bugs).

        Sivaram Velauthapillai
          • The problem with PCs is that there are too many combinations and hence harder to test. Everything might be fine on the test system but when you change the video card, the fog effect all of a sudden is messed up (because some old cards do it differently). Or the sound effects are lagging because some sound cards implement echoing differently. And so on.

          I won't contest this, and in fact these type of bugs don't terribly bother me. I realize that the only way all these things will show up is when the cod

    • But we have been for several years now.

      Nothing is safe. If it doesn't allow for multiplayer or MMO, it's not marketable.

      Not really much room for developing a storyline, plot, or what have you when you've got your hands full enough just trying to keep your servers from crashing under the load of a few thousand players all sitting around doing nothing but whining about how everyone else is a n00b, and whatever is left over is devoted to trying to keep on top of the cheat freaks.

      guess at least now we can c
      • Re:Not only are we (Score:3, Insightful)

        by blincoln (592401)
        Nothing is safe. If it doesn't allow for multiplayer or MMO, it's not marketable.

        I guess KOTOR, the Legacy of Kain series, Eternal Darkness, every Metroid game, Whiplash, and BloodRayne 2 don't count, eh? And those are just the ones I've actually played or am looking forward to.

        While the multiplayer/MMO market is sizeable, I think that companies who bet on it to the detriment of all single-player games are going to lose in a big way.

        There are too many types of game that don't lend themselves to anything
    • No, it's just that the gaming market has grown so much that the 'gaming masses' now encompass the majority of people, which is largely, as you put it, retarded. The gaming community of today cannot be compared with the gaming community of maybe 5 years ago, when good games were actually being made. The good games of old are no longer big sells because the people that supported them are now a minority.
      • The gaming community of today cannot be compared with the gaming community of maybe 5 years ago, when good games were actually being made.

        I don't know about that. I heard the same thing five years ago about what were the olden days then.

        There have always been a ton of games that really aren't very good, and they've always been about US$50 (adjusted for inflation) as long as I've been playing, which is about fifteen years now.

        It's always easier to remember the good parts of the past without the bad ones,
  • Having played the Icewind Dale series to death, I have to just say that this sucked. I used to hang out on the BIS message boards a lot, and I really got the feel that these guys really put their hearts into making well-crafted stories for the fans to enjoy. This is really a shame. Good luck to everyone who worked at BIS, and best of luck in the future.
  • Fallout 2 and Baldur's Gate 2 were excellent games, had great stories and sense of setting, and were largely free of the type of cheesy melodrama that seems to have overtaken console RPGs. I hope their type of deep RPG experience doesn't die with Black Isle, but I fear it will.
  • What about...? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Squeeself (729802)
    Black Isle are particularly known for work on the Fallout series, Icewind Dale, and Planescape: Torment. What about the Baldur's Gate series? Aren't they particularly known for that as well, considering it's one of the top RPGs? It's definately sad to see Black Isle go. They've made some quality products that I'm sure will be considered among the best classic games.
  • Quite a loss (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chapparal (584768) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @04:44AM (#7666691)
    The loss of BIS is a pretty big one. Although they really haven't realeased a lot of great games recently, they'll be sorely missed, especially as the creators of Planescape: Torment, the first game in a long while to actually be intriguing with the whole "Woke up with no memories" bit.

    It's held up for 4(or 5) long years as the best RPG of all time IMO. For using such an old bioware engine, it's actually held up quite well. While graphics were never its strong points, the story alone is worth the purchase. I don't mean to plug it or anything, but if you have yet to play it, and consider yourself an RPG fan, drop 10 bucks and pick it up at any store that sells PC games.
    And remember, for all Your P:T needs, The Pit: http://torment.db-forge.com/
    • Regret can change the nature of a man.

      I fully agree with you on Planescape: Torment being the greatest RPG of all time. There was a reason why Torment's storyline was so good though; the three primary writers had degrees in Philosophy, Psychology, and English respectively. You don't see that kind of talent together very often. In fact, almost every other RPG feels just like a fancy hack-and-slash game compared to Torment. The sheer depth of detail and imagination prevalent in Torment is simply staggering.
  • by DrMrLordX (559371) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @04:44AM (#7666693)
    The only three "true" Black Isle titles were Fallout, Fallout 2, and Planescape: Torment. All were great, of course, but the Baldur's Gate series and NWN were more Bioware titles really. And uh, they weren't of the same calibre either. Don't get me started on Lionheart. That sucked *)
  • Console only... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Yuioup (452151)
    Console only is the word of the day now.
    Is this the beginning of the end for PC games?

    Yuioup

  • Good night, BIS (Score:2, Insightful)

    by klin (308370)
    A sad bit of news right before I head to bed.

    I believe Planescape: Torment revolutionized the world of RPG, and not enough people noticed.

    I am pretty much a console gamer now, and I've yet to see any console RPG with the level of writing that PS:T possessed. Many games pose themselves as epics, yet feature nothing but shallow dialogue, psuedo-philosophical ramblings, and CGs aimed at horny high school kids.

    What may change the nature of a man? This question ran the risk of cliche, but it was interwoven
  • That would be swell, new games built off the old engines by people who love them. It sure would be nice for the shortsighted people at Interplay to release a 'level editor' for Fallout/2. I would so love to make my own storyline.

    Of course they won't, since that wouldn't make them any $$$. (and it probably is an ugly kludge, too.) Bastards.

    I've been looking for the mac versions of Fallout since I got my PB. Anyone know where I could find them?

    The bright side is that we can look forward to more Final F

  • by ctrl-alt-elite (679492) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @05:09AM (#7666742)
    While it pains me greatly to see the passing of the company responsible for stealing so many hours of my teenage years, it doesn't come as much of a surprise. Black Isle has been going downhill since BioWare came into the game, and their games, while always being a bit ahead of Bioware's in terms of quality, never seemed to sell as many copies.

    Planescape: Torment is a great example of this. Torment to this day remains one of the best games I have ever had the pleasure of playing, and it stands as perhaps the deepest roleplaying experience and certainly the most powerful game that I have played. According to BIS's sales figures from a couple years back, Torment had sold around 300,000 copies. While no slouch in the sales department (it certainly got them in the black), it wasn't quite up to the sales standards set by Bioware with the Baldur's Gate saga (also a great series of games, but nowhere near as powerful as Torment).

    From there, it was downhill. Project after project was cancelled (including Torn, which looked to be a sweet 3d CRPG with all the reactivity and depth of Torment but with a snazzy 3d engine and the Fallout SPECIAL system), until Black Isle was stuck with a sequel to Icewind Dale (using the aging 2d Infinity Engine of the original Baldur's Gate in the era of 3d Neverwinter Nights and Morrowind). Then there was Lionheart, which took some of the elements of the cancelled Torn and tried to turn it into a decent game. What happened was an Arcanum-esque RPG: a great concept (a historical fantasy game that infused magic in the time of the Crusades) but with poor execution and an even worse engine and interface.

    I hate to say it, but it looked like BIS was going to shut down since Interplay got bought out by Titus Interactive several years back. They just don't have the sales numbers to appease high-level marketing execs, despite their innovation and depth. The one silver lining of this predicament is the fact that other companies can now have a crack at some of the talent that has graced BIS for years. This could bode well for the phoenix-like CRPG industry if dev houses utilize this influx of great minds. An RPG fanboy can only hope...
  • I got a lot of gamer friends and they all are die hard Fallout fans. It seems a game like that just couldn't miss!

    Many, many gamers think fallout/fallout2 was the best game they ever played! How could they cancel this. Was it really that crap?
  • FUCK! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Shihar (153932) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @05:14AM (#7666751)
    God fucking damn it!!!!! FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK. Ok, it is out of my system.

    BIS was by far my favorite studio. Fallout, Fallout II and Planescape: Torment were my three favorite games of all times. Does anyone remember the end of the original Fallout? That ending was one of the few endings that left an emotional impact upon me. The ending as simply amazing. As he is walking away to that song I felt my gut twist in a knot and left me choking. Ahh hell, I admit it, I was getting watery eyed as he was walking away from the vault with his head down to that old bluesy song. No game had ever done that to me before. To this day hearing that song twists my gut into a knot.

    Don't get me wrong, I love games today, but I have had none that made really knocked my socks off. War Craft III has great game play an all, but I have never felt any emotion while playing that game other then annoyance at the bastard over battle net you managed to raise an army and level his hero to 10 in five minutes. Fallout and Torment had an emotional effect like a good book. Nothing in these past couple of years has effected me like that.

    I know I sat drooling over the prospect of Fallout III. I simply loved that entire setting. If anything, I was always supremely disappointed that BIS never ran with the title. I would loved to have seen a Fallout FPS or MMORPG.

    On that note, does anyone know who the rights to the Fallout title goes to? The studio might be dead, but I would be surprised if someone picked up the rights and a few of the original creators and intend to run with it.
    • Dude, chill. Everyone responsible for Fallout left years ago to form Troika. Pick up Arcanum and wash your mouth out with soap.
    • One of the first, no, probably THE first, RPG I'd ever played that really captured something of the pen and paper feel. By that I mean that it was actually possible to role play to an extent. It had a rich and well developed story which, by necissity, means a prescripted one (at least with teh technology of the day), but it was one that had multiple paths you could take, and ones that were quite different. It was actually possible to be a largely non-combat character and to succede in the game and have fun
  • This is unfortunate. Reminds me of when EA shut down the Wing Commander half of Origin.
  • by Sivar (316343) <charlesnburns[@]gmai l . c om> on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @06:04AM (#7666849)
    There appears to be quite a lot of Interplay bashing. While I will very much miss BIS, which made the Fallout 2, Planescape: Torment, and Fallout 1 (my first, second, and third favorite PC games of all time respectively), Interplay is doing *very* badly in the finance department. They are laying people off because they probably can't pay them if they wanted to.
    Interplay has had some terrible legal problems preventing them from releasing a next-generation 3D Baldur's Gate-type game--a game 2 years in development shelved for good because of Wizards of the Coast, or whoever owns the AD&D license this week.
    Fallout 2 was reportedly to be based on the same graphic engine, but after management got excited about the >1 million unit sales of the plotless, worthless, mindless action game, Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance, and because of a number of PC failures, their management apparently became increasingly dissilusioned disillusioned with PC games.
    Perhaps it never occurred to them that Dark Alliance sold because of Baldur's Gate's fine name (which it blemishes), and that Fallout: Tactics may have sold because of Fallout's pristinely good name (which it not only blemishes, but it drags through an ocean of shit in its disrespect for the founding masterpieces of the series).
    Interplay has been focusing on low-quality, quick-to-develop games for their less cerebral fans, and apparently the strategy hasn't worked (hint hint Ionstorm/Deus Ex 2).
    I am not happy about Interplay's woes, and some of the biggest causes were legal and not necessarily management related, but if you look at Interplay's financial statement, you would be surprised that they aren't declaring bankruptcy right now--no, that will come in mid/late 2004 when they cannot get a line of credit after defaulting on previous loans and being unable to give any clear indication of a light at the end of the tunnel.
    I hope that the Fallout licence is sold to a company that has some of the original design geniuses behind it, such as Obsidian Entertainment [obsidianent.com] or Troika Games [troikagames.com]

    Anyone who believes Interplay's management enjoys laying people off before Christmas needs to seriously consider the concept of "hearing both sides of the story."
    Never blame on malice that which you can blame on incompetance (and America's legal system)!
    • The only problem with your analysis is that it still renders further development on my undoubtably future favorite, Fallout 3, in limbo. Interplay owns all the copyrights. Reading through some of the online chatter about the process at NMA [nma-fallout.com] showed that several of the people at BIS were really fired up about it, whereas management was not. Maybe people like me, who were looking forward to that game, could setup a fund drive. I wonder how much money it would take to buy the source materials that have been put
  • nice (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gamlidek (459505)
    and just before Christmas... gotta love corporations.

    -jp
  • Wrong management. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Martigan80 (305400) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @06:57AM (#7666936) Journal
    This is what happens when you have money hungry managers and shareholders that WANT their well deserved profits. I'm afraid many good businesses in the future will suffer the same fate. It is rare to see an intellectually challenging game these days. It is a shame; I think that the software industry has turned to the same marketing tactics of the music industry. Promote a song, no matter how crappy, as much as possible and make sure the public hears it at least six times a day until they are forced to buy the CD, parade the group through every merchandise avenue, then after six months make a new album or a new artist. We are getting screwed buy money hungry publishers and share holders. What ever happened to playing a game for 6 months and still having fun? Hell I still play Zues, Mechawarrior 4, and even x-com UFO defense. They are fun games! Why do I have to buy one every freaking month? If it takes that long to finish I would rather buy five or six books at the same price as the game, at least the entertainment will last longer.
  • Oh no! (Score:3, Funny)

    by DJTequila (653039) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @08:03AM (#7667095)
    I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced
  • by Godeke (32895) * on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @11:41AM (#7668642)
    And yes, I count myself as one (going back to The Bards Tale on the C64). The problem with RPG games is the amount of effort that goes into the writing of the story, generation of massive areas to explore and scripting complex game events. That last one is a killer, because we all want non-linear gameplay, but what that really means is that the developer has to write extra content that only *some* people will ever see.

    For all that effort, the game is placed in a channel with a very small market footprint. Sports (including racing) and (first|third) person shooter/platform console games now rule the because they are easy to communicate to the market, and there is a market waiting to buy them. Think of how many parents who have purchased consoles for the kiddies, and are responsible for buying the game. Imagine them browsing the store shelves. Only the most dumbed down concept and straight forward message is going to make it through. "Hey, lets buy Timmy a football game."

    So something like Planescape Torment, which is one of the great RPGs of the modern PC era, is completely beyond most of the market. It offends parts of the market simply by context (a game played in the realm of the gods? Pagans!) and it has an appropriately ugly box cover of the Unnamed One. You can't install Torment as a "demo" in the store, because most people would see a static isomorphic view with no action, and walk on past.

    Console RPG makers learned long ago that you have to sacrifice integrity to move product. Thus console RPGs have "over the top" limit break moves, FMV of sexy anime babes and leveling treadmills that makes the D&D system look tame.

    Thoughtful storylines probably should take refuge in books. The era of the gaming geek being the majority gamer is over, and so the market follows the money. All I can hope is that a few publishers will weather the storm and be willing to sell to the niche. Of course, if you want worse, you should check the health of my other favorite type of game: the turn base strategy game. Thank goodness for game boy SP: without it, that style would be extinct.
  • reoccuring trend (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CAIMLAS (41445) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @01:49PM (#7670047) Homepage
    It seems to be a reoccuring trend in the industry that a game company that produces good, solid - but very genre specific - games will get bought out after one or two relatively good titles. Then the developers get stuck working at a faster pace on projects which less of their vision is able to go into, and the predicament snowballs.

    I've seen way too many good studios go downhill after a large, kickass release, only to disappoint with sequels because their better employees have left. Activision's Mechwarrior series is a good example of this: after Mechwarrior 2's line of games, MS bought 'em out. Now, Mechwarrior isn't even entertaining. Currently, Mech3 and Mech4 are sad mimics. While they have better graphics, their gameplay is stunted due to poor insight into how the game dynamics work, and other things of that nature. Story isn't even there, and the in-game audio is anything but satisfactory. Mech2's stuff, on the other hand, had the opposite of all that I complain about.

    Off the top of my head, two more developer studios that snowballed after a couple great runs were Westwood, Blizzard and Interplay.

    Blizzard kicked ass with Warcraft through Starcraft, and with Diablo 1 and 2 (so I hear, I'd rather not waste my time with such impersonal RPGs - the real thing is better. I hear single player was good, though.). Now, look at them. Their latest release, War3, sucked major goat scrotum. I hear it's because it wasn't developed by the same folks as the previous RTS releases.

    Westwood came out swinging fairly strong... and then did nothing. Command and Conquer was a great game, and Red Alert was pretty fun too. But their games have done nothing but improve since then - in graphic quality. And that's about it. They've got nearly the same units, and the same AI, in almost every single game. Don't even start talking about Renegade. Urg.

    Interplay created a cult following with Descent and Descent II. Descent III wasn't much of anything special - it didn't improve upon II at all, and didn't offer much in terms of real gameplay value. Sequels can only go so far without new concepts and gameplay-types interjected. A better multiplayer existence would have helped.
  • by WinnipegDragon (655456) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @02:15PM (#7670394)
    I am sure you are getting a lot of email about your recent cutting of the Black Isle team, and I doubt one more voice will make any difference, but I couldn't stay quiet. This is going to hurt your bottom line because all of the gamers out here who like in-depth 'brain required' games are now seeing Interplay as just another twitch-game console exclusive company who is simply no longer worth our time. I own all of the great Black Isle titles, every single one and all the expansions, and now they have been eliminated for no apparent reason. The PC market may not be the lucrative cash-cow that the console market is, but we have very few developers left that demand a purchase of their games on name alone. Black Isle was one, Bioware is another, and you have alienated yourself from this market on both counts. Interplay no longer holds anything of interest for me and many others like me. When your company folds, we will remember these decisions you have made and say 'no wonder'. For a company with your legacy, this is hardly the way I imagined I would feel five or ten years ago. It was fun while it lasted.
  • by yar (170650) * on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @03:38PM (#7671438)
    http://pub17.ezboard.com/fseankreynoldsboardsfrm1. showMessage?topicID=1458.topic

    From Sean K. Reynolds (Lead Designer, Fallout3) board:
    "Hmmm, this person's info isn't totally accurate. Yes, there were some layoffs. I was not one of them, nor are several other people in the list. They may be drawing this from the group of people who went to lunch together yesterday, which included those who have been laid off and those who haven't.

    Anyway, nothing new to say. I don't know why the company is doing this or what their plans are. I'm hoping to find out today.

    Thanks for your concern, though. From what I can tell, most of those who were laid have already found some leads in other companies."

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