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Electronic Arts Shuts Down Origin Systems? 343

Posted by simoniker
from the passing-to-the-other-side dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Waterthread.org has picked up the following on the studio that brought us the popular Ultima and Wing Commander series: 'Game company Electronic Arts is expected to tell its Austin employees this week that the company will be shutting down Origin Systems, its Austin operations, according to sources. Employees will be offered an opportunity to relocate to California or accept a severance package. Company officials could not be reached for comment. Austin is the #3 location in the U.S. for game development with more than 50 companies making major contributions to the game industry, including game development, publishing, tools and middleware and chips and hardware." The Wing Commander CIC has also posted a epitaph for Origin."
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Electronic Arts Shuts Down Origin Systems?

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  • Who cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @01:47AM (#8370823)
    OSI is just a name these days anyway. Very few of the people who currently work there are the ones who were responsiblef or all the great Ultima games.

    Although it still sucks that some people will be losing there job. The PC gaming biz is grim these days.
  • by hoggoth (414195) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @01:50AM (#8370838) Journal
    > Austin is the #3 location in the U.S. for game development

    Where is the #1 and #2 location for game development?

  • by cprincipe (100684) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @01:51AM (#8370851) Homepage
    Maybe I don't know much about the industry, but wouldn't it make more sense to move stuff *to* Austin where the cost of living, including office rent and utilities, is way cheaper than California?
  • by Sprite Remix (725063) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @01:53AM (#8370867)
    Thanks EA for making Origin the biggest mistake in its lifetime... Causing the game to make it virtually unplayable when it was obviously "NOT DONE". Did I mentiom "THANKS!"?
  • by LordKazan (558383) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @01:54AM (#8370875) Homepage Journal
    When EA bought up Origin I groaned because I knew it was the death of a good company, just like with THQ bought up Volition (not that Interplay was much better in that case).

    After EA bought up Origion Wing Commander went into it's declining stages ending up with the catasrophe that was Privateer 2 on Erin's part and the nuclear holocaust that was the movie (On Chris' part). Thus died one of the finest and most groundbreaking gaming series in history.

    I never paid much attention to Ultima but I knew it was a matter of time till EA did the same thing to it, I just read an article about after the success of EverQuest EA starting forcing Origin to make Ultima more Everquest-ish and less Ultima-like and thus removing and in forcing those changes it involved making Ultima un-Ultima-like thereby alienating Ultimas fans.

    WAY TO GO ELECTRONIC ARTS - You have sucessfully killed two of the longest run and best gaming series there ever were. May you continue to spoon feed people things like Madden ever year with miminal changes and another $50 price tag.

    ---------------------

    To the Origin Guys: Look to the community, we are with you, many would help you start anew to become what you once were. Weh ave confident in you guys.
  • by Slack3r78 (596506) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @01:56AM (#8370892) Homepage
    Westwood. It wouldn't really surprise me to see Maxis eventually suffer the same fate, either.
  • by Teahouse (267087) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @01:58AM (#8370908)
    Ogre, Space Rogue, Wing Commander, Ultima Online and so many others. Origin was one of the originals. I remember playing Ogre on my 386. Every few years these guys seemed to put out another good game. I remember playing Space Rogue, it was one of the first really good 3d space simulations. The storyline sucked, but you could fly your ship by inertia or on a "fighter tracking' style. Mastering inertia thrusters was awesome, and something I will never forget.

    Killing Origin is just another sad episode in the tale of "EA Lames". We'll see more game console stupidity with John Madden screaming about football, but truly original game concepts are dying, as are the companies who made them.

    I will lift a Guiness to my youth, and the hours of fun I had with Origin tonight.

  • Re:OK. And... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Deraj DeZine (726641) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @02:01AM (#8370922)
    You might want to keep in mind that their employees are not objects that can just be traded around, forced into retirement, and fired. They're people. I'm not saying this doesn't happen, I'm just saying that the few guys in upper management have a moral responsibility to attempt to not do such things to other people.

    Most people don't feel too bad about killing chickens for meat since chickens don't appear to be persons. Unfortunately, many also see nothing wrong with ignoring the effects of relocations and whatnot on the people at the company.
  • Re:OK. And... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by corbettw (214229) <corbettwNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @02:10AM (#8370972) Journal
    Have you considered that the upper management have determined that, if they don't move and consolidate, they won't be able to afford to keep the Austin office open, at all? Maybe it's better that some employees move than they all lose their jobs.

    I'm not saying this is definitely the case, but while corporate management may be heartless, it usually isn't malicious. You make it sound like they're moving people just to have something to do.
  • Expected... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by syrion (744778) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @02:13AM (#8370991)
    Origin has been a shell of itself since 1992. Ultima VIII was rushed by EA, Ultima IX was at least negatively influenced by them, and Ultima Online honestly bears little resemblance to the cardinal Ultimas. Sad, yes, but not really a disaster. Maybe Garriott's new company will accomplish something eventually :)
  • by Stone Rhino (532581) <mparke@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @02:13AM (#8370992) Homepage Journal
    I'm sure I'm ridiculously redundant, but we might as welll put this all in one place.

    EA has bought its way to the top. Bullfrog, Westwood, Maxis, Origin have all fallen before the giant. Eliminating whole divisions--even highly successful ones--is nothing new. Just ask the people [garagegames.com] from Dynamix who got chopped shortly after Tribes 2 became a hit.

    Infogrames, er, Atari, is no better. They went a from a small publishing house to one of the titans of the games industry by buying everything they could. Adopting the name "Atari," plastering it over their corporate monolith as a relatively cheap facade (the company was only a few million dollars) is, to me, the most cynical thing I've seen from a gaming company in a long time. Yet, there is no media outrage, not even a notice that they're a completely different company that adopted the same name.

    Creativity is dead. There are no more juicy steaks of games, no more Command and Conquers or Homeworlds, the games that bring gaming into a whole new dimension, at least from the major houses. Instead, we get reheated leftovers or ground chuck, tossed on a bun and served up McDonalds style. Yet another game in the same series, yet another Sims expansion back--Is this the future of gaming that you want? This is the future of gaming as in the hands of EA and "Atari." EA did not produce a new, original game in 2003 [slashdot.org]--only rehashes and expansions.

    Support an independent developer with fresh ideas, or support an open-source game. Look to the endless parade of closed studios and stifled creativity, sequels following the same pattern, only with few shiny new features. Is this the way you want your games? Or do you want something fresh and new?

  • About you (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DAldredge (2353) * <SlashdotEmail@GMail.Com> on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @02:27AM (#8371047) Journal
    Why mod it down? Because you didn't agree with it? That isn't the purpose of the moderation system and it is because of people like you that the system doesn't work as well as it should.

    You should apply for a moderator position at freerepublic.com and/or democraticundeground.com as you moderation system fits in a lot better at those two sites.
  • by mayns (524760) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @02:37AM (#8371093)
    Other than watching over UO and developing UO2/X what has origin done lately? I used to buy every one of their releases (as long as my system could handle it) but that was 7-10 years ago. I remember games like strike commander really pushing people's systems. And wasn't Origin the first company to go Cd-rom only for their titles? I remember that being a big deal. As far as i was concerned, Origin was the gold standard for dev houses in their era, along with Bullfrog. But I cannot think of one 3D-accelerated Origin title off of the top of my head (UO doesn't count, it started out 2d). Why are we mourning now for a dev house that hasn't put out a major release since I got a processor with three digits of mHz?
  • Origin died when Garriot was forced out. That was pretty much the end of it IMO. Their Ultima Online was kept going but nothing new really came out of EA.

    Branding under one name, such as EA, is very attractive to corporations. Having "subsidiaries" with their own creative control is a big no-no for corporations. EA also pretty much ran Westwood Studios (famous for Dune, and C&C) down to the ground as well.

    Origin may have died...but Ultima and Wing Commander will live on in our memories :)

    Sivaram Velauthapillai
  • by the_REAL_sam (670858) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @03:15AM (#8371247) Journal
    I honestly can't say i've been all that impressed with the games EA has released. The worst was dungeon keeper.

    Maybe they're making their living on the kind of games I've generally considered "beneath me" - sports, car racing games and the like. But that leaves me wondering why they'd buy out a company that makes games in a totally seperate genre. What genre? Hardcore geek - Intelligent - True cyberpunk - Worth the money because the game is absorbing. Examples that I've played: System Shock 1 and 2, Asheron's Call, anything by blizzard, Deus Ex.

    Did anyone ever play system shock 1? It was made by looking glass studios back in the early 80's. EA bought them. I just replayed that game a few months back. (took weeks of hacking just to get it to run on a modern machine) It's 20 years old, made on low budget, and it's STILL better than anything I ever played from EA.

    It sounds to me like EA needs to parse out its game planning into seperate departments, because there's alot of talent that they've wasted in the process of assimilation. If they're aquiring good geek companies and making crappy geek games, they're losing something major.

    My first guess is that they've got a non-geek calling the shots in what should be their insular geek games department. And that ain't good, because the mindset that makes Indy500 entertaining is not sufficient to keep a true geek satisfied.

    If I don't like it, I don't play it. So in a way it's not a problem for me, but it saddens me that EA has taken so many good programmers off of interesting game projects, and cubbyholed them into EA style games.. all the while forgetting that it wasn't just programming that made the parent companies good. It was vision.

    I can't help but hope that somebody at EA reads this, and somehow fixes the problem. It would be nice to be able to say: "I remember back when EA games weren't any good. It took them a while, but they finally got their act together."

  • by ilduce (141065) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @03:31AM (#8371286) Journal
    The end of origin/ea's austin location really began after Chris Roberts was booted years ago. That was after Wing commander 4 came out, a year late and something like 10mil over budget (I think it costs 12mil total in the days when games rarely exceeded 1mil). They've been scaling back by attrition since then, and combined with the fact that EA long ago folded all of its disparate brands into the EA umbrella... This has been a long time coming.
  • by DrMrLordX (559371) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @04:22AM (#8371446)
    Richard Garriot and Raph Koster were not their main talents. OSI's problem was that many of their main talents were their programmers, testers, and artists that they would frequently run off in various silly ways. I got to know a few of them on a strictly casual basis, and while I have always been "on the outside", I heard enough to remind myself of why I was glad to not be working at OSI.

    In hindsight, though, OSI has been in decline since the U8 days. EA may have preserved OSI's existance by buying them out, but their managerial influence certainly did not seem to help the company. Everything else that went wrong in the company is, to me, largely irellevant compared to, or caused directly/indirectly by, the EA buyout.

    Sadly, OSI's future probably rested on the success of Ultima IX. UO was good for them financially(or so I am told), but it obviously was not enough to make the dev house survive independant of the consolidated EA house. I still remember seeing Myst-like screenshots of the original U9 concept years ago(1995) before any serious work on UO had begun. I also remembered reading that the old U9 project was suspended to put work into developing UO, and that when focus returned to U9, the entire old project was tossed, forcing them to start anew(and then start over again and again as design concepts changes. Avatar Raider anyone?).

    It would seem to me that, had they never made UO in the first place, or had they finished Ultima 9 first, the house might still be alive today. Maybe.
  • Re:Ah well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bob Davis, Retired (717968) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @04:30AM (#8371468)
    To me, the end of Origin was Ultima 9. The game was released in a non-running state, and after some halfhearted patching, was playable but not even close to finished. When the word from above was that there would be no more patches, I knew that Origin was dead. It may have taken a few years for the corpse to stop twitching, but now we can dig a grave, pitch a few fistfuls of dirt on top of Lord British, and put Sosaria to rest.

    Ultima 7 & SI are still two of the greatest and most fun games ever invented in my book, though. Too bad U8 was downhill and U9 wasn't even done. I hope Mr. Garriot can afford to keep his house with the secret room and the 5000 watt stereo - it would be a shame for him to have to get creative and make a good game again.
  • by ducomputergeek (595742) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:12AM (#8371755)
    I can't say I was into Ultima, but they did produce my favorite game of all time: Privateer. I can remember spending a few hours to get the EMM386 file correct in order to play the game. Honestly, it didn't work well until I bought the CD version at Sam's for $10 with both the speach and add-on campaign. Privateer was the first game I ever saw where there was a story line, but you could choose when to prosue it or weave in and out. I used to play it for hours in Jr. High and until Tie Fighter was released.

    Privateer 2 was something else: it didn't even bear the wing commander name nor Universe. Privateer 2 was the last DOS game I ever bought and never did complete it...I lost interest and had other things going on in my High School years.

    But, hey, Sierra killed of my other favorite developer from back in the day, Dynmix or something like that...the folks that made the Aces series of flight sims. It was the gold standard until Combat Sim by microsoft came out...

    I don't buy games anymore for computers. For starters, I use Macintosh now, second off, just don't have the time. Although its a shame to see such an old vetern fade away...

  • by Moraelin (679338) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @07:43AM (#8371995) Journal
    Either that, or they could have actually taken UO seriously. They pretty much owned the MMO market and genre, and still ended up number 3. How sad is that?

    UO was released with just as many bugs as U9, and _stayed_ buggy. In fact, around 2002 when I last tried it, they were still blundering through patches which broke 2 things for each 1 bug fixed. I've seen patches released and rolled back within 4 hours... during which, they wrecked pure havoc upon those unlucky to download them. Patches which seemed to never have been tested at all.

    UO also was released in a sad unfinished state, which since then has become the de-facto standard release for MMO games.

    For starters, half the skills were either totally useless, or useless for anyone who wasn't playing a grief player. E.g., tinkering skill could only create trapped chests. Except no NPC ever opened a chest. So in effect the only use was to kill newbies.

    The gameplay and game design itself was a poorly thought out catastrophe. Most of the issues were already known and tested for decades on MUDs, but UO just had to repeat every single mistake in the book.

    E.g., it was dead predictable that someone will deadlock their original economy. The problem of people actually working hard to take non-renewable resources out of the game -- e.g., by stashing them in vaults or in the inventory of 100 non-played avatars -- was known on MUDs for ages. And blimey, who would have guessed? The exact same issue deadlocked UO's economy.

    And how about listening to the customers? It took _years_ of screaming in anguish for a non-PK option, which Origin mostly just ignored. UO lost players hand-over-fist over that issue. Meanwhile Sony and Microsoft basically made "we're the place where you won't get repeadedly PK'ed like on UO" their _main_ claim to glory.

    It was already known on MUDs that purely player-enforced justice does not work. Ever. RL justice works only because you do care about what happens to your RL self. But on virtual world you can _count_ on having a hefty share of players who just don't care about their virtual avatars. There is _nothing_ you can do in-character to keep them inline, because they aren't in-character to start with.

    Etc.

    Basically I'm saying that UO and U9 were both equally half-arsed efforts. Which one came first and which was delayed... does it even make that much of a difference? I believe that even if they came out the other way around, they'd still have been half-arsed. And still, basically, just a sympthom of the fact that something was already rotten at Origin.
  • Re:OK. And... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by master_p (608214) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @07:49AM (#8372013)

    they won't be able to afford to keep the Austin office open, at all?

    Then, they should drop their 500% profits and profit expectations to something lower!!! I am sick of this: the "upper" management to decide the fate of hundrends of people!!! they don't have a clue what is it to live in an unstable environment where you don't know if the next paycheck will arrive and when. They live a luxurius life, with big houses and cars, and they don't give a fscking damn about their employers.

    And I am not talking specifically about OSI (they may be good, after all). Take a look around and you will see. US corporation profits have been raised to 300% since the 80s, yet unmployment and uncertainty is at an all-time high.

  • by justforaday (560408) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @09:21AM (#8372409)
    Well, when you put it like that it sounds like you could be describing any other form of entertainment - be it music, movies, or teevee [as well as some others I'm sure]. Bland media empires being built out of the ashes and ruiins of once great smaller/independent developers. Yup, it all works the same. Remember, support the independents as much as you can in whatever way you can! They are the ones who truly shape and drive the landscape.
  • Story of a Game (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stuffduff (681819) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:07AM (#8373348) Journal
    In 1984 I took my son to see The Last Starfighter [imdb.com]. A story about a boy who has a strange relationship with a computer game. In the movie, the game was a standard upright video game, like every other arcade game; except for it's graphics which were drawn by a Cray XMP-1 [man.ac.uk] which was not actually released until the next year; and software by Gary Demos Digital Productions [osu.edu] (check out that first image!) The graphics were beautiful, to say the least. And I longed to play that game.

    In 1990 I was finally able to fulfill that longing in the rec room of the Tiger's Claw, where there was, you guessed it, a standup video arcade simulation. Before I ever flew a mission I got scores in the millions fighting wave after wave of Dralthi. From then until the fireworks at the end, I was totally absorbed in the world that was Wing Commander. For the next several years, every time an expansion came out I was there. Malcom McDowell, Mark Hammell, John Rheys-Daves and even Ginger Lynn Allen!

    In 1996 Chris Roberts, the man behind the Eing Commander Universe left for two projects. One is Digital Anvil [gamespot.com] the other was an extension of the movie sequences.

    When Wing Commander [imdb.com] hit the big screen in 1999 Chris finally made it to the big screen himself as the pilot of the salvage ship that rescues 1st Lt Blair.

    Chris went on to Freelancer [gamespot.com] and other games, and we've moved on as well. But Chris and the whole team at Origin will always be remembered as the ones who first brought true 3D space combat to a computer near us!

  • by Art Tatum (6890) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @07:51PM (#8379918)
    Here's your chance: get everybody you know involved in finishing Parsec [sourceforge.net]. The thing is most of the way there now. As I understand it, the networking code is the only thing in an unfinished state.

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