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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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  • Damn... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @12:44AM (#8370807)
    Looks like Pirt Snikwah [slashdot.org] won after all.

    RIP to the best of the old-school studios, from a former OSI employee and servant of the Crown.

    Everybody else just made crappy games. We created worlds.

    • by Bluetrust25 (647829) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @04:43AM (#8371688)

      Just last week I bought Dungeon Siege, the first computer game I've bought in a year, just so I could play the fan-based remake of Ultima V featured on slashdot the other day [slashdot.org]. It was a neat concept to remake an old (but loved) game.

      There's also a user created Wing Commander mod for Vega Strike [sourceforge.net].

      I really dig the user-created remakes. They're just so crappy in comparison to the originals.

      -----------
      Since you're here, you should sign up for a banner / pop-up free website on AloofHosting.com [aloofhosting.com]. 50MB disk space, 500MB transfer, FTP, and a pissed off monkey comes with each free account.

      * Monkey may not be available in your state. *
    • Re:Damn it's true... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Jonah Hex (651948) <hexdotms AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @09:53AM (#8373188) Homepage Journal
      Some words from the UO Yahoo Group, slightly editted to cut out the crap /. didn't like... my thoughts follow...

      Date: Mon, 23 Feb 2004 12:06:18 -0800
      From: "Joshua Rowan" <joshua@stratics.com>
      Subject: Rumors of Origin Systems Shutting Down

      ---
      Rumors of Origin Systems Shutting Down
      ---
      Posted Monday, February 23, 2004, 12:50 PM EST by Joshua Rowan:

      Hail UO and UXO Fans,

      We are receiving information this morning indicating that something very serious may be hitting the news in the next few days (maybe as soon as today). So far, it is all unsubstantiated rumors, but with enough evidence behind them that we believe the information to be very close to the truth. For that reason, I am posting this to our news so that everyone can prepare for it in case it does come to pass.....

      With that said, the rumor is that Electronic Arts Corporate may be shutting down Origin Systems Inc (OSI, also known as EA Texas) and moving both the Ultima Online and the Ultima X: Odyssey projects to the California location. The hope is that as many current staffers (including dev teams) as possible will be relocated as well, but at this point we have no details on that. To say the least, our thoughts and hearts go out to the people that may be affected by this.

      So far, there has been no official comment from anyone at Electronic
      Arts or Origin Systems about this, but the second we do get it we will
      share it with all of you.

      Joshua Rowan
      UO Stratics Managing Editor
      http://uo.stratics.com

      Date: Mon, 23 Feb 2004 14:51:01 -0800
      From: "Joshua Rowan" <joshua@stratics.com>
      Subject: More Details about Latest CA Rumors

      More Details about Latest CA Rumors
      ---
      Posted Monday, February 23, 2004, 3:40 PM EST by Joshua Rowan:

      A bit more news to share with all of you about the latest rumors of UO
      and UXO being relocated to California and the Origin Systems Development Studio being shut down as a result.

      First, ( http://waterthread.org/forum/index.php?showtopic=1 774 )
      Waterthread.org has posted some details based on a ( http://www.shermanventures.com/austinxl.html ) AustinXL News Mailing
      List that they belong to. As they explain, the following was posted to
      the newsletter today:

      QUOTE
      Electronic Art's Austin Unit Origin Systems to Shut Down

      Game company Electronic Art's is expected to tell it's 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.

      In a related story about another Electronic Arts studio, Maxis
      (developers of The Sims line of games), Gamespot reported the following just last week, indicating that a consolidation of EA-owned studios may be becoming a trend. Here is what (
      http://www.gamespot.com/all/news/news_6089213.h tml ) Gamespot's Article states: EA brings the Sims developers to its corporate headquarters.

      Today, sources at Electronic Arts confirmed what has been rumored for
      the past week: EA is folding Maxis into its central corporate offices.
      Currently, Maxis operates out of a now-cramped building in Walnut Creek, California. Their new digs will be in EA's Redwood Shores headquarters, some 30 miles to the east.

      "Maxis was running out of space at Walnut Creek," an EA spokesperson
      told GameSpot this morning. The current management team at Maxis, Luc
      Barthelet, Lucy Bradshaw, and Sinjin Bain, will relocate to Redwood
      Shores, as will most of Maxis' 300 staffers.

  • by scrain (43626) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @12:46AM (#8370817)
    Even though they lost their main talents, in 'Lord British' off to NCSoft's Lineage and Raph Koster off to wreck Star Wars Galaxies, I still had hopes for them to do something good. Looks like that's over now.
    • by grumpygrodyguy (603716) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @12:51AM (#8370854)
      Some Origin oldies but goodies. [the-underdogs.org]
    • by DrMrLordX (559371) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @03:22AM (#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.
      • by Moraelin (679338) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:43AM (#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.
  • This will result in the death of Ultima Online.

    Well, it did have a long run.
  • Oh my (Score:5, Funny)

    by pHatidic (163975) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @12:47AM (#8370822)
    Wow this has got to be true. After all, if you can't trust vague and unsubstantiated rumors what can you trust?!
  • Who cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @12:47AM (#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 nil5 (538942) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @12:47AM (#8370824) Homepage
    Mumbai Computer Gaming Concern.
  • Ah well... (Score:4, Informative)

    by demonbug (309515) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @12:48AM (#8370830) Journal
    Origin used to kick ass. Then EA bought them. They pretty much sucked after that (surprise, surprise). Probably better this than EA releasing crappy games under the Origin name.

    I have to say though, Origin had about the best tagline of any gaming company...

    Origin - We Create Worlds.

    Not anymore, I guess.
    • Re:Ah well... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Bob Davis, Retired (717968) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @03:30AM (#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.
    • TKO recently bought up Asylumsoft, which already was comprised mostly of people who'd worked for Origin on the later-half of the good Ultima games (6 through 8, which wasn't all that great, but a lot better than 9), Wing Commander, and Crusader.

      In addition to that, they've already scavenged a few Origin people before this happened, as well as picking up a couple Looking Glass developers. There's a rumor that they have a Black Isle guy, but he's been silent thus far, if he exists.

      The whole plan is working
  • by hoggoth (414195) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @12:50AM (#8370838) Journal
    > Austin is the #3 location in the U.S. for game development

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

    • Depends on how it's being counted --
      What's the range of a "location"? (city? county? miles?)
      What's being rated? (number of studios? dollars revenue?)

      But, if I were to hazard a guess --
      #1 San Fransisco bay area
      #2 Los Angeles / San Diego area

    • by barc0001 (173002) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @03:53AM (#8371544)
      I wouldn't be surprised if Vancouver's in there, or at least in the top 5.
      About 4 blocks from my house is the huge EA Canadian headquarters (950 employees) where they do all the sports games, and then downtown we have Radical Entertainment, Relic, Threewave, Rockstar Vancouver, Barking Dog, etc...

  • What other studios has EA gutted?
    • Re:Origin, Bullfrog (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      They've also gutted:

      * Westwood Studios (Command & Conquer).
      * Maxis (SimCity).
      • What'd they do to Maxis? SimCity 4 is the best in the series so far in my opinion. The Sims is clearly something Will Wright has wanted to do for a long time so you can't blame EA for that :P

        I guess it depends on what you mean by "gutted."
    • by Slack3r78 (596506)
      Westwood. It wouldn't really surprise me to see Maxis eventually suffer the same fate, either.
    • Re:Origin, Bullfrog (Score:3, Informative)

      by Lux (49200)

      Some other people have posted the one-word version of this, but there's more to it...

      Maxis got the same treatment. EA is closing down operations in Walnut Creek, and moving them to some place on the S.F. Peninsula.

      Walnut Creek is about two hours away from there in morning traffic, AFAIK. Sucks to be at Origin more, but it sucks to be at Maxis too.

      But the main post made it sound worse than I think it actually is. It's not like Origin is going away just yet. Who knows? They could pull through relocati
  • Not a surprise. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Visceral Monkey (583103) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @12:50AM (#8370846)
    Having been to Origin Austin and seen their digs, there is no way a company like that could even justify the real estate costs they run up. It's crazy.
    • Re:Not a surprise. (Score:5, Informative)

      by gotr00t (563828) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @01:01AM (#8370923) Journal
      However, do note that real estate like "that" is actually pretty common in Austin. All along highway 360, its pretty senic, and it has become almost a necessity for any self respecting tech company to locate a site somewhere in the Hill Country.

      I, too, have been to Origin's site, and yes, it is very impressive indeed.

    • Re:Not a surprise. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Donut (128871) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @01:07AM (#8370959)
      They own that building outright. Moved there in 1995. Bought it from Netware. Brent Thale suggested it to Robert Garriot as a joke, when we were out-growing the building up north.

    • Re:Not a surprise. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ruiner5000 (241452)
      They were not ION Storm Dallas, they actually had some good games to afford a nice place, and I'm sure that would buy an apartment in San Fran maybe. I remember back in the day going over there trying to get a game testing job during college. It was a hard gig to get. Yeah, I remember shortly after EA bought them I was at Hula Hut on Lake Austin at the bar, and some guy with an EA shirt was there. It was after conversation that I figured Origin was screwed, and well, they are. It is a sad. No more Ric
    • Yeah, they should have snagged 105 E 5th when they had the chance!
  • by cprincipe (100684) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @12:51AM (#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 Mike Hawk (687615) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @01:19AM (#8371012) Journal
      #1 Lets see...Austin, TX or LA, CA? Score one for Cali.

      #2 Activision [activision.com], THQ [corporate-ir.net], Vivendi [vugames.com], and a host of studios both publisher owned and independent are located there.

      LA is the place to be in you are a video game maker who likes to buy all the talent, suck it dry as fast as possible and then fire that talent and start again. Whoa, did I just hear someone describe EA?
      • by Anonymous Coward
        #1 Lets see...Austin, TX or LA, CA? Score one for Cali.

        Actually, Austin [forbes.com] is good [expansionmanagement.com] for business [facilitycity.com].

        Also, ordinary people can afford housing there, the quality of life is very good, and it's probably not going to be devastated by an earthquake anytime soon.
      • by TwistedKestrel (550054) <twistedkestrel@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @02:11AM (#8371230) Journal
        Whoa, did I just hear someone describe EA?

        That's EA to a freakin' T, and it practically brings tears to my eyes the projects and franchises they've run into the ground. Okay, namely it's just Ultima Online 2 that will never see the light of day, and it boils my blood that EA dropped the ball on that one! They're riding UO 1 like tobacco companies ride cigarette sales, and ... holy hell I hate them for that one. BUURRNNN!!!
  • by LordKazan (558383) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @12:54AM (#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 TC (WC) (459050) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @01:47AM (#8371141) Journal
      Yeah... Because Wing Commander was sustainable with the horrible finances OSI had! Without EA there never would have been a WC3 or 4, as there's no way Origin could have funded them.

      I hope you'll also realize that the Wing Commander movie really had nothing to do with EA. When Chris Roberts left the company after Wing Commander 4 he negotiated for the movie rights to Wing Commander for a certain number of years. After that, there wasn't any EA involvement to speak of.

    • EA also killed Westwood Studios who did Command & Conquer games. :(
    • by BRSQUIRRL (69271) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @09:26AM (#8372941)
      I'm not sure that we can pin the decline of "Wing Commander" on EA alone...I think that the gaming public's taste for that particular genre (space combat/simulation) has been declining in general. The X-Wing/TIE Fighter series from LucasArts is another example. Those sorts of games just aren't trendy right now (which is a shame...X-Wing is probably my favorite PC game ever, and I would love to see what today's graphics cards could do with a space combat simulator like that now).
  • by DeadPrez (129998) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @12:55AM (#8370884) Homepage
    Before EA gutted the UO team and started taking it on a rambling development path towards an Everquest clone, Ultima Online was quite an amazingly complex and intriguing game. Despite contemporary wisdom 2d games have plenty of potential if not more than 3d games. UO of 1999-2000 is considered the greatest MMORPG ever for just about any play style besides ph@t l3wt collectors who hate risking said phat loot and even then it did ok.

    There are a whole lot of UO emulated player run shards alive and kicking today. Many are attempting to recreate that era for UO which changed, like I said when EA gutted the OSI team. I have found www.preuor.com [preuor.com] the best shard for that purpose. They have meticulously made efforts to recreate the small things that made UO great. Try it, you'll be surprised how fun a 2d game mmorpg can actually be and best of all its free (no monthly fee or game purchase required).

    www.preuor.com [preuor.com]
  • I saw a really short sighted post saying that EA had 'killed' another developer. The 'developer' is an association of people. The people who made the great games come and go from the 'developer.'
  • by Teahouse (267087) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @12:58AM (#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.

  • by Lane.exe (672783) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @01:01AM (#8370925) Homepage
    I live here and our economy is in the pits -- no one can find jobs. This is just another example of a company abandoning one of the most creative cities on the planet. It's really a shame -- Austin has a lot of talented people coming out of some of the best colleges in the region (Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, and especially UT here in Austin) in graphics, art, music and computer science. This isn't a smart move.

  • pushing jobs/internships at origin's home here in austin (and EA ones elsewhere). Hell, I still have the info sheet on it and was going to send over my resume soon. If this is true, it must come as quite a shock.
  • It is true (Score:5, Informative)

    by Donut (128871) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @01:05AM (#8370947)
    I have a friend that works there. It is true. Here are the details that I know about:

    1. They are not done with UOX. It is in Beta. Origin Beta or real Beta, who knows. They think they can move development to california for the Earth and Beyond people to finish?!?!?!

    2. There were 230 people working there.

    3. The studio management may have known, but I know they were still hiring and relocating people to Austin several weeks ago.

    4. This was the worst kept secret in Austin. Everyone knew last week. Except the employees.

    5. UO support moving to california.

    6. Origin owned that building.

    I have been gone from there for almost 6 years, but I spent 10 there. It is a little sad, but not unexpected. EA tried to shut it down back in '99, but pulled back from the brink for some reason. Feel sorry for their new employees, especially the new GM.

    -Donut, Origin Alumni 1990-1999
    Ultima VI, Ultima VII, Strike Commander, Serpent Isle, Pacific Strike, Longbow, Longbow2, A-10.
    • Re:It is true (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Dalcius (587481)
      Donut --

      As a number of posts above have covered, a community [wcnews.com] still exists around a game that's been dead for roughly 6 years (WC: SO was released in '98).

      I'm willing to bet that I'm not the only guy who wants Privateer on Linux or a modern OS, or even a multiplayer version.

      What are your thoughts on releasing the source to the community for really old timers like Privateer, Armada, etc.? I think there's a lot of potential for a community project.
  • Expected... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by syrion (744778)
    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@nOSPam.gmail.com> on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @01:13AM (#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?

    • What about Freedom Fighters? Ty the Tasmanian Tiger?
    • by Dalcius (587481)
      I guess this is an appropriate reply...

      I think I've seen more 'indie' games in the last few years then ever before. At least 'indie' to me, a lot of publishers these days I haven't heard of before.

      To give an example that might interest folks in this thread (Wing Commander fans), I just bought a game I could call 'innovative' called "X2-The Threat", created by Egosoft and published by Enlight (or maybe I have that backwards). I've never heard of either.

      Anyway, in concept take Privateer, give it Freelanc
      • by oolon (43347)
        Well before X2 there was Xbtf (X Beyond the Fronteer) that was the first game where you got to own factories as well as the trading ship you upgrade and fly arround in. Xt (X tension) with the 2.1 patch, you could own your own captal but it was only a transporter type with no guns, before that it was Xbft with ship swapping. X2 however you can own and fly the compete navy. You can also write your own scripts for controlling them! Egosoft have a history of patching far beyond their release date. You get that
    • "Creativity is dead" (Score:4, Interesting)

      by MMaestro (585010) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @09:12AM (#8372821)
      I agree, creativity is dead. Some people may think "oh well X game got Y features in its latest game." IMO thats not creativity, thats evolution. In another 5-10 years, unless we see some serious change, every game on the market not made by independent developers will be a rehash or a remake of another game.

      Even things regarding a game's difficulty is being gutted. Whens the last time anyone here played the singleplayer mode of any game and actually had trouble with it?

      • I agree, creativity is dead. Some people may think "oh well X game got Y features in its latest game." IMO thats not creativity, thats evolution. In another 5-10 years, unless we see some serious change, every game on the market not made by independent developers will be a rehash or a remake of another game.

        That's silly. In the last several years we've got numerous creative games from major companies, and no reason to believe this will change. Animal Crossing, Dance Dance Revolution, Shenmue, Space Cha
  • Ahh Ultima (Score:5, Funny)

    by Veramocor (262800) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @01:26AM (#8371038)
    Ahh Ultima, the source of my online screen name Veramocor. I will miss thee. +1 karma to anyone who can tell me what the word Veramocor does in U4 and what it does in U5. (nota bene: I have no power to actually give out karma)

    Though there are some great ultima projects being worked on such as the lazarus project [u5lazarus.com]

    • Re:Ahh Ultima (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @01:40AM (#8371108)
      If I recall correctly,

      U4: word of passage that allows entry into the abyss
      U5: allows entry into dungeon Doom in the center of the underworld
    • I can still remember some of the moongate codes in Ultima III... yikes, how many years ago was that?

      Just a general question: did anyone else pillage the city of Yew over and over to build up money and experience? (Note: it was the only city that didn't have guards, and the druids were easy pickings). Getting killed by orcs was humiliating, and I had to level up *somehow*

      Origin will be missed... those games are unqualified classics.

  • "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."

    And the first two?
    (Yes, I know Silicon Valley, and ?)
  • Origin's games (Score:5, Informative)

    by dtio (134278) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @01:35AM (#8371081)
    Basically they have been cashing the Ultima and Wing Commander cows for years, complete list from IGN:

    publisher

    3DO, CyberMage, Super Wing Commander

    Amiga
    Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness,Ultima II: Revenge of the Enchantress,Ultima III: Exodus,Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar,Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny,Ultima VI: The False Prophet,Wing Commander

    Apple IIe/c/c+
    Ogre,Omega,Ultima,Ultima III: Exodus,Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar,Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny

    Atari 400/800/XL/XE
    Autoduel,Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness,Ultima III: Exodus,Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar

    Atari ST
    Ultima III: Exodus,Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar,Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny,Ultima VI: The False Prophet

    Commodore 64
    Ultima III: Exodus,Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar,Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny,Ultima VI: The False Prophet,Ultima: The First Age of Darkness

    MSX
    Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness (Pony Canyon),Ultima III: Exodus,Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar

    Macintosh
    Super Wing Commander,Ultima III: Exodus,Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger

    PC
    Abuse,CyberMage: Darklight Awakening,Privateer 2: The Darkening,Shadowcaster,Ulitma IX: Ascension,Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness,Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness (Pony Canyon),Ultima II: Revenge of the Enchantress,Ultima III: Exodus,Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar,Ultima IX: Ascension,Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds,Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss,Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny,Ultima VI: The False Prophet,Ultima VII Part II: Serpent Isle,Ultima VII: The Black Gate,Ultima VII: The Forge of Virtue,Ultima VIII: Pagan,Ultima Worlds of Adventure 2: Martian Dreams,Wing Commander,Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi,Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger,Wing Commander: Privateer,Worlds of Ultima: Martian Dreams,Worlds of Ultima: Savage Empire

    PlayStation
    Crusader: No Remorse,Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger,Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom

    Saturn
    Crusader: No Remorse

    Sega CD
    Wing Commander

    Super NES
    Wing Commander: Secret Missions

    developer

    3DO
    CyberMage,Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger

    Amiga
    Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness,Ultima II: Revenge of the Enchantress,Ultima III: Exodus,Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar,Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny,Ultima VI: The False Prophet
    Wing Commander,Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger

    Apple IIe/c/c+
    Ogre,Omega,Ultima,Ultima II: Revenge of the Enchantress,Ultima III: Exodus,Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar,Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny

    Atari 400/800/XL/XE
    Autoduel,Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness,Ultima II: Revenge of the Enchantress,Ultima III: Exodus,Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar,Ultima: The First Age of Darkness

    Atari ST
    Ultima II: Revenge of the Enchantress,Ultima III: Exodus,Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar,Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny,Ultima VI: The False Prophet

    Commodore 64
    Ultima II: Revenge of the Enchantress,Ultima III: Exodus,Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar,Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny,Ultima VI: The False Prophet,Ultima: The First Age of Darkness

    Game Boy
    Ultima: Runes of Virtue,Ultima: Runes of Virtue II

    MSX
    Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness (Pony Canyon),Ultima II: Revenge of the Enchantress,Ultima III: Exodus,Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar

    Macintosh
    Super Wing Commander,System Shock,Ultima II: Revenge of the Enchantress,Ultima III: Exodus,Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger

    NES
    Ultima: Exodus,Ultima: Quest of the Avatar,Ultima: Warriors of Destiny

    PC
    Crusader: No Regret,Crusader: No Remorse,CyberMage: Darklight Awakening,Strike Commander,Ultima Collection,Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness,Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness (Pony Canyon),Ultima II: Revenge of the Enchantress,Ultima III: Exodus,Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar,Ultima IX: Ascension,Ultima Online,Ultima Online: Age of Shadows,Ultima Online: Lord Bl
    • Re:Origin's games (Score:3, Informative)

      by Durindana (442090)
      add AutoDuel for the Apple ][/][+/][c/][e (which rocked), and Abuse for Mac (which sucked)

      Autoduel on the Apple II I still think was a killer game. PC and console games came kinda close to matching its mix of action/adventure/building cars - Twisted Metal meets Legacy of the Ancients, circa 1985 - but not quite. That's one title I'd love to see remade

      ON THE MAC!
  • by mayns (524760) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @01:37AM (#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?
    • I think it's because it gives us all a mark. The truth, as you said, is that Origin has been effectively dead for a long time. Their last success was Ultima Online. That was a service, though, so one can't really say the success was when UO was released. Some might say it was 1998, some 1999, some 2000... doesn't really matter.

      The point is that, as unlikely as we all knew it was, some of us still held some hope that there would be a Truly Great game from OSI someday. That's gone now. We have nothing but s

  • Could be worse. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Chmarr (18662)
    Well, at least they're shutting down one of their OWN companies instead of someone else's [slashdot.org].
  • www.wcnews.com /.ed (Score:5, Informative)

    by ggvaidya (747058) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @01:39AM (#8371104) Homepage Journal
    The website's starting to go slow, so I'm posting the text of the epitaph from http://www.wcnews.com/:

    Goodbye, Origin

    For twenty two years Origin Systems set the tone for the computer gaming. Ultima, Wing Commander and dozens of others set the gold standard for which the rest of the industry could only hope to catch up. This era has finally come to an end as Electronic Arts readies an announcement that it will shut down the Austin-based Origin studio.

    This is not the end for Ultima or Wing Commander. Ultima Online will now be run from California, and development of Ultima X will continue on the west coast. Hopes that another Wing Commander game would be developed in Austin were dashed long ago; the longtime belief that a California-based EA team would develop the next Wing Commander title may, ironically, be bolstered by this news.

    What it is, however, is a tremendous moral loss on all fronts. Origin Systems will always be the ultimate symbol of gaming's greatest days, and its dissolution to a faceless corporate entity is, sadly, equally symbolic of the world today. Origin entertained, challenged and inspired our generation in a way that seems impossible today. Though the individuals who developed our games long ago moved on to greater careers, the very existence of the company itself continued to stand for something special; something amazing.

    The CIC will continue to dedicate itself to Origin's legacy - we will redouble our efforts to archive anything and everything related to the company. We will strike to make the world remember what Origin meant. I wanted to end with a quote - something plithy and literary to express the meaning of such an ending. I came up with only this:

    With your carrier destroyed, you drift endlessly through the void.
  • Instead... (Score:5, Funny)

    by natrius (642724) <niranNO@SPAMniran.org> on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @01:44AM (#8371126) Homepage
    Instead of shutting Origin down, can't they just rename it Destination or something?
  • 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 @02:15AM (#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."

  • Oh Good! (Score:2, Funny)

    by ABaumann (748617)
    Now EA will focus on making good games again, like this [trhonline.com]
  • EA is too powerful (Score:4, Interesting)

    by superpulpsicle (533373) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @02:22AM (#8371264)
    1.) There was a study done. Literally on a ratio of like 3 to 1. For every 3 titles that come out EA needs to buy or sell one small company. EA buys away its competition.

    2.) It markets the hell out of everything. NBA live for example has out sell Sega ESPN basketball every year. Soon competition from Sega might disappear and voila less competition again. They can keep the baskeball standard low for 5 years while they tweak their engine. Not good for consumer

    3.) EA is losing quality yearly like M$ especially on the PC product line.
  • by ilduce (141065) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @02:31AM (#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 SoLO (91992) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @02:33AM (#8371291)
    Origin is gone
    not soon forgotten by us
    Long live Ultima
  • by Ironica (124657) <pixel AT boondock DOT org> on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @03:18AM (#8371437) Journal
    I learned about this months ago. But maybe that's because I'm in an Urban Planning program, and it was big news that the Playa Vista Development [playavista.com] finally found their office tenant.

    This development has been followed closely by a whole lot of people. Environmentalists freaked out about it, because it borders the Ballona Wetlands. The protest caused them to completely redesign the site *and* include several acres of wetlands restoration (because Hughes Aircraft, the former owner of the site, was none too kind to the native flora and fauna). Urban planners and designers are fascinated to see if the site can work, because it incorporates a lot of new (old) ideas, such as a mix of uses, high-density development, and a range of income groups.

    When they originally were planning the site, Dreamworks SKG had just formed up, and was going to move in as the big anchor office tenant. When the project was massively delayed, they backed out, and one of the big issues was finding another tenant to take over that huge, state-of-the-art space. EA finally anted up late last year. They're cashing out their Irvine, San Jose, and Austin locations, and consolidating everything there.

    If they're paying moving costs, it's a pretty good deal for folks moving, especially from San Jose. Units in Playa Vista start in the low $200k range, and the complex has a *ton* of amenities (including its own childcare center, market, and amphitheatre). Every unit has broadband built in and I think even data jacks in the walls, and the complex has its own intranet for reserving rec rooms, checking out events, and so on.

    Frankly, I wouldn't mind living there myself... my husband feels it's a bit remote, though (you'd never guess you're in the second-largest city in the country; Lincoln Blvd. looks empty except for Playa Vista). It's between Venice and Marina del Rey, though, just about 5-10 minutes in one direction or the other.

    I'm sure that they're counting on the consolidation saving them on staff, and it sucks that some people will lose their jobs. Me, I'm not crying about them bringing a whole mess o' jobs into Los Angeles, since I live here, but I suppose it does suck for those in the locations they're closing. I don't know if it's a good business move for them... unless they're changing their (fraudulent) policies on MMOG billing*, they'll have no business from me for a while, so who knows? But it's an interesting development, to be sure, from many perspectives.

    *Used to have an Earth and Beyond account. Discovered from personal experience (twice) and a guildmate's experience that E&B accounts *always* expire two days before they are supposed to (according to the date that comes up on the screen to nag you EVERY FRICKIN' TIME you log in, after you've cancelled). You have to call them, during business hours, to get it fixed. Sure, they'll fix it right up, but oh... you got booted in the middle of a battle and now you can't log in, but they're closed? Pay up or die. I chose to leave my account permanently expired.
  • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @03:55AM (#8371547) Homepage
    I wonder what the chances are of EA open sourcing old projects such as Privateer or any of the Wing Commander stuff; I'd love to see games built using some of that framework, even if it's old: you'd be able to have a complex world without too much hastle, as the framework is already available, and content creation could be focused on.

    Probably not. Old games tend to just die, unfortunately.
  • Goodbye. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Thanatiel (445743) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @04:09AM (#8371593)
    Origin's games were an important part of my fun when I was younger. I still remember the "Stones" music from the Ultima VII serie. And for various reasons, I still see the attack of Kilrathi Mang when listening Bach music. /tear

    EA destroyed Bullfrog, Origin, ...
    What do they sell now ? The Sims ...

  • Google has some applicable cache hits.

    Rap Sheet - Ultima Series [google.com]
    Rap Sheet - Wing Commander Series [google.com]
    Wing Commander CIC [google.com]
  • by ducomputergeek (595742) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @05:12AM (#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...

  • Story of a Game (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stuffduff (681819) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @10:07AM (#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 NeoSkandranon (515696) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @01:23PM (#8375618)
    I never got into the Ultima series.

    Crusader: No Remorse and No Regret however, were amazing. To this day I wish someone could figure out how to get them to run on WinXP systems (Installer refuses on non-win9x and no compatiblity didnt help) so i could spin through them again.

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