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Rockstar's Road To Ruin 59

Via GamePolitics, an exerpt from an upcoming Wired print magazine article on Rockstar's slide from grace. The article outlines a number of the problems we've discussed here on the site, such as their numerous lawsuits, the 'Hot Coffee' scandal, and stock-option problems. At four pages it's only a teaser for the longer article in the magazine, but it's still very much worth taking a look. "The irony is thick: The company that defined virtual criminality is now associated with the real thing. Rockstar and Take-Two executives declined to answer questions for this article, but their rich and troubled story is revealed by official documents and former employees. It seems the blokes forgot that in life, as in Grand Theft Auto, there are repercussions for the choices you make."
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Rockstar's Road To Ruin

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  • by L. VeGas ( 580015 ) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @05:38PM (#18535503) Homepage Journal

    Live fast. Die young. Leave a good looking corpse.
  • Road to ruin? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by syrion ( 744778 ) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @05:39PM (#18535513)
    As far as I am aware, Rockstar still makes blockbuster games which afford them a healthy income. How, precisely, does this constitute "ruin?"
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I think the writer just chose the phrase "road to ruin" for the dramatic/alliterative effect. The article itself is more evenhanded, and does not imply the company is totally stuffed just yet.

      And for the record, Take-Two didn't make a healthy income in 2006, they lost over 100 million dollars (though one suspects they'll likely make it back in spades when GTA IV is released).
      • by syrion ( 744778 )
        Take Two loses money because they publish nothing that sells outside of Firaxis (Civilization) and Rockstar games. Everything else is somewhere between the bargain bin and B-grade.
        • Right because Rockstar and 2K Sports don't sell anything...
          • by syrion ( 744778 )
            2K sports is actually not particularly successful compared to Rockstar and Firaxis. (If you notice, I included both of those in the post you replied to.) They come in second to EA on every title.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by PingSpike ( 947548 )
      I was thinking the same thing. For all their controversy, it seems like they're doing fine.

      Plus, all that stink over hot coffee and the like probably made a lot of people want their games even more. The forbidden fruit always tastes sweeter.
  • Funny thing is... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hrrY ( 954980 ) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @05:41PM (#18535547)
    I don't know of many game dev house's that have succeeded in creating a game that can combine aspects of multiple genre's(racing, rpg, action, 3D 3rd person, sex) into 1 game seamlessly and have it be fun at the same time(see universal combat for reference about that approach failing)So whatevs, there problems are mostly based around their success(s)in that regard and that's what sell games. What's going on with them is a reflection how our society treats things that are successful against the better wishes of those who dictate the status quo.
    • by nomadic ( 141991 ) *
      I don't know of many game dev house's that have succeeded in creating a game that can combine aspects of multiple genre's(racing, rpg, action, 3D 3rd person, sex) into 1 game seamlessly

      I don't know of ANY game dev houses that have ever done that. The GTA series does some of those well, but there isn't much of an RPG aspect.

      The main thing that disappointed me when I finally tried GTA games is how surprisingly non-interactive the world is. 99% of the buildings you can't enter, the people are just scen
      • I never really got the GTA allure. I actually purchase Vice City, but never got hooked. KotOR on the other hand is thoroughly engrossing. I still haven't managed to successfully play through on evil though..
  • Blah. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MeanderingMind ( 884641 ) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @05:41PM (#18535555) Homepage Journal
    I wouldn't care if Rockstar lived or died, except that Jack Thompson would take the latter as a personal victory no matter the circumstances.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Chris Burke ( 6130 )
      I'm sure Jack would take Rockstar living as a personal victory somehow, because he's a giant self-aggrandizing spinning ball of cook.
    • by Coraon ( 1080675 )
      isnt it written somewhere that as people of the internet its our highest law that this can never happen? Jack Thompson cannot be allowed to win, that leads to the religious right of the force...
  • If owning a billion-dollar game franchise is ruin, I'd like to be ruined too.

    Take Two's management woes are not automatically Rockstar's problem. They're a subsidiary, not a department.

    • Re:Ruin, eh? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by badasscat ( 563442 ) <basscadet75NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Thursday March 29, 2007 @07:40PM (#18537161)
      Take Two's management woes are not automatically Rockstar's problem. They're a subsidiary, not a department.

      It's the same company. Read the article. Rockstar is not just a subsidiary, and the problems are not only Take 2's.

      I used to work there, so I'm saying this from first-hand experience as well. The article is pretty much dead-on, and while a lot of the "former employees" are not named, their quotes sound 100% believable to me (and I have my suspicions who they are).

      Implicit in the article but not fully explored is the fact that nearly 100% of the company has turned over in the past 4 years (including myself). Some of us left because we saw the writing on the wall, others for personal reasons. But almost all of the people that made that company what it originally was are now gone.
      • Did anyone ever leave because of how terrible the animators were? Or did the animators ever leave because of their own shame?
  • by dave562 ( 969951 ) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @06:18PM (#18536087) Journal
    I still remember playing the first GTA, initially in standard VGA and then with the mystical "new" 3dfx card. It was by far one of the most entertaining games out at the time. I completely hated GTA2, but everything from GTA3 onward just got better and better. The guys at Rockstar created something that gamers have wanted forever... a huge world that you can run around and do pretty much anything in. I'm still convinced that if anyone came out with an MMO like GTA where you could progress to the point of being a crime boss and running portions of the city, they'd have a huge hit on their hands.
    • It'd be a tough game to make though. It'd likely end up being mostly PvP gang warfare. Mostly because nobody would want to play the everyday normal people/businesses/etc that would have to make up the bulk of the population in a game like that. You could try and fill it out with NPC's, but I don't think the AI is there to make it really work. I don't think it's feasible to have a virtual city with a bunch of virtual residents realistically react to the actions of a sizeable amount of players.

      I guess you cou
      • by dave562 ( 969951 )
        I agree with what you have to say about the AI. It just seems like a huge coding challenge to get a bunch of AI NPCs to react in any sort of sane way to players who pull out guns and start blasting away at each other.
        • Well, you could always just have the NPC's panic and run away. But imagine having NPC's negotiate the sort of schemes that a crime boss might be interested in getting involved in. It can work in a single player game like GTA because there can be a pre-written script that presents certain choices to an individual and only has to react to one person, but that system can't really be scaled, because the game designers can't accurately predict interactions between different players.

          An example that might be helpf
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by zrobotics ( 760688 )
          Personally, I think something like this would be fairly easy to do. The average pedestrian NPC's in GTA react to shootings in a perfectly sane manner-they scream and run away. Yes, it would involve a lot of pvp warfare, but that's the whole point of such a game. If there were different character classes-I.E. bodyguards, crooked cops, hitmen, etc., it would keep things fairly well balanced. If there were multiple 'gangs' in a city, the territory each gang controlled could be controlled by how much money they
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by dave562 ( 969951 )
            What I would really like to see is a system setup where players are allowed to establish groups, buy property and then generate money from that property. The money generation should be tied to NPCs. Some NPCs could work at the property itself, where as others could be sent out on pre-scripted missions. The NPCs who generate money inside the facility should do so at a much slower rate than those who venture outside of the relative safety of the facility. For example, a property might come with a courier.
      • by Null537 ( 772236 )
        ...mostly because nobody would want to play the everyday normal people/businesses/etc that would have to make up the bulk of the population in a game like that.

        Yeah, and nobody would ever fish for hours on end to catch a specific type of fish in a video game either...
        • by TeraCo ( 410407 )
          For the most part people don't fish because they like to fish. They fish because they need money, they need specific types of fish for buffs, or they're after Mr Pinchy.
      • by SaDan ( 81097 )
        People play in Second Life, and there are plenty of gold farmers in other online games. Make the role of an average citizen/shopkeeper in this world so that there is some miniscule financial reward, like the gold farmers get, and you'll have plenty of people willing to play!
    • No doubt they would have a hit. That would make for a great game and I'm sure a large chunk of the gaming community would hit euphoria over it. The problem lies in making such a game balanced for the muscle in the organization so that they are still entertained. You also need to figure out how to handle an MMO composed entirely of complex cityscapes with hundreds or thousands of players in close proximity. The GTA game design is a thing of beauty. I'm not sure how accurate it is to say that Rockstar is
      • by dave562 ( 969951 )
        You're mystified by the violence, I'm mystified by the sex. I can understand why people have an aversion to violence. In my own life, I started training kung fu about five years. The more I learn, the less I want to fight. I think some of my own aversion comes with age, and the fact that it takes longer to heal as you grow older. I think it's all to easy to cultivate a blaise attitude in kids where they don't respect someone else's mortality long before they have even begun to grasp how mortal they are
  • Too soon to call (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Belgand ( 14099 ) <belgand&planetfortress,com> on Thursday March 29, 2007 @06:54PM (#18536659) Homepage
    I think this is well before the time that anyone can say Rockstar has failed. Since the Hot Coffee controversy they haven't released any really high-end games. Sure there have been a few titles, but mainly just portable GTA3 spin-offs and other properties that aren't nearly as hot. Bully, their last controversial title, didn't make much of a splash when it finally arrived. It received generally above-average reviews (and is on my personal wishlist still), but the brewing complaints from the usual groups seem to have backed off.

    If GTA4 comes out and does poorly then there will be the argument that Rockstar is losing it, but otherwise... well, it's pretty heavily anticipated.
    • Since the Hot Coffee controversy they haven't released any really high-end games.

      Both Bully and The Warriors were supposed to be "high-end" games. (In fact, everything Rockstar releases is supposed to be "high-end" - they're the label Take 2 slaps on its high-end franchises. What isn't released under the Rockstar label gets the Global Star or 2K labels.) The fact that they didn't make much of a splash is a big part of the problem.

      Rockstar basically pays for its existence with GTA, which is what it was f
      • by Belgand ( 14099 )
        While I would definitely agree that GTA is the only series of note from Rockstar, I wouldn't claim that just because their PSP versions (and the PS2 ports of them) of GTA didn't do very well there's any problem with them in the future.

        I'll also gladly acknowledge that being tied to one single franchise isn't a good idea for a company. Even among other companies who have blockbuster success with a limited number of titles in a contiguous franchise iD kinda has two or three franchises and Blizzard has three (
  • by Jeppe Salvesen ( 101622 ) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @07:01PM (#18536753)
    .. and whatever they have done in the past: If the gameplay is as good as the trailer, then they'll become the new Google with unlimited money so that they can buy all the lawfirms and all the judges in the world!!!!
  • by nog_lorp ( 896553 ) * on Thursday March 29, 2007 @09:15PM (#18537985)
    I wouldn't call it the Hot Coffee "Scandal" so much as the Hot Coffee Farse. Disregarding that fact that ILLEGAL reverse engineering is required to view the Hot Coffee minigame, the original minigame itself contains NO NUDITY. If clothed people bumping into eachother should be marked 18+, kids won't be able to buy many videogames anymore. Nudity is acheived by editing the models as well as enabling the minigame in the first place. Saying RockStar is somehow at fault here means every software/game publisher ever is just as liabe - you can add pornography to anything. The whole deal is stupid for so many other reasons as well - horrific violence is ok but small amounts of sex isn't? What the fuck. How many people do you expect to beat to death with a baseball bat in your life? Now compare that to how many people you expect to have sex with. Point made. Also, no "concerned parent" can whine about this. "Oh my god, with GTA:SA and unrestricted internet axis, my children can see porn!". The internet has porn, RockStar is not at fault for that either, in case you wanted to claim it was. ~nog_lorp
  • Microsoft should least survive a slashdotting:
    http://assets.xbox.com/en-us/games/g/grandtheftaut oiv/grandtheftautoiv.zip [xbox.com]

    Rockstar, well their website doesn't usually:
    http://media.rockstargames.com/flies/1280x720.zip [rockstargames.com]

    Streaming the 720p trailer to an xbox360 looks really good, here's some more HD wmv files:
    http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/musi candvideo/hdvideo/contentshowcase.aspx [microsoft.com]
  • by sesshomaru ( 173381 ) on Friday March 30, 2007 @06:40AM (#18541221) Journal
    Ah, for an unbiased view (I kid, of course), let's check the mainstream media:

    SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A feisty shareholder revolt at Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. this week offed nearly as many executives as virtual characters in the video game company's violent titles.

    Financial analysts and child advocates said only a thorough purging at the top would reverse the accounting and ethical lapses at the publisher of the popular, murder-your-way-to-victory video game "Grand Theft Auto." With a new CEO and several new board members now leading the company, that's what they got.

    "If you look at the content of what these guys have distributed, it's so offensive and inappropriate. It's not surprising to learn they had committed massive acts of fraud at the board and CEO level," said James Steyer, CEO and founder of San Francisco-based multimedia ratings group Common Sense Media Inc., a nonprofit that rates video games and other content for violence and other factors. "The chickens have come home to roost for this company _ and I say good riddance to these guys."


    Financial analysts have criticized Take-Two for relying too heavily on relatively uncreative sequels, sports games and bloodthirsty "first-person shooters." While so-called hardcore games remain popular with teens and young men, new online genres _ trivia quizzes, word games and multiplayer role-playing games _ are catching on with women, older players and millions of mobile phone users.

    Child advocacy groups and legislators are Take-Two's biggest foes, complaining that the company produces the industry's most violent, mean-spirited games.

    In "Grand Theft Auto," players shoot pedestrians and police with reckless abandon. Another hit is "Bully," about a slingshot-wielding 15-year-old at Bullworth Academy boarding school, whose motto is "Canis Canem Edit," Latin for "dog eat dog."

    Take-Two is best known for a version of "Grand Theft Auto" that included a hidden, lewd scene that sparked a 2005 congressional uproar. -- Investors Laud Video Game Co.'s Upheaval [att.net]

    Let's see, this AP article could have been written by Jack Thompson. It is extremely poor journalism. Has Rockstar ever even published an FPS? These are the people (AP) who many people rely on for information on world affairs, and in helping to determine who to elect into office, and their "facts" resemble the ones that used to be put forth by Cotton Mather [wikipedia.org] at the average Salem witch-trial.

    Prediction, when Grand Theft Auto 4 comes out, expect these same "child advocacy" censorship groups to be saying, "Looks like Take Two didn't learn their lesson."

    I forget, what video games did Enron make?

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN