Post Mortem

Post Mortem
Footprints

Kieron Gillen | 22 Apr 2008 13:28
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Innovative and often brilliant, there was one main problem with both of Mucky Foot's games: They didn't sell. Urban Chaos managed a half-million, which was disappointing for a game hyped as a possible successor to Eidos' Tomb Raider franchise. Startopia did worse, barely scraping 110,000 units sold. "That was just beyond being a flop, really," says Diskett. "It was unimaginably bad. It was even worse, because at the time we were shipping Startopia, we had absolutely no doubt it was going to be an amazing success. I certainly didn't. We thought it was the bees knees and we thought the whole company was just weeks away from being millionaires. And then no bugger bought it."

Initially, since their contract with Eidos was strong, the company was relatively stable, even continuing to expand. The problem came with finding a home for their next game. While signed for Urban Chaos 2, Eidos and Mucky Foot couldn't agree on a design doc. "I think really they didn't want to do Urban Chaos 2," says Diskett. Eidos' way out was to reject three design docs, at which point Mucky Foot was allowed to take their work elsewhere. They started going around to other companies, showing off their tech and plans. One was called Skyships, a steampunk pirate game. "People took to it quite well, but at the time everyone seems to have needed something to fill a hole in a financial quarter," says McGechie. "More often than not it was a licence of some sort."

At which point a licence came their way, and they found themselves working on Blade 2 for Activision. They knew this would be a critical project. "Mucky Foot had two strikes [against us]. We weren't actually making money," says Carr. "We were just taking lots of money to make games, which weren't selling lots. We took this contract on to kind of - I suppose - keep Mucky Foot alive. At the time, Eidos were turning their back on us - they were starting to retract. We could see them physically retracting from us. We signed the game for our own survival, to some degree." The resulting game, while somewhat adrenalized and sporting a novel thumbstick-led combat system, was undoubtedly Mucky Foot's weakest title. They're philosophical about it. "We had some incredible restrictions for a small company," says Carr. "One was having to tie in with the DVD release, with all sorts of penalties attached to Activision and ourselves if we didn't." Even so, it wasn't the hit they were looking for, selling a similar amount to Urban Chaos, if at a generally higher price.

By this point, Mucky Foot had opened a Newcastle Office with McGechie at the helm. Abstractly, it was working on Urban Chaos 2, but mainly assisted the southern office on their work with two other licenced projects - The Punisher for THQ and Bulletproof Monk for Empire. All the while, they worked on other pitches - like an update of Barbarian, the old 8-bit classic featuring Maria Whittaker as a scantily clad slave girl, and ER Tycoon, an update of Theme Hospital - both of with which Carr was previously involved. Then, something happened that cut the legs from under them: THQ canceled The Punisher.

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