The Industry's Seedy Underbelly

The Industry's Seedy Underbelly
The Rise and Fall of Realtime Worlds

Greg Tito | 2 Nov 2010 11:48
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"But after the investment, we lost our scrappy startup mentality and used our money to build this highly 'corporate' culture, mimicking an established, successful organization. We forgot to tell ourselves that the investment was just a small step towards success, not to be confused with success itself."

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The team working on APB grew exponentially simply because it could. Jones hired designers, producers, and artists and then people to manage them. Then more people were hired to manage the managers. "Almost everything we did," Halliwell wrote, "we sought to throw people at and our hiring created inefficiencies all over the place."

The examples of such inefficiencies read like a play by the comic Greek playwright Aristophanes meant to satirize modern business practices. "We hired a 'live production' team, whose entire job seemed to be to pass messages between operations (the folks who run the servers) and engineering, on the basis that these two groups were struggling to communicate," Halliwell wrote. "Unfortunately, they struggled to communicate with either group, and spent a lot of time creating processes for how to pass these messages around."

All of this inefficiency created a division at Realtime Worlds, two diametrically opposed factions like Spartans and Athenians. The "Reds" were obsessed with running the company just like many other "successful" game companies had be run, or as Halliwell put it: "Lazily imitating big companies in a superficial way, at the expense of critical thinking and focusing on our true goals." Working against the Reds were the Blues, who wanted none of those trappings and just wanted to make a great game. "While the Reds relished the meetings and political fighting, the Blues were passionate about getting on with real work, about making our product better, and for the most part gave up the fight to focus on that."

Dave Jones either was not aware that this was happening or did nothing to stop it. He was just trying to make a good game, and, like a Greek hero, was overly confident in his abilities. He believed that he would pull out a hit, just as he did with Crackdown. APB had flaws in its design, but the real reason that it failed was that Realtime Worlds was blind to the all of the inefficiency leading up to its release. "The business guys forced us to throw a load of contractors at APB to try and get it finished faster," Halliwell says. "We found a couple of good people but I'm not convinced adding people at that stage is the way to finish faster, and the hiring drive was a distraction."

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