Know Your Gaming Roots

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Know Your Gaming Roots

Shamus Young schools us all in the history of some classic game studios.

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Where's Interplay? Developers of the original Fallout and publishers of the Bauldur's Gate series? It seems odd that you left them out.

No TSR? Sadly I remember everyone of those companies. Some really good game companies that didn't make it through.

Not TSR, SSI actually, seemed growing up we had a huge libary of games by them.

I just want my Frisbee back you crazy old man!

Slaanax:
No TSR? Sadly I remember everyone of those companies. Some really good game companies that didn't make it through.

Well, TSR was never really a PC or Console game developer. Instead other companies licensed their work, like SSI, Interplay, and Capcom. Now, RPG publisher FASA did build their own Game development studio, FASA Interactive, which was later absorbed by Microsoft.

wildcard9:
Where's Interplay? Developers of the original Fallout and publishers of the Bauldur's Gate series? It seems odd that you left them out.

From what I understand, a lot of people aren't entirely sure where they are. Supposedly they've survived bankruptcy, are still a going concern, and are working on a real, honest to god, Fallout MMO. That said, for all we know, Interplay is now only operating out of a storefront in a mini-mall with a desk and a telephone, and two guys trying to code a MMO all by themselves in the back room.

RIP Westwood

*sniff*

Count_ZeroOR:

Slaanax:
No TSR? Sadly I remember everyone of those companies. Some really good game companies that didn't make it through.

Well, TSR was never really a PC or Console game developer. Instead other companies licensed their work, like SSI, Interplay, and Capcom. Now, RPG publisher FASA did build their own Game development studio, FASA Interactive, which was later absorbed by Microsoft.

wildcard9:
Where's Interplay? Developers of the original Fallout and publishers of the Bauldur's Gate series? It seems odd that you left them out.

From what I understand, a lot of people aren't entirely sure where they are. Supposedly they've survived bankruptcy, are still a going concern, and are working on a real, honest to god, Fallout MMO. That said, for all we know, Interplay is now only operating out of a storefront in a mini-mall with a desk and a telephone, and two guys trying to code a MMO all by themselves in the back room.

I got my companies mixed up meant SSI

Wow i had no idea Activision was bought in a weird and mysterious crsis my a group of investors with no gaming backround who then mined their good name. It's almost perfect though.

Its hard to believe that Activision used to put out the most innovative, interesting, and fun games on the market.

I still play Pitfall from time to time...

Irridium:
Its hard to believe that Activision used to put out the most innovative, interesting, and fun games on the market.

I still play Pitfall from time to time...

Yeah, I still play Battlezone every now and then, it's sad to see how much they've lost.

GothmogII:

Irridium:
Its hard to believe that Activision used to put out the most innovative, interesting, and fun games on the market.

I still play Pitfall from time to time...

Yeah, I still play Battlezone every now and then, it's sad to see how much they've lost.

It's disturbing to see how little they have actually produced since Kotick took over. All they have done is literally buy existing studios and put them on the sequel tredmil. They have done NO IP creation. NONE.

I know every single one of these tales of old. Makes me feel good inside :D

Scrumpmonkey:

GothmogII:

Irridium:
Its hard to believe that Activision used to put out the most innovative, interesting, and fun games on the market.

I still play Pitfall from time to time...

Yeah, I still play Battlezone every now and then, it's sad to see how much they've lost.

It's disturbing to see how little they have actually produced since Kotick took over. All they have done is literally buy existing studios and put them on the sequel tredmil. They have done NO IP creation. NONE.

[PROTOTYPE]? That's the only I can remember right now. Surely there must be more...

really?! no mention of the 1st games???
like space war and tennis for two developed on the oscilloscope. The first computer games were not by major dedicated games developers so they get no mention at all.
or the fact that all rpg and strategy games owe their very existence to table top war simulations with miniatures?
and thief definitely wasn't the first stealth game. Try the original metal gear, which only opted for the stealth focus because of a combined hardware/software limitation that made having character collision a pain in the arse.

Shamus Young:
I think a first-person, party-oriented, turn-based RPG would be an impossible pitch in today's market.

Turn-based in what sense, Shamus? Are we talking the turn-based style of first person dungeon crawler Etrian Odyssey on the DS or something else? I didn't play Eye of the Beholder so I don't have the necessary context here.

Maybe their type of games are just out of style and therefore notice, but if not for Sierra and the games they produced, I would never have come to be a PC gamer. Sure, eventually I got into other genres (Wolfenstein -> FPS, SimCity2k -> Building Sims, Might & Magic -> RPG), but had I never come across King's Quest and Leisure Suit Larry, I'd probably be playing consoles right now instead of my beloved PC.

Count_ZeroOR:
Well, TSR was never really a PC or Console game developer. Instead other companies licensed their work, like SSI, Interplay, and Capcom. Now, RPG publisher FASA did build their own Game development studio, FASA Interactive, which was later absorbed by Microsoft.

FASA Interactive, after being bought by Microsoft was named FASA studios, originally was a subsidiary of FASA Corporation. All of FASA Corporation's Shadowrun games that made it to the US were done by different companies. Beam Software/Data East for the SNES version and BlueSky Software/Sega for the Genesis.

FASA went out of business, and the rights for Shadowrun were bought up by Wizkids, who licensed the game for production through FanPro(Germans love it so much they have more material than everyone else), then through Catalyst Game Labs.

Shamus Young:
They made games for the Atari 2600, but didn't get any credit or receive any additional compensation if they produced a blockbuster. Like the movie stars of just a few decades before, they became aware that they were worth many times what they were being paid. They realized this, and their employers didn't.

...Those who forget their past are doomed to repeat it...

Since everyone else is mentioning those companies they think should have been mentioned, allow me:

Origin.

Mainly (for me) for the Ultima series, but they produced a lot of other games too, including Bioforge, Crusader and Wing Commander.

Another great developer destroyed by EA.

Dirty Apple:
Maybe their type of games are just out of style and therefore notice, but if not for Sierra and the games they produced, I would never have come to be a PC gamer. Sure, eventually I got into other genres (Wolfenstein -> FPS, SimCity2k -> Building Sims, Might & Magic -> RPG), but had I never come across King's Quest and Leisure Suit Larry, I'd probably be playing consoles right now instead of my beloved PC.

Sierra should definitely be on there, but I guess it already is in a way. If I remember right, they got absorbed by Activision. Shame, I miss games like Caesar III.

I think Reflections Entertainment could be on the list, too, given games like Stuntman and the Driver series.

What of Maxis? All those simulators they churned out over the years.. I still love SIM Tower to bits (A-Train, too, but that was a license, and a franchise still going strong in Japan. 'Wish someone else would hurry up and license A-Train 4 and all >.>;), and god knows how many games owe a lot to SIM City.

And that's just their successful, mainstream jobs. What of all the awesome sim concepts you don't hear much of but were still really unique and cool, like SIM Island (managing little banana economies and stuff), SIM Life (god game, in the most literal sense), and SIM Ant?

Fensfield:
What of Maxis? All those simulators they churned out over the years.. I still love SIM Tower to bits (A-Train, too, but that was a license and still going strong in Japan. 'Wish someone else would hurry up and license A-Train 4 and all >.>;), and god knows how many games owe a lot to SIM City.

Umm...Maxis didn't die, the Sims 3? Spore? They're an EA subsidiary now, but they weren't wholly absorbed into EA, and Will Wright is still a pretty influential figure in gaming.

GothmogII:
Umm...Maxis didn't die, the Sims 3? Spore? They're an EA subsidiary now, but they weren't wholly absorbed into EA, and Will Wright is still a pretty influential figure in gaming.

Oh? I know EA now own the SIM brand, but, you never see the Maxis logo anymore - and they don't seem to be into making simulators any more, really. It's no longer 'Right, what shall we simulate next?' and more 'How can we keep making money off simulating simulated people's lives into perpetuity?'

This was a thumping good read. Too bad it was only two pages. Why, if you were to churn out several more articles delving into history with a financial/video-game twist I would read it.

...you could make a new segment out of it or something.

EA's got a similar history to Activision, they were the guys in the past claiming to be 'video game artists'. Bob Dylan's 'the times they are a changin' seems to be the video game industry's theme song.

Wooo! I remember them all! Oh. That means I'm old. Damnnit.

Westwood. I liked their RTS when I was a kid. Then the entire C&C franchise went kaput when EA closed Westwood.

Oh good days... good days.

Shamus Young:
Low on cash after the lawsuit, they were bought up by an investment group run by... guess who. They filed chapter 11, renamed themselves again, restructured the company, moved the company, and then began buying up other companies.

The description there brings to mind the image of a parasitic organism (Kotick in this case) finding a wounded animal, infecting it, and then using the poor creature to spread itself to others.
Tell me I'm not the only one thinking this.

How about Ashby Computers and Graphics Ltd. (ACG) who published as Ultimate: Play the Game? (Sabrewulf, Nightlore, Alien8) who became Rare(Killer Instinct) who were amalgamated into Microsoft.(Something called Windows)

Then there was Gremlin Graphics (Thing on a Spring, Monty on the Run, Zool) who absorbed DMA Design (Grand Theft Auto, Lemmings) and were absorbed by Infogrammes (Unreal Tournament) which had also absorbed Epic Games and Digital Interactive (Unreal), as well as Ocean(Almost any good C64 game), Accolade, Beam Software, Hasbro and Atari....and then...uh...seriously, read up on it. Infogrammes was bedhopping like only the French can.(!)

Then there was Codemasters (Dizzy) that came from Mastertronic (The Last V8) and went on to be... Codemasters (Lord of the Rings Online, Colin Mcrae's Rally)

GeneticallyModifiedDucks:
I know every single one of these tales of old. Makes me feel good inside :D

Scrumpmonkey:

GothmogII:

Yeah, I still play Battlezone every now and then, it's sad to see how much they've lost.

It's disturbing to see how little they have actually produced since Kotick took over. All they have done is literally buy existing studios and put them on the sequel tredmil. They have done NO IP creation. NONE.

[PROTOTYPE]? That's the only I can remember right now. Surely there must be more...

Singularity, Blur (I guess), Timeshift, Gun (though that might be from before Kotick was there...)...

I remember Microprose more for their sim games in the 80s - F15 I think it was and that stealth bomber one. I also remember they did a game where you were a US ranger.

stop making me feel old

oooh oooh, do Origin and SSI and Infocom next!

DaxStrife:

Shamus Young:
Low on cash after the lawsuit, they were bought up by an investment group run by... guess who. They filed chapter 11, renamed themselves again, restructured the company, moved the company, and then began buying up other companies.

The description there brings to mind the image of a parasitic organism (Kotick in this case) finding a wounded animal, infecting it, and then using the poor creature to spread itself to others.
Tell me I'm not the only one thinking this.

As near as I can tell, it was something to do with ROM cartridges. It's a little hard to parse out because it was being written by lawyers and not programmers, but I think Activision was producing cartridges for a proprietary console format without authorization.

What's weird is the other party was Magnavox. It looks like Magnavox either held a patent for a ROM cartridge format (and interface), or were the exclusive licensee of that format. This is weird because I don't remember Magnavox being involved in consoles in '88.

Fake edit: It's possible that Magnavox had a patent on non-game ROM cartridges at that time, but that sounds weird as well.

It's sad how few people can recall a lot of these old hat names. Or can even see Activision as anything more than Bobby Kotick's satanic institution that constantly screws the industry. I think there was something great about the old days, something that people would have to look beyond Super Mario Bros. and the NES. There was a great spirit in the arcades of olde. You just don't see that sort of spirit in places like Dave and Busters. That feeling is never going to be replicated.

You know I've not been really kind to you in the past, Shamus. I think I allowed my tunnel vision to get the best of me. I'm going to take back all the bad things I said about you...

image

You...you've earned it.

No mention of Westwood would be complete to me without mention of the Kyrandia series. Not that they were genre creating, but I loved them. I miss you Malcolm!!!!!!!

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