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2008 in Hindsight, Part 1 of 3

2008 in Hindsight, Part 1 of 3

Postby Chris » Mon Apr 27, 2009 7:10 pm

December 2007, at the Introversion Christmas dinner, Mark Morris gave a speech to the team in which he stated that the year just gone had been a totally crap year, because we didn’t do anything. We didn’t launch any existing projects or start any new projects – it was a year of on-going work, with little to break up the limbo. To much applause and laughter, we agreed 2008 would be the year we corrected that problem, and all the hard work we’d done in 2007 would pay off in 2008. We had multiple projects in development and opportunities opening up all around us, we would finish and release everything we were working on, and we’d grow Introversion along the way and take on even more great projects. After a tough year, the future was bright.

A year later at the end of 2008 at the Introversion Christmas dinner, and Mr Morris again silenced the room and gave his annual speech: “See last year’s speech”. This time nobody laughed, and there was no applause.

By all accounts, 2008 was a disastrous year for Introversion, characterised by an incredibly positive start and a noticeable increase in ambition, but not a single genuine success throughout the whole year. There was only one bit of good news – that we survived the whole year without laying anybody off or closing the company. This blog is a summary of 2008 – in three increasingly depressing parts.

At the start of the year we had a whole raft of projects to keep us busy. We had our Xbox 360 project Darwinia+, which was Darwinia and Multiwinia combined. The Multiwinia component was still in active development, and we were hard at work getting the whole package running well on the Xbox dev kits. We planned a simultaneous launch of Darwinia+ on Xbox, and Multiwinia on PC, Mac and Steam, all on the same day – our fourth major game launch, and our biggest yet.

While that project was ongoing, myself and Mark had been pursuing a fascinating opportunity to develop a big budget Introversion game for Channel 4, based on a long standing Introversion idea called Chronometer. After numerous meetings with lovely people at the TV company’s London headquarters, they’d agreed to fund a pre-production concept phase, which would last three months and would involve us hiring a fulltime professional writer and a team of concept artists. This was a serious project whose final budget would be over £1,000,000 if we got what we wanted, by far our most ambitious game design yet.

Image
(Chronometer concept art)

On top of all of that, our long standing friends at Pinnacle Software (responsible for our boxed shop distribution in the UK) were looking to get into publishing, and we’d signed a deal to license Defcon for the Nintendo DS, to be developed by a third party and overseen by us.

And of course, in between all of this, the project that really excited me, there was Subversion. I worked on this whenever I could. At the start of the year I was in full swing, working fast on major systems for the game, blogging regularly, enjoying the process of working on a brand new game, and a brand new code base. Being brutally honest, while I agreed 100% with the business strategy of taking on the other projects, my real interest was with Subversion, and everything else was a means to that end.

The first major problem was Microsoft. I want to be clear that in hindsight, we believe Microsoft were absolutely correct in the calls they made, and we were wrong. But at the time, oh my god they were pissing us off. We’d done a massive treatment of the in-game menus for Darwinia and Multiwinia, and the end result is exactly what you see in the PC/Mac versions of Multiwinia now. We were very happy with that and considered the game ready to go through their certification process, but Microsoft did not agree. They requested we go into an extensive period of redesign and polish on the game, covering everything from the menus to the squaddie control method in Darwinia, to the game modes in Multiwinia. It was the first time a massive company had effectively told Introversion what to do, and we didn’t like that at all. It was also months of work, and the concept of open-ended polish and iteration with a company several orders of magnitude larger than our own didn’t hugely appeal. We finally resolved this situation in the only way we could – we separated the PC and Xbox versions of the game, pushed ahead with a PC only version of Multiwinia, and put the Xbox project on a back burner.

It's pretty obvious in Hindsight that Microsoft had the right idea all along for Darwinia+, and we were too absorbed with Multiwinia to see that. We wanted the focus to be the new game Multiwinia, they wanted the IGF winning game Darwinia.

Read Part 2
Read Part 3
Last edited by Chris on Wed Apr 29, 2009 2:50 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby Ace Rimmer » Mon Apr 27, 2009 7:50 pm

/me awaits Part II

Also, I'm glad that Introversion is indeed growing, and with that experiencing the pains that go along with it, without costing anybody a job or the company itself collapsing. I'm sure I can speak for the majority (even Defcon regulars) that wish for your success in '09).

:D

Edit: Perhaps a short revisit to Defcon to correct some of it's bugs/add an enhancement or two would provide just the right amount of moral boost IV needs to push ahead. :wink:
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Postby jelco » Mon Apr 27, 2009 8:00 pm

You know, not to add to the depressing thoughts all around, but if we're talking parts you might as well finally add a third part to your IGF diary. ;)

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Postby Weatherproof » Mon Apr 27, 2009 8:59 pm

Game development is depressing, and anybody that thinks otherwise is too far up in the clouds. The fact that Introversion has lasted this long without laying off employees says the most about the company and everyone that works there should be proud of that.
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Postby cheesemoo0 » Mon Apr 27, 2009 11:41 pm

Not really the best of news, but I hope this year will be what last year was supposed to be.

That Chronometer concept art is very interesting. Here's hoping that Chronometer isn't some simfarm esque game, but on the moon. :P
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Postby Phelanpt » Tue Apr 28, 2009 1:31 am

Yay Chronometer!
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Postby Pox » Tue Apr 28, 2009 3:20 am

Ooh, a hint of Chronometer... some of the wording makes me worry it was cancelled, though. :/
I await the next update.
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Postby elexis » Tue Apr 28, 2009 3:46 am

All my time travelling theories for chronometer just got a change of setting!

Heres to Mark saying something different at the end of this year.
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Postby maninalift » Tue Apr 28, 2009 9:09 am

You can hold your head up, your guys are doing great work. Subversion looks amazing, with it's city-generating abilities I'm sure people would buy it if you released it as-is + soot-and-run physics and whatever interesting plans you have for it can only get better.

Please Channel4, please fund Chronometer, but don't distract Chris from Subversion either. This is my command, you will obey me.
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Postby vanarbulax » Tue Apr 28, 2009 9:20 am

Hmmmm that Chronometer concept art reminds me highly of Samorost though I doubt that's the sort of game IV would make, intriguing.
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Postby estel » Tue Apr 28, 2009 9:58 am

I might just spend the rest of the day refreshing the forum looking for the second part, it's a really interesting read.
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Postby RagingLion » Tue Apr 28, 2009 4:15 pm

I will be intrigued and very interested to read the other two parts of your year in review. Before that I can't really comment on too much since I don't know how everything changed during the course of the year behind the scenes from your point of view.

The one thing I would say is that I hope there's a lot of motivation, encouragement, drive and focus that remains behind the Introversion team. Your spirit is one of the most important things about you and I hope the conclusion to these posts is that you've gone through difficulties but that spirit remains; you've just become that much wiser.

I'm well excited to see that Chronometer concept art and everything it hints at. I just don't know if Chronometer lives, which would obviously dim that excitement a tad :(.
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Postby flatMC » Sun Oct 25, 2009 9:59 pm

Big thanks for useful info!
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Postby xander » Sun Oct 25, 2009 11:40 pm

flatMC wrote:Big thanks for useful info!

So, bets on when flatMC comes back to edit in a link to spam?

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Postby bert_the_turtle » Mon Oct 26, 2009 11:58 am

Well, since he's going to be banned pretty soon, we probably won't have a way to find out.
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