I was wondering where Seamus would end up after leaving Creative Artists after eight years, but I was pretty sure it’d be game related. I was right. Apparently he’s been planning this a while because he’s popped up as head of a new startup – Innovative Leisure. He’s hired 11 Atari game veterans from the 70′s and 80′s, plus a bunch of interns (I assume to do the actual coding) and has gotten funding from THQ, which has the right of first refusal for all the games. Kudos to Seamus for jumping back into the fray, though I hope he gets some early successes out, because THQ isn’t known for keeping on developers who fail to deliver successful games. When the CEO takes a 50% salary cut, it’s not a good time to be an expense to a company. Dean Takahashi in Games Beat posted a nice article. But you can also read THQ’s press release, the salient parts I’ve posted here. Let’s hope that the video arcade brain trust he’s collected can come with something to hold the interest of the attention deficit denizens of casual gaming.
AGOURA HILLS, Calif., Feb 03, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) — THQ today announced a strategic agreement with digital development studio Innovative Leisure, a new company formed by games industry veterans. The agreement will focus on creating and publishing digital games available through digital and mobile platforms. The agreement gives THQ the right to publish multiple Innovative Leisure titles starting in 2012.
Innovative Leisure comprises games industry icons with experience on some of the industry’s biggest games through its history. The team includes Seamus Blackley (“father of the Xbox”), Van Burnham (Supercade), Ed Logg (Asteroids, Centipede, Gauntlet), Rich Adam (Missile Command, Gravitar, PGA Tour Golf), Tim Skelly (Rip Off, Star Castle, Reactor), Owen Rubin (Major Havoc, Space Duel), and Ed Rotberg (Battlezone, S.T.U.N. Runner, Steel Talons). The team’s experience designing and developing highly popular pick-up-and-play gameplay mechanics will be leveraged to innovate and iterate brand-new, modern games on mobile, social and downloadable platforms.
“We are always looking to work with the best creative talent in the video games industry and we feel this relationship with Innovative Leisure reinforces our goal,” said Danny Bilson, executive vice president, Core Games, THQ. “We are committed to delivering creative games through digital distribution and Innovative Leisure has the expertise to deliver remarkable and cutting edge games for a new generation.”
“It’s a great honor (and a lot of fun) to get the opportunity to work with so many of the designers responsible for the gameplay mechanics that form the basis of our whole medium,” said Seamus Blackley, President of Innovative Leisure. “We’re excited about getting to make and release a bunch of awesome games.”
Seamus Blackley is leaving Creative Artists Agency after eight years. He’s reported to be planning to launch his own production company to develop games. Seamus was one of the original creators of the Xbox. While he was at CAA they negotiated deals for famous names like BioShock creative lead Ken Levine and Flower devs thatgamecompany, and helped ex-Infinity Ward heads Vince Zampella and Jason West get new gigs. Reuters recently ran an article about how CAA is thinking of opening a Silicon Valley office in order to be closer to some of the major tech firms.
Way back when I was writing my OpenGL Book, I had the good fortune to run across some stupendous folks at Microsoft who were forthright and open and very very helpful to me, answering questions, implementation details, and generally reviewing a lot of my work. One of these guys was Otto Berkes. Later the API wars would put him and most of the other OpenGL team onto the DirectX team (which is one reason it suddenly jumped in quality between releases), and eventually he went on with Seamus Blackley, Kevin Bachus, and Ted Hase to be the core Xbox team. He’s the last one to leave Microsoft, and I wish him all the best.
Social networking site Bebo (Blog Early, Blog Often.) has hired Kevin Bachus as their “Chief Product Officer”. Bebo is similar (but smaller) than other social networking sites, like Facebook and MySpace.
The most interesting thing about Bebo is that it was acquired by AOL on March 13, 2008 for $850 million. In June, 2010 AOL announced it was planning to sell Bebo to Criterion Capital Partners for (less than an eventually revealed) 10M$US. AOL’s sale was supposedly due to the falling numbers of unique users. Bebo users were moving to the social giants Facebook and Twitter, and AOL said that Bebo couldn’t compete with other Social Networking sites at its current state. “They couldn’t commit to taking on the massive task to keep Bebo in the social network ‘race’ “.
Update May, 2011 – Bebo creator Michael Birch, said of Bebo (after he made about $600 million from selling Bebo to AOL) “I think the main reason it didn’t work was just that Facebook was beating it, and people would leave Bebo to join Facebook,”. What’s Birch up to now? – “little social network. I wouldn’t say it’s a competitor to Facebook,” he quickly added. “I don’t think it makes sense to try and be what they are. I do think it makes sense to be what they’re not.”
I’ve always been fascinated by some of the folks who used to work in the DirectX/Xbox groups at Microsoft and how they manage pursue (seemingly) lucrative, somewhat high-profile careers with nothing but string of empty promises behind them. Kevin is one of my favorites. After leaving Microsoft he and a few other famous game industry names formed the Capital Entertainment Group, which made grandiose plans and folded after a year without really doing much. He then was hired as CEO a company called Infinium with a never-to-be-release gaming console/service called the Phantom. He was often seen singing praises about how great the Phantom would be, how great the service, and how, No! it wasn’t vapor ware. How after a while he managed to move the company offices from Florida to LA (where he lived) and then left the company 5 months later. And then sued them for back pay. He was hired by Russian RTS developer Nirval (Heroes of Might and Magic) (which was owned by Florida-based Ener1 Group) as CEO in March 2006. Apparently Ener1 wasn’t happy with the low profits coming out the LA office and quietly closed it in December 2006. No word on what Kevin is up to now…
Update: There’s a nice -albeit short – reflective guest piece by Kevin on the XBox development effort you can read here.
Kevin Bachus shared the stage with Sun’s Scott McNealy at the JavaOne Conference in San Francisco to announce the;
“Phantom Gaming Service is slated to go live Thursday, Nov. 18, 2004. The Phantom Game Receiver will ship with the full Java 2 Standard Edition Runtime Environment and supporting game APIs. All Java technology-based games will be able to run on the Phantom out of the box.”
The console will is based on an AMD Athlon XP 2500+ and contains a 40GB hard drive, 256MB of memory TV output and broadband Internet feed. The graphics come courtesy of an NVIDIA GeForce FX 5700 Ultra ship. The box, which clearly amounts to little more than a low-end PC, will retail for $199, Infinium said. The Phantom Game Service costs $29.95 a month, and if you sign up for a 24-month period, you’ll get your Athlon XP box for free.
The first launch was supposed to be in Q1 2003. The second was supposed to be Q1, 2004.
In what was probably one of the most successful spamming campaigns yet (judging by the sheer number of “announcements” that hit the web) two ex-Microsoft employees – Herb Marselas & Chas (Charles) Boyd formed Redmond game studio Emogence LLC. If you are at all familiar with DirectX development then you know these guys have been in the trenches at Microsoft for years. Marselas is Emogence’s CEO and is a veteran who worked for game developers Ensemble Studios and Bungie Studios, both of which were acquired by Microsoft where he became a lead developer on DirectX graphics. Boyd was the architect of Direct3D at Microsoft for the last several years. Marselas is quoted as stating that the game is being designed to his and Boyd’s strengths, with an emphasis on advanced graphics technology. The two say they founded Emogence last September to create games that will take advantage of the latest, fastest technology, such as video cards and graphics chips. They claim that they want a shorter development schedule because graphics technology changes so rapidly they feel they can ship a game in 10 months – apparently by automating the generation of a lot of the content.
From the IGN Interview:
Jonric: Shipping this year would represent a much shorter development period than we’re used to seeing. How realistic is this? What are the keys to achieving it without undue bugginess?
Marselas: We wouldn’t have announced the date if we weren’t confident in it.
But the programmers, who run a “virtual company” that employs half a dozen artists across the country, have no publisher for their game, called “Grafan”,’ at this time. They plan to show the game at E3 this year.