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Stainless Steel Studios No More?

Stainless Steel Studios is no more on Rise and Fall Heaven Forum (thanks Tiscali Games) is a forum thread with word that the developer has closed its doors. This is not actually a confirmed announcement, but posts from (now presumably former) SSSI developers like Daniel Higgins leave little hope that this will turn out to be erroneous. Here's Daniel's message on the topic, and how it may impact the future of Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War, which is apparently not quite complete:

This is true, SSSI is no more. I can't give details as to why, but I can tell you the product is in excellent shape, the team was in high morale and plowing ahead at full steam, and we were just weeks from gold disk.
When making games, not all factors are under your control. If one of those uncontrolable factors are important to your company and product, and fails you, bad things like this can happen. It's an unfortunante part of life. You can only learn from the experience, hopefully educate others on your experiences, and everyone in the games industry gets stronger as a result.

Still, this is truly a dissapointment. The talent of our team was incredible, the synergy we had, amazing. We would have been a gold-mine pickup for one of the bigger publishers if they wanted a top-notch RTS game company under their wing.. but alas... People are spreading to the wind now, unfortunantly seperating some amazing talent that worked on, what I feel is one of, if not the most, modern RTS Technology in the industry. 7 years, and.. hmm.. something like 70 programming years (man years) put into the product.

If Rise & Fall is released by someone else (its just a few bugs from finishing), you guys will love it! RAF is an RTS evolutionary game, and its a shame we won't be around to write its XPacks and sequels.

I think the biggest loss here is the fans who love RTS. The death of our AAA RTS company means 1 less team driving to increase the industry's limits. It means 7 years of technology and the team who knew it like the back of their hand, put on the shelf.

I feel bad for you guys. :-(

As for me, I'm not sure which direction I'll go yet, but I'll let you guys know in a week or so where I'm heading off to.

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20 Replies. 1 pages. Viewing page 1.
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20. 1800 open bugs. Nov 28, 2005, 10:28 SouL_DragooN
 
Man even if a third of those bugs are marked as needed to be fixed before gold they were a LONG LONG way off from gold. Fighting the last 15 or so bugs can sometimes take weeks with publishers...

 
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19. Re: No subject Nov 27, 2005, 17:37 IAmWeasel
 
If this person is right, it being "a few bugs from finishing"

Strangely enough, a member of the dev team posted on the R&GH Forum that as of last Monday, the game had 1800 open bugs. Not an excellent shape by any means. But hey, what do I know, it's Midway, these guys aren't exactly known for their flawless products.

Well, there's still Supreme Commander and I think the guys that did Silent Storm are working on another title.
If by another title from the makers of S2 you mean Night Watch, then I've got to disappoint you - it's a RPG with little tactics in it. Hammer & Sickle, which, according to GameStop, is due on 12/5 in the U.S., is also an RPG.
This comment was edited on Nov 27, 17:42.
 
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18. Re: No subject Nov 27, 2005, 15:33 Camaro76
 
SSSI - a developer specializing in a dying genre is not a "gold-mine pickup" for any publisher.

Well, there's still Supreme Commander and I think the guys that did Silent Storm are working on another title. If Supreme Commander is a hit, who knows what could happen.

Although I hate to hear about developers going out of business (well, most of them anyway) large, expensive teams with big egos and one marquis name to carry their reputation (Totally Games, anyone?) don't ever last long.

Bingo. Although I was thinking Ion Storm as an example, but good call.

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17. No subject Nov 27, 2005, 11:37 Dentrassi
 
There is a lot more to this story than this post indicates.

Questionable item:
"...the product is in excellent shape, the team was in high morale and plowing ahead at full steam, and we were just weeks from gold disk."

Umm. Publishers don't cancel projects that are in excellent shape, unless they're broke or stupid. I find it almost impossible to believe that SSSI was "weeks away from gold" and ran out of cash, and Midway couldn't bail them out?

Unless Midway is in such a cashflow crisis that it can't afford to fund another month or development on this project, it just doesn't make any SENSE that they'd not release it. Another month on this project would cost, what, $500,000 tops?

If this person is right, it being "a few bugs from finishing" - you'd think Midway would just ship it, right? I mean, we're talking MIDWAY here...not exactly a top-shelf publisher.

What's more probable is that the game was several months from being done, and this person couldn't see the forest for the trees.

Calling SSSI a "AAA" company is a bit of a stretch, too. Rick Goodman made a name for himself with AOE, sure, but he was not the only person responsible for that game, and, honestly, it had some serious FLAWS, many of which were corrected after he left Ensemble and the real talent in that studio were able to creat AOE2, which most RTS fans consider a masterpiece. Why did Ensemble start kicking out the kick-ass titles when Goodman left?

Empires: DOTMW was a sprawling mess, needing some serious reining in, design-wise and scope-wise. The multiplayer in that game was a chaotic mess, and don't get me started on their interface design.

SSSI - a developer specializing in a dying genre is not a "gold-mine pickup" for any publisher. Although I hate to hear about developers going out of business (well, most of them anyway) large, expensive teams with big egos and one marquis name to carry their reputation (Totally Games, anyone?) don't ever last long.

 
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16. Re: No subject Nov 27, 2005, 10:40 Animals for Crackers
 
Seemed like alittle much to me as well. Lots of reading and no payoff.

 
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15. Re: No subject Nov 27, 2005, 09:17 random.thought
 
Dear Luthier, author of the least funny anecdote of the year...

 
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14. Re: No subject Nov 27, 2005, 09:04 Flo
 
 
Supporter of the "Chewbacca Defense"
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13. Re: No subject Nov 27, 2005, 07:32 Luthier
 
Just put it on Steam. Did I just say that?...

Dear Flo,

My name is Yuran Edeott. I am the President and CEO of the Comedy Central channel. You've just posted the funniest, most original joke in the history of mankind. I would therefore like to fire all the writers from all our shows, and hire you instead as our Lead Writer for the entire channel. Hopefully your sharp wit and impeccable comic timing will finally get our network out of the ratings slump it's been in, well, the whole time, and we'll finally get some respect in the tough no-hold-barred world of basic cable.

Please send us your resume and salary requirements, hopefully in a hilarious format.

 
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12. Ya also gotta remember.... Nov 27, 2005, 05:49 The Half Elf
 
Weeks in the gaming industy can equal years in gamer time.
For more refrence to time travel, space/time, and all the rest of the stuff, go watch a few episodes from each Star Trek Series

Nice thing about living next to Universal Studios Florida, is I have pretty easy access to a time traveling Delorian.

 
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"I've never seen a feature like this before. It warms your ass. It's wonderful" -Walter Bishop
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11. Re: No subject Nov 27, 2005, 04:10 Flo
 
Just put it on Steam. Did I just say that?...  
Supporter of the "Chewbacca Defense"
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10. No subject Nov 27, 2005, 01:09 Luthier
 
MacD, it's really hard to say what could have happened there, but this couldn't have been that simple. In any case, it's not at all a guarantee that they would to get money from Midway immediately upon going gold. They could have been over budget already, and then quite possibly missed some deadlines etc, or plenty of other possibilities. And considering a February release date, even in the most optimal case with very strong sales, they wouldn't be looking at any royalties until at least the end of Q2, i.e. sometime in July. That's not two weeks, that's seven months to wait for money, and I guess they just couldn't wait that long.

Besides, with a publisher obviously not that commited to the product( based on the level of marketing it's received so far), and a dead season release date, they were probably looking at a much lower than expected sales estimate. It could have been that for the developer the chance of turning profit was very low.

But in any case, this doesn't really answer why they'd decide to close shop. Even if this project would stay in the red, it could still generate good reviews etc, and they already have name recognition, so why wouldn't they just start a new project and get financing on that? I'm only guessing that there was some non-compete in their deal with Midway, but working with Midway in the future was out of the question.

I may be wrong on the details, but it had to be a combination of both low projected revenue from the current project, and no way of starting a new one. Had to be some seriously messed-up shit in their contract.

 
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9. Re: No subject Nov 26, 2005, 23:56 MacD
 
That's got me, too. After such a huge investment, what's two weeks?

But what you wrote doesn't ring completely true either...there's usually things like completion bonusses and such on going gold, not to mention revenue from game-sales. Why didn't SSSI just go without pay for two weeks? Could SSSI be going the 'well, if THAT'S the royaltierates you're planning on giving us...screw you, no-one is going to have the game!'-route?

This just doesn't really make sence to me...not for SSSI, not so close to release....you just eat dry rice and pasta for a month if it's a money thing. Not for the publisher, who really wants/needs it's ROI.

But I really wouldn't be surprised if this gets published anyway (bugs and all)...we've seen that before: dev's finish game, get sacked, publisher doesn't have to pay royalties. But to do that mere weeks from gold?

 
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8. No subject Nov 26, 2005, 22:09 Luthier
 
Wow. Had to be some hardcore implosion between those guys and Midway, considering they shut they doors two weeks before going Gold. Hard to even imagine something like this happening, the kind of relationship they had to have with their publisher for it to end up like this. I'm only guessing it had to do with money - the developers ran out and needed more, Midway refused, all hell broke loose, and as Midway already owned all the rights they just severed the ties and said goodbye.

Gotta be what's happened. Otherwise why would SSSI be talking about some other developer finishing the release? Although it's really hard to imagine why Midway would prefer somebody else to the original developer. Why do they need the aggravation, extra time, and almost certainly additional expenses to switch developers so late in the game?

I wonder if a lawsuit might be coming.

 
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7. Re: No subject Nov 26, 2005, 20:06  famished 
 
Urgh. I hate these stories.

 
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6. Re: No subject Nov 26, 2005, 19:11 Prez
 
Very dismaying. Rise and Fall looked amazing. I trust it will be picked up, but it certainly is sad to see yet another PC developer bite the dust.

 
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“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
- Mahatma Gandhi
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5. No subject Nov 26, 2005, 19:05 cia
 
You can only learn from the experience, hopefully educate others on your experiences, and everyone in the games industry gets stronger as a result.

-------------

OK, SO WHERE IS THE PART ABOUT EDUCATING OTHERS...??

--------------

I can't give details as to why

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GREAT! THANKS FOR EDUCATING EVERYONE! JACKASS


 
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4. No subject Nov 26, 2005, 16:47 Chipper
 
I grew up playing Great Naval Battles North Atlantic by SSI, would have liked to see what rise and fall would have been like... Probably a completly diffrent company nowadays but still :).  
Gather 'round children and i'll tell you a tale,
Of chipper the ripper the chipmunk from hell
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3. No subject Nov 26, 2005, 16:33 Xero
 
Whaaaat? That Rise and Fall game looked great! How could that not get released when it looks like it was in a great state. Something has to be done here!

Face your Fears, Live your Dreams, No Fear -Manny Pacquiao
 
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Currently playing: FarCry 4, Max Payne 3, Diablo 3, Starcraft 2, Heroes of the Storm Alpha, Battlefield 3, Outlast, Red Faction Guerrilla
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2. Re: DOA Nov 26, 2005, 16:33 Jedi Master
 
I think the acronym has bad mojo. In the 90's SSI was a great developer/publisher of wargames and even simulators. Then there was a flurry of ownership changes between Mindscape, The Learning Company, etc, until Ubisoft bought them. That was the end for them.
I guess adding an extra "S" to their name didn't help.

Actually, SSI followed the same path as Sierra. What used to be synonymous with "fun high quality games" in the pre-Win95 days became "beware!" after VUG bought them. They still release good ones, like SWAT 4 and FEAR, but they're not what they were in the the years of the "Quest" releases.



The Jedi Master

 
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1. DOA Nov 26, 2005, 16:21 Hump
 
I'm not a big RTS player but It's always sad to hear a good development house get cut (echos of Legend and Looking glass here). You would think a publisher would do anything to keep someone like Rick Goodman on the payroll.

I wonder why they bailed from MS? despite their rep, their game division seems to be well respected among developers and many customers (myself included).

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