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Steve Hornback on Rogue and the Industry

 

There's been a bit of talk about what's up with Rogue Entertainment since the company had it's last contract canceled by Electronic Arts (EA) a few weeks ago. Indeed Rogue did have the financial carpet yanked from under it by EA. We can only assume that, based on past EA PS2 projects, EA made their decision based on past financial outlays versus returns and deemed it too risky to finance another. Of course, this was not good news for Rogue. Rogue felt that future projects depended on the success of Alice. This is still true. Alice is doing quite well, and EA is aware of this. Rogue is in negotiations with several publishers, including EA, to produce it's next title.

However, several Rogue employees (some of whom may be new to the industry) are upset that, after producing a successful title, it is possible this could happen. It is quite unfortunate (yet sadly understandable) to see this bitterness. No one can be happy to see a project canceled, and I must admit there was a bit of shock in the meeting room when the cancellation of the PS2 version of Alice was announced the morning after Rogue management found out the previous evening. The management team had put their heart and soul into building the best team in the business. This required that they take the risk to hand pick the best developers in the business to produce a winning title, and they were successful. Unfortunately they had their financial backing discontinued without any warning at all.

It is sad that there truly is little loyalty in the game development arena. Indeed I know this first hand. After working with another developer for nearly nine years I, too, was tossed aside with no warning whatsoever, only to be replaced by a younger guy (I had had a heart attack and was 46 years old.....ancient in the gaming industry). At least Rogue gave me the opportunity to contribute my art talents towards Alice. I am very grateful for that.

As with most companies, business decisions by publishers are driven almost solely by profits. But keep in mind that, in the early days of Hollywood, an actress often had to sleep with the producer in order to get a part. Well, game development is still in these early days, but most developers can't drop their blouse for the producer in order to get or keep the job. The unfortunate part is that, as in the past, great talent can often be squelched by the infirm desires of an unethical person. Nothing like this ever happened at Rogue. The company simply desires to become successful by producing an outstanding title. They assumed that producing a winner would allow them to continue producing winner after winner. No one in management was taking bonuses from the money provided to create the game (or skimming it off the top to buy a Porsche or something). Everything goes into the business and the people.

After hearing a few of the outrageous stories from some of my fellow developers who came from other companies (not to mention my own experiences), I've realized that many game producers as well as publishers are out to only line their own pockets at the expense of all else including what got them there in the first place, the talent. With so many people desperately trying to break into the gaming industry, it's easy for a producer or publisher to dump the talent so they can pay minimum wage to the new guy on the block. Is this philosophy helping to make better games for the masses? Unfortunately, this formula often leads to a degree of failure for the offending company and greater competition for the violator (the latter of which is maybe a good thing after all). But, overall, what a sad development for this industry. However, again I must say that this never happened at Rogue; so I feel very fortunate indeed to still be associated with the company.

Anyway, for anyone out there who cares, Rogue Entertainment is still alive and kicking. Rogue still has most of the talent that they had, who are already working on their next title. Most of my Starbuck's coffee buddies who have left have proved their talent through Alice, and I'm sure they will probably go on to further greatness. I shall miss them greatly. But someday, the developers out there will unite, so that they cannot ever again be at the mercy of the publishers.

Stephen A. Hornback
2D Artist
Rogue Entertainment

 



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