The lights are on
"From the creators of Eternal Darkness," said the teaser trailer for Precursor Games' Shadow of the Eternals. Immediately, we wanted to know more. Which creators are involved? What does this mean for Silicon Knights?
On Monday, we found out the answers to the first inquiry. A number of former Silicon Knights employees, including former CEO Denis Dyack are on the Precursor team. Dyack is serving as Chief Creative Officer, and it was only then did we learn that he had departed Silicon Knights. The answer to the second question has only started coming into focus.
Last night, Polygon published a report that confirms suspicions. Something is very wrong at Silicon Knights, and possibly at new publisher Precursor Games. According to Polygon's sources, almost everyone has been laid off and the phone number has been disconnected. This last piece must have occurred recently, as we left unreturned messages on May 3, 2013, for CFO Michael Mays and Joanne Dyack, whose extension and mailbox were reached when putting in Denis' last name. It is believed that she was laid off in 2011.
On May 3, we also reached out to Epic Games, who provided us a brief statement. A representative told us there were no developments to share in the ongoing attempts to collect on a $4.45 million court settlement awarded over breach of contract and infringing use of Unreal Engine 3 in Silicon Knights' Too Human and X-Men Destiny.
What makes the situation even more suspect is that Silicon Knights has offloaded art assets and computers (since audited by Epic request to ensure data had been removed) to Precursor Games. When questioned about the connection between the studios, Dyack refused to comment on Silicon Knights and Precursor CEO Paul Caporicci is adamant that the two companies are separate. The presence of an Eternal Darkness forum (a game by a completely separate company according to Caporicci) is very strange, even if Shadow of the Eternals is a spiritual successor.
If true, Dyack's presence at Precursor is a dark cloud. The transfer of so many staff members and art assets, even if the computers were wiped clean, raises questions about whether this play is an attempt to avoid paying restitution to Epic. Dyack's refusal to talk about what happened at Silicon Knights will continue to hang suspicion over Precursor Games.
The crowd funding effort underway for Shadow of the Eternals is fraught with risk. Precursor, an unproven entity, is running the campaign itself with no oversight from Kickstarter (which does not operate in Canada) or Indiegogo (which does), both platforms with rules and policies that help protect backers. The goal is considered to be quite high, with $1.5 million needed for the first episode. Many backer tiers include the entire twelve installments, which is a severe mismatch of expectations and funding reality.
There is no guarantee that even if the initial goal is met that those due a full season will ever see that incentive fulfilled. Backing a crowd funded project is always a risk, but with no ground rules established by a neutral party, putting money behind Shadow of the Eternals seems foolish. Until Denis Dyack opens up about his departure from Silicon Knights and exactly how much of Shadow of the Eternals is based on work created at his old studio, caution must be exercised.
For more on this story, please read Polygon's extensive coverage.
Email the author Mike Futter, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.
NUMBER TWO, OH YAH!!!.
Seems like a guy's last ditch effort to save his development company. I wouldn't trust this for a second, and I feel bad for anyone who doesn't know this but ends up helping them "fund" a game anyways. I feel like those funds will end up in Dyack's wallet.
That kickstarter-type thing will tank solely because of Dyack's name. People who donate to crowdfunding know who that guy is and there is no way in hell that he will reach that 1.5 million.
Such a mess.
With this guy on board, I'm sorry but I can't trust Precursor with my money. After reading this, it looks even more fishy.
I felt the same way from the moment I heard about this game. I am kind of shocked to see it has raised the money it has so far. If you are a backer pull your pledge and give it to a project that has a ghost of a chance. This whole situation is just bad news. Dyack has a scarlet letter in the industry and its going to take more than makeup to cover the mistakes he has made...
It must come, no matter what.
The crazy thing is, SK got so much capital from Canadian governmental loans that paying Epic $4.4 million should be a drop in the bucket for them. It's not like that money went to games like all the stuff mentioned in the Polygon report (they specifically cite, "...in-development games The Sandman, Siren in the Maelstrom and The Box/Rytualist."). According to Polygon, "...During the development of Too Human and other unreleased titles, Silicon Knights received about $4.5 million in funding from various Canadian programs... Silicon Knights received funding from Ontario's provincial government. Its Media Development Corporation (OMDC) granted $1 million as part of its Video Game Prototype Initiative... The developer was also a recipient of the OMDC's export fund for Interactive Digital Media in 2007 and 2008."
I feel kinda bad for them. Clearly, they just want to continue making games. And Dyack doesn't want to repeat his past performance as some mouthpiece spewing lies and getting into fights with gamers on message boards. But at the same time, their reputation is well deserved and everything - EVERYTHING - about Shadows of the Eternal is shady. The fact that they're NOT using Kickstarter (does that mean no refunds if they're unsuccessful?), the fact that they've shown off a suspicious Church level (if you read Kotaku's piece, "What happened to Silicon Knights' X-Men Destiny", then you know they wasted an awful amount of time putting together a Church demo for Eternal Darkness 2 with Activision's money, instead of focusing on X-Men Destiny), and the fact that Precursor Games has no prior experience shipping a title. You'd figure a startup nowadays would do some mobile- or downloadble- titles first; prove they can deliver SOMETHING before asking for money for an ambitious 12-part episodic series for PC and consoles, yeah? Especially when they're comprised of ex-Silicon Knights guys, who aren't the best when it comes to shipping quality games. A few previous exceptions be damned (we all know Nintendo and Konami were responsible for keeping SK in line in the past).
This is certainly an interesting story to watch. But oh heck yeah; I'm not going to throw money their way. I'm actually laying off supporting Kickstarter projects in general at the moment. But even if they were on the tried-and-true platform, I'd avoid it. Have there been ANY success stories when people decide to try crowdfunding on their own sites?
Eternal Darkness wasn't even that amazing. Solid sure, but not amazing. And the insanity effects - while cool - were pretty pointless since you had to pretty beat up before they'd take effect. And that game was not hard in the least. Kinda unintuitive if you think about it.