The Quieter Denis Dyack Is On Silicon Knights, The Louder The Suspicious Whispers

by Mike Futter on May 10, 2013 at 07:43 AM

"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.