Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Project cancelled at Wii developer Factor 5?

There are rumours about a cancelled project and lay-offs at Californian developer Factor 5 (´Star Wars: Rogue Squadron´, ´Turrican´, ´Lair´) in the wake of publisher Brash Entertainment going out of business, as Variety reported.

Factor 5 announced that they were working on at least one Wii game in January and recently specified that they were developing "several projects, both multi-platform as well as single-platform titles for the Wii". This suggests that Factor 5 is actually developing more than one Wii game.

Brash had signed a publishing deal with Factor 5 earlier this year regarding "an unnamed title releasing in 2010 to be announced around the E3 Expo in July."

Now, Factor 5 animation artist Sam Baker (Google cache, now offline) published some details about the financial state of the studio on his blog.

No one at Factor 5 had been paid in a month.... and we weren't going to any time soon. (...) Regardless of the financial issues of the company (which I won't elaborate on), we all stayed and continued to work. If we left, there would have been no hope in F5 staying afloat. We had faith in the projects and the company, so there was no reason to bail just yet. At this time it didn't seem like much more than bad timing and bad luck.

Then we lost health care. Ok, who needs it? If we're going to eventually be paid, some sacrifices would be worth it. I had my own on the side, so I wasn't sweating it. Then things turned bad...

Without proper funding on the project I was working on, the company was forced to stop production. Unfortunately I was finally having a ton of fun working on it and we had made such insane progress that this was a total kick to the chest. It was basically like saying "the work you've been doing for the last 8 months has been all for none, but thanks anyway." After that news, moral was definitely not the greatest. We figured it wasn't a problem, however, because there were other projects that needed us, and we still had work to do. So then...

The president of the company basically told us that if we didn't receive funding in 1 week, all of us should move on and look elsewhere for another job. I had no idea how bad this economy was getting until something like this affected me personally, and yea, it sucks. I have 1 more week left at Factor 5.

Soonafter, the entire blog was deleted and the following rebuttal was posted, presumably by another person (since Sam Baker's Blogger profile went offline).

A writer for 1up came across my blog and read some information that was then misinterpreted. I'd like to clarify what exactly is going on.

Steve Watts of 1UP wrote that I said Factor 5 cut one of their main projects, a comic book superhero game, and that's incorrect. It was a big story in the news that we recently lost a publisher, Brash Entertainment, when they went out of business. This does not mean that we've stopped production on that game, or that it was ever even in trouble. The other projects currently under way at Factor 5 are doing great. We hadn't received payment because of the situation with Brash, which is why I said I needed to look elsewhere for work. I removed my blog because it contained information that easy to misinterpret.

In an interview with MTV's Stephen Totilo since Brash's demise (but before Baker's comments), Eggebrecht addresses fears about their projects, stopping short of confirming one title as a new iteration in the ´Superman´ universe.

One of our large-scale multi-platform projects was started with Brash because it is a dream property for us, hasn’t been given its dues in gaming since the Atari 2600, and has a huge universe to draw from. It also is a long-term project because we were not wiling to compromise quality at all from the start and make this into what we as fans, and hopefully every fan of the property - movies old or new, comic-book, or TV - wants to play. If we have delivered the ultimate fantasy fulfillment in a galaxy far, far away, this one certainly is intended to do the same for a completely different universe.

With that said, things are obviously in flux and we hope that the game proves to be as indestructible as our hero.

So just what is the status of the games Factor 5 is developing? What perspective is there for the employees? We know for sure from Sam Baker's resume and his comments that he will be no longer with Factor 5 next year. And a colleague of his has updated his website with a new showreel only days ago.

I sincerely hope that no games are in danger of being cancelled. Ever since Factor 5 president Julian Eggebrecht claimed that their graphics engine for the Wii "does everything that the PS3 did and then some", I am dying to see the game. And, of course, I wish all Factor 5 employees well. I have met Julian Eggebrecht on a number of occasions and I am sure that he will do anything to prevent lay-offs, if there really is any danger of that.

EDIT The rumours of lay-offs at Factor 5 are true, according to EDGE magazine and an anonymous source. Apparently, half of the workforce has been fired.

The source, who wished to remain anonymous, said 37 people were laid off from the San Rafael, Calif. studio on Friday afternoon. Around 38 people remain, he said. (...)

Our source said, "The thing that bothers me the most about it all is they could have avoided all of this ages ago. It wasn't really the Brash deal going south that was the big problem, but it didn't help much either."

Sources: Sam Baker's blog (Google cache, now offline), Variety, MTV, EDGE
Thanks to: 1UP, Joystiq, Silwer, Kotaku

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