Some ex-Ensemble staff have been reminisces about the old days to some gaming websites / magazines. As always interviews and articles from Ex Ensemblites provides interesting insight into the workings of the studio and what made it a unique and special place to work – the studio lifestyle and culture.
First up we have Ian Fischer who takes us back to the original Age of Empires and Age of Kings timezone over at gamesource.org. Ian discusses the origins of the studio and how it started off with the bright idea by Tony Goodman and some of his close friends:-
“Ensemble Studios had its roots in a consulting firm: Ensemble Corporation. One night in 1993, Tony Goodman was talking to Angelo Laundon, one of the programmers at Ensemble Corp. While discussing the buisness, one of them (neither remembers which) asked, “Wouldn’t it be more fun to make games?
and boom that was it..”
The article as written by Ian Fischer is a well worthy read of any Ensemble fan and spans four pages of in depth detail about Ensemble Studios in the early days prior to the Microsoft acquisition. You can read the excellent piece in e-magazine form over at gamesource.
In another story long timer ES’rs Rob Fermier and David Rippy talk to GameZone discussing how the recession impacted on studios like Ensemble.
Of all the studios that shut down over the last few years, the closure of Ensemble Studios was amongst the least expected. The critically acclaimed Age of Empires and Halo Wars developer had a great track record of quality games that sold well, reviewed strongly and won awards. None of that was enough to prevent its closure – former Ensemble luminary Bruce Shelley admits the company was perhaps too specialized, too expensive and had too many costly, unproduced projects. Fortunately, out of the demise of Ensemble were born several new studios, including Robot Entertainment, Bonfire Studios, Windstorm Studios and NewToy. – GameZone
David Rippy who now serves as president over at Bonfire Studios commented:
“It was really an amazing experience, I had the pleasure of working at Ensemble from day one and watched it grow from a few guys experimenting with a WinG tank demo into a really well-respected game company. Hardly anyone ever left Ensemble, so it truly felt like family. Tony Goodman (our studio head) created an environment and culture where people actually enjoyed going to work every day and even hung out on the weekends.
We had a movie theater, arcade games, pool table, gourmet food … you name it! We certainly worked hard and crunched around major milestones, but we did it because we loved the games we were making. I think most former ES-rs will remember it as a really cool place to work, a great group of people who were completely committed to the company and their craft, and hopefully some of the most rewarding years of their life.”
Rob Fermier, Robot’s Lead Programmer also waded in for comment and continues:
“Ensemble was rare in that most of the people working there had been working together for many years, with a great deal of continuity. Being able to establish such deep working relationships with people was incredibly valuable, and we had strong bonds to each other and to the studio. I’ll most miss that sense of team that we had – a well established development process, a deep understanding in our area of expertise, and strong sense of studio identity. Such things take years to build, and once gone are lost forever.”
Despite many Ensemble staff staying in the Dallas area some will have moved away and it is sad to remember a great studio being split up. Looking towards the future we are blessed to have the excellent talent from Ensemble Studios in four main studios – Robot, Bonfire, Windstorm and NewToy. I am sure the quality of games produced from these studios will echo the values and quality of those games developed as a team at Ensemble.
As the larger studios continue to work on thier first production projects announcements and news are just around the corner. Keep a sharp eye on these studios – great things are coming!
New Robot Entertainment Community Manager Justin “SixOkay” Korthof has posted his first blog on the Robot Entertainment website introducing himself and updating fans on some community plans going on at Robot. After some requests by members particularly on Age Community SixOkay has today announced plans to launch a new web forum on the homepage of RobotEntertainment.com in an effort to refresh the site and add more community features going forward.
I’ve seen a ton of requests over the last few days specifically for us to open up a new forum. I’m happy to announce that one of the updates we’re working on for the new site is in fact a new message board. Soon, you’ll be able to come by and speculate to your heart’s content about upcoming Robot projects, interact with our community team and development team members, and generally stake your claim as a hardcore Robot Entertainment fan who was there since the beginning.
This is excellent news as this will provide a new platform for fans to engage in speculation on new Robot projects. With input from Community Manager Justin and Community coordinator Duncan Stanley I expect there will be lots of discussion and interactivity. As Robot gets closer and closer to being public about games they are working on its exciting to see investment in a new online community in the interim.
If you are asking “who is this SixOkay chap?” then you have been out of the loop for a while. SixOkay, or Justin may just be announcing his becoming a Robot on the website now but has been in the role for about five weeks already.
I’ve been working here at Robot for about four weeks now. A lot of my time has been spent catching up on the many awesome things that the developers here have been working on for just over a year. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you already know that we’re working hard on two really amazing projects. Looking around the web, I have seen a ton of interest from the avid Age of Empires fans, as well as from other gamers, about what exactly we’re working on. We love that you’re all so interested, but this is the part where I ask for your patience. I wish I could give you all the details right now, but we’ve still got some time before everything’s ready to come out of the oven, so to speak. I did want you to know, though that we have been reading your comments and forum posts, and we’re just as eager to announce things as you are to read about them.
Stand by for more information about future community happenings at Robot. While I try to update this blog as fast as I can its always a good idea to follow Robot Entertainment and other studios on social networking sites such as Twitter so that you can get the latest information about Ex Ensemble Studios as it happens. I have created a Twitter list to help fans dig out their favourite studios on Twitter.
Addac from the Age Sanctuary community has recently conducted an insightful interview with Robot Entertainment’s new community manager Justin “SixOkay” Korthof. Addac who had previously interviewed Aloysius in February of this year has now posted a similar interview with SixOkay.
Justin has been in the gaming industry for about 4 years and in that time has worked on a number of titles and community websites. Starting with working at EA-LA and then at Microsoft with the Gears and Halo franchises before ending up at Robot Entertainment.
When the Robot Entertainment opportunity came up, it felt like a really great time and a really great place for me to get back to doing the online community management work that I love to do.
When asked what Justin would bring to the table at Robot Entertainment the message was perfectly clear – creating a new fantastic community website for new games that echo the quality of previous Ensemble offerings.
What do you feel that you personally bring to Robot Entertainment that will help them make the best Aoe4 possible?
Well, I can’t speak to any specific games we’re developing, but I feel like I bring a ton of intense passion for online communities to the table. I’ve been working with community experiences online for about 18 years now, since I was in middle school. I live and breath this stuff, and I can’t wait to start building opportunities for a Robot community to come together. Obviously there were and are a lot of passionate Ensemble fans out there, and I think that we can build up that kind of excitement and community all over again around Robot Entertainment.
You can read all about it over at the Age Sanctuary forums. From work to personal life and some random questions Addac’s got it covered: