Ex Ensembler’s Ian Fischer, Rob Fermier and David Rippy look back
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!
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