Following on from our first part of Robot’s PAX Panel review we now move on from looking at the studios history to present day to looking at some of the interesting prototypes they have been working on in-between OMD2 and OMDU. For the first time we get a glimpse at some of he games that could have been from the creative minds at Robot. Read more
Some of the bots from Robot Entertainment have been hanging out at PAX Prime this weekend, hosting their very own PAX panel titled “An afternoon of fun with Robot Entertainment”. In our first part of our two part series we cover the first part of the panel which looks at Robot history including their time at Ensemble Studios and the games that lead up to Orcs Must Die! Unchained. For anyone who was in attendance there were plenty of free things being given out including a bag, poster, buttons, t-shirt, band and “Founders PAX” access to the Closed Beta. Read more
News is spreading around that Paul Bettner an ex Ensemble programmer has had a bit of a “rant” at the GDC explaining that Ensemble Studios should not of blamed Microsoft for the studios closure and should instead look at failings with the company culture at Ensemble Studios. In what has proven to be such a shock read from an ex-Ensemble employee which certainly damages the excellent working environment Ensemble was credited for he says:
“The reality is that every single game we shipped took twice as long as we said it was going to take, and cost twice as much to make.
“Microsoft is a public company, they answer to their shareholders, and we were simply too expensive.”
But wait, theres more:
“Ensemble had a company culture where everyone was a workaholic, developers worked late and slept at the office, and were addicted to the rush of success of the Age of Empires series.
I watched this happen and I did almost nothing to stop it. As an employee, and later as a manager, I didn’t take a stand. I just kept hoping for that next high”
“This is a horrible vicious cycle. We burn out all our best people. We destroy these precious artists, we wreck their families and we sacrifice their youth. So they leave, and they take all their experience with them.”
Some pretty shocking comments there which resulted in huge applause from the GDC audience, perhaps with other developers agreeing that there is way too much pressure in the industry with these “crunching” hours.
This is the first time we have had an Ensemble Studios employee almost attack the way the company was managed but we must remember on the other end of the scale that alot of people stuck with Ensemble once the studio was told it would be closed down and ironically Dave and Paul Bettner were one of the first employees to leave and start NewToy before Halo Wars was completed.
These are one mans comments and do not reflect the thoughts of the whole studio. 45 employees followed Tony Goodman to start up Robot Entertainment so there must of been confidence in the highest management. Perhaps lessons have been learnt about crunching hours and the new Ensemble startups are paying closer attention to how staff are looked after and how studios are run to ensure talent does not leave whilst at the same time balancing budget and hitting milestones. Now with studios like Robot and Bonfire being fully independent there may be less pressure to meet publisher demands, hopefully.
It should also be noted that Robot Entertainment sponsor the International Game Developers Association and therefore stands by the values and principles behind the IGDA “Quality of Life” white paper. If there were any issues at Ensemble these should now have been addressed with the management at Robot Entertainment. Robot Chief Operating Officer, Patrick Hudson comments on the IGDA website:
Robot Entertainment is proud to support the IGDA in its ongoing mission to make the game development community a better environment for all of us.
This comment is not related or a response to the Paul Bettner discussion and has been present on the IGDA website for quite some time prior.
Christmas eve today and I wanted to wish all the blog readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Last year was a sad time for the Ensemble crew but this year things are looking up. Studios like Robot, Bonfire, Windstorm, NewToy and Fuzzycube amoung other ventures seem to be going very well with the latter two already performing exceptionally well on the iPhone platform. Will 2010 reveal any teasers for Robot, Bonfire and Windstorm projects? We hope so! Stay tuned for updates over 2010. Meanwhile, here’s a little greeting from your friendly Robots:
Jeremy W of the Halo Wars official community forum recently spotted the removal of Halo Wars lead designer, Dave Pottingers name from Robot Entertainment’s list of employees. Dave Pottinger was a long time member of Ensemble Studios and was present at the beginning with Age of Empires 1. Dave was fairly big on community engagement appearing on the Halo Wars forums and writing development blogs on the games official website. Dave was also responsible for the mammoth Robot Entertainment lego sign effort who’s blog remains on the studios website. Often a spokesman for game development at Robot Entertainment, appearing on voice and video chats about Halo Wars and post Ensemble, it is currently unclear why he has chosen to move to Bonfire Studios.
Dave has updated his post on Halo Wars forum pointing out that Robot was a great place to work, it just wasnt the things he wanted to be doing and Bonfire was more aligned with the projects they were undertaking.
Robot is a great place with crazy good talent. A huge chunk of my best friends work there:) Just turned out to not be the right place for me and where I want to go/what I want to do.
And I can still play with Legos no matter where I am:)
No matter where Mr Pottinger is placed, its exciting that he will still be apart of developing games with Ex-Ensemble people – keep an eye out for Bonfire news!
Great news for all you Twitter and Facebook fans! One of your favourite video game studios and favourite studio blog website have just got a bit more social! Remember Ensemble can now be found on Twitter at www.twitter.com/remember_es. Please show your support to Ensemble Studios by following the feed!
Robot Entertainment are jumping on the Facebook wagon and you can become a fan of the studio can kept up to the minute updates when new blogs, news and photos are available. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Robot-Entertainment/113092790195 is a must for any Robot Entertainment fan!
You can also follow ex Ensemble iphone developers Fuzzycube at http://twitter.com/FuzzyCube. Currently Fuzzycube are in the process of making new great sports games!
Social networking websites are great way to reach fans and its excellent ex Ensemble Studios people are following suit!
Robot Entertainment’s lead programmer Vijay Thakkar has today revealed that Robot Entertainment has signed an agreement with Trinigy to use the Vision Engine for the studios next original IP game. The licensing agreement with Trinigy grants Robot Entertainment the rights to develop a multi-platform game for its new IP using Trinigy’s Vision Engine. Robot’s Vijay Thakkar had this to say on the matter:
“The Vision Engine has clearly been designed with a focus on a powerful set of engine features that do not compromise full developer flexibility,” said Thakkar, in a statement. “Throughout our evaluation of the industry’s premium engines, the Vision engine consistently stood out in terms of performance and how quickly our developers could see their ideas running in game. The stellar level of support, integration of third-party technologies and robust architecture made choosing the Vision Engine an easy decision for our studio and has allowed us to quickly build momentum on our new project.”
One might wonder why Robot is choosing to go down an external engine route. In the past Ensemble Studios has written engines from scratch including The Age 1 & 2 Engine “Genie”, Age of Mythology and Age 3 engine “Bang” and the Halo Wars engine. With the closure of Ensemble Studios it is not known how much support Robot and other studios have been given with regards to the old Ensemble engines the team has created. As Microsoft own the rights to all engines and designs under Ensemble it is presumed that Robot would need to have reached an agreement with Microsoft to use these old tools. However using a 3rd party engine is certainly not a bad thing as it reduces the time Robot has to spend developing a new engine. Instead they can get stuck right in with existing tools and framework allowing them to get the game ready more quickly than from scratch. – And we’re all looking forward to that!
In case your wondering what types of games have been developed using this engine here’s a brief sample:
|Helldorado||Spellbound / dtp & Playten||PC|
|The Show||16Tons / Take 2||PC|
|Dungeon Hero||Firefly Studios||PC, Xbox360|
|ZedCity||Zed Group||PC (MMO)|
|Warlord||Neowiz Corp.||PC (MMO)|
|CrossRoads||Nassons Entertainment||PC, Xbox360|
|Wii Relax||Frame Studios||PC, Wii|
One might notice there is alot of PC titles in the list! Perhaps a hint? You can find more details about the engine on the companies official website. They are handily have an office located in Austin, Texas – perfect for Robot Entertainment based near by.
The whole press release can be found below and a link at the bottom to the GamesIndustry.biz article – well worth checking out for those interested!
Austin, TX – July 28th, 2009 – Trinigy, an industry leading 3D game engine provider with over 100 licensees and offices in Germany and Austin, TX, today announced a licensing agreement with Robot Entertainment, Inc., a world-class independent entertainment software company located in Plano, TX. Robot Entertainment will use the Vision Engine on a new, undisclosed IP currently in development.
Started by many of the original founders of Ensemble Studios, Robot Entertainment has a staff of 45 developers comprised entirely of former Ensemble employees. The new company’s team developed the hit franchise Age of Empires™, which sold over 20 million units worldwide, and the recently released hit Halo Wars for Xbox 360™. Robot Entertainment recently announced it will continue working with Microsoft Game Studios to create additional Halo Wars content and support online gaming and communities for both Age of Empires and Halo Wars. The company also announced ambitions to create its own original IP, though no specifics are available yet.
The licensing agreement with Trinigy grants Robot Entertainment the rights to develop a multi-platform game for its new IP using Trinigy’s Vision Engine. In doing so, Robot Entertainment joins a growing list of outstanding developers worldwide that have licensed the Vision Engine, including Ubisoft, Take 2, Firefly and the recently announced MunkyFun, Nitro and Spellbound.
“The Vision Engine has clearly been designed with a focus on a powerful set of engine features that do not compromise full developer flexibility,” said Vijay Thakkar, lead programmer at Robot Entertainment. “Throughout our evaluation of the industry’s premium engines, the Vision engine consistently stood out in terms of performance and how quickly our developers could see their ideas running in game. The stellar level of support, integration of 3rd party technologies and robust architecture made choosing the Vision Engine an easy decision for our studio and has allowed us to quickly build momentum on our new project.”
“Robot Entertainment has the experience and talent to make groundbreaking games that set new standards in the industry,” said Daniel J. Conradie, president and CEO at Trinigy Inc. “Our success and momentum continue to be validated by distinguished AAA teams like the one at Robot Entertainment. We are excited to support this extremely talented team on their next eagerly awaited title.”
Based in Southern Germany, and with an office in Austin, TX, Trinigy is a privately owned company committed to selling groundbreaking game engine technology and first-class support to video game and serious game development studios across the globe. Engineered to provide more creative and technical freedom, the company’s Vision Engine is currently in use in more than 100 commercial game productions by well-known companies such as Ubisoft, Take 2, Dreamcatcher, NeoWiz, Spellbound, Nitro Games and more. The Vision Engine has proven its versatility in a multitude of game genres, including real-time strategy, racing, first-person shooters, role-playing games and massively multiplayer online (MMO) games. It is available and optimized for performance on PC (DX9, DX10), Xbox360™, PLAYSTATION®3, Nintendo Wii™, XBLA™, PSN™ and WiiWare™. For more information about Trinigy, its Vision Engine or its technology partners, please visit: www.trinigy.net.
About Robot Entertainment
Based in Plano, Texas, Robot Entertainment is a world-class independent game development studio owned and operated by many of the founders of Ensemble Studios. With a team that has proven experience and expertise in creating games that appeal to massive audiences, Robot Entertainment is focused on titles that set new standards for their respective genres as well as groundbreaking original IPs. Robot can be found on the web at www.robotentertainment.com.
Looking forward to hearing more about the games development!!
An excellent article put together by Gamespy today as they talk to Ex-Senior Ensemble Studios programmer Dusty Monk. Dusty who worked at Ensemble Studios for 15 whole years discusses how valuable his Ensemble friends Graeme Devine and Tony Goodman have been helping him set up the new studio. Dusty has some freelance and ex- Ensemble people working part time on his presumed futuristic MMO.
He also talks about his thoughts on the closure of Ensemble and what its been like to set up a new studio in these economic times.
I wish him all the best and we will be following him closely here at Remember-EnsembleStudios.com
Full article: http://uk.pc.gamespy.com/articles/969/969790p1.html
Dont forget to check out the Windstorm website! www.windstormstudios.com
Bonfire Studios is the second studio to form out of Ensemble Studios. This studio is headed up by David Rippy and the studio is formed soley of Ensemble staff. David Rippy had this to say:
“Ensemble had an incredible group of highly talented people and the companies coming out of it are really made up of the best of the best. Ensemble was one of the few studios with two A-teams,” said David Rippy, president and CEO of Bonfire Studios. “We are already working on an original IP that we’ll start talking about in the next few months.”
Another great studio to keep an eye on! It is exciting to hear that we will be seeing new IP from both studios all full of Ensemble people. That’s fantastic. Its great to see they are all landing on their feet.
The Bonfire Studios website is fully online at: http://www.bonfire-studios.com/index.html which I encourage everyone to check out!
********** Question and Answers!! ****************
Ive been getting messges asking about the relationship between Robot and Bonfire and why there are two studios. Please see this rushed explanation below! I shall hope to get more info soon!
As Bruce Shelley confirmed there are two separate studios forming from Ensemble.
1. Robot Entertainment headed up by Tony Goodman the ex Ensemble founder. Robot will be supporting Halo Wars and Age whilst also making a new game. Unfortunately not all employees from ES could go to Robot as there was not enough resources available to employ them all
2. Bonfire Studios is where the remaining talent from ES has landed. They will be making a new game that’s “too hot to handle”. This studio is lead by David Rippy who was also a prominent Ensemble member.
You can now find the images restored to part 2 of Bruce’s blog archive: http://remember-ensemblestudios.com/?page_id=240
The rest will be restored soon.
Update on new studios:
There has been no news as of yet for a name for the new studios and nor do they have a website setup. I can confirm however that Ensemble people are indeed managing the ESO servers which run Age of Empires 3 and Age of Mythology. My ears are to the ground and will update this site as news develops.