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.
Great news for NewToy their latest iPhone game We Rule has now been approved by Apple and is live in the Canadian AppStore. No doubt it will soon be available worldwide very shortly so keep an eye on your App stores!
The game is a free download so if you live in Canada check it out right away!
NewToy have announced the launch of the official We Rule website for their upcoming iPhone game over at the Ngmoco community. http://werule.ngmoco.com/ The website has a bunch of screenshots for the upcoming game, here are some examples:
Your kingdom. Your rules. Take charge of a living kingdom. Farm, build and expand your realm. Check back at anytime, anywhere.
Looking forward to seeing this game go live and enjoying the success of previous NewToy titles!
Ngmoco have released a video blog where Matt Roberts walks us through a preview of the game. My first impression is that it looks very similar to the Farmville genre – “Social gaming” on Facebook. With We Rule you’ll have much greater control than just planting and harvesting crops, theres building management and the ability to visit other kingdoms and trade merchandise. While it should be noted the game does require a persistent (always on) data connection it should be great to play casually when your on the train or bus for instance. Coverage depending of course!
Take a look at the VicDoc below to see what its like:
Budding iPhone developers NewToy lead by ex Ensemble programmers has announced a new iPhone project in collaboration with Ngmoco a well known publisher on the iPhone platform. The new game titled “We Rule” sees players creating thier very own unique kingdom where they can heavily customise the kingdoms realms, shops, businesses, buildings, banners and crops. The official blurb from the Ngmoco website continues:
You will collect taxes from your citizens and manage a variety of shops and businesses – from bakeries and inns to lumber mills and ore mines.
There do not seem to be any screenshots of the game yet, but stick around and we’ll try and dig some out. Meanwhile check out what you can from the the graphic below. Certainly seems to be a big project but no doubt the Bettner brothers at NewToy are up to the task. For more information on the game the press release follows below and a link to the website.
ngmoco has a new social game, We Rule, in the works. We’re excited to share it with you.
In We Rule, you will govern your very own kingdom. You will act as a city planner and landscaper—customizing your realm with buildings, banners, and botany. You’ll decide what crops to plant and ensure they are harvested on time. You will collect taxes from your citizens and manage a variety of shops and businesses – from bakeries and inns to lumber mills and ore mines.
We’re also pleased to announce we’re collaborating with App Store star Newtoy to create this innovative, next-gen social game. Newtoy has a strong development pedigree on a host of platforms – before iPhone and iPod, the team helped create Age of Empires and Halo Wars. More recently they’ve engineered smash mobile hits Words with Friends and Chess with Friends.
Soon you’ll have a chance to build a kingdom of your own. We’ll be revealing more about the game soon. And if you’d like access to exclusive info and screens, chat with gamemakers and help us make We Rule better, join the ng:community.
NewToy’s Words with Friends iPhone app has exploded since its launch in August 2009. Today the app is featured as GeekSugar.com’s download of the day.
If you have an iPhone and havnt played Words with Friends, what are you waiting for? Download the free edition from the iTunes store today, just search for Words with Friends!
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:
Great news for NewToy their popular “Words with Friends” application has been nominated in the Wired.com “Top apps of 2009″ feature. If you have an iPhone with and have played Words with Friends then show your support for the budding iPhone developer headed up by the Bettner brothers!
Head over to : http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2009/12/best-iphone-apps-2009/ for the full story.
NewToy’s Chess with Friends iPhone application has been buzzing lately and the studio revealed that over 1,000,000 moves were made in one day yesterday signalling a new record for the game. Help spread the word of this excellent social chess game and you can help get NewToy’s Chess with Friends into the Top 100 App Store charts! If youve got an iPhone and haven’t seen the chess revolution then you should download the application for free on the AppStore below!
NewToy have announced on Twitter that they have just sent in an update for thier first iPhone game “Chess with Friends” to be reviewed by Apple for publication on the AppStore. Some of application updates include:
- Push notifications,
- Deleting games,
- Facebook & Twitter challenges,
- and many other fixes and improvements
We’ll keep an eye out for when this update gets accepted onto the AppStore!