Tony Goodman is now speaking live on his Reddit “Ask me anything”. Come and join in and pose your questions to the man who started it all!
Great news of all Ensemble, Robot and PeopleFun fans – the man behind it all is due to host an Ask Me Anything (AMA) next Saturday! This will be your chance to pose your questions to the man at the top! From Age of Empires to Word Chums, anything goes in the AMA!
It’ll all be kicking off next Saturday 27th July at 1PM CST. Or 8pm UK time! PeopleFun and Remember ES will be posting links to the Reddit URL just before the start time. There is no better time than now to be following @PeopleFun and @Remember_ES on Twitter!
Be sure to think hard about your burning questions and Remember ES will see you there!
PeopleFun the studio founded by Tony Goodman has launched its second mobile game to the masses. Aptly titled “MixTwo” the latest game shows players two pictures and when combined the pictures reveal a linked word. For example match a cat and stripes and what do you get? Tiger, of course! Read more
Fantastic news for all Ensemble fans. Our expert audio interviewer Kenny Newell has managed to bag an absolutely superb interview with Tony Goodman, founder of Ensemble Studios. Tony was kind enough to invite Kenny into his house to talk about Ensemble and his newest venture, PeopleFun over dinner. The hour long interview takes fans right through Tony’s video gaming career starting right at the beginning when Tony first formed Ensemble Studios with close friends and colleagues from Ensemble Corp. This interview is an absolute must listen for all Ensemble fans where for perhaps indeed the first time you can listen to Tony first hand explain how the Ensemble journey began and his motivations. There is great insight into life at Ensemble and how the Age games came together. The Ensemble Studios acquisition by Microsoft is also discussed at length. Read more
Tony Goodman’s recently announced new mobile studio “PeopleFun” are poised to launch their first game on the iTunes store tomorrow. As anticipated their first title will be “Word Chums”. So what is this all about I hear you ask? Well, the premise is that it is very similar to existing word games like Words with Friends. However, what makes this game stand out is that it is very visually unique. Colourful to say the least, Word Chums adopts typical Ensemble Studios design styles with rich and bright colour palettes to help engage players and make it a pleasure to play. Take a look at the screenshots below and you’ll see just what I mean – this game is bright! Read more
Two new ex-Ensemble studios form: BonusXP and PeopleFun. Word Chums expected as launch title (Part 1)
VentureBeat has reported this week on two new studios forming from Ensemble Studios veterans. The first studio to be announced was “PeopleFun” a new venture from one of the key founders and CEO of Ensemble Studios, Tony Goodman. The other announcement was also from one of Ensemble’s long serving employees, Dave Pottinger who lifted the lid off his new studio “BonusXP”. These new studios are both small studios focussing on mobile gaming and join the line of many other ex Ensemble formed studios to enter the mobile market including the very successful “NewToy” and “Bonfire Studios” who were acquired by Zynga. So lets take a look at these exciting new announcements in more detail! Read more
Just when you thought enough ex-Ensemblers have joined Zynga, a press release from the D.I.C.E Summit has revealed that Bruce Shelley is now acting as consultant for Zynga having recently finished a consulting role at UbiSoft studio, Blue Byte where he worked advising the team on the Settlers 7 game. It is currently not known what type of internal studio Bruce is working with at Zynga, however my guesses would be that he is working with Brian Reynolds on the FrontierVille game. Bruce had previously worked with Brian Reynolds at Microprose. 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.
Ever wonders what goes on in the walls of Robot Entertainment? Well, its mainly two things.. 1) Playing games and 2) Beer. Oh! and of course not forgetting developing games at number 3. David Leary, Designer at Robot Entertainment today writes about the types of games fellow Robot-ers are playing including the shock and horror of Joe Gillum firing up the well past its sale by date MMO “eve”.
Firing up Eve again? That was just wrong – so very, very wrong.
The Robots are quite keen MMO players having previously wanted to develop an MMO under Ensemble Studios, leading to the cancelled Halo MMO. Another popular genre in the overly cool offices is FPS games including Battlefield Hereos. Find out more about whats going on in David “Learguy” ‘s blog!
But thats not all!
A blog is complete without a few snaps of the inside of Robot Entertainment and thankfully the good Robots have updated the gallery pages on the website! I refer to my earlier point about what happens at Robot and we’ve covered point 1, playing games and now its onto point two.. the beer.
Yes, that really is a German beer garden in Texas
No beer for the kids though, meet the PlayDoh table. But wait! Whos that?? Yes, its Robot CEO Tony Goodman. A kid at heart? I guess you have to be to set up a video game company!
Find a whole bunch of additional pictures on the Robot website. Sehr Gut!