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Posts tagged ‘Closing’

4
Jun

DevelopMag writes about Shane Kim’s statement “Ensemble wasn’t the right studio for Natal”

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To continue from my last blog post where I picked up on Shane Kim’s explanation about the cutting loose of Ensemble Studios a magazine has stepped forward to formally express the same viewpoint. I would direct Ensemble fans to the link below for a write up by a professional magazine.

http://www.developmag.com/news/32096/Report-Axed-Ensemble-not-the-right-studio-for-Natal

Update: Here’s IGN following suit :

http://ve3d.ign.com/articles/news/47943/Ensemble-Studios-Denied-Natal

It is possible more information develops on this over the next few days and I shall keep readers informed. I will be adding these news articles into the press archives.

As mentioned before, I think Microsoft made a big mistake in not having faith in the Ensemble guys, those prototypes we saw could of been made into great Natal games.

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3
Jun

Shane Kim: “Talent at Ensemble wasnt right for Natal”

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With the E3 expo coming to a close today and after some very interesting announcements at Microsoft one of these was the revolutionary controller free full body motion capture device called “Natal“. Shane Kim an executive at Microsoft Game Studios discussed in an interview with Venture Beat that they have put significant investment behind the project. I imagine the cost of implementing hardware and software into Project Natal must be very expensive. But what other costs would there be for having this motion free technology. It seems as though to make way for Natal Microsoft’s internal studios Flight Sim and Ensemble Studios were the casualties.

The Venture Beat interview finally demonstrates the financial reasons why Microsoft decided to close its incredibly successful internal studio Ensemble Studios. Quoting from the interview Shane Kim responds:

VB: You cut some studios like Flight Simulator and Ensemble Studios.

SK: We also acquired Big Park Studios. I don’t know how constant the ebb and flow will be. It’s not unidirectional. We made some hard decisions in the past. We made good decisions. We are still committed to first party. The Big Park acquisition should demonstrate that to folks. We were positioning for things like Natal and I don’t think the talent at Ensemble or Flight Simulator were necessarily the right studios for that.

So there you have it – Project Natal is one of the reasons Microsoft thought was better to invest more in than its long standing internal studios. Will it be the right choice? I am confident that the talent at Ensemble Studios could have made things work with Natal. The studio has some industry visionary legends including Bruce Shelley, Graeme Devine, Sandy Petersen not to mention the rest of the team. Some of the prototypes could have been modelled to work fantastically with Natal including the prototype “Agent”.

It is sad to be blogging about the closing of Ensemble Studios again but it is interesting to find out about the thought process behind the decision. Moving forward though we must support all these talented individuals who have formed new studios. No matter what, we will still see great games from these talented people.

You can read the full interview here:

http://venturebeat.com/2009/06/02/microsoft-games-executive-describes-origins-of-project-natal-game-controls/

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25
Apr

Five long years. Chris Rippy ex producer at Ensemble Studios discusses the last few months working on Halo Wars

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Chris Rippy discusses in the latest developers blog on the HaloWars.com website what the last few months at Ensemble Studios felt like as the Halo Wars game started to go through its final stages of quality testing. The post provides a valued look into the life of the studio during this time and what the developers felt knowing this would be the last game.

The blog post as obtained from HaloWars.com follows:

“Five Long Years”

Published Wednesday, April 22, 2009 2:27 PM by Aloysius 
The last few weeks of working on Halo Wars were quite a blur. Actually, the last several months of working on Halo Wars were quite a blur. I think if you were to ask most folks working at Ensemble Studios to describe an event in their lives from the last year, they’d have a hard time remembering what season the event took place in. For us, it was all Halo Wars, all the time. Blurry days.

Today, I’ll do my best to remember the final steps of getting Halo Wars out the door.

The final months of a project are all about taking the previous years of work, mashing it all together into something cohesive, testing the game, and fixing bugs. It’s also a time of very difficult decisions. In the name of getting the game out the door, we’re forced to eliminate several features, many of which already had months of work put into them. This can be costly (literally), but it helps provide focus to the most important aspects of the game, and gives us a better chance at hitting our target release date.

Now would probably be a good time to detail out all the features we cut, but maybe that’s best left to everyone’s guesses. Or maybe those features will show up again somewhere else…

Back to it. As we approach the last 6 weeks or so of the project, we begin thinking about something called “Release Candidates”. These are complete builds of the game that we believe are good enough to make it to the retail shelf. On December 1, 2008, we created “RC1”(Release Candidate 1). Cool, we’re done! Not so much. “RC1” never makes it all the way through the testing process, and in fact, our designers run a contest for everyone of our games trying to guess the actual number of Release Candidates we will create. Guesses for Halo Wars ranged from “RC2” (yeah!) to “RC426” (no!). For a build to be considered “the” build, several parties must sign off on it from Ensemble Studios, Microsoft Game Studios Test, the Localization team, and a Production team at Microsoft. In the end, RC11 was “blessed” by this crew. Halo Wars build number 1169.

We’re almost home at this point, but we still have a crucial step in front of us, called Certification. For Halo Wars to be “certified” a team at Microsoft takes the game and runs it through a battery of very specific tests to make sure it lives up to the quality and experience expectations of the Xbox360. Tests range from making sure Achievements work, to seeing how the game responds to people yanking out their memory cards while the game is running (never a good thing to try :) ).

Going through Certification is a very strange experience. It can be a multi-week process, and you can go days without hearing from the Certification team on how things are going. Ensemble had just gone through months of crunch, and we suddenly found ourselves in a waiting game with very little to do but hope the game makes it through successfully. Work hours returned to normal and people passed the day working on the demo or playing board games. Weird.

Finally, on January 8th, 2009, Halo Wars passed Certification and was declared “gold”. From there, the game was sent off to manufacturing plants all over the world, packaged up, and put on a shelf at a store near you. Good times.

Chris Rippy
Producer

0051
Developers Playtesting the DLC  (click to enlarge)

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24
Mar

Gamespot interviews David Rippy. Talks about Ensemble’s closure and whats happening with Bonfire!

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Quick update here – Gamespot have managed to hold a Q&A session with Bonfire head and ex producer at Ensemble, David Rippy. David talks about some of the things surrounding Ensemble’s closure though he much re-iterates what Bruce Shelley has said in the past that Ensemble has lost sync with the vision of its parent (Microsoft). He goes on to talk about what it is like to start an independent studio in the economic climate and how it differs from being an independent developer from an acquired developer.

A good read here:  http://uk.gamespot.com/news/6206580.html

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3
Mar

Ensemble says its final goodbye. Halo Wars credits

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Special thanks go to Joystiq who today posted the video of the heart-felt credits to Halo Wars. For those who haven’t yet seen the Halo Wars credits it contains the final goodbye from Ensemble Studios thanking fans for the support over the last 12 years. The credits also contain shout outs from everyone who worked on the game (thats everyone in the studio.) Many shout outs honour their family but also thank Ensemble and Tony Goodman for creating a great place to work.

It is clear from these messages that there was genuine love for working at the Studio and demonstrates the number of real people affected by Microsoft’s sad decision to close the studio.

You can watch the credits here: 

http://www.zergwatch.com/Newsfeed-115760/halo-wars-includes-final-farewell-from-ensemble-studios.html

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20
Feb

Bruce Shelley discussing the studios closure – LIVE Blog + Video

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Brian Leahy is blogging LIVE from the DICE summit where Bruce Shelley is on stage right now discussing the Ensemble closure. You can read the blog here:

http://g4tv.com/thefeed/blog/post/693374/Live-Blog-DICE-2009—Bruce-Shelley-Ensemble-Studios-Post-Mortem.html

The blog brings to light more information as to why Microsoft could close down such a great studio. Some of these reasons being that the studio became too fragmented as there were more teams working on different ideas and that maybe they lost communication with Microsoft.

WATCH BRUCE:

IGN have video footage of Bruce’s DICE talk here: http://video.ign.com/streaming/dice-2009/index.html Unfortunately at the time of writing the player is down but hopefully it will be up soon. Remember to skip to 4pm as that was the time Mr Shelley was presenting.

GAMASUTRA:

Gamastura’s report of Bruce’s speech can be read here: http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=22402.

It would seem that Ensemble had problems diversifying and that it created separate teams too late in the process. Bruce Shelley believes that this lead to the studio being out of sync with Microsoft. A sad speech. Though, Bruce speaks positively of new Ensemble start up studios. Robot and Bonfire.

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29
Jan

Goodbye Ensemble Studios. Bruce’s last blog

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Today Bruce Shelley uploaded his final blog on the Ensemble Studios website. The blog will only be available on the ES website for a few days so catch it as fast as you can. http://www.ensemblestudios.com/blogs/bshelley/archive/2009/01/29/goodbye-and-thanks.aspx

I have learnt that the Ensemble Studios website may be shut down soon so I will be trying to archive as much as possible before ES closes. It may not be online here straightaway but rest assured I will have all the blogs archived from the ES website and available here as soon as possible.

Goodbye Ensemble Studios. You will not be forgotten.

:(

Thanks for making great games.

Update: All the blogs on the EnsembleStudios.com website are safe. Ive got them all stored along with screenshots of the Ensemble Studios website

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