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Author Topic: Iron Lore (Titan Quest) Ceasing game development :-(  (Read 3425 times)
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Blackjack
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« on: February 28, 2008, 08:02:00 PM »

This just gives the "PC gaming is dying" crowd another nail to put in the coffin (though clearly it's not that simple), saw this mentioned at Blue's. Technically, they're not out of business just yet and they claim to be interested in licensing the toolset used for Titan Quest (I assume that's what they're referring to) to companies interested in it. Although TQ included an editor and such, it didn't include the rights to make new games for profit with it, is how I'm reading it.

http://www.ironlore.com/
Quote from: Iron Lore's Web site
It is with great regret that we must announce that as of close of business Tuesday, February 19, 2008 Iron Lore Entertainment has ceased active game development. Several unrelated events occurred which resulted in Iron Lore being unable to secure funding for its next project.
I guess also part of the risk of non-MMOs these days is you really have no steady source of income. Titan Quest and TQ: Immortal Throne did OK, I thought (I thought wrong - see below) but weren't the kind of games that were going to sell enough to keep the company in business in the long term.

I've also gotten the impression from some financials articles that THQ is retrenching a bit and perhaps TQ/Immortal Throne's sales didn't impress them enough to want to fund a followup (pure speculation on my part).

Iron Lore worked with Relic on Warhammer 40K: Soulstorm, but I guess that wasn't enough to keep it going without more funding to work on something else.

I loved TQ: Immortal Throne (it wore out my right wrist, and I had to stop playing, wear a brace and make some doctor visits) in particular. TQ didn't quite launch in very polished form (I'm being kind The Weghted Companion Cube will never threaten to stab you.), but to me Immortal Throne did everything you could ask an expansion to do and more (Hellgate's developers should've paid attention to the little things it did right imho). I'm sorry they won't get to build on that.  tear
« Last Edit: February 28, 2008, 10:22:00 PM by Blackjack » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2008, 08:19:09 PM »

Word slowly hit the unofficial forums (Titanquest.net) [fan-run, but devs posted there], where they had a thread earlier in the month that seemed to make it clear there would be no further TQ expansions:
http://www.titanquest.net/forums/titan-quest-news/21642-2nd-titan-quest-add-not.html
The lead designer (nickname Medierra) had clarified sales weren't really good enough for Iron Lore to turn a profit:
Quote from: TQ lead designer Medierra
... unfortunately the sales were not as good as you might expect. We did ok in Europe but poorly in America. Iron Lore hasn't made any royalties off the game as of yet and I'm not sure we will at this point. So, I think the sales just weren't enough for THQ to justify further investment in the product. Its sad for us but hey, I guess thats the way business goes.

Things actually aren't looking good for PC gaming in general... Death's advocate approaches! [he was trying to be funny Feb. 9 but now it sounds prophetic  crybaby]

Later he mentioned they were in various discussions on possible future project(s) and presumably that fell through:
Quote from: TQ lead designer
I look forward to putting the experience I've gained to use in creating even better games for you guys in the future. There is a lot happening right now - some good, some bad - but I can't talk about it on the forums quite yet. I'll give you an update as soon as I can.
I guess the "bad" won out...
« Last Edit: February 28, 2008, 08:24:51 PM by Blackjack » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2008, 09:13:20 PM »

Sorry to hear about this. PC Gaming will never die, but its glory days are over. Even the best rig can't compete with a 52" 1080P HDTV, wireless controllers, surround sound, and Live!

I'll still be a hardcore PC fan until consoles find a way to replace my Nostromo Speedpad and mouse.
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« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2008, 09:28:20 PM »

Thats a damn shame.  I loved Titan Quest and am currently playing through Immortal Throne.  I don't think PC gaming is dead, but I am certainly one of the people contributing to its decline.  I think that PC developers need to learn some lessons from consoles, especially in the multiplayer arena - easier connections, built in voice chat, automatic matchmaking, etc.  PC gaming will always be a deeper experience than consoles, and mouse and keyboard is still a superior control method for a lot of games.
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« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2008, 10:21:31 PM »

There were some hints in this July 2007 announcement about what direction they wanted to go (multiplatform), and they'd hired an EA Mythic veteran as their new design director:
http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=14722
Quote
According to the company, Iron Lore is currently working on an unannounced project, and is preparing to begin work on a new title for next-generation consoles and PCs.

Founder Brian Sullivan: "I have full confidence that he will successfully lead us through our transition to multiplatform development and multiple teams."
I didn't hang out here in July, maybe somebody noticed it then but I was asleep at the switch.  icon_redface
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« Reply #5 on: February 29, 2008, 04:29:11 AM »

 crybaby  I love Titan Quest - what a shame we'll never see a sequel.
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« Reply #6 on: February 29, 2008, 04:51:05 PM »

Perhaps they shouldn't have placed all their hopes on the success of a Diablo clone, especially one which didn't even innovate above that title in any way (until the expansion, that is).
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« Reply #7 on: March 03, 2008, 09:29:44 PM »

Quote from: unbreakable on February 29, 2008, 04:51:05 PM

Perhaps they shouldn't have placed all their hopes on the success of a Diablo clone, especially one which didn't even innovate above that title in any way (until the expansion, that is).

fill me in, did they add some really cool stuff to the expansion?  i thought the class creation was pretty cool actually, so even though the gameplay was a direct throwback, i liked the game.  also sad to not getting a sequel.
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« Reply #8 on: March 03, 2008, 10:43:07 PM »

Gamasutra has a followup:
http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=17702

Well, actually it's citing a Quarter to Three post (which is as uncensored as Usenet - I'm kind of a refugee from there  ninja) by a THQ creative director who worked with Iron Lore on the game. Here's his post there:
http://www.quartertothree.com/game-talk/showthread.php?t=42663

BTW, he claims that while Titan Quest's sales were modest, THQ "didn't lose money on the game."  icon_confused

Mostly it's sour grapes about piracy of Titan Quest being rampant, and basically how much more difficult it's getting to create new game engines that can work on a wide variety of machines. Basically along the lines of my little observation elsewhere that nobody will ever give up on the ability to customzie their PCs even if it reaches the point nobody wants to develop for such a wildly varying and inconsistent platform. If we ever reach that PC gaming Doomsday point, then the ability to customize really won't be worth anything except running a Web browser faster.  icon_neutral


Anyway, I do think esp. the original release of TQ was awfully buggy and didn't appear to have been QA'd on a variety of platforms. Obviously you can't allow for everything (and every year, more and more cards, chipsets, CPUs come out, and there's no way to simulate every possibility) but if you're going to be brave enough to do a PC-only game, you (I'm talking THQ here, I assume they handled the QA) better bring your A-game.

OTOH, how much longer do we think game publishers want to hire hordes of QA testers to try to figure out how a PC game will run on 56,351 possible different system PC variations vs. how it runs on 1-3 relatively fixed (aside from console hard drive capacity options) console platforms? If I'm a corporate bean counter looking to trim my budget, that's looking like something to use my blade on. Something to ponder even if am PC gamer who only dabbles on the handheld side of consoles paranoid.

I only bring the point up again cause I don't think saying "**** you if you don't love PC as a platform!" to everyone who brings up the situation is constructive. I don't have a magic answer, but it'd be nice to get even just a little consistency into PC hardware as a gaming platform, somehow.

I think Immortal Throne had some much more interesting quests (well, w/i the Diablo format anyway), and implemented all sorts of nice "quality of life" improvements to the engine. It's just, in an MMO, you would probably get that in a free update a few months after release rather than waiting for a paid expansion. Inventory management esp. was spiffed up with various auto-arrange options and extra storage bags. Thus my "Hellgate's devs should've played TQ: IT and gotten a clue" comment.  Tongue
« Last Edit: March 03, 2008, 10:57:06 PM by Blackjack » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: March 03, 2008, 11:10:43 PM »

Of course TQ and TQ: IT aren't going anywhere (they're not MMOs afterall and it has a level editor and all). So here's some pics from my "pre TQ tendinitis" heyday showcasing Immortal Throne's improvements.  icon_cool


Co-op was always a hoot, and Immortal Throne added a badly needed game servers listing with a variety of search options.


You could also see exactly what other characters were in a group before you joined up.


Enhanced map legend made navigating a lot easier, and finding what NPCs you needed to talk to.


Some simple mouse clicks re-arranged inventory quickly in different ways (towards the top or bottom, scrunched to one side etc.) making it a lot easier to sort.


The caravans eliminated the need for "muling."
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« Reply #10 on: January 09, 2009, 06:37:26 PM »

Surprising little bit at Joystiq about some devs from Iron Lore trying to rise from the ashes as Crate Entertainment and continue work on some canceled Iron Lore games (but not on Titan Quest):

Defunct Titan Quest dev lives on as Crate Entertainment
http://www.joystiq.com/2009/01/09/defunct-titan-quest-dev-lives-on-as-crate-entertainment/
Quote
The dev behind Titan Quest and Warhammer 40K Dawn of War expansion Soulstorm folded last February, citing funding as the chief reason for the company's demise. Now, however, former Iron Lore designer Arthur Bruno and art director Eric Campanella are picking up the pieces, quietly founding a new company called Crate Entertainment and purchasing the rights to Iron Lore's unfinished games.

Among those titles scooped up by the duo is Black Legion, an action RPG for the Xbox 360 that Bruno hopes will repackage Titan Quest's gameplay to "make it sort of grittier and more appealing to the mainstream audience."
Hopefully there's a PC title in the mix too.

They linked to a New England Journal of Technology piece:
http://www.masshightech.com/stories/2008/12/29/weekly10-Iron-Lore-vets-demo-Black-Legion.html
Quote
Bruno declined to disclose details of Crate’s second project, also purchased from Iron Lore.
Iron Lore hadn't, AFIK, started any work on a Titan Quest 2 at the time they dissolved.

With all the names tossed around, there's no mention of Brian Reynolds (Age of Empires), who was the highest profile of the Iron Lore folks.
« Last Edit: January 09, 2009, 06:41:22 PM by Blackjack » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: April 29, 2009, 11:11:37 AM »

Crate posted a little update at the fan-run TitanQuest.net forums. Crate is still going, but they haven't gotten a publisher just yet and don't know what platforms Black Legion will be on or not on (I think the initial announcement focused on XBox360 because Titan Quest's PC-only sales were so disappointing (whether because it was underselling, or because of software piracy, I think was sort of the debate). Got an e-mail update from the forum, here 'tis:

Crate Entertainment formed by ex-ILE employees (4/23/09 update)
http://www.titanquest.net/forums/developer-digest/28434-crate-entertainment-formed-ex-ile-employees-3.html#post324565
Quote from: medierra
The first thing I want to make clear to everyone is that we're still trying to sign a deal. We're exploring other options aside from Black Legion as well, although I can't go into any detail about those except to say that, yes, they have RPG elements. So, I don't want people to get too excited just yet because the future isn't definite.

...

With BL we are aiming for grittier, slightly more realistic textures, although they will still be somewhat stylized and not be photo-real. I think some of the key goals with art direction are maintaining consistency with quality and style, choosing a complimentary color palette, and good lighting. We will have some of the same artists, including one or two of the leads. Since we have gotten more exposure and developed more industry connections over the years, I think it will also be a little easier to attract talent than when I was first with ILE and we were a totally unknown studio.
I'm not certain, but I think medierra is the former Iron Lore designer Arthur Bruno.

I guess I'd liken create to Infinity Ward, which was initially billed as "formed by the Leads of the Medal of Honor: Allied Assault development team," something along those lines. Of course, MOHA:AA was a money-printing factory, and Titan Quest was (to me) an underappreciated, under-selling game that put its developer out of business.  icon_neutral So maybe my comparison is faulty.  icon_razz
« Last Edit: April 29, 2009, 11:22:36 AM by Blackjack » Logged

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« Reply #12 on: August 04, 2009, 09:48:27 PM »

Heeeeyyyy! Got this update from the fan-run Titanquest.net forums...
Quote
Hey guys, I rarely feature multiple posts from the same thread, but I'd say this one deserves it. Looks like newly formed Crate Entertainment has the official go to use their old Iron Lore engine for a new project. It's not Black Legion, but a sort of mini-project using the Titan Quest game toolset.

This means we could be seeing a brand new story with new enemies getting blown into oblivion in the possible future. I think we could still use more action rpgs on the market but hopefully this at least streamlines a new product from Crate.

Medierra's been in touch with us at Titanquest.net to see what kind of preferences we have in a video game. In this particular case, what kind of inventory system do you prefer? Do you like unified size for all items or variable sizes? He's talking directly to you guys for your opinions, and it's a rarity that you can get a personal one-to-one with a developer like this. So be sure to give him a shout!  

Here's the link to Crate Entertainment's news post:
http://www.crateentertainment.com/news.html
Quote
Crate Entertainment has concluded a deal for the rights to use Iron Lore's engine and toolset for the development of a new and yet to be announced project. This deal allows Crate to use the technology created at Iron Lore on all future projects.
So like Phoenix, we might see a new game using the Titan Quest engine. And I can get wrist tendinitis and become an Alleve junkie all over again. And then Crate can go out of business again. And history repeats itself!!!!!!!!!  drool

Personally, I think they should take their new game in a Mythos type direction (pseudo-MMO w/ ongoing DLC) cause there just doesn't seem to be a way to make a Diablo clone and then stay in business.  paranoid Much less when Diablo III finally releases (whatever decade THAT is) and blots out the sun.

This page there has one image although it probably falls under "concept art." I get the impression they want a darker, grittier type of game.
http://www.crateentertainment.com/games.html
« Last Edit: August 04, 2009, 10:07:29 PM by Blackjack » Logged

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« Reply #13 on: August 04, 2009, 09:54:38 PM »

Hey, that's cool.

Still love the TQ engine, have the game on the hard drive, and play it every so often.

Thanks for the update on this.
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« Reply #14 on: August 04, 2009, 10:14:16 PM »

Sure. This is my happy break from writing about the oil and chemical industry in my day job.  Roll Eyes

The Crate site pointed out a January 2009 Edge-Online interview, and I don't recall checking it out before:
http://www.edge-online.com/features/the-death-and-birth-rpg-developer?page=0%2C0
Bruno (lead designer on TQ) gives a very thorough explanation of Iron Lore's demise and why it's so hard to survive as an independent game dev these days
Quote from: Arthur Bruno
The biggest struggle for independent studios is surviving the gap between projects.

When a game is completed, advances on royalties that developers take to fund development end but it can be several months, if ever, before the developer collects any royalties. Most games don’t hit store shelves for a few months after development ends, then, depending on how the development deal was structured, the publisher may have to earn back the cost of development and marketing before the developer receives any royalty payments.

With the average full-scale console or PC title now costing around $14 million to develop plus additional marketing expenses, a game may sell a million copies without the developer earning any royalties.  

With typical team sizes for an independent studio now being 30-90-plus people, you’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars per month to keep the team paid and the studio open.  At that rate just a couple months can force a smaller studio out of business. The obvious solution is to try and line up a second project that the team can transition to as the first project ends.

Now here is the kicker – in order to land that second project, you may need to invest a significant amount of money and man-power in creating pitch materials. Trying to put together a proposal for a second project on a tight budget while your team is stretched to the limit working on the current project is like trying to squeeze blood from a rock. You have to come up with something impressive though because you’re competing against larger, well-established independent studios and also large internal publisher studios. Now imagine that you’re also a PC developer that is trying to break into the console market because many publishers just aren’t that interested in PC-only development anymore.

...

Iron Lore was not able to get THQ to agree to Titan Quest II after completing Immortal Throne, the expansion for Titan Quest.  Fortunately, THQ did give us Dawn of War: Soul Storm and that kept the company alive for another year.

So, one major problem was that the team was stretched to the limit trying to meet the tight deadline for Dawn of War: Soul Storm. With very little extra capital or manpower available to invest in working up a pitch for our next project, it was slow going; too slow as it turned out.  With a very small group of people working long hours we managed to put together a fantastic combat demo running on Xbox 360 and some strong supporting materials but by the time it was completed we would only have a few months to shop it around to publishers and try to land a deal.

The Dawn of War project ended and, with a 30-plus person team, the company was rapidly burning through its remaining capital. Iron Lore was unable to pick up another contract project and tragically was forced to shut down when it seemed only months away from closing a deal on Black Legion [which Crate now owns].
I don't normally paste in that much copy, but it seems really a good explanation of how borked game dev economics are.

I wish in retrospect TQ had gotten some play on Steam. Some scuttlebutt suggested TQ's sales were hindered by piracy, but I tend to think it just got lost on the shelves as "just another Diablo clone." I thought the expansion was terrific, maybe one of the best expansions I've played in terms of vastly improving a good but flawed initial release, and adding really nice new features to it. I'm sure TQ just saw more of a "money pit" that wasn't selling the way they had hoped when they bankrolled it.

He sounds optimistic that Black Legion could be ported to PC at a reasonable cost, but it sounds like he doesn't want to scare away perspective publishers by focusing on a PC version.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2009, 10:20:32 PM by Blackjack » Logged

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« Reply #15 on: August 05, 2009, 09:18:55 AM »

I just re-installed TQ this past weekend so it is timely news, also got the email as well and it is good to see the devs asking opinions on things like what size your loot icons should be as it shows they want to make a go of it.
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« Reply #16 on: August 05, 2009, 01:39:07 PM »

Im sorry people are losing their jobs bit I never really liked Titan's Quest anyways and so that company closing is no loss to me in the gaming field. Maybe someone will pick up the laid off folk and make something good out of it.
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« Reply #17 on: August 05, 2009, 08:52:37 PM »

Piracy seems to be the de facto explanation for why sales of Game X suck. I loved Titan Quest, but it was a glorified version of Diablo III with a Greek skin on it. Nothing more. Claiming it was anything other than a Diablo clone is disingenuous and the gaming market is smart enough to peg the rip-offs and the clones right away. Hence interest wasn't that great in it until people started playing it. What TQ made financially I think came more from word of mouth because it is an extremely fun game, but a casual glance at it screams "Diablo!!!!"

And why play a clone when the real thing will be here sometime in the next decade? slywink
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« Reply #18 on: August 06, 2009, 03:24:41 AM »

Quote from: whiteboyskim on August 05, 2009, 08:52:37 PM

Piracy seems to be the de facto explanation for why sales of Game X suck. I loved Titan Quest, but it was a glorified version of Diablo III with a Greek skin on it. Nothing more. Claiming it was anything other than a Diablo clone is disingenuous and the gaming market is smart enough to peg the rip-offs and the clones right away. Hence interest wasn't that great in it until people started playing it. What TQ made financially I think came more from word of mouth because it is an extremely fun game, but a casual glance at it screams "Diablo!!!!"

And why play a clone when the real thing will be here sometime in the next decade? slywink

Hard to be a glorified version of game that is not out yet.  slywink

Seriously, why does every hack and slash type game get immediately labeled a Diablo clone/rip off?  It's become it's own genre due to the Success of the Diablos for sure but the core game elements; kill stuff, gain power, find loot were around long before Blizzard put their spin on it.  It is certainly similar but I had no idea anybody claimed it wasn't so I'm not sure who you are claiming is disingenuous.  I personally thought it did enough to advance the genre at least slightly especially the dual classing system.  I had way more fun with it than I did with Diablo 2 but I realize I am in the minority with that.
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« Reply #19 on: August 06, 2009, 04:50:25 AM »

Quote from: Blackjack on August 04, 2009, 10:14:16 PM

I don't normally paste in that much copy, but it seems really a good explanation of how borked game dev economics are.

It's always been this way, at least to an extent.  The costs are higher which makes the money needed greater, but that's about it. Go read about the closure of any number of independent developers and you see the same thing - they weren't prepared once a project ended.  That's why the smart ones find a way to make sure the next project is lined up or make sure they have the cash to survive.  In most cases the major folks involved admit to dropping the ball when that next project or cash isn't there to keep things going.

And what solution would you suggest, anyway?  It's not like publishers should be giving any more advances at that point.  That doesn't make business sense unless they are confident the game will do well.


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« Reply #20 on: August 06, 2009, 07:01:30 AM »

Diablo was just a blatant rip-off of Angband anyways with some nicer graphics.

I liked the game as well, so I'm a bit sad they went out of developement. As to how to survive, well...Every business must have a business plan, and if that business plan hinges on maybe's and whatif's, I have no tears for them.

In my job I see business's who do well, and some who just fails, and mostly its just because of a poorly implemented business plan, and willingness manage projects as they need to be... oh, and for gods sake, get someone who knows how to run a business to do it, not just someone who knows the craft!
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