By Derek Smart
The other programmer did a good job in assisting in the integration of the new 2D front-end menu graphics into the game, using my pre-existing code. Even then, I had to go back and make several modifications because he simply did not have enough time to get up to speed with over 5 years worth of code.
By August 1996 we were already talking separation, at least they were, because I'd had enough and was thinking divorce with full intentions of taking the furniture, the cutlery, the car, the jewelry and the dog. In the end I did just that. Anyway, the Take 2 producer and his gang were getting heat from NY. I wasn't getting heat from anyone because I wasn't listening. Period. Every member of the Take 2 team had access to the same task schedule that I did. In fact, it's part of the contract amendment that was done in 1996. There were no hidden agendas and everything that needed to get done, was in there.
By mid September 1996, we still did not have a beta and in fact, the four Take Two testers were complaining because they had nothing tangible to test as there was no game. The artists, under my supervision, had long since built all the new 3D models and 2D screens. All of which ended up being a remarkable piece of work. As I have said time and time again, I have no problems with this aspect of their assistance because the artists adhered to the design specs for the game's theme and also came up with their own ideas. You've already seen the results.
FURTHER ALONG DOWNHILL....
Then one day it all came to a head when one of the Take Two programmers accused the dynamics engine of causing problems with his chase engine which made the game run at 2 fps. The same version I had was doing in excess of 10pfs under the same conditions. Oh, did I forget to mention that we were working on two code versions? Well, we were. Theirs and mine. Theirs, they were chopping up in order to make their Christmas release. Mine I was working on according to my specs. Anyway, I told them that the anomaly was not in my version simply because I was not using the chase engine. This erupted into a skirmish of sorts. I took my version and ran it on the machine in the QA directors' machine. I was right. All hell broke loose.
Later after Peter, one of my guys and I researched the problem, we discovered the problem in the chase engine. I then showed it to the Take2 programmer. It was too late by then because all hell had broken loose. Anyway, by this time, Mr. Producer was having fits and fights with NY (Take Two head office). He was outside in the main hallway screaming and pounding on things. Anyway, I was never even part of that rampage during which he threatened to call the cops on me if I did not leave the building. He alluded to an incident earlier that week when I was pulled over in the early hours of the morning on my way from work by Latrobe police and questioned for identification, by saying "...I'll call the cops to throw you out and you know what that's like". That incident was later relayed to the press that I had attacked a Coke machine, although Take Two denies the story and the incident. A complete fabrication. I was with the QA director the whole time and we walked to the elevator together right after I found out that Take Two had confiscated my work machine while I was in the QA director's office. Everything on it was encrypted anyway, so it didn't matter.
People who know me at a personal level know I'm non-violent. Besides, when I set my mind to doing something, I usually do it right. If I were upset then, attacking a Coke machine would've been the last thing on my mind because it would not solve the problem and give me the satisfaction that I would be craving.
At this point, they knew they couldn't ship 'their' version. Take Two, NY called me up and said that they were going to be shipping what they had the following week. At this point, I told the CEO, that it was crazy thing to do and that it would be the biggest mistake he would ever make. He had release rights he said, so the matter was out of my hands. I called my attorney who told me not to leave until I received a performance of contract letter. He was concerned that the incident earlier and my abrupt departure would give them leverage for a breach of contract because I could be sued for abandonment. Take Two, who knew they were going to ship anyway, had no problems with this. They drafted the letter, signed it and faxed it to me. It simply used a lot of legal jargon to indicate that I had successfully provided Take Two with a Beta tested version of the game and that I had satisfied the terms of my contract, that I could pack up and go home, etc. This was accurate because the game had been in Beta since 1995 and was still not finished nor tested.
The next day, I packed and left but not before I uploaded my current version of the code, to the Take Two bulletin board system we used for secure file transfers. That version fixed several things and did not use the chase engine. They never touched it. I'm assuming that they thought I had sabotaged it somehow to prevent the release. I hadn't.
That week, they mastered the game, without notifying me and shipped it and the Take Two 'BC3K team' was given the week off.
The first time I saw a copy of my game was when I went across the street and bought a copy after being told on AOL that the game had shipped. That was when I realized that they had not created a manual from the manuscripts I had provided.
From that point on, I knew that my life as I knew it was over. The game shipped and it was unplayable out of the box. The first patch I did and released a few days after I returned was based on the version I had left on the Take Two BBS. It brought some stability to the game. However the damage was already done. I was beaten, broke and out there was a game with my name on the box in the hands some poor gamer who bought a game that had been hyped for so many years. How would you feel?
I could have walked away from this title there and then. But I didn't. My friends and I held a meeting and I told them that I had no intentions of quitting. Neither did they. Whatever I needed to do, would get done and whatever time they had for testing, development, support etc, was mine to do as I pleased. That was all I needed.
Take Two could not support this game. The testing department does not know how to play the game. Don't believe me? Call 'em up and ask the most basic question. Every tech support call was routed to me.
They printed my phone number in the pamphlet they called a manual. I had to field phone calls, respond to email, put out fires, deal with the on-line debacle, deal with my bank that thought that by first quarter 1997 my account should be in the green, etc.
|Credits: Guest Editorial logo illustrated and is © 1999 Dan Zalkus. This Guest Editorial is © 1999 Derek Smart. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited and not nice.|