By Derek Smart
In late 1996 to early 1997, I decided to set up a support network of supporters and gamers to help fix the game. I created a mailing list, built a strong testing team and got a web site. To date, those are the only resources I have. Take Two, the publisher, has never participated in this endeavor, leaving the game for dead. Testing and supporting the game was the responsibility of the publisher. My contract says so because I do not have those resources.
In early 1997, I then decided to sue Take Two for all the breaches in my contract.
I'm not going to list them but they include releasing a beta product with no manual, not reporting sales figures, putting my company at risk, causing me aggravation etc. They decided to negotiate rather than go to court. My attorney spent many, man hours drafting a contract amendment which simply required them to (a) re-release the title (b) provide a printed manual and new CD-ROM to existing users (c) accurately report sales/royalty figures (d) pay me from unit #1 of the re-release among other things. I in turn, would lose all claims against them, provide a manual manuscript based on the finished version of the work and a finished version suitable for commercial release. That contract was never signed. Take Two continues to operate under my original contract and its 1996 amendment as if nothing happened; claiming that the game did not sell enough units to warrant royalty payments. How could a game that was released incomplete and buggy sell enough units anyway?
Meanwhile, everyone out there was looking up to me to fix this game. Something I've been doing effectively, with what little resources I have, with nothing to show for it but a game that is 99.99% true to my vision. For me, it would be payment enough if it paid the goddamn bills.
MORE CORPORATE DECISIONS...
Take Two did an OEM deal with GameTek UK which they had no rights to do. The first time I got wind of it was when GameTek UK called me and asked what had gone wrong with the game in the US. I told them. They listened and agreed not to master and ship the CD-ROM that Take 2 had sent them. They wanted to wait for my version of the completed game. They joined the testing team. They never shipped any of the patches. Take Two continued to ship the dud US units in the US and even to international countries; causing problems for GameTek who were then forced to release v1.01C4 of the game in March in the face of dropped orders - without telling me. I was livid. The first time I knew about it was when I received a tech support email from the UK. I then asked Peter to go out and buy a copy. Once again, I was not part of the process. The game then entered the top 20 UK charts. I was still livid; it was not THE GAME. I then told them that I was not supporting it. They quickly drew up a contract which had them paying me a point for supporting the UK version because they doubted that the game would ever sell enough units to earn me any US royalties and also because they doubted that Take Two would ever pay me. I agreed. The game reached #12 and stayed in the charts for over 8 weeks. I was still upset but it was a small victory at best.
They then contracted me to do the foreign translations for the title due to its popularity in Europe. That was supposed to be in the C patch. It didn't make it for several reasons. They agreed to wait for the next patch, v1.01D. I sent them the second set of text to translate. I never got it back. I then found out that they were shipping UK version of the game to European countries, with translated manuals.
To this day, I have not been paid those royalties.
IT GETS WORSE....
In late 1997, Take Two bought GameTek UK who in turn, stopped talking to me and refused to submit accurate sales figures and didn't pay any royalties as per our agreement. They're now a Take Two company and as far as they're concerned, BC3K and Derek Smart don't exist. This left me to also deal with and provide support for international users who bought the game in Europe and as far away as South Africa. Until I threatened legal action, the Take Two web page did not promote the game, made no mention of it or even posted the latest patches and info. It wasn't even featured in the list of products they were publishing.
WHO STARTED THIS MESS ANYWAY?
Whose fault is all this? It depends on who you ask and whose side you're on. BC3K has always been a huge, complex and ambitious project. There was no way to chop up the game, absolutely no way. Everyone seems to think I have something against making money. Why would I not want to trim down the game and release it if it meant making some money? Does anyone have any idea how huge and complex this game is? Take Two knew and knew this all along. I have been in millions of dollars in the red for this project with no hope of ever turning a profit. This is why: BC3K was not designed to be a one off title. All the engines it has were written from the ground up and that's where my investment lies. To this day, the core of BC3K does not even use 50% of what the engines are capable of. You could sit down and write a full blown space flight sim, planetary flight sim, strategic sim, arcade shooter (all the things BC3K has) and have room left to do it all over again in a different fashion.
Anyway, once word got out that the game was almost fixed, people started finding places to buy it. Some places would sell it for a low price and the gamer had to locate and spend hours downloading the patches to make the game work
So, BC3K was released in beta form by the publisher. The whole mess got dumped on my lap. I've fixed 99.9% of it. The game was a hit in Europe because it was playable out of the box and C5.3 was already available. Why aren't I happy? Because my publishers are selling a game that should've been a hit, and not paying me a penny for it. Eight long years of hard work and this is the ninth year I've been doing this. They blame me for taking too long. I blame them for not releasing it incomplete. All they had to do, and in fact my contract says this, was to terminate my contract and I would owe them their expenses. They could then have taken out a lien on the product, ensuring that they got their money if I ever finished it. No, instead they opted to ship a Beta and cause these problems. I don't think anyone doubts this for a second, that if it were up to me, this game would never have shipped until it was finished. Even if it took another decade. All business ventures are a risk. We all took the risk and why the hell should I be sorry for them? I'm only sorry for those guys who keep coming to me for help, knowing that I would keep my word when I said that I would not sleep until they had a game that works.
My commitment is to patch this game and bring the development to a conclusion. I would have, against all odds, fulfilled my obligation to the very gamers I designed and developed this game for. Those who bought it, hopefully, when they see a game on the shelf with my name on it, will remember.
Back in April 1997, I realized that patching the game to completion would most likely take it into the holiday season and that, once again, graphics technology would pass me by. I did not believe that you folks would want to wait an entire year to play a game that sported old technology considering the recent crop of advanced games currently on the market. Some of you, disappointed, had already stopped playing and shelved the game for that day when it would be completed. My thoughts led me to sanction the upgrade of the graphics technology in order to keep up with recent trends. You have already seen the advancements since v1.01D patch variations which were released between October and November 1997.
This technology comes at a price. I have been releasing patches for free with no financial support whatsoever. I feel that the small price that I am charging for the final v2.0 Developer's Edition upgrade is just that; a small price to pay for a game that, when compared to the original, could well have been a sequel. Is it fair to charge the gamer for a game they already bought and paid for? It depends on how you look at it. This is why in February of 1998, I decided to release, for free, to the public, v1.01D7C. It has been featured on over 20 magazines worldwide, including PC Games in which it earned a B rating in its August 1998 issue. You have all seen what it is we have been creating all these years. Sporting the latest technology, including 3Dfx support, BC3K has proven, without a reasonable doubt, that it is the definitive space flight simulation that it was created to be.
As far as I'm concerned, the 1996 generation of Battlecruiser 3000 AD is over and done with. Like every product, it lived a normal, albeit troubled life span and sold more units than some completed games out there. The new generation you will see in Battlecruiser 3000 AD v2.0 - The Developer's Edition as well as the sequel Battlecruiser 3020 AD will no doubt enforce your faith in me, in my work and in the title. You have been a part of these developments. You have seen all the work put forth. Most of all, those of you who sought help, received it. Today, you are playing and talking about a game that was DOA in September 1996. The fiasco surrounding this title will be remembered for years to come. Many more articles and reviews will be written. Many more Usenet wars will be fought. There will be casualties. Once the praise comes, I don't want it. All I want to be remembered for is the fact that I had a dream that I could never give up on. You, the gamer, are the one to praise for sticking with the game because after all, without you, I wouldn't be here.
Regards and see you among the stars
Derek K. Smart, Ph.D.
President - Lead Developer
BATTLECRUISER : 30000AD
A PUBLISHING HISTORY
BC3K has been profiled in every major gaming magazines worldwide since it first appeared on the cover of Strategy Plus in 1992. Shortly after which it landed the Three Sixty deal.
Held rights for a year (1992) and went out of business shortly after. Product showcased at 1993 COMPUTER ELECTRONIC SHOW (CES). CEO Tom Frisina is rumored to still be somewhere in the industry.
The partners split up and 3000AD, Inc signed on BC3K with Mission Studios, the new company formed by one of the partners. Velocity is rumored to be out of business.
Signed distribution deal with Interplay Productions for it's products. Showcased BC3K at 1994 winter and 1994 summer CES under the Interplay Affiliated label brand. Had two high profile products (which were both late) in production. Due to financial constraints, an amicable agreement was reached which allowed 3000AD, Inc to seek a new publisher for BC3K. Mission Studios (great folks btw) are still in business after having released the hit title Jetfighter 3.
During the period when I was allowed to stay or seek a new publisher, they bid on the rights and then due to a disagreement over source code release, the deal never progressed beyond a letter of intent. Showcased BC3K at 1995 E3 (back when they were marketing William Shatner's Tekwar). Intracorp went bankrupt shortly after. CEO Lee Rothschild is rumored to be in the architecture business somewhere in Florida.
TAKE-TWO INTERACTIVE SOFTWARE
Bid on the rights to BC3K after reading a story in Computer Gaming World. Bought rights from Mission Studios in early 1995 and released BC3K v1.00 ahead of its time in September 1996. Signed an OEM deal with GameTek (UK) who also released a version of the game in Europe in March 1997. Take Two Interactive bought Mission Studios in late 1996 and GameTek (UK) in mid 1997. The latter is no longer in business. The President (who was also in charge of BC3K production), Mark Seremet, is no longer with the company. Ryan Brant, CEO succeeded in taking Take Two Interactive software public in mid 1997.
|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.|