Wilson and the Glory of G.O.D.
By Jason "loonyboi" Bergman
The storm subsided, and all was calm
You left id to start ION Storm with John Romero. Would you say you were more naive then about what you were getting yourself involved in?
Uh... yeah. I went for one reason... id had decided not to do self-publishing, and I was determined to develop the g.o.d. plan, which Romero and co. supported. Within two weeks of my leaving id, Eidos had changed the three-title deal to a six-title deal, thus making the g.o.d. plan a LONG RANGE plan at best, even if Ion delivered on time. It was a bad situation for me to be in, but we were moving forward with it, trying to knock out those six titles (funny in retrospect) while fleshing out Gathering of Developers. Then...uh, oh... no products on time. Some owners want to cash out before they've done anything (or before the world realizes that they aren't capable of doing anything) and other owners don't want to fight with Eidos... time to go.
Was it you who managed to get ION that insane startup money from Eidos? How the heck did you do that? :)
Eidos wanted to be a player. They were a two-bit new publisher formed from two failing companies, and without a clue. Fortunately for them, they had Core and Tomb Raider, which apparently was enough for a UK-based company to raise bucketloads of cash. So, we had several publishers in the 'bidding-war' for Romero's new company to join their roster and Eidos... uh.... won. ;) Actually, they did win. Eidos is now a powerhouse publisher with the strongest stock of anyone but EA and they have done a fantastic job of hiring middle managers with skills. I think their marketing and PR is second to none, (well, maybe one) and that they have picked up some great products. (Commandos, Final Fantasy [VII, for the PC], Thief). What people have to realize about Eidos in this whole fiasco, is that they got what they wanted no matter what happens w/ION. If 25M (and counting) is all it took them to go from Domark status to Kings of Games and Breasts, that ain't bad. Kudos to Eidos... I wish I had bought stock.
Would you do anything differently now if you could?
Nah, I'm pretty happy with the way things went. I misunderstood the intentions of my partners at ION, but hey... I had a fun year there and met tons of cool people and got the hell out of there went things were obviously headed in the wrong direction.
What's your take on ION's current position? Do you expect them to stick around?
Can't understand why Eidos doesn't just take them over, but then I don't know how the deal has changed since I was there.
Would you ever sign ION with G.O.D.? :)
Note to the world: Warren Spector's team from ION Austin is welcome. The rest of the key talent there (at least when I was there) is now working at Third Law Interactive on a game for us anyhow. I'm sure they have hired a lot of new talent, but they seem to lose them faster than they get them. ION has served as a great proving ground for all the other Dallas-based developers to hire from. ;)
To G.O.D. belong wisdom and power
You left ION Storm and started G.O.D. How did this come about?
I've covered this for the most part, but Ion basically told me I could take my g.o.d. plan (which up until Oct 1997, they fully supported and funded the development of) and go. They feared pissing off Eidos (and I would have too, had I been hoping to sell the company to them as they were or had I known that we'd ship no games in 1998) and that was my main job there. ;) Seriously, the g.o.d. plan had no business at ION Storm the way things shook at, and therefore, neither did I.
I've just got to ask...the name. You just like saying, "I come representing...G.O.D." or, "I'm calling...for G.O.D." don't you. :)
Other people seem to enjoy it. I do think it's cool to have a name that's a joke in an industry where the monkeys-in-suits (the publishers) take themselves oh-so-seriously.
Is your office *really* in a church?
Yep... it's actually sort of coincidence, sort of NOT. ION looked at this space, Ritual looked at it... it's just an amazing space in the coolest part of Dallas. Doesn't really work for a development environment, but for what we do, it's perfect. It's also an art gallery, which is cool.
Three titles from G.O.D. (Railroad Tycoon II, Grand Theft Auto: London, Monster Truck Madness 64) are licensed sequels...was it a challenge acquiring these from their original publishers?
We were doing Railroad Tycoon II with PopTop back when the game was still called "Iron Horse". Thankfully, just before E3 last year, PopTop managed to buy the license for the name from Microprose for peanuts. I'm sure the name changed raised the profile of the game, but it was the same great game before then.
Monster Truck Madness 64 isn't actually a game we're publishing. It's being done by one of our founding developers, Edge of Reality, and it being published through our console partners at Rockstar games. Another of our founding developers, Terminal Reality, did the Monster Truck Madness series for Microsoft, so that's cool, too. The license itself was a similar situation... EoR was doing a similar game anyhow, 4x4 Mud Monsters was the name, and later they and Rockstar decided to license the name MTM from Microsoft to get access to all the Bigfoot stuff and to raise the profile of the release.
The GTA games are a result of our deal with Take-Two/Rockstar...we have rights to pick up our choice of their PC Titles, and they have similar rights with console versions of our games. It's a cool arrangement that allows both companies to focus on what they love and understand while maximizing development resources and properties for the benefit of each other and our developers.
Credits: Illustration © 1999 Michael Krahulik. This interview is © 1999 Jason Bergman & Mike Wilson. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, so don't try it...or we'll damn you.