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Top Developer Falls from Grace

William Murphy Posted:
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The Grammy Awards were this past Sunday.  Aside from being a giant farce representative of the falsehood that is today’s record industry, it was also a wonderful showcase of just how far Bob Dylan has fallen in recent years.  Dude’s getting too old to perform coherently (and some would say he never has).  But I love me some Dylan recordings, from his old Guthrie inspired acoustic material to his very controversial switch to an all electric format.  But this past Sunday?  Man, did he sound terrible.  I know most are more upset with Justin Bieber losing the Best New Artist category, but Bob Dylan’s terrifying performance is what really struck a chord with me.  In any case, it made me start to think about a lot of performers and people in entertainment that fall from somewhat lofty perches and how we find ourselves so engrossed with their plummeting. 

We love to build our stars up and then we’re just as quick to tear them down should they fumble in any small way.  The same can be said of us as gamers.  We become fans of developers who deliver us a good game, but we’ll just as quickly storm their houses with pitchforks and fire should they ever release a turd unto the public.  In honor of this grand tradition of popularity backlash, here’s a List devoted entirely to the games and developers who experienced as much. 

Keep in mind that these are in no particular order this week.

Gaute Godager

Gaute Godager created his first videogame at the tender age of seventeen.  The company he founded (Funcom) went on to create the pioneering title Anarchy Online, and The Longest Journey series.  But it was Age of Conan that ultimately made Gaute take stock of his desire to create games.  When Age of Conan was in development it was easily one of the most anticipated titles in PC gaming.  The promise of brutal action-packed combat and epic PvP battles had players chomping at the bit.  But when the game was released in 2008 with the general consensus being that it wasn’t ready for launch, everyone was quick to blame Gaute.  Ultimately the man left the company he helped put on the map, and has since kept off the radar.

Mark Jacobs

This man is one of several key people who are given the credit for creating one of MMO gaming’s crown jewels: Dark Age of Camelot.  He’s also the most notable man behind Warhammer Online, which was deemed by many to be a tremendous letdown.  After the company he founded and sold to Electronic Arts was merged with BioWare, Mark left Mythic Entertainment.  You can read a ton of his thoughts these days on his personal blog (which sadly hasn’t been updated since September of 2010 as of this List).  As far as this writer knows, he’s still under embargo with EA on the details of the whole fallout, but one wonders what will be next for the man and whether or not we’ll see his stamp on the MMO genre anytime soon. 

Bill Roper and Flagship Studios

Bill Roper’s roots stretch all the way back to some of PC gaming’s most beloved franchises in Diablo and Wacraft.  But what the poor Poxy Boggard will mostly be remembered for until something better happens is the founding of Flagship Studios and the crash and burn of the hybrid action-MMO Hellgate: London.  After Hellgate’s release was met with a resounding “meh” and Flagship eventually caved, Bill went on to Cryptic Studios where he helped launch both Champions Online and Star Trek Online.  And then?  Well then, he left Cryptic and has since been taking what this writer assumes is a nice vacation from the madness of entertainment software development and apparently a little bit of consulting work as well.  Honestly I was amazed he went to Cryptic after Flagship fell.  I’d have taken some time off then, considering the amount of player backlash the poor guy endured during that fiasco.  Gamasutra has a nice interview where he talks at great length about the whole thing.  I suggest giving it a read.

Richard Garriott

Lord Brittish is pretty much responsible for the rise of PC RPGs in the West.  His Ultima series solidified the notion of fantasy games as a permanent fixture in our collective nerd psyche.  Ultimae Online is quite possibly one of the best loved and most often memorialized games in the entirety of MMORPG fandom.  But then came Tabula Rasa.  After seven years of development, during which the entire slate was wiped clean and the game was rebuilt from the ground up, TR came out as a very unfinished but fun title that was closed just a little over a year after its launch.  Richard Garriott’s name was tied to the game from the start (like John Madden’s NFL series) to garner support due to the man’s legendary developer status.  When the game crashed, so did his relationship with NCsoft.  Now the part-time astronaut has founded a casual game’s company whose development is geared towards making Facebook content. CenterPort is the designer’s next big project, which sounds a lot like a SecondLife if you ask me.  So your guess is as good as mine if Mr. Garriott will ever make a return to MMORPGs. 

Brad McQuaid

Brad “The Vision” McQuaid helped to solidify MMOs in the collective conscience of PC gamers with Everquest.  But that vision simply wasn’t fully delivered with Vanguard: Sage of Heroes at launch.  Much like Garriott, the promise of his name wasn’t enough to make the game ready for primetime.  After leaving SOE when they bought Sigil Games in 2007, Brad disappeared from the public view, which was probably a good move considering how rabid the Vanguard hopefuls were after the game was launched too soon and it did not keep its many promises.  Still, the best designers are those who can take a defeat, and come back swinging later.  Brad has since founded a new development studio in California.  What will come from the new studios is a mystery, but hopefully it’ll give the man back some of the mojo he earned with the original EQ.


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.