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Five That Fell 114

Posted by timothy
from the insert-quarter dept.
Ground Glass writes "The games industry is as cutthroat as any in entertainment or tech, and it so happens that many loved, respected, and influential companies nevertheless get crushed in the waves of hardware transitions or left behind by market forces. Given that one of those shifts is rapidly approaching, now is as good a time as any to look at five such companies that are no longer with us, but are still remembered and revered by their fans."
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Five That Fell

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  • Other ones I miss: (Score:4, Informative)

    by Rocky (56404) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @12:29PM (#15667763)
    Infocom

    Sir-Tech

    Guess I'm a bit old school :)
    • by Pope (17780)
      Man, I miss those. Or almost, I still haven't solved "Trinity" or "Bueracracy", even though I bought them in 1989 on my way to University with my PCjr... :) Best way to improve performance: copy the whole game to a RAM disk so that the interpreter didn't have to constantly read from the floppy drive.
      • ...was painful until you figured out how to get money (negative deposits, anyone?)

        My particular bete noire was Spellbreaker. Oy, the cubes!
      • Yeah Trinity is pretty hard, the last few puzzles are pretty unfair but the overall game is awesome. I played it on a c128 with REU RAM expansion, the parser would load the data to ram and made it much faster.
    • Infocom did more with text inside of five years than the entire first person shooter genre has done in its lifetime.

      My personal favorite was "Suspended." [csd.uwo.ca] You were in a cryogenic state, only able to interact with remote robots to bring a group of out-of-whack computers into working shape again. Each robot had its own abilities and senses -- they rolled or walked, one could smell, and so on. The puzzles made you work at them, and this was one game where the packaging and manual and so on really helped and w

    • How about we go with _the_ strategy/RPG games which includes ALL of the AD&D gold box stuff:

      SSI - Strategic Simulations, Inc. [wikipedia.org]

      Simply a must have on a gamer's list. /salute

  • here (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dance_Dance_Karnov (793804) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @12:30PM (#15667768) Homepage
    Atari
    origin
    serria on line
    black isle
    looking glass

    there I just saved you from having to trudge through a horribly formated article. (ad impressions ftw). We really should be linking to the multi-page spanning articles. Link to the printer friendly or not at all.
    • *should not* (no preview ftw).
    • Re:here (Score:5, Informative)

      by roger6106 (847020) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @12:34PM (#15667814)
      Print version [next-gen.biz]
    • They left out 3dfx.

      Seems a little glaring, given the effect they had.
    • They forgot Sega? Technically they are still around but it is not the same company it once was.

      The Dreamcast was a great system too, and could more than hold its own against the PS2 and Xbox graphically, however it just didn't catch on outside of gaming critics. I blame poor marketing, as the DC had more memorable games in its short lifetime than the PS2 or Xbox have been able to muster thus far. They may have been doomed since the Saturn though, which truly was a subpar console.
      • Sega is still around. They just gave up, and did their own thing. In essence, they are the Al Gore of videogame companies.

        Working Designs. Now, there's a company that fell and will be missed.
        • "Sega is still around. They just gave up, and did their own thing. In essence, they are the Al Gore of videogame companies."


          Coming soon from Sega: The Adventures of ManBearPig

        • Yeah, Sega is still around, but they are not the same company. They're making ports of Sonic games to new consoles. Woo. I think EA signing an exclusive license with the NBA and NFL sealed their fate; the 2K sports games were their last mainstream product and I'm betting they were banking on that to fund some of their other projects.

          Working Designs was great; I used to deal with them a lot back when I did game reviews. They were always friendly and accessible, even to a small site like the one I worked for.
        • by mink (266117)
          Why miss a company that insisted on brutally destroying the games and expecting us to thank them for it?

          They were off my list of companies to care about back when I was playing Turbo Duo (PC Engine) and buying new stuff as it came out. I made the mistake of buying Exile III (was fun gameplay wise) but the fun ended with a cut scene where the bad voice acted demon attempts to insult the player with the phrase "Poopy-boy". If I had wanted games aimed at the 5 year old maturity level, I would have bought Night
    • by Quinn (4474)
      Thanks. I was just going to scan for Troika [wikipedia.org], anyway.
  • by Elik (12920) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @12:32PM (#15667794)
    I missed playing the Wing Commander series, especially dealing with Manic, who came in it own as our own hated Biff from Back to Future Series in the 3rd series. Gotta love watching the videos of watching him getting slapped.
    • That'd be Maniac, if I recall correctly.

      Also, I recall dealing with being forced to have Maniac as my wingman in the earlier games by shooting him down myself, and just flying the rest of that branch of the story without a wingman. Plus I got to say some moving words at his funeral!
  • by Dr. Eggman (932300) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @12:34PM (#15667812)
    All those companies lost to EAssimilation:

    Maxis...
    Westwood Studios...
    Mythic Entertainment...
    ect...

    *cries*
    • Maxis is actually still going. Don't forget Bullfrog, though. They made the original God game, were a key player in the Sim game field and always had an air of wit around them that made all of their games comedy gold, as well as good fun.
      • Don't forget Bullfrog, though. They made the original God game, were a key player in the Sim game field and always had an air of wit around them that made all of their games comedy gold, as well as good fun.

        They made Syndicate!! While Populous was cool, nothing compared to Syndicate at the time. They could recreate it today and it would probably still be regarded as a fantastic game.
    • Don't forget Origin, the geniuses who brought us Wing Commander.

      And Bullfrog, who made my two favorite games when I was a kid: Theme Park, and later, Theme Hospital. RIP Bullfrog :(

  • This game [wikipedia.org] was my favorite Sierra title, although they merely published it.
  • by Bastian (66383) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @12:43PM (#15667876)
    You want to know a great way to get me to stop reading your article right away?

    Include a banner ad that makes a lot of annoying noises that appear without warning and are deafeningly loud, especially through headphones. Of course, simply causing physical pain for your readers is never a good stopping point, so why not add insult to injury by giving no way to turn the damn ad off?

    And then all the bad formatting. . . great job, guys.
  • Am I the only one was does not immediately recognize 3/5s of these companies?
    • All these are classic companies. HOWEVER apart from offcourse atari they are primarly PC game companies. Perhaps even only PC companies. Seirra is so old that the PC is a new fangled invention, bioware and origin and looking glass did all their major titles on the PC but perhaps some games have been ported.

      If you have not heard of them you are either very young, not a pc gamer or a filthy console user. Frankly there is no excuse for any of this and you should kill yourselve to atone for your sins.

      To be fa

      • Showing my age now, but Sierra made some of the greatest games ever. I genuinely miss the heyday of the adventure game. Granted, recent years have seen some of the best RPG's to ever be produced, but in general, the current style of gaming just can't match the late-80's to early-90's. I would love to see what the great storytellers of that era could do with the current technology.
        • I believe one of the things that gave birth to such great games was actually hardware limitation. Before, you had to have great creativity in order to pull off such amibitious goals like free-roaming worlds, nowadays you just have to code a lot real fast.
          • I do agree, with a qualification: you don't even see adventure games anymore. Everyone is all about instant gratification, and no one is willing to spend a week trying to figure out a single puzzle. The kinds of things that made those games good are no longer "acceptable" because no one appreciates the effort, only the reward. I'm not completely sure at what point it became a cardinal sin for a game to force you to think, but it happened sometime in the last 10-15 years, and has transformed games, with v
        • Personally, I've always preferred the LucasFilms/LucasArts adventure games to the Sierra ones. Maybe because reloading for the 20th time after the robot/troll/whatever kills you got a bit old.
          • by mink (266117)
            This was not a problem in the Space Quest series because each death "window" had a different set of texts and pictures to go with it, so you wanted to die to see them but also wanted to save often because you might die.

            This is a good gamer survival skill. I remember when I was playing FFVII for the first time and had just defeated the first Weapon and was tooling around in the airship. I see some small red thing in the desert and swoop down to check it out. Lost 4 hours of game play because I hadn't bothere
      • by HBI (604924)
        Still my favorite game ever. Damn that was fun.

        No one bothers with a good plot anymore or much with internal consistency, it's all graphics and 'kill the evil' type stuff.
      • Hey! You don't have to be THAT old to have played a Sierra-Online game! They had plenty of titles in the late '80's, early '90 which is only, umm, 15 years ago.

        Damn You kids! Get off my Lawn!

      • Oh well, Looking Glass you will be missed, I bought your games, pity nobody else did.

        I bought three copies of Ultima Underworld, two copies of Ultima Underworld II, four copies of System Shock, one copy of Terra Nova, one copy of Thief, two copies of Thief Gold, and one copy of Thief II.

        Yes, they went down, but I did my part to prevent it.

  • They left out (Score:4, Insightful)

    by owlman17 (871857) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @12:44PM (#15667885)
    Infocom. The flag-bearer of text-adventure gaming. Brought us dozens of hits like the Zork trilogy, Enchanter trilogy, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, etc, etc. You didn't need the latest and the greatest GPU to play those games. There are still indie text-adventures but the genre practically died with the company. Oh I just miss those days. Reading "You are likely to be eaten by a grue" sent more chills up my spine than seeing the most grotesque creature from (insert latest FPS using latest cutting edge 3D engine here) at maximum settings.
    1. Vista
    2. PS3
    3. San Fransisco
    4. Gas Prices
    5. Hillary
  • Link is to page 1 of 7?

    "Next Generation" is a good name for the site anyway.
  • The market condenses (Score:4, Informative)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @12:56PM (#15668015)
    Like every market where money is to be made, it condenses down to a few global players.

    Time warp back to the 80s. The game market was fractured, many, many small companies puttering along, some creating great games, some creating mediocre games, and even the odd gem surfacing every now and then made by a handful of freaks. The market was small, there wasn't a lot of money in it, and thus everyone took the share they could. There were EA (yeah, they already existed. But back then they actually even made games), Accolade, Bullfrog, all of them were more or less "small" businesses.

    Snap back to today. The game market exploded, literally. Games ain't anymore something for the geeks in an age range of about 12 to about 18, it's gone mainstream. It's become everyone's pastime, age independent. As soon as a market appears to actually generate revenue, money is being pumped in. As soon as money is blown into a market, small companies are hoovered up in the process by the companies that let the money flood in.

    That's pretty much what happened.
    • Actually, there are probably more game companies and more new games being made than ever before.

      The difference is, a game that was made by a handful of people and sold 10,000 copies was considered a "sucess" back in the day, where as a game created by a handful of people that sells 10,000 copies is considered a "hobby" nowadays.

      But in terms of making a game and selling comparible to old school game sales, that has never been easier than today, and there has never been so many small independent little game c
    • The game market exploded, literally.

      Holy crap! Literally exploded? How many died? Was it a car bomb?

    • Why the above post, stuffed with a cliche, is labeled 'informative' I will never understand. But I do know the parent poster is incorrect.

      Gaming is not and has never been mainstream (especially when you account for population growth). In North America, the console penetration has never exceeded 33% (which was achieved during the NES days). Most of the growth coming into the industry has been from multiple console ownership. Many gamers just got more 'hardcore'. And the best selling video game is still Super
    • Like every market where money is to be made, it condenses down to a few global players.

      We used to have a socio-political system intended to prevent that. It was believed that many players in every market would be good for the social and economic health of the nation. It was also believed that taxpaying, gainfully employed citizens in such a system would be better able to weather the inevitable fluctuations of supply, demand, and technology. Of course, that sort of belief is considered outmoded and hope

  • by GutSh0t (91783) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @01:07PM (#15668148)
    Article seems to focus on companies that were players in late 90s on. Microprose made many classics: Xcom series, Master of Magic, Master of Orion, Railroad tycoon, and many others.
    • Agreed. Microprose was a player in the late 80's even, so it would have been appropriate for the author to at least mention in his "I-also-considered-writing-about..." section. Their jet fighter simulations were great at the time.

      Although documented heavily in other locales, I would have appreciated a serious mention of Infocom. And for mid-90's companies, I would have liked to have seen mention of the original Bungee. Marathon was a comrade of the first System Shock, and Myth: The Fallen Lords is one o
    • aye, i want another microprose game :(

      Even you picked up a bit late with the list ;)

      Try f-19 stealth fighter(my 1st retail game i think, PCmoria and chess came with computer) and M-1 tank platoon, just incredible for the time (and considering i had a monochrome setup) and with more info in manual than you could ever digest :)
      • F-19 - this being before the F-117A was even publically announced, which is why the name is wrong. What fun probing into Soviet Russia (ha-ha) with your stealth fighter!

        I had EGA so i had a slight advantage. Running on an XT...
    • Microprose freakin' owned my gaming library in the early to mid '90's -- Railroad Tycoon, Red Storm Rising, F117A Nighthawk, F15 Strike Eagle, and of course the original CIV!
    • Microprose got bought by Infogrames(?) and then Sid Meier left and formed Firaxis if I remember right.
    • Master of Magic was so under-rated and under-supported.

      Definitely one of the best turn based games ever, IMHO.

      It was the only thing that pulled me away from long, long Civ stints.

      I still have it, I load it occasionally and I play it from time to time. There was rumor of a MoM:2, but it never happened probably because of one of these buyout, shutdown, assimilation things.

  • by tpjunkie (911544) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @01:26PM (#15668342) Journal
    Bungie.

    I'm still pissed at microsoft for having the insight/monopolistic impulse to buy them. They put out some great titles, Pathways into Darkness, Marathon, and of course Halo, originally demoed in the late 90s on a powermac.
  • So what happened to the game code? Was the code bought by other companies or did it simply become orphan code?

    Has anyone ever attempted to get some of these games publicly released so they could be ported to current systems?

    If the code is gone, what a f*ucking waste!
  • If you put untold developer hours into a game to make it The Awesomest Game Ever, you're going to fall into a lot of traps, but the biggest trap of all is the cost of all of those developer hours; unless your game is an unmitigated hit, you're never going to make that money back.

    Remember Novalogic? They haven't had an honest-to-goodness hit since that voxel helicopter game back in the early 90's. And they're still around because they understand this basic principle: Ship the game when you know that it's
    • Remember Novalogic? They haven't had an honest-to-goodness hit since that voxel helicopter game back in the early 90's. And they're still around because they understand this basic principle: Ship the game when you know that it's good enough to generate enough sales to cover your costs, and not one day later. As long as your staff is marginally competent and decently paid, you can always meet that goal.

      The only real tragedy in this list is Looking Glass, who was killed off because Eidos would rather divert f

      • by Rimbo (139781)
        "You were just saying that game companies should keep sinking money into a project..."

        No, I was saying the exact opposite with my example of NovaLogic.

        I was saying they should STOP putting any money into a project at the moment it hits the point of diminishing returns..."Not one day later." That is what has kept NovaLogic in business where other companies have failed: They have the business sense and the discipline to say, "If we spend another year on this, it could be a great game instead of merely medio
    • Atari failed because most of their games were crap, and the bad games typically had as big or bigger budgets than the good ones. (Remember the horrible Indiana Jones and Return of the Jedi games?)

      You must be joking.

      Those two games were constantly being played everywhere I went. They were only "crap" in a relative sense: they weren't masterpieces like other Atari Games offerings.

      Gauntlet, 720, Marble Madness, Paperboy, Tetris, KLAX, STUN Runner, Space Lords, Primal Rage, Area 51... I'm sure there w

    • "The only real tragedy in this list is Looking Glass, who was killed off because Eidos would rather divert funds to help Daikatana limp along"

      Sure, but it's probably more the fact that while they made great games and we all love them in retrospect, at the time no one bought them. How many people have originals of Thief, System Shock and Terra Nova? Even my copy of TN was an Ebay purchase so I can't get all high and mighty. And my Thief is Thief Gold, so I didn't even get the original. But I did buy the orig
  • Lets see:
    Dynamix
    Papyrus
    Epyx (If you are old-school, you will recognize that one)

    Black Isle is a bummer. As is Origin. I remember a few years ago, there was a GLUT of space flight sims, trying to take the throne from Wing Commander... and since then, there has not been one that has done it right. I wish that we could get a good sequel to Wing Commander. Better yet, a good sequel to Wing Commander: Privateer.
  • As a developer I'm appalled.

    After Midway retreated from the arcades in 2001, Atari Games found itself focusing exclusively on home releases. Apparently those didn't sell well enough, as on one cold day in February 2003, all of the studio's employees were, without warning, led off premises as the building was locked behind them - much to their collective confusion and dismay. It was not until later that employees were allowed to return for their personal effects. Thus ended the 31-year history of Atari - sa

  • I loved Kings Quest, Heroes Quest, and Space Quest. I loved (to this day I can play any of these with my eyes closed) the Wing Commander series, Privateer!! I love Fallout 1&2 I must be getting old, as this list of people actually made me feel a bit sad. Sigh.
  • Yes, yes, you could expound on this list and chase every rabbit hole to uncover hundreds of other game development companies that fell in this manner, but I think this article did a good job of summarizing the history of game companies over the past 30 years. It took me back in time, that's for sure.

    I'm with the rest of you old farts. I didn't play all of these, but I definitely remember them. This explains quite a bit that occured and I was unaware of at the time. Rather mysterious how you'd be expecting

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