Fears of financial trouble at Realtime Worlds crept into the ABP studio months before it went broke, according to alleged ex-staffers.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, two ex-Realtime devs told The Guardian there were early signs the studio was doomed.
“The first hint we got was, a few months before APB launched, the company started – quite bizarrely – to make cleaners redundant,” said one source.
“I thought that was rather suspicious.”
Soon after, an insider says, Realtime Worlds’ bleak outlook was being prophesised at – of all places – neighbouring studio Ruffian Games.
Ruffian was founded by a number of ex-Realtime Worlds staff in 2008, and since its formation has publicly clashed with its former employer over the contract to develop Crackdown 2.
It was first rumoured that Ruffian was given the project, yet Realtime Worlds denounced the mere suggestion, before Microsoft – in a rather embarrassing twist – confirmed Ruffian had the job.
Those two studios, and its staff within, kept close ties.
“Later, rumours started coming in from Ruffian that redundancies were imminent,” says an insider.
“And then RTW let all the contractors go early, which was another sign that money was running out. But they said everything was fine.”
It is thought Realtime Worlds spent some $100 million on APB over five years, before “lacklustre sales” spun the outfit into a spiral towards administration.
The full Guardian piece runs through an extensive collection of reasons why this happened, complete with outsider opinion, as well as more claims from those said to be on the inside.
It is said by one source that a second Realtime World squad working on another game, Project Myworld, “was told that [all its] budget had been spent on APB.”
Poor management was again a source for blame, in line with a number of comments dotted across Develop Online in the last two weeks.
Says one source: “The middle management – and there was a lot of middle management at this company – were on that game for years and they continued to run it as though they were managing an architecture project or something.
“Fun never seemed to be a criterion for what they were doing; managers with little clipboards would go around and tick off things, saying ‘OK that’s done’ and moving on. There was never any consideration for whether or not what had been done was any fun.”
But the article – which you can read in full here – adds an insider’s opinion that no-one should be singled out for blame:
“If we're being brutally honest, we didn't pay enough attention to the design of the game. When you're working for someone like Dave [Jones, co-founder], it's all too easy to not believe what your ears and eyes, and QA and beta testers are telling you.”