Battlecruiser - The end of an era?

…made you look! :D

Yes, but I didn’t inhale…

Sure looks purty, Derek! I like the new, iconless interface a lot better than BCMG’s, although I don’t care much for that big thick oval in the center of the screen. I like BCMG’s square TDD–probably because it’s more like the flight sim displays I’m used to–but I could probably swallow the oval TDD if it was just a simple line drawing, rather than having that haze or halo surrounding it. Just my .02.

Congrats on the positive preview from GameWhatever. Looks like people are finally moving beyond the point where they feel they have to rehash the whole BC saga every time they write something about one of your games. Now it’s just a vague reference or two and then they move on. Good sign.

Anyway, I’m glad E3 was a success for you. Now get back to work :)

If I read one more review of a smart product that has to devote three paragraphs to a Derek Smart biography, what a big antisocial poop Derek is and how he’s never going to be elected prom queen because of his Usenet antics … blah, blah blah journalists are mostly a bunch of sad pitiful wankers, the exact type of kids who got chosen last for street ball and just can’t seem to get past it.

It is really nice to just read a review of the new BC3000 where the reviewer sticks to the facts : it’s a good game, beats the pants off most other space simulations if you like a helluva lotta detail in your sim and is worth the price. I don’t care about the Derek Smart Kickboxer saga versus vending machines, etc. … just not funny anymore but leave it up to journalists to be the last ones to get the message.

Derek’s gonna be around for a long time, making decent space-sims, so people had best just get used to it. If they’re as good as BC3000 he’s got nowhere to go but up.

…continued from here

…and this is where I almost (?) commit career Hari Kari.

Quite frankly I usually hate going to E3 simply because, while I’ve had very good experiences in the past, going to E3 when my game is being shown, has always had a traumatic effect on me due to what happened back in Winter 1993 CES when Tom Frisina (now a GM at EA) of the failed Three Sixty Pacific, canned my first game on the first day of the show because …it wasn’t like Wing Commander. History eventually repeated itself at the 1995 E3 show when the failed Intracorp (they were pushing the failed Shatner vehicle, TekWar at the time) canned the project - again - on the last day of the show. And I shortly ended up at Take Two later that year. Fuckers.

But this year has been quite surprising and I’ve never, ever been in a situation where literally everyone who saw the game (gamers, buyers, media etc) said anything negative about it. Even if they were thinking it, their expressions and comments didn’t show it. On the contrary, they were more startled than anything else.

Funny thing is (and this is not confidential or anything but if it is, you’ll probably be reading about my contract termination very soon) Dreamcatcher informed me, just several days before the show that BCG wasn’t going to be on the show floor. But rather that it was going to be in a closed media session in one of the booth offices in order to provide a one-on-one environment with the media and not be subjected to the noise of the show floor. Right, I thought. IMO, they didn’t figure that the game was strong enough I think to impress and that it would take too long to demo and give the full impact. They were showing, Pain Killer (12 systems), Arx Fatalis (2 systems), Beach Soccer (4 systems) and BCG (1 system). Yep, BCG was moved to one of the Beach Soccer machines. Go figure.

As I understand it, at the pre-E3 sales meeting, some of the execs don’t …get the game, which left the frustrated sales and QA team (as well as my capable Product Manager) with very little to go on - even though I know that some in the company didn’t even think it was a good idea to sign the game, let alone two of them. So, those of this opinion, just helped to make this decision of not showing the game on the show floor and for whatever reason.

…which all led to my subconsciously missing the first day of the show because, funny enough, I missed my first flight out because I had the flight departure times wrong. Not that I was excited about going - especially not after what I’d been told.

However, once I arrived there, the decision was reversed and the game was to be shown on the show floor (I dunno if my email to the top exec had anything to do with this change) and it went uphill from there. Very quickly, one of the QA guys and I, had the system and game up and running and the BCG poster boards tacked on the booth walls. We were good to go.

Now that I think about it, I wasn’t particularly excited about it all at first. If anything, all I was thinking about was how I was going to not only make my game the most highlighted and awe inspring than anything else in that booth, but that I was also going to do a damn good job of it and show these folks [the jaded ones that is] just who the they were fooling around with. I don’t think that, in their entire lives, they’ve ever met anyone with such conviction and resolve. In other words, I was going to make them pay by making them realize that there is a place for niche games and that there are people who actually like and play these games. Its not all about mass market drivel.

There I was, literally every minute I was at the booth (which was practically the whole time), trying to cram a game that takes close to a week to get familiar with, into 15 min sessions in order to highlight it without boring anyone. Boy was I surprised. The more stuff I whipped out, the more whoa! and wow! I got - and of course, knowing me, it all went to my head and I proceeded to go overboard with the sensory overload. Right up to the point when maxgameplay.com showed up, complete with camera crew and shoved a camera and mic in my face. Thats probably the last time they do that because I didn’t have anything positive to say about how the industry is handling this whole copy protection thing.

There I was, in my element (if you’ve ever heard or seen me pitch one of my games, then you get the idea), doing my thing, then Cindy Yans shows up for our appointment. Yes, Cindy!! OK, this may not seem like a big deal, but you’ve got to go back, way back to appreciate just what it means to be sitting and chatting with Cindy or any of the media folks from back in the day talking about a game that, well, few people care about ( especially the publishers themselves). The people you only get to see once in a while, but whom you get to harrass via email (just ask Bauman) every now and then.

E3 for me this year was the highlight of my career I think. I went there disappointed but it got better once I had a plan all worked out and my determination to not allow anyone dampen my spirits or the premise of my game, helped a lot. In fact, I almost didn’t go, but I didn’t want to get Gladguy into trouble. Thinking about it, I only went because of him. I mean, what is the worst they could’ve done? Cancel BCG? heh. Been there. Done that. Still get my games shipped. But I’m glad I went because that didn’t leave any question nor doubts about the game itself.

The Dreamcatcher sales, QA and media crew exceeded my expectations of what team spirit is about. No, seriously. From the low level QA guy to the top notch media guy, they were just a bunch of really great folks. Off the show floor and on. Having worked with lots of publishers in my time, mingled with a bunch of assholes (most of whom are unemployed as I type this) in the industry, these folks are simply put, the best I’ve ever had to work with. Must be because they’re Canadians and less egotistical and backbiting than their American counterparts?

But by the same token, knowing that some of these people were - behind closed doors - saying and doing things which would lead to my game being shown behind closed doors - or worse - canned, makes me think about whether they’re genuine or just good actors or actresses. I just think that they are in fact genuine but simply scared.

Frankly, at the time, I didn’t give a toss either way. I wasn’t there to make friends (though I think I made a few). I was there to, once again, defend my game - as I have done most of these 14+ yrs and to ensure that nobody made light of - nor discounted - the hard work and dedication we put into making these games.

At any rate, the entire time I was there, it was like I was the highlight of show (which I was, being the only industry figure they’ve ever had, until Jane Jansen who they recently signed) and their company. Makes you wonder what the suits were thinking, by trying to put my game in a closed session and accidentally treating it like a second class citizen just before the single most important industry event.

The more I think about it, the more I think that, quite frankly, they don’t know what to do with my games or how to position them. And I told one of the execs this (as well as my newly appointed Exec. Producer) as my #1 complaint. If you think about it, Dreamcatcher were all about adventure games and one or two other titles, so, one can’t blame them for not having much experience in handling the diverse types of games they’re going to be coming across now that they’ve decided to branch off into other areas (and split the company into two divisions, Dreamcatcher Games and The Adventure Company).

…and then they go and compound the problem by signing not one, but two Battlecruiser titles. If anything, they’re brave. And probably too confident in my abilities and that of the games? I dunno, but I think the whole thing with E3 and the initial decision to not show it on the floor is that someone got scared. And like Lemmings, the rest of the crew followed suit. At least up to the point where the guy who signs the checks vetoed the whole bloody thing and left it up to me. Probably to hang (or possibly too much faith in me) myself? Nice one.

It doesn’t help either that some of the retailers are down right mean and hostile toward space sims. No seriously - I heard one such story (about BCM Gold in fact) about the troubles one DC sales person had pitching the game to a retailer, that made me so mad, I almost choked on my lobster ravioli. The retailer’s buyer, as the story goes, literally tossed the game box across the room and said something like …no more fucking space sims!.

So, is it a surprise that these people [DC] are scared of the ramifications of trying to position a niche title - a space sim no less - at some of the retail stores?

I blame MS (Freelancer), EA (EnB), Infogrammes (both IWar games) and Simon & Schuster (Eve) who spend millions and millions of dollars on space games only to see them languish at retail - but most of all, I blame the gamers. The good thing is, now that no publisher is going to even think of signing up another space game (BCG and the upcoming X2 are the last worthy retail space sims in development I think) we’ll see what happens. Like Elite, 10+ years from now, they [gamers] will be thinking …damn, I wish I had that space sim to play or they’ll be looking for win9x emulators to play the games of today on systems of the future in the same way they today look for DOS emulators to play games like Elite, WC and Privateer on. Thats when they [gamers] will know just how much influence they had in killing the genre. Which is exactly why I’m done with it and I’m sure that my small fan base will keep the MMO version of BCG going as it [BCG] is going to be the very last space sim of its kind. Ever.

…and all of this disheartening stuff about this whole E3 thing, led me to come up with an emergency plan (in the event that I did in fact get canned) and to - for the first time - pitch my WIP XBox (as everyone probably knows by now, DC has first rights of refusal to my next game) game (a space/planetary vehicular and first person combat action game - think XW vs TF meets BF1942 and you’ll get the idea) to another publisher and got a hand shake agreement at the end of that E3 breakfast meeting. Unless DC can match the offer (which is up to them at this point), I’m gone once BCG ships in Q3. I’m no longer in the mood for all this disheartening stuff and industry nonsense. So, I’m just going to go where it all flows. All I want to do is develop games and I’m going to keep doing that, no matter what. I don’t know what it is that publishers (except maybe Interplay) don’t get about this very simple premise that Derek Smart is about, but from where I’m sitting, the space sim genre, as we once knew it, is done.

That pretty much covers it for this year’s Battlecruiser @ E3 saga.

EDIT : Thought I’d add a little history for those who don’t know or those who have forgotten.

[BATTLECRUISER SERIES - A PUBLISHING HISTORY]

Dreamcatcher Games

These folks signed BCM Gold and BCG together in late 2002 and shipped BCM Gold (a re-release
of the original 2001 BCM with some added features), on schedule, in March 2003. BCG is
scheduled for a Q3 2003 release.

3000AD Inc

After Interplay started having financial troubles in 1998, they could no
longer fund the development of the next title in the series (to which they had rights.
So, the rights reverted back to me, I change the name to Battlecruiser Millennium and
proceeded to work on and fund it myself. Eventually after pitching it to no less than
three publishers and getting silly offers, I decided to bite the bullet and do it
myself. Sure, I’d sell fewer units, but in the end I’d still make a heck of a
lot more money than I would from royalty based points. Eventually, calling in
on an industry contact of mine we got EB interested in an exclusive deal, based on
the numbers of the previous game they had bought through Interplay. So, knowing
the risks of pissing off the other retailers, in late 2000 I signed the EB deal,
got gobs of money and shipped the game in November of 2001 for an exclusive
90 day exclusive. Thats when all the retailers decided not to carry it. But I
didn’t care since I’d already made about 2.5x more money than I was expecting
for the title anyway.

GT VALUE (the UK subsidiary of GT Interactive)

Picked up the European rights to distribute BATTLECRUISER 3000AD v2.08 in mid
'99. The title was released in Europe in October '99.

INTERPLAY PRODUCTIONS

Picked up the rights to distribute BATTLECRUISER 3000AD v2.0 in June '98 with
a first rights to refusal option to the full sequel, BATTLECRUISER 3020AD. The
game was delivered in September '98 and released in December '98. 1999 opened
with a flurry of great reviews for this industry classic. You can read these
reviews via the reviews page link at the website. Due to financial problems (and
the less than expected sales of Freespace 2 didn’t help either), Interplay gave
the rights to this title, back to 3000AD.

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. They also signed an OEM deal with GameTek (UK) who also
released a version of the game in Europe in March 1997. Take Two Interactive later
bought Mission Studios in late 1996 and GameTek (UK) in mid 1997. Neither of the
two companies are currently in business. In an out of court-settlement financial
settlement, 3000AD got the rights to the BC3K franchise back from Take Two.

INTRACORP

During the period when I was allowed to stay at MS or seek a new publisher, they bid
on and got the rights to the game. They showcased BC3K at 1995 E3 (back when
they were marketing William Shatner’s Tekwar) and canned it on the final day
of the show. This company later went out of business shortly after

MISSION STUDIOS

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.

It was while I MS that I got to know the Interplay primaries, who were to later
directly sign BC3K v2.0 in 1998.

VELOCITY

While in the UK I had built up a relationship with this company. When I returned
to the US, I kept in touch and approached them about publishing the game when
Three-Sixty canned it. They then agreed to sign the game and we moved on.

The partners split up and 3000AD, Inc signed on BC3K with Mission Studios, the
new company formed by one of the partners (who originally signed the game).

THREE-SIXTY PACIFIC

After reading about the game in the Computer Games & Strategy Plus magazine
in 1992, they signed the game. The game was showcased at 1993 COMPUTER ELECTRONIC
SHOW (CES). It was canned on the first day of the show. This company later went
out of business shortly after.

I think they were more afraid of people saying “Hey, isn’t that Derek Smart?” “What? Him? Really?” “I think so.” “Let’s go PUNCH HIM IN TEH FACE!”

However, once I arrived there, the decision was reversed and the game was to be shown on the show floor (I dunno if my email to the top exec had anything to do with this change) and it went uphill from there. Very quickly, one of the QA guys and I, had the system and game up and running and the BCG poster boards tacked on the booth walls. We were good to go.

…and no one did? I’m surprised ;)

Career hari kiri? Possibly. But I guess it wouldn’t be the first time :)

You mean, do what you said in the first part of your post? You’re kidding me, right?

Anyway, it had nothing to do with that. I firmly believe that it was about the niche game and not about me (or they won’t have wanted me to come).

Besides, how many people do you know of who would want to even come to my face and give me shit? I mean, think about it. Unlike most of these online wankers who are safely and firmly planted behind keyboards across the Net, I’m not exactly the kind of person to post one thing and do another. Someone says they want to come kick my ass, they’re more than welcome to try. The operative word being, try.

Anyway, all kidding aside I was very jaded about the whole thing and on my flight back all I kept thinking about was that, at the very least, I’d once again, proven a bunch of people wrong and I was glad about it if it made their jobs easier. And I think it did. So, I’m glad about that.

And make no mistake, the Hari Kari part I’m refering to, involves the end of my space sim career, how I got to E3 with this one space sim pitch and the shenanigans that took place. NOTHING that I’ve written in this thread is confidential or under company lock and key. And none of it is a slight against the media, gamers or my publishers. My post is simply designed to once again give an idea of just how much I’ve struggled in the past 14+ years for these games and how I’ve faced adversity year after year but with each disappointing instant comes relief and a stronger will to prove everyone wrong. This E3 gig was one such event.

Well, none, but I think that’s mainly because I don’t hang out with geeks :D
Even if I did, though, I don’t think I’d stand hanging out with some wanker who spent a considerable amount of energy hassling someone to such an extent.

OMG, Gilmore Girls!
later, kthxbye!

You know, I’m just thinking that I should at least try one of your Battlecruiser games Derek. I mean you defend these things bloody tooth and nail and toss your body between them and bullets on a daily basis, it can’t be all ego.
Hmmmmmm, but where in the world can I find a link???

Well, none, but I think that’s mainly because I don’t hang out with geeks :D
Even if I did, though, I don’t think I’d stand hanging out with some wanker who spent a considerable amount of energy hassling someone to such an extent.

OMG, Gilmore Girls!
later, kthxbye![/quote]

LOL!! good one.

hehe, thanks. You can get BCM Gold over here or pre-order BCG over here EB is pretty enthusiatic about this one - and I wonder why :D

I am a little confused, Derek. You said in your post that you thought E3 would be bad, but it turned out really well. You also said you liked DCs QA and sales teams a lot and they are the best you have ever worked with. But then you say the whole thing was disappointing and you are planning to use another publisher for your next game. That doesn’t really make sense to me. Could you clarify what you mean?

Try reading it again. Slowly this time. And in the proper context with which it was intended. Sorry, but I’m not in the mood to clarify anything.

On second thoughts, and just because its you, here are some tips which should help alleviate the pain of trying to figure it all our on your own.

[ol]
[li]I thought E3 would be bad for the game because I thought they’d can it, given the events of the previous days.
[/li]
[li]E3 turned out OK because the head honcho decided to put the game on the floor and with that I had what I needed to do my thing and prove everyone wrong. I didn’t have to be in that position once again. But as it goes, even signed games get canned all the time. And if I once thought that I ran the risk of this game - my very last one in the series - being canned, I’d never have signed it, now would I?
[/li]
[li]I like the Dreamcatcher people, including those I met at E3. No question there. And I’ve always liked my Product Manager and those I had worked with directly. So, this is not a DS vs DC nonsense. So please, don’t go there and turn this thread into what its not. I’m not in the mood for foolishness.
[/li]
[li]I have values that I refuse to compromise and when it comes to my properties and the welfare of them and my crew, I’m not very forgiving.
[/li]
[li]I was disappointed that I had to go through this trauma once agaiin, for yet another game in a dying genre and which I’ve been literally slaving over for the almost sixteen months. Yet, another sixteen months of my life could have been wiped clean if things had gone the other way i.e. the reception of the game wasn’t good. It just so happens that it exceeded all expectations (as clearly indicated by DC themselves) and because I stood strong and fast, regardless. Now the media is, once again, in on it. The DC sales team did an exceedingly good job of getting most in the media to see the game - and thats their job. From the time they bring someone to me to the time I start my gig, its all on me. Everyone has a part to play and we ALL did. It was a joint team effort and this has NOTHING to alleviate the fact that I went to E3 with angst that my game might, once again, get canned. I was supposed to be going to E3 elated, uplifted and excited. After all, isn’t that what its all about?
[/li]
[li]I only decided to talk to another publisher (the same ones I was talking to before I even signed with DC last year) about my XBox title because if they had canned my game, why I’d even want to sign on another game would be someone’s idea of a joke. Not to mention that this XBox title does have elements of a space sim in it and which I have NO intentions of removing. So, it was just a matter of not putting all my eggs in one basket and nothing (ethical or contractual) prohibits me from doing so.
[/li]
[li]I am disappointed that I have to abandon a genre that I have been a part of for 14+ years and at the end of the day, I am left with no choice because I am sick and tired of developing, struggling to publish then having to defend games that I love to design and develop. That shit just gets old and while its easy to point the finger at publishers, its not entirely their fault. Everyone has financials to worry about and I have the welfare of a dedicated team of people to consider as well.
[/li]
[li]And loyalty is not something I take lightly.
[/li][/ol]

I hope this helps.

Robert - I was a bit confused, as well, and then realized I had disabled my Derek Smart language filter so that it would not be running while I played the RoN Trial.

Once I flipped it on and refreshed the screen, I saw that Derek was practically wetting himself with positive vibes and, for some reason, no one caused him any grief throughout the entire E3 extravaganza. The requisite imagined grief did show up in spots, but my filter snatched those right out once it was activated. The different publisher fishing was the shrewd, lip pursing businessman which we see in his E3 pix (for a second I thought it was an overtanned Ryan Phillippe).

LOL!! I luv you man. Thanks for that. I needed a laugh. And yes, you got it spot on. :D

Are there screenshots?

If space sims die the way you say they will, Derek, then I’ll make one.

No, I’m serious.

–scharmers

Are there screenshots?[/quote]

LOL!!! You think? :D

heh, well that would be great. Let us know when you get started. :roll:

Does this mean there will be no more BC screenshots? :shock:

Never mind that - congrats Derek! I’m glad you had such a good E3 and can leave the BC franchise feeling on top. I was looking around for you during a break early on Wednesday until I quite literally bumped into the Jason Hall iron golem… or maybe it was the real Hall. After that, I got distracted by shiny things in the VUG booth, which happened to be dog tags.

Of course, there was no happy ending; my head is too big for the dog tags to fit over. :D

Oh don’t start, I’m already having visions of withdrawal symptoms already :D

But don’t worry, I can still take shots off the XBox. :D :D :D

Never mind that - congrats Derek! I’m glad you had such a good E3 and can leave the BC franchise feeling on top.

heh, thanks

I was looking around for you during a break early on Wednesday until I quite literally bumped into the Jason Hall iron golem… or maybe it was the real Hall. After that, I got distracted by shiny things in the VUG booth, which happened to be dog tags.

Of course, there was no happy ending; my head is too big for the dog tags to fit over. :D

hehe, yeah, that usually happens. Next year we’ll arrange something.

oh speaking of which, Brian’s E3 blurb on BCG is up.

Heh, thanks Derek (and Tyjenks!). I didn’t need the full 12 step program, but it didn’t hurt. I think my real confusion was a timing one. I thought you meant you talked to another publisher AFTER E3 because you were upset with DC. But I now see what you meant.

And Derek…I always read your posts slowly…and I carry a big stick.

You know, that could be taken the wrong way… :oops:

The stick is for whipping up on people!

Seriously though, I am glad E3 went well for you. I look forward to the new game. I hope you can continue doing the kinds of games you enjoy, but I am curious to see what you would do on a console or in a FPS style game.

Am I the only one that could see Derek creating a game for every genre, and then smashing them all together to create one ginormous freak game?