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GDC Europe: Epic's Capps On Why Shadow Complex 2 Was Shelved

At GDC Europe on Tuesday, Epic Games president Mike Capps revealed how his company looked to its past "stories" to make the unusual decision to halt development of Shadow Complex 2 in favor of iOS hit Infinity Blade.

Simon Parkin, Contributor

August 16, 2011

3 Min Read

Shadow Complex 2 was shelved midway through development in order to allow Epic Games to focus on developing an all-new standout title for iOS, a decision that many considered "completely crazy" at the time. The revelation came from Mike Capps, president of Epic Games, speaking at GDC Europe in Cologne, Germany today. "Shadow Complex was a huge success for us on Xbox Live Arcade," he explained. "It was described as the best title on XBLA and secured record sales and strong reviews across the world. We were some way into creating the sequel and it was already playing exceptionally well." "But midway through development we decided to shift the entire team into working alongside our engine guys on an iOS title which went on to release as Infinity Blade," he said. Shadow Complex was developed by Epic-owned Chair Entertainment, which also developed Infinity Blade. "Looking back on that decision today it seems like an exceptionally smart one," Capps said. "But 12 months ago it was a very different story and certainly didn't look like a surefire winning strategy to a lot of people." Capps explained that the company was only able to take such a brave decision by sharing and remembering past "stories," those lessons that the company had learned through previous successes and failures. "Stories are a really effective ways to make sure lessons aren't forgotten," he said. "Some of the things that happen to your company will be rare one-time success stories, and you have to discern what it was about your decisions that led to that success." Capps explained that the decision to switch to developing Infinity Blade came from lessons learned developing Gears of War with Microsoft. "Through Gears we knew that the story of our company was all about finding a platform vendor who is looking for a stand out, triple-A style title and allocate our full resources there. Knowing that [Apple] was that kind of company, we were empowered to make the decision to switch from developing Shadow Complex 2 to taking this 'bet' on an iOS title, while keeping the same values across both." "Maturing companies need storytellers to spread the history and culture, helping employees to understand why we do things the way that you do. Culture is beliefs, knowledge and values. It's how we respond to key moments in our history. I call these the Epic Events that shape us. Culture is shared in stories of these events, something that is especially effective in a story-telling company. Stories ensure that lessons aren't forgotten" Capps explained that Epic learned to become a triple-A company during the development of Unreal Tournament. "It was during the development of this title we learned that taking the extra time to polish a game is absolutely worth it and pays off. During the extra six months we took to publish, so many key innovations were made during the polishing phase: alt fire, head shots and so on. If we hadn't learned this lesson at this point in our journey I think we would have been a very different company to the one that we are today." Capps revealed that this polish period is still prevalent in the company today. "Gears of War 3 was actually finished some time ago," he revealed. "Microsoft wanted to shift the date to better fit with their portfolio of releases. My intention was never for us to continue polishing Gears after the original due date, the game was finished and was fantastic. I told the staff we had to move on, but they soundly ignored me. Polishing games is part of our DNA, our story, and we understand that quality and technical leadership are the hallmarks of our company. As a result, that story influences everything that we do."

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About the Author(s)

Simon Parkin


Simon Parkin is a freelance writer and journalist from England. He primarily writes about video games, the people who make them and the weird stories that happen in and around them for a variety of specialist and mainstream outlets including The Guardian and the New Yorker.

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