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The recent news that Atari studio Shiny Entertainment had commenced work on a new version of clas...

Simon Carless, Blogger

April 24, 2006

4 Min Read

The recent news that Atari studio Shiny Entertainment had commenced work on a new version of classic title Earthworm Jim, and subsequent reports that Shiny boss Dave Perry and original EWJ character creator and The Neverhood founder Doug TenNapel was also working on the game had raised hopes among fans of a new Earthworm Jim title, the first since the relatively poorly-received N64 title Earthworm Jim 3D. However, the revelation was followed by the announcement that Perry had quit Atari-owned Shiny, apparently to help facilitate the studio's sale to himself, and again leaving the title's production in doubt. A follow-up article by consumer site IGN noted, in an article deemed largely inaccurate by TenNapel and former colleague Mike Dietz, that a number of the original EWJ team members, including Perry and TenNapel were attempting to work on the game. Now, Doug TenNapel, currently finding success with Nickeloden cartoon series Catscratch, has explained, via posts on his official messageboard, the current state of the game's development, and why Earthworm Jim making a comeback continues to be extremely difficult. He firstly notes: "When I last checked, Atari didn't own all of the [Earthworm Jim] rights, just the "hand-held" and secondary platform rights", before explaining: "The movie, TV and anything-but-the game rights are at Playmates. I've been working with producers who are talking with Playmates about the big comeback...and they are all committed to have me relaunch the character with a better look, better story, etc. (my opportunity to Lucas my own show). The problem is that the game rights were with Shiny, then they were sold to Interplay, then to Infograms, each company filing bankruptcy and liquidating rights all over the planet. Their contracts and paperwork are in shambles, and half don't even know what they do and do not own." He continues by explaining: "We started working on a PSP design that would be the greatest game in hand held history, meaning it would be about half as good as the original game. I redesigned Jim, the Princess... the Tireman, the Queen, the crows, Chuck and Fifi so they could be rendered in 3D." But, unfortunately, in his words: "Shiny had... a 3D version of New Junk City [running]... then Atari tanked, nobody got paid, DP left Shiny and a few employees left at Shiny were considering doing the game, asked if I wanted to be involved (and they were nice GREAT guys) but I'm a man of my word and I made a commitment that unless DP, Bruty and Dietz were on board, I wouldn't want to work on the game outside of my normal contractual duties of character approvals." Thus, TenNapel explains: "I know that DP [Dave Perry] is still interested in doing a Jim game, but with the rights split, would you want to make a TV show that rebirthed a character costing tens of millions of dollars only to have a game company able to take advantage of the free advertising without paying a dime for it? Most companies that "buy your character" assume the video game rights are included so who would let this giant chunk of income (in Jim's case it could be the PRIMARY chunk of income because he started as a game hit) stay out there before securing them to do the show?" But all may not be lost, as TenNapel happily includes for the future of EWJ: "The cool thing is that all of the parties see that Jim has timeless value and all of them want to see him come back...it's just going to take time for all of the lawyers to fight, make friends, invest cash, then back down a bit so we can make something. I think this is probably what took Spiderman 10 years to get on the screen. Us wanting something to happen doesn't make it happen one bit. It takes lawyers and businesses to decide to get along, and make it financially worth it for others to contribute." [UPDATE - 04/24/06 - 1.24pm PST: Mike Dietz, who is referenced in the IGN article mentioned here, writes in to note that the personnel listed in it are 'inaccurate', and to clarify: "While there was some talk of work on the project, I am in no way attached to the project, nor are any of the original team members other than Dave Perry and Doug TenNapel through his ownership of the character."]

About the Author(s)

Simon Carless

Blogger

Simon Carless is the founder of the GameDiscoverCo agency and creator of the popular GameDiscoverCo game discoverability newsletter. He consults with a number of PC/console publishers and developers, and was previously most known for his role helping to shape the Independent Games Festival and Game Developers Conference for many years.

He is also an investor and advisor to UK indie game publisher No More Robots (Descenders, Hypnospace Outlaw), a previous publisher and editor-in-chief at both Gamasutra and Game Developer magazine, and sits on the board of the Video Game History Foundation.

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