Lots on my mind, business-wise. A bunch of fools are playing Smash in the other room - my buddy expressed his undying love for Call of Duty 4 the other day, I keep keep keep hearing how awesome awesome awesome this game is (hell I have wanted to work for that studio in the past, my friend Todd is there). I guess I will have to give in and PLAY AN FPS (shudder). Must be like everyone else. Must! The world waits with baited breath as GTA 4 ekes ever closer to it's ship date.. it's like.. a few days? A week? Something? I remember seeing ads for that thing like.. years ago, in the sides of fences, then they pulled them and cooled off as the release date got delayed. Another game I'm indifferent about, but of course I cannot deny it's significance.
Bad news in Activision-land, I dunno how many folks remember the dev house Z-Axis - they were an indie studio of no small degree of significance back in the day. Rockstar published their Thrasher for PS1 (either right before or immediately after Tony Hawk 1, either way being eclipsed by that title - but being just as good/noteworthy of a game, in many ways. At least critically!) When the Tony Hawk clones hit, they put out some good ones (Acclaim's Dave Mirra BMX, PS2 versions I am aware of - I would suspect PS1 as well). Their crowning achievement would likely have been Aggresive Inline, a game which very obviously copped BLATANTLY from the Tony Hawk mode and method, but in a very complementary/quality way (for a change!).The game scored excellently, I doubt it sold too too well (inline skates vs skateboards, that's a little rough) but yeah the thing was not bad. Anyway thy followed that up with the notoriously--- NOTORIOUS title BMX XXX, best remembered for it's topless chicks on BMX bikes and videos of strippers. Oh, Zed Axis. Sigh. The thing plunked (I think PS2 censored it, ruining the point) as Walmart or whoever (at LEAST) wasn't too psyched. Xbox and Gamecube versions were released as planned, but no matter. Anyway, after that travesty they were strangely picked up by Acti (I guess, hoping to elminate their competition by consuming them.. or putting them to work doing THPS ports.. or they recognized a capable dev when they saw them). Anyway something happened after the acquisition (something always happens folks!) and they kinda dropped off the map. A couple years passed and we heard of "the Iron Man game," I think they did one of the Xmen games as well.. not sure about that. Iron Man never materialized (there's one coming out shortly to tie in with the movie, but it's by Secret Level/Sega, so that would be unrelated). Then, they popped up barely a couple of months ago "Z-Axis being renamed to Underground" and now, a couple minutes later, "Underground studio will be closed in May.. after they finish up their Quake Wars port to 360 (or Ps3, forget which.. either way, they were only handling one). Supposedly they were gonna do one of the next Call of Duty's, obviously that's not happening as they'll not ever be doing anything again. Weird! Sad when things go down that way, especially with a place that actualy made some decent products. Hard to feel "totally bad" when any number of things could have transpired over the course of years, though. After the heads sold out, they could have took their fat paychecks and split.. hated working for their new bosses (hey Activision was certainly a rival of Rockstar and Acclaim, no doubt), maybe they got the boot.. The studio moved and hired a TON of people, a little mismanagement could go a long long way. Hard to tell, one can only speculate. Anyway, the saddest part is that Underground is closing and no one knows or cares what that means, everyone just says "good, so some shitty other ACTI house won't be tarnishing the COD name, and maybe Infinity Ward can stick with it instead." Sad, but also I guess, somewhat irrelevant at this point. Hopefully the HR folks will help place the to-be-unemployed with some new digs.
Also of note, 3 studio high-up guys from Retro Studios (the guy who rebuilt the classic Metroid franchise for the current generation) have reportedly left the studio and were "escorted from the grounds," take that as you will. Retro, not many know, had a little of a weirdo history as well (sigh, who doesn't, dammit?) and I am sure there's a little bit of that lingering. Good luck to all involved over there, anyway! Having worked at Left Field, and knowing folks from SIlicon Knights (previously, they did a lot of high-level Nintendo Exclusives several years ago) I can appreciate the especial difficulty therein.
Alright. My lights are baked. I am hitting the road. The night awaits.