What appears to be the latest in a long line of game projects hitting Kickstarter could be the deciding factor in Gas Powered Games’ (the Dungeon Siege franchise) continued existence as a studio. According to CEO Chris Taylor, the team spent its last resources on Wildman, a strategy RPG/MOBA hybrid currently aiming for $1.1 million in crowd funds. Shortly after Wildman‘s Kickstarter debut, rumors of layoffs at the studio began to circulate, with the worst alleging the entire staff (minus Taylor and a choice few) were let go.
Speaking to Joystiq, Taylor has since clarified that 40 personnel have indeed been fired from their positions, describing the move as a “[v]ery tough decision, but an important one such that I could properly pay severance and remaining [paid-time off].” Despite hurried reporting on the issue making the timing seem almost immediate, Taylor assured that those affected were aware and understood the timing of the decision.
“I think everyone agrees better to have a few bucks to find the next job that run this train to the end and have nothing left to work with. It’s one thing for me to bet the company, but I can’t bet their last severance money, that’s not cool,” Taylor explained. He also confirmed to Gamasutra that “The studio is still operating, but we had to slim WAY down to conserve cash reserves.”
Over the past weekend, Taylor asked the fans and backers of the project to help decide whether the Kickstarter campaign would continue (in the hopes that the money raised would improve) or be given up. The backers have so far decided in favor of continuing the campaign, which sits at $308, 400 at the time of publication.
In a recent interview with Eurogamer, Taylor gives partial blame for the studio’s poor condition to several sudden terminated contracts from publishers.
“We got a phone call from the publisher and they said, ‘We’re terminating.’ And we’re like, ‘Yeah but we’re only a month away from beta.’ And they’re like, ‘Yeah we’re still terminating.’ And we’re like, ‘OK,’” Taylor elaborated, “One of these days – and it won’t be from me – you guys will get leaked through some anonymous source. And you can read a game development contract, and you will – it’ll be like the Nazis when they opened up The Ark: all the flesh will melt all down your face.”
Taylor assumed the reticence common to these kinds of publishers are a combination of “naughty developers” having screwed up their contracts in past, and the industry’s current transitional phase. Taylor also called for more executives to have and show trust in their projects, saying, “You need people to really slam their fist; guys like Steve Jobs, you know, who are assholes because they believe so vehemently in what they’re doing they will fucking – fuck bending the spoon with their mind, they’ll just snatch it out of your hand and bend it in half and stuff it up your ass! Take that! Let’s get back to work!”