I can now tell the Gizmondo story (which is also the Hit & Myth story). I can tell it now because it’s over.
I already told the story of how I came to Gizmondo, so let’s pick up where that one left off. When I arrived at Gizmondo in late March of 2005 I jumped straight into Hit & Myth, our fast action/RPG hybrid based on lead programmer Ryan Clark’s Zarria engine. The game had a basic editor and engine going but had few of the features of a finished game, and a lot of those features had to get in quick because we wanted to demo the game at E3 in May.
The E3 demo went well, despite a bug in my code where if you started fiddling with the controls while the game was loading it could become non-responsive after the load finished. Doh.
But once that was over it was time to push to the finish line. The quick-and-dirty subsystems I created for the E3 demo had to be polished or replaced with more functional ones. The game had to be internationalized. We worked our butts off for several more months.
It was around October that things started getting weird. Now, granted, the then-CEO of Gizmondo had always seemed kind of fishy, but then a newspaper article came out in Europe that accused him and some of the other Gizmondo investors of having ties to the mafia of all things. The CEO eventually resigned and left a huge mess in his wake.
Hit & Myth went gold in late October, but Gizmondo didn’t have the necessary cash to publish it. They didn’t even have the cash to pay for the XForge library we had used to create the game, requiring us to spend another month rewriting the game to work without that library. (By the way, I really liked XForge. It made developing the game a lot easier and I recommend it.) Then we started working on other projects, like the Gizmondo version of Johnny Whatever (which could still be the most awesome game ever if done right – imagine a cross of Guitar Hero with Grand Theft Auto III). But the mood was kind of tense…it was becoming obvious that the future of the company was in doubt.
And then in December we didn’t get paid. It made for a lackluster Christmas, but I personally had some savings to draw upon and our family helped out so it wasn’t that bad. A little more investor money came in, Gizmondo caught up on our payroll and it looked like the crisis was over. We were assured that over $50 million was coming into the company.
Then in January we didn’t get paid again. Turns out the investors had a lot of strings on that money and one of their requirements was a massive reduction in headcount. It also became obvious that they were waiting to get the stock price as low as possible so they could buy more of the stock (and gain more control) with their money.
The head of our studio made an impassioned plea on our behalf to our corporate masters in Europe – all the other studios had already been cut and without us there would be no one to create unique content for the Gizmondo device.
But in the end it was for nought. The studio closed and we are all scattered to the winds (which is a nice poetic way of saying we’re unemployed).
Gizmondo Studios Texas was the best place I ever worked. The people were awesome, the project I was working on was perfect for me, and the office building itself was very cool (it was a renovated theater). And leaving hurt. But it’s true – the first cut is the deepest. Leaving Gizmondo didn’t hurt nearly as much as leaving Origin did, even though by the time I left Origin I practically hated my job there (though of course I wouldn’t admit it to myself).
So now I’m unemployed. What does this mean for Star Revolution? Well, in theory I should have more time to work on it…but in practice I’m spending that time polishing my resume and improving this website. Hopefully I’ll get something soon so Star Revolution doesn’t get too far off track. And in the meantime, there’s another idea bouncing around in my brain…