Layoffs at Otherside Austin (System Shock 3)

Mr. Tibbs

Member
Oct 27, 2017
1,432
This is a little late, but last month a bunch of key developers on System Shock 3 updated their Linkedin profiles to say they were no longer working at the Austin branch of Otherside, including team members who hosted the game's 2019 GDC presentation. They've been without a publisher since the Starbreeze sold the rights to Otherside in February. The game was announced four years ago.

Robb Thomas, Senior Software Engineer, Jul 2017 – Nov 2019
Francisco Cruz III, Sr Env Artist, May 2018 – Nov 2019
Elizabeth LeGros, Senior Graphics Programmer/Programmer, Jun 2017 – Nov 2019
Mark Allender, Lead Programmer, Dec 2017 – Nov 2019
Jonathan Fields, Level Designer, Sep 2018 – Oct 2019
Kyle Uberman, QA Manager, Jan 2019 – Sep 2019
Vicki Resendez, Senior Producer, Oct 2017 – Oct 2019

A number of other people still listed at the studio have recently had recommendations written for them, too, including the art director, senior systems designer, and animator.

The last piece of media they released was a gameplay trailer back in September.

 
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Mr. Tibbs

Mr. Tibbs

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Oct 27, 2017
1,432
I’d be okay if Microsoft wanted to help fund this one.
I was speculated that Microsoft was publishing Thick as Thieves (developed by the Boston branch behind Underworld Ascendant), but it's unclear if that's still in the works as there were also layoffs there earlier in the year.
 

Instro

Member
Oct 25, 2017
7,521
It's really too bad. Hard to tell what's going on, but hopefully everything works out as the game was looking good.
 

Sinatar

Member
Oct 25, 2017
3,964
It's been almost a year since they lost their publisher and they haven't managed to convince anyone else to publish it (and after Underworld Ascendant, who can blame them...) so yea they gotta be running out of funds.
 

Sloane

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,019
Nooo. :( The game I’m looking forward to the most.

Hope it works out for everyone.
 

demondance

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Oct 27, 2017
1,795
Underworld Ascendant shouldn't have been released in that condition. That killed any hope I had of this being a decent game.

And it probably spelled the end of them raising much more money.
 
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Mr. Tibbs

Mr. Tibbs

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Oct 27, 2017
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A year out from launch, and the Boston studio still hasn't shipped the physical awards for Underworld Ascendant, though I doubt many people are upset about it given the quality of the base game. It seems like nothing these ex-LGS legends have done this time around will work out. It just wasn't meant to be. :(
 
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flyinj

Member
Oct 25, 2017
3,170
Underworld Ascendant shouldn't have been released in that condition. That killed any hope I had of this being a decent game.

And it probably spelled the end of them raising much more money.
Underworld Ascendant shouldn't have been released in any condition.

It was fundamentally flawed to its core.

This is the first I'm hearing that Microsoft was possibly publishing their next game. How in the hell did MS look at Underworld Ascendant and say "Now that's a team we should get behind!"
 

Gundam

Member
Oct 25, 2017
11,034
Seems it's time for a checkup with doctor phil, unless it's really that bad

Was it this or the SS1 remake that got announced for Xbox One timed exclusivity at some point
 
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Mr. Tibbs

Mr. Tibbs

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Oct 27, 2017
1,432
I wouldn't think so. The people leaving the studio en mass suggests that they're possibly running low on cash and a publisher is desperately needed for the game to move forward. Even if it's not cancelled already, I doubt they can make much meaningful progress with a skeleton crew. Sadly a similar thing happened with Underworld Ascendant. Despite being announced in July 2014 and running a successful Kickstarter campaign, development ran on fumes until summer 2017 before 505 agreed to publish. The scope radically changed and the end result was a catastrophic failure.
 
Oct 28, 2017
6,845
I wouldn't think so. The people leaving the studio en mass suggests that they're possibly running low on cash and a publisher is desperately needed for the game to move forward. Even if it's not cancelled already, I doubt they can make much meaningful progress with a skeleton crew. Sadly a similar thing happened with Underworld Ascendant. Despite being announced in July 2014 and running a successful Kickstarter campaign, development ran on fumes until summer 2017 before 505 agreed to publish. The scope radically changed and the end result was a catastrophic failure.
There just isn't much of a demand for these types of games, are there?

Shame.
 
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Mr. Tibbs

Mr. Tibbs

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Oct 27, 2017
1,432
There just isn't much of a demand for these types of games, are there?

Shame.
They seem to be a hard sale. Back in May of this year, Warren Spector said they had lots of publisher interest:

"It’s going great,” he said. “We’re talking to a lot of partners and we have a lot of interest. We don’t have a deal right now, but luckily OtherSide is flush enough that we’re funding ourselves and can continue to do that for quite a while. Let’s see what happens."

“We don’t particularly want to be a publisher... We’re not ruling anything out, but at this point we’re looking for a publishing and funding partner.”

It seems like no one's bitten in the interim, even after the big September trailer and the puff piece from Gamespot.
 
Oct 28, 2017
6,845
They seem to be a hard sale. Back in May of this year, Warren Spector said they had lots of publisher interest:




It seems like no one's bitten in the interim, even after the big September trailer and the puff piece from Gamespot.
I see the issue. Im going to guess that they are worried that publishers are going to pressure the team to add on shit it doesn't need, like MP.
 
Layoffs confirmed
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Mr. Tibbs

Mr. Tibbs

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Oct 27, 2017
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The former Otherside community manager, who also left in November, posted on the official forums:

Extremely sad to see the Austin team affected by layoffs.

FWIW, I know people are concerned about the state of the studio. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried as well. Someone from the Shock3 team has been speaking about their experience over here on the RPGCodex, if it hasn’t been linked already. In that thread, there are more concerns about OSE shutting down and what it means for Shock3 as well as ongoing projects.

I want to say, having been at OSE while layoffs were happening and having left just before this next round in Austin, I deeply admired every single developer I had the chance to work with. Having played the internal SS3 demo, I know the Austin team worked their asses off and made some stunning progress in the past couple of months. It hurts to see many of these developers out of a job on a project they worked so hard on. Some of the developers in Boston, like Jared, still haven’t found full-time work since June.

I understand this is the reality of game development, and doing this kind of work at an indie makes this so much harder. I watched firsthand a lot of the struggles that went into publishing UA. I wish all of our fellow former- and current-OSE employees the best of luck with their endeavors. I imagine the studio felt similarly a few years ago, when UA was floundering for funding. They pulled through, somehow. I hope OSE can pull off the same, while still maintaining the quality and lessons learned.

I genuinely wish and hope that the additional Boston project and SS3 continue to steer forward.
 
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Mr. Tibbs

Mr. Tibbs

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Oct 27, 2017
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John Sizemore, the SS3 UI programmer, updated his Linkedin profile, revealing that he left the studio in October, too, after 18 months on the project. It's not looking good.
 

_Aaron_

Member
Oct 29, 2017
336
Do people think a System Shock 3 will live up to expectations after Underworld Ascendant?

It's probably better that this game never sees the light of day than tarnish the series' legacy.
 
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Mr. Tibbs

Mr. Tibbs

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Oct 27, 2017
1,432
Do people think a System Shock 3 will live up to expectations after Underworld Ascendant?
According to a post from a former SS3 dev, the team at Austin were just as shocked by the state of Ascendant as the rest of us were.

Warren kept promising us a play test to give Boston feedback, but for whatever reason it never happened, so most of us didn't play it until it launched.

We were horrified.

Not only was it a financial loss for the company, the damage to our reputation was irreversible even if Austin had nothing to do with it. When the news about Starbreeze came it cast a big shadow over our hopes to find a new publisher.
On how they saw the state of SS3:

There's a lot of criticism of Warren here that I don't think is very fair. He was the most visible face of the team so I imagine it's natural to assign him blame, but if anything we needed more of his direct involvement. The team had a lot of strong personalities and he was mostly hands-off. In person he has a very gentle, kind, and humble demeanor. He had a good vision for the game, and perhaps some ambitions that were outside our reach, but I don't recall his involvement ever being corrosive.

The things that hurt us were:
Picking Unity over UE4.
Design being understaffed, and effective design leadership coming much too late.
Milestone tunnel vision. A lot of the work put into the milestone demos ended up getting thrown away.
The UA trainwreck.
Starbreeze pulling out due to bankruptcy.

Some things went right:
In spite of the technical difficulties with the engine, the staff at Unity were incredibly supportive and helpful. Some of the AAA improvements to Unity in the last couple years were born from the work they did with us.
Our milestone demos looked great.
We touched on some truly innovative game systems that I unfortunately can't talk about. We shed sweat and blood to get them working, but it started to come together.
On Unity and design:

Not realistic. SS3 was bogged down by problems with Unity. If the project had started today it would probably be fine, but at that time Unity was still exploring and experimenting with AAA fidelity and we paid a heavy price in productivity trying to achieve it.

We were also way behind in content. Design was understaffed, and allocated little engineering support to develop a good content pipeline.
 

SeanBoocock

Lead Gameplay Engineer at Archetype
Verified
Oct 27, 2017
201
Austin, Texas
Did I miss something? What are they working on?
Otherside in Austin was (?) working on System Shock 3, published by Starbreeze until they ran into their own financial problems. The forum posts linked above sound correct from what I've heard. What I meant, though, was there is exciting work being done in Austin game studios at the moment. Bluepoint is an obvious example but there is a lot more in the years to come :)
 

Messofanego

Member
Oct 25, 2017
8,422
UK
They were small teams when they made such games in the first place so what went wrong here, Unity issues or deadlines or what?
 
The System Shock 3's development team was laid off New
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Mr. Tibbs

Mr. Tibbs

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Oct 27, 2017
1,432
When asked if the project's been abandoned, a former dev is saying the SS3 team is no longer employed by Otherside.

I don't actually know what's going on, but the team is no longer employed there.
More info on it's state before it went on hiatus:

The only reason I'm posting is because I saw so much confusion about the state of the company and the project I thought some first person information would be welcome. I never suggested we were halfway done, core systems are a great foundation for a game but most of the work is content development which we were critically behind in, both in real assets and in tool support for an efficient pipeline.

Was the failure of the project right? It's hard to say. If Starbreeze hadn't gone into crisis I think we would've delivered something interesting with some fresh and innovative gameplay, but a much smaller game than what people were expecting and inevitably disappointing for a sequel to such a beloved franchise.

Those high expectations drove a lot of expensive experimentation. We were a small team and knew we couldn't compete with current immersive sims in production quality and breadth, so we had to be creative and clever and weird. And we were on our way to make something unique and possibly fun, but probably not what the audience was hungry for.
It wasn't complete enough that it could be handed off without any engineering support, and everyone on the content side is no longer with the studio.
The in-game scenes showed real gameplay, we didn't even have any cut scenes. Core systems were nearly done. What we were way behind on was content.
 
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Spoo

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,273
It's absolutely nuts that a game so far along and relatively good looking in a larger than life IP just isn't happening anymore.

Hey, Epic -- maybe use some Fortnite dollars for this one?