After 20 years and eight games, developer Silicon Knights is on the ropes, according to Kotaku. In a feature detailing the troubled development of X-Men: Destiny with anonymous former employees of the studio, the site reports that Silicon Knights has dwindled to a staff of fewer than five, and that's including company president Denis Dyack.
The feature paints a dim portrait of Dyack's behavior during X-Men: Destiny development, with the former staffers describing him as aloof and disconnected during the game's creation. They also suggested that the studio head was more concerned with putting together a pitching demo for Eternal Darkness 2 than working on Destiny. The developers said Dyack had as much as 40 percent of the studio--including numerous senior people--working on the sequel to the studio's acclaimed GameCube effort from 2002 instead of the Activision super hero game.
"At SK, publishers are viewed with an extremely adversarial perception," one source told the site. "Instead of a symbiotic relationship, it was essentially parasitic. The less Activision knew about the goings-on at SK, the easier it was for Denis to spin his web of warped reality with them."
Development on X-Men Destiny proceeded slowly, with one developer telling the site, "We seemed to intentionally tank the game." The studio reportedly asked Activision for a lengthy extension on the game that would have increased its budget by about 35 percent. Eventually, Activision announced the game publicly and put the Silicon Knights logo on a trailer, which developers said forced the studio to get serious about the game in a bid to save its reputation, with six-day-a-week, 10-hour-a-day minimum crunch being imposed (and worsening as the game neared launch).
X-Men: Destiny hit shelves in September of 2011, and met with critical disdain and consumer disinterest. Shortly after, the studio confirmed layoffs of 45 staffers after a project was cancelled. The developer's struggles continued, as it lost a high-profile lawsuit against Epic Games over its Unreal Engine license earlier this year, and underwent another round of layoffs. At the time, Dyack said, "We are scaling back to a core group and focusing all our efforts on future opportunities."