Silicon Knights staff now fewer than 5 - Report

Former employees say studio shirked X-Men: Destiny duties to focus on unsuccessful Eternal Darkness 2 pitch, now a shell of former self

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."

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Latest comments (13)

Patrick Frost QA Project Monitor 9 years ago
Absolutely terrifying. Not going to beat around the bush, I've never been a fan of Dyack's but this is crazy. Based on his previous statements and content of the report from Kotaku he really seemed to be denying the reality that the developer business model had changed since PS2/GCN era and that he thought that SK had enough resources to make games at the production level of 1st party studios.

Doubt anyone is ever going to invest in his companies ever again.
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Fyzard Brown Sales Associate, VideoGameAdvantage9 years ago
Microsoft needs to buy the Too Human IP and try to reintroduce it at a new angle to get back what it invested.
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Richard Gardner Artist, Crytek9 years ago
When I was a teenager I always wanted to work for Silicon Knights, but by the time I started in the industry that dream had already started to be tainted. Reading this is just really sad. Sometimes you forget how messed up some studios are, assuming all these accusations are true.
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Carlos Bordeu Game Designer / Studio Co-Founder, ACE Team9 years ago
Maybe Eternal Darkness 2 can be made via Kickstarter? I loved the first and I'd definitely contribute. They just don't need to make it such a big game.
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game9 years ago
Carlos, would you really back them, and trust them with your money, based on their last decade?
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Carlos Bordeu Game Designer / Studio Co-Founder, ACE Team9 years ago
Everyone deserves a second chance. I don't know if the original team who made the first game still remains, but I feel sorry when passionate people don't have a chance to continue doing what they do because of management problems / unrealistic expectations / etc... any of such reason.

I think a lot of developers are trying to re-discover their profession now, and I think anyone can start fresh again.

Obviously I'm not a publisher, but I wouldn't mind putting some cash if they present a realistic project. I would back them.
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Patrick Williams Medicine and Research 9 years ago
I'm not sure you'd say they deserve a 2nd chance if what Kotaku wrote about how Destiny was rolled out was true. It was pretty damning. . Read it. Its the one linked above.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Patrick Williams on 28th October 2012 1:02am

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Carlos Bordeu Game Designer / Studio Co-Founder, ACE Team9 years ago
Wow... I totally should have read that first... A lot of sad stuff if true. :S
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game9 years ago
"but I feel sorry when passionate people don't have a chance to continue doing what they do because of management problems"
True, but with Dyack on board, I wouldn't trust a Kickstarter not to have those same management budgets. Double Fine, Obsidian, inXile and some other names have had massive success leveraging good reputation, I would hope a recent track record like Dyack's would give pause. Incidently, on a different crowd funding site I believe has a 3DRealms project. After reading about DNF development (and playing the resulting mess) I wouldn't touch that either, regardless of the great talent I'm sure individuals on the team have.
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With all the experienced crews and oldies jumping onto KS, I wonder how it impacts fresh talent and indie creatives wanting to come onto the gaming scene, to be the next Notch...
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Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee9 years ago
Too many mistakes, plus, that lawsuit...
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Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer 9 years ago
This kind of thing is bound to happen given the way the game industry is structured.

If you want to be a creative lead in the game industry, you need to start up and manage your own studio.

Trouble is, that's not a creative skill-set - running a studio.

The game industry needs to move to a project-based model. That way core creators can focus entirely on creative.
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Andrew Jakobs Lead Programmer 9 years ago
Well, what goes around comes around.. Sueing Epic for using money on GoW instead of support of UE3 (which ofcourse is nonsense), but doing it himself in a much worse way... I can't feel sorry for the bastard..
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