Producer Chris Mahnken has blamed timing, tight schedules and management changes for the failure of Irrational Games’ Tribes: Vengeance, the critically-acclaimed game notorious for putting a nail in the series’ coffin.
“Sierra was closed down about six weeks before the game shipped, so I didn’t have a chance to finish the game,” Mahnken told Examiner.
“I would have added three or four months to the schedule and focused entirely on the multi-player maps and the competitive match play system (which never really got finished).
“If you’re making something for people to compete in, the surrounding tools for that competition are critical. We never had a chance to finish them.”
Sierra was closed by parent company Vivendi as part of wide-reaching cost-cutting and restructuring.
“All through the development of the game Sierra was slowly being shut down by our Vivendi corporate overlords down in lovely Culver City,” Mahnken mourned.
“It was unfortunate, because we were actually making a profit, while they were losing money hand over fist.
“They closed Dynamix, Papyrus, Impressions, and about 10 other smaller studios over three or four years in an attempt to stem the bleeding. It was kind of like somebody with a gunshot wound to the chest trying to heal themselves by cutting off hands, feet, arms and legs.”
Tribes: Vengeance lost its marketing and PR team, severely limiting its media exposure, and leaving it under the direction of a un-briefed marketing suit, who suggested making the game “much more like Counter-Strike” and adding in bullet time.
“The end result was a game that had no support from the corporate offices, and ended up with one magazine cover about 8 months before it released, and one single magazine advert and not even any web ads,” explained.
Asked what he would have done differently if he’d had the power, Mahnken said he would have given the game another three to four months of development, “focused entirely on the multi-player maps”.
“If you’re making something for people to compete in, the surrounding tools for that competition are critical. We never had a chance to finish them,” he reiterated.
“The game also ended up shipping right with several of the biggest shooter franchises, because we shipped on schedule and they were all late, so by meeting our schedule we ended up hurting ourselves. That 4 month delay to improve multi-player would have put us in a nice open space in the release schedule,” Mahnken observed.
Tribes: Vengeance released in 2004 as a follow up to the ground-breaking online multiplayer games Starsiege: Tribes and Tribes 2, created by Dynamix.
Ken Levine’s Irrational Games team was behind the game said to have killed the series, before HiRez announced plans to resurrect the franchise.