Skulls of the Shogun dev details unpleasant experience working with Microsoft Studios

Thursday, 20th June 2013 16:00 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

Borut Pfeifer of Plush Apocalypse Productions, an indie studio which collaborated on Skulls of the Shogun, has likened the firm’s exclusivity deal for Xbox 360 and Windows 8 phones and tablets as “making a deal with the devil.”

Speaking with RPS, Pfeifer said his studio had it worse than others, stating it “ran into problems that nobody else had got or talked about it.”

“We were launching on three new pieces of the Microsoft ecosystem – their new Async and sort of social multiplayer services, we were launching on Windows 8 and we were launching on the ARM tablets [Surface], ‘ he explained. “Those were new, and we didn’t get them until very late. So all the certification and process issues, we didn’t just have them, or even maybe three times the amount, it was an exponential kind of thing.

“You would have issues on one platform which would actually contradict processes or requirements on another platform. We tried to get the different groups on the same page, to tell them that ‘this needs to be the same’, just to make things better for the next people who had to face it, but yeah, we ran into exponential difficulties on the process side.”

Along with the multiple platform issues, the firm also had to take out a loan to cover payroll due to Microsoft making late payments to the studio.

“We thought ‘well, it’s Microsoft, they have bankroll, they can afford this stuff,’” Pfeifer said, “but because of their processes seeming so fucked up, they couldn’t actually do that. Even though they were partially funding the game to completion, we had to take a loan to cover the fact that they hadn’t yet paid us what they were supposed to.”

Pfeifer wasn’t too pleases with the work relationship between itself and Microsoft Studios, calling the later “institutionally incompetent.”

“When people call Microsoft ‘evil’,” he says, “while I don’t want to defend them, it’s kind of an undeserved compliment. To be evil, you have to have vision, you have to have communication, execution… None of those are traits are things that I would ascribe to Microsoft Studios.

“They came across as though they were institutionally incompetent. I think they’re not really set up to be a decent publisher. I do feel slightly bad saying that, because there were people there who worked hard on our behalf, but at the same time there are systemic problems with the way that division is setup and run.”

Pfeifer said he thinks the culprit for all the problems the firm faced was the main problem was due to “over-stretching.”

“I think maybe Microsoft as a whole were taking on a lot more than they can chew with the Windows 8 launch,” he surmised, “and there were so many different pieces of the puzzle – Xbox Live, different operating system, interfaces, the tablet, all those different technologies.

“Any one of those gets late, it pushes the other ones.”

You can read the full thing through the link.

Thanks, GI International.



  1. DSB

    That’s totally in line with my perception of Microsoft. While companies like Apple and Google are constantly looking at a way to up their output and reduce drag, they’re so convoluted, so old fashioned and so needlessly formulaic in their way of thinking that it becomes pretty hard for them to be effective.

    GFWL was a prime example of the same thing. Absolutely no capacity for quality.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. MCTJim

    Meh..I would even download the game even if it was free. Just doesn’t interest me. But I would hope that they get their crap together in terms of helping these indie games get to market easier.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Gigabomber

    MS seems to think that publishers help keep things from becoming a total wasteland, but they also deprive us of a lot of content. The truth is, look at a game like Pinball arcade and the problems with their tables and releases since their publisher went under: to some degree, MS requiring a publisher and a patch fee makes a lot of sense and a commitment from the developer. Does anyone with both consoles notice the massive amount of bugs introduced on the PS3 by patches that are stopped from release on the 360? Dark Souls ring any bells?

    #3 2 years ago
  4. manamana

    What a shame, considering Microsoft is a software company in the first place. They seem to try to hard and yet they are so fragmented. They need billions to make up for their own misery, which equals money thrown out of the window. The latest drama attests to how Microsoft handles their business. And that’s only what outsiders get to see.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. deadstoned

    Microsoft does have a long history of incompetence on the PC now since they developed GFWL. Annoyingly the service isn’t fully dead yet, I kind of wish it’d die and be replaced by Steamworks or other services in older games like Batman AA, AC, Fallout 3, Dawn of War 2, etc.

    I find it so weird that Microsoft the company behind Windows and has probably the most interest in Windows success just does nothing and even worse try with incompetent failures like GFWL, AOEO and Flight.

    When I think of PC Gaming, Microsoft doesn’t even enter thought process. Sony with Planetside 2 does. Weird…

    #5 2 years ago
  6. MCTJim

    @3 I get your points as there has to be order and a set of rules that dev’s must agree to. If there are no real checks n balances in place, it could indeed wreak havoc on a network or system(s) if poor programming comes into play.

    I would still hope MS would get it crap together with indies.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. Hirmetrium

    One has to wonder how Halo was ever a success, and was ever finished with so few issues.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. SplatteredHouse

    “Things have not, as yet, worked out well for Skulls of the Shogun, on PC or on console. “My bank account is empty,” he [ex EA,SOE vet, Borut Pfeifer] admits”

    Noting that XBLA is “going away”, Borut reflects: “as a whole, it’s not that Microsoft loves or even hates indies. It’s just that they’re an indifferent machine to it all.”

    All quotes from the RPS piece.
    What a state. :(

    #8 2 years ago
  9. manamana

    @7 My guess is, that they let Bungie do their thing, provided them with everything they asked for and financed and marketed the rest. Probably I’m wrong but I think Bungie did the heavy lifting there…

    Edit: Here is an interesting read on how Bungie ran into difficulties while developing Halo2.

    #9 2 years ago

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