Goodbye, Realtime Worlds

So the Realtime Worlds adventure is over, save for a small skeleton crew. For those of us on the inside, it’s been expected for a while – at least since the release of APB – but I must say I was shocked at quite how quickly it went down in the end. It felt like we were being let go decently, and then BOOM – not getting paid anything, owed last month’s wages, our notice periods, redundancy pay and unused holidays.  A substantial amount of money, all told.

[UPDATE - 26/8 - Turns out we got 2 days' pay!!  Not much but better than the previously-expected nothing :) ]

I shouldn’t complain; there are people far worse off than me.  I feel particularly for our American colleagues, who packed up their lives, in many cases asking their wives and girlfriends to give up good jobs, and moved half way around the world to work for a company, that to this very second, says on its website, “The company is on very secure footing from significant investment and dealings only with top-tier partners.”  They now get a month to leave the country and no help with the cost of getting them and their stuff home, to no benefits and no health insurance.

I could go on and on about the various dire situations people face now.  I wholeheartedly hope everyone lands on their feet; they deserve it.  The best thing about Realtime Worlds was the incredible group of people I had the privilege to meet and work with.  You couldn’t wish to meet a more intelligent, fun, warm-hearted and open-minded group of people.  They made my 6 years there very, very special and I will miss them as we scatter to the winds.

There had been mounting discontent internally about the competence of our top management – and what better proof could you need than this. How they could keep operating the company when they couldn’t even pay this month’s wages, I don’t know.  Presumably they continued to think we had a chance somehow; the behaviour of a deluded, greedy, addicted gambler.

We made a lot of other mistakes too, most of them more interesting and deserving of analysis than a failure to count how much money we had left in the bank – and at many different levels in the company.  You don’t get to burn through $100m without, shall we say, some opportunities to have done things differently.

I’ll hold off on a full analysis though, firstly until the future of remaining friends at the company is decided – and secondly until I’ve calmed down and got some perspective on things. I also feel like I need time to do it justice, and right now there’s a lot going on with moving house for the new job.

Talking of the new job … well, I’ll try not to get too excited about it until I’ve got out there (it’s in the US).  But it is super exciting.  It’s also not in game development, which means it’s time to rename the blog as well. I’d been thinking of doing this anyway – when I started it, “modern game development” was, apart from being the least lame thing I could think of on the spot, intended to be some kind of reflection of a longtime game development trend that Realtime Worlds exemplified: bigger and bigger teams, with the requisite increase in organisation and professional management, and a whole set of resulting new challenges to overcome.

Then a few things happened. Facebook.  Farmville. The iPhone. Nintendo’s resurgence. “Casual gaming”.  “Free to play”.  It started to feel like Realtime Worlds was a massive dinosaur, building these massive things that nobody wanted, and I’ve felt very, very uncomfortable with the “modern” bit for a while now.

Dinosaurs don’t last forever, but they sure have a fun time along the way.

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91 Responses to Goodbye, Realtime Worlds

  1. Keir says:

    We’re gonna miss you guys!!! I secretly love SoCal though, so don’t be surprised if we show up at your doorstep some day…

  2. Euan says:

    Luke, all the best in America!

  3. Matt Doar says:

    Brutal times. Management claim they are paid more since they take more risks. So, what are the consequences when a gamble fails? They might not be given another pot of gold to gamble next time. Pfffh.

    ~Matt

  4. It was a real pleasure to work with you and the whole team. Especially RWTech. On the other hand, it’s a bad thing. I’ll always try to find a place as good and people as nice. Hardly doubt it’ll be easy.

  5. Interested Bystander says:

    Followed your blog in the last few years and always found it interesting and insightful at times. Once the dust has settled it’ll be interesting to hear a considered insiders view of what exactly happened at Realtime.

    All the best for the future.

  6. Nick McCrea says:

    The Clownshoes Express finally comes to a juddering halt, and it wasn’t pretty, was it.

    I look forward to any post-mortem, and all the best with your (incredible) new job!

  7. My commiserations for the way it went down: like yourself I thought that it was going down gracefully, and the speed surprised. I’ve been through it before, and seen it happen again and again; I can’t help but think there is criminal levels of negligence at work in any company that knowingly continues to operate without the ability to close down properly through redundancies.

    Anyway, good luck with the future, and I look forward to hearing the analysis, as it boggles my mind to think that it could have come this far and yet go so horribly wrong.

  8. Lucy Halliwell says:

    I have neither the class nor the restraint my husband has displayed. We’re selling our beautiful home and land, rehoming our pets and I’m up tonight wondering what we have in the cupboard to feed the babies tomorrow as we cannot afford shop bought baby food right now. We had to sooth our 4 year old child’s crying as she loaded up her beloved pet which we had to give away to a good home and we’re still the lucky ones. Luke has another job to go to but he has not been paid money due him by Realtime Worlds and it’s going to be a couple of months before his new wages come in.

    Dave Jones and Ian Hetherington have pissed away millions, they are getting away with not paying over 200 employees for the work that they have done and have fiddled their way to being able to buy back Project:MyWorld for cheap. Moreover these very people have enough personal wealth to pay the money owed to the individuals and families whose lives they have left shattered, heck Dave could probably pay them all just by selling one of his beloved cars. So I’m more than a little pissed off, but mothers get like that when their kids are hurting.

    http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/WddvZKg2RHohtABvEYduEg?feat=directlink

    So Dave Jones if I end up having to put a bullet in my own horse’s head because no welfare charity has space for him I am going to barter my last possessions to have a fork lift driver dump his 800kg bloody carcass on the top of your favourite car.

    • Alex says:

      It’s worth remembering that you can claim back the money owed for the lost wages and notice period through National Insurance and the Insolvency Service.

      http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment/RedundancyAndLeavingYourJob/index.htm
      http://www.insolvency.gov.uk/

      • Alex Ahmadi says:

        From what Begbies-Traynor told me, the money you can claim as “lost wages” is capped to £380/week, and takes a minimum of 6 weeks to process. So yeah, it’s not terribly useful.

        Anyway, I’m really sorry to hear about your troubles Luke & Lucy. I hope things work out the best for you!

    • Claire says:

      Hi Lucy

      Sorry to read about your current situation. I too am a wife of an employee in the Games Industry and can fully sympathise with you. Last year we gave up our lovely home, my job, school, family and friends to move 100 miles away to be nearer to my husband in a job he had been doing for the last 18months, which had good prospects. Two months after we arrived he was made redundant. Six months later we are still in the new location and my husband is back to working further afield and commuting home at weekends, basically we are back to square one but with no home of our home, no friends or family nearby. We do not want to move again to his new location as it does not look long term and do not want to keep moving our children from school to school.

      Although my anger at the situation has lessened and I am grateful my husband found another job, I am very hurt and resentful of the people at the top who have complete disregard for their employees and their lives.

      You have my greatest sympathy and I hope things improve for you all.

    • Eric says:

      Hi Lucy,

      I just wanted to say, what happened to you, your husband, and your family is a travesty of the highest order.

      Shattered lives indeed, I’m here in the US, so I know what the economy’s like for people out of work. At the very least I’m happy your husband has a job waiting for him, but I feel really bad for the American employees who’ll be returning back home in financial distress with few worthwhile opportunities to be had.

      RTW screwed up colossally on this one, I must also add. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

      Hopefully your kids will be able to adjust since this is a critical time in their lives (one that odds are they’ll never forget growing up).

      I wish you all the best when you come to the US :-)

  9. Brian Baglow says:

    Hi Lucy,
    We haven’t met, but my daughter goes to a stable near Kinross which has 20+ horses. If it’s of any help whatsoever, I can ask them if they could possibly take care of your horse, even temporarily?

    I’m sorry if this is inappropriate, but I’m just trying to think of some way to help everyone coming out of Realtime.

    You can mail me or get me via Twitter (@flackboy) if this might help.

    I’m really sorry for what you’re all going through right now. Nobody deserves this sort of crap. Especially families.

    Brian…

    • Lucy Halliwell says:

      Our two gelding ponies were easy to rehome. The situation with my horse is very complicated. Firstly I have not ridden him since I was 12 weeks pregnant with the triplets so he is unfit and out of schooled condition, I’ve been unable to find a buyer for him and I’m out of money and running out of time.

      My horse is a large Part-Bred Appaloosa Stallion. Please check but it is unusual for stables to offer livery for stallions. The problem is that if they have any mares, both my stallion and the mares themselves would be very difficult to manage when the mares are in estrus.

      The SSPCA only have three stallion places, and they are all full. Smaller rescue centres, of which I have contacted many, do not accept stallions as a rule. Having a 10 year old stallion cut is harsh and if the wound gets infected costs can increase exponentially. It is not uncommon for stallions his age to die of clinical shock, in fact, our own vet would want to take my horse into the veterinary hospital for the operation to minimise the risks. All of which is academic really because we have not got anywhere near that amount of money to spend and neither us or the new owners would see a difference in his libido until next spring. He needs a new home now.

      It’s a bad idea to give a large horse away for free because their meat price is reasonably high. World Horse Welfare recognise that a horse like this is often mistreated and can be quickly turned round into the meat trade. Most abattoirs require the live transportation of horses to their premises and do not offer a kind kill. Euthanasia is not a decision that I take lightly but it is a part of responsible horse ownership once all other avenues have been exhausted.

      If you or anyone else reading this do know an individual or a stud who has recently lost a stallion but is experienced and has the set up required to keep one please ask them to get in touch with me as soon as possible. His information is as follows:

      Coppice Blue Starr, 15.3HH, Loud Black Leopard Spot Part-Bred Appaloosa Stallion. Proven stallion with 100% spot record in progeny. Displays amazing temperament, good conformation, has an excellent head and plenty of bone.

      • Chris says:

        Hi,

        I used to work at RTW but thankfully left a few years ago. I’m really sorry to hear about your situation but might be able to help. My girlfriend has a horse and a lot of contacts in the area. If you wanted to email me pictures and any more details about the horse she can ask around to try and find it a good home.

        Let me know if you don’t get my email address out of this reply.

        Thanks,
        Chris

      • Anonymous says:

        My husband just forwarded this to me and he works in the video game industry. Lucy I am so so so insanely sad that you are going through this. I am a stranger and yet I truly understand. If I can do anything, please please let me know. I live in Los Angeles and seriously I can send baby food. I can help if you move nearby.

      • lukehalliwell says:

        Very sweet of you, but don’t worry, we are ok, the babies are definitely getting fed! :)

  10. David Keningale says:

    Really feel for all the Ex-Realtime staff and families for what they are going through just now. The UK rules on administration are meant to favour employees but this doesn’t get them through the difficult days of no money for the months unpaid or until they find a new job.

    Luke and Lucy I hope your future in America is as exciting as it sounds, just a shame the build up to it is fraught with money and pet worries instead of the excitement you should be enjoying just now.

  11. Andrew Richards says:

    In UK, only EU staff get full redundancy pay from the state. It’s not very fair. US staff should still apply I think, because they may get payments, but not as much. I have certainly heard of non-EU staff getting paid redundancy through the scheme, but a reduced payment. So check. Don’t panic! It’s a horrible situation, but RTW staff with their experience should be able to move on to new things quickly. Speak to your bank, see how they can help. Claim redundancy pay and unemployment benefits. Please don’t put a bullet in your horse’s head! You’ll get through.

    Feel free to blame management, though. And probably the investors. They messed up bad. It’s grossly unfair. Your comment about gambling seems very perceptive.

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  13. People need to think first says:

    And yet all you seem to be doing by posting these comments is putting the remaining jobs at Realtime Worlds at risk by creating negative press that could have an adverse effect on any sales of I.P that another company could pick up and make a success out of. Few people should be so lucky to have healthy kids, a nice home and land with a horse So you have to sell your horse Boo-fucking-hoo, you’re husband has got a new job opportunity working for Dreamworks in California and all you can do is look at the negative. Yes people didn’t get paid including me but in the grand scheme of things it was just a job, I’ll get another one

    • lukehalliwell says:

      Whoever you are, your comment is:
      * Misinformed – Lucy’s been unable to _give_ her horse away, let alone sell it, in this short a space of time – hence why she’s having to think about having him put down
      * Rude and unpleasant – we should have nothing but sympathy for the variety of situations people and their families are finding themselves in – as I said in my post I consider myself one of the luckier ones. Of course there are people worse off in the world, but that doesn’t mean we should be sneering at one another, and it doesn’t mean we can’t be angry at the company’s management.
      * Stupid – prospective buyers are going to be businesspeople who take a hard look at the finances; ex-employees and their families are obviously going to be disgruntled, they’re not going to be swayed by that
      * Cowardly – leave your name next time

      I don’t censor my blog comments, but that only works as long as people show some respect.

    • Paul Simms says:

      I don’t know who you are but I would love to meet you, just the once!! you spineless shitbag.

    • In agreement says:

      I agree with this dude (except for the cussing). When my business went to the wall I went on the dole. Pets are the last thing on my mind when the children are hungry. I dont give two monkeys about your horses and if you are so skint get down to the social security and get some money from them. If you have sold your house, your HORSE and all this peripheral stuff then you would have plenty money to feed your family. I dont believe for one second that you have no money and you cant feed your family. I know an ex DEV from RTW who also lost their job and she/he is not as skint as you are making out. They were ALL very well paid. If you blow you wages from month to month without putting some away for hard times then thats your problem.

      Moaning about a horse. Come on, they cost more than children to feed and i bet its not going hungry either.

      Long live APB and Real Time Worlds. It is not the end yet. If people in the company didnt have the balls to tell the company owners that they were pissing the money away to save their own jobs then the full blame can not be on the owners. The game and the company where a major risk right from the offing and every single person involved knew that, right down to tea boy.

      • Paul Simms says:

        Another spineless git who won’t post his name?

      • Andy Sawers says:

        Ah, its easy to be that callous and ignorant behind anonimity…it certainly isn’t brave. …although..points for comedy..”long live APB and Realtime Worlds”?….at least the people from the company have the balls to print their name.

      • Lorraine Young says:

        I think both of you should be ashamed of yourselves.

        Have some compassion, everyone made redundant from the RTW situation have their own problems and issues. I find it incredibly distasteful that people such as your “anon” selves feel that instead of sympathising with the situation (especially if you have been through it yourself) you feel the need to attack and criticise. It’s a sign of immaturity and disrespect.

        Rest assured, Luke and Lucy have EVERY right to express their distress. Please note, those that still work at RTW are aware of the risks and I know that those that are still there would completely sympathise with Lucy’s thoughts and feelings.

        Grow up.

      • Karim Shakankiri says:

        I used to work at RTW, and to be perfectly honest the only reason management couldn’t see this coming is because they refused to listen. They were told on a regular basis that APB was broken.

        People like Luke (who was my lead at the time) are not to blame, and their situation is not one anyone would like to be in (or indeed ought to be in, considering the talent and effort he put into that company).

        When middle managers refuse to listen to actual production staff – designers, artists, coders and especially QA – things go to shit.

        These people are my friends. And I have the balls to put my name down.

        Big hug to you Lucy and Luke… good luck, and if there’s anything I can do, give me a shout :)

      • Lexy says:

        I can’t even begin understand how awful it must be to lose a job, have no income and then have to move your whole life to a completely different country and leave behind a lot of your possessions and beloved pets. Animals are part of the family, you love them unconditionally and they love you back in some ways. I was gutted when i had to put my pony down due to ill health, i can’t imagine how desparate you must be to have to consider putting down a healthy one.

        The people above are clearly insensitive.

        A friend sent me the link to this page because of the horses issue, i’ve asked around but noone i know is looking for a stallion. However i felt compelled to comment. Given that he’s appaloosa, have you considered contacting specialist studs? I had a wee look on the internet and have seen a couple in the UK. Under the circumstances they would be the most likely people to want him, even without condition and fitness. It may be worth a shot contacting them, at least, it could do no harm to do so.

        Good luck with everything, i hope you find him a home and don’t have to choose the worst option x

      • Lexy says:

        P.S. i really should have proof read that before posting so i apologise for the typos, it’s been a long day!

  14. Been there before .. says:

    Feel for you guys. Been there 3 times myself and soon to follow the same route again. Its crap.

  15. Harvard Bonin says:

    Hi Luke,

    Feel free to contact me and please pass my email onto Realtime World employees interested in working with the God of War team in Santa Monica, California. Specifically…

    – Level Designers
    – Combat Designer
    – Programmer (Generalist with an emphasis on Game Play)
    – Concept Artist (Character)
    – Environment Artists
    – Design Manager

    I am also working with a developer in Austin, TX called Lightbox that I’d be happy to put folks in touch with.

    Good luck. I hope things turn out well for you and your collegues.

    –Harvard

    We’re

  16. Simeon says:

    Hi, I really hope everyone gets sorted out and I wanted to add my condolences to the familes out there too and couples who have other jobs in the region. It’s much easier for individuals who can move around.

    I can say that the game development industry is a really hard industry to work in for people with families as the work is:
    a) sparse, it’s rare to find consecutive jobs within commutable distance of your current home.
    b) mostly defaults to redundancy at the end of large projects. The larger the project, the more this is likely to happen.

    I was recently made redundant by Sony only a few short weeks after I finally relocated following 18 months of attempting to sell our home during the recession. I eventually had to dump our family home at a massively reduced price to move 120 miles away, uprooting my 2 young kids to a new area and school and my wife resigning from her job and a million other tiny cuts. All seemingly to work for a solid 1st party job. A few weeks later I was sat at a bus stop in the rain with my pocessions in a box on my lap making a call home to tell my wife it was all over.

    Redundancy left us in a vacuum with no income, no local jobs, no local knowledge, no family support and having lost thousands already and needing to find money from somewhere too. It took 3 months for me to get a new job but even this one doesn’t come with any guarantees and I don’t want to do this again to my family and this time it’s 240 miles away. I’m back to only seeing my family on a Saturday.

    Yes, this is a bit of a moan about things and I can sympathise with your position but all I do know is that this is sadly the way things are.

    @Lucy – my wife was similarly frustrated with what happened and she particularly hated the fact she could communicate directly with these people. So she wrote appropriately toned letters and emails to various Execs around Sony sharing her personal opinions with them. It was quite easy to do because everyone’s email followed the same pattern of ‘firstname.lastname@company.com’. Their details are occasionally available via blogs, linkedin or similar sites. To this day I don’t know the contents but I can imagine what they were.

    I wish you and your family the best of luck and extend this out to others in a similar situation.

    Simeon

  17. Tomas says:

    Hey man, I have been following the RTW buzz since it was announced. It is good to hear that you got another job lined up and hopefully more from RTW will land on their fit.

    My reason for commenting is that I just want to say that I had a blast playing Crackdown. I played it for _aaages_ together with my brother in co-op and to date it was one of the most fun Co-op experiences I’ve had. You,as in RTW, made a big contribution to the industry and you, personally, should take great pride in that once the dust seattles from this most recent mess.

    Good luck on your new job and have a great time! :)

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  19. Nick says:

    @Simeon

    I’ve only spent a few years in the industry, but it’s difficult for me to see a long term future in it for me, and it’s perfectly illustrated by your story. Unless you’re highly mobile or work in one of the few mega-clusters (Montreal?) able to absorb the job losses when a major developer goes under, if you have a family you are potentially condemning them to a life of itinerancy. It’s just not that compatible with family life.

    I have a real desire to make games, but I think it’s better served by working outside the mainstream games industry and doing hobbyist or indie stuff on the side. At least as a programmer I have a fair number of options, I do feel for colleagues in other specialties.

    • Simeon says:

      Yup. I’ve been doing this for over 20yrs now and I spent 12yrs at one developer, the recent history has been a more typical nomadic existance.

      The issue becomes more acute the more time you spend in the industry and it makes it more difficult to change job roles. E.g., those who wish to stay in Dundee will have to hope another game studio turns up, risk setting up their own business or change industries.

      A friend of mine recently moved his whole family over to Canada but the company went bust and his work permit was revoked and they’re now all back over here.

      Thankfully the global and virtual nature of the work means it’s increasingly easy to work outside of the studio for at least some of the time. This is obviously easier when you’ve got a clearly defined set of work to do.

      In believe this is about the only way that families can have some long-term stability but it’s not something that’s suitable for all game dev roles.

    • meheleventyone says:

      Yup, there is no way I would work in this industry under these conditions with a family. It’s just too risky.

      This has been hard enough with my girlfriend being in Australia!

  20. Rodney says:

    Hello
    This is all just way-way funny!
    Don’t get turned into a horsemeat pie.
    Do they still cook and eat those things in jolly old England?

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  22. Des Colada says:

    I don’t work for RTW but shared your shock at how quickly this went bad. I know people who work there and it has been a huge discomfort to hear the stories now surfacing from people who were the victims of this implosion.

    I had a particular interest in RTW because I applied for a position there over a year ago. Luke was one of the people who interviewed me. As I researched the company I couldn’t get away from the fact that some things about the set-up did not add up. They were recruiting like crazy when the rest of the world was “down-sizing” at truly frightening rates and they kept adding to their management team. They cited finds raised for APB, but that was years ago and they had to be burning through this at a ferocious rate, was there any left? They seemed to go through staff in certain sections of the business very quickly.

    I had/have seen this approach before and it always comes from people who have great experience in their core field, but then decide that that will be enough for them to be able to helm a full-scale company. I am so sorry that my suspicions were validated.

    I have children and know how I would feel if I had to expose them to this sort of thing, the guilt would be unbearable. So my thoughts and best wishes go with you. It will be of no comfort, but at least you are making a break from the industry and landing at Dreamworks, a name known the world over for making things your kids probably enjoy.

    All the best for the future.

    Descolada

  23. Des Colada says:

    … or even “funds raised”.

  24. Martin Johnson says:

    My sympathy for you, Mr and Mrs Halliwell is limited.

    Firstly – the lifestyle you appear to have been enjoying until this unfortunate development is an idyll that 90% of the world will never acheive anything close to.
    Also, that same 90% do not have the earning potential you do, and will most probably die in poverty, having not moved one inch from the slum into which they were born.

    Secondly – Horses and sports cars are both toys. Yes, I love animals and it’s a shame when they fall foul of people’s misjudgement, but your pets are just as much of an extravagance as Mr Jones and Mr Hetherington’s fancy cars. If the happiness of your children depends on pets and acres of land, they’re being set up for a fall.

    Thirdly – speaking of being set up for a fall, you mentioned that RTW’s impending doom was evident to the staff for a long time preceding this closure. Why, as an astute and intelligent professional did you not leave this ship before it sunk? Out of some perverse loyalty? Or merely the the crushing inertia that country estate and expensive possesions levies?

    And last – If you were fortunate enough to pull in a high wage before this “disaster” you might have put some away for a rainy day. Spending it on a multitude of extravagances is as much of a gamble as that taken by your ex – superiors.

    Now you can flame me, or wave photo’s of your children at me all you like, and if it makes you feel better that’s a good thing. I did not say my sympathy for you was non – existent, but it IS limited for the reasons I have given.

    Good luck in your new job and I hope you don’t get the wool pulled over your eyes in the future – a very bright future may I remind you. And compared to most an unbelievable dream come true…..

    Martin

    • Nick McCrea says:

      Your slightly righteous attitude suggests that Luke was practically banging at your door demanding sympathy, when in fact you’re on his (previously unadvertised) blog, no doubt having followed the link posted by a game news website.

      It seems a rather stiff constraint to have, as a precondition of sympathy, that there must be no people on the planet less unfortunate than the person in question, which seems to be your position.

      The next time I see any misfortune befall someone I know, I’ll remember to hold back any compassion, on the grounds that there are no doubt those worse off somewhere else.

      • Martin Johnson says:

        I plead guilty to running my mouth ininvited, and therefore accept any replies – no matter how scathing – as deserved.

        However I mention that “90%” to illustrate that seemingly desprate circumstances in our world and way of life are merely inconvenient compared to the plight of trillions.
        I’m trying to offer some persepective without being rude. Clearly I’ve failed in the latter endeavour.

        But yes – this is a personal blog so this will be my last post, it’s ultimately none of my business.

        Once again Mr & Mr Halliwell I wish you luck. I hope you arm yourselves against this invidious position in your new life…

      • lukehalliwell says:

        Hi Martin. No offence taken; I agree wholeheartedly with your core point – we are obviously incredibly fortunate in so many aspects of our life. Compared to other parts of the world, people in times gone by, even many other people in the UK and as I said in my post, many of the other ex-RTW staff, we are very, very lucky.

        Obviously, a lot of the incoming links, and the kind comments here from good friends, give the impression that this might have been a woe-is-me sympathy post, which it was never intended to be. We simply have anger – more colourfully expressed in Lucy’s case – at a situation that should have been avoided, and I believe this is perfectly legitimate. Many ex-RTW staff feel something similar right now and talking about it is part of the process of moving on for us all.

    • Weeble says:

      Ahahaha. “Country estate”. “Expensive possessions”. Take care, Luke, next thing you know you’ll be living in a castle and campaigning against unsightly wind farms. ;-)

      Let us talk seriously now: a bungalow and some horses do not a country estate make. It is unbecoming to criticize someone for their lifestyle when you know so very little of it. Furthermore, it is *in general* not reasonable to tell someone that they should have planned better when you do not know their circumstances. We all try in our own ways to prepare for the bad times, but you never know when they will come and how deep they will cut. What look like sound foundations one day may yet crumble the next.

  25. Matt Doar says:

    I’ve been in software companies for getting on twenty years now. They sometimes end; that’s just life. When the management fails to provide the paychecks and other benefits, it means they gambled too long and lost, and should be held up for ridicule so no-one trusts them again. “Ego-driven development” just makes me angry these days.

  26. Matt Doar says:

    And I’ve seen more ego-driven development in the games industry than others. I wouldn’t recommend it to a developer with a family. And I’m not averse to risk either!

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  28. Richard says:

    Regardless of how we got here and who was responsible, it really isn’t a good situation. It isn’t easy to sell up and jump into a new job in a short period of time, especially for people with ties. It also doesn’t help when you don’t receive your latest pay check. Many of the ex-RTW, especially QA and junior devs, were living pretty much month-to-month so suddenly losing that income is going to prove a real problem.

    Glad to hear you have a way forward Luke. All the best.

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  31. Duncan Bowring says:

    Luke, best of luck. You’re going to love the US.

  32. Ana Olson says:

    Seriously I am disgusted by some of the responses on here. My sympathies to you and your family Luke. Your patience is admirable.

  33. Thom Olson says:

    1. I am so sorry this happened. I’m a character artist, and have been looking forward to APB if for no other reason that the character customization feature. I was unaware the thing was falling apart, and I am definitely one of those who was looking forward to the game, but unaware that it had even launched.

    2. The instability of this industry is a bummer. It’s more stable than film work, but still hard to really put roots into–and I work at a solid company.

    3. I applaud you for posting your opinion. What’s with the guy who’s annoyed your posting your opinion, but then says if you didn’t do this, you’re to blame for the company failing? You’re looking out for the industry–and your restraint in your original post shows that you’re thinking of your colleagues still at RTW. This industry has a lot of growing up to do–but judging from BP, Blackwater, the US Congress, and just about every other human endeavor, we’re not alone in that. Still worth pushing for.

    Good luck to you and your colleagues. Feel free to look me up if you’re headed to SoCal.

    Cheers,
    Thom Olson

    • Thom Olson says:

      Thinking about it, the game industry is no less stable than any business. Creative work is always a risk. I’m sorry RTW went down badly.

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  35. Andy says:

    Unfortunately RTW is just one further example of the dinosaur that is the UK games industry.

    UK studios are full of producers, creative directors and managers that have an attitude of making games the same way as they were done through the 90s.
    First there is an insane idea for a game, with more features than you can shake a stick at. Then the first few years are pissed away trying to design and work on those features. Then comes a time where time and money grow scarce and features/content is cut and designs are cut back.

    Finally comes the crunch time where a fraction of the initially envisaged features are done in a too short time period, involving heavy overtime by all staff (often unpaid and often done without any compensation of any kind).

    RTW is an extreme example of this game development “culture” in the UK, due to the fact that APB is an MMO and the scale is larger. But there are plenty of other developers (independant and publisher owned) that go through the same cycle.

    These days developers often add dozens of temp (contract) staff and almost every studio goes through redundancies at the end of a project – is it any wonder that people don’t feel secure in their job and want to leave the industry to seek employment in other sectors?

    The cry for tax breaks in the UK is massive currently. Big games names like Ian Livingstone and others say that the UK industry needs tax breaks to stay competitive and stop the exodus of talented staff. Here is a thought: how about you go with the times, use proper project management and treat your staff properly (pay them well and compensate them for overtime, give them benefits). I’d say that would keep them competitive.

    In the meantime people will go where they get a good salary, where they feel secure in their job and where games are done in a better (more modern) fashion.

    All the best with your new endevours Luke and i hope everything works out for everyone affected by this. My hope is that RTW can serve as a warning beacon to the rest of the UK industry, but somehow i doubt it.

    • Weeble says:

      I wasn’t really in a position to see where things went wrong on APB, but I can say that there was paid overtime at RTW. I’m not going to defend RTW on the other counts, but I can certainly agree with you on tax breaks to the extent that the RTW catastrophe is no argument for them. I don’t think they would have made the blindest bit of difference for RTW.

      I’m interested to know what counts as a more modern fashion. Rapid iteration from a small core set of features? I ask because I think it’s probably the case that many more people think they are working in a “modern fashion” than you would agree with.

      • meheleventyone says:

        Small teams setup by feature would have been a great start. Dare I mention the A word on here, although that is also easier to pay lip service to than implement well. :)

        I don’t know the explicit answer but I do know that monolithic teams with people sat together by job function just don’t work in such a large project.

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  37. Rob Anderberg says:

    …and this is how I find out!!

    Good luck guys,

    Rob

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  39. So is Dave Jones’ credibility now shot?

    His company was in a dream financial position, had enough time, but managed to end up a trainwreck.

    • lukehalliwell says:

      Time will tell, and it’s not up to me …

      but …

      he still has credibility in my eyes. I will explain more in my post-mortem, but I believe his previous track record (Lemmings, GTA, Crackdown) is no fluke. The question is, and he may be doing some soul-searching on this, what was different with APB?

      • lkz says:

        Judging just by Wikipedia, Crackdown (1) only worked as a game in the end because the producer, Microsoft, got completely hands-on with the excellent devs at RTW in the final months, bypassing the RTW management entirely, and basically turned a APB-like train wreck into a jolly good game.
        Whether prospective future investors then bother to inform themselves about that is another question entirely.

    • a says:

      As a creative force I think there’s life in the old dog yet. He’s great at game designer with a unique vision. If he can find a position that plays to those strengths there’s no reason why he can’t be at the creative centre of another fantastic franchise.

      As an entrepreneur his credibility is zero right now. I can’t see him being able to raise similar levels of investment as he did at RTW on the basis of his business skills. He’s going to have to partner with someone else who have a proven track record in that area.

      • Andrew Richards says:

        Making a company that goes bankrupt can actually *help* raise funding in the future. There are many examples of people running a company that loses a $100m or so, and then go on to immediately raising another $100m or more. Investors see it as a useful learning experience. If you think about it, Dave is likely to be a bit more careful with the cash-flow next time.

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  43. Dev says:

    Hi Luke,

    It is very disheartening to see all this happen at RTW. I’m gutted that my friends are is this mess. Its painfully clear that this industry is very, very fickle. At some point you need to balance ‘the cool’ with security, ‘passion’ with stability. All those game developers who are still in their 20’s, don’t have kids, still driven by passion… think of the future: ‘ Secure yourselves, plan ahead! ‘ Saying this aloud more to myself than anyone.

    Here’s wishing you and your family the very best of luck for the future. I hope the new pasture across the pond proves forever green for you.

    Greetings from India!

    Dev

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  46. Rockefeller says:

    I think you should review the About Me section as well.

    “On top of the friends I made, I think there was actually benefit in seeing how not to run a games company! It certainly makes me appreciate what we have at RTW all the more.”

    Best of luck mate.

    • lukehalliwell says:

      Thanks, done :)

      Interestingly, Realtime did put right almost everything I thought VIS did wrong. We just found entirely different ways to fail …

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  48. RoK says:

    My sympathies to you and your family Luke for this wretched situation. I hope only the best for your future.

    I am friends with some of the Korean staff at RTW who must now all find a way to land on their feet as well. I do not want to make this long-winded, but there is a common thread that I believe must be shared. RTW used to have an office in Korea, which through a series of motions became a company called Nurien. The head of RTWK was Taehoon Kim, who upon the transition became President/Cofounder of Nurien.

    Sharing a common investor with RTW (namely, NEA) Nurien raised a total of $25MM about a year and a half ago. It seems NEA is keen on the strategy of over-capitalization. From what I am told Nurien has since made most of their staff redundant as well and is now barely a tiny skeleton crew of what they were before they blew through all their money. The similarities are too striking to be ignored and only presented here to show that what happened at RTW is not an isolated incident removed from poor decision making at the highest levels of these organizations.

    Bottom line – bad investors giving too much money to bad managers equals disaster.

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  51. Jiminiy Cricket says:

    Pretty, huh? I’ll bet a lot of you folks don’t believe that, about a wish comin’ true, do ya? Well, I didn’t, either. Of course, I’m just a cricket singing my way from hearth to hearth, but let me tell you what made me change my mind.

  52. Pignoses says:

    @ RoK

    Saying RTW had an office in Korea isn’t quite right. It was a completely separate company,

    Despite having the same names as each other the only thing they had in common from a corporate point of view was Dave Jones and Ian Hetherington as shareholders.

    Didn’t stop RTW sinking a lot of money into the separate Korean venture for ultimately no development or IP that was useable in anyway.

    My understanding is a lot of money was sent over to the Korean company for no development that could be used at all.

    • RoK says:

      @Pignoses – Ah, thank you for the clarification.

      It is interesting to note, however, that Taehoon Kim has always portrayed RTW Korea as a part of RTW, which he presided over. In a recent interview here in Korea, he even mentions being a main driver in helping RTW raise its $100MM investment. Perhaps it’s just a false claim to fame he wishes to exploit in the Korean press.

      Even on his Facebook page, he has former employer listed as “Realtime Worlds” with his job title as “President, Realtime Worlds Korea”.

      Those of us not privy to the actual corporate structure of RTW truly believed that what Taehoon Kim was running was RTW’s office in Korea. Having NEA as a common investor also strengthened this through-line.

      Whatever the case may be, and from what I’ve been told, Taehoon Kim ran RTWK with Dave Jones’ ego minus Dave Jones’ experience (Taehoon Kim had zero game experience previous to starting RTWK). It does say something of RTW (maybe just Dave and Ian, maybe NEA), but somebody had to make the call to allow RTW’s name to even be associated at this level.

      I guess the poor-decision making had to be pervasive because dumping $100MM is not easy.

  53. Innovative Ways To Lose $100 Million says:

    The letters APB must be ringing in the ears of RTW management, employees, and investors.

    There must be a punchline here somewhere. What could the letters APB stand for now ?

    All Pounds Blown

    All Personal Blitz

    All Programs Broken

    Shame. Lot of skills and talent just for that – what an innovative and clever way to blow $100 million. That business plan will make for a classic MBA case study – a perfect example of how to follow all the ‘best in class’ and ‘world class’ business practices, and yet still manage to spectacularly fail.

    A few years back I had a conversation with two guys from RTW who had just returned from London after winning a Bafta award for the game Crackdown. One of them, who I think was a graphic designer, refered to the other team-members as ‘the hangers-on’. That gives an insight maybe. Its maybe just a joke, but maybe also reveals a less than healthy team-environment beneath all the cake and compliments that pervade modern business.

    Regarding APB, my impression is a ‘wannabee’ game and concept. It wanted to be like the Wii with customisable characters. It wanted to be like WOW as an MMO. It wanted to generate a certain amount of revenue. It was driven by a list of ‘wants’, but there was no central original concept, no spark of genius, no fun, ie not like great classics like Lemmings and GTA.

    When you tie in with some corporate structures, things can sometimes go wrong as they have different values, even if they may be top game companies like Nintendo. It might look like you have things in common, when in actual fact there are significant differences, maybe even cultural differences.

    This is a home-grown business, built out of talent and enthusiasm, and ‘a love of video games’. The $100 million is worth next to nothing compared to that. The guys working in a bedroom or garage somewhere, even today, have more to offer the gaming industry than that.

    Video games are supposed to be fun, right ? Great graphics, great music, great customisation, and great MMO, are purely secondary to that. If the people making the games aren’t having any fun, then its unlikely anybody’s going to have much fun playing them. Case closed.

  54. Dave Beveridge says:

    Hey Luke, old chum!

    Gutted to hear what happened at RTW. Best of luck, keep your chin up, and best wishes to the crew from me.

    cheers
    Dave

  55. Hi Luke,

    I feel really sorry, and truly wish this to be turned out better than what it is :(
    All the bests on your next move, man.

    For you and also all those clever staffs I respected a lot.
    Regards,
    Wittawat Aik Keawcharoen

  56. Earl Wheaton says:

    I had a blast playing APB, especially the customization. Sorry to see it all fall down.

  57. Hannes B. says:

    forget realtime worlds and EA…. make a new game like good old Ultima Online Sandbox MMORPg… and you’ll become rich ;-)

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