Log of #thief, statement of Tim Stellmach (EvilSpirit)

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TikTok aka Tim is Tim J. Stellmach, Lead Designer of the Thief series
*** Joins: TikTok (stelmach@Star6520.ne.mediaone.net)
<KGoodsell> Tim, what are your plans now? Any job oppurtunities?
<TikTok> Oh, Lord yes. Got two job offers before I left the office this afternoon, and four calls from headhunters. That's not even counting the LG folks who are thinking about forming companies. It's a feeding frenzy.
<Chibboleth> so who gets money for Thief 2 sales now, Tim?
<TikTok> T2 royalties go to LGS' creditors.
<ShadowJack> Can a company that makes games as innovative and intelligent as LGS survive?
<TikTok> ShadowJack: I think so. Those things aren't necessarily incompatible with making games more or less on schedule and budget, which was really always a big part of the problem. And which we were actually finally getting pretty good at, ironically.
<KGoodsell> How would you rate the chances of a significant number of LGSers regrouping to continue (in some form) the company?
<TikTok> KGoodsell: Hard to guess the odds. Doug was making plans long before LGS folded, actually, so that's one I know about.
<Grundbegriff> TikTok: Are you able to say who holds the intellectual property rights, and whether there'll be litigation that trumps the possibility of its being picked up by another house?
<TikTok> The IP rights go to the creditors. Which makes picking them up a bit of a mess, probably.
<Sojorn> So it was just the debt from the earlier years?
<TikTok> Sojurn: Not just that, no. There were major delays in Jane's Attack Squadron, which didn't help any. And we could have reduced our burn rate some if one of our projects in early development hadn't been so attractive to all potential investors that they all insisted that having that team available was part of getting them to consider investing.
<Kyote> So the probability of another company purchasing the rights to Thief and making Thief 3 are extremely slim, eh Tim?
<TikTok> I don't know about the odds of someone picking up the Thief rights being "extremely slim." Just that it's always tricky dealing with valuation on that kind of intangible property when you're dealing with financial people, not industry people. But if Eidos has a lick of sense they'll give it a try.
<Chibboleth> I heard that Jane's Attack Squadron is still being put out. True?
<TikTok> Jane's Attack Squadron may or may not be finished. The issues there are very differnt from our other projects.
<TikTok> In that JAS was financed by an insured bond, and now it's up to the insurance comany that underwrote that to determine what the best way to cut their losses are. That may be to finance the JAS team for another quarter, which is about what it would take.
<Chibboleth> would the JAS team be very motivated though?
<Tim> The JAS team, on the whole, seems to me to be _highly_ motivated. You get that way when you're nearly finished with a game you've spent years on.
<Kensai> TikTok : Could you do me the favor of taking the blame from Romero. Everyone here is about to start hunting the man down, believing he is responsible for Eidos' inability to help LGS
<TikTok> Romero hasn't got a damn thing to do with any of it. Give the guy a break. He may be a meatball (not that I even know the guy) but he's not Satan for Pete's sake.
*** TikTok is now known as Tim
<Spire> Gamespot quote of the week: "[Romero] may be a meatball..." -- Tim Stellmach
<Tim> Okay, not that I won't get quoted anyway, but Romero may also _not_ be a meatball.
<Tim> Though in some ways he resembles rock star Meatloaf.
<Grundbegriff> Tim: Nice save
<Spire> Have the Thief games (and SS2) actually put LGS *deeper* in the hole? Haven't things been improving?
<Tim> Spire: Both Thief games (Thief and Thief Gold) turned a profit, and it would take a minor miracle for Thief 2 not to do so. Shock 2's sales were pretty good, but I don't know for sure since its profitability was tied contractually to that of Flight Unlimited 3, per our contract with EA, and FU3 sales were very disappointing.
<Tim> So no, Thief and Shock didn't by any means put us further in the hole.
<Grundbegriff> Tim: But are the insurers who face a defaulted bond open to *persuasion* from advocates of that team's work? Or will this decision be made by clueless suits?
<Tim> I'm sure the decision on JAS will be made by relatively clueful suits, for guys who don't work in the games business, after some sort of consultation with guys who actually do.
<Purah1> Tim, what are you doing? where are you looking?
<Tim> I'm not looking anywhere yet, except that I chatted with Harvey (Smith, at ION) immediately after the announcement, because he and Warren are pals. Mostly I haven't had to look yet, because people have been coming to me. It's an embarrassment of options, so far.
<KGoodsell> Tim, don't you feel cheated? LGS has made excelent, inovative, critically acclaimed gamed that for some inexplicable reason *don't sell* (enough)! Hell, I feel cheated.
<Tim> By and large, LG's games sold more than most people think. But _some_ of them did poorly, and _lots_ of them went over budget. Not that that's too uncommon, but still not healthy business.
<Andy_M> And what about the labors of the nextgen FP engine team?
<Tim> Next gen engine is a washout, as far as I can see, unless those guys come up with some clever plan, which they're certainly working on.
<Grundbegriff> Andy_M: Rumor earlier was that Dark Engine 3 was only weeks away from reaching some near-to-finished plateau.
<Tim> Not "near-to-finished," no. It was months away. But it was nearning some major physics and renderer milestones, such that you could actually start to make (simple, dopey) games with it.
<Grundbegriff> Tim: Randy confirmed that T3 would have had an open-city design. The engine would obviously have had to be capable of sustaining all that. There was even talk of a fully-rendered rotating Bafford's prototype that illustrated the power of the new engine. Isn't there *something* the coders could do to salvage all that labor?
<Tim> I wouldn't say "confirmed." That was the (still very early-stage) plan for T3, but that's kind of academic. It could easily have gone any which way.
<Andy_M> The open city concept reminded me of the gdc talks about emergent narrative, etc. Was that possibly a serious attempt in that direction?
<Tim> It wasn't anything _that_ ambitious, no.
<Dash-X> Tim: Why is Deus Ex written on the keeper book you see in the first cutscene in Thief: TDP?
<Tim> Deus Ex was already in production then. It just hadn't got much publicity. The book was an in-joke. Like I said, Harvey and Warren are pals (not just of mine).
<Grundbegriff> Tim: Can you tell us anything concrete about the people, esp. the designers? I imagine everyone's up in the air, but Pearsall said (to ign.com) that the outgoing phone trunks were tied up all evening with people looking for a spot to land on. Does anyone have a sure thing lined up? Pagliarulo back to avault?
<Tim> I doubt many people have anything definite lined up yet. But yeah, of course the phone lines were jammed after the big meeting.
<Grundbegriff> Tim: I didn't expect there'd be anything concrete; but I'm sure many of us hope to continue following the careers of some of the talent.
<Tim> Well, I'm sure TTLG will keep track of as many of the players as they can.
<Digital`Nightfall> you can count on it.. but we need for you guys to keep in touch with us as well... :)
<Kensai> Tim : Another question...There was this Thief 2 trailer, featuring music by a german band. Where could anyone be seeing (hearing) this ?
<Tim> I really don't know where to get that trailer. That was an Eidos Germany production, I believe.
<Digital`Nightfall> http://www.thief-thecircle.com/media/movies/t2trail.zip
<Saracoth> Say, Tim, we've jokingly mentioned the possibility of former LGS people making Fan Missions.... Think any of them will fire up DromEd for old times sake?
<Tim> Saracoth: It's possible.
<Grundbegriff> Tim: Is it correct that the upper management kept this close to the vest until the last minute, catching most people in-house by surprise?
<Tim> Upper management didn't know until the last minute, either (though of course they had a lot more information than the rest of us). Up until recently it looked very likely that LG would be acquired by Eidos instead.
<Tim> My understanding is that Eidos' bank just went through a major merger or something, which may have something to do with them unexpectedly having to pull out of the deal.
<Druin> why can't lg just find another publisher?
<Tim> Druin: it's not an issue of finding a new publisher, but rather a major investor. Putting together such a deal takes _lots_ of time, and LG is functionally out of money.
<Tim> Excepting enough for everyone's final paychecks, back vacation pay, and (I'm told) the a quarter's worth of health insurance.
<Kensai> Tim : How may have been the chances of just putting all LGS productions on a hold until the deals would have been done ?
<Tim> Well, "on hold" is a problem when the issue is making the payroll. People gotta make the rent.
<Grundbegriff> Tim: No chance of a Deus Ex Wallstreet toting bags of venture capital?
<Tim> VC's are looking for an IPO. We disappointed _those_ guys years ago. 8-)
<Purah1> Tim: are you going to mourn the loss of Thief...or was the Thief syndrome turning into a headache?
<Tim> I was taking a break from Thief anyway, working on multiplayer prototypes (which was certainly very _related_ to Thief, but it's not like I was on the kernel Theif 3 team).
<Tim> Certainly had fun doing it, though.
<Tim> Well, on and off, anyway. Parts of Thief 1 were Hell.
<Grundbegriff> Tim: Or "maw" as the case may be
<Spire> This is interesting! What parts of Thief I were hell?
<Tim> I worked overtime for about a year to get Thief 1 out the door. I did months of 100+ hour weeks. This was not entirely because I loved my work.
<Purah1> so was Thief a favorite of the LGS staff or another game?
<Tim> Different people at LG had their own favorites. I don't think there was really a favorite overall.
<Druin> didn't you work on shock2 Tim?
<Tim> I was only _very_ slightly involved on Shock 2. Gave them some feedback. Was mostly too busy on Thief, or too burned out from it.
<Spire> Tim: Any chance of releasing some real scripting tools for Dromed, as opposed to the stock "generic" DLL that ships with Dromed?
<Tim> Really, the scripting tool we used for Dromed was a C++ compiler. So basically you're talking about releasing source code.
<Druin> do you have a favorite game company tim? (besides lgs)
<Tim> Favorite game company besides LG... maybe LucasArts.
<Tim> Yeah, stick a fork in me, I'm done. Think it's finally time to go to sleep.