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Top Ten Tuesdays: Developers We Miss

Felix Kemp
Bizarre Creations, Ensemble Studios, Features, Rare Studios, Top Ten, Top Ten Tuesdays

It's a perilous time for developers nowadays, what with Bizarre closing their doors just last week and Ensemble's demise still stoking the flames of controversy. Even Infinity Ward was crushed under the might of Kotick's fist, reducing it to a mere name brand only.

So in honor of those studios and stables reduced to a footnote in the annals of history and a defunct page on Wikipedia, we at Dealspwn thought we'd cast our tear-glazed gaze back at the ten we miss most.

10. Bullfrog Productions

Top Ten Tuesdays: Developers We Miss

Before he became the most loved and hated hype man in the business, Peter Molyneux was earning his stripes at Bullfrog Productions, where he assisted in the creation of a number of classic, pioneering titles like Populous and Syndicate - which is apparently due for a next-gen reboot. We miss Bullfrog because they represented a time when developers, like Molyneux, took risks and strived to improve rather than merely succeed. Not to mention it's a great name for a studio.

9. Free Radical Design

Top Ten Tuesdays: Developers We Miss

An offshoot studio spearheaded by former Rare devs, Free Radical delivered some of the finest, wackiest time-hopping adventures to date. Timesplitters was excellent, as was Second Sight - a rather underrated gem, actually - and even Haze, if you ignored the hype and bombast, was a solid title with promising if poorly executed concepts. Free Radical Design is now Crytek UK, so they're not actually dead, it's just unlikely we'll see them working on any old favorite anytime soon.

8. Bizarre Creations

Top Ten Tuesdays: Developers We Miss

We honored Bizarre not two days ago, but still the impact of their passing has yet to clear. It's just plain frustrating to see an established studio with fifteen years experience collapsing under the weight of unrealistic expectations. Blur wasn't a success, nor was The Club, but neither were outright commercial failures or critical flops. Both titles had promise, it's just a pity that doesn't rhyme with profits, right Kotick?

7. Midway Games

Top Ten Tuesdays: Developers We Miss

Midway Games is essentially dead, continuing to unravel at an unsettling pace as its slowly but surely succumbs to financial and legal closure. But how can a studio like this, with a stable that includes NBA Jam and Mortal Kombat, not to mention the fact that they helped usher Space Invaders into Western arcades, be forgotten? Midway, like a lot of popular studios in the 90s, fell foul of legal controversy and financial dispute, arguably a factor in their own downfall but nonetheless a developer to be missed.

6. Ensemble Studios

Top Ten Tuesdays: Developers We Miss

Again, a case of what the hell happened. How does Ensemble, developers of the critically acclaimed Age of Empires series, go from delivering a pretty solid RTS re-imagining of Halo to announcing their closure within a month? Microsoft has been tightening its first-party belt for years now since realizing how beneficial third-party relations can be, but this was simply unforgivable.

5. Sierra Entertainment

Top Ten Tuesdays: Developers We Miss

Another result of Activision meddling, Sierra Entertainment paved the way in the 80s for future graphic adventure games, with King's Quest and Leisure Suit Larry. Like a fair few developers on this list, Sierra fell foul of legal and financial trouble, often in part due to their games not selling as well as hoped. The most recent games to come from the studio before their merger and subsequent closure by Activision were World in Conflict and Timeshift.

4. Black Isle Studios

Top Ten Tuesdays: Developers We Miss

Black Isle were the Bioware and Bethesda of their day, pumping out classic after classic onto the RPG shelves. Creators of the fantastic two first Fallout titles and the extraordinary Planescape: Torment, Black Isle also assisted heavily in the development of the much-loved Baldur's Gate series, delivering the console-centric edition with Dark Alliance 2. Their key developers are now scattered across the industry, continuing to pioneer the latest RPGs. So at least their legacy lives on.

3. Shiny Entertainment

Top Ten Tuesdays: Developers We Miss

Remember Shiny? No? Let's ring a few bells, then. Earthworm Jim? MDK? I hear a definite ringing! Shiny Entertainment was a pioneering force led by David Perry, who keen news enthusiasts may recognise as the man now hyping Gaikai, the free gaming service. Shiny is actually still around, having been consumed and assimilated by Foundation 9 Entertainment. Still, we're waiting on a next-gen Earthworm Jim game!

2. FASA Studios

Top Ten Tuesdays: Developers We Miss

Ah, FASA; how I miss thee. I don't think they made a bad game. The Mech series, both Commander, Warrior and Assault were excellent, showcasing the studio's striking versatility. Crimson Skies remains the best game to not get a sequel, and even Shadowrun was arguably a balanced and ambitious shooter with a fantastic multiplayer component. With a Mechwarrior reboot in the works - albeit at a new studio - I hope FASA is at least honored with a sequel to either of the last two.

1. Rare Studios

Top Ten Tuesdays: Developers We Miss

I'm aware Rare is alive and quite literally kicking, what with Kinect Sports and Adventures. But the studio who once revolutionized genres with the likes of Goldeneye and Perfect Dark, pioneering and delighting in equal measure, is no more. Instead, they've been reduced to overseeing Microsoft's expanding interest in the casual gamer, introducing Avatars and realigning their focus to Kinect-centric titles only. When your best game in six years is Viva Pinata, you know something's wrong.

What development team do you miss most? Did they feature on this list or did we overlook some much-mourned studios? As always, sign off in the comments below!

Add a comment11 comments
valshrew  Feb. 22, 2011 at 13:21

What is planetscape torment? No such game exists though it sounds pretty cool.

Eggy  Feb. 22, 2011 at 14:43

Not "planetscape", "planescape" and it is very much a real game. The box has a big blue face on it!

Tbolt80000v  Feb. 22, 2011 at 14:48

It's Planescape Torment, not Planet. It was a top down RPG made in a modified infinity engine similar to Baldurs Gate.

Matthew  Feb. 22, 2011 at 15:15

Needs more Origin Systems!

Matt Gardner  Feb. 22, 2011 at 15:17

Got fixed

Matt Gardner  Feb. 22, 2011 at 15:19

Additionally, our very own Dave Brown soaked himself in some Planescape nostalgia a few weeks back. Check out the retrospective, misty-eyed piece here: http://www.dealspwn.com/blast-planescape-torment/

Leandro  Feb. 22, 2011 at 15:50

Viva Piñata is cool (in fact its awesome on his own way - and is really hardcore! Try to get every Piñata and you'll discover it), but after this Rare is... ridiculous. The logo has changed to pass a message: "We are not the same from before. Forget what you know about us. This is a new Rare... and everthing we did f**king good, we'll not do anymore."

Carl Phillips  Feb. 22, 2011 at 16:11

I'd second that. Ultima and Wing Commander (before Chris Roberts tried to make it big in Hollywood with that terrible movie spin-off) were awesome franchises back in the day.

Matthew  Feb. 22, 2011 at 16:31

Definitely - two of my favourite series of games.

But how on Earth did I forget Looking Glass Technologies?!

Matt Gardner  Feb. 22, 2011 at 17:05

Viva Piñata was the last great Rare title. It retained their playful humour, channelled classic Bullfrog titles and proved to be astonishingly addictive and endearing. But things started going downhill after the Stamper Brothers jumped ship.

I still shed tears for Shiny.

CJ  Feb. 22, 2011 at 17:18

Westwood studios..

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