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A long, long time ago, I worked at a place called Cavedog. They had… - Blather, Rinse, Repeat
June 30th, 2005
11:54 pm


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A long, long time ago, I worked at a place called Cavedog. They had done a game called Total Annihilation shortly before I got there. And a number of folks left when Total Annihilation was done. So I missed working with Chris Taylor and a bunch of that crew. But I got to work on a game called Elysium, and I got to work on a game called Amen, and I got to work on a project called Boneyards. And by the time I had worked on all of these projects, Ron Gilbert and Shelley Day wanted to do something fairly cool - they wanted to buy their company back from GT Interactive Software. You see, Cavedog and Humongous Entertainment had become a division of GT as a means to raise the funds necessary to get Total Annihilation onto the shelves.

So Ron and Shelley were looking for venture capital to buy GT out. Humongous would become privately held. Maybe the employees would get a chance to own it. Wouldn't that be something?

And then the Tech Stock Crash of 2000 happened. No venture capital was to be found. GT got gobbled up by a French company, Infogrames. Infogrames proceeded later on to gobble up the last vestiges of another fine name - Atari.

"Atari" once defined home gaming, back before the Nintendo took hold, there was the Atari 2600. These days, the name means little, as Infogrames decided to assume that name. I suppose it's their legal right to do that - the name Atari's theirs to do with as they want... sort of. I think, though, that it's also owned by the generation that wore their fingers raw playing "Adventure" and "Combat" (man, it must have been early on in the medium to get away with names like that).

So. As I have mentioned before, Atari has decided to close down the Humongous Entertainment studio. In some way, it seems amazing that it took them this long. Infogrames truly did not know what it had when it acquired Humongous Entertainment (indeed, the project I was working on went under their radar to the degree that they had no knowledge that our division within HE even existed). And, while it's difficult to keep the standard of quality that HE had earned, Atari now sees it as a liability to be divested of. Oh, to be an eccentric multimillionaire. I'd buy it.

Ron Gilbert mentioned today in his blog that he considers Humongous to be his greatest achievement and his greatest failure.

I hope that some day I can have a failure that measures up to the greatness of Humongous, Ron.

(2 comments | Leave a comment)

Date:December 6th, 2005 09:42 pm (UTC)

humongous ownership

the employees would have owned as much of humongous as they did of the company that GT bought --- virtually nothing. for all ron's genius, his ability to motivate and inspire without monetarily enriching is among his and certainly shelley's greatest skills. i hope you achieve a success like humongous, but unlike ron and shelley i hope you spread the wealth around instead of buying a few taco bells.
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Date:December 6th, 2005 10:27 pm (UTC)

Re: humongous ownership

the employees would have owned as much of humongous as they did of the company that GT bought --- virtually nothing.

If I understand you, yeah, you may be right. Hard to say now, since the landscape has changed so much in the time in between.

i hope you spread the wealth around

I heard somebody propose that products be labelled with a number, call it "alpha". We'll define that as the ratio of the highest compensation to the lowest compensation within the company. So, a car would have an alpha value of maybe the CEO's salary (plus stock, plus whatever other benefits come with the position) divided by the janitor's or welder's or whoever's down at the bottom of the totem pole in the factory. What would that be? A couple thousand?

I don't know what a good value for alpha ought to be - maybe for very complicated manufactured goods, a higher value makes sense. But for hand-made objects, it certainly makes sense that a small value would be attainable. Indeed, at the extreme, where a single person makes the item and brings it to market, the value could be 1.

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