Krome Studios to close doors on Monday, contractors will continue work

souri's picture

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While attendees enjoy the second and final day of the Game Connect: Asia Pacific conference held on the Gold Coast which aims to inspire local developers in these tough times, news is flooding out that just nearby, a major Brisbane based studio is on the verge of collapse.

More troubling and credible reports concerning Krome Studios are currently spilling onto Twitter as well as into our comments areas, and if these new details along with the additional reports received yesterday relating to the Emergent agreement are true, then there is considerable cause for concern for what was once Australia's largest game development studio.

The rumours began with more drastic job cuts today (confirmed to be hitting both the remaining Melbourne and Brisbane studio), but it seems to be a lot more serious for the company than that.

The current report is that Krome Studios have let go of all remaining staff, including those in their base studio in Brisbane, and will be closing their doors on Monday. Some staff will be rehired as contractors to finish some remaining work.

The latest developments at Krome Studios ends a tumultuous twelve month period for the company which had started to dwindle down as the global financial crisis hit after having just reached a milestone of 400 employees.

Beginning with the axing of 60 employees in November 2009, the company shed an additional 50 employees in April this year. Four months later in August, an undisclosed but estimated 100+ employees were further let go from Krome, marking the end for the Adelaide branch of Krome Studios.

While admirable attempts to save Krome Studios Adelaide proved unsuccessful, the closure of the both the Adelaide and Melbourne arms of Krome Studios will mark the final end for the Ratbag Games and Melbourne House legacy. Krome Studios acquired the iconic 80's games developer, Melbourne House, in late 2006 from previous owner, Atari, while a studio was opened in Adelaide by Krome to accomodate the remaining Ratbag Games staff who were left unemployed after Midway closed down the Powerslide developer in late 2005.

Comments

Anonymous's picture

But he did have many meetings

But he did have many meetings with people from the cutscenes team to talk through things. It's not like he never talked to people.

danthorsland's picture

My point

It's part of the issue of management you see elsewhere in this thread. Yes, the chief creative on a game should be visible to his entire team, but in this case, that same creative was co-owner of a large entity that was clearly up against the wall in the last year.

And I know the cinematics team had a person that was purpose-hired, and empowered, to lead that team.

Right or wrong, if a principal officer of a large development studio were NOT delegating one of the more containable issues in a project (cinematics) when there was a pressing need for him be elsewhere, I'd have been a lot more worried than I was a year ago.

But that's just my perspective as a producer. I've dealt with a number of publishers (Rockstar, Atari, LucasArts), and they tend to worry about milestones, stability, and gameplay, gameplay, gameplay long before they fuss over cinematics/cutscenes. As an animator, of course ones perspective would be very different.

Sure, it's indicative of the very problems I've had with privately-owned studios. They tend to be run for better or worse by their founders and owners, who often micromanage and never delegate as the company grows. But was that the reason we're seeing this ship sink? Do I, or anyone outside of the Brisbane studio know the entire picture?

Think about it, learn from it.

Anonymous's picture

I can understand your point

I can understand your point and intentions, but the simple fact of the matter was that Steve really wasn't doing much else. He spent most of his time chatting with his buddies and drawing 20 more characters or costumes for the modelers to churn out. Realistically his involvement with other projects was minimal. He might come in occasionally and tell you that you need to simply your combat, or suggest some unusable ideas for gameplay, but that was pretty rare. His focus was 99% Blade Kitten.

The cutscenes example is a perfect summary of Krome's attitude, especially Steve's attitude, towards game development. Quantity, not quality.

I heard the report in cinematics that "Steve would rather we had the characters standing there idling with jaws flapping," than trim the cutscenes down to a size that they could manage. This was at a time in the company when making good quality cutscenes was a focus for Krome, after having been burned in the past by publishers and reviewers for delivering poor scenes.

To put things in perspective, Blade Kitten had a bigger cinematic scope than Clone Wars Republic Heroes, a project that was a high profile, retail, Lucas Arts game. It had more characters than Guardians of GaHool.

Blade Kitten is a $20 downloadable. A few good quality cutscenes is all that project needed. Especially when you compare it to the other games on the market we were competing with. And the budget... The budget was supposed to be a fraction of these retail projects.

You ask a good question, how important were the cutscenes? Important enough to be 40 minutes worth. But not important enough for him to want them to be good.

As to him never going to the cutscenes department, it's no surprise. Steve never talks to animators. He could talk to every team member, every day, and somehow avoid talking to an animator for the entire project... Well at least about work...

Anonymous's picture

Hardly Anon

If you say exactly what you did on a project, then post as anon, well that's just gutless. Still, that's to be expected from this scottish animator. All talk and very little to show for it. There's a reason people dislike working with him. Lots of talking and yelling and name dropping and telling everyone his CV at every opportunity, when the truth is he's only as good as any other average animator out there. This is the sort of employee that helped sink Krome. I wonder if his current employer knows he will post anon comments about them on the net?

Anonymous's picture

Time and budget?

How loooooong was that game in dev for? Steve doesn't do any of those things, no market research... nothing. He just says it's his money and
he'll do what he wants. That's fine but look at the end result, a game with very bad reviews and a closed studio. Maybe if he tried to up the ante things would be different. It couldn't be any worse than shut down studio.

Anonymous's picture

I think what they were saying

I think what they were saying is that just because you don't have the budget of some other games, doesn't mean you can't aim high with what you've got.
Big budgets don't always equal good games anyway.

Anonymous's picture

Well... This is the actual

Well...
This is the actual problem when devs can't understand the simple things. The shit graph as mentioned was made clear to those who had an ear that it was important to understand that we did not have resources to make a AAA game. To those who had an ear the shit graph was an indication of what we needed to strive for. Not a AAA game but something that was above average. Take a look at metacritic and you willl find that BK is going ok when you compare it to games that come from some of the big names. BK took too long and it cost too much I will concede, but there are many things that contribute to dev time. Your deluded if you think you can have the time to make AAA assets on a downloadable game and it is that delusion that drags the dev time out. Consider the programming and design head count compared to art and cutscene on BK and you might start to understand the hammer we we're under.

Pootsz

Anonymous's picture

Please stop talking about

Please stop talking about AAA.
No one thought BK would be!
Steve made the mistake of using way too many resources in Cinematics. The 40 odd mintues of cutscenes cost a fortune, those resources should have been directed at adding to the game play, not art, not code, but actually making a fun game to play.

Anonymous's picture

Nail hit squarely on

Nail hit squarely on head.
I'd say this was the main problem throughout all Krome's projects. Not enough work on prototyping fun gameplay.
That's on the game side.

On the business side..and i've said this previously, but we just don't know if Krome would have survived even if they made awesome games. They'd have had a much better shot yes, but even so it is possible a similar scenario would have still occurred imo, given that they got their contracts from US, and the contracts/money from the US has pretty much dried up.

Anonymous's picture

Would've had a better shot

if they didn't spend so much money on projects that were never going to make money. BK, that teen zombie thing, there's about $5m right there. Sure you spend something to make a pitch or demo, but that much, especially when it was obvious to everyone that social/casual games were rapidly rising was a big mistake. I remember reading about how all the US VC money was going into that stuff 5 years ago. Krome was stuck in 2003, and when they did try to do social/casual it was a last ditch effort when the company was basically already dead.

Anonymous's picture

Maybe he forgot to include

Maybe he forgot to include the words 'in the next 4 weeks' on his first statement.

Mario's picture

Or maybe...

he didn't know this was going to happen or something else changed in the mean time?

Mario's picture

The Emergent deal?

I don't think there has been any further public news on that since the announcement press release of it.

Anonymous's picture

Emergent revealed they

Emergent revealed they couldn't pay Krome for the work they had done. Straw that broke the camel's back. But that's not to let off the hook the publishers who were going to sign "any day now" for months on end.

Anonymous's picture

Working overseas is always an option

If you've been in the industry as long as I have, you know all the action is overseas. My sympathies for the Krome crew, the Australian studio I worked at folded last year and so I went overseas for work again. Sadly, my own experience makes me feel Australian games dev (especially from a management perspective) seems bush league compared to what I've experienced overseas.

For those with the talent, lack of ties and will to do it, i heartilly recommend it. See how some of the bigger studios roll and it will open your eyes. Plus it's generally a great experience.

Anonymous's picture

Poor Management

I can also second this... But I think the poor management is endemic not only to the Australian games industry but all Australian companies as well. In general, there is a real lack of professionalism in the workplace here. It's a great place to live but is unfortunately not the best place to work. The management practices in companies in places like the US, including the games industry, feels like it's 10 -15 years ahead.

Anonymous's picture

Seriously? EA Games employees

Seriously?

EA Games employees and families wouldn't agree.
I hear the same complaints of management from overseas companies as much as I do here.

danthorsland's picture

Specifically?

I'm a Yank (been here just shy of 10 years, from NYC). I've worked for ginormous outfits like Time Warner, and small start-ups during the Dot Com boom, and lots of Aussie outfits since coming to Adelaide.

There are certainly work culture differences from US to Oz, but I actually prefer many of them. My last contract at a local VFX house here in in Adelaide was great, and the management were accessible and a delight to deal with. Most of the artists would agree.

What exactly does the US do better?

(And I'm not picking a fight here. Far from it. I'm genuinely curious.)

Anonymous's picture

I agree... i think Australian

I agree... i think Australian managers have a much better understanding and respect for work/life balance. Yes we've all done stupid hours here now and then on projects, but nothing like what's expected overseas. Life is still more important than work :)

Anonymous's picture

Management

I agree the work/life balance is better in Australia, but the career advancement and training is less. Also, more than anything, it's about the professionalism in the workplace. Many managers here still see people as resources instead of individuals with dreams and aspirations. Every company in the US that I have worked for has asked me yearly where I want to go and what I want to do. Not one in Australia has even bothered to ask. Furthermore, there is still the perception here that the amount of work you do is related directly to the amount of time you are there, instead of how much you actually do... It's something I really notice with the flexible working hours in a lot of technology companies in the US.

Anonymous's picture

The individual

I agree that training, etc takes a back seat here, but with the pitiful development budgets that are in play in Australia it's hard to see where the money would come from for company wide individual professional development.

In my own experience, you're expected to come to the table with all the skills you need or learn additional ones on the job (or in your own time). Not ideal, sure, but companies here generally aren't playing with the kind of capital you see overseas.

Anonymous's picture

As a recent Krome employee

As a recent Krome employee with friends affected by this it's a sad thing to see happen.

I'm not saying it was great working there, or that anyone was surprised. But there's a lot of great people that have passed through Krome over the years, some of them still there. Say what you will about Krome, but it helped a lot of people get into the games industry, and gave work to a lot of people when other companies were closing down. It's easy to complain about the people that were problems for the company, and there were many, but there are a lot of awesome people that this affects too. The good news is that all the people at Krome that are truthfully awesome, they will land on their feet, and somewhere better. For the rest, it will be a real learning experience.

It's sad to see the company close down. It's been a great starting point for people to get into the industry. I hope that in the wake of Krome's absence other local studios will start to foster the young talent emerging in Brisbane and Melbourne.

NathanRunge's picture

Unfortunate but not Unexpected

It's a tragedy to see Krome go down, if only for the reason that they employed so many people. As a new entrant into the industry, it has been extraordinarily difficult to find any employment, and Krome was one of the few studios where it was even possible for the inexperienced. I think the problem is far more complex than many here seem to believe. While I would never say I found a game from Krome that was what I might call 'good', I understand the realities that surround development contracts.

It is a shame that management at Krome seemed to act counter-productively, but that's a perspective from the outside that may or may not represent the interior realities. Regardless, it was not simply a matter of 'make better games', over which developers had little direct influence, as much as it was a case of rapid expansion at a poor time and poor management of contracts and development priorities, especially in the case of the Star Wars license. While the economic situation no doubt had influence, this was not a failure caused by economic pressures alone.

I hope the ex-Krome staff can find a place in the new industry structure. Working independently, while potentially profitable, is a huge gamble that rarely pays off - a fact I know first-hand. You do what you have to to feed your loved ones, and yourself. Hopefully other studios will, cautiously, take this opportunity to slightly expand.. the few that are left. As for those entering the industry as I - it may be time to either take the gamble independently or leave either the industry or Australia.

Anonymous's picture

lol

I'd suggest as a new entrant into the industry and particularly as someone who never worked at Krome perhaps you should consider refraining from commenting Krome's management, growth rate, handling of licenses and "development priorities". Why? Because you have absolutely NFI.

I worked there for a long time and not everything was always perfect, but for the vast majority of the time I looked forward to going to work and was inspired by the talent and passion of those around me, they gave me a start in this industry and for that I'm eternally grateful.

Go and have a look worldwide at how many 100% independent game studios exist on the work for hire arrangement and are prospering, you'll find its a pretty short list.

The games industry has changed and you either adapt or you die.

Sad, but the reality of business and a similar story has played out in many other industries over the years.

souri's picture

He's entitled to his opinion

Let's keep this civilised - telling someone to not comment just because they're not from Krome isn't very constructive. He's entitled to his opinion and it certainly falls in line with many of the sentiments made in here and other threads by others including ex-Krome employees.

I don't think the talent at Krome was in question at all - I was looking through some of the portfolio sites of a few ex-Krome employees who were let go in the last round of redundancies, and their personal work is *stunning*. Really great stuff. I know of some talent in this final round of redundancies that have been in the industry for over a decade - other studios would have fought with claw and fist for their skill and experience during the senior staff shortage of a few years ago.

Krome were able to pick and choose some of the great talent from the studios that have closed down or downsized over the last few years. I was talking to an ex-Pandemic developer at Freeplay who remarked that his colleagues were all at Krome. The incredible talent drain from Krome during all their redundancies is undeniable.

What's particularly heartbreaking to hear is some of this talent having to leave the games industry to find jobs in the I.T sector (web design / web development etc) which won't be pushing their real talents and creative capabilities at all, but of course, it sure beats being unemployed.

"The games industry has changed and you either adapt or you die."

I can certainly agree to that.

Anonymous's picture

opinions should be based on experience.

Opinions should be based on actual experience rather than anonymous hearsay.

"Regardless, it was not simply a matter of 'make better games', over which developers had little direct influence, as much as it was a case of rapid expansion at a poor time and poor management of contracts and development priorities, especially in the case of the Star Wars license."

That kind of comment just makes the poster look ignorant.

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