Adelaide's largest ever games developer, Ratbag Games, was unceremonously shut down by Midway before Christmas in 2005, and we haven't heard much from former Ratbag Games CEO, Greg Siegele, since. That is, until now.
Conducted by Patrick Budmar and published over at goodgearguide.com.au, Siegele talks about the formation of Ratbag Games and how a small ragtag bunch of university students created a break out hit title in the late 90's called Powerslide for just $2 million. "Essentially, we were the vapourware studio from hell", explains Siegele. Through some long negotiations with GT Interactive and ten months of intense development, Powerslide was released to garner many accolades and awards, particularly for its technical accomplishments.
A whole lot was not known about the publisher/studio relation side of Ratbag, and it's here where Siegele really opens up, revealing some of the pressure and even underhanded publisher tactics that his studio had to endure. It also shows how much studios like Ratbag Games were dependent and reliant on publishers during the height of work-for-hire in mid-2005. From long contract negotiations, GT Interactive pulling out of their $8 million budget project, financial distress from the loss two Sony contracts, the acquisition and closure by Midway, it's all there...
(Siegele) The closure of our studio was brutal. It is devastating to have something you have spent 12 years building trashed in two days. 75 staff also lost their jobs. Fortunately, Ratbag had a good reputation and the next week companies flew in from around Australia and overseas to interview our staff, and within two weeks almost everyone had multiple job offers. When you sell your business, you give up control over decision making.
A whole lot has changed since Ratbag Games had closed up. When asked about the current state of games development, Siegle was amazed at what was possible now with small teams and zero budget from what he saw during his time at a Global Game Jam event a few weeks ago...
(Siegele) It is a great time for innovation, too. Developers who fund these small projects themselves can do rapid prototyping, iterating their game over and over. They can even release a small chunk of it, get feedback from the consumers and build this in to their next release. In the 90s, we'd design the game, get a contract from the publisher and then you were stuck to delivering what was in the contract for each milestone. That is not how creativity works.
A fantastic interview. Head on over to goodgearguide.com.au for the full article!!