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Microsoft To Close Halo Wars Studio

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the pack-a-bag dept.

Microsoft 77

Shacknews reports that Ensemble Studios, developer of the Age of Empires series, will be shut down by Microsoft Game Studios (MGS) as soon as the upcoming Halo Wars title is complete. Microsoft execs said parts the team would continue to work with MGS. Halo Wars is scheduled for early 2009, and Eurogamer took a look at the Halo-styled RTS game last month.

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Mod submitter troll (5, Informative)

Mr_eX9 (800448) | more than 6 years ago | (#24951933)

Ensemble is not "the Halo Wars Studio." To call them that is an insult to their reputation.

parent post is a troll (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24952165)

Microsoft was just purging its useless-eaters.
We have ways for making people like you disappear also. [youtube.com]

Re:Mod submitter troll (1)

PachmanP (881352) | more than 6 years ago | (#24952895)

I agree. Who cares that "the Halo Wars Studio" is closing? Now tell me that the Age of Empires studio is closing and that is big news and very sad at that! Is anyone going out to create a newer better game studio?

Re:Mod submitter troll (1)

Cheapy (809643) | more than 6 years ago | (#24955463)

I was about to say something along those lines too. Even though HW looks fairly fun, Ensemble will always be remembered to me and a lot of my friends as Age of Empires.

AoE (1)

sky289hawk1 (459600) | more than 6 years ago | (#24951945)

I hear they are breaking off to make Age of Ensemble.

Re:AoE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24952431)

Galaxy of Halo

I'm so rerolling zer... I mean um flood.

Re:AoE (1)

nog_lorp (896553) | more than 6 years ago | (#24956519)

They are going to get one last chance after Halo Wars. And they are going to call it "Final Fantasy" because it may be their last game ever.

Re:AoE (1)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 6 years ago | (#24956629)

Oh gods... Then 20 years from now, we'll be dealing with Androgynous spartans with squeaky voices and planet-killer size guns...

Pussy Nazi Sez (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24952083)

No pussy for YOU!

Re:Pussy Nazi Sez (2, Funny)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 6 years ago | (#24952137)

Pussy Nazi Sez

No pussy for YOU!

Ha, right, because it's sooooo easy to picture you anonymously trolling on Slashdot during orgy breaks.

Re:Pussy Nazi Sez (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24955427)

I doubt you even knew what one looked like until mommy bought you your first computer so I don't know what you're getting on about.

Halo Wars? (4, Funny)

SplinterOfChaos (1330441) | more than 6 years ago | (#24952205)

How could I not have heard of this? This has to be a joke. You can stick ANY genre on Halo and it'll probably sell?

Halo Dating Sim! (You know you want to.)

Re:Halo Wars? (2, Insightful)

SplinterOfChaos (1330441) | more than 6 years ago | (#24952241)

Forgot to mention:
They could have at LEAST spent more than five minutes on the name. Even Halo RTS would be more creative!

Re:Halo Wars? (3, Funny)

sesshomaru (173381) | more than 6 years ago | (#24952363)

Well, I just bought Marvel Trading Card Game for my DS.

Re:Halo Wars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24952823)

why ?

Re:Halo Wars? (1)

sesshomaru (173381) | more than 6 years ago | (#24962485)

It was cheap!

Re:Halo Wars? (4, Funny)

murr (214674) | more than 6 years ago | (#24952409)

The Halos
Sailor Halo
Need for Halo
Super Halo Brothers

Re:Halo Wars? (4, Funny)

SplinterOfChaos (1330441) | more than 6 years ago | (#24952503)

You forget Grand Theft Halo, the controversial halo stealing game.

Halo Kart! (3, Funny)

tepples (727027) | more than 6 years ago | (#24952535)

We could go on all day... [vgboxart.com]

Re:Halo Kart! Well, lordy lordy, and... (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 6 years ago | (#24953431)

HALOllujah!

Re:Halo Kart! (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 6 years ago | (#24969821)

You forgot Horloe, the unconventional game about passing genes from one creature to the next.

Re:Halo Wars? (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 6 years ago | (#24958795)

And Halo: Fit, work out with Master Chief. I don't think anybody mentioned Guitar Halo either.

Re:Halo Wars? (2, Funny)

Eponymous Crowbar (974055) | more than 6 years ago | (#24953377)

If a Halo dating sim seems odd to you, have you seen Cortana or the Admiral's daughter?

Re:Halo Wars? (2, Funny)

SplinterOfChaos (1330441) | more than 6 years ago | (#24961439)

No, it doesn't seem odd. I've even worked out a story: You get drugged by this "friend" of yours and are set up for an experiment that ends up changing your sex and you proceed to get raped a lot in the middle of a futuristic war zone. Cortana makes a guest appearance in the only tentacle rape scene, where a virus has infested her and she's controlling a machine with many, well, tentacles.

Now, I just have to contact a Japanese developer/publisher.

You're doing it wrong... (5, Insightful)

tambo (310170) | more than 6 years ago | (#24952247)

Wow. Just wow.

What manager thought it would be a good idea to announce, before the product shipped, that -

  1. the product will essentially have no support beyond v1.0;
  2. any coding glitches or problems will probably never come back to haunt any of the developers; and
  3. some of the developers will be fired as soon as the product ships?

Doesn't this pretty much guarantee that Halo Wars will be late (delayed by people who don't want to lose their jobs), full of glitches (since devs don't have to worry about the ramifications), and avoided by customers (who will know that the product is DOA?)

I thought this gaffe was only a software engineering myth. I'm gonna have to bookmark this post for future reference :) ...

- David Stein

Re:You're doing it wrong... (5, Informative)

Sparton (1358159) | more than 6 years ago | (#24952529)

Doesn't this pretty much guarantee that Halo Wars will be late (delayed by people who don't want to lose their jobs), full of glitches (since devs don't have to worry about the ramifications), and avoided by customers (who will know that the product is DOA?)

Not quite. From TFA:

Microsoft called the planned closure a "fiscally-rooted" decision, while noting that a core Ensemble team will go on to form a new studio to provide support for Halo Wars and work on fresh projects.

Sounds more like Microsoft just wanted an excuse to get rid of everyone but the best and start anew.

Re:You're doing it wrong... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24956333)

As a software developer, I have a vested interest in the future of the software along with my employer's future, and take pride in the software I develop, knowing that I can expand and improve it.

Knowing that I will have to technically support the software that I am working on, I put all my effort into designing and implementing it with well-structured, documented code, easy to understand error logs and nice safety catches in case of critical errors.

These measures are taken so as to make my own life easier post-release to track down bugs and support issues, and to make it easier on other developers so they can understand my code and won't come back to hassle me with annoying questions.

If I had no future at the company then what incentive is there for me to take these measures? None. I would take the quickest route - including quick-fixes, potentially unreadable (to anyone but myself) code with little-to-no documentation to just get the job done as quickly as possible, get my pay and leave.

Re:You're doing it wrong... (1)

fizban4711 (912975) | about 6 years ago | (#25132753)

to me you sound pretty amateurish. try another profession.

Re:You're doing it wrong... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25138727)

If I had no future at the company then what incentive is there for me to take these measures?

Just to do things Right?

You learn what you do. What do you want to learn?

Re:You're doing it wrong... (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | more than 6 years ago | (#24956775)

Wow, bummer. Guess the penthouse offices and separate elevator were getting too pricey? I'd like to know how many of the true "core" ensemble employees they keep, and how many actually go off to a new venture.

Re:You're doing it wrong... (2, Funny)

deniable (76198) | more than 6 years ago | (#24958835)

'a "fiscally-rooted" decision' has a different meaning in Oz.

Re:You're doing it wrong... (1)

Minwee (522556) | more than 6 years ago | (#24959823)

Sounds more like Microsoft just wanted an excuse to get rid of everyone but the best and start anew.

Just think of it as a morale building exercise, and try not to consider that more than half of you will have pink slips waiting on your desks when this meeting is over.

Re:You're doing it wrong... (1)

Taulin (569009) | more than 6 years ago | (#24960121)

It still leaves an uneasy feeling for everyone involved in the making of the game. However, if you are in the gaming business as an employee, you should accept it as a salary paid contract job since it is heavily project based. While it is common sense, and a common practice, to strip teams after a game is done now-a-days, they were still dumb to announce it.

Re:You're doing it wrong... (1)

SplinterOfChaos (1330441) | more than 6 years ago | (#24952577)

You just know a product is doomed when it's the last thing those people will ever make, right? Even so, won't the job of the publisher to be to whip the employees into shape, needless of how cruel this is? And might MS provide some sort of continued support, a feature which is pretty dam standard anymore?

Re:You're doing it wrong... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24952579)

RTFA

From article:

"Following the closure, the Ensemble leadership team will form a new entity and have agreed to partner with Microsoft to develop future products and provide support for Halo Wars post launch."

The article has additional information about the restructuring of the team.

Re:You're doing it wrong... (1)

Higaran (835598) | more than 6 years ago | (#24952609)

It shouldn't glitch that much, it is only going to be a 360 game, from what it looks like it's proably not even that taxing on the 360 cpu/gpu wise. The biggest buyss will be the mp cheating/balancing issues, and they will release at least one patch for that.

MS Killing Off Xbox? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24952625)

It is hard to believe that Microsoft is doing anything other than killing off the Xbox one piece at a time.

They let their one big developer Bungie leave to go work on multiplatform titles.
The let Bizzare and Bioware leave exclusive Xbox development.
They've shutdown other minor firstparty exclusive Xbox developers over the past year or two.
Tecmo appears to be going full multiplatform now that Itagaki is gone.

That leaves Microsoft with just Rare, Lionhead, and Turn 10. Maybe one more.

Compare that to Nintendo who has 10 first party studios.
And even worse to Sony who now has 20 or so first party studios.

It should be obvious why Microsoft has had virtually nothing new to show at game conferences over the past year. Getting 360 ports of PC games isn't going to do anything in the console market - especially now that even mid range PC graphics are far beyond 360 game levels.

Perhaps Microsoft has finally decided they need to stop wasting their time in the console market and will start to turn their attention back to PC gaming.

Re:MS Killing Off Xbox? (3, Funny)

xhrit (915936) | more than 6 years ago | (#24952769)

>Perhaps Microsoft has finally decided they need to stop wasting their time in the console market and will start to turn their attention back to making keyboards and mice.

Fixed that for you.

Re:MS Killing Off Xbox? I always did call that (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 6 years ago | (#24954079)

thing the "HexBox"/"HexedBox"...

Re:MS Killing Off Xbox? (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 6 years ago | (#24969911)

I used to think Microsoft made fantastic mice.

But then I got a mouse that exhibited all the classic Windows "features."

When I first got my Microsoft Habu, it worked great. It was fast, accurate and it was reliable.

Then something happened. It started getting less reliable and randomly disconnecting/connecting to the computer. Which is extremely annoying when you're playing a team-based FPS like Quake Wars.

And finally, it just stopped working.. completely.

After that I bought a Logitech G9, very nice mouse and reliable.

I've sworn off their software earlier but now I won't buy any Microsoft products at all.

Looks like I dodged another MS bullet by not buying an Xbox360 as well.

Re:MS Killing Off Xbox? (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 6 years ago | (#24970401)

Oh and I should point out... the issue is common with the Habu mice. If you google it, you'll find quite a few posts on the subject.

Re:MS Killing Off Xbox? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24953289)

It is hard to imagine any reason for Microsoft to continue on with the Xbox fiasco.

1. The 360 is selling just as poorly worldwide as the first Xbox. Maybe the 360 will outsell the Xbox by a few million if Microsoft doesn't pull the plug on the console before 2010.

2. Most of the big exclusives for the 360 have much better PC version with superior graphics, mods, and no online charges

3. Xbox owners are sick of the shitty hardware with huge numbers saying they will never buy another Microsoft console again after going through 3,4,5 defective 360s

4. The 360 did absolutely nothing to derail BluRay and now really serves no strategic purpose other in some vague hand waving 'own the living room' way

5. The same 140 million PS2 owners and 23 million GameCube owners from last gen continue to have no interest at all in anything Xbox this gen

The only people who seem to be buying 360s now are existing 360 owners looking for a console that will finally not RRoD on them.

Re:MS Killing Off Xbox? (2, Insightful)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 6 years ago | (#24959785)

The 360 is still ahead of the PS3 and since both MS and Sony have managed to convince themselves into believing that Nintendo is in a completely different market they'll think they won. Both MS and Sony will probably keep this futile battle up because they dream of being able to tie all kinds of extra services into their console to make more and more money. Meanwhile Nintendo is pulling out the market from under them but hey, that fad is going to end any day and people will go back to their same-thing-with-better-graphics consoles, right?

Re:MS Killing Off Xbox? (5, Informative)

dhavleak (912889) | more than 6 years ago | (#24953667)

Dude, your post makes no sense. Why would MS want to stunt the xbox?

They let their one big developer Bungie leave to go work on multiplatform titles.

Bungie wanted to leave. MS allowed them to, kept the rights to Halo, and first right of refusal to Bungee games. It's better this way (for the xbox) -- Bungie remains a happy studio, and they make games for the xbox. The other way around, Bungie employees get pissed and leave, and MS is left with the skeleton.

The let Bizzare and Bioware leave exclusive Xbox development.

They don't get to choose this. Blizzard and Bioware can do whatever they want. MS and Sony usually pay huge sums of money for exclusive titles (on a per-title basis). More and more, they're both deciding it isn't worth it. Everybody wins this way of course -- 'cos more games are available on both platforms. If fact, MS is probably wagering that the Xbox live experience is the differentiator that makes people choose to buy non-exclusive titles on an xbox instead of a ps3. Either way, they've done the math and decided most exclusives aren't worth the price. They still do have exclusive titles when they are important enough (for example, Gears of War II).

They've shutdown other minor firstparty exclusive Xbox developers over the past year or two.

Sources? Anything??

Tecmo appears to be going full multiplatform now that Itagaki is gone.

Repeat after me: MS does not control independant studios, and this is Good Thing anyway.

That leaves Microsoft with just Rare, Lionhead, and Turn 10. Maybe one more. Compare that to Nintendo who has 10 first party studios. And even worse to Sony who now has 20 or so first party studios.

What's the point of having 20 first party studios if you don't even have 20 total games that are worth playing? I just don't understand your point. Are you trying to say there's a dearts of good titles for the Xbox? I hope you realize how ridiculous that sounds.

It should be obvious why Microsoft has had virtually nothing new to show at game conferences over the past year. Getting 360 ports of PC games isn't going to do anything in the console market - especially now that even mid range PC graphics are far beyond 360 game levels.

??

Remember that the xbox GPU is more powerful than the PS3 CPU. See here for details [ign.com] . It's normal for GPUs in the market to outstrip console GPU performance mid-way through the life of a console. You're trying to make some convoluted argument to support your statement about MS trying to kill the 360, but you're not making much sense.

btw: The new xbox dashboard, netflix "watch it now", gears of war II. Nothing new to show at game conferences over the past year?? There's more, but your claim isn't worth responding to.

Perhaps Microsoft has finally decided they need to stop wasting their time in the console market and will start to turn their attention back to PC gaming.

Do you actually beleive what you just wrote? Look, at this point, I assume you're a PS3 fanboi. That's fine. Why can't you just enjoy your PS3 without dissing the 360? Think about it -- without stiff competition from the xbox, the PS3 itself wouldn't be as awesome as it is. And remember that MS's efforts have brought us the Halo series, GoW, Xbox live. By what yardstick do you think they are wasting their time??

Re:MS Killing Off Xbox? (-1, Troll)

Rachman (1358849) | more than 6 years ago | (#24953931)

"Remember that the xbox GPU is more powerful than the PS3 CPU"

LOL!

Let me guess...years ago you sat around in forums like this one spouting similar delusional fanboy crap about how 'teh Dreamcast is more powerful than teh PS2'

The botched 360 graphics hardware design is the single dumbest effort by a console manufacturer. Only a company like Microsoft could come up with graphics hardware based around 10 megs of EDRAM that is too small for 720p games but instead perfect for 480p. What. The. Fuck. were the idiots thinking when they came up with that retarded design.

The 360 is the first console ever to have graphics hardware so weak that it is almost three years into the console's life and the 'big graphical showpiece' for the 360 is running on the shitty and outdated Unreal Engine 3?

Although it is fitting that the botched and wimpy graphics hardware that is really a last gen 480p system has a smaller than last gen storage format with the 7 gig DVDs compared to the 8.5 gig DVDs the PS2 and Xbox had.

Re:MS Killing Off Xbox? (1)

slime73 (1083393) | more than 6 years ago | (#24955489)

UE3 is shitty and outdated? What are you smoking? The first Gears of War ran on UE3, and it still looks beautiful. More recent games that use it look even better.

Re:MS Killing Off Xbox? (0, Troll)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 6 years ago | (#24957667)

UE3 is already looking aged on that other platform, compared to native games.

Compare Drake's Fortune or Ratchet & Clank or the new Resistance 2 or Motorstorm against what the UE3 engine looks like on either platform and you'll understand.

Its not 'bad' per se, but its certainly not remarkable compared to the native engines made for the PS3.

Re:MS Killing Off Xbox? (3, Interesting)

InsaneGeek (175763) | more than 6 years ago | (#24956149)

This of course would be the reason why often when looking at game available on both platforms the Xbox native game resolution is higher than the PS3... if the Xbox 360 can handle a higher resolution, what does that tell me about the PS3 and how they could have (in your words) "graphics hardware so weak" they can't even keep up with the Xbox?

i.e. pretty much biggest cross platform game released recently: GTA4 native res: Xbox 360=720p, PS3=630P

Re:MS Killing Off Xbox? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24956437)

LOL! Look at this clown's post history!

What a fucking loser.

Re:MS Killing Off Xbox? (1)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 6 years ago | (#24957689)

Never did figure out what they were smoking when they made GTA4 -- the textures look better on the PS3 despite being at a lower native resolution. Weird huh?

At any rate this isn't true of any other games to my knowledge -- Burnout Paradise for example (which recently had its PS3 graphics output updated to include true native 1080i and 480p support).

Native rendered games on the PS3 run at much higher visual quality than anything I've seen on the 360 so far, and I'd rather compare native to native if you don't mind -- one platform's jewels to another's. Ports are just ports.

Re:MS Killing Off Xbox? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24975901)

GTA4 on PS3 works in full HD 1920x1080 - check the back of the GTA4 Bluray box. You just have to change graphisc settings on PS3 - done it myself. Why didn't Rockstar set it as default settings ?
They probably found some perfomance isues.

Re:MS Killing Off Xbox? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24956379)

Mostly by the yardstick that measures things like them bringing us the Halo series and Xbox Live (can't speak to GoW, they may not be completely wasting their time).

There needs to be a law that before anyone can comment on Halo they need to play through the Marathon series first (preferably Pathways into Darkness as well).

Re:MS Killing Off Xbox? (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 6 years ago | (#24958621)

> They don't get to choose this. Blizzard and Bioware can do whatever they wan

Bizzare Creations, NOT Blizzard.

Re:MS Killing Off Xbox? (1)

dhavleak (912889) | more than 6 years ago | (#24958995)

My bad - Bizarre Creations. Of course, the point still stands. Bizarre is owned by Activision. The only thing MS or Sony can do to get exclusive titles from them is to either throw cash at them, or produce the title themselves (like how MS is the producer for GoW and EA Games is the developer). In general, it costs money to get exclusive titles and depending on what's coming down the pipeline, sometimes it just might not be worth it..

Re:MS Killing Off Xbox? (1)

xhrit (915936) | more than 6 years ago | (#24969463)

More like, MS is wagering that the Xbox live experience makes people choose to pay for something they get for free on the ps3.

Re:You're doing it wrong... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24952765)

- the product will essentially have no support beyond v1.0;
- any coding glitches or problems will probably never come back to haunt any of the developers; and
- some of the developers will be fired as soon as the product ships?

Dude, it's a Microsoft product. Who'll notice?

But more to the point it's Halo. While I'd agree with you for a normal product from a normal company, I can't imagine this'll have any impact on this game's sales.

And for a product like this from a large studio, the dev team isn't who'll be handling post-release troubles. The creatives would be completely involved in the next project by then. The people who will be cleaning up Halo Wars will be the same people who would be cleaning it up anyways.

This is a restructuring, not an orphaning.

Re:You're doing it wrong... (1)

philspear (1142299) | more than 6 years ago | (#24952791)

Maybe it was the manager who found out the programmers were sleeping with his wife?

Re:You're doing it wrong... (1)

UltraAyla (828879) | more than 6 years ago | (#24953021)

From the shacknews article above:

Microsoft called the planned closure a "fiscally-rooted" decision, while noting that a core Ensemble team will go on to form a new studio to provide support for Halo Wars and work on fresh projects.

Though not all employees will be transferred to the new studio, Microsoft plans to find other jobs for as many workers as possible.

They have a full release from Microsoft there too. I thought your post made good points until I read that so you might like that info too.

Re:You're doing it wrong... (1)

hoofinasia (1234460) | more than 6 years ago | (#24953085)

Well, yes and no.

Yes: what you say is probably true in effect.

No: They claim to retain most of the personell and promise ongoing support for products (in the actual M$ statement)

from the article: "Microsoft has decided to close Ensemble Studios following the completion of Halo Wars. After the closure, the Ensemble leadership team will form a new studio and has agreed to provide ongoing support for Halo Wars as well as work on other projects with Microsoft Game Studios. "

I realize the trustworthiness (truthiness?) of that statement is suspect, but it doesn't promise a DOA product, in the least.

Re:You're doing it wrong... (1)

MistrBlank (1183469) | more than 6 years ago | (#24960887)

Wow. Just wow.

What manager thought it would be a good idea to announce, before the product shipped, that -

  1. the product will essentially have no support beyond v1.0;

You don't know that, maybe they're planning on open sourcing it after release..... Oh, right. Microsoft. Nevermind, the game will suck.

Re:You're doing it wrong... (1)

Reapy (688651) | more than 6 years ago | (#24961519)

Either way, if I was working there, if they didn't guarantee me a continued job, in writing, I'd be sending my resume out to other companies, and pretty much half assing any work I did on halo wars. I mean, you would be insane not to, right?

Too soon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24952297)

I'm sad to see them go. Age of Empires 2 was a great game. I still load it up from time to time. They had plans to make an AoE 4, but I guess we won't be seeing that.

Re:Too soon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25133103)

Yeah true. Sad to see them go. I still play AoE2.

I played Age of Empires (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24952353)

I played Age of Empires and I do not know anything about why Microsoft made this decision but I am going to jump to conclusions, beat up a strawman, refer to some irrelevant anecdotes, and pass off idle speculation as fact, because I am a shitheaded Slashtard. Copyright theft is not piracy.

Re:I played Age of Empires (1)

NuclearError (1256172) | more than 6 years ago | (#24952927)

Have some whine to go with that red herring.

Suggestion (2, Funny)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 6 years ago | (#24952839)

They need to make a game actually called Red Ring [today.com] , to follow up their earlier hit Blue Screen [uncyclopedia.org] .

Duke Nukem Forever? (1)

Dancindan84 (1056246) | more than 6 years ago | (#24953271)

We're closing the studio as soon as this game is done. Try to reach the deadline please.

Executive logic continues to elude me.

That's not the real story here (1)

Caboosian (1096069) | more than 6 years ago | (#24953325)

The bigger news is the status of Microsoft Game Studios. 1st party titles make the console, more or less. Online is pretty important, sure, and the aesthetics have something to do with it, I guess, but gamers aren't (complete) idiots. That's right, we're devoted fanboys. So let's be clear - nothing makes a console more attractive than a strong, non-multiplatform game. Like MGS? Sony has a console they'd like to sell you. Halo fan? Microsoft looks pretty nice, eh?

Well, the problem with this news isn't that Ensemble (one of my favorite RTS devs) is closing down - that's a damn shame, sure, but the real news is that Microsoft has lost yet another 1st party game developer. Bungie? Gone. Bizarre Creations (Project Gotham Racing)? Toodleloo! Now, Ensemble no longer exists. What studios does MS have left? Where is the appeal? Exactly what in the hell is happening over at MGS?

To me, it seems like MGS is getting bit in the ass by their rather authoritarian style of management. MS has been notorious (in the past few years) for pushing unfinished games out the door, delaying games so it can be released on a better schedule for them, and basically pushing around their own dev teams. Bungie (quite literally the entire studio) threatened resignation if they were not given independence (looking at Halo 2/3, it's obvious to see why their so jaded towards MGS). Hell, even after Bungie became independent, they're still being forced around by MS (see: recent Bungie announcement cancellation). It seems to me that the creative types are getting sick of the MS abuse. Maybe this is just wild speculation, but knowing how MS operates, it all seems to line up in my head. Time will tell.

Re:That's not the real story here (2, Interesting)

Dutch Gun (899105) | more than 6 years ago | (#24956721)

You're correct. MS just doesn't have the corporate mentality to make games. I know some pretty bright and creative people in Microsoft's internal game division that have long since fled. I've had dealings with them as a 3rd party studio. They can be a great publisher (you really just need a lot of money for that, and a willingness to go the distance to make a great product), so long as they stay far, far away from any sort of decision making about the game design itself. But unless the studio has quite a bit of clout, that's not going to happen.

The problem, it's far too irresistible for manager-types to stick their finger in the creative pie of game design. Frankly, nearly everyone *wants* to design games at some level, but not everyone is really cut out for it. I've seen time and time again "helpful" suggestions by publisher's producers that did nothing but waste developer time and throw the project off track. BTW, this isn't necessarily an exclusive problem with MS - I've seen it with other publishers too. But this seems to happen pretty consistently when Microsoft is involved.

It's an eye-opening experience when you listen to internal meetings about how product managers and producers display an amazing arrogance regarding the product. They'll think nothing of belittling the developers (the guys who actually did the damn work on the game), all the while praising Microsoft's effort to "kick ass" and get the product out on time, or nonsense to that effect, ignoring the price damn near paid in human sacrifices by the actual developers in order to meet their timetables. Interestingly enough, I noticed this during the "Age of Empire" days. I'd be surprised if it's improved much since then.

In most cases (although admittedly not all), great games are created from the vision of a single creative director. In the movie business, this is the Director. The power of the Lead Designer varies from studio to studio. In my opinion, giving the designers a largely free hand to implement their vision means the best chance of success for a game. Nothing is bulletproof, of course (Daikatana anyone?), but having producers making game-related decisions seems to be a recipe for mediocrity at best, disaster at worst. Too bad about what's happening at Ensemble... I wouldn't be too surprised if managerial interference is running pretty high for them these days.

Bad title on /. (2, Insightful)

atari2600 (545988) | more than 6 years ago | (#24954253)

Microsoft now says that it will shut down developer Ensemble Studios (Age of Empires) following the end of work on the company's upcoming RTS Halo Wars.

People use AoE as a generic term but there were several releases of which I loved AoE, AoE2: The Rise of Kings and Age of Mythology. AoM was one of the best selling RTSes for a good time (and so were the AoE* titles).

It's a shame that the staff is mostly being let go. Who's next? Bungie?

Re:Bad title on /. (1)

Rebelgecko (893016) | more than 6 years ago | (#24955193)

Bungie left Microsoft about a year ago to become an independent studio again, fortunately.

FASA Ensemble Bungie Hired Gun (2, Interesting)

e03179 (578506) | more than 6 years ago | (#24955231)

Studios that have recently left Microsoft for one reason or another in the last 12 months:

FASA (Shadowrun, Crimson Skies, Mech Warrior, Mech Commander)
Bungie (H A L O, Marathon)
Ensemble (Halo Wars, Age of Empires, Age of Mythology)
Hired Gun (Halo 2 Vista)

Any others?

Re:FASA Ensemble Bungie Hired Gun (1)

Khakionion (544166) | more than 6 years ago | (#24955715)

>H A L O

Hi, you misspelled Halo. Not sure why.

Re:FASA Ensemble Bungie Hired Gun (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25131293)

WHAT? Closing Ensemble? Noooooooo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24955413)

Maybe AOE3 less so, but Age of Empires 1 and 2 were great. Just because a studio focused on RTSs doesn't seem to fit in so well with the Xbox-focused future... That means Microsoft really doesn't have any studios left?

They should really do something else with Ensemble aside from sell them. Actually, Microsoft still has Big Huge Games? *checks* Nope, they're under THQ now...

RIP Ensemble-you are a friend of mine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24955669)

a buddy of mine is part of that team.
sucky part is that they did some crap stuff to the team along with announcing the closure.
besides the fact that they are forced to work on the game until it ships, they are still uber proud of the product. but the bit 'm' did them wrong in how they shut down the studio. good ol micro-s, what will you ruin next.

No MS RTS? (1)

marcovje (205102) | about 6 years ago | (#25133387)

Sounds to me more that they are shutting down typical PC gaming like some forms of RTS, and aiming for a more consoleable kind of games.

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