The Ur-Quan Masters Discussion Forum

The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release => General UQM Discussion => Topic started by: Fluffy the bunny on May 03, 2005, 08:25:52 pm



Title: Toys for Bob sold to Activision
Post by: Fluffy the bunny on May 03, 2005, 08:25:52 pm
I found this press-release at Gamesindustry.biz:

----
SANTA MONICA, Calif., May 3, 2005: Further enhancing its internal development capabilities, Activision, Inc. (Nasdaq: ATVI) today announced that it has acquired game developer Toys For Bob. As a result of the acquisition, Activision now has approximately 1,000 employees in its studio operations.

Activision has worked with Toys For Bob since 2002. Most recently the companies have worked together on the upcoming children's game Madagascar, which is based on DreamWorks Animation's feature film. The game is slated to ship this month timed to the movie's release. Toys For Bob is currently in pre-production on an as-yet unannounced Activision title which is expected to be released in FY 2007.

"Toys For Bob's talented team, led by proven management, will further expand our leading development resources," said Kathy Vrabeck, president of Activision Publishing. "The studio's high quality animation and design capabilities will enable us to develop innovative new games for the console platforms."

"We couldn't be more excited about Activision's acquisition of Toys For Bob, which will allow us to focus on what we love and do best -- create great games," added Paul Reiche III, president of Toys For Bob. "We have worked exclusively with Activision for the past three years, so we know the people, the products and the company's intentions quite well, all of which are entirely compatible with our own team and vision."

Under the terms of the agreement, Toys For Bob has become a wholly owned subsidiary of Activision and the company's management team and key employees have signed long-term employment contracts with Activision. The 27 person team will continue to be based in Novato, CA.

Founded in 1989, Toys For Bob is best known for developing the popular space action adventure games Star Control and Star Control II which were published by Accolade. From 1993 to 2002, the studio worked exclusively with Crystal Dynamics.

Headquartered in Santa Monica, California, Activision, Inc. is a leading worldwide developer, publisher and distributor of interactive entertainment and leisure products. Founded in 1979, Activision posted net revenues of $948 million for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2004.

-----

You can find it here:
http://www.gamesindustry.biz/press_release.php?aid=8405


So, does anyone have any idea of how this might affect the future of Star Control? I've been hoping for a new SC game for ages.


Title: What it could mean.
Post by: Deus Siddis on May 03, 2005, 09:30:32 pm
Well this could mean good or bad things for both TFB and Starcontrol.

For TFB, it might mean that activision will put them on a short leash and have them release more children's cartoon animal crap. Since TFB is now solely under the thumb of Activision, they would not be able to resist this very easily and would just have to put out whatever shit Activision tells them to.

On the Upside, Activision probably didn't purchase TFB because they needed more workers (TFB is just too small to be worth it in that respect.) They probably realized that TFB was a profitable company when left to its own devices, and just want to get some profit off of their work. This could be greatly beneficial, as TFB will now have some powerful backing, and could do things that they previously could not afford to do (like buy the remaining rights to starcontrol.)

So, if they are put on cartoon animal duty by activision, that will be bad for anyone who wants a new starcontrol game. But, if TFB/Actvision thought that a new sequel/prequel/remake of the starcontrol line would be profitably enough in today's market, then this will be a very good thing.

The real question is, could a starcontrol game be a hit today, against the masses' obsession with FPS and online RPG games? Obviously, the people who visit this forum are NOT going to be enough of a customer base. The game would bring some fans out of the shadows, but it would also have to be attractive to a larger audience. So, if they did another SC game, it might not be something that we would like. It might be nearly 100% action oriented, or it might be Starcontrol meets the Care Bears.


Title: Re: Toys for Bob sold to Activision
Post by: meep-eep on May 04, 2005, 05:32:59 am
The original press release can be found here (http://investor.activision.com/ReleaseDetail.cfm?ReleaseID=162205). The Toys For Bob website (http://www.toysforbob.com) also makes mention of this change, and refers you to this GamaSutra page (http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=5415).

I've also sent an email to Paul, asking for some more info. With his permission, I'll share with you what he has to say here.


Title: Re: Toys for Bob sold to Activision
Post by: Halleck on May 04, 2005, 05:44:56 am
Good for them! ;D

As for us fans... I think we can expect more kiddie games for quite some time. Quality kiddie games, though.

EDIT: Also, here is a handy link to the TFB news feed (http://www.toysforbob.com/database/news.txt) for those without a flash plugin.


Title: Re: Toys for Bob sold to Activision
Post by: Strange_Will on May 04, 2005, 07:55:33 pm
If TFB creates another SC I will worship them....

And cream my pants...


Title: Re: Toys for Bob sold to Activision
Post by: Mormont on May 04, 2005, 11:06:43 pm
What was the last good game Activision made? Call of Duty and Total War were published by them .


Title: Re: Toys for Bob sold to Activision
Post by: harth1026 on May 05, 2005, 01:03:29 am
That would be interesting...  Star Control: Total War.


Title: Re: Toys for Bob sold to Activision
Post by: michael on May 05, 2005, 01:19:48 am
Quote
That would be interesting...  Star Control: Total War.
that would be great
;D


Title: Re: Toys for Bob sold to Activision
Post by: InflatableBeerTent on May 05, 2005, 02:41:13 am
Star Control 4: Ur-Quan Return?
Maybe something 3D and like Freelancer, that would be very cool.


Title: Re: Toys for Bob sold to Activision
Post by: Art on May 06, 2005, 11:25:58 pm
A while ago Activision was in a remake frenzy, making new versions of all kinds of games they owned the rights to. It started with their making modern sequels to Infocom's Zork series -- anyone remember Return to Zork, Zork: Nemesis, and Zork: Grand Inquisitor? Then they made those Battlezone and Asteroids games.

To be honest it didn't turn out that well for them, but they seemed really enthusiastic about the idea of cashing in on old fan nostalgia -- even when it wasn't big names they were cashing in on. (Asteroids yes, Battlezone and Zork definitely not.) So maybe we should see this as hopeful.


Title: Re: Toys for Bob sold to Activision
Post by: Pik on May 07, 2005, 02:45:04 am
I find it funny that the games Toys for Bob are known for is the Star Control series (about 13 years old) and Archon (which is as old as Pac Man). I suppose it would be like investing in company to make a new gaming console today and put that money in Atari because "they were well known for their 2600 decades ago". I wonder why Toys For Bob's games never caught on like Star Control did. (Some do have minor cults around and a couple of Toys for Bob games are at Underdogs website.)

Maybe there was past problems with Crystal Dynamics (of them saying release when the game wasn't fully done)? I hope Activision gives Toys for Bob the time and room to make good games.


Title: Re: Toys for Bob sold to Activision
Post by: Culture20 on May 07, 2005, 10:12:51 am
Quote
A while ago Activision was in a remake frenzy, making new versions of all kinds of games they owned the rights to. It started with their making modern sequels to Infocom's Zork series -- anyone remember Return to Zork, Zork: Nemesis, and Zork: Grand Inquisitor?
R2Z, Bad.  Z:N, much closer to the original themes, although a little dark.  Never played Z:GI.  Loved Zorks 1-3,0 & Beyond

Quote
it wasn't big names they were cashing in on. ...Zork definitely not.).
What!?  Infocom Zork games were on computer game shelves for years.  <heresy>The lands of Frobozz, Quendor, and Pheebor are better known than the race of Ur-Quan.</heresy>

Edit: a little non-authoritative polling via google:  Ur-Quan gets ~13,000 pages found, Frobozz ~16,000.  So, relative to other more popular search strings, they're about even.


Title: Re: Toys for Bob sold to Activision
Post by: Art on May 07, 2005, 10:39:04 am
Okay, it's off topic, but I'm going to argue with you about Star Control vs. Zork as a property. The actual *fans* of either are few and far between, but I know more rabid fans of the former than of the latter. The latter is more well-known, but... it's almost always referenced as an example of the old-school origins of gaming rather than a gaming phenomenon in and of itself. There are Zork *fans* out there (I'm one of them) but I think they're far fewer and farther between than SC2 fans. It'd be like the difference between, today, trying to do a remake of an older sci-fi film like _The Forbidden Planet_ and trying to do a remake of *really* old pulp sci-fi novels like the Doc Savage series, even though in their era Doc Savage's popularity far surpassed the popularity of _The Forbidden Planet_. People just don't think of them in the same category.

And, FWIW (and going really OT)... the *original*, the Zork Trilogy, barely had any "themes". It definitely had a tone, and I agree that Zork: Nemesis was closer to the Zork Trilogy in tone than Return to Zork or Zork: Grand Inquisitor, but Zork: Nemesis had ten thousand times more of a theme and a story than the Zork Trilogy. It was a great game on its own merits, not because it had the name "Zork" on it.

The problem is that nearly everything else associated with Zork, from Enchanter onwards, developed a radically *different* tone -- less a gritty crawl through an underground labyrinth riddled with bizarre dangers, more a romp through a humor-(and-pun)-filled wonderland filled with bizarre... bizarreness -- and Return to Zork and Zork: Grand Inquisitor both fit that fairly well. Return to Zork just suffers from being an incredibly poorly implemented game.

Really, if they wanted to revive the Zork name they should have done what they did with Zork: Nemesis -- do real, gritty, interesting dark fantasy with some Zork "brand names" like Frobozz and whatnot thrown in -- and not sweated actually making the Zork games fit into a coherent universe. In fact Zork started getting dumb with the concept of the Encyclopedia Frobozzica and the attempt to make some sort of fantasy chronology out of the Zork games.

Yanking back on topic: I think TFB would succeed most today if they were to develop a new, SC2-*like* game, but one that was different, interesting, made good use of current technology and didn't expect you to have played the old SC games to understand the plot. That's what made Zork Nemesis great -- there were in-jokes to please the fans, and the use of the Zork name drew the fans in, but there was a great game that stood on its own behind it. Zork: Grand Inquisitor was a lot of fun because it stood so squarely within the old Zork universe and tried to be a real sequel to Beyond Zork, but that's why its sales failed and ended the run of Activision Zork games -- a game that's pure fanservice is gonna fail because even the most legendary old games only have so many hardcore fans.


Title: Re: Toys for Bob sold to Activision
Post by: Culture20 on May 07, 2005, 10:50:02 am
Touche.   :P
Hmm, a game that doesn't require you to have played SC2;  Theoretically, an Activision SC3 could include UQM w/o any problems.   ::)


Title: Re: Toys for Bob sold to Activision
Post by: Deus Siddis on May 07, 2005, 11:17:33 am
An interesting idea, but most modern new players will find UQM to look too primitive in the graphics department (let alone it's 2D).

But, I'm sure they can continue the SC line, while making a game that new players can pick up. Maybe it could even start with the original SC2 campaign and progress the plot past it's climax.


Title: Re: Toys for Bob sold to Activision
Post by: Art on May 08, 2005, 07:00:26 am
Well, 3DRealms/Apogee did that with Duke Nukem 3D -- they included Duke Nukem I and II on the DN3D discs for anyone who'd missed the originals and wanted to know what the plot was. But, of course, DN3D both came out relatively soon after DN2 and was only very weakly dependent on the first two games for its plot. Certainly not to the degree that a straight SC sequel would be dependent on SC2 for its plot.


Title: Re: Toys for Bob sold to Activision
Post by: Deus Siddis on May 08, 2005, 07:11:48 am
I disagree, I think a good writer could make a new SC game that was both true to the first two, and could be picked up by new players.

I picked up the plot of halo 2, without playing the original. Of course, I had played through starcraft, so I already knew what was going to happen.  ;)


Title: Re: Toys for Bob sold to Activision
Post by: Pik on May 08, 2005, 11:00:14 am
I would be quite satisfied of Toys for Bob making a cross genre game like Star Control 1 and Star Control 2 outside the star control universe. (don't get me started on the unholy finish of the unholy war, something with that title was released too fast).

I am not annoyed that there is no sequel to the Urqan Masters. What I am annoyed is that there is nothing similiar in gameplay to SC 2 or even SC 1.

Every game nowdays has to be a 'rpg' or 'fps' or 'strategy' or 'action. To heck with that! Give me a unique blend that SC 1 or SC 2 did and I'll be happy.

Toys For Bob, please make another adventure/action game! Or how about an adventure/x-com/action game? Or even a bomberman type/adventure game? Anything that doesn't fit the "traditional mode". Last thing the industry needs are 'pure' fps/rpg/strategy/action games, as we're flooded with them already.


Title: Re: Toys for Bob sold to Activision
Post by: Deus Siddis on May 08, 2005, 11:49:44 pm
I bet there is a 50% chance that TFB will create a new SC game. That's not a similar game, I mean one that IS a SC game.

Battlezone 2 was a nice blend of Action/RTS.


Title: Re: Toys for Bob sold to Activision
Post by: Fwiffo on May 09, 2005, 06:33:21 pm
How can you "bet" there is a 50% chance of something?

-fwiffo


Title: Re: Toys for Bob sold to Activision
Post by: Almo on May 09, 2005, 06:49:26 pm
Quote
Star Control 4: Ur-Quan Return?
Maybe something 3D and like Freelancer, that would be very cool.


I disagree. There are tons of those games. I want more 2D space combat. The map, travel, and all that can be 3D, and probably should be. But the combat needs to remain true.


Title: Re: Toys for Bob sold to Activision
Post by: Deus Siddis on May 10, 2005, 02:05:27 am
"How can you "bet" there is a 50% chance of something?"

Easy, you just say "I bet $(blank) that there is a 50% chance a new SC game will come out.  ;)


"I want more 2D space combat. The map, travel, and all that can be 3D, and probably should be. But the combat needs to remain true."

You want everything to be 3D, EXCEPT for combat?


Title: Re: Toys for Bob sold to Activision
Post by: Fwiffo on May 10, 2005, 09:41:10 pm
Quote
"How can you "bet" there is a 50% chance of something?"

Easy, you just say "I bet $(blank) that there is a 50% chance a new SC game will come out.  ;)


And how would you determine if you had won or not as both you and whoever you bet against would have an equal case for victory?

As much as I would love to see it, i think a TFB sequel is pretty unlikely.


Title: Re: Toys for Bob sold to Activision
Post by: Deus Siddis on May 10, 2005, 10:36:31 pm
"And how would you determine if you had won or not as both you and whoever you bet against would have an equal case for victory?"

Neither of us would win, but I am horribly unlucky, so this is to my benefit.


"As much as I would love to see it, i think a TFB sequel is pretty unlikely."

Oh yeah, well I bet a TFB sequel is pretty likely.  ;)


Title: Re: Toys for Bob sold to Activision
Post by: Art on May 11, 2005, 11:20:02 pm
What he means is that you can't bet on a probability. You can bet on an outcome, and whether or not you *win* your bet is dependent on the probability. (That is, you can't bet there *is* a 50% chance of something happening, because whether it happens or not, you'll never know what the actual *chance* of it was. You can bet that *it will happen*, and then *say* that you're betting it will happen because you *guess* it has a 50% chance of coming true, but that's different.)

It's sort of a stupid and pedantic point, but you'll probably hear it again and again if you say things like "I'll bet there's a 50% chance of that" around people who've worked with statistics at all. (What you probably mean is something like "I'll give you 2:1 odds on that".)


Title: Re: Toys for Bob sold to Activision
Post by: Deus Siddis on May 12, 2005, 12:20:35 am
As you well know, our language (or at least the one we are using) has a number of hidden meanings that you can't find in a dictionary. So when I said "bet", I meant something like "I'm really sure". I wasn't trying to use proper english, as I don't really think there is such a thing.

However, I made this statement when the thread was slowing down and people didn't have much to talk about, other than english. So people joked about my errors and although I understood what they were saying, I decided to make it into more of a joke because that's more fun than being serious sometimes.

Then you came by thinking we were being serious and informed me of the facts of the situation. My evil brain came up with some counter responses, but my higher brain decided these might be taken the wrong way, so it stopped my from writing them. I think I might be growing as a human being.  ;D


Title: Re: Toys for Bob sold to Activision
Post by: meep-eep on May 20, 2005, 04:32:43 am
    My mail to Toys for Bob:

Hi Paul,

I just read you just finished Madagascar. Congratulations.
I also just read you are now a "wholly owned subsidiary of Activision".
Like most fans, I have no idea whether that's good or bad. And like most
fans, this leaves me with some questions. So I guess I'd just ask them,
and with your permission, share any answers with the others.

First of all, what does this mean for our chances of seeing a new game
in the Star Control universe? In the last statement I've seen from you
about this (which is from a couple of years ago), you commented that
you'd love to do this if the opportunity presented itself. Is this still
the case? You also said when TFB was incorporated that you'd have more
freedom to create original games... once you could afford it by making
a few licensed games first. What's left of this?

More general, how much freedom do you have in your new position as
employee of Activision? While most of us focus on Star Control, because
we loved the second part, another original game by your hands (Minions
perhaps) could be equally great. That is, if SC2 wasn't a fluke in the
first place and you can still do it. With which I don't mean to bash
any of your work in the 13 years since Star Control, but however
entertaining those games may have been, the reality is that most people
won't put them on the same level as SC2. I personally would love to see
you given the opportunity to make something really great again,
and I have good hope you could pull it off.

Which brings me to my next question: is there anything you can tell us
about your plans for your next game? Licensed or original? The type
of game perhaps? The first letter? Any fish?

Another question. With Toys for Bob being part of Activision now,
what does that mean for your "intellectual property"? Do you still
have the rights to Star Control? On which note I'd like to remind you
that we (the UQM project) are still waiting for a definitive content
license. Perhaps you have some time to look at that in the near future
now that Madagascar is done?

In anticipation of your response,

Thanks and good luck with your next game,

Serge



   Paul's response:


Quote
Hi Paul,

I just read you just finished Madagascar. Congratulations.
I also just read you are now a "wholly owned subsidiary of Activision".
Like most fans, I have no idea whether that's good or bad. And like most
fans, this leaves me with some questions. So I guess I'd just ask them,
and with your permission, share any answers with the others.

This is a good thing.  We've been working exclusively with Activision for 3
years now, and we think they are good eggs.  Our acquisition means that we
will continue to work with folks we like and trust, while not wasting any
more fear and loathing on hunting down the next deal.  We also got some
money for pizza and beer.  That reminds me -- I owe Eric Berge (SC2 music
composer) a pizza or two.

Quote
First of all, what does this mean for our chances of seeing a new game
in the Star Control universe? In the last statement I've seen from you
about this (which is from a couple of years ago), you commented that
you'd love to do this if the opportunity presented itself. Is this still
the case? You also said when TFB was incorporated that you'd have more
freedom to create original games... once you could afford it by making
a few licensed games first. What's left of this?

An interesting fact is that Fred and I sold all the rights to our previous
games... except Star Control.  We kept that out of the deal.  Now, why would
we do that? :)

Quote
More general, how much freedom do you have in your new position as
employee of Activision? While most of us focus on Star Control, because
we loved the second part, another original game by your hands (Minions
perhaps) could be equally great. That is, if SC2 wasn't a fluke in the
first place and you can still do it. With which I don't mean to bash
any of your work in the 13 years since Star Control, but however
entertaining those games may have been, the reality is that most people
won't put them on the same level as SC2. I personally would love to see
you given the opportunity to make something really great again,
and I have good hope you could pull it off.

Fluke, eh?  You are trying to bait me, aren't you?  The only flukes around
here are in my liver, and I've given each of them their own name!  But to
answer your question, Activision bought us based on our recent track record
-- making quality games for the younger market.  As they mention in their
press release, we are (happily) under exclusive contract for a some years --
after that Fred and I will need to determine what we want to do next, but at
least we will have several good options to choose from!

Quote
Which brings me to my next question: is there anything you can tell us
about your plans for your next game? Licensed or original? The type
of game perhaps? The first letter? Any fish?

Could it be... Zombie Bass Fishing!  ...Naw, I can't tell you yet, but we
think it will be BIG and sell exactly 1 gazillion copies.  

Quote
Another question. With Toys for Bob being part of Activision now,
what does that mean for your "intellectual property"? Do you still
have the rights to Star Control? On which note I'd like to remind you
that we (the UQM project) are still waiting for a definitive content
license. Perhaps you have some time to look at that in the near future
now that Madagascar is done?

As I said before, all of our SC properties remain in Fred and my possession.
Minions, Alien Probe, Paparazzi, and Sterilizer are all now Activision
property, though I don't expect to see those in development soon.  Sadly,
they're just aren't that many opportunities for original games these days!

Thanks for writing Serge.  Keep bugging us about Star Control.  Together,
you and my son may tilt the scales one day soon!

- Paul


Title: Re: Toys for Bob sold to Activision
Post by: meep-eep on May 20, 2005, 04:45:11 am
Analysis:
  • They kept the Star Control rights, which implies they still plan to make another Star Control, but as they work for Activision now, there doesn't that's not likely to be in the near future. So it's both good and bad news for Star Control fans.
  • "Not much opportunities for original games" suggest they're now making another licensed game. "based on our recent track record -- making quality games for the younger market" suggests it's going to be another kids game.


Title: Re: Toys for Bob sold to Activision
Post by: Culture20 on May 20, 2005, 05:34:39 am
I suppose that's good for those of us who are child-bearing/rearing age.  At least our kids will have good computer games to be addicted to.


Title: Re: Toys for Bob sold to Activision
Post by: GeomanNL on May 20, 2005, 09:33:16 pm
Phew :)
(whiping forehead).
I'm glad they aren't selling the sc2 rights to anyone.


Title: Re: Toys for Bob sold to Activision
Post by: Jeff on May 21, 2005, 05:14:38 am
:(

Sounds like they've permanently lost their creative drive, and are willing to take a shaft-in-the-ass deal for money.  I can't say I blame 'em, as money is important to make and the easier the better.  At least they're happy about it. But it sounds like they'll be making forgettable derivative kids movie license games for a long time to come.

There is a profitable market for original games, despite what Activision or EA's short-sighted managers may blabber about.  For instance (although I know little about the game or its progress), it seemed like Minions could have been a strong seller among the word-of-mouth online-sales games.  Graphics barely matter in these games, they just has to be fun.  It sounds like this exclusive contract/buyout will prevent any sort of side project TFB could produce though.  I hope they got a lot of money!


Title: Re: Toys for Bob sold to Activision
Post by: Mormont on May 21, 2005, 08:25:00 am
It's kind of sad that they left Crystal Dynamics to pursue their own creative interests, only to become Activision's lackeys two years later.

Honestly, I seriously doubt another Star Control will see the light of day. Minions or some other original non-SC game has a better chance, but I still wouldn't count on it.

I can kind of understand them not wanting to take risks though. Back when they made SC2, they were willing to go for 6 months without funding from Accolade, because they were that passionate about the game. But now they have families to support and a bunch of employees to pay.