Core Design: Behind the Scenes
By Sarah Crisman
Originally published at Game Bunker
According to our connections at Core Design, Angel of Darkness should not be on the shelves yet. The release date they were shooting for was Christmas 2003, probably a November release date as most of the rest of the TR games have had. Then, in Summer of 2002, Eidos told the Angel of Darkness team to have the program ready for release in Christmas of 2002, full twelve months before their original projected date of completion. Naturally, this was all but impossible, so Eidos backed the date up to February of this year. In the meantime, two of their staff quit due to a disagreement and the remaining AI programmer was, according to my informer, ‘
not exactly the best programmer we’ve ever used.’ In addition, there was major slowdown plaguing the NTSC version and a slew of other bugs that needed to be worked out. What it boiled down to was the entire staff pulling four days of all-nighters for no extra pay in an attempt to get Angel of Darkness out before the end of Eidos’s fiscal year so they could report a profit to the shareholders. It was very heavily implied that if it was NOT ready by July of 2003 that they would all lose their jobs.
Sony US gave the green light for the game to be released in North America in July, and so everyone at Core kept their jobs. Sony Europe, however, refused to put their stamp of approval on a product that was so unfinished, and Core was given until August to get it released in Europe. As we all know, they got it out in the rest of the world in August, still not as polished and finished to their liking, but better than the version that shipped to the States. And, despite what Eidos says, they reached their target goals for the year concerning profits.
Shortly after the release of AoD, the department heads at Eidos got together and blasted Core for being “late” in releasing the game, despite the fact that they got it out nearly six months in advance of the time they were slated to release it. Rather than taking the blame for this themselves, they decided to make an example out of the managers at Core and essentially forced both Jeremy and his brother Adrian Smith (who practically FOUNDED Core) to resign. The rest of the staff was told that a review board would be formed later to decide what to do with the rest of the staff. They also informed Core that even though they invented and developed the character of Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider video games, Eidos was taking the rights and giving them to Crystal Dynamics, another subsidiary of Eidos (who owns Core and several other development houses in both the US and Europe).
Eidos kept Core in the dark for the next few weeks, with the Eidos Human Relations head coming down and telling them they weren’t sure what was going to happen or when or what game Core would be working on next.
Apparently, a group of Core staff met with Jeremy Smith about ten days ago and learned that he is starting up another software development company, that he was basically going to start from scratch, and that he’d picked about 30 people to take with him. This new company is going to be in Derby, somewhere around the current Core building, and is being tenatively named “Circle Studios.” Of the people he picked, he said that he was taking mappers, programmers, writers and animators, but didn’t have the finances to take any members of the test team, musicians or producers at the moment and they would have to stay with Core for the time being.
A few days later, the Eidos HR guy came back and informed them that Jeremy Smith was, indeed, being allowed to start a new development company (his contract originally stipulated that if he left Core/Eidos, he would not be able to start another development house for at least twelve months) and what was left of the Core staff was going to be reduced even further. Eidos currently has no need of the Core testing staff and a few other people were also selected for dismissal, about twenty people in all. Everyone left at Core would be set to work on a new, smaller project so that Eidos can still keep the name “Core” in active use (which would help given how much exposure they’ve had in the world).
Another item that was disclosed to Game Bunker was that Core was in the process of creating another “Fighting Force” game which, according to my source was, ‘
looking really good and could have been released in Feb. 2004.’ This game, however, was canned and shelved by Eidos after the major staff cuts.
In closing, my informant is one of the people who has been “made redundant” (read as: fired) at Core, the job to be terminated as of the 1st of September.