Or maybe the problems include inexperienced developers, incompetent project management, impossible publisher requests, funding concerns. These are all possible, but discussions with former employees of XMD developer Silicon Knights suggest that the game’s fate was sealed long before Activision gave the project a green light back in 2009. UPDATE: Several months after this story’s publication, Dyack addressed it in a half-hour video message. Are you just messing with our minds?” On September 14, two weeks out from the game’s release, user ‘Optimus prime12’ sniggered, “People are STILL posting questions in this thread? The design and production were extremely poor, and after a two-and-a-half year period we still didn’t have a single level even roughed in. “Instead of us making a plan together, Denis stated that he wished no one had seen that list, because he didn’t want to address it at all.” (This was, unfortunately, one of many specifics voiced by multiple sources that Dyack declined to comment on.). “Silicon Knights operates as a guild, an organization of individuals working together toward common goals. (1UP gave the X360 version a D+, concluding that the game is “is an absolute mess that isn’t worth your time.” IGN gave the PS3 version 5.5 points out of 10—”mediocre”—and remarked that “even for an action brawler, this one is as mindless as they come.” GameSpot reviewed the same version and awarded the game 4 out of 10, noting that XMD “does the incredible: it makes being a genetic marvel a generic bore.”), “I am writing to you in regards to Silicon Knights’ upcoming title X-Men: Destiny,” read the July 21, 2011 email from a mysterious, throwaway Hotmail account with the handle SK Whistleblower. Maybe it was just dragged down by the weight of a crappy, overdone superhero license, as so many games before it. “Keep in mind that during this time, SK continued to have some pretty senior people staffing [Eternal Darkness 2], and had no intention of moving them back over to XMD to help out the title.”, Impossibly tight deadlines and publisher-pushed rush releases are two of the most commonly-cited factors when poor-quality games appear on shelves. Bad video games are released all the time. Sales were woeful: as one of my sources notes, “An X-Men game that sells only 55,000 copies during its first week of release? I spent the next couple of months reaching out to dozens of former Silicon Knights employees, including a list of 32 allegedly omitted names supplied by SK Whistleblower. “On the flip side, since SK is not actually in the business of releasing games on what would be considered a regular schedule, those who have worked at SK for 4+ years are left without a valuable credit that may end up being the deciding factor for a potential employer. Eventually, questions were raised about the actual overall game, and when things would start to come together into something resembling a gaming experience.” Another source tells me that “the technical challenges of trying to create and play any asset with the SK engine was impossible enough, especially with ever-changing direction from Denis. He gave the company a 20 minute lecture on the fact that he’d never buy a grey truck; he wanted it painted red.” Accordingly, some SK employees sniggered behind their backs at Dyack: “We jokingly coined the phrase ‘paint the truck!’ for other ridiculous, off-the-hip ‘executive orders’ that sprang forth from Denis’ mouth,” says the same source. Yet none of my eight sources believe that Activision was putting undue pressure on Silicon Knights. Once Activision had made it clear that they would ship whatever the developer supplied them, on time, with SK’s name on it, management reportedly put all hands on deck. Before Silicon Knights cut ties with Japanese powerhouse Nintendo following the 2004 release of Twin Snakes, the studio had crucial outside help for game quality, design and process. If they failed to produce, or had the project cancelled, there would be no negative consequences or impact on SK’s reputation.”, As release day approached in late September 2011, marketing for the title was nearly non-existent. They are one and the same — a single unchanging entity.”), “St. Some staff pushed hard to improve the game’s quality anyway, despite the setbacks—after all, who wants their name attached to a bad game?—and as a result, the team avoided another cancelled project. [In his mind] you’re either for him, or against him.” (In May 2012, Epic prevailed in that five year-long court case that included a counterclaim from Epic; SK was ordered to pay $4.45 million in damages. There are plenty of possible explanations for the poor result. “The tone was unmistakably negative, and we were obviously worried that the game would be cancelled. In 1998, they were signed by Nintendo as a second-party developer. All eight interviewees that I spoke with for this story say Silicon Knights was splitting its team between work on XMD, and work on a development demo. “Dyack’s only note was that the ‘lights should be more red.’ In another instance, he thought the final boss fight should be interrupted by ‘a challenge room’—his favourite thing from Too Human.”, Another source recounts an anecdote from a different theater review. “SK left a smoking crater as its game development legacy in St. Catharines, not unlike what happened with their reputation. The tradition of the fighter is very old and predates recorded history. Silicon Knights, Inc. was founded in 1992 in Ontario, Canada, by Denis Dyack. They created two games for them and ended the contract in 2004. How Can You Make Video Games Good for Kids? Founded in 1992 by current company president Denis Dyack, the St. Catharines, Ontario-based company is best known for their 2002 GameCube hit Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, which scored a “universal acclaim” score of 92 on Metacritic, based on 41 reviews. You couldn’t talk to Joanne [confidentially] without it going straight back to Denis.”, Not everyone at the company saw the rumored plans to remove names from the credits as a bad thing, though. I certainly grieve for them.”, The crediting situation was eventually resolved, albeit in a seemingly roundabout way. Bad video games are released all the time. ), Whatever happened, the result is a credit roll that’s fascinating to watch: 124 names are listed under ‘Special Thanks To,’ far more than the number of Silicon Knights employees credited under their proper job titles. Advance from squire to knight by playing these games. It didn’t work. The following story excerpts extensive interviews with former Silicon Knights employees who describe their experiences at what they say was a disorganized, unfocused company that squandered ample time and resources before being forced to release a game it was far from proud of. Other than that, I can’t explain why things went so poorly for them [except that] a lot of key people responsible for the original Eternal Darkness are long gone.”, To further complicate matters, the under-staffed and over-stressed team working on XMD had to struggle with technical difficulties. Maybe the game’s publisher, Activision, rushed the release in an attempt to hit a quarterly revenue goal. X-Men: Destiny—developed by Canadian studio Silicon Knights for Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii—could have gone either way. The company’s 2004 Metal Gear Solid remake, The Twin Snakes, scored 85 across 54 reviews. Too Human 2, perhaps, which Dyack has repeatedly promised that the studio intends to complete as a trilogy?