Alexandria – The Lighthouse
After the fallout at Spectrum HoloByte I had to find work really quickly, mainly due to them providing zero severance in the layoff, to me at least. So I had scheduled two upcoming interviews, one being with STI (Sega Technical Institute) and a small developer down in central California called Alexandria, Inc.
While the interview with STI went off great and they seemed really eager to work with me, personally I felt the need to find a small team of people to work with again, somewhat like Virgin Games was in the early days.
Sega was this large international company and I was worried that it would just be the same madness that had taken over Virgin Games and was clearly evident at Spectrum HoloByte. So I accepted the offer that came in from Alexandria, a family studio owned by Ken Balthaser.
Alexandria was a small developer, only working on about 3 games at the time and the pay wasn’t great, but the people there were really friendly, eager to work with me and the cost of living in the area wasn’t bad. They also had publishing ties back to Virgin Games, so I’d be working around some of my old producer friends again.
The game I was assigned to was also right up my alley, a platform game based on the 1996 Olympic mascot character called Izzy.
It was a good job up until the industry started to change over to more 3D games, then things started to get rough for the studio.
Eventually the studio was bought out by a company called CPTV, a venture capital company out of New York who was also partnering with Sherry McKenna and Lorne Lanning, fresh out of Rhythm & Hues Studios, a CG house in LA.
Initially it was the plan to merge Alexandria game design and programming capabilities with the 3D development experience that Sherry McKenna and Lorne Lanning brought to the table to create a next generation game studio. Well, that was the idea at least!
But from day one that Sherry and Lorne came out to central California it was clear there was going to be a lot of head-butting with the owners of Alexandria.
At this point it was clear to me that Alexandria was heading down hill fast, for they had no new publishers lined up for future games and their relationship with CPTV was heading for the rocks, so it was time to send out my resumes again.
That’s when something totally unexpected happened. While talking to my recruiter friends again, Jill Zinner, she said that Sherry and Lorne were creating a new game studio called Oddworld and why don’t I just move over to that group. I then told her I felt odd talking to them, see both studios were owned by CPTV. That’s when she said, “What if I just tell them you’re planning to leave Alexandria and see what they say?”
It was less than 10 minutes later when Lorne popped into my office and said “Lets talk!”, so I followed him over to their temporary studio location next door to have a chat with Sherry and him about my situation and what I was looking for.
They told me that they really wanted me to design their first game Abes Oddysee and didn’t want to see me leave, so they said they would contact CPTV and try to work something out.
The deal that was struck was that I would stay on working inside Alexandria, while assigned as the lead game designer on Abes Oddysee of course for Oddworld. Mainly because CPTV was worried that if I quit it would start an exodus other employees from Alexandria.
This work arrangement went on for some time, before CPTV decided to move both studios into the heart of San Luis Obispo. That’s when things turned nasty really quickly and I found myself in the middle of the war between Oddworld and Alexandria, and I had to finally cut ties with Alexandria and join Oddworld formally.
It turned out to be just in time, for CPTV had had enough of it themselves and closed Alexandria, posting security guards at the entrance to keep out the studio managers and only letting employees in to collect their personal items.
At this point Oddworld absorbed what employees that it needed from what was left of Alexandria’s staff and that was the official end Alexandria, Inc.
Next: Oddworld’s – Odd Life