Midway – Lost in Space
After we closed the doors at Eagle Claw Studios in San Ramon, California it was time to look for another full-time in-house job, that’s when Midway San Diego popped onto the radar.
Now it wasn’t my first choice, for I had also been contracted by Crystal Dynamics for an interview, a studio in the bay area that I’ve really wanted to work for years now, but I’ve also had the strangest time dealing with them. They would often call me for an interview and then never call back with a date and time. Once I was called over to the studio for an interview on a weekend, only to find the studio closed and them not returning my calls.
Oh well, off the Midway to see what their pitch is 🙂
Arriving at their San Diego office I met with Hugh Falk, the Director and Executive Producer, where he gave me the lowdown on what was in the works at the studio and what my job would be.
I was to be assigned initially to a horrible little game project called Crank the Weasel, a Toon-Town style game that was in so bad off that I was told might be canceled in the next few weeks. So Hugh wanted to know if I would be cool with working on a different game projects, that might not be platform game related. Of course I would be, but I had a big concern with working for Midway myself.
Midway had a long history of doing mass layoffs. This was a big taboo in my book, for in my experience companies who use this as an ongoing practice either don’t know how to employ good people in the first place or always keep bad managers in place after the layoffs who keep making bad decisions.
Either way it was an issue for me and one I brought up with Hugh during my interview, seeing Midway had just gone through another mass layoff phase.
But Hugh assured me that they were done letting people go and that Midway was in a rebuilding phase, so I accepted the job offer when it came and we moved back down to southern California.
For the first few weeks I was stuck in a bit of a limbo, for there was little to be done to fix Crank the Weasel and reps from Midway Chicago were coming soon. It was expected that Crank the Weasel would get the axe then, so we had to have other game proposals ready for when they arrive.
For a time it looked like I might be assigned to the new Spy Hunter game that was going to star The Rock, Dwayne Johnson, but after Angel Studios was bought out there went Midways access to a killer racing engine. So instead I was moved over to Gauntlet.
This suited me just fine, for it brought me back to my old Dungeons & Dragon days of game design, and I also loved the classic Gauntlet game.
There was only one catch, (wouldn’t you know it!)
It seemed that when Midway closed their bay area location, they promised some of their staff up there that they would be able to relocate to San Diego and would be part of the Gauntlet project.
This didn’t really bother me, for I knew Gauntlet was going to be a really big game and I was fine just being in charge of world and level game play development.
So I was off on a roll building the world structure and coming up with ideas for a random world generator, for I really wanted the game to feel new every time you played it.
But all of the excitement left once the new project lead arrived from the bay area.
A really young man who, from what I understand never worked as a lead game designer before, and the idea of working side-by-side with this veteran just really bugged the crap out of him. To the point where he actually called a directors meeting to tell them, and I kid you not, “I intimidated him!”
I remember Hugh Falk in the meeting just rolling his eyes and telling him to just get over it.
So I went back to working on Gauntlet, while trying to alleviate the fears of our new project lead. That was until the new CEO of Midway showed up and said he was bringing in John Romero to run things.
It was shortly after that meeting when we were called into the lunchroom and told… Guesses what? Yes… anther mass layoff at Midway! Weeeee
I don’t know how true that was or not, but it didn’t matter at that point. I was feeling burned out working for large and often unstable large game developers and was on the looking out for a small studio to work for again.
Next: Jailed Games – Into Exile