The Industry's Seedy Underbelly

The Industry's Seedy Underbelly
The Rise and Fall of Realtime Worlds

Greg Tito | 2 Nov 2010 07:48
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The story of Scottish game developer Realtime Worlds reads like a classic Greek drama. It begins with a charismatic leader who surprisingly orchestrated a successful campaign in Pacific City (Crackdown). The people were happy, and Dave Jones was crowned king with a strong supporting cast of advisors. Coffers full from the successful plundering of Pacific City ($50 million invested in 2008 and $101 million overall), King Jones built an empire that was far too big for it to maintain itself. All the money was spent on Jones' second campaign in San Paro (APB) with the firm belief that it would not fail, that it could not fail. Factions developed within the empire and vied for control of its culture, and those in power could not stop the campaign from depleting all of the gold in the King's treasury. When the second campaign did fail, it failed spectacularly, taking the empire of Realtime Worlds down with it.


In Greek drama, there is a chorus who is able to witness and comment on the tragic events portrayed on stage, but is ultimately powerless to alter them. Luke Halliwell was hired as a Senior Software Engineer at Realtime Worlds in 2004 as it was working on Crackdown. He was not a part of the design team, so in many ways he was able to watch the company grow and change better than those in power. When APB failed, Halliwell was among the first former employees of Realtime Worlds to understand just what went wrong.

"The biggest problem," Halliwell told The Escapist in a recent interview, "was not with the business guys specifically, but with people, many of them in development, who felt we needed to imitate big corporations in order to become successful. They confused what success looks like after the fact, with how you become successful in the first place."

Before the excess, Realtime Worlds was bright-eyed and full of promise. Dave Jones formed Realtime Worlds in 2002 with several of his colleagues who used to work for Striker developer, Rage Software. Setting up offices in the small Scottish town of Dundee, Jones had a great vision for the game that would end up being APB. The team was lean and hungry, and Jones inspired great work as they focused on making Crackdown. "We were really small and tight-knit back then - about 40 people I think - so everyone knew everyone," Halliwell says. "Culture-wise we were just very focused on getting things done."

Jones led a team with quiet words but everyone felt like they were in good hands. His inspiration was legendary; as if he was touched by the gods like a Greek hero. "We had Dave's incredible vision for the future and it felt like we were racing towards it," says Halliwell. "He was quietly spoken and understated, but at the same time capable of inspiring people with some pretty ambitious visions."

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