<< Portico: Stainless Steel Studios Stops

11/27/2005

Stainless Steel Studios Stops

In what is a shocking piece of Thanksgiving news, strategy game developer Stainless Steel Studios is no more. There isn't a lot of information on the whys and wherefores. Their main site is down so there is no official announcement or press release. The above linked forum suggests that the heavily promoted and very promising Rise and Fall: Civilizations at War is near completion but, at the moment, doesn't have a publisher to fund the final stage of development.

Daniel Higgins posts that many in the company are already moving on to greener pastures, which suggests that the collapse wasn't a complete surprise to everyone. Just the gamers, it seems.

SSS has had a mixed legacy to this point. Their first big title, Empire Earth, was named Gamespy's game of the year when it came out, but it never achieved the gamer following or respect that other RTS games did. It is never referred to as a seminal title in the field. Their second effort, Empires: Dawn of the Modern World, was narrower in focus than Empire Earth but was, in my opinion, a better game.

It's too soon to analyze what went wrong. The fact that SSS did not work on either the expansion or sequel to Empire Earth always struck me as peculiar. Tilted Mill used a Stainless Steel engine for Children of the Nile, so their technical skills were in some demand.

The action-RTS plan for Rise and Fall is an intriguing twist on a sub-genre that could use a radical reinvention beyond issues of physics and 3D art. I do hope that somebody can release it and we can see the final result of many years of hard work.

Good luck to all the Stainless Steel employees. I hope you all find good jobs doing what you love to do.

1 Comments:

Blogger roboczar said...

They always seemed to be unwilling to really do something *new*, to me. Everything they ever did was an iteration of their first game, Empire Earth, which was a substandard clone of Age of Empires. Don't get me wrong, I like Empire Earth...but it somehow lacked the polish AoE had. It's hard to explain.

Age of Empires also trumped them by being first, more focused, and had lower system requirements. This was back when RTS was first coming into its own as a genre and really starting to get as much attention as the first person shooters out there, laregely due to Starcraft (and the population of Korea?). Empire Earth seemed to just be the bastard child of Civ and AoE, while somehow not being as fun as either.

Anyway, this isn't really surprising to me. When Empires: DotMW came out, the reviews were lukewarm at best, with an occasional foaming-at-the-mouth praise piece that came out of some ridiculous publication like GameZone or IGN.
Having played the demo a while ago, I now find that I can't remember a single damn thing about the game, and when I think I remember something, I wonder if it's not Empire Earth or Rise of Nations that I'm thinking about. Nothing about the game stands out, and that my friends, was the problem with Stainless Steel Studios. They're like the guy who always sat in the back of math class. You knew he was smart, and you knew he did his homework and got A's on his tests, but you'd be damned if 10 years later you could even remember his name because there just wasn't any kind of style or personality you could remember him by.

R.I.P. Whatsisface Studios - We'll try to remember you somewhere down the line.

11/28/2005 12:22:00 PM  

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