Mythic’s Final Months: Seven Game Prototypes and Another Classic Franchise

Mythic-real-flame

Llamaherder dropped a comment on the last article about Mythic, noting that former Ultima Forever lead designer Kate Flack had made a number of additions to her LinkedIn profile.

This morning, I was wondering what happened to Kate Flack, who was the Lead Designer for Ultima Forever. I was able to find her public resume on LinkedIn and it shows that starting in August 2013, she has been the Lead Designer for Mythic’s “Mobile Prototype Team.”

Her job description for that role says:

Managed a 4 man team to create 7 major unity game prototypes over 10 months.

Developed a prototype team structure based on 2 week sprints and regular hockyapp/testflight build releases for internal gate review.

Worked closely with product managers, marketing and product strategy teams to identify strong licences and genres ripe for prototype exploration.

Created pre-greenlight prototype and pitch documentation for a free to play mobile reboot of a classic EA franchise.

Gave multiple presentations at internal training conferences, including a ‘Best in Track’ award winning presentation on Mobile Prototyping.

There’s a lot, potentially, to unpack in those statements.

First off, it should be noted that all of the above transpired between August of 2013 and the closure of Mythic, which…yeah, was about a ten month span. And in that time, Kate and her (small!) team put together seven game prototypes, all evidently using the Unity engine. It’s not clear whether these were seven separate attempts at prototyping a free-to-play reboot of yet another classic EA franchise, although that seems to have been the aim. (Some of it may have been tied to the exploration of strong licenses to explore and prototype, however.)

Dungeon Keeper, the mobile game, was revealed in August of 2013, but I know first-hand that Mythic had been working on the game since at least February of 2013; I saw some design concepts for it while I was there. Indeed, I made a Skype call home to my family from the room, just off of the break room and the Ultima Forever team area, that had been reserved for its development meetings. The game soft-launched in October of 2013, and went into wide release just prior to Christmas.

And I just re-installed Dungeon Keeper to confirm that Kate Flack is not listed anywhere in its credits. She isn’t.

So…what to make of all this? I am beginning to suspect — especially given the shutdown of Warhammer Online and the transfer of Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot to Broadsword Online Games — that the writing may have been on the wall for Mythic for quite some time, or rather that the studio was under significant pressure to deliver a hit after Ultima Forever. And while all indicators seemed to suggest that Dungeon Keeper was doing well, Mythic seems to have needed to come up with something more. And when they couldn’t — or didn’t, within a certain time frame — the studio was closed.

Llamaherder also notes that Kate Flack wasn’t the only one to change jobs last August:

Carrie Gouskos was the Producer for Ultima Forever for a while, but she also had a job change in August 2013. She became Mythic’s Director of Studio Operations.

I think, if there’s any point in time at which we can say that Ultima Forever stopped development, August of 2013 was it.

4 Responses

  1. Dusty says:

    Well that is highly disappointing! because I have asked on twitter more recently than that about the Android/PC port and was told it is still being worked. I realise they wouldn’t of been able to say anything different, just really sucks that the big big sell for U4E was going to be an ultima product that was multi-platform and could cross over. Very said indeed…

    • Sanctimonia Sanctimonia says:

      It’s being worked on in the minds of the fallen. As each neuron gasps at the dwindling stream of oxygen, the Android and PC port’s sights and sounds become ever more vivid. Maybe we’ll see the ports on the other side someday.

      What’s weird to me is that, at least in my limited understanding of the industry, games’ success is hit and miss and isn’t necessarily tied to the makeup of a studio. If that’s the case it seems an overreaction to close a studio due to their lack of continuous blockbusters. These are talented people; there’s no curse attached to them or to their work as a group. Games, albums, movies, etc. fail all the time. No need to crucify their creators.

      If SotA isn’t a hit, or loses money, will the headlines read, “Richard Garriott’s return to gaming a failure. Time for Lord British to step down from the throne”? Failure should be expected and used as an opportunity to learn and adapt before once again jumping into the dark unknown of developing your next game.

      I’ve run out of thoughtfulness, so, EA: suck it. 😉

  2. The Llamaherder says:

    I strongly suspect that the bulk of the development work for the Dungeon Keeper Mobile game was actually done by NetDragon Websoft. (Remember the December 1, 2008 press release regarding the agreement between EA and NetDragon to develop Dungeon Keeper Online? http://investor.ea.com/releasedetail.cfm?ReleaseID=351083 .)

    It’s difficult to navigate NetDragon’s Dungeon Keeper Online website, but it looks to me as if the Chinese version of the game (“Dungeon Keeper Online”) was taken offline as of December 20, 2013, the day after Dungeon Keeper Mobile was officially launched. (See the notice at http://dk.99.com/activity/2013/notice/# which talks about the entire server being down and starting the “outage compensation.” There’s contact information for getting in touch with Customer Service for reimbursement.)

    The public open beta for the Chinese version of the game kicked off sometime in late 2011 or early 2012.

    With the DK arrangement between EA and NetDragon looking like it was wrapped up within five years, it makes me wonder what, if anything, will transpire with Ultima Forever in July this year when we hit the five-year anniversary of the agreement between EA and NetDragon to develop a new MMORPG based on Ultima Online.

    I’ve long suspected that the initial development work for Ultima Forever was actually done by NetDragon, as I believe was done for Dungeon Keeper. Wouldn’t it be ironic if it turns out that it was English-speaking players who were involved in testing the “beta version” of Ultima Forever and when the five-year anniversary hits, NetDragon will take over and go on to formally release it to the markets mentioned in that five-year old press release, i.e., to China, Hong Kong, Macau and India?

    • I’ll have to look through the credits again, see if NetDragon comes up.

      Mythic did a lot of the gameplay design, at least based on what I saw in that room at the studio. But it’s not impossible that this was then grafted onto the game NetDragon had been building.