And This Is Also Why It’s a Shame that Mythic Was Shuttered


Eurogamer has an interesting article up that looks at the contact that the developers of War for the Overworld had with Mythic’s Paul Barnett:

During the War for the Overworld Kickstarter someone from EA Mythic got in touch with Bishop requesting a Skype call. It was a call Bishop had expected, at some point, but he was nervous all the same.

“I had heard on the grapevine that EA might be doing something Dungeon Keeper,” he recalls, “after we’d started our Kickstarter, anyway.” Bishop handed over his Skype details, and the mysterious EA Mythic person video called. “I was like, er… I didn’t really know what to think.”

The person on the other end of the video call was Paul Barnett, an English designer who was then an executive at Mythic. Barnett, you’ll remember, played a key role in EA’s now closed massively multiplayer online role-playing game Warhammer Online.

According to Bishop, Barnett lifted an iPad up to the screen to reveal a new Dungeon Keeper game. “I was like, okay, interesting. I was relieved in a way, because I was like, that’s not competition for us. That’s a different market. That’s a mobile game. And they were coming to us and showing us. It was this guy. It was a developer. It wasn’t a suit with a briefcase. It was nice and incredibly unexpected from someone like EA to do that.

“He wanted to make sure we were a team of people who were passionate about the game and that we weren’t backed by some big, other publisher. He also wanted to tell us what we should and shouldn’t do as far as taking elements from Dungeon Keeper, which we were following already: don’t use Horny, for example, because that was a character they had invented.

“That was all fine. He was very friendly. We continued to have chats after that. It was all surprisingly nice.”

Indeed, Barnett and Bishop kept in touch…just about right up until Mythic was shuttered:

…following the launch of War for the Overworld on Steam and Dungeon Keeper on mobiles, their developers followed two very different paths through the dense and dangerous jungle of video game development. Subterranean Games is holding fast off the back of War for the Overworld’s success as an Early Access title. 15 people are working on completing the release version of the game, planned for February 2015. By then its modest but loyal community will have grown ever larger. There will even be a physical version sold in shops.

Mythic, on the other hand, is dead. EA shut it down half a year after the release of Dungeon Keeper. “That was a bit of a shock,” Bishop remembers. “I spoke to this guy about four or five days before that and then… I don’t know.”

Fate, it seems, is a fan of irony. A developer of the new Dungeon Keeper helped the developer of the series’ spiritual successor avoid getting into the kind of trouble that usually results in a cease and desist popping through the letterbox. Then the new Dungeon Keeper sparked outrage because it wasn’t the kind of game its spiritual successor promises to be. One developer is still here, sitting on a successful game. The other is no more.

Okay, let’s get this part of things out of the way: Dungeon Keeper wasn’t great. Well, no, that’s not true. The gameplay and mechanics were actually very engaging; it was a slick, stable title that ran smoothly and was fun to pop in to for a minute here and there when there was a minute to spare.

But yes, it was horribly monetized. And it was this horrible monetization, in no small part, that was the reason that it was best approached a minute at a time. Otherwise, all you would be able to do is log in and watch your imps hack at walls for hours.

But leaving that aside…there was something about the people at Mythic, something special. Even if the argument is to be made that they didn’t deliver on their desire to do something new and cool with the old IPs collecting dust in EA’s closets, they still cared very deeply about those old IPs, and the fanbases thereof.

Paul Barnett reached out to the Ultima community, to me, as well, back when Ultima Forever was in the works. He, and other Mythic staff, let me bum around the Mythic studios essentially unescorted. Heck…they even encouraged me to see and share some pretty cool stuff with the community.

And where they could, they went to bat for the fans. I can’t get in to specifics, but…the cease & desist ugliness from a couple years ago could have been a lot worse than it ended up being.

It’s a shame that Mythic had to close…and then for multiple reasons. But this might be the most significant one: they cared. Really, genuinely…they cared.

(Hat tip: Infinitron Dragon)

5 Responses

  1. cor2879 says:

    I wonder how much of the failure of these titles was the direct result of Paul Barnett and his team, and how much was because of pressure from their EA overlords to rely on the freemium model.