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Local Gaming News

Do you want the bad news or the bad news first?

By James Renovitch, 6:19PM, Fri. Jul. 20, 2012

Local Gaming News

Lots of bad news in Austin's gaming world this week in the form of layoffs, restructuring, and departures. I think those all mean the same thing in press-release parlance, but I'll try to mind my noun usage as best I can. I'll also try to get some good news in there somewhere.

The layoffs at BioWare's Austin studio were rumored all week and confirmed two days ago following the departure of of Star Wars: The Old Republic producer Rich Vogel. There's been no connection drawn between the layoffs and Vogel's departure, but the serendipitous timing is curious. BioWare's parent company (and gaming's overlord), EA, is spinning the layoffs as not another round of downsizing, but a result of continued restructuring that was announced back in May. If there's a silver lining to this largely unhappy cloud, it's that there might be a slew of new independent developers using their talents for more great local games. That's probably little comfort for those looking for jobs right now.

The local office of Schell Games' Austin office is closing in mid-August, according to the company's COO Jake Witherall. The majority of their employees will retain their jobs with the company after the doors are shuttered.

In better news, Kevin Smith (and the spectacle that follows him everywhere) tapped local developers Game Team One and the appropriately named Powerhouse Animation squad to create two Jay and Silent Bob games for iPhones and iPads. Game Team One is GameSalad's in house dev team and GameSalad makes tools to help noncoding game makers make games. Yeah, it gets a bit confusing but check out Jay & Silent Bob in Let Us Dance! and Too Fat to Fly. The games are, by the developer's own admission, similar to Rock Band and Angry Birds respectively but given that the team had only a few weeks to complete the game, it's amazing they are as polished as they are. Let Us Dance in particular is free, so what's stopping you. Too Fat to Fly is 99 cents, and honestly, is that too much to ask to fling Silent Bob through crowded streets and malls? Both titles are published by Ice Cap Games, which is GameSalad's publishing company. Now I'm getting confused, so … moving on.

Richard Garriott's relatively new mobile game development company, Portalarium, has wrangled $7 million in what it's calling its Series A funding. I'm not sure how many letters they plan on going through in the cash-gathering process, but that's a decent amount of change even if Garriott himself was one of the investors. If a new Ultima game is more exciting than $7 million to you then Garriott had good news. In an interview with MMORPG.com, he said the company was working on something tentatively titled New Brittania and would function like Ultima Online. That paired with an announcement that EA is working on a completely separate game called Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar is either a double-dose of good news or worrisome in that something would have the Ultima name without Garriott behind it. You can sign up for the Ultima Forever beta now, so I assume that means EA will be beating Portalarium to market. Hopefully both games will do the iconic series justice.

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