FAKK2’s Challenged Development

In the end, FAKK2 was a fun game to build, but many factors that had very little to do with the game itself made the development process incredibly tough, struggling with a number of challenges that kept the game from succeeding commercially, despite being critically reviewed very high.

The beginning:
First, the game started development somewhere in 1998 when we struck the IP deal up with Kevin Eastman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles creator and owner of Heavy Metal Magazine.) The FAKK2 IP was originally going to revolve around a theatrical release of the new Heavy Metal movie, and the game release would coincide with the big release of a major motion picture, with all the associated benefits of being tied to a major movie release (TV time, advertising, IP recognition.) Unfortunately the theatrical release of the movie was cancelled, hurting the mass recognition appeal of the IP quite a bit. The movie was ultimately released direct to DVD and under a different name, Heavy Metal 2000.

Second, FAKK2 was also originally designed primarily for release on the Dreamcast platform to be released simultaneously with the PC version. On the Dreamcast, FAKK2 would have stood out as the only 3rd person Tomb Raider style climbing / action / adventure game, and had a good chance for success on that platform. Our publisher at the time, Gathering of Developers saw the announcement of the PS2 as the death of the Dreamcast and cancelled funding for FAKK2 on the Dreamcast early in 2000. Halfway through 2000, the US PS2 shortage was announced and it looked like Christmas 2000 would be the last great push for the Dreamcast, so Gathering wanted us to re-start the Dreamcacst version, but it was too late at that point, the PC and Mac versions of FAKK2 are the only ones that made it.

Third, Ritual was going through enormous internal challenges while maintaining two teams under a single publisher who didn’t have enough money to fund even one of Ritual’s teams. We consolidated teams during this project, also went through a large amount of internal strife with departing owners and employees, we also changed CEO’s while our former CEO helped found FAKK2’s publisher, Gathering of Developers. We finally ended up finishing a majority of FAKK2’s development work with a tiny 10 person team in roughly 9 months.

The outcome:
Finally, the largest challenge related to FAKK2 was related to the fact that our publisher, Gathering of Developers was in the process of being bought when the game shipped. Therefore, the marketing dollars and shipping efforts we would have expected to see from a traditional publisher were instead directed into the closing down of the Dallas GOD offices and the due diligence related to the buyout. Thus putting the game into the channel with a sub par marketing effort, and a radical under ship of initial sell-in for the product, before long, the price point dropped in retail before anybody had even heard about the game or received their PC Gamer magazines with FAKK2 reviewed at 90%. In the end, lots of FAKK2 copies sat in a warehouse due to lots of behind the scenes activities that had nothing to do with the quality of the game.

Further hindsight about FAKK2 revolved around how the game was generally marketed, FAKK2 was a 3rd person action / adventure game, built in the Quake3 engine. This game was really built as competition for the Tomb Raider franchise, but was marketed incorrectly (by us and our publisher) as a Quake style game to the FPS crowd. In hindsight, after seeing the Dreamcast version of game disappear, we should have moved the game into first person to maximize our appeal on the PC, and started immediately into a PS2 SKU where the 3rd person feature would resurface, once again, on a platform that didn’t see Lara Croft for a LONG time. Of course, that would have been the ideal route, but in the real world, that was an option that just didn’t exist.

In the real world of hindsight, Ritual should have punted on this game as soon as the IP wavered or as soon as our publisher seemed incapable of funding the game properly, and instead started on SiN2 in the Quake3 technology right out of the chute while trying to rebuild a relationship with Activision that was severely damaged by SiN’s buggy ship and Ritual’s implied involvement with the new publisher Gathering of Developers.

Final thought:
FAKK2’s development was definitely a learning experience. A painful one.

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