Denis Dyack Interview Part 1 – Yellow Journalism and What Really Happened with X-Men Destiny

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I had the chance to sit down and chat with Denis Dyack, a legendary and veteran game developer that many of you have probably heard of. Our talk runs the gamut of the state of the gaming industry, #GamerGate, gaming journalism, and more. It came out to be so long that we broke it up into two parts, the first of which you can enjoy below. [Editor’s note: if you’re looking for part two, you can find that here]

First, a message from Denis himself:

Brandon: Ok, so to begin, I guess things have been rather quiet. You guys have been working behind the scenes with Quantum Entanglement Entertainment. Could you please talk about that, and for those who might not know who you are, could you introduce yourself to our fans?

Denis Dyack: Sure, I’ve been in the video game industry for very close to 30 years now. I founded a company called Silicon Knights in 1992. We’ve done many titles that people may have heard of before, like Legacy of Kain, Eternal Darkness, Metal Gear Solid Twin Snakes, Too Human; A number of other PC games. Our first PC game, Cyber Empires, kind of funny, actually won multiplayer game of the year from computer gaming world before the days of internet gaming so it was a hot seat swapping game. It’s a game I’m still proud of today.

I’ve made a lot of games, I’ve worked in the industry for a very long time. I’ve worked on the Amiga, the Atari, almost all of the consoles….worked with most major publishers – Nintendo, Konami, Sony, Microsoft, Sega to name a few. I’m a big believer in the games industry and the positivity it can bring to people and society.

I have certainly seen my ups and downs as well, after Silicon Knights closing down and the failed Precursor KickStarter, I decided to take a break for a while. I decided that if I wanted things to change it was going to have to start with myself, so I spent a lot of time on health – I worked to lose about 135 pounds, started working out and made a complete lifestyle change. I try to work out and exercise regularly; it’s really great as a stress reliever, too. Especially in our industry, it’s so sedentary. You tend to neglect your body. It’s so easy just to sit around 24/7 and get consumed with your job. One of the things I’ve been doing a lot is just walking, getting outside and going for a walk. I recommend this for everyone.

Another thing I’ve been doing as well is consulting with Laurier University. We just successfully launched a games program that starts in September focused on indie game development. I’ve consulted for several other post-secondary institutions in the past like MIT, Brock, McMaster, Waterloo and many others. I’m a huge believer in academia and creating really good educational programs for game creators. I feel that the gaming industry needs academia as a foundational base for making better games.

And then of course after this, we started Quantum Entanglement Entertainment several months ago, on October 31, 2014. We picked that day because it was around the time I launched Legacy of Kain back in 1996. It’s been really, really exciting and I have never been happier. We’re taking IPs and we’re creating film, television and video games in a coordinated manner. We’re looking at something that’s truly cross-medium. It’s really exciting.

For me personally, I’ve been in the industry quite a long time, but I’m very new to the film and television industry. Whereas Jonathan [Soon-Shiong] and Paul [Rapovski] have been in those industries for a while but new to games, so we are all learning and exchanging ideas on how to entangle the different media in innovative ways. I’m getting introduced to many talented directors and writers. It’s invigorating as these industries are so similar yet we really don’t share or communicate much at all. We plan to change that. Often, when there’s a translation from a game to a movie or vice-versa, communication is almost non-existent. This whole idea is we are bringing everyone together to create these new properties…I’ve never been happier. It’s really, really great.

Back when we started talking about this in September, Jonathan said to me “We should really look at this in the following manner: We can always start a video game company, but lets do something more, much more. This is something truly new.” And I couldn’t agree more. I think from a standpoint of really trying to change things up is something that’s invigorating, exciting… we’ve been working a LOT behind the scenes. That will probably continue for a while, and hopefully when we start announcing things, our audience will be excited and receptive towards it.

So yeah, I think that’s sort of a summary of what’s going on and where we’ve been at. Of course, until recently when everyone started pinging me about #Gamergate!

Brandon: So, I guess piggybacking off of that, Shadow of the Eternals looked incredibly exciting and interesting. I feel like that’ll be a really good point to bridge between this and what people are waiting for (#Gamergate talk). I think the game looks really impressive, just from what we’ve seen years ago. Could you talk about the game and the current status of it?

Denis: Thank you! Sure, when Precursor went dormant after the KickStarter didn’t move forward, I and a couple of others really assessed our options, then I met Jonathan and Paul and we started Quantum, we looked at the IP and still felt really positive about it and so we acquired it from Precursor. The game itself is the spiritual successor to Eternal Darkness. And it’s a very, very different property and is very exciting.

Looking back, the work that you saw there we did with about really 10 people, after a few months, it dropped to 7. Everyone worked on their own pocket at the time. It took about a year to create that demo and was done in the Crytek Engine (see link), which is a great engine. Then we launched the KickStarter.

Unfortunately, with Precursor there was just so much noise. We found several problems, but one of the biggest was that we just couldn’t get the press to talk about the game. Most of the mainstream press were more interested talking about previous allegations and controversy rather than reporting on the game itself. To be clear there were several groups that really did care about the game and gave it coverage, like IGN, Operation Rainfall and a few other independent sites [Editor’s note: our website wasn’t live at the time], but we found that a lot of press were just more interested in sensationalism and didn’t want to talk about the game.

I believe the game itself is really interesting and unique. It’s something that we fully support and are moving forward with, there’s not a lot of games out there like Shadows and we think something like it needs to be made. It’s very story based, and it works toward our strengths. And now we’re viewing it not just from a game perspective, but also from a television and a movie perspective. We’ve been working on it with that perspective for a while now, and we’re super excited for it and the potential in the future.

I guess that’s the background on Shadows. Does that make sense? I hope it does. [Laughs]

Brandon: It does. I think one of the biggest questions and what’s been on a lot of people’s minds – How is the funding and stuff going with Shadows and Quantum? Are you guys fully funded, or do you have like individual investors?

Denis: Well, we can’t talk about that right now. But there will be announcements in the future. The bottom line is we’re really excited on where we’re going, things are very quiet, and probably will continue to be quiet but they’re going well. Please stay tuned, and we’ll update everyone as soon as we can. I wish I could say more, but you know the drill with the industry, right?

Brandon: Last bit then – I’ll see if I can get a tease out of you for Shadows. Can we expect a potential re-reveal? Or like a resurfacing of the game soon…?

Denis: Well, it all depends on what your definition of soon is. [laughs]

Rather than tease, I would just say that we believe in the project and we’re doing everything we can to see this project – and other projects – some of which are really great as well, get out there. We’ve got some big plans for the future, and we’re being very aggressive on some things, and we’re really looking forward to see how things roll out.

Brandon: It seems like the press outlets either just overlooked Shadows or they didn’t give it a fair shake, and I think this is kind of tied into this recent focus of yellow journalism and gaming.

Do you think that it’s become a major problem in the industry where it’s this chasing of sensationalist headlines and really just trying to dig for controversy behind games, instead of the games themselves?

Denis: Yes, I think it is a significant problem, and let me throw some caveats before we get into the details of that question. So first of all, there are good press out there. And I think there are groups that are doing really well – IGN, Operation Rainfall, Niche Gamer (you guys) and others. I think they do solid coverage and focus on the games. Very rarely do you see something come out from them that’s talking about gossip – they’re more just focused on the games and what the game is like, and if they like it or not. Where a lot of other sites are all interested is dirty laundry and anonymous sources. So that being said, there’s a lot of good and it’s not fair to overgeneralize the problem and group in all press outlets with this problem.

I think there are a few very bad sites that bring down the rest in general, and that’s really too bad. So, I think one of the reasons I attracted so much attention in the past is that I started questioning the ethicacy of previews in games back in 2006 at E3. I said “Why are we reviewing games at E3 when they’re not even finished?” And that was essentially back in the day when people started doing the best of E3. It was just nonsensical to me. I understand that people need to cover games – but isn’t this bad for everybody? Bad for the consumer, bad for the developers…I caught a lot of heat for that, and I really walked into something that I guess they didn’t truly understand. I wasn’t even trying to attack the press, I was just trying to say ‘Maybe we shouldn’t do this…’

I think that’s how it all started. Many of the press really like criticism but unfortunately maybe I hit too close to home or I just didn’t get it? There were a lot of visceral attacks sent my way and a lot of ad hominems and it was really surprising to me.

Like, when you look at Shadows, many people look at the game and comment back to us that they don’t understand why this didn’t get funded and comment that the demo looks so good. And the answer is because many sites refused to talk about the game and put too many doubts in peoples minds. They were making these accusations of ‘I wouldn’t trust Denis’ or ‘I’d be really careful about where this money is going’ etc…. Ironically, those accusations could not be further from the truth as the group had been working without money for a year out of their own pockets on something they really believed in. Some people from Precursor sadly left the industry because of this. They were good experienced people, but they were so stunned by the behavior of the press that they just didn’t want to carry on in the industry anymore.

I’m certainly not going to blame the press entirely, because some other things happened that were very, very unfortunate and we could never have predicted. During the Kickstarter campaign, so many supporters told us we can’t get funded because the press were saying ‘Don’t trust Denis Dyack’. Much of it, of course, comes from that Kotaku article which was really just awful. [Editor’s note: find that here]

Brandon: I think that’s a really key point there, about the Kotaku article. And I even saw a bit of this coming up in the speculation threads up on 8chan and things like that, with people saying ‘Oh, you know, it might be Denis Dyack, but they had a pedophile on the team’ and I mean…me personally, I think that’s unfair to the entire team.

Denis: Well, that had nothing to do with anything whatsoever and obviously I and the rest of the team were just as shocked if not more than anyone else that found out. This shouldn’t be something that speaks to the quality of the game, the company or the rest of the team. These kinds of things are criminal offenses and they have nothing to do with the games that we’re working on. You know, it’s not the first time this has happened in the industry, but I did notice that a lot of these sites continue to link us to that stuff often with inaccurate information, where they didn’t with previous companies. And it’s just poison. It’s awful to even talk about that stuff. Who is that good for?

A lot of these sites made really off-the-cuff remarks about that particular issue. And that can happen to any group in any industry. It’s just not fair and to condemn a group for that is what is really unreasonable. It had nothing to do with anything that anyone at the company was working on.

So yeah, that was not good at all.

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Brandon: I think that ties into the just focus of coverage like, say, the Kotaku article, and I think it really brings up the question of journalistic ethics. Do you think that there could be like a higher standard of ethics, whether it be with Kotaku or just in general?

Denis: Yes, absolutely, and don’t mistake this for me wanting ‘positive press’, we just want fair coverage about the games rather than rumor about scandal(s). I’ve just been reading the internet recently about whether I’m pro-GamerGate and I’ve already seen accusations on Twitter already, and found that somewhat surprising and puzzling.

So here’s thing I think with #GamerGate in general, there are some things I agree with, and some people would put me in the “pro” camp, but there’s some things I also don’t agree with. But let’s start with journalistic integrity.

I absolutely believe that journalistic integrity is important. And I want to put a caveat in that I do not think that all the websites are bad. I’ve seen some of the commentary out there, and I think it’s unfair to a lot of the really good journalists out there and the groups that are working really hard, and it’s really tough on them, and it makes it harder for them to do a good job. It’s demoralizing when they see that, and all the emotional criticism that’s being leveled at all of the press in general. I’m just very wary with generalizations. I mentioned IGN as a good group, there are many others as well. I think there are definitely good groups out there.

However, there are also bad groups like Kotaku, in my opinion, they stand as a prime example of a group that partakes in yellow journalism. That hit-piece that they wrote about me where I was forced to create a video about it to respond and defend myself. Everyone I worked with at the time was disappointed and felt it was unfair what they did. I never answered that initially because we didn’t think anyone would give it any credence, because it was so far from the truth. At the same time, we were so busy working away on the demo for Shadows we didn’t bring our heads up for air.

So when we decided we’re going to have to address it, the first thing I did was do a google search on journalistic ethics, particularly on anonymous sources in order to address the accusations made in the article. One of the first things that came up, which I think was from the University of Iowa, it had just the basic standards for when you’re talking to anonymous sources, the first standard they outlined was to not put in any degree of personal opinion of someone because that forces the person who’s being accused to respond – it’s a no-win situation for them. And that whole article was almost entirely personal attacks against me. You can see results of the google searches and video in my response here.

Brandon: And this is the, just to clarify, the X-Men Destiny thing, right?

Denis: Yes. It was just astounding and particularly telling that initial google search, showed that essentially every basic-level journalistic rule for ethics on anonymous sources was broken by them in that article. I remember thinking, ”They can’t do this – why are they doing this? – how can they do this?” But they did it. They accused me of defrauding Activision while also the saying the sources were anonymous to protect themselves knowing there was no evidence for this what-so-ever, except the word of disgruntled ex-employees. The lack of facts did not matter once the article was published and most of the press just picked up the article and ran with it.

I do want to say a couple things about the press that I do admire on the subject of the article. Many press outlets initially refused to publish that article. Andrew McMillen, the guy who wrote the article tried to get this picked up for a long time. He kept threatening us that he was going to write some article, but wouldn’t tell us exactly what, so we couldn’t respond to it. We even had a few sites warn us and say “Be careful, this guy’s really out to get you.” But I just couldn’t determine what he was going to write about. Kotaku eventually picked up the article after many other sites refused to run it.

So a lot of press did say, “Let’s not do this” and here is one example: We received an email from supposedly one of the anonymous sources. Direct evidence that the author only had word of mouth from anonymous sources and nothing else to back up the claims.

Brandon: Yeah, I was going to point that out. Like, not only was the initial source anonymous, but it was supposedly former employees, but no names are mentioned in the entire article. Ever. Except for you – you were the only one named…

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Denis: Correct, clearly a hit piece in my opinion. Please allow me to tell you things about the project that I have never talked about before. It’s been enough time now and I feel this needs to be fully addressed so we can move forward with Quantum. So, I already mentioned how far from the truth the article was, but just let me show you how far it really was.

The article accused us of taking money (or staff) from the Activision project (X-Men Destiny) and putting it toward another project. That’s basically the accusation. So, to me, and I think to others in the industry who run development companies, it’s pretty obvious what happened as it’s not that uncommon, but to regular gamers who aren’t normally aware of the business side, I’d like to explain the background on what happened here.

X-Men Destiny had its genesis from an executive producer from Activision, he really liked Too Human, and he wanted to do a game in the X-Men universe like Too Human, as an original title. After some initial talks we started working on this project together.

Financially and in project management terms, the plan was that we were going to work on this project and increase the budget as we go. They wanted to make it a major AAA project. And that was the plan – and one of the reasons Silicon Knights actually put more money into the project than we got paid, because we were ramping up for a bigger budget.

Anyway, something happened in the middle of the project that no one saw coming. What’s really funny, even to this day, is that I’ve never seen anyone comment on it, but it’s the most obvious thing to me and it changed everything. During the middle of this project, Marvel was sold to Disney, and suddenly, Activision was now working for a competitor – Disney. Disney made video games, and Activision made games, but Marvel never did on their own. And everything changed at that point.

And at the time, I don’t know if anyone remembers, but there were quite a few layoffs there, and our budget was substantially cut. And anyone who’s makes games knows that having your budget cut is tough, especially when you’re expecting it to ramp up. It’s really tough to deal with, even worse in the middle of the project. It has huge impact on the scope and the potential for the end product to even be shipped.

Now, while all this was going on, as you can imagine it was a very emotional time both for Silicon Knights, Activision, Marvel, and even for Disney. Now imagine suddenly all four of these companies are involved. Here’s where it gets really, really, complicated. We didn’t want the budget to get cut down of course, and there’s always disagreements about money. Contracts take time to be agreed by all parties.

During that time, we actually did not get paid for X-Men Destiny for about three months or so.

So, from that point, Silicon Knights started funding 100% of that title on our own with our own money. We were basically balancing it but we could only do it for so long. But we didn’t want the project to die, and we hoped the negotiations would go through and the project would continue, but it was in extreme danger of being canceled. This wreaks havok for development and forces huge unexpected changes. At this point, there were only a few people within Silicon Knights that were aware of the situation which would be normal of any software development.

I remember we were having company meetings and some people in the company were bringing up questions like “Why are we spending any of our time and money on this other project when Activision’s paying us?” Ironically and unaware to them actually the opposite was true. We weren’t getting any money from Activision at the time and Silicon Knights was paying for both projects on it’s own. But you can’t say that to people. You don’t want to say that ‘Hey this revenue stream is in jeopardy’. You, know, it’s just not something you share with the development staff for a variety of reasons. You have to keep the morale high which isn’t possible if people are working in the fear that all their hard work could get cancelled. In reality, maybe 3 or 4 people within Silicon Knights actually knew the facts about what was happening. And I can understand employees getting all upset and making things up in their head because they didn’t have the facts.

In order to solve try to solve the problem, we approached Disney and started talks with them, asking what we could do to fix the problem and have them become the publisher. We talked about the game, and they really liked its potential. And finally some conversations started going on between all the companies involved. Again, none of the regular staff knew about this.

My recollection was that all parties involved wanted to make the switch but the deal that Activision had with Marvel and later with Disney was so complicated and detailed to unravel, and it could not be done, and it couldn’t be fixed. So everyone had to deal with the project as it was. Finally, on top of all that, the person who was the champion of this project left Activision and many of the staff that started with the project were laid off.

Everyone involved did try to do their best, but it was one of those situations where it just hit all of these roadblocks and no matter what we tried to do it just didn’t turn out well. I apologized for the problems on the project, I had higher hopes for the game and I hope everyone understands that you can only do so much under situations like that.

With all this in mind, I hope that people can understand that what occurred could not be further from the allegations Kotaku published in that article and why accusations like this should never be made without documentation or other evidence beyond word of mouth. We were putting more money in than we were being paid, we risked everything to keep that project alive. It didn’t turn out how we expected but we did everything possible to make this game the best we could given the constraints.

The X-Men: Destiny article that Kotaku published is an excellent example of why ethics in journalism is important and why yellow journalism should be unacceptable. It’s also an excellent example of how much damage this kind of journalism can do in the future.

Brandon: So one important question I wanted to bring up because of the Kotaku piece. Did they contact you before they ran the story at all? Did they ask for clarification, or anything like that before they ran the story?

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Denis: They did but would not show me the piece or all that it was going to say. When they asked me questions about things, I adamantly denied certain things. However, in my opinion, rather than try to get things factually accurate, the only changes they made were to reduce their liability on the matter. At one point, Stephen Totillo said “the report includes no mention of embezzling money.” I remember thinking ‘what else do you get out of this article?’ At the time, I was deep in litigation already and was not excited to start another.

I personally think it was really wrong and it was awful what they did to not only me but everyone at Silicon Knights. #GamerGate has brought a lot of karma for Kotaku. Kotaku is no longer highly regarded at all anymore and I believe they fully deserve the criticism they have gotten. I think it’s their own doing. They continue to write articles like this. They continue to publish articles that are not well researched, fact checked, and are completely inaccurate and inflammatory. I would hope after all the feedback from #GamerGate that they’ll consider cleaning their house and striving for better journalism. I think that will be better for them and their readers in the long term.


I’d like to thank Denis Dyack for being so kind as to conduct this interview with myself, and for allowing me to tease all of our fans leading up to the reveal. Part two of our interview, where most of the #GamerGate talk happens, will go live on Monday, May 25th!

Niche Gamer regularly interviews developers on a variety of subjects—if you’re a developer and want to chat with us, please contact us!

Brandon Orselli

About

Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Niche Gamer. Italian, but I love Asian culture. I also write about music, comedy, noodles and beer.

  • GuitarAnthony

    So it is Dyack? Kinda let down. Man has a LOT of baggage and not a lot of it good.

  • Ainsley

    Interesting interview. Sad to hear Denis got fucked over by yellow journalism. The more I read the more common this seems to be.

  • Omnistrand

    About time! Anyways, seeing more evidence of developers being forced out of the industry is always frustrating, but we can definitely use this to show people why reforming journalism actually does matter

  • chaoguy

    By the look at the article, it seems some of that might not be his fault. Accusations of blacklisting and sabotage.

  • Etherblaze

    Sounds like Dyack was on the receiving end of smears and whatnot just like Wardell.

    Time for Kotaku to burn.

  • The Chief Lunatic

    Thanks for this interview. Also, before people dump on Dyack think of this: How is GamerGate portrayed in the gaming press? Is it fair and factual? Of course not. Maybe this is what happened to Denis.
    Before witnessing firsthand how the gaming and general media operates, I believed Denis Dyack was a “bad person” and “problematic” and maybe worse. Now I take *everything* I read in the gaming press (and elsewhere) with a huge grain of salt. On the whole, modern journalism seems to be lazy, simple-minded narratives with little to no actual research. No one is perfect but it’s very possible that much of the bile directed at Dyack was unfair and part of the hipster circle-jerk and echo-chamber that everyone in GamerGate should be well aware of by now.

  • Arsalan

    The baggage mostly comes from yellow journalism and Kotaku. You still believe them?

  • Fenrir007

    Well, what do you expect from Kotaku, a place where their ethics policy is not viewable by the public because, according to Mr. Totilo, it would only lead people to eternally chase a ‘gotcha’ moment against them…? Gotta keep the policy flexible, you know.

  • Hawk Hopper

    I actually remember reading that X-Men: Destiny on Kotaku way before GG even began (It was the only Kotaku article I read that wasn’t an archive, but I still feel dirty for giving them a click). It sounded outlandish because it would seem like Activision would have sued Silicon Knights for diverting funds away from the X-Men game (as far as I know, Activision hasn’t sued Silicon Knights). It makes more sense to me that multiple companies fighting over a project would eventually ruin that project (this is what happened to the proposed Halo movie because “too many cooks spoil the broth”). At least the other side of the story is out now. Thank you.

  • GuitarAnthony

    I wouldn’t say I ever believed them. It’s more I was hoping for someone else with a less ‘complicated’ past. Regardless, costs me nothing to give Dyack the benefit of the doubt so that’s what I’m doing.

  • Kamille Bidan

    How do we kill the kotaku?

  • ArsCortica

    An extremely interesting interview. Although the claims made against Kotaku (and Andrew McMillen in particular) require some digging to back them up, I would not be surprised at all if they actually pulled this off. Kotaku is a cesspit of a website and needs to burn.

  • Greg Nieto

    So will there never be a sequel to Too Human? I mean, it was received poorly, and this far out, there’s no way a sequel makes sense, but that game really ended on an unresolved cliffhanger.

  • DanTheMan

    Wholesale rumor mongering? in Kotaku? WELL I’LL BE DAMNED!

    It’s a long standing fact that Kotaku was never short of poorly researched articles bracketed by third rate opinions. I think most people knew this but never truly realized how bad it really is.

    I encourage you to watch this video in particular – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ga4txLxteU

    I think it encapsulates everything that is wrong with this wretched hive of scum and villainy.

  • landlock

    Maybe but trouble seems to follow him. X-Men Destiny aside his team also had a complete nightmare with Too Human over so many years and it still turned out a disaster. They also had trouble with Crystal Dynamics over Legacy Of Kain.

    He is either very unlucky or there is something deeper.

  • King of Bros

    Baggage from Kotaku
    Why would you belive Kotaku?

  • landlock

    Maybe in another 10 years or so.

  • Palaverous

    Great piece, but I have a suggestion: include some details, maybe as an editor’s note, regarding the allegations made in the Kotaku article. You can piece out the background from Dyack’s responses, but seeing how this is the central topic of much of this part, it’d help for it to be summarized at the start so the readers know what he’s replying to.

  • landlock

    The baggage started with Legacy Of Kain and then there was the whole thing with Epic.

  • Kain Yusanagi

    Or, just maybe, shit happens. Executive meddling happens in movies all the time too, and people that make otherwise great stuff also end up making really bad stuff.

  • Hannes Steenkamp

    Razor fist is awesome. He called the fall of games journalism long before 2014.

    I am still waiting on his next video about this topic.

  • landlock

    Sure it happens but not all the time in virtually everything they touch outside of Nintendo. That’s to big of a coincidence.

  • DS23

    Stop going there. Easy.

  • Dammage

    Damn, this guy has been through a lot of shit in his time. Hope his new game actually works out for him

  • Not really… game and media in general is high risk so it’s not uncommon for investors to pull the plug at short notice to cut their losses. That happening the the same company does mean anything at face value – one would need to dig deeper into management decisions to qualify any perceptions of impropriety.. and that’s exactly what he’s talking about with sites like Kotaku *not* doing.

  • bgrunge

    Already updated the wikipedia article to reflect his statements; it’s good to see the truth coming out.

  • landlock

    It’s not just publishers pulling the plug though it’s public court battles with Crystal Dynamics and Epic Games that have been embarrassing to watch. Especially the one against Epic Games.

  • Exactly, there are a lot of reasons things don’t work out none of which have any meaning at face value – IP struggles, contract issue, licensing, Union problems, the list is endless…

  • 2501

    I’ve always felt pity for Dyack. The guy is a very ambitious, eccentric and gifted game dev but misfortune seems to constantly follow him. The whole ordeal that he had with Epic games just destroyed his rep, and to me – that was the real cause of death for SK. If Dyack just swallowed his pride and took responsibility for Too Human’s faults, SK would’ve gained a body of work. As for the kotaku article… it’s kotaku, nuff said.

    Fantastic interview though, look forward to hearing more.

  • Lotus

    Yeah but sometimes life is FULL of big coincidences, there are many example of that and like that other guy said life happens https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8gXDOpTff8

  • Sam

    I’m glad you guys are interviewing Denis.
    One little nitpick though, you’ve got screenshots of blood omen 2 and soul reaver in here, which are the legacy of Kain games Crystal Dynamics made. Why not put some screenshots of Blood Omen 1 up instead?

  • Turt

    Interesting interview.
    Sounds crazy to say it but ign is now one of the best good journalism out there, they might overhype stuff but that is not bad.
    At least they don’t make up fake stories just to make other people look bad with catchy headlines.
    And interesting to see real examples of how an unethical and toxic journalism that is driven by politics, clicks and personal connetions hurts the medium because.
    Organized media blackout on a project, and shameless lies against a team.
    That situation with marvel-activision-disney sounds so complicated but it was interesting to read how it went through, shame the legal issues got in the way.

  • Turt

    Yeah.
    Kotaku can’t clean up, they won’t learn ethics, it doesn’t deserve a second chance.
    It’s garbage.
    Garbage should be thrown away.

  • Proud2beFree

    I can’t believe Kotaku made Denis Dyack steal Epic’s code. They truly are monsters.

  • Proud2beFree

    Yeah everyone knows Kotaku made Denis Dyack steal Epic’s code for Too Human. And they told the judges to rule against Dyack. And they made XMEn DESTiny a pile of garbage. SOMEONE MUST STOP KOTAKU BEFORE THEY RUIN ANOTHER DEVELOPER

  • Fenrir7

    Great read!

  • Proud2beFree

    Nope, Kotaku wrote a hit piece about him, so any of Dyack’s poor decisions aren’t his fault anymore.

  • landlock

    Even the ones before the article, apparently. >.>

  • Proud2beFree

    I really hope you ask him why he thought suing the company of the code he was stealing was a good idea. Did he really think he’d get away with it?

  • WTF Magazine

    Is this the guy that Wu was attacking and saying he was ”sending screenshots to Gamergate” the other day?
    How did Wu find out about this interview before it was released?
    Did someone leak to Wu that this interview was in the works?

  • Arsalan

    Shouldn’t you be trying to justify butts calling herself a pedo?

  • Proud2beFree

    …Who? …What? Did Denis steal her code too?

  • Dee Doubs

    What was wrong with Legacy of Kain exactly? Fill me in a bit if you would.

  • landlock

    They got into a huge public argument with Crystal Dynamics about who owned the rights to the IP Legacy Of Kain. In the end Silicon Knights of course lost because of the contract they signed.

  • Ricolfus

    It’s nothing more than a blog that wants all the benefits of a journalistic company. They was press passes, they want exclusive copies, they want to be highly regarded… but accountability and integrity? Nah, we’re just a blog.

    Kotaku needs to grow up, stop being a shitty blog, and take responsibility, but they won’t do that, so they need to get out.

  • The Gamer Of Ages

    This was a great interview. It really puts into perspective how yellow journalism can really screw over developers and companies.

  • d0x360

    If the kotaku article is in factual to the point he states why doesn’t he sue them? He has every right to do so. The article is still there for people to see and always will be so anytime a new game is shown and the name is said someone will look it up and see that article.

    As for a guy at Activision liking too human…thats the only part I find unbelievable lol. The game wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t fun either. You can blame the combat system and its total lack of depth or nuance for that

  • d0x360

    What problem did they have with crystal dynamics over legacy of Kain? They created the series and then afterwards the IP was given to crystal dynamics who made soul reaver. SK was working on eternal darkness at that point as well as too human.

  • Thanatos2k

    Of all the people who have the right to complain about corrupt game journalism, Denis Dyack is not one of them. After the disgrace that was Too Human and his comments directly insulting his audience, not to mention the absolute travesty that was X-Men Destiny, I don’t even care if he was stealing money while he made it – there’s no legitimate excuse for such poor quality. He can claim he got poor coverage and bad reviews, but anyone who played those games knows they deserved it.

    The stolen money angle does make sense, considering Gearbox pulled a similar maneuver during Colonial Marines’ development, to similar results.

    http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=503761

    All of the information here cannot be lies. Many are direct quotations.

    Dyack stole code and was ordered to destroy every copy of the games that he made. The legal system trumps claims of game journalism corruption.

  • Thanatos2k

    Except the executive meddling would have come from Dyack.

  • Thanatos2k

    Did Sega sue Gearbox for doing the exact same thing?

    (Answer is no)

    Just because there’s no lawsuit doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

  • stryk

    The spat happened long ago, a bit after the first Blood Omen came out in ’97, iirc

  • Y’know, that’s the THIRD TIME I hear some crazy shit do down when Disney Suddenly gets involved!

    I remember back when Dragon’s Crown was in development, it was being published by UTV Ignition. Then Disney came in and bought Ignition’s parent company, UTV, which was based in India. Apparently Disney wanted to branch out to India, and that involved buying UTV and all their subsidiaries. Not sure what was going on with Ignition, but my guess was their funding was cut short, much like what Dyack was talking about. And cut funding for UTV meant little to no funding for Vanillaware… until Atlus came in and saved the game.

    And then of course there was Star Wars 1313. And Disney was the one that pulled the plug on LucasArts, and in turn 1313’s development. Looks like everything the House of Mouse touches ends up dying shortly.

  • Trepie

    Very interesting read. I still wouldn’t trust Dyack with my money, but the guy definitely didn’t deserve being defamed by Kotaku’s hit piece like that. It’s one thing to warn not to invest in a Kickstarter because of past flops, it’s another to publish rumors from anonymous sources.

  • Meittimies

    True, Legacy of Kain debacle in particular was a rather nasty affair. I remember reading some of the staff of Silicon Knights and Eidos saying the arguments about which company owns the LoK-ip got so heated they had to call the cops to the scene.

  • yeah I knew someone would point this out haha. I wanted to use an image from the original in the header but I kept wanting to use a more recent image of Kain.

  • added this as an editor’s note where Denis brings it up first

  • landlock

    That reminds me I don’t think they ever explained how Vorador magically came back to life.

  • Etherblaze

    Pretty much most, if not all of the anti-ethical outlets like Polygon and Kotaku want the advantages of being journalists with the safety net of being bloggers. They unfortunately, do not want to go the easy route.

  • sanic

    Man I was sure this guy was just incompetent when I read the xmen destiny story was back by 7 former workers but now it doesn’t seem to be the case, they didn’t know what they were talking about… guess I deserve to get tricked for taking kotaku seriously.

    Sorry Dyack I believed them and was wrong to do so.

  • Jimmy

    You source Neogaf you cretin.

  • Jimmy

    Laughing at the shills in this comment section.

    “IGNORE THE ARTICLE. THIS INCIDENT UNRELATED TO ANYTHING IN THIS ARTICLE IS WHAT YOU SHOULD BE FOCUSSING ON”

    Proof we are getting to them. Great interview Brandon

  • Arkstrong

    There’s no need to be so unfairly dismissive. The source, Mama Robotnik, has a very well established track record for posting properly researched essays and massive investigations, more credible than most so-called game journalists. For example, he personally discovered and revealed everything known about the cancelled Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun game shitcanned by Square a few years ago. He’s a self-confessed fan of Denis Dyack, and was posting on LoK boards way back as early as the late 1990’s, so his bias would lean in favor of Silicon Knights, if anything. The post-mortem is full of reliable citations and presents a fair balance. Even if you’re sympathetic to Dyack, which I kinda am to a certain extent, it’s asinine to brush off Robotnik’s piece with a “lol NeoGAF” type non-response.

  • TheCynicalReaper

    Nicely done, and damn am I sick of these pieces of shit trying to ruin good people

  • d0x360

    Ok but what was it about? Was it about the license being taken away from silicon knights of something else entirely? Context is in red important when establishing behavior.

  • Random Marine

    This is what i could call “gaming journo”…going after the news rather than just sharing and giving your own thoughts about the matter….Great work.

  • John

    Dyack has been a washed up figure in the industry and hasn’t had credibility for a while now. When he creates a piece of crap game, he then blames “journalism” for his own failure when he should be looking in the mirror.

    Yet another pathetic, has-been “industry” figure like Mark Kern who is so desperate for attention that he has to turn to GamerGate for sympathy – talk about scraping to the absolute bottom of the barrel. Glad that most everyone out there has no idea what GamerGate is and even less about Dyack…move along folks, nothing to see here.

  • Wrathful

    Said nobody important.

  • Turt

    Yeah, that is part of the problem.

    They do not follow the rules news do, basic stuff like facts, sources, accountability, legitimacy and truthfulness.

    Yet they want to pretend they are news, and have their words carry the same weight real news have, the weight that makes people trust them, they want to use the trust news have earned from people without actually doing the things news do that made them earn and deserve people’s trust.

    And that is a huge problem.
    It is toxic to the medium as we see in this article, but it also drags everyone’s trust of the news down.

  • Bored

    I never go to Kotaku anymore, I’m sick of their horrible attitude towards the gaming industry especially towards Nintendo.

  • Kain Yusanagi

    Not excusing poor decisions. Just saying that you can’t blame every single aspect on him alone.

  • Kain Yusanagi

    Quite.

  • Kain Yusanagi

    Well, there’s my avatar right here… ;)

  • Chris R

    I would be surprised if they couldn’t sue them for libel… I mean arguably they directly lost donation money over this and it hurt their reputation both on an individual level and as a company. Unfortunately I find the best, maybe even only way, to make any company change their policies is to hit them with a lawsuit.

  • masterninja

    Now I remember this the whole situation felt fishy at the time I read about it, I just couldn’t put my finger on it…
    Its nice to know more about it I hope he can get back on top after all this

  • I lost credibility for Kotaku years ago (I don’t know how to word this sentence better, don’t read it as I was writing for Kotaku). Whenever they’d publish a piece on a person, it was always accusations and no proof. Or the “proof” was from anonymous sources.

    It’s terrible that this happened to you, Denis. I hope Kotaku continues to fall.

    Also: Eternal Darkness 2 when?

  • Viredae

    Kinda hits me that Dyack was actually pretty much on the ball about reviewing previews in E3, at the time, the point of view was that only developers got hurt by this, and any attempt to say “oh, gamers get hurt too” was just trying to weasel out of the blame.

    Then Aliens: Colonial Marines happened, and we knew better.

    … Much better.

  • I have similar feelings – I really have to question everything I’ve heard these past years now that the veil has lifted. In that roundabout way modern games journalism has made me a more informed consumer. Just not in the way they intended.

  • Wand

    The shills are out in full force today

  • MRAlias

    Sounds like typical Kotaku. Thank you for sharing your side of the story Denis and thank you Niche Gamer for setting up this interview.

  • Arkstrong

    Go and look it up yourself. It’s spelled out on the Blood Omen Wikipedia article, not hard to research.

  • Tromboner

    “Accountability? What’s that?” – Stephen Totilo (probably)

  • d0x360

    Nope. I’d rather the person making the accusations say what said accusations are. Its crap Information peddling like that that we are against from kotaku etc.

    Make accusations give no info.

  • Misogynerd

    That’s what always happens when companies change hand, projects get cancelled, shift hands or have to be started from scratch. Plus remember they cancelled Spectacular Spider-Man, Wolverine and the X-Men and had to make a whole new Avengers cartoon once Disney Bought Marvel.

  • Mr.Calavera

    Great interview.

  • Edonus

    IGN definitely arent a “GOOD”. They may be not as bad as some but being such a major player in gaming journalism they are far from the beacon of fairness and justices and proper etiquette the gaming community needs and deserves. As an example look at there resolution chart for Ps4 and X1 games. It is a slander campaign. Its designed to only be little the X1.

  • Arkstrong

    It’s not an accusation, it’s a fact, and a very well-documented and easy to Google one.

  • TheLastSandwichOnEarth

    So the press does their best to step on the neck of devs they don’t like, but “culture critics” that bad mouth the industry get a free pass.

    Fuck Polygon, Fuck Kotaku, Fuck gameinformer

  • MaidKillua

    Yes, Dennis and Mark are washed up has-beens, of course. I’m sure you also think that Brianna Wu and Phil Fish are excellent developers and wonderful people. Shill harder

  • Thanatos2k

    Neogaf has truth on it, from time to time. This is one of those times. Everything there is well sourced. If you want to dispute the facts, go ahead.

    To dismiss information merely based on its source rather than its veracity is the same trap many commenters have fallen into defending someone who was judged a thief by the legal system.

  • Thanatos2k

    Yeah except the results do speak for themselves. Ask yourself why you believe Dyack any more than Kotaku. I trust neither, but I do know that a court of law has ruled Dyack is a thief, Dyack has publicly insulted his audience, and their last two games have been garbage.

  • sanic

    It’s important to acknowledge when I believe myself wrong, also

    “a court of law has ruled Dyack is a thief, Dyack has publicly insulted his audience”

    A court of law ruled he committed copyright infringement which is quite different from theft particularly as one is criminal while the other is civil, it’d be more appropriate to declare him an idiot rather than a thief. For publicly insulting his audience I’d like sources and if this is to do with neogaf I’m just going to wash my hands of it, pic related.

  • Morningstar

    INB4 the Wikipedia article gets reverted

  • Feniks

    I like Kotaku. But then I don’t take them seriously. I think people don’t understand the difference between a blog that talks about videogames and the NYT.

    Ethics in journalism only matters if you think writing about games is actually “journalism”.

  • Jimmy Rustler

    I’m starting to believe I could begin predicting games industry future happenings based off my twenty years of experience in enthusiastic gaming. I knew kotaku was shit tier five years ago when they mirrored the same brand of anti-masculine blame-the-reader-instead-of-entertain as Cracked.com.

  • Zanard Bell

    When they say why GamerGate are against unethical practices, this is why. It’s to protect devs from character assassination. And you can’t expect no retribution from Kotaku, considering that they are from Gawker media. Let’s see, Hulk Hogan sex tape, attacks on American conservatives, defending Lena Dunham…

    Will there be really anything to salvage from that site? I guess none.

  • Thanatos2k

    If taking code from someone else without their ok, using it, and then lying that you used it isn’t thievery, I don’t know what is.

    “For publicly insulting his audience I’d like sources and if this is to
    do with neogaf I’m just going to wash my hands of it, pic related.”

    Read the linked Neogaf post. (http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=503761) Everything there is well sourced, with links to when and where he said stuff. “Washing your hands of it” because the facts are inconvenient just makes you look petty. Neogaf is trash, but that linked post is NOT trash.

  • Meittimies

    Then the writers in Kotaku should stop calling themselves journalists. And they should also give away their E3 passes, because E3 allows only journalists in, not bloggers.

  • Feniks

    Yeah I don’t think videogames should even be about journalism unless we’re talking about annual financial reports.
    But you’re right, Kotaku does call themselves journalists when it suits them.

    Honestly I like the comments on Kotaku more than the articles.

  • GEhotpants101 .

    I hope Dyack reads the comments here. I really want to tell him how much of a fan I am of his, and all his work. I loved Blood Omen so much, Kain was my second crush. (My first was Raziel, but I couldn’t resist Kain, the ultimate bad boy.) I still have a bit of a crush. His persistent urge to look really cool at all times, and the voice of Simon Templeman really do me in. :3

  • GEhotpants101 .

    You could have grabbed a cap of the picture of him in the options screen where it shows you what armor you’re wearing. It’s actually still really cool looking to this day. The armor designs in the game were some of the coolest ever. The bone armor looked downright dangerous for anyone getting too close. :)

  • GEhotpants101 .

    Put his head back on and ??? to it. And then Vorador went around raising other vampires, and weirdly got his favorite one to tattoo her face all up like a portrait of some other woman that was in his house before the place was burned down, (true fact: Uma is not the woman in the portrait, Hennig confirmed this) and then just stopped because ??? and then got his ass kicked by neo-sarsfan. There’s a lot of questions that BO2 leaves…

  • jennytablina

    This generally happens with a lot of buyouts, you very quickly learn your new owner has absolute say in how things go. Disney is *very* corporate and gets to business quickly with acquisitions. It also means all previous deals have to be re-negotiated for legal reasons. If the new owners don’t like what you had in the pipework, all bets are generally off.

    With Marvel they closed down the only official UK comic for that time, swiftly worked on dealing with whatever was coming out. They has some issues with certain characters like Spiderman, who had a ride in a rival park and a successful film franchise with Sony (and I believe the rights couldn’t just be revoked)

    Star Wars 1313 I believe wasn’t part of Disney’s vision for Star Wars & we don’t know how well the game was turning out. It could of been a mercy killing if it was a black-hole project. In their defence also, they did what Lucasarts never did on it’s own, and finally allowed digital re-releases of their classics.

  • boag

    He probably has been bad at picking good law teams to handle contract negotiations, its really stupid to start up a contract with x set budget, then try to get more and not have an iron clad contract stipulating the responsibilities of each party involved.

  • megatherium100 .

    They need to be physically remove…

  • Mr.Sixes

    …..Yeah Denis still sounds like you f***ed up MORE than once

  • Mr.Sixes

    Even with Twin Snakes, Kojima totally disregards it for several decisions it made in terms of changing cinematics without his consent..

  • Stormy Rain

    Eternal Darkness 2 when?

  • Having a background in multimedia, i know that when the budget runs dry everything grinds to a halt. not to mention the whole thing between marvel + Disney – activation. Disney very tightly guards their intellectual property. if i was in that situation, it think at the point that i head Disney was involved, i would have opted to dump the project lol. not that disney is bad, but i could imagine it dragging the project to a halt over intellectual property rights.