At the end of 1999, Joe Brown revealed to me that he had ambitions for starting his own game development company. He had ideas for a Massive Multiplayer online game set in a sci-fi universe. He had borrowed inspirations from Homeworld (a real time strategy game of sci-fi) and Sid Meier's Civilization (a classic empire building game), and cast these along with his own new ideas into a vision for a new game. We discussed the game at length, and he persuaded me to sign on to his team. He also persuaded Chris Ledwith to join our team as a programmer and Alex Diaz to join our team as an artist. The four of us set out together to design Joe's game, which he called "Consortium".
From January through March of 2000, while Descent 3 was still in its heyday and Joe and I were also working together on 300baud Productions projects, the four of us met in secret almost daily on IRC and hammered out the game concepts. Alex worked to produce concept art. I worked on design docs and story background. Chris consulted on programming aspects, contributed to the concepts and started preliminary programming on a combat engine. Joe coordinated everything and promised to seek financing for us.
As the weeks wore on, problems arose. Some of the design concepts turned up flaws, figured out either by me or by Chris. Each of the four of us developed our own preferences for which way certain systems should lean, and disagreements started to arise. We worked hard at figuring out compromises and we kept the team together through some rough moments, but as the weeks wore on, the money became the fatal issue. Joe's efforts to secure investors did not succeed, and none of us were willing to sell our souls to further the process.
At the start of April, we suspended our work on Consortium, pending the success of Joe obtaining financing for our would-be company. We divided the intellectual property each according to his own labors, leaving the overall idea (such as it is) in Joe's hands. To my knowledge, nothing further ever came of it.
Although this effort failed to get off the ground, I learned a good bit about the challenges that face game developers. I gained appreciation for the money side of the business and learned lessons that have continued to serve me well in going forward.
Joe and I had been partners for three years through the successes at IDL under his leadership and the successes with 300baud Productions under my leadership. However, this marked our parting of ways. We would finally meet in person at the Steel City LAN in Pittsburgh in summer 2000, for our mutual last hurrah in the Descent community. Then we went our separate ways. Joe delved deep into the world of massive multiplayer online games with Mankind, Jumpgate, and Eve Online, leading communities for each of these games. I went the opposite way, moving back to single player games, building my reputation on the strength of my fansite writings, especially for Diablo II and Civilization III.
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