Introversion’s Difficult 2008

By: Derek Yu

On: April 30th, 2009


Introversion’s Chris Delay posted a rather sobering series of articles reflecting on the team’s difficulties over the past couple of years, including the apparently lackluster reception to Multiwinia. It’s very honest, heartfelt, and revelatory. Thanks for sharing this, Chris.

I’ve always been of two minds towards Introversion. On the one hand, I’m a big fan of Darwinia and grateful for what Introversion has done with their early success to help popularize indie games and pave the way for other developers. On the other hand, the slogans, expensive cars, and general attitude of the marketing and business arm have always rubbed me the wrong way. Everyone’s allowed their fun, of course, but I couldn’t help but feel like there was almost a Romero-ness to it all… like someone I admired was telling me to “Suck It Down™,” or whatever.

So reading Chris’s latest posts, I’m reminded of Ion Storm, the story of which I read once a year as a reminder that things can always go in another direction (and it just so happens that my yearly reading came this past week). I don’t say that with any kind of satisfaction… I’ve met and spoken with Chris before, and it’s obvious he is just a shy and talented guy who enjoys programming and making games. Nor are the lessons to be learned necessarily the same – I just think both tales are really relevant to indie developers and important to keep in perspective as the scene grows ever larger.

Anyway, here’s hoping that the rest of the year is good for Introversion, and for everyone! Time to put the nose to the grindstone (or rather, keep it there) and make some cool games.

(Thanks, Lucaz! Via TIGForums.)

  • Rift

    Sounds like they lost focus a bit but are finding it again. I think they’ll make it, although i wouldn’t be suprised if they had more ‘changes’ to go through

  • Eclipse

    John Romero is the most awesome dude i’ve ever have a chat with in the game biz so stop that old daikatana story, even because he wasn’t the marketing guy at ionstorm even if he accepted that line.

    I’m sad about Introversion, but i must admit i don’t liked Multiwinia as i did with Darwinia, it was like a new game with the same assets, and released too distant from darwinia

  • Derek

    I’m a big fan of John Romero, so please don’t get me wrong. Bad marketing happens to good people.

  • Winterous

    It makes me sad that Ion Storm collapsed, they did such awesome games!
    Dominion is quite possibly one of the best RTS’s I’ve ever played, it had an interesting storyline, amazingly well-made graphics, and solid fun gameplay.

    Then I discovered StarCraft :D

  • Firesword

    John romero is a great guy, that said Daikatana was pure shit. lol

    Never played darwinia or multiwinia, but if Winterous is right, making a game like StarCraft wasn’t the best of the ideas.

  • Leopold

    It’s amazing how misfortune hits the greatest talents – Carmack and Romero were the perfect team, between the two of them there was killer design and cutting edge technology. Now all ID does is repetitive shooters, who cares if Carmack is a genius programmer if his work is wasted on uninspired designs?

  • Rockvillian

    Everyone should pick up Multiwinia. Another name I call it is “Crazy Tron Battles”. The simplicity of the strategy mixed with the over powerful power-ups (and mass death) is such a joy to play.

    Best wishes to Introversion.

  • Juhkystar

    I really hope thess guys pull through. I was a huge fan of Darwinia back when I found it at a discount section at Big Lots. (Now, I’d be indignant if I ever saw one of their games there again.) It was the most revelo=utional game I’d ever seen, and had the most amazing graphical style.
    I wish them the best, and I’ll stil hang my Darmwinia poster on the wall no matter what.

  • juice

    First, credit to Chris for being brave enough to write this article – it can’t be easy looking back at recent problems and mistakes under such a harsh light.

    Beyond that, I think Introversion have suffered from a couple of problems, which they may have now figured out how to resolve.

    First, they were hit by the classic “local boy done good” syndrome – I have absolutely nothing against them hiring fast cars and living the dream for a weekend, but they’ve been trying to keep one foot in the indie world and another in the commercial zone, which has meant they’re not really in either. It also seems to have led to them biting off more than they could chew, in terms of the number of simultaneous projects – and much as I applaud the sentiment of “only forward”, refusing to work on Darwinia+ in favour of Subversion seems more than a little silly.

    Also, the biggest issue appears to have been with Multiwinia and the control issues: this set the release back and knocked all the publicity out of sync. This points to an issue with their testing approach (i.e. not enough fresh eyes) and/or a possible case of the Emperor’s new clothes: if the journalists were avoiding the subject, it’s likely that the testers (inhouse and/or forum beta-testers) were too.

    Still, hopefully they’ll work through the problems – I’ve enjoyed all of the games to date and am looking forward to Darwinia+…

  • Queen of shmups

    I loved Darwinia, it is a good game. But Multiwinia was -to me at least- yet another multiplayer. Having quality games like Civilization or Team fortress 2, you would have to be very *I do mean very* creative as an indie developer to sell your game among the big multiplayer beasts, let alone the RPGs (which I think are crap for the most part). Anyway, still think the best of Introversion are their least known games such as Defcon or Uplink, two jewels despite their age. Perhaps they should start from scratch again with small but original projects and focus on the fans they already have, after all both defcon and uplink are sort of cult-games and I’m sure marketing a new ‘humble’ but fun, original, different project would sell very well. It is interesting to see how the free-market system affects real creative guys :) in any industry, and the game industry is not different in that respect. Once you are absorbed, it is difficult to come out. Not saying that Introversion sold themselves, but rather that it is difficult for the *different* guy to keep himself within the flow competitiveness of releasing dates and passing ‘quality tests’ (read here= to please the standards of the industry). Seems like once you are there, success is measure in terms of money :( and sells. Yeah, i know, I’m not saying anything new but maybe what’s causing Chris Delay to feel rather unenthusiastic about his new games. Hope this is just one of those bad times that come once in a while though, and after it goes away we’ll have more of introversion!

  • gnome

    Dear Derek, I’ll be frank with you: that was a nasty post. It simply reminded me how much I’ve enjoyed the Uplink and Defcon demo, the fact I had never bought an Introversion game -despite likeing the ideas behind them- and then make me feel sad and terrified of loosing such a lovely creative team.

    I thus bought the physical bundle of the Anthology and asked them good Brits to mail to Greece, hence spending the last euros of my Paypal account. And it’s your fault.



  • RazputinOleander

    I’m inclined to agree with gnome here.

    I’ve been hearing bad things bout Introversion, about their attitude and all. This post, Derek, is one example of such things. But, I can’t see any merit to any of the complaints I’ve heard.

    Some guys rented some fancy cars for one day! I’d do that if I was interested in cars. Frankly, that’s the equivalent of ragging on someone like me for doing three brewery tours in one day. Sure it costs money and it’s not related to what I do for work, but dammit, I’m a homebrewer and beer enthusiast, so I’m going to make the effort to visit those breweries.

    And honestly, the slogans are only noticeable in how completely non-offensive or even run-of-the-mill they are. I can’t understand why anyone would take offense to them.

    Maybe it’s all a ruse. I definitely feel, after reading your post, that I should go buy every Introversion game just to spite your highly subjective opinions. If that’s the goal; well, I really don’t agree with your approach, but I guess it’s kind of working.

  • gnome

    Let me just add that I didn’t think Derek’s post was *actually* nasty. Just that it prompted me to spend away. Again.

    And, uhhh


  • Adam Atomic

    These were some good, humbling reads and reminded me of where my business was at in the middle of 2008 too. Heady stuff!

    I’m hopeful for introversion though, “push on until you can’t push on anymore” is 100% the right thing, and there’s something about…dire looming destiny and catastrophe that clarifies your priorities for you.

  • Dan MacDonald

    I tend to agree with Derek, I like the introversion guys but they do come off as being a tad arrogant at times. Maybe it’s just a subtle cultural difference and not something overt. I don’t know…

    I do wish them all the best though, and encourage them to keep making creative games and not to get caught in the trap of milking prior successes.

  • namuol

    I have to agree with Derek here; I really hope Subversion doesn’t turn out to be Introversion’s Daikatana. By that, I mean I hope Subversion rocks the world.

    Now I just have to get out of work so I can read these posts; shame on me for taking the Introversion blog off my daily blogroll..

  • Derek

    I didn’t mean to be nasty. I just thought it was relevant to where my thoughts are right now. I wanted to come clean about my various opinions over the years and create a discussion.

    I have nothing against celebrating financial success by spending money. That’s what it’s there for. It was the particular combination of “The Last of the Bedroom Programmers,” the in-your-face marketing attitude, and the write-ups about the spending ($10k in one week at E3 for sports cars and speed boats, I believe) that threw me off _back in the day_. There are so many struggling bedroom coders out there and it struck me as kind of a slap.

    But if I didn’t make it clear that I have a very healthy amount of admiration for Introversion’s games and respect for Chris Delay, in particular, then I apologize.

  • gnome

    You definitely got a point there. Besides, I always shudder at the mere sight of posh cars. Remember Imagine?

  • Oddbob

    That wuz piracy that wot did that, Gnome! Honest, guv! ;)

  • pandafresh

    “You’re about to become Chris Delay’s bitch. Suck it down.”

  • Lyx

    SOME degree of “proudness” and “in your face”-attitude is healthy – it just becomes a problem when its overdone – and overdone it is when it exceeds your actual capabilities: Self-Overestimation.

    It seems Introversion tasted a bit of the downsides to that – by certainly far from romeroness ;) Even if they wanted to, they couldn’t do that – consequences of such a mentality hit a small-to-medium-size game company much quicker than an eidos-backed romero :) And i honestly doubt that most indiedevs – or ANY creator in general, hasn’t experienced that himself. That gameproject you once worked on, and which turned out to be beyond your capabilities? Same thing, but with less/no cash involved.

  • godsavant

    I suddenly don’t feel like going into the indie business anymore.

  • gnome

    @ Oddbob: One can’t mention Imagine in your presence, eh? Oh, and lol, rofl, hahaha etc :D

  • tigregular

    I’m afraid I agree that the post came off rather bitter to me too. They made their money, they can spend it how they like. All they seem to want to do is make good games – where’s the harm in that?

    And if spending $10,000 dollars on some cars and boats means we’re now talking about it, then it was a success. All publicity etc… And it’s certainly in my mind a long, long way from being a ‘Romero-scenario’. I found their slogans cheeky and fun, fitting with their IP… hardly arrogant.

  • Lyx


    I think this may have to some extend a bit to do with the indiegaming scene being biased leftwards… and with this comes a mentality, which mistakes “being independent” with “being a poor selfless punk”.

  • Soulja Boy

    @Lyx: Could you explain what you mean by the indie scene being “biased leftwards”?

  • gnome

    The Left surely has nothing to do with being a poor selfless punk, mind, dear Lyx.

  • Jotaf

    @Soulja Boy: He’s saying we’re a bunch of low-life communist/anarchist hippies!!


  • Konkur

    I didn’t really enjoy Darwinia, so I had no interest in Multiwinia. Uplink was fun though, I’d get a sequel if it appeared.

  • Fuzz

    @ Jotaf: Well, actually, Paul’s a voluntaryist.

  • Allen

    The slogans and marketing is business. It’s not out there to appeal to those “if you’re not indie, fuck you” people, ya know?

    Which, Derek, you seem like you are one of those people. Seemed like you got offended by their marketing slogan. You take it a little too serious and forget that selling games is a business.

  • Lyx

    @Soulja Boy:

    I could, but i do not want to, because i doubt that at this place, people are able and willing to understand it.

  • Paul Eres

    I hope they do a sequel to Uplink. I believe that Uplink is actually still their best-selling game, despite being low-fi and released back in 2001.

    As for spending 10k british pounds in one week on speed cars and speed boats not being that awful, sure, it’s not horrible. But it wasn’t just that they spend that much money, but that they spent so much that they had almost no money a few months later (one of them had to move back in with his parents).

    And remember that they also faked forum accounts / created sock puppets in order to market Uplink. They just come off to me as short-term thinking pleasure-seekers from the stories I’ve read about them. This may be totally inaccurate, since I never met them and don’t observe them on a day to day basis, but I can only go by what I read about them.

  • Derek

    Allen, I have nothing against arrogance or _money_, which I personally enjoy having and spending on myself and my friends. What irks me isn’t even slogans, it’s disingenuous and ineffective marketing and business, which doesn’t help anybody, and obviously can’t save you if you’re not putting out good games.

    I want nothing more than for independent developers to be successful and arrogant (i.e. confident) about their success. Just because I live in San Francisco doesn’t mean I’m a goddamn hippy. ;)

    (It does mean I’m gay for indie gaymes, though.)

  • Byron

    Derek, come and visit us at Introversion, you will have to buy your own ticket though because like Chris mentions in the blog posts – we are out of money.