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Atomic President: Studio 'Caught By Surprise' By  Fallujah  Dropping
Atomic President: Studio 'Caught By Surprise' By Fallujah Dropping Exclusive
April 28, 2009 | By Chris Remo, Leigh Alexander

April 28, 2009 | By Chris Remo, Leigh Alexander
More: Console/PC, Exclusive

Atomic Games, developer of controversial action game Six Days in Fallujah, was " surprise" by Konami's decision not to publish the title, said studio president Peter Tamte.

In a statement delivered today to Gamasutra, Tamte said, "Development of the game had been progressing very well and on schedule. We would very much like the opportunity to complete the game."

Since its announcement, Six Days has attracted considerable controversy for its depiction of 2004's Second Battle of Fallujah.

North Carolina-based Atomic learned of Konami's decision late last week. The decision was made public yesterday.

At the time of the announcement, a Konami representative explained, "After seeing the reaction to the videogame in the United States and hearing opinions sent through phone calls and e-mail, we decided several days ago not to sell it."

In his statement, Tamte did not address Atomic's immediate plans for the game, as to whether the studio will attempt to self-fund the game, or put development on hold until a new publisher is found.

The full text of the statement from Atomic Games to Gamasutra is as follows:

"We were informed on Thursday night that Konami had decided to pull out of Six Days in Fallujah. This caught us by surprise. Development of the game had been progressing very well and on schedule. We would very much like the opportunity to complete the game."

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Aaron Casillas
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Is there a trailer we can all see?

Devin Monnens
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I was disappointed to hear that Konami had decided to pull the game, especially without contacting the studio first as this article suggests. I regard it as a political decision made by Konami to keep safe, despite the fact that feedback from the press was based on two screenshots and a press statement rather than any kind of demo or detailed design statement from the developer. I hope Atomic Games is able to gain a publisher for the title in order to fulfill their desires for expression and impact on audiences because we need to create dialogue using games' unique abilities for expression and its capacity for critical thought rather than shy away from the first negative responses from the press.

However, the concerns I placed in my blog still stand:

As much as we might wish to deny it, the occupation is as much a part of the War in Iraq as was the Battle of Fallujah, and a completely different experience to our servicemen and women. I believe games have the capacity to effectively address the scope of the conflict and experience much more broadly than through battles alone.

Bob McIntyre
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That's not good. You should never have to hear it through the grapevine. Come on, Konami. Treat people better than that.

Bryan Diggs
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I thought video games and electronic entertainment was all about anti censorship? Has it all be talk?

Ed Alexander
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Well I hope first of all another publisher scoops this up. And I hope second of all, the game is a commercial success that definitely wins on the risk it banks on.

Public outcry is not a reason for censorship.

Bob McIntyre
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Being anti-censorship is one thing, but not selling things that you think will damage your company's reputation is another. I think it's good to separate out "bad censorship," such as the government telling you that you can't express political dissent, from "good censorship," such as the public voting with their feet/wallets by not buying your offensive/crappy artwork.

I'm not calling the game offensive or crappy, but apparently Konami thought that the public found this idea offensive enough that it would be unwise for them to try selling it.

steve roger
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Bob, the developer says that they were informed about being dropped last Thursday, which is before Konami's public announcement. By how it is written, by saying "caught by surprise" makes us think they weren't informed. But really all they mean is that they were "surprised" that Konami made the decision to pull out.

I do hope that this game get's made. The Kuma games are of such low quality that the controversial natured just becomes a blip in the media. Like most of the games based on controversial topics the controversy becomes a sales tactic in an effort to sell a crappy game. However, the Kuma games can be fun, but the are of marginal quality. They aren't terrible of course. What do you expect from "free" games.

The only thing that makes the Kuma games interesting are the fact that they are topical and tied to world events. However, there is no serious aspects given via the relatively simplistic game play options. Although being able to use squad based tactics in a shooter is always fun.

However, I am interested in higher quality games like Rogue Warrior that hits on controversial current world events. I was hoping Six Days would be a high quailty shooter that would be engaging based the fact it is taken from current events.

We don't know the details of the publishing agreement so we don't know if Konami got cold feet because the game is not likely to sell well because of the controversy or in spite of the controversy. Or that they just chickened out because they thought it might affect the sales of their other games.

Bob Stevens
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They could name it "Imaginary Battle in an Imaginary Middle Eastern Place" and make the exact same game. It's not like they had to drop the game entirely, so maybe there were other factors involved.

Amir Sharar
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"After seeing the reaction to the videogame in the United States and hearing opinions sent through phone calls and e-mail, we decided several days ago not to sell it."

I think Konami recognizes that this game has little worldwide appeal (won't be big in the Japanese market, for example) and is primarily targeted to the US market. And if this market would take offense to the game, it would be very wise to simply not bother.

Janne Haffer
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Dropping this game is probably a good business decision. If it is good or bad for "games" in general is hard to say, but it is quite clear why it would be hard to make it a commercial success:

A) Lets say that the the game has the same production values and manages to be just as good of an action game as COD4.

IF they could pull just that off (not many can still), it means the conflict would have to be depicted in an extremely dumb way which would garner a huge ammount of criticism and negative response.

So if they just had the resources to make a game as "fun/good" as COD4, they would still need a LOT more money to give the player proper tools/choices to make it meaningful and show the conflict properly. I would chances of some publisher paying for that would be extremely slim.

B) If they make a game that depicts the conflict in any meaningful way and not a super-retarded war perspective like in COD4 (IE there would be relevant player choice in the game), then they would need to spend their whole budget on buliding proper scenarios allowing the choices to happen.

Resulting game could be super interesting but probably not "fun", thus it would probably not sell.

I think Bob Stevens suggestion is the best for the involved parties, drop the whole Fallujah bit from the name. Make it a stupid FPS game like all others but throw in a little bit more perspective and it will get a good response just from rising above the incredibly low bar we have for such things.

E Zachary Knight
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I don't agree that they should just change the name and deny that it is a game about Fallujah. That would severely limit its appeal.

I for one would not buy another generic shooter. I don't really own one. I have played Halo, Unreal, COD4 etc, but never felt like owning one.

But this game was to be a documentary of sorts over the battle of Fallujah and I would have been extremely willing to buy that. I have a real interest in games that are used in such a way. I wish that more game developers and publishers would be willing to release more documentary games.

I posted this on the last article about the game. There are a little over 3 pages of results on Amazon when searching for Fallujah. Books, DVDs and CDs. I would love to see a game take a serious look at the subject matter and be listed along side of those other media accounts.

It is sad to see that Konami dropped support for the game. I said it in my tweet that they just wussed out. They couldn't stand the heat. But I think in the long run it will be for the best. Don't want a publisher who is not willing to stand for the games they sign.

Devin Monnens
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Edgar, thanks for clearing that up.

Game developers obviously have to pay the bills and answer to their investors. As a result, their primary concern is whether or not they can make money (at least enough to pay for the previous game and fund the next one so they can keep doing what they love). The folks at Atomic thought this game would sell; otherwise, they wouldn't have spent a lot of time working on it. But I think it's a fallacy to assume that for a game to sell it can't be art and it can't be serious - art and entertainment are not mutually exclusive as film and literature demonstrate. There's lots of stuff that sells that nobody thought there'd be a market for (Wii Fit, for instance).

Of course, Konami is the same company that gave us Rumble Roses... Maybe Atomic should see if Rockstar will publish it.

Janne Haffer
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I agree, a documentary style game about Fallujah would be good. I just don't see how they could have done this in a proper way because of the viewpoints they have choosen to represent, and the idea that it should be a commercially viable project.

Making games is basically about reducing the number of available gameplay choices down to something that is managable within a budget.

Battle of Fallujah has so much background history, and takes place between two sides that are both very wrong in their own way.

So when you choose to make a "documentary game" from the viewpoint of one of those sides then you are trying to pull off something that is infinitely more complex than just writing a book or making a movie from the POV of this side. Just because of player choice.

If you leave out player choice from the documentary game you have a generic scripted FPS shooter, where players are just supposed to "shoot the other side", which they either make realistic = not a commercial success. Or arcadey and entertaining = sick on a level that surpasses current war glorification games.

If on the other hand they had chosen to do the game from a side that "by design" had less power and less choice in the battle, like you play a civillian trying to just survive and keep your family out of harms way, very limited choice. Or you play a journalist trying to survive while documenting as much and as fair as possible without getting "involved" in the battle, then they could have pulled this game off in a viable documentary way.

Now as a shooter from soldier pov, I can't imagine how they would do it on any kind of normal AAA budget.

Janne Haffer
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I'm sorry my posts are rambling run on sentences, I'm typing them out in a bit of a hurry and i'm not a native speaker so bear with me :)

Tim Carter:

I think the US-Marine viewpoint could be perfectly well executed in a book or in a movie/documentary. Just as well as the insurgency viewpoint could.

For a game however it would be incredibly complex to use any of those two viewpoints and still give a good view of the conflict if you are making a FPS game with limited budget.

Let me use COD4 as an example again because it's highly regarded as a game. However, player choice in COD4 is exactly as complex as virtua cop 15 years ago, you are limited to shoot or not shoot.

So lets say they used cod4 as a inspirational base, and then throw in a lot of scenes where you have to protect civillians, question orders from high up, pulling yourself and squad together to storm buildings, horribly seeing your friends getting killed etc, the base game will still be extremely simple and players will probably mostly be "shooting the other guys".

Due to budgetary reasons the game will only have one direction forward, if you try to stray it will end pretty soon when you are off the path, or stay static waiting for you to either shoot or get shot. Decisions which in real life is incredibly compled but in a game not so much.

Not one single game-company has yet managed to build a FPS game with relevant choices and convincing outcomes of your actions, and to hope that this game would be the one that managed to do that, while still handling a subject like this seems extremely far-fetched.

You have a good point in how that my example of a "civilian viewpoint" is also incredibly more complex than I suggested. I still believe it would be easier to tell a slightly more true story regarding what choices you have as a civilian once outer forces are shooting up your neighborhood, compared to the guys shooting it up.

I'm not dissing the idea of a Marine viewpoint in a game per se, just the way the studio seemingly tried to make a commercially viable, entertaining FPS game out of it while still trying to keep an air of historical accuracy.

For instance with a big enough talented team of writers/scripters, backed by a good research team you might be able to make a text-adventure game that properly shows the US Marine viewpoint.