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What Happened To Pandemic? Former President Explains
What Happened To Pandemic? Former President Explains Exclusive
December 1, 2011 | By Frank Cifaldi

December 1, 2011 | By Frank Cifaldi
More: Console/PC, Exclusive, Business/Marketing

Former Pandemic president and co-founder Josh Resnick has been quiet on the subject of games since the EA-owned studio's 2009 closure, but two years and another startup later, he's reflecting on the end in the same tone as someone talking about an old love they hadn't thought about in years.

As part of a larger Gamasutra interview to be published at a later date, Resnick broke his silence and gave us his take on why the studio that brought us Full Spectrum Warrior, Mercenaries and The Saboteur was forced into closure, describing a perfect storm of factors that all culminated in what many outsiders assumed: the studio was stretching itself too thin.

"We were growing our teams and taking on ever-bigger challenges," Resnick says. "I mean, almost every project that Pandemic was working on at the time was a huge, unwieldy, massive world game. And they're just really expensive, and really challenging from a technology standpoint."

The studio left behind an unfinished body of work that included a third Mercenaries game, as well as a title based on 2008's superhero film The Dark Knight, a game tie-in that was suspiciously absent from store shelves despite the movie's success.

"There were some things that we didn't get to see through to completion, unfortunately," he says. "We were working on some really really amazing stuff with great teams, but I don't think all of those necessarily fit or aligned with where EA needed to go, and where the industry was going."

While Resnick admits that many of the factors that led to the studio's closure could be blamed on the company's growing pains, there were also factors beyond its control.

"Do I agree with the decision, in terms of shutting down the studio? Absolutely not," he says. "There was some incredible talent at that studio, and EA is not getting the benefit of that talent anymore. I think that's a shame."

On Thursday Resnick's new start-up, nProgress, released a smartphone app called ntro (pronounced "intro"). The app is designed to help introduce users to people standing nearby by mapping common backgrounds and interests together. The app is backed by a $1.7 million round in angel funding.

Roughly half of nProgress' staff is ex-Pandemic, including The Saboteur lead Trey Watkins, though the app itself is not a game.

Gamasutra will have more on Resnick's new venture, as well as additional insight on the death of Pandemic, in an upcoming interview.

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Yiannis Koumoutzelis
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awesome Pandemic!!! i loved Full Spectrum Warrior. One of my favourite games on xbox, SW Battlefront, and Saboteur which although quite ambitious was a pretty good game!

Jeremy Reaban
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EA killed studios with far, far, far better histories and track records. Origin, Maxis, Bullfrog, Westwood, etc. Is it really a mystery? It seems either with failure or success studios get shuttered (see Maxis, it got killed because the Sims was much more popular than expected, killing off all other Sim_ games).

Martain Chandler
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It's definitely a case of beating the talent until they fit in convenient boxes. (Psst, they don't.)

And if you look slightly to the right you will see EA telling Bioware to buy KlickNation. Can we please set up a pool on the timetable for KlickNation's phases of percolation-realignment-stagnation-destruction?

I miss the good old days when corps would buy small studios and fire everyone on the first day. Much less drama, all in all.

Luke Quinn
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I can't wait to read that article.

I'm really pissed that there will be no more Mercenaries games... I didn't like number 2 as much as the first one, but they were doing some really cool things with the series and there was definitely a lot of room to grow the IP.

Also, now that EA has high-jacked the Destroy All Humans IP it has become pure shovelware.

Kevin Cardoza
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THQ owns the Destroy All Humans IP.

Also, I have no clue about internal struggles but I'm not sure I blame EA in this situation. Mercenaries 2 was delayed for almost 2 years and still came out as a buggy mess. The Batman game never came together, and that LOTR title was delayed right up to the last week EA was allowed to release games for that franchise and still was clearly unfinished. I'm sure the publisher is at least partially to blame but from the outside it seemed like Pandemic management just had great trouble coping with the new generation of consoles. (And that dev post on NeoGAF kind of supports that theory -

Daniel Martinez
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"but I don't think all of those necessarily fit or aligned with where EA needed to go, and where the industry was going." I may be going out on a limb here but this sounds like he's speaking about downloadable games, social games, and microtransactions. Ah, casual gamers: can't live with em', can't... well you know how it goes.

Pieterjan Spoelders
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Absolutely loved the mercenaries games as well. Such a terrible shame!

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I still have Mercenaries 2, loved the online co-op mechanic.

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OH Man... they where going to do a "The Dark Knight" game! I would have loved to have seen that.

Mikhail Mukin
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Out of 17+ years developing commercial software, the 7.5 years with Pandemic were probably my best ("on average" :) For 2 years since, I contracted for different companies but somehow none "felt like home" again yet, and none (yet) had such great and smart "core people"...

Josh Resnick and Andrew Goldman are excellent "visionaries" and leaders, I'm very happy I had a chance to work on their projects. It is not easy to come up with ideas like FSW, DoH, Mercs, Sab, etc and grow a company from a few people to probably ~400! I wish them best of luck with their new adventures and find the people to make their ideas work!

However, people like them are better when they are surrounded with dedicated experts that can take care of all the "lower level" decisions - technology roadmap, efficient production, hiring the right people (and yes, replacing people before disaster happens - sometimes Pandemic felt a bit like a charity, not a busyness...), QA organization and so on. For example, people with authority to tell several excellent project tech and design directors (and what is more important - project senior producers) - "you are not developing everything yourself again with a 100+ people project team".

IMHO - that layer of people was not quite there. The company was (at the largest point) 6 independent "city states" on 2 continents - each developing a game with their own engine, tool chain, methods and basically not talking to each other (till some transfered person would request we try to port some very useful mini sub-system etc).

Such organization brings some freedom and it actually was working - but only while each project was selling a lot of copies (and while Josh and Andrew were managing to find great deals or sell the company at a good price... and then sell it again ;) Well, and while the AAA titles market was not so tough as recently.

There were great stories and there were... weird once... For example when Mercs2 started, it was decided to make new "next gen" engine and tools... First version of it (enough to start making missions) was supposed to be done in around 8-9 months. I think for ~7 of them, Mecrs2 team did not have a dedicated lead graphics programmer who would stay the vision and "roadmap" for our next gen graphics. There were no multiplayer guy for a very long time also. Official version from HR/producers - "we can not find one". Sorry, Pandemic at that time already shipped some good games, had a good name, was paying not too bad, had a good office in a great LA location... I just refuse to beleive you can not fill a req for 7 months! If so - replace HR department... Or just tell me "we have some good reason but we can not tell you"... At some point I begged a producer "find a good network engineer and give him a blank check"... whatever he requests would most probably be not as bad as having messed up or delayed graphics engine or ending up "retrofitting" multiplayer into a game (with all the "late bugs" etc). And when a great graphics guy arrived - somehow he had to also work on streaming and some asset preparations and other things... And at the same time, Sab people (and other teams) were working... on their own graphics engine(s)! :) that ended up also being good enough but incompatible with Mercs... and so on...

Efficiency was not quite there, and when a few projects did not make it - EA had to do something, I assume (especially with a company in expensive California). One year before the shutdown it IMHO became obvious that things can not go this way forever. I don't know why some high level people at EA seem to have only "give more money" and "shut down" buttons... They don't consider "try to figure out what is wrong and correct" approach (?). Of cause, there might be other reasons I have no visibility into. And I know EA has some good guys, with good understanding of gaming too... Maybe it was just not out luck? Maybe some "corporate culture" prevents those guys from making decisions?

It is strange to accept to me... Out of many companies I worked/contracted with (most of them shut down or "significantly reduced") - it is usually pretty obvious after a few months with the company what will happen to it (unless some investor prolongs the inevitable or something drastically changes) and what needs to be changed... but the guys who make decisions seem to either not care, or not know or just follow some agenda of their own. In all the years with EA, nobody came to talk to anybody apart from the most senior company leadership (please correct me if I'm wrong!). Is not it like buying a car and talking only to a car dealer? You will not get the truth - you will be told what you want to hear (if the dealer is "good")! You have to go and show it to an independent mechanic, right? You have to talk to somebody who knows it from inside and tells the truth?

I spent a few months with another company after Pandemic, and while I left quickly due to personal reasons (and company did have some very good people!), part of it was because I felt that in a while, there would be a project closure or "not too successful" release - I could not be motivated by that right after Pandemic... and recently (1.5 years and I assume milllions of $ later) - I read layoffs were announced and "refocusing" away from this project... (and let's say... the reasons given to public.. I don't think they are the real reasons...). The future of another company after that became obvious yet again after 3-4 months when I got to know it from inside... this time I suffered through till my friend and I were the only 2 people left in the office (heck - we even managed to ship a game - alas not a great one...)... shut down... and so on.

I worked with at least 2 companies that were so efficient and excellent, no "extra" people, no bs decision making, no layers of "detouched management", people invested in making the company (not just individual projects) to be great... People actually managing development had PhDs in technical areas and were also good "phychologists" and had excellent understanding of busyness/markets. You work there - and you feel like "I don't know how to make this company work any better" and "I can tell the truth to anybody and I will be heard" - and those companies are still alive and (slowly) growing ~15 years later! (well - I think they did not not grow to 400+ people, when the "original" people can no longer do actual low level management...).

To be honest, sometimes it is even a bit uncomfortable to get a paycheck - when you know that nobody will eventually benefit from your work, nobody will have fun using this product - cause the game simply will not happen... and it is money somebody is wasting, money that could have been used so much better... At Pandemic, most of the time I felt like I'm doing something useful - thanks for that! But sometimes (especially last year) I knew I'm just wasting somebody's money and I can't do anything about it.

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Travis LeBlanc
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That's all fine and dandy, but I think Pandemic needs to come back and finally finish Star Wars: Battlefront III.