It appears that our earlier report of layoffs at Snowblind Studios didn't quite account for the seriousness of the situation, as the company's former animator Ben Hopper has cast a far greater shadow on the company's future in a new blog entry called "Snowblinded" on Gamasutra. In it, Ben brings the total layoff count as high as 80 people, expands the affected departments to "artists, designers, programmers, and testers", and even goes so far as to suggest that The Lord of the Rings: War in the North will be the last game to "bear the Snowblind name":
The actual numbers are not-yet confirmed as I write this, but my sources put them in the range of 40-80 full-time artists, designers, programmers and testers. That very morning, I happened to find my Snowblind Studios t-shirt – the black one with the penguin logo on the chest – and decided to wear it to work.
What was meant to be a personal tribute to my former employer ended up being a surprise memorial just hours later as I discovered the fate of so many of my former coworkers.
Over the course of the last couple of years, I observed from up close and afar WBIE’s careful dismantling of Snowblind as part of its building up and carving up of an ever-expanding video game empire. Along with several others who didn’t like where things were going, I decided to get the hell out of there while the getting was good.
What remains of Snowblind has now been lost in the game goliath that is WB Games Seattle. War In The North is the last game that will bear the Snowblind name, as its culture and people have either been swallowed up or spit out by the Warner Bros. corporate beast.
An animator in the games industry since 2004, I started at Snowblind Studios in January of 2007, well before WB Games acquired the studio. At the time, Snowblind was a very different place. It was independently owned and had built its reputation on the strength of games like Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance and Champions: Return To Arms.
Then again, Snowblind’s original owners had already started going their separate ways, and suddenly in their place were up-and-coming execs hand-picked by WB – bringing with them a whole lot of bullshit that I just couldn’t take anymore. I left the very next year to take a job at a growing studio founded by a bunch of ex-Snowblinders. Several more followed me. I was at Snowblind for three and a half years during which time no game project even came close to completion.
Lord Of The Rings: War In The North is now in stores. A whole lot of people worked on this game for three years. The credits in the online game manual give a clue as to how many people came and went during WITN’s long production. Those of us who were either fired, laid off or left for greener pastures are credited in the large Additional Art/Design/Engineering section.
Those who stuck it out until the end had three days to enjoy the release of their game to the masses before being rewarded with the termination of their jobs. Those who managed to hang on to their jobs get the distinct pleasure of waiting to see what WBIE has in store for them.
Sad. I guess our hopes for a future Dark Alliance or Champions of Norrath title are all but crushed.