Arthur Bruno Interview - Titan Quest, Grim Dawn and Working From Home

While it’s definitely positioned as a piece on the pros and cons of remote work within the context of the ongoing pandemic, this Shacknews interview with Crate Entertainment’s founder Arthur Bruno sheds some light on the troubled development of Titan Quest and its canceled sequel, the founding of Crate Entertainment, and more. There’s some good stuff in there. An excerpt:

David L. Craddock: I loved Titan Quest when it released, and remember it getting favorable reviews. However, Iron Lore shut down because, according to reports, the studio couldn't secure funding. When did you realize the funding might not come through? Or did the studio's downfall come as a surprise.

Arthur Bruno: Oh man, I could write a book about this, but I'll try to abridge it.

Things started to look troubling even before we got to release with Titan Quest. In 2005, publishers were all convinced PC gaming was dead and a new exec at THQ decided the publisher needed to dedicate all its resources toward console and multi-platform development. Even as they continued to pay us to finish Titan Quest, support for the game dried up and North American marketing was almost non-existent. I remember reading a comment online where someone asked "Where did this game come from? I only heard about it because it was the top download on BitTorrent."

This was in the age of physical retail, where if first-month sales weren't strong, games lost their placement on store shelves or disappeared altogether. THQ deemed the game a flop and predicted sales would fall off to nothing in another month. They only funded Immortal Throne because they had to as part of the original deal.

So during Immortal Throne's development, we knew we had to come up with something else before we finished it and money ran out. The owners were always pretty transparent about how long we had. Unfortunately, management at Iron Lore could not agree on the next game or how to develop it. It wasn't until halfway through Titan Quest: Immortal Throne development that I was pulled in to help work on the new concept and a lot of precious time was lost.

I actually pitched a MOBA internally based on a DotA inspired mod some of us created at work and had been playing during company game nights for a year. I was told DotA was too niche and hardcore to ever catch on; this was about two years before League of Legends came out. What we ended up with was a sort of action-RPG/MOBA hybrid where you controlled a hero leading AI-controlled forces toward victory on a dynamic battlefield with a third-person camera. Unfortunately, we had to throw it together pretty quickly using Titan Quest assets. It looked very Titan-Quest-like and publishers weren't very excited about it. THQ definitely told us they had no interest in another Titan Quest game.