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Default Ascaron - Studio 2 Dissolved?

July 31st, 2009, 02:10
While the situation isn't clear, a goodbye thread from Ascaron Studio 2 developers seems to suggest that they have been let go and the studio closed. You may recall Ascaron filed for insolvency and, ultimately, divested most of their IP except Sacred 2. Studio 2 - the Sacred 2 team - would stay on to develop the addon.
In addition to saying "goodbye", the first post from developer Lars_Hammer says "R.I.P. Studio II (01.07.2002-31.07.2009)" in the signature. He does point out the servers and authentication have been handed to publisher Koch Media but we do wonder where this leaves the Ice & Blood addon.
Thanks, Alrik!
More information.
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July 31st, 2009, 02:10
Ice & Blood will come out as planned.
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July 31st, 2009, 13:29
I still don't understand why Sacred 2 wasn't better. It's like they learned nothing from Sacred.

They improved all the less vital things, and let the core of what was wrong stay in the sequel.

That said, I feel bad for them if they're out of a job.
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July 31st, 2009, 16:03
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
I still don't understand why Sacred 2 wasn't better. It's like they learned nothing from Sacred.

They improved all the less vital things, and let the core of what was wrong stay in the sequel.

That said, I feel bad for them if they're out of a job.
From what I heard it's because the team didn't have one unique vision and because they were too unorganized. Meaning that they were unable to avoid feature creep, for certain reasons the source didn't dare to state publicly. And they overreached and showed a lack of pragmatism. When the problems became apparent they had to set priorities and had to ignore things they would have liked to make better.
This finally killed them. The company would have survived if they had got their act together 6 months earlier.
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July 31st, 2009, 16:08
Two more infos:

As I understand one of the devs in that thread a new license holder for the Sacred IP has been found. It has just not yet been made public.
My guess would be that Koch Media / Deep Silver bought it. Their pockets are deep enough. In that case the deal would be announced around the GC.

The new community manager from Deep Silver (Pixel) also handles Risen. He seems to be a nice guy. So even so he has a different style than the Ascaron CMs, the change is not necessarily bad news for the community. Of course it's bad for all the people from Ascaron.
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July 31st, 2009, 16:27
Last update:

The add-on is already finished. Except loca.
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July 31st, 2009, 17:42
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
I still don't understand why Sacred 2 wasn't better.
I don't understand why Sacred 2 flopped. Even if it wasn't better in aspects X or Y, it's still pretty damn good at what it's trying to be. Obviously, Diablo (2) is just a bit more accessible or interesting to new players or whatever, since it's still going strong after all these years, but Sacred had no glaring flaws as long as all you were trying to get is some down-to-earth monster slaying.
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July 31st, 2009, 17:50
It didn't flop. It was #1 in the US on both consoles.

Unfortunately retail money takes many months to flow down to the publisher and then the developer.
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July 31st, 2009, 18:19
Yes, this "time shift" might have also been what killed SEK, the developers of Paraworld.
I assume this because of the short timespan between closing and releasing the game.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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July 31st, 2009, 18:55
No, Paraworld simply missed the market.
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July 31st, 2009, 22:40
I played Sacred for about 8 hours before I gave into boredom. Sacred 2 lasted maybe 3 minutes. If just didnt have any of the charm of the first and after Titan Quest even the graphics seemed derivative. Having every 5ft contested gets old real fast.

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July 31st, 2009, 22:50
I just reinstalled Sacred 2.

Some of my console friends are playing, and for many it is a difficult transition from what they are used to playing. For some, it is good, others not so much.

I really enjoy it for what it is.

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August 1st, 2009, 10:09
I just think it suffers from the exact same issues that I had with Sacred.

Boring cookie cutter quests
Mediocre/bland combat feel
Good "combo idea" with HORRIBLE execution
Incredibly out-of-place voice acting for critters
Weak sense of direction in terms of the main story
Subpar item mechanics
Huge mostly hollow world
Pointless boring dungeons

Well, I could go on.

But the sad part is that those are the EXACT same problems the original Sacred had, and that's what I have to wonder about.

Gorath's info about feature creep and other problems explains some of it, but I'm sorry to say that it seems the people involved just don't understand the genre. Certainly not how I understand it.
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August 1st, 2009, 10:36
I tried the demos for both Sacred games and didn't care for either of them. To be fair though, I must admit I'm not really a fan of that type of action-RPG in general. The only similar game that I actually like is Divine Divinity.
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August 1st, 2009, 12:47
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
I just think it suffers from the exact same issues that I had with Sacred.

Boring cookie cutter quests
Mediocre/bland combat feel
Good "combo idea" with HORRIBLE execution
Incredibly out-of-place voice acting for critters
Weak sense of direction in terms of the main story
Subpar item mechanics
Huge mostly hollow world
Pointless boring dungeons

Well, I could go on.

But the sad part is that those are the EXACT same problems the original Sacred had, and that's what I have to wonder about.

Gorath's info about feature creep and other problems explains some of it, but I'm sorry to say that it seems the people involved just don't understand the genre. Certainly not how I understand it.
Are you sure you understand the genre? Hack'n'slashers aren't exactly known for their quality quests or storyline - everything is simply a distraction for character development. While Sacred 2's system is unusual, it's also very complex and encourages diverse builds.

Not to mention they sold >1.7M units of Sacred and addons. It seems they bit off more than they could chew with this one but understanding the genre isn't one of them, in my opinion.

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August 1st, 2009, 12:53
Originally Posted by Dhruin View Post
Are you sure you understand the genre? Hack'n'slashers aren't exactly known for their quality quests or storyline - everything is simply a distraction for character development. While Sacred 2's system is unusual, it's also very complex and encourages diverse builds.

Not to mention they sold >1.7M units of Sacred and addons. It seems they bit off more than they could chew with this one but understanding the genre isn't one of them, in my opinion.
No, of course I'm not sure I understand it. I just have an opinion of how games should play in this genre, and Sacred doesn't play like that. You focus on a single problem of the many I mentioned, as if that was the only problem.

It's true that character development and loot hunting are the two primary areas of focus - in terms of gameplay. That's why it's sad that Sacred 2 has such a messy character system, and such a boring combat system. It's neat that you can customize your character, but you're constantly chasing a good balance between cooldown and application of combos, and combining them as the designers seem to encourage is as futile an effort as it was in the original Sacred. The item mechanics are subpar and messy - and it's hard to appreciate the loot hunt when that's the case - especially when combined with the other problems I just mentioned.

I don't really see number of units sold as an indicator of anything beyond exactly that, how many were sold.

It's like saying Transformers is one of the best action films because of its success, or that Oblivion is the best CRPG and that Bethesda understands the genre.

I can't agree with that, I'm afraid.

In my opinion, the following games were made by people who understand the genre:

Diablo
Diablo 2
Titan Quest
Dungeon Siege 2
Hellgate London

They all suffer from one or more problems, but they're still far superior to Sacred and its sequel. But that's just my opinion, and nothing more.
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August 1st, 2009, 13:19
Looking at the many easter eggs in Sacred 1, I'd say that this game has already evolved into its own style/sub-genre of Action-RPG. It never takes itself too seriously, which on the other hand do most bof the other Action-RPGs (with Dungeon Siege 1 being a slight exception to this).

Edit :

@Gorath: Do you know who gets the money after the studio is not existing anymore ?

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August 1st, 2009, 14:10
Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer View Post
@Gorath: Do you know who gets the money after the studio is not existing anymore ?
Know? No.

But it was mentioned a few months ago that Ascaron would live on as an empty shell to collect royalties with the intention to pay off the creditors. Their managing director was pretty sure the whole dept (ca. 10M EUR or so) could be paid back in full. This is not unrealistic. According to GameStar S2 has already sold 750k units. It's quite possible the console versions will push the number way above 1M. Then the add-on, a gold ed., maybe the add-on for consoles, budget re-releases until kingdom come, etc. The game can earn much more than 10M EUR in the long run.
Another important point is that Ascaron probably has to sell of the Sacred IP, at least unless they can't stretch the process until all debt is paid. BUT: There is no reason to give their rights to their share of the Sacred 1 & 2 royalties away too! Ascaron was (co-)publisher, so we're not talking about peanuts here.

Only after my last post I've een the well written article in the latest GameStar. If only half of that stuff is true, Ascaron had a lot of internal problems. A few juicy details according to GameStar - of course I can't verify if they are true:
- The S2 project lead was fired in the middle of the project. After having admitted S2 was way behind schedule he suggested to let go half the team and give the others 3 years more time.
- Around then the investors forced the company founder to hire a new MD and let him take command. With him came a straighter leadership style.
- S2 cost ca. 20M EUR!
- Ascaron's internal team under Daniel Dumont was appointed to make the console conversions. [This team made all the nearly bug-free games: Patrician, Port Royale, Dark Star One; G.] When they wanted to start they actually found chaos. They had to wait until the PC version was gold until they could really get to work. Of course this created some tension within the company.
- The delay broke Ascaron's neck. The console versions were too late.


My personal conclusions & predictions from all this chaos, of course totally subjective:
- It seems the changes were correct but they came too late.
- All creditors will probably get their money back in the long run.
- The investors will finally make a lot of cash by either selling the Sacred IP and collecting royalties for S1 & S2, or keeping the IP and licensing it out. It might become even more valuable when it's clear S2 also sold millions of units. Latest official status S1: 2.5M units.
- Most former employees are fucked. The majority don't deserve what they got.
- DD's team is extremely good. Converting a true 1080p console title in pretty good quality, within quite a short time and as their console debut is a very impressive performance.
- Kalypso got a lot of good IP for cheap. The whole back katalog.
- They also got a new development studio nearly for free, co-owned by DD and a partner. Including the best people from his former team. They are already working on Patrician 3. Together with Kalypso's Tropico 3 (latest previews: very good; a remake of Tr1) this means the business sim is on the rise.
- Somebody will buy - I suppose has already bought - the Sacred IP. My guess is Koch Media / Deep Silver because they already know how they can sell Sacred product. The ca. 20M EUR won't hurt them.
- Studio 2 was liquidated because they were seen as the main reason for the problems. HeWhoIsInChargeNow thinks another developer will do a better job on Sacred 3.
Last edited by Gorath; August 2nd, 2009 at 01:07.
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August 2nd, 2009, 00:47
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
It's like saying Transformers is one of the best action films because of its success[…]
No, you've switched to a different thing. Transformers may not be a sophisticated/intelligent/whatever-your-criteria action movie but Michael Bay and co certainly understand the summer blockbuster genre very well. You don't think their entire goal was to make a mainstream blockbuster that teens and their dates would go to over summer to make a shitload of money? I'm pretty sure they did that.

Hellgate was a failure on every level - critically, commercially…I've yet to even see anyone else claim the design was good. Isn't it a bit arrogant to equate your taste with a developer understanding the genre?

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