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Ex- Splatterhouse  Dev BottleRocket Contests Namco's Performance Claims
Ex-Splatterhouse Dev BottleRocket Contests Namco's Performance Claims
March 17, 2009 | By Chris Remo

March 17, 2009 | By Chris Remo
More: Console/PC

BottleRocket Entertainment, former developer of the upcoming Splatterhouse, has responded pointedly to claims by a Namco Bandai executive that the studio's removal was for "performance" reasons.

Last month, in a widely reported action, publisher Namco Bandai ended BottleRocket's involvement in the production of the franchise followup, reclaiming development equipment and assets.

Speaking to Gamasutra in an interview published last week, Namco Bandai Games COO Makoto Iwai said the move was made due to a "performance issue" with BottleRocket.

"The only reason why publishers pull the project out from the developer is when the developer isn't really meeting the requirements," Iwai said. "I just want to be 100 percent clear. There was a performance issue."

Now, BottleRocket has issued a strong response contesting Iwai's characterization and suggesting potentially "inept" management on Namco's part.

"We too have to be careful of what we say since publishers have to worry about their 'image' and will sue small, independent studios who bark back at them too loudly," the statement reads.

"Game development contracts are put in place to protect the publisher and their interests. Within these contracts are a series of defined game development objectives and goals called milestones. If a developer is under performing they tend to fail these milestones and have varying degrees of accountability placed upon them.

"Splatterhouse had been in development for over eighteen months and up to having the title taken away from us we had not missed any contractually defined milestones. So either there were no performance issues during that timeframe or Namco’s management of the title was inept."

Core founders of BottleRocket were responsible for well-received action/adventure game The Mark of Kri, and the studio developed the sequel Rise of the Kasai.

Development of Splatterhouse is reportedly continuing within Namco Bandai.

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Wesley Erdelack
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Man, I would really like to know just what happened here.

Joseph Amper
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Indeed, it's very he said, she said. One could infer that Namco's desire to be 100% clear might even mean the opposite, or at least the studio suspected something besides the stated reason.

Rodney Brett
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Agreed. Everything right now is hearsay, however, this could also just be an example of mis communication with U.S. Devs and a Japanese Publisher that I'm sure has happened in the past. Personally, I thought the trailer that BottleRocket put out was very impressive and I'm a huge fan of the Mark of Kri games. I'm wondering if the "performance" had to do with art asset's visuals or if it was more of a gameplay thing..

Michael Rohde
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From the sound of it... it seems like Namco/Bandia couldn't quite figure out how to pull off recreating Splatterhouse, so the contracted Bottlerocket to work on the title. After Bottlerocket set the foundations of the game, Namco decided to find any reason to pull the contract so they can finish developement in house and cut costs of the game. Bottlerocket got screwed. But it's all business.

william tomhave
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Michael couldn't have said it better. Having seen the game in action, I'm sure the Japanese developers (who honestly tend to have bitter relations with American developers) figured this game wasn't going to be a major unit-shifting IP. Sadly, I assume BottleRocket truly met all their milestones, but I think Namco realized that they were better off cutting their losses and finishing it in house thereby saving as much money as possible on this project. I really feel bad for BottleRocket and their employees. I could only image how awful it would be to work on a project for almost a year and a half and have it taken away. And whats almost even worse, Namco added insult to injury by implying they weren't working hard enough to meet the contractual milestones. Especially with the hard financial times we live in, this is truly a sad story.

Rodney Brett
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Mr. Iwai san stated in the previous interview that Namco was trying to catch up to Capcom and Sega as far as International hits are concerned. As far as Michael's assesment, this could be true, but it might not be a bitter relationship thing, like william said. It could indeed be a "cost" thing though. Japan's game devs get paid a LOT less than their US counterparts, especially in the art department side of things. Once the game engine, design, are core play mechanics are done, I guess it makes business sense to finish the game in Japan. Also, if the script and audio recording is done, Namco won't have to localize the game in Japan, which is hard to pull off.

Greg Wilcox
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Innnnnnnnnnnnteresting, to say the least. It'll be just that in terms of how the finished product turns out. While I get Rodney's point above, wouldn't it be a hell of a lot more reasonable (and smarter) for Namco Bandai to just say "thanks for your effort - we'll take over now" rather than using "performance reasons" as a way to get their game back? I guess the truth will come out eventually, but it really stinks whatever the circumstances when a project gets pulled away from a developer that's worked on it for so long.

Amusingly enough, the average Joe Gamer generally doesn't care about this sort of backroom politics regarding game development - he'd rather whine about release dates and such, never really knowing some of the reasons games are delayed/canned are more intriguing than some of the games themselves!

Rodney Brett
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Hehe. I actually prefer it when games get delayed rather than rushing them out the door to meet release dates. Not enough games these days go through enough play testing and it shows. GOD OF WAR 2 and MGS 4 spent weeks in grueling playtesting and as a result, those games were polished to perfection.

What I am curious about is whether NAMCO will cater the new SPLATTERHOUSE to Japan or the US. What I mean is in terms of game design. For example, I can always tell I'm playing a Japanese action game, when I've got to do a lot of backtracking and fight the same bosses(albeit with a slightly different texture.), and I unlock secret "costumes" and such. Things like that. Are they going for a CAPCOM-like "feel" of the game, or will they steer it towards something like PRINCE OF PERSIA or some US/EUR counterpart. Will the game be heavily scripted(lots of cutscenes and such.) or will it be a strait up action game?