Much Ado About Nothing
As I have promised earlier, it is time now to discuss the Micro-Forte staff reduction topic. Though these news made quite a commotion, we'll try not to rummage in anyone's dirty clothes or flame all sides involved.
So, what do we have? One news posted at one of Fallout fan sites, Duck and Cover, on March, 9th. Upon scrapping two thirds of the news text consisting mainly of various emotional ramblings, we'll the following information. According to Duck and Cover, several days before Fallout Tactics went gold, Micro-Forte Canberra received a letter from Interplay's main office. There was usual-type congrats from the publisher on Micro-Forte's success with FT as well an interpolation of a future course of relationships between the companies. As far as I'm concerned, this letter possibly mentioned a probability of Micro-Forte's involvement in creation of FT2 as well at least one FT add-on pack.
I think, it's redundant to explain that these kind of letters are usually sent in paper form or, at least, are digitally signed by someone from the high ups. DAC further states that Micro-Forte, being quite happy with such big attention, immediately started to invest the money collected for the work on FT into a 3D engine for a sequel.
By the way, our readers do already know about this engine from the interview Tony Oakden, a FT producer for Micro-Forte, gave Freelancer on Feb., 19th. And, apparently, the developers were putting high hopes on this 3D engine. But then Interplay suddenly revoked their letter (we suggest this happened somewhere between 8th and 9th of March). The reason - Interplay has been excessively investing into ad campaigns for Sacrifice, Giants and Baldur's Gate 2 and now all available funds are redirected into yet undisclosed online RPG title. By the way, I can't understand why some webmasters are so stubborn to think that this title will be Fallout Online…
So, there are no funds for Fallout Tactics 2 now, as well Interplay apparently doesn't want to introduce new Fallout universe titles to the market. Now let's move on to the Fallout Online topic…
First of all, I'm pretty sure that Fallout Online doesn't exist, all FO-related rumors are just rumors. In fact, many Fallout fan sites believed an apparently fake news posted on some French gaming site and now they're trying to make FO myth even bigger using out-of-context phrases taken from Micro-Forte and Black Isle staff forum posts. Moreover, this ethereal project was immediately linked with Micro-Forte and Big World's engine! It's hard to believe that Interplay could possibly allow TWO Fallout titles to be developed by the branches of one company. OK, be it that way, but why then Interplay revoked the letter which resulted in closure of one of Micro-Forte's offices. Do you think, would be that a reasonable course of action? I think not. Of course, the surviving branch would only benefit from this kind of actions, but one of the possible projects would certainly go down the drain.
There's more to this Fallout Online story. Interplay has recently made a statement that they are, indeed, working on a massive online multiplayer RPG title. Even an amateur P.I. would call this statement as a proof that FO is really in development, but there's no way to tie this statement with Micro-Forte. I'm not going to deny that a title like this could be discussed between Interplay and Micro-Forte; probably Micro-Forte was the one who came up with the idea, but this project is still on paper.
Interplay certainly knows how and where to make money as well as it's capable of risk and profitability assessment. I'm sure that Fallout Online will kill Black Isle's universe. I'd better believe in a story that FT was created solely to play with RTS elements and also to test how a multiplayer mode could be incorporated into Fallout 3, rather than into an online title.
Here's yet another interesting fact: Black Isle Studios announced a role-playing title with multiplayer support based on the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats system, although they stressed the fact that this game WON'T be Fallout 3 or Planescape 2.
Now we have Micro-Forte with a bunch of cool ideas (they will probably be used in FO3 later) and Black Isle, whose secrecy leaves us all guessing what are they cooking. At least we know that Fallout 3 is a very sweet piece of pie to give it away to third-party developers. There's also a recently-formed Interplay's online projects division but I doubt they'd risk to start their careers by creating a title based on a not-quite-online-friendly-universe (in fact, only Bill Gates could do this).
Now we'll leave alone Fallout Online and return to Tactics and Micro-Forte. Duck and Cover stated in its news column that two Fallout titles are being planned now. Again I must say that this is in no way an official news but a mere fake that pretends to be real. I have no doubts that Interplay has something on Fallout 3, but these materials are nothing more than a bunch of sketches and a file with designers' ideas. Finally, DAC published no information sources so, I'm afraid, these news can't be relied upon.
Meanwhile, Interplay (or, better to say Chris Taylor) claims that they're in no way related with recent Micro-Forte's financial troubles and that all their ideas about 3D engine weren't inspired by anyone from Interplay Irvine, CA. I think the reason why Micro-Forte had to fire 15 staff members lies in simple deviation of interests of the two companies. Interplay has lots of other profitable projects, so why should they show all their trumps right now? They'd better save Fallout franchise for future when some of today's hot titles will become less profitable. I suggest that Micro-Forte closed one of its offices not because of the mythical Tactics 2, but rather because this branch had no more projects to work on at this time. No conspiracy theories, ladies and gentlemen - everything's far simpler than you'd think.
Why did Interplay give up the Fallout Tactics 2 idea? Now that's an interesting question. Despite the fact that FT franchise is one of the most advertised and well-known nowadays, the company has decided to postpone all discussions about a possible sequel until it knows first data on FT sales. We know very few exceptions to this rule when a company started producing the sequel even before the first installment goes gold. Thus, Micro-Forte has to wait for some time…
I'm sure that we'll see Fallout Tactics 2 one day, but this moment won't come soon as some would expect. But, given the methods that some webmasters use to cover this story, I find the future of Interplay/Micro-Forte relations quite questionable, though I'd personally want them to continue their work together.
There's yet another problem looming on the horizon - who will produce FT patches when Micro-Forte's staff is now severely crippled? Patches are inevitable, and one of the countless interviews had a mentioning about future updates. But who will be working on them, that is the question…
In conclusion I'd like you, my dear reader, to ask a question: "Well, who's guilty?" Is it Interplay who revoked its quite unwary and premature letter that promised so much, or Micro-Forte, who decided to spend money on a project without a contract with a publisher - I'll leave this one for you to decide. All this story showed is that how our community quickly turns any situation into mass hysteria and complete catastrophe. Was there really a mysterious Fallout Tactics 2 engine or it's just some ruined plans of the development team? Is there Fallout Online or it's just a product of someone's vivid imagination?
The really sad point in this story is that 15 talented Micro-Forte's staff members lost their jobs. I'd like to use this chance to thank them for great job on Fallout Tactics. I hope someday will meet you again and tell our readers about your new exciting projects! Good luck!
P.S. While working on this article I received a letter from Micro-Forte which contains the official reasons behind the recent lay-offs. The developers decided to concentrate on Big World, that's why they had to fire a number of artists. This letter only confirms the fact that some people are anxious to find a scandal where there's nothing.
- aga Yuri Bushin