Schreier: The dirty Take-Two game killed the creators of Kerbal Space Program 2.

“Houston we have a problem”.
The most important information:

  • Jason Schreier published an article on the collapse of Star Theory, a study by former Kerbal Space Program 2 developers;
  • in December 2019, Star Theory employees received a message from Take-Two via LinkedIN, in which the publisher informed about the transfer of the project to a new team (Intercept Games) and encouraged the creators to join this studio;
  • after the departure of some Star Theory employees, they wanted to develop a project to be presented at GDC 2020, but the cancellation of the event due to the coronavirus ruined these plans. The studio was disbanded on March 4.

Jason Schreier may have left Kotaku, but a well-known journalist still provides us with various news from the gaming industry. Of course, this includes information that puts various studies, publishers, and companies in a poor light. The latest article by Schreier (currently working for Bloomberg) puts Take-Two Interactive in its sights, and the hero of the story is Star Theory Games, the former creators Kerbal Space Program 2. “They were” because the studio was disbanded in early March, which was to be the result of questionable moves by the publisher.

Schreier: The dirty Take-Two game killed the creators of Kerbal Space Program 2

Good bad starts

The continuation of the Kerbal Space Program, announced in August last year, stimulated the imagination of many players. One may not have been a AAA bestseller, but millions of copies sold, popularity on YouTube and numerous KSP-licensed products (toys, clothes etc.) testified to the great success of the independent studio Squad. This attracted the attention of Take-Two Interactive, which bought the rights to the brand in 2017. The result was the unveiling of Kerbal Space Program 2 two years later.

The second edition of the Kerbal Space Program promises to be great, and the (former) creators were eager to share more information.

Schreier: The dirty Take-Two game killed the creators of Kerbal Space Program 2

Crisis out of nowhere

The enthusiasm of players was widespread, and subsequent reports from new developers at Star Theory (including the lack of micropayments) and the developer’s diaries suggested that work on the project was going smoothly. This is confirmed by the employees of Star Theory reached by Jason Schreier. The presentation of the game at PAX West in September was also optimistic. The more surprising thing was the message from Take-Two received by the studio employees on December 6 via LinkedIN. Michael Cook, Executive producer of the Private Division, informed in it about the postponement of work on Kerbal Space Program 2 to the new team – Intercept Games – and encouraged them to join him.

It is not difficult to guess that the news was as surprising as it disturbed the creators, especially since it was not preceded by any statements from the studio’s management. Only a few days later, a meeting of all available employees was called. It was then that studio heads, Bob Berry, and Jonathan Mavor spoke about talks with Take-Two about the publisher’s purchase of a developer. However, its conditions turned out to be unsatisfactory for the founders of Star Theory. At the same time, both gentlemen ensured that the studio still has funds in bank accounts and the team may start looking for a contract with another publisher. This information was obtained by Schreier from five studio employees who insisted on anonymity.

Schreier: The dirty Take-Two game killed the creators of Kerbal Space Program 2

GDC 2020 to the rescue

The next few weeks were pure chaos. More than 1/3 of Star Theory employees have passed away to the new Take-Two studio, including three board members headed by President Jeremy Ables. The mood among the rest was gloomy: should they abandon their colleagues and join Intercept Games, or stay and risk losing their livelihoods. Nevertheless, a contingency plan was drawn up in January: for the next two months, developers were to brainstorm and create a prototype of the most promising idea. They will go to the GDC 2020 trade fair in March – in the hope that their work will attract the attention of a publisher ready to support the studio. It was a desperate plan, but Star Theory had nothing to lose.

Coronavirus kills (studies)

Unfortunately, reality has verified these plans in the most cruel way. The coronavirus epidemic has translated into the cancellation or delays of further industry events and this year’s GDC fair was no exception. Thus, the fate of Star Theory was sealed – the studio was dissolved on March 4. Employees received a monthly salary and health insurance for two months, and some joined Intercept Games.

Schreier: The dirty Take-Two game killed the creators of Kerbal Space Program 2

After the cancellation of GDC 2020, this was more or less the probability of Star Theory’s survival.

Kerbal Space Program 2 – what next?

Apart from the sad fate of the studio that has existed for over a decade, for many people the further fate of Kerbal Space Program 2 may be a much more important issue. The project is in fact supervised by the same authors, at least for the most part. Not all Star Theory employees took advantage of Take-Two’s offer, looking reluctantly at work for a large publisher. There is also a suspicion that this type of turmoil could have disrupted the hitherto smooth course of work on the game. Indeed, the company recently announced the postponement of the premiere KSP2 at the end of 2021. Only in the current, still unregulated situation with the coronavirus, it is difficult to prove that it is the confusion caused by the publisher that is the cause of this delay. In addition, as reported by Bloomberg, Star Theory itself asked last year to postpone the planned completion date by six months, so that the band add new content to KSP2.

Take-Two has alienated some players with microtransactions, but the publisher’s recent move may put developers off it.

Schreier: The dirty Take-Two game killed the creators of Kerbal Space Program 2

There is also the question of reputation, and Take-Two can have a big problem with it. It’s not too bad that the earlier reports by Jason Schreier about the backstage of Red Dead Redemption 2 did not make the public feel friendly to the American publisher. It’s not even about microtransactions in games like the NBA 2K series, although they are undoubtedly a salt in the eyes of players (enough to look at the ratings of the last installment on Steam).

The damage to the trust of the developers themselves may be a bigger problem. It’s no secret that publishers have a significant impact on the functioning of their studies, for example deciding on marketing or distribution issues. Of course, the benefits of such cooperation (read: financial stability and formalities related to the release) are huge, and the company does not have to complicate the work of developers. Paradoxically, a good example is … Kerbal Space Program 2, which, in the opinion of employees, was created efficiently and without problems for two years, and Star Theory even managed to obtain the mentioned extension of the deadline. But what if it allows the same publisher to take the project from the original authors without any warning, and the company itself begins to de facto steal the developer’s employees? Yes, something like that can make your studies think.

Please note that we have not received any official confirmation of these reports so far. Bob Berry and Jonathan Mavor declined to comment on the matter. While Kerbal Space Program 2 will be released next year on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 by Private Division.

Schreier: The dirty Take-Two game killed the creators of Kerbal Space Program 2
  • Take-Two Interactive official website
  • Kerbal Space Program 2 official website