Since the start of the year, rumors have circulated that Troika Games, the independent developer behind The Temple of Elemental Evil and Vampire: Bloodlines - The Masquerade, is in trouble.
The speculation began to reach critical mass at the end of January, when a post on the industry-savvy Quarter to Three forums mentioned the studio had been shuttered for good. At the time, Troika cofounder and co-CEO Leonard Boyarsky denied the reports...sort of. "We are basically perusing some options ... [and] after the beginning of February, we'll be making a statement," he said.
However, with late February fast approaching, there still has been no announcement from Troika. The silence has heightened speculation regarding the indie shop's status, which was further fueled this week by reports from No Mutants Allowed, one of the first sites to break news of trouble at Interplay last year.
On Tuesday, NMA posted an e-mail reportedly leaked by a Troika worker advertising a liquidation sale of the developer's office equipment. "After seven exciting years, and three published games, Troika Games is closing its doors forever! EVERYTHING MUST GO," it read, followed by a list of office equipment. While the rabid Fallout fans who run NMA felt a certain amount of schadenfreude at Interplay's woes, they were much more sympathetic to the troubles of Troika, which was cofounded by Black Isle Studios alumnus Tim Cain. "Ouch! I really hope that this isn't true," said the site administrator known as "Odin."
But while the liquidation-sale post was widely branded as fake, another that surfaced today could not be as easily dismissed. Responding to the liquidation-sale thread, a poster going by the handle "Mandrew" outlined the internal strife at Troika. "The reality is that for the past several months Troika has been on a skeleton crew," said Mandrew. "The real layoffs happened in two waves at the start and end of November, and a lot of people have already moved on." Mandrew then listed a number of companies where ex-Troika developers had found work, including Activision, Day One Studios, Mythic Entertainment, Obsidian Entertainment, Point of View, Seven Studios, Sony Computer Entertainment America, Swingin' Ape, Turtle Rock, and Treyarch.
When one poster questioned Mandrew's veracity, another identified him as Andrew Meggs, lead programmer for Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, the role-playing-game/first-person-shooter hybrid Troika released last year. While irritated, Mandrew did not deny he was Meggs. "I would have answered the question myself," he wrote in a subsequent post. "Posting someone else's real-life info without permission is pretty much universally considered a rude thing to do."
As for Troika's situation following the lackluster popular and critical reception of Bloodlines, Meggs said, "There's a huge amount I could say about things that went both right and wrong, on both Vampire's development and Troika's business." He concluded, "But if you were me, would you post any of that to this forum?"
When presented with the Mandrew posts, Boyarsky did not deny their authenticity. "We wish that [post] hadn't gotten out," he told GameSpot. "We're not ready to talk about it now. I'll answer questions at another time." As to when exactly that time will be, Boyarsky would only say, "We're working on a post [to be sent out] by the end of February." So until company officials say otherwise, Troika is officially open for business.