Published on May 22nd, 2013 | by Adam DeMarco1
Denis Dyack and Kotaku EIC Stephen Totilo exchange statements
He-said-she-said is a tough game, especially when you’re the one who’s stuck in the middle trying to figure out what’s really going on. Right now, Precursor Games’ Chief Creative Officer Denis Dyack and Kotaku are the “He” and the “She,” and what they’ve each said is that the other side is full of crap. Each side has a valid argument; neither side, it would seem, has much proof. A Kickstarter campaign may hang in the balance. Like most anything associated with Silicon Knights, this story is a long time in the making. This particular tale began about seven months ago.
On October 26th Kotaku ran an article titled What Went Wrong With Silicon Knights’ X-men: Destiny (note the non-existence of a question mark at the end of that headline – they aren’t asking, they’re telling). The article, written by Andrew McMillen, calls into question the leadership skills, business practices, and character of Silicon Knights’ management staff – specifically naming the studio’s founder, Denis Dyack. Among other things, anonymous sources interviewed for the article alleged that Silicon Knights diverted resources which had been ostensibly promised to Activision for the development of X-Men: Destiny in order to subsidize the production of a demo for their own IP — a follow-up to the critically acclaimed 2002 Gamecube release Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem. When Kotaku asked to speak to Silicon Knights before the article was published, the developer declined.
On May 19th, six days after the Kickstarter campaign for Denis Dyack’s new game went live, and at the behest of Precursor Games’ CEO Paul Caporicci, Dyack finally spoke out.
In his rebuttal video — which you can watch for yourself above — Dyack mainly takes issue with McMillen’s reliance on interviews conducted with anonymous sources who claim to have worked under Dyack during the production of X-Men: Destiny, as well as the lack of any actual proof of misconduct, and he does make a good point. The nameless ex-employees make a fair number of rather severe accusations, not the least of which being that Silicon Knights pulled staff members off of the X-Men project which was being funded by publishing-gargantuan Activision. Though McMillen never actually uses the word “embezzled” in the article, quotes from the anonymous sources certainly imply that Silicon Knights is guilty of something very similar by reallocating resources that had, in good faith, been devoted to Activision’s project.
Dyack does use the word “embezzle” when he denies that any such conduct occurred, submitting that numerous audits were performed, not only by Silicon Knights and Activision but also third-parties, during the entire production process of X-Men. Kotaku Editor-in-Chief Stephen Totilo was quick to pick up on Dyack’s use of the word, however, and on May 20th published another article in which he wrote:
“McMillen’s report includes no mention of embezzling money, but multiple mentions, by former employees, that people who were supposed to be working on X-Men Destiny were at times pulled away to work on other company projects. It is just one detail of many describing Silicon Knights’ development priorities. The embezzlement charge is more severe, of course, and was something McMillen had heard rumored during his reporting. Reporters hear many rumors and try to deduce whether they’re true. This rumor doesn’t appear in the article, which should show how much credibility McMillen and Kotaku were ultimately able to give it.”
Incidentally, Kotaku recently published another article concerning Dyack’s current project, in which they advise skepticism to those who are thinking of funding the game.
Personally, I think the truth likely rests somewhere in the middle. Though the original exposé may not have been able to provide any actual evidence of wrong-doing on Dyack’s part, the sub-par product which X-Men: Destiny turned out to be certainly suggests that the development process was dysfunctional. I do, however, have a hard time believing that a company like Activision would take as lackadaisical an approach as is implied in McMillen’s article. Then again, it was a crappy licensed game, and Silicon Knights was already embroiled in an ugly lawsuit – Activision may have just wanted to cut their losses. I also find it hard to believe that Kotaku wouldn’t vet their sources rather thoroughly, lest they be slapped with a libel suit. At times, both Dyack and McMillen’s sources come off as confrontational, and each has a motive to lie, to boot. It’s a real mess, to be sure.
Ultimately, however, Dyack’s goal was to tell his side of the story in order to drum up donations, and on that front he seems to have succeeded – at least in part. With the amount of press this story has gotten over the last few days, numerous gamers who may never have even heard of Shadow of the Eternals have been exposed to it and have become potential investors; now they just have to decide if the project is worth supporting. As of the time of this writing Shadow of the Eternals has managed to raise $89,785 out of a goal of $1.35 million, with 27 days left to go, in addition to the $243,896 raised through direct donation on the game’s website.