Over this weekend we were provided with the disappointing news that Dan Rhodenizer, marketing director of Platoon Studios, has left the company and is no longer working on BIONITE: Origins. Dan has been a solid supporter of what we are doing here at Indie Game HQ, and has agreed to an interview with us to discuss what happened, the current state of the project, and its now uncertain future.
Indie Game HQ: How long had you personally been working on BIONITE: Origins? What was your role in the team?
Dan: It’s been awhile, off the top of my head, I’d say roughly more than 1-1/2 years. I’d have to go digging to find the exact date though. My responsibilities on the team were getting our game out there to the public, making industry connections, recruiting talent, helping manage & assign projects to team-members and creating the 2D graphics such as logos, graphical user interface, heads-up display, or web related graphics.
Dan: The game has been in development for over 2 years now. How close it is to release is still a great question. A lot of great work and time has been put into this game. As it stands now, there’s basically just one programmer (the project lead) working on this game. The game may never see the light of day unless more help is found. I hope somehow that it does succeed: There are some awesome people working on the game.
I offered, along with another person, to find John [Grisnik, lead developer] help, but he wouldn’t take it. A project of this size needs more than one programmer to get the job done. There’s still a lot of work left to do with the project, more than I think even he realizes. I hope John learns from this and finds the help needed to finish the game. A Beta was supposed to be ready long ago, but that was pushed back a couple times. I don’t know when that will be ready.
Indie Game HQ: Help us understand why you decided to leave BIONITE: Origins. We assume you don’t make it a habit to depart projects you’ve spent years building at the drop of a hat, do you?
Dan: Absolutely not. I’m not going to get into some of the details of what happened, it wouldn’t be right of me. But I’ve spent a lot of time on this game – like many others on the team. I’m very upset with all the work I put into this project, only for this to happen. I feel bad for the team-members and the fans. We’ll see what happens now, but it’s time for me to move on. We’re not getting paid to do this and I’ve sacrificed a lot. You’ve got to know when to fold your cards.
Indie Game HQ: Obviously a rift happened within the BIONITE family. Before we get into the nitty gritty of things, could you elaborate on how the project was developing over the last few years and what your expectations of the game were?
Dan: The project was coming along fairly well, slowly but surely. After the Kickstarter campaign we found some new talented team-members who have proved to be a vital part of the project. I had high expectations. Battlezone ’98 and Battlezone 2 were truly unique games and it was time for the FPS/RTS hyrbid genre to make a come back. It may still yet. But, I won’t be part of it now. I think gamers are finally wanting something new and refreshing in this industry. This is the perfect project for that. There’s a lot you can do that still hasn’t been done with this genre.
Indie Game HQ: So what happened? As far as the public was aware, up to this point, BIONITE: Origins was quickly on its way to release and things seemed to be going smoothly.
Dan: Basically the decision for leaving came down to trust issues, lack of communication and not listening to one another. Teamwork is important. If I address my concerns for the better of the project and it’s not going to be respected – being the Marketing Director, there’s no point for being here anymore.
Indie Game HQ: It’s not often that a team goes forward with a large marketing campaign, like the one currently on IndieGoGo, without the consent or even acknowledgment by its marketing director. Who knew about this decision beforehand and why was it made without you?
Dan: I was aware of the IndieGoGo campaign, I spent a lot of time doing the prep work for it. But, we weren’t supposed to launch when we did and I was unaware that we were live until two days after it launched. We were supposed to launch the campaign on Tuesday, then I found out that we’ve been live for 2 days prior to me finding out, and I’m supposed to dig us out of another hole? I had no idea we were live.
The most important day for a crowd-funding campaign to be successful is day one. Game sites don’t cover news on the weekends so by the time game sites get the press release, we will be 5 days in with a few bucks raised. Do you really think they are going to take us seriously and post an article on us? It has been an accumulation of things unfortunately that led me to my departure.
As soon as I found out I recommended hauling the campaign down and relaunching in 5 days when it was originally planned to launch. I was in the midst of moving so I didn’t have internet for five days, then I came back and that’s when it all went down hill.
Indie Game HQ: In your own personal opinion, did you ever feel that there was a possibility of this happening down the road? What thoughts were rushing through your mind as it happened?
Dan: As an independent game developer, that’s always something in the back of your mind. There’s always risk involved in this industry, but you have to maintain a positive attitude and continue to move forward. Game development isn’t easy, we all knew that going into this. A lot ran through my mind. It’s a hard pill to swallow, and a big decision to make.
Indie Game HQ: Did all of this happen over the weekend of Friday the 19th, or has the writing been on the wall for a while now?
Dan: It was a sudden thing, yes. It all went down over the weekend. You could argue that the writing has been on the wall for awhile now, but I tried to stay optimistic along with many others on the team.
Indie Game HQ: Do you feel betrayed by the team at all? What do you think of the members that still wanted to keep working on BIONITE: Origins?
Dan: No I don’t, I’m still in touch with the guys. I made a lot of great connections with this project. The guys I’m still in touch with are great people.
Indie Game HQ: How optimistic are you that BIONITE: Origins will actually release now?
Dan: If it stays on its current path, in my honest opinion, it won’t. We’ll see though.
Indie Game HQ: That is unfortunate. Since BIONITE: Origins seems unlikely to release what will happen to the Kickstarter and, potentially, IndieGoGo funds?
Dan: I’m not sure, who knows. But, with these crowd-funding sites, it’s all a risk. The person pledging money is taking a chance to never get their money back or get anything at all out of it.
Indie Game HQ: After you’ve invested so much time in this project, how do you personally feel about the ordeal?
Dan: It’s very upsetting of course. But, you’ve got to continue to hold your head up high and move on.
Indie Game HQ: What is next for Dan Rhodenizer?
Dan: I’m not going to rush into anything, the next project has to make sense and be realistic enough to finish. It can’t be another game you see made time after time. There are some guys who want to work on a new project with me. I didn’t burn any bridges and I made a lot of great connections working on this game. It definitely won’t be the last of me, you just might not hear about this next project for a little while.
Indie Game HQ: Thanks for your time as always Dan. We are deeply saddened by this whole ordeal. Would you like to say one final message for the fans of BIONITE: Origins?
Dan: Thank you for taking the time. The fans have been waiting for another Battlezone for a long time. I hope somehow a successor or sequel is made. Who knows? Maybe we made enough noise with this project to convince an established developer to finally give us fans what we’ve been waiting so long for.
All in all this is horrible news for a game that looked so promising. There is still hope for BIONITE: Origins to be the next Battlezone successor, but with only one programmer remaining it certainly seems grim. After 2 years of development it appears that the entire project may be jeopardized from a single weekend. The removal from Steam Greenlight just further confirms this belief. We will be sure to keep you updated should we hear more from anyone involved.