John Romero; reknowned as one of the men who helped define the first person shooter genre while working for Id Software on Wolfenstein 3d, Doom, and Quake; was sacked from id in August 1996. The reason for this was his preoccupation with starting his own company, a preoccupation that was affecting his productivity while at Id. Being sacked was not the issue, much sooner and he would have left himself. He had a dream of a company where games design was not limited by technology. His timing couldn't have been better, it was a time when publishers were willing to invest heavily in hot-shot developers, and you couldn't be more of a hot-shot than John Romero. In early 1997, his fledgling company Ion Storm secured a six-game deal with Eidos. With financing secure, they started work on the design of their games.
For the first few months, the three founding developers each worked on their design documents for their games. By focusing on design rather than technology, they felt that they could make a game with more depth than all the games before it. John Romero focused on his epic, a game he would call Daikatana.
Daikatana certainly had far more depth than any FPS before, feauturing time travel and well-thought-out characters. Tired of having the same monsters and same weapons in every level of previous FPSs, John wanted to make sure that each level contained a new weapon and a new monster. He also liked the idea of a sword that became more powerful as you progressed through the game, and the idea of having sidekicks demonstrated just how different he wanted Daikatana to be from other games.
The protaganist is Hiro Miyamoto, and the two sidekicks are a Japanese woman Mikiko and an American mercenary Superfly Johnson. The story sends the trio through four episodes set in four different time periods - 24th century Japan, ancient Greece, 6th century Normandy and San Francisco in 2030A. With each time period comes different weapons, landscape design and enemies. However, in spite of the depth of storyline, Daikatana is lacking when it comes features such as damage modeling, item management and compatibility with all the graphics cards available at the time.
The game also suffered from a number of things not directly related to the content of the game itself. It was over-hyped, aggressively marketed with such lines as "John Romero is going to make you his bitch" in 1997 - years before it finally came out. Despite a marketing campaign that made it seem as if all were going well, things at Ion Storm couldn't be worse. Mere weeks after the company was formed, Romero claimed that the game would be finished in 7 months, an idea that John Carmack of id Software described as "patently ludicrous."
In June of 1997, Daikatana was shown to the public for the first time - taking center stage of the Eidos booth at E3. It was based upon the Quake 1 graphics engine that Ion Storm had licenced from Id. The demo left the industry unimpressed, noticing that none of the monsters worked and that the game did not support 3D acceleration - unlike Id's Quake 2 and many of the other games at the exhibition. Seeing what a difference colored lighting and 3D acceleration made, Romero decided to forego the Christmas release date in order to change to the Quake 2 engine.
Now aiming for a release date of March 1998, the company was facing internal problems caused by weak teams and lack of cooperation. The level designers were worried about the artists learning to use the tools that the level designers based their job around; and the artists had little understanding of the limitations of the technology they were working with. The most stunning example of this: an artist, asked to create the skin for the crossbow arrow, submitted a image which had a higher resolution than most monitors were capable of displaying. A rivalry was growing between the level designers and the artists, and converting the game to the Quake 2 engine was proving to be a lot more difficult than anticipated.
The internal problems within Ion Storm finally hit a peak in August 1998. Development had reached a standstill and John's "hands-off" approach to management had led the employees to feel as if he didn't care about the company. In November 1998, 11 of the key developers of Daikatana quit the company. The game was a year behind schedule, months from completion, and there was no team to finish it. By January 1999, the switch to the Quake 2 engine was complete - after nearly a year.
In July 1999, the team was working hard to complete the game in time for a release later that year. Over the course of 3 years the game had gone through 4 lead programmers, and the sidekicks were not programmed yet. Christmas came and went - along with another missed deadline, and the Daikatana team worked through the early months of 2000 to make sure that the game was bug-free. Due to the complexity of the game, the bug testing process ended up taking far more time than originally anticipated.
The game was finally declared gold on April 21, 2000. It took over 3 years and a total of more than sixty employees (not to mention millions of dollars) but the game was finally complete. It was met with harsh criticism, and as can be seen from the above writeups it was not received very well by the players themselves.
To give an illustration of its reception by the industry, here are some overall results taken from various sources.
Its overall score on Gamerankings (www.gamerankings.com) was one of 50%. The game simply didn't live up to what it was promised to be, and it paled in comparison to other games released around the same time - most notably Half-Life. John Romero left Ion Storm soon after the failure of the game and co-founded Monkeystone Games in July 2001.
Additions? Corrections? /msg me