Molten Games, the developer founded last year by ex-Blizzard, Relic Entertainment and Sony Online Entertainment veterans, has been closed, former employees of the studio say.
March 24, 2014 was the last day for employees of Molten Games, a former employee told Polygon.
At a companywide meeting last Monday morning, the studio of around 60 people learned from executives "near in tears" that Molten Games was closing and that they were all being let go. They received severance checks and were told that they had to be out of the San Diego offices by noon.
According to our source, last week's news "appeared rather abrupt" because the feedback developers received was typically positive.
Several sources say that Molten Games was working on a title known as Project Blunderbuss. Last week, art director Billy Ahlswede linked to footage of the game in development posted by YouTube user and former lead producer Oksana Kubushyna.
"I had the pleasure of art directing an amazing team on Project Blunderbuss at Molten Games," Ahlswede wrote. "The project was cancelled but here is the footage of that game as it stands."
Molten Games' former director of technology, Joshua Kriegshauser, linked to the videos on Twitter last week. Another tweet contains a picture of a bulletin board at Molten Games. Attached is a green index card that reads "Need more funding!!"
"You would have loved playing this game," Kriegshauser wrote.
According to Polygon's source, the videos were from a rather recent build of the game.
"The videos were of our Vertical Slice Build which was for the first round of funding we received," our source said. "That was completed towards the end of January and beginning of February."
Our source said that Blunderbuss was tentatively slated for an August 2015 release.
Veterans of Blizzard, Relic Entertainment and Sony Online Entertainment revealed Molten Games July 24, 2013 — exactly eight months before last week's layoffs.
"We created Molten Games in order to truly have control over our game development and IP, and we're going to create something epic," said Molten Games CEO and co-founder of Jungwon Hahn said in a press release announcing the studio's formation.
That announcement was accompanied by news that the Korean video game development company NCsoft invested in Molten. When contacted about recent developments, a representative for the company spoke only of the initial investment.
"NCsoft invested in Molten Games for financial purposes," the representative told Polygon. "We did not participate in any management, so it's not our place to comment about the state of the business."
Despite the unexpected news, our source said that studio executives have tried to help former Molten Games' employees find work, connecting them with recruiters and contacting former employees by email with leads. Representatives from Amazon Game Studios, Blizzard and Riot Games also came to the studio for job fairs.
"Having been in the industry for a while now it's the best handling of a bad situation I have seen by far," our source said. "I'm used to being cut and never hearing anything else."
Though our source does not have firsthand knowledge of the financial situation that he believes lead to the layoffs, our source is aware of partnerships pursued but not solidified. Multiple "large" developers and publishers tested the game with the developer, though a deal to save the company, the game and the development team never materialized.
News of the studio's fate began circulating online last week, though Molten has not provided public acknowledgement of the recent turn of events. Molten Games' official website remains active. As of this writing, its homepage invites prospective developers to "join us" and lists five open positions.
Polygon contacted Molten Games by phone. The company's voicemail says that employees are "busy making games." Requests for more information, including from senior executives we contacted, have not been answered.
The studio founded intent on "breaking free from the traditional developer/publisher relationship" shuttered last week. According to our source, it wasn't for lack of effort or skill that Molten Games is no more.
"This was by far the most talented team I had ever worked with from front to back," our source said. "I would be fortunate to work with a handful of these guys again and would jump at the chance to."