Hello, you lovely UK-R people.
The Data Design employee letter prompted me to e-mail you about the time I spent with those shysters at Jester Interactive. We toiled on mostly music-related products and some unseen games (including a Dreamcast title called Hellgate, for which many still bare the scars of naivety and all-nighters due to our fear of "job dependancy deadlines"), and one of the "50th Fastest Growing Companies in Wales" almost never made it. Christmas 2001 - we were callled into the office while we joked "Haha! Merry Christmas, lads! You're sacked!". Well, guess what..? Yep, we were all sacked! Before Christmas! Haha! This was blamed on spending much money on Hellgate, but we liked to think it was more likely the £1million pub which our boss spent money on, handily located in the middle of nowhere. A skeleton staff worked while a lot of us had a pretty miserable and uncertain Christmas - mostly beloved programmers getting paid a lot more than they should of been paid.
We all came back though in the New Year after Jester was saved by Big Ben Interactive, and soon they helped release Super Trucks to an unwanting world in new premises with slightly less staff. Super Trucks featured the "Truck Damage System" or "TDS". Yes! Tedious! That was actually intentional too, but none of the management managed to pick up on that one. The game famously got 4/10 in Official Playstation2 Magazine after our boss unwisely told Manic Miner obsessive "The Starglider" to "f**k off dickhead" via e-mail in response to an innocent query about the game. No one thought nothing of it in management, even when it hit the messageboards and made the top news story in PC Gamer. We then started work on TT Superbikes, which was a labour of love for the management themselves. They love motorbikes! They revved their prized motorbikes outside our windows! What could we do? Besides slowly leave one after the other, while management made no effort to bring you back unless you were a programmer. Jester was relying more and more on external resources, and this kind of upset the established employees who had been with them for some time.
The company meant well with the Manx TT arcade machine in the foyer, but that soon ended up in a state of disrepair and wasn't fixed. Each day we'd come into the building and be greeted by this malfunctioning piece of videogaming history, and compare it to the crumbling company we were working for. The main boss bloke soon decided to bail out, but not after gleefully leeching money from the coffers. More psychological attempts were made to keep staff. Management would walk into our room and talk about "all those UK developers hitting the wall" before adding "good job you guys are still with us, eh?" before leaving us in a state of frantic paranoia. More staff left though, including many of the directors, leaving the actual culprits of manglement terror. Soon Jester was rightly put into administration. The attached local newspaper front page image confirms this.
Hang on though. How can this be? Why, they're still out there! They have the same company name! The same logo! The same IP! Well, here's the thing. They're now called "Jester Interactive Publishing Limited" and are still operating after a nifty deal with the bank. Did I say nifty? Maybe I should of said illegal and completely wrong. TT was released, but only after a huge amount of pre-orders from very patient punters put the game up at number 5 in the charts. Here's a tip for all developers/publishers wanting to get high in the charts - make your userbase wait and wait and wait while they desperately grasp their pre-orders. When you eventually release your game after 2 years of the proposed release date, be amazed at your chart position! The "FIFA Street" effect will soon take hold, as causal gamers see your game in the top ten and purchase it because, well, it must be good. Right? It must be! It's in the top ten!
Jester are the Michael Jackson of the videogame world. They could be caught red-handed forcing people to buy TT Superbikes at gunpoint, only to have the court case fall on its arse and the company get away with it once again. Programmers who could of left and sealed the fate of Jester returned because "they couldn't be bothered with finding new jobs". Ironically, Big Ben tried their magic with TT Superbikes and, er, soon went into administration themselves. Also due to the "fear of poaching", Jester made sure that everyone who worked hard on the TT Superbikes game would not get any form of credit in the manual or the game, except via a cheat mode which the management didn't actually know about. Surely we'd at least all get a free copy for our hard work?
I just hope soon this terrible evil will be cleansed from the land. I'm sure there are decent, honest devcos out there which have hit the wall, where all they had to do to stick around was lie to their employees ("Missing pensions? No, no. The money was just resting in our accounts!"), make very shady deals and dubious decisions. My only comfort is knowing the evil management are actually going to Hell.
I would like to remain anonymous, though thank UK-R for the laughs over the years. Keep up the sterling work.
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