Seven years ago. Treyarch was young. We had just finished *Die By The Sword*, and the industry thought it was cool, even though it didn't sell that many units. We were hot. And we had a friend at Origin systems, and thanks to him, they got the idea that maybe we could do the third *Ultima Underworld* game. We could just paste *Ultima Underworld* color onto the *Die By The Sword* engine - step one, underwear; step three, profit!
How cool would that be? I had met Richard Garriott AKA Lord British before, at Computer Camp, while he was working on *Ultima 2*. It was the summer between 7th and 8th grade for me, I think. I took his class on developing graphical adventure games. I was a fanboy.
A bunch of EA / Origin guys came to Los Angeles to visit and talk about the deal, including Richard Garriott himself. Richard played some of *Die By The Sword* while we watched, and I was like, wow - ten years ago, it was me playing his game while he watched.
We sat in the large conference room, and the question came up: "How long do you guys think it would take to do this?"
I opened my big, fat, stupid mouth, and said something like, "Well, it's going to take at least eighteen months, because we need to follow the John Carmack rule and rewrite our engine from scratch." I'd just seen Abrash's Quake lecture at GDC where he told us the John Carmack rule was to Always Start Over. Why was I even talking? I don't know. I was in a room with Pete Akemann, Don Likeness, and Chuck Tolman, which meant I was probably the dumbest coder in the room.
Producer guy said something like, "Why?"
I said something like, "Our networking code is a synchronous model. To do the cooperative multiplayer thing we're talking about, we need to start over." (Okay, two things: we could do cooperative multiplayer with synchronous. It wouldn't have been ideal, but we could have done it. OR: we could have dug in and fixed every single line of code in the engine that made synchronous assumptions. Wouldn't have been pleasant, but would have taken a lot less time than starting over.)
"You're frame locked?" he asked, Getting It, dismay in his voice. And, musing to himself, "I don't know if we're ready to fund engine development."
Pete and Don didn't invite me to any more pitch meetings after that.
As a side note, isn't it weird that on the basis of saying a stupid thing that you wish you could take back or amend later, a whole deal can go sour? If I had kept my mouth shut, we might have gotten that deal. And *Ultima Underworld III* would have been the game we wanted to make: a cooperative multiplayer action game with RPG elements. Somebody would have needed to talk some sense into us and said, "Don't rewrite your whole damn engine you dumbasses!" But if we could have been convinced of that it probably would have been a home run - for everyone involved. EA / Origin missed out, too. I imagine the same problem happens in interviews - somebody says the wrong thing, doesn't really mean it, or accidentally forgets to spellcheck his resume (you know who you are) - and a potentially mutually beneficial relationship is destroyed.
Flip side of the coin, people with more charm and less honesty than me end up getting deals made that are destructive. Maybe this whole talking thing is overrated.