A Long Row of Empty Desks

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When even your official partner dares to make quick little jabs at your business, it’s probably a sign that it’s time to re-evaluate the way things are being done around the office.

I can’t recall the exact day the teaser trailer launched, but at some point in the not-so-distant past, Slightly Mad Studios took the covers off of an officially licensed Red Bull Air Racing game. The first hardcore simulator centered around a form of auto racing many of us don’t even posess the stomach to spectate, the team behind Project CARS have apparently been hard at work on this Free to Play aviation title. On the outset, it looks really fucking cool – rarely does a team take aim at simulating such an obscure form of racing, so this leap into the unknown is greatly appreciated. You can only take modern GT3 participants to Silverstone so many times across numerous different pieces of software before you’re bound to look for something fresh and innovative. This is it.

But a few interesting remarks, hidden within a sea of PR fluff in a preview of the game, almost serve as a warning to the overlords of Red Bull; upon arriving at the headquarters of Slightly Mad Studios, play-testers and Red Bull representatives were presented with a barren office featuring a long row of empty desks. The author does his best to downplay the obvious lack of activity – opting to play up on the “work from home” approach taken by Slightly Mad Studios – but once again references the lonely goldfish and boxes of Oculus Rift VR headsets to drill home the point that it was an awkward day of testing.

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One could make the argument that it was an off-day for the Studio, and during normal business hours the suite is buzzing with activity, but a certain Free to Play project vanishing into thin air by the same development team points at a slightly more worrying problem. World of Speed, a free to play racer intended primarily for the Russian market, one which uses the assets of Project CARS, has been in limbo for nearly 18 months, if not more. The game’s official forums are loaded with posts questioning if the project has been completely killed off, and a lone thread by a user claiming to be involved with the title’s alpha testing program, has not been verified by any member of the Slightly Mad Studios team.

If they can’t finish World of Speed – a piece of software that was much further along in development – what are the chances they’ll suddenly pick up the pace and have Air Race ready for the summer?

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A small Russian publisher may not care if World of Speed fails to materialize after all this time, but Red Bull is a well-known brand with an international reputation to protect. Just like World of Speed, the mysterious hype surrounding Air Race features pretty screenshots and tons of carefully constructed previews, but now, there are also a few subtle red flags that Red Bull has picked up on. The gaming section of Red Bull is more or less designed to spread the gospel of whatever comes across their radar, and instead the author draws attention to a workplace environment that feels a bit too empty – as if he’s sent out a warning to his masters to take a closer peek.

Given their inability to meet self-imposed deadlines with the mishandling of Project CARS, the lack of any meaningful progression on World of Speed, and now Red Bull writers themselves taking unexpected jabs at the studio, there’s a chance we might never see this innovative Air Racing game arrive in the hands of the public. At this point, one could make the educated guess that Slightly Mad Studios took on several side projects in an effort to help fund the development of Project CARS, and they’re now facing the reality of having to finish them to the extent required by contractual obligations.

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38 thoughts on “A Long Row of Empty Desks

  1. Below the paragraph you screenshot, you forgot to mention on how their development team works, as that explains the reason of empty desks. Why do you have to make selective quotes and turn the story in your favor?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Still isn’t weird or scary. You have 130 people that work on the game; if most of them are working away from the HQ, you still have 130 people. Having a long row of empty desks means nothing actually, because you still have 130 people. Of course they aren’t all working for the red bull air game, but what matters is that 130 people can be counted on and they share the work on the cloud/forum. Where else are 130 people going to fit in the time when they get together if not at the long row of empty desks so 130 people can be together working on the various games. At this point is just writing for writing as 130 people no longer makes sense except for making a nice word play and having a good fun of 130 people is this the real life or is this just fantasy, caught in a landslide

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  2. It’s Shabbily Made Sims. We will get the same half assed garbage they always produce and nothing more.

    “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it” ~Churchill~

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  3. Half assed garbage , completely agree with that statement ………… project cars still crashes on ps4 ………Out of 40 titles I have this game is the only one that has this trait. ( never to be fixed). I wont even get into the rest of the issues that can and do occur.

    Incomplete rubbish is what you get from SMS unfortunately . They have to be up there with the worst of the industry surely .

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  4. The kind of game where even months from release you can already envision exactly how clunky, buggy, unoptimized, and disappointing it’s going to be.

    I wonder if Ian Bell still lives in denial of how much his glorified modding team has failed to produce anything of worth.

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  5. I am no fan of SMS, but this seems like a bit of a stretch to me. Qualified/competent developers are extremely difficult to find and nigh-on-impossible to retain in any significant numbers.

    I would actually be more concerned if the author of the article walked into SMS and found rows and rows of code monkeys busily banging away on keyboards – all that would mean is that SMS had found a salary point to attract enough warm bodies within a 15-ish mile radius of their physical studio.

    There would of course be a tiny, exclusive handful of locales around the world where you could follow such a strategy and be able to call your dev team “world class” with a straight face. Silicon Valley is one such locale…you can count up the rest without using too many fingers!

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    1. Edit: a quick Google of SMS reveals they are physically located very near the city center of London. Outside of Silicon Valley, I think this locale would probably be on your list of places you could attract a top notch dev team within X miles of your office.

      Even that being said though, competition would still be extremely tight and could easily get cost-prohibitively so for a relatively small fish like SMS…without a little creativity, that is (such as pursuing resouces in cheaper locales and offering flexible work arrangements (keeping in mind that, in my experience, there is a pretty reliable correlation between technical skill and non-traditional work habits).

      Again, no love lost from me on SMS for a multitude of reasons…just saying none of this is a dead giveaway of an unhealthy environment.

      Also, as a developer myself, let me tell you first hand that if I got wind there would be a bunch of media-types swarming our office in the near future, I would start working the angles to make sure I could telecommute that day(s) ASAP! Most of us are a lot closer to rats hiding behind a 24 pack of Mt Dew in the back of a dark closet than we are to peacocks (eager to show off what no one but our fellow rats would have a snowballs chance in hell of understanding anyways!)

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  6. LOL .. ever heard of distributed development? We simply sit at our homes and work form home. In various countries. There is nothing wrong with SMS offices being empty. It was like that from the beginning (Shift, Shift2 and even before). Again your stupid assumptions. Signed – your fellow SMS guy …. from my home.

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    1. So, you are to blame for for that dogshit (pcars) that sits dormant on my hard drive. Thanks for the buggy, simcade crap.

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  7. Hell … something went wrong – so again ….. We have distributed development model. Home offices. We are located in different countries. Once again you are making FALSE assumptions and selling it as some kind of reasoned suspicion. Nope. Once again you are plain wrong. Man you are in desperate need of attention, aren’t you.

    Signed: Your fellow SMS guy … from my home

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        1. Alpha builds of pCars were made available in early 2012. Extrapolate some data and we’ll be seeing World of Speed sometime in 2019.

          The Red Bull game? Maybe 2018 if we’re lucky.

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            1. Look up the definition of the terms pre-alpha, alpha and beta. The terms were used very loosely by SMS and regurgitated by many. Loosely as in incorrectly.

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              1. Correct.

                Also, I’m a little astonished that the SMS shills/employees have made a slight reappearance.

                Their game is still broken as fuck. They are arguing semantics instead of the main point. Funny stuff

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      1. I think you suffer of some sort of amnesia.. this is the XX post (where XX is a number between 1 and 99) where people will tell you that WOS is not developed by SMS anymore.. by a long time.. because they didn’t reached an agreement with the publisher.. it happened so much time in the past that I don’t have the link with the facts anymore (I remember it was a post by Ian Bell.. last year).
        Now I made this XX post + 1.. 🙂
        I don’t know who is continuing with it at the moment… or if it’s being developed at all!

        …and for the red bull thing (Red Bull Air Race)… it’s available in closed beta by some days already, you can test it yourself (if you signup for the closed beta).

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    1. The Red Bull game and WOS will both be free to play buy to win shovelware that will be unfinished and full of bugs like PCars.

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    1. That video collected thousand hundred views within hours.. do you believe that a blog like this could give it any more visibility? Let this website post shit, if the guy running it try to talk about something positive.. he could turn it into negativity! 🙂

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      1. It was not about getting more visibility. It was more about bringing something positive to this fucked-up comunity.

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  8. Whoa whoa, the simulation value of this game is entirely undetermined at this point and I’m not joking when I say simulation value.

    What are the chances that SMS has a decent flight model as an afterthought when they didn’t even get a consistent driving model down ONCE?

    The answer is close to 0% chance.

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  9. Wow, an article about a long row of empty desks…. while everybody knows that SMS is a freelancing off-office-company. You know, the desks could be used just when a bunch of developers meet together or visit the office or the Q&A-team is gathered together in the office.

    You guys should rethink your attitude of writing articles.

    Like

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