All’s Well That Ends Well?

Some encouraging news, for a change.

My last post, back in November (really?), discussed how the parent company behind the Torque Game Engine, the engine I’m using for Vespers, was shutting down the portion of the company responsible for engine development. I think a lot of people saw that coming. The original company, GarageGames, was a small, friendly, down-to-earth group of people that had a passion for helping other people make games, and it helped them build a strong game engine and a large, fairly devoted community. The employees spent a good deal of time on the forums interacting with the customers and developers, and this created a nice connection that a lot of people appreciated. Then things started changing. They expanded their product line, perhaps a bit too fast and a bit too wide, and ended up stretching themselves too thin. They changed their name from friendly GarageGames to the slightly weird and distinctly unfriendly TorquePowered. Focus began to shift to online gaming, away from their core of PC/Mac development. One by one, many of the original employees resigned to join other companies or pursue other opportunities. They were bought out by IAC, a large corporation, and while they tried to spin it to their advantage, there was no overcoming the sense that they had sold out. When they moved from cozy Eugene, Oregon to vapid Las Vegas, the transformation of the original company appeared to be complete.

It was a sad day when it was announced that the parent company overseeing Torque was shutting down its operations, but to be honest I think most people had already been saddened for some time by what appeared to be the prolonged and inevitable death of GarageGames.

Importantly, though, those of us who were still in the process of developing games with Torque engines – and who cringe at the prospect of porting to a new game engine – had to patiently wait to see what would happen to the Torque product line, and how it would affect licensing issues. (Of course, that would only be important to people who actually release finished games, so just pretend for now that it was of great concern to me.)

So with yesterday came the announcement of the rebirth of GarageGames. The company and the product line is now a subsidiary of Graham Software Development, and the decision was made to relaunch the company under their original name and with a commitment to return to its “indie roots.” There is a renewed focus on the community, perhaps Torque’s strongest asset, and a desire to make the Torque products more stable, more intuitive, and better documented. They’re reducing their product line so that they can focus on fewer engines, and dropping the prices on all of their engines to $99 to celebrate.

This is all good news, of course, and it is comforting to know that licensing is no longer a concern. It’s also good to know that I won’t have to update the “GarageGames” logo on my splash screen, which I thankfully never updated to “TorquePowered”.

Still, I’ll view these events cautiously. GG is saying the right things, and I like that the focus is back on the community. That would be a wise move. But it’s not like we haven’t heard much of this before; better documentation has been an issue with Torque products for years, and has been promised many times. There is still the fact that many of the original GG guys have moved on to other pursuits, and they’re not only still in Vegas, they’re moving into an even larger office building. Their image has taken a multitude of hits over the past few years, and it will take some work to repair that.

But they do have two big advantages in their product line and their large community, and full access to the source code at such a low entry price is very good. It’s good to see GG back and on what appears to be the right track. We’ll have to see where they take it this time.

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