The Saboteur 2 was in the works, reveals developer

Chris Stead 28 September 2016

the-saboteur-2
Ex-Pandemic Studios creative director claims he began work on a sequel to the cult favourite in 2009.

There are many sad stories to come out of the Australian development scene in the fallout from the global financial crisis. Almost all of the big studios of the 2000s were closed by the turn of the decade, which remains a shame despite the fact that a thriving indie community has risen from the ashes. Stories continue to emerge about that period, and we’ve previously brought you scoops on the cancellation of Whore of the Orient, and also an X-Wing vs. TIE-Fighter HD remake. Now we have another to add to the list.

In 2008, veteran Australian developer Morgan Jaffit was working as associate creative director and lead designer at Pandemic Studios’ Brisbane office. The studio had been on fire, working on the two Star Wars: Battlefront games, the Destroy All Humans! series and, released in August that year, Mercenaries 2: World in Flames. However, on Christmas Day that year, EA closed the studio – Grinch much?

During a recent episode of the GameHugs podcast, host Guy Blomberg interviewed Jaffit and asked him about what happened after that fateful yuletide phone call. Here is his answer:

Was there a particular reason that you stayed in Australia after the closure of Pandemic, as I half-expected you to go back to the States?

Well Pandemic in Los Angeles did offer me a job, which I took [in early 2009]. So I went over there and worked there for a week, but I got the smell of death. So after that week I turned the job down. I was supposed to take over as the creative director on The Saboteur DLC and then on The Saboteur 2. That was what they wanted me to head up.

I have this criteria where the best work is done when the people who make decisions about details are the people closest to details. So you can set a vision from the top, but the details should be done by the person who is working on it. This comes from my experiences working in studios with people who aren’t connected to the details making stupid decisions that waste people’s time. So you set an intention, and then you work with the people who are responsible to establish what the appropriate actions are.

While I was at Pandemic LA I realised that they had been completely gutted by the EA process and nobody could make a decision. There were multiple conversations that ended in “well, I have to take that to a creative director”. But then the creative director has to take that to Andrew [Goldman – CEO] and Greg [Borrud – director of production] and so on. Then the process would turn into them regularly being overruled by forces inside EA that had nothing to do with development. Like marketing people or Frank Gibeau [president of EA Studios] and any other number of useless and dangerous idiots.

So after a week of watching that process happen, or it might have been two weeks, it convinced me that I could not make games that way. My job as a lead [designer] has always been to empower other people and be the “shit umbrella” – that is the term you use for that role in big companies. People who are very far from the details will try and shit on your project from above and your job is to collect all of that shit and make sure it runs off the side and doesn’t get on the team. And I am pretty good at that. But ultimately I need to be able to tell people, “you are in control of this,” for that to be true.” Because that is the only way I know how to get results.

It’s not clear how far along The Saboteur 2 was at the time Jaffit began his week or so of work on it, but it was obviously far enough along to hire a creative director. Sadly, Pandemic wouldn’t survive the year and as well as The Saboteur 2, a third Mercenaries game, Star Wars Battlefront III and a game based on The Dark Knight movie went down with it. Jaffit, on the other hand, returned to Australia and started Defiant Development, which has become a very successful indie studio known for Ski Safari, Heroes Call and Hand of Fate.

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