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Updated December 23, 2005



From Neoseeker (from Blade Forever)

The demise of Rebel Act Studios: Interview with Juan Diaz Bustamante May 02, 03 at 06:00AM

Translated (in a hurry) from the Spanish interview by the BLADE FOREVER site (

Sorry for the mistakes, I'm Spanish!


In these previous days Rebel Act Studios has released an official press-note in which they confirm the suspension of payments and say good-bye to all their fans. It is sad to see how a project which inspired so many passions vanishes with such very little noise...

Juan Diaz Bustamante, one of the leaders of RAS, has agreed to spare some of his time to comment on the situation.

BLADE FOREVER: The news, even if it was known and awaited, has opened again old wounds and it confirms it is over. Many of us remember that day in which the RAS forum stopped working without any previous notice. We all were waiting for a remodelation... Then the rumours started. In the beginning it seemed that the search for investors advised against spreading negative news, but the reality was that the secret was known by everyone. Why did you choose that way of saying good bye?

JUAN D. BUSTAMANTE: We were waiting until the last moment, looking for solutions for the future of our company. Some of them were close to come to fruition, but the international situation wasn't very favourable at the end of the previous year. I guess we didn't have as well the experience at the time of confronting a situation like this from the point of view of confronting the media and players. Later it was Codemasters the one to suggest waiting in order to make a joint press-note to be released at the same time in Spain and the rest of the world. We were delaying it and in the end we decided to release our own press note.

BF: The sales figures of BLADE haven't been made available. The impression is that it worked out alright in Spain: the press praised its development and the distribution by Friendware was decent. But in the international forums we could see users were having problems to buy the game. What opinion do you have of Codemasters's work as a publisher? Do you think they had complete faith in the game from the beginning?

JDB: The sales in Europe, including Spain, were good for a game like BLADE. We can't complain, though they were lower than it was expected. We could confirm that games like BLADE have a much more limited market than strategy games, for instance, as they don't attract casual gamers. BLADE topped the charts in all Europe to disappear inmediately afterwards. Also, this kind of games is very affected by piracy. I'll set an example: BLADE didn't reached in Spain a figure of 20,000 units sold as a full-priced game, while Age of Empires went over 50,000 units. And we are talking about Spain, where the game was having more repercussion. The fact is the game didn't work in the USA. A lot of causes for that, no doubt. Codemasters signed for the game with no time for making it known there.

The American market is VERY complicated. Is is unusual for an European game to top the charts. And if it is aiming so high, it should use a whole year of marketing actions if it wants to stand a chance.

BF: Many people think that the world sale figures weren't good and it contributed to the fall of RAS. Is it the answer, or only part of it?

JDB: There are several reasons, from my point of view. One of them is sumed up by what some person from Activision told us when coming to our offices: "It is incredible that in a country without a development industry, with an unexperienced managing and development team and without a great company backing you financially you could get such a complex game off the ground".
As a consequence of this, BLADE took too much time to be completed (RAS was founded in June 1996 and the game hit the stores in February 2001) with a cost consequently too high, though not impossible to cover if the sales had been better.

BF: In your goodbye you mention piracy as one of the causes of RAS closing down. It is difficult to evaluate, but I think most of the regular people in the BLADE forums have the feeling that this was a very respected game and many people bought it. Maybe in that environment the special editions were frequent and it is not easy to see the impact of piracy. Do you think the harm made by piracy was determinant?

JDB: Yes, piracy has made a great damage to us, but I was referring to an international level. It is possible that in Spain more people respected the game, for which I'm sincerely grateful. But just for you to understand the extent of this aspect, I must say that Codemasters wanted to emphasize this point clearly in the joint press note we were preparing.
And you must consider that piracy in Spain takes over 60% or 65% of the market share. Those figures make impossible any industry. If piracy were weaker, publishing companies would be stronger and could release more games, make better localizations and sell them for a lower price. And there would be more developing companies which could recoup most of their inversion only with their sales in Spain.
I saw that in some forums people has misunderstood my comment. Piracy is not the ONLY cause of the fall of RAS, though it is a VERY important one.

BF: The days prior to the closing were unusually lively, with the participation of the protagonists from the different developments. Was it a strategy to attract investors or was the team really motivated? If everyone was so excited as the programmers, how do you live that day in which you must gather the whole staff and announce the situation?

JDB: I think it was all different before and after BLADE. With BLADE we learn a lot of things. Good ones and bad ones. To be able to finish a game like that gives a lot of experience. The two projects we were developing after that one were much better organized. We all had more experience. That's why the teams were more motivated.

BF: The comments from those days, the images that were released later and some videos we could see in this web site prove that the works for ULTIMATE BLADE were very advanced. Friendware always did such a great effort to support the BLADE team... Why didn't they try to give you a final push?

Couldn't they carry some additional months for the development and release of UBOD? Couldn't it have been a way to gather resources and time to complete BLADE 2?

JDB: It is regrettable that Friendware is such a small company. Their yearly turnover doesn't rise above 600 million pesetas ($ 3,000,000)... For you to know, other publishing companies like PROEIN or EA go over 3,000 million pesetas. Friendware helped until they couldn't do anymore, as they didn't have more money. They were close to risking their own survival. It was such a huge effort from everyone involved from a monetary and personal point of view. These are very rough times now.

I'm sure some years later we will look back at what was achieved, though it will be very hard to think that we were not able to cope. Why didn't we do a final effort? We didn't have money to pay the workers (we at the directing staff weren't earning anything from a lot of months ago), and the workers are always the first priority. We can't ask anyone to work for free...

BF: The dynamic of the videogame market makes it very unlikely to allow the release of a BLADE 2, at least with the design it had, but what happens with ULTIMATE BLADE? Is it still on the works? Who owns the license?

JDB: BLADE OF DARKNESS is a trademark owned by Rebel Act Studios. The proyect has stopped, so I don't think, regrettably, that it will be released ever. I don't know if Codemasters will choose to use the trademark SEVERANCE, which they owned.

BF: One of the more usual questions is: Who owns the rights to BLADE and its engine? We have seen there is a desire to use that engine in more commercial projects. Is there any interest to market BLADE's engine?

JDB: The rights to BLADE and its engine are owned by Rebel Act Studios. Regrettably the source code to the engine was not, when we finished the game, fit enough to be licensed for several reasons. But we were excited about the code that we were making for BLADE 2, much more thought out and structured from the starting point. That could have been our chance to enter into the market of third-party technology..

BF: If legal problems allow it, it could be such a tribute for BLADE to be able to hand over its engine for the public domain... Is it possible that some day the engine and its associate resources could be free?

JDB: I didn't think about that. I will see what can be done and how.

BF: We see you are still working in Friendware. Can it be a way to recover Rebel Act Studios, or are you engaged in new projects?

JDB: I'm one of the founding partners of Friendware, so I will stay here (I hope that for a long time).
Now we are struggling for Friendware to recover from the heavy investment it made. Maybe sometime in the future we can return to the attack with new developments, though for this time we know we must have the financial aspect settled before we start working.

BF: If you want to add something else, we are listening...

JDB: I want to use this opportunity to mention some comments I read in some forums that have hurt me, though they made me learn some lessons. People don't know what really happened, but they comment on what they think that happened. And I see there are some very unfavorable opinions. I guess this is related to the first question you asked and how bad we transmited what happened in these last months.
I was specially hurt by someone who said that the owners in suits and ties were surely resting confortably in their villas while the workers were all dismissed. Well, I don't even wear a tie and I lost the few I had. That doesn't imply we are sorry to have created Rebel Act. On the contrary. We would repeat it if we could.

BF: Thanks for your time and we hope the new challenges that you are up to in your professional career give us products with the quality of BLADE, though we hope the period to enjoy the success is much longer.

JDB: Thanks to BLADE FOREVER for giving me the chance to communicate with you.
Thanks everybody!
Juan Diaz-Bustamante