According to a Twitter post and a comment on the forum RPG Codex by Kacper Szymczak, former Lead Designer at Polish studio CreativeForge Games, the core development team that produced Phantom Doctrine have departed the company in the wake of managerial troubles. Following a divisive critical reception and a fair share of technical issues, the game struggled commercially, which resulted in the previous CEO Łukasz Żarnowiecki resigning. Kacper Szymczak stepped in as interim CEO before resigning himself and then quitting. As per LinkedIn, Piotr Karbowski became CreativeForge Games’ new CEO in February.
In a casual Twitter post from February 7, Kacper Szymczak first mentioned the troublesome transition:
Btw did I tell you I became the CEO of CFG but recently resigned and then quit? It helps a lot to have your priorities figured out and written down, so you can walk away from stuff that looks good but isn't exactly your thing. Quitting feels very empowering 💪
— Kacper (@illusionGD) February 7, 2019
As the Twitter post surfaced in the forum RPG Codex, the developer dropped a comment last Friday with a lot more information on the events that transpired. We’ve reproduced the original text (since updated) of said post below.
I do lurk here frequently, and I must apologize for not replying to any questions – things have been rather hectic.
I will try to make it brief, and here are the major bullet points:
* PD didn’t sell as expected (there’s little doubt it will break even somewhere along the way, but in Poland your game is always compared to Witcher 3 and Frostpunk)
* hence the previous, original CEO “resigned” (strong House of Cards vibe here)
* I was asked to step up, and I did (my major reason being keeping the team intact)
* we supported PD as much as it could have been supported (having lost the lead programmer) without jeopardizing daily operations
* late Dec it became clear that the CEO role was to become a shareholder puppet (you can check out the company statue changes prepped to be voted in late Jan)
* that was when I flipped the table and resigned from the CEO job
* the moment it became apparent that we’ll have to struggle with even basic operation tasks, I grabbed that table mid-air and flipped it again and quit
* and the rest of the team also quit
* and CFG as you know it ceased to exist
* but on our last days on the company payroll we yet managed to push out as much as was possible of the modding support
The Polish game dev job market is in very good shape (imagine HR people dressed as mad max-ian warboys scouting the wasteland and fighting for any experienced gamedevs they can find) so there’s no drama here, and meanwhile a handful of us came together and will try to do something.
We reached out directly to Kacper Szymczak for clarification on the status of CreativeForge at this time.
CFG [CreativeForge Games] is a publicly shared company, and there are certain legal limitations to what a CEO can do and say – including ex-CEO’s. That post is at times borderline and from what I see – often badly interpreted. The public statements [Polish] that were released by the company – and not my legally risky interpretation – are:
1) company statutes changes from December, drastically limiting the operational capabilities of the CEO
2) my resignation from the CEO position based on discrepancy of points of view with the board
3) 29 people quitting their job
The wildly misinterpreted thing is the company didn’t fold – it’s still very much operational, just not in the shape it used to; my interpretation of the news that were released is that other teams from what is called the “Playway group” are moved under the CFG brand (to do, for example, an aircraft carrier sim).
The original development team of Phantom Doctrine consisted of 40 developers, of which 29 have quit CreativeForge Games, apparently the core team. The latest patch for Phantom Doctrine was released on February 14, called the Full Clearance Update 1.1, which includes modding tools and new features. According to the Steam post, the modding tools include a “plethora of game parameters [that] can now be accessed and modded via .csv files to provide new gameplay experience.” Hopefully, this means that whatever remaining technical issues remain in the game could now be fixed by the game’s loyal cult following. Kacper also noted that the team’s departure does not affect the Nintendo Switch port of Phantom Doctrine, as it is the same team handling the Hard West port.
TechRaptor has reached out to current CreativeForge Games CEO Piotr Karbowski for comment and will update this story as needed.
As the reviewer who gave Phantom Doctrine a 9.5/10 score, I’m really upset by this news, and I hope the developers manage to bounce back from such an unfortunate turn of events. I did mention in my review that the game ran the “risk of becoming too caught up in its own brilliance and losing a wider audience.” It’s sad to see that this actually came to pass. I still stand by my assessment and hope that it becomes a cult classic as the years go by.
What do you think of this turn of events? Can a game like this survive the disbandment of its original team? Let us know in the comments below.More About This Game