Back Regarding Dead Cells termination 48 | ♥ 667
Credit: Evil Empire announcement (X/Twitter)

I posted on Discord a hot take on the recent announcement from Motion Twin (“MT”), my former company where I operated as a Lead dev and Lead game designer.

It was late, my words were definitely a bit impulsive, and I truly apologize for the blunt words.

So let’s clarify my own statement.

For the context, I’ve been an associate at MT for about 19 years and was responsible for most of the design of Dead Cells, and its development, from gameplay, controls, balancing, items and down to the engine (see gamebase). I was not alone, but frankly, I had direct implications on all its parts.

Here is also a quick presentation of the Dead Cells related companies:

  • Motion Twin (including myself) created the game and released 2 DLCs.
  • While Motion Twin retained the IP, Evil Empire, created by former MT associates, continued the hard work and released 22 new major updates and DLCs, for about 5 years. They hired 50 people during that period of time.

Recently, MT abruptly decided to cancel all upcoming updates for Dead Cells, a move that left the player community quite speechless. Note that Evil Empire (EE) had official content plans for at least 2024 and 2025 (see https://www.pushsquare.com/news/2023/06/dead-cells-dlc-planned-until-2025-as-game-sells-10-million-copies, or google it)

My take

Someone from the Discord called for my take on that event and I decided to throw some extra light on this strange decision.

To put it shortly, Evil Empire did a tremendous job at keeping the game fresh and alive, while taking great care of their players.

On the other side, I’ve seen first-hand how we, Motion Twin, considered our player base, years before Dead Cells even existed. Back when we were making dozens of Browser/Flash games. Our short term strategy was: release, update a bit, drop. It’s not some confidential information, it’s basically what our old player base, from the pre-Dead Cells era, know. I have obviously been part of that, but as a cooperative company, decisions were taken together, and I had my share of disillusion on that topic.

Obviously, when Dead Cells became the success we all know, MT decided to instantly ignore all of its past web-era player base. Fun fact, our former loyal players even waited more than 4 years and hundreds of requests to get the source code of long dead web games, mostly because MT didn’t care much. Thanks to their incredible love and dedication, some of our old creations were brought back to life (see Eternal Twin).

Seeing a similar abrupt termination decision from MT about Dead Cells, I can all but extrapolate on what happened behind the scene.

The current Motion Twin team is more or less 3 people from the former Dead Cells team, including one employee that joined lately, and one who took care of the administrative stuff. Most of the true original team members are now gone. Even MT founders are long gone: one founded Shiro Games (Dune, Wartales, Northgard), one created Shotgun King, and me, well.. wait for it, cool things are in the making :)

To be honest, the only true Dead Cells team is now basically Evil Empire that managed to carry the flame for so long, with a true love for the franchise.

Even I didn’t trusted them, when we decided to give them our baby. I seriously doubted that anything cool would happen from this deal. Oh I was so wrong. Five years later, Motion Twin was responsible for the 1st million units, while Evil Empire made the 9 following millions (public data).

The kind of obvious reason for all this fuzz is certainly to leave room for Windblown, the upcoming dash-dash-dash rogue from MT. As the press slowly started to realize that the Dead Cells true architects were now EE, I can easily see how the panic happened at MT. If you check the recent articles about Dead Cells, EE was mentioned more and more as the actual authors, which was honestly quite fair, given their supportive pedigree. But I can imagine MT didn’t like the fact that people started to realize that.

I kind of understand the MT strategy: it’s a rather logical marketing stunt. Get rid of Dead Cells to leave room for Windblown. But as Motion Twin always did, it’s a one-way strategy that leaves people behind: both loyal players and employees at EE. Nothing really new, unfortunately.

I’d close that topic by simply quoting someone still part of the current MT team (I hope he won’t mind, I kept him anonymous). He had some interesting take, as we debated about how we should, or should not, take care of our past communities and our former player base:

“Why bother? What do we owe them?”

Everything.

Absolutely everything man.