Rockstar New England

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Rockstar New England, Inc.
Formerly
Mad Doc Software, LLC (1999–2008)
Subsidiary
Industry Video game industry
Founded November 18, 1999; 18 years ago (1999-11-18) in Andover, Massachusetts, U.S.
Founder Ian Lane Davis
Headquarters Ballardvale, Massachusetts, U.S.
Key people
Number of employees
Increase 100 (2007)
Parent Rockstar Games (2008–present)

Rockstar New England, Inc. (formerly Mad Doc Software, LLC) is an American video game developer based in the Ballardvale village within Andover, Massachusetts. The company was founded as Mad Doc Software in November 1999, by Ian Lane Davis, formerly of Activision. The company started out assisting Activision with the finalization of their Star Trek: Armada and Call to Power II games, and went on to lead the development on Star Trek: Armada II. Alongside multiple smaller projects, such as completing the canceled Jane's Attack Squadron from defunct Looking Glass Studios, Mad Doc Software achieved international recognition through the Empire Earth series, which it took over from Stainless Steel Studios, and the 2006 game Star Trek: Legacy. Empire Earth III was critically panned, leading both Mad Doc Software and the series' publisher, Sierra Entertainment, to retreat from the franchise.

Mad Doc Software teamed up with Rockstar Games to develop a remaster of Rockstar Vancouver's Bully, Bully: Scholarship Edition, which saw widespread success. Following the release, in April 2008, Rockstar Games' parent company, Take-Two Interactive, announced that they had acquired Mad Doc Software. As part of the agreement, Mad Doc Software became part of the Rockstar Games studio umbrella, and was renamed Rockstar New England. The new company has since acted out minor roles, taking over a part of the porting duties for Grand Theft Auto IV's Microsoft Windows version, alongside Rockstar Toronto, and assisting other studios on the development of Rockstar Games-published titles, such as Red Dead Redemption (2010), L.A. Noire (2011), Max Payne 3 (2012) and Grand Theft Auto V (2013).

History[edit]

As Mad Doc Software (1999–2008)[edit]

Beginnings[edit]

Former Mad Doc Software logo

Mad Doc Software was incorporated by Ian Lane Davis, under the laws of Massachusetts, on November 18, 1999.[1] Davis had previously earned a doctorate in artificial intelligence and robotics from Carnegie Mellon University in 1996, and served as technical director for Activision between 1996 and 1999.[2] Originally located in Andover, Massachusetts, the company moved to Lawrence, Massachusetts a year later, and stayed there until moving to Andover suburb Ballardvale in 2006.[3] The company started out aiding Activision on finishing their strategy video games (real-time strategy and turn-based strategy games, respectively) Star Trek: Armada and Call to Power II, which Davis had previously left to found Mad Doc Software.[4]

The development on the sequel to Star Trek: Armada, Star Trek: Armada II, was led by Mad Doc Software, instead of Activision.[5] Unlike its predecessor, Star Trek: Armada II included a fully 3D environment, which was noted as a major improvement.[6] The game was announced in March 2001; at that point in time, the company consisted mostly of former employees from Activision and Looking Glass Studios, the latter of which shut down in May 2000.[7] Specifically for Star Trek: Armada II, Mad Doc Software developed a lighting system for Color Kinetics' room-scale Surround Light technology, which would expand visual effects from the game into the player's room, lighting it up in red when a red alert occurs, or shifting colors when the player passed through a nebula.[8][9] The game was released in November 2001,[10] to positive reception by critics.[11][12] In 2001, Mad Doc Software acquired the license to Jane's Attack Squadron, which was left canceled by its previous developer, Looking Glass Studios.[13][14] The game was finished by Mad Doc Software, and released by Xicat Interactive in March 2002.[15] The company also helped Gray Matter Interactive with the development of the Xbox and PlayStation 2 ports of Return to Castle Wolfenstein, subtitled Tides of War and Operation Resurrection, respectively, adding cooperative gameplay for the game's multiplayer component.[16][17][18]

Empire Earth series[edit]

In May 2002, Sierra Entertainment announced that Mad Doc Software was developing Empire Earth: The Art of Conquest, an expansion pack to Stainless Steel Studios' 2001 real-time strategy game Empire Earth.[19] With the expansion, Sierra Entertainment and Mad Doc Software specifically aimed at "giving the people who love Empire Earth even more of it",[20] again adding more content than the original game held.[21] After an open beta test phase in August 2002,[22] the game was released in September 2002, to mixed reviews by critics.[23] Tom Chick of GameSpot specifically thought that "The Art of Conquest doesn't add enough to make much of a difference", giving it a score of 5.2/10.[24] Regardless, Mad Doc Software remained the core developer of the Empire Earth series, which lead to the next installment in the franchise, Empire Earth II, being announced in July 2004.[25] In early previews and interviews, it was noted that Mad Doc Software was seemingly attempting to make a game that was even larger than Empire Earth and The Art of Conquest, while also adding major technological enhancements.[26][27][28] Empire Earth II was released in April 2005, though this time with very positive reviews.[29][30] Special praise was laid onto the game's in-depth interface, which allowed players to more easily navigate a game thought to be very complex.[31] Empire Earth II was followed by an expansion, Empire Earth II: The Art of Supremacy, which was announced in October 2005.[32][33] As with the previous expansion developed by Mad Doc Software, it again aimed at expanding a game that was already extremely large.[34][35][36] Released in February 2006, the expansion again failed to appeal to critics.[37]

The Empire Earth installment, Empire Earth III, was announced in February 2007.[38] Although the game was again advertised with having more content than its predecessors,[39][40] journalists considered the Empire Earth series to be increasingly disappealing, and that the series had "never quite recovered from the fact that Age of Empires was there first – or that Rise of Nations did broadly the same thing, but in a more accessible and more heavily promoted way".[41] With a total of US$10 million spent for the game's production,[42] Empire Earth III was released in November 2006.[43][44] The game received overall negative reception, with its reworked elements said to be "overly simplistic" and "ineffective".[45] An April 2014 retrospective by USgamer, which focused on "games that killed a franchise", editor Mike Williams covered Empire Earth III as "buggy, with poor animation, framerate, AI, and combat", and added: "The complexity and depth that made the first two games great was stripped out of this game in an attempt to reach a larger audience. Diplomatic relations were taken down to two binary states, resource collecting lost any type of strategy, pathfinding was terrible, and the enemy AI frequently sat around wondering what to do against your crafty plan of 'zerg everything'."[46] In July 2009, Empire Earth, alongside other Vivendi properties, was acquired by Rebellion Developments.[47]

Other projects[edit]

In July 2003, Mad Doc Software announced that they were working with Gas Powered Games and Microsoft Game Studios on an expansion pack for their action role-playing game Dungeon Siege (2002).[48] Titled Dungeon Siege: Legends of Aranna, the expansion, directly co-developed with Gas Powered Games,[49] expands on the original game, with its story starting at Dungeon Siege's ending,[50] and a vast amount of new content added for both, the single-player and multiplayer modes of the game.[51][52][53] Davis stated that Mad Doc Software was picked as the expansion's developer, as Gas Powered Games was impressed with the talent present at the studio, and how well the studio's previous titles had been received.[54] The team aimed at improving on the original concept of the game by adding a more open world, giving the player more direct control of their actions, and developing a great story for players of the original Dungeon Siege.[55] The game was released in November 2003,[56] and, like The Art of Conquest, saw mixed reception.[57][58][59] Giving it a score of 7.0/10, Dan Adams of IGN stated that the game was perfectly suited for fans of the original game, even if it failed to be a remarkable game when seen from the view of a journalist.[60] An untitled bonus pack, which followed up on the events of Legends of Aranna, was released as freeware by Mad Doc Software, in September 2004.[61] The Dungeon Siege intellectual property, including Legends of Aranna and its free bonus pack, was acquired by 2K Games in March 2006.[62]

In July 2005, the Journal of Game Development, a Charles River Media publication, announced that Davis had been named its new editor-in-chief,[63] and in 2007, Davis was awarded "Entrepreneur of the Year" by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.[3] Around that time, Mad Doc Software also created an autonomous cross-country navigation system for the United States Department of Defense, and had roughly 100 employees.[3] For the February 2008 release of Propaganda Games' Turok, Mad Doc Software, alongside Threewave Software, developed map designs for the game's multiplayer mode.[64]

In January 2006, rumors started spreading that Mad Doc Software was developing a new game based on the Star Trek franchise, titled Star Trek: Legacy.[65] The game's existence was officially confirmed by Bethesda Softworks just a few days later,[66][67] also acquiring the exclusive license for Star Trek-based games, as part of a three-game partnership, spanning Star Trek: Legacy, Tactical Assault and Encounters.[68] To promote the games, Bethesda Softworks hired composers Rod Abernethy and Jason Graves to score them,[69] involved Star Trek writer D.C. Fontana with the games' narrative,[70] and signed with the portrayers of Starship Enterprise captains, the series' respective lead characters, from five different Star Trek generations: William Shatner as James T. Kirk from The Original Series, Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard from The Next Generation, Avery Brooks as Benjamin Sisko from Deep Space Nine, Kate Mulgrew as Kathryn Janeway from Voyager, and Scott Bakula as Jonathan Archer from Enterprise.[71][72] The game was advertised as a combat game, and released in November 2006,[73] and received positive reviews from critics.[74]

In July 2007, Rockstar Games announced that their 2006 title Bully, initially developed by Rockstar Vancouver for PlayStation 2, would be ported to Xbox 360 and Wii under the name Bully: Scholarship Edition.[75] It was later revealed that the conversion was in development at Mad Doc Software, and was not a straight-up port, but rather a remaster of Bully, with enhanced graphics (such as high-resolution textures and real-time shadows) and controls, and additional missions.[76] Released in March 2008, Bully: Scholarship Edition was received very well by critics,[77] as a result of which the game was later ported to Microsoft Windows.[78]

As Rockstar New England (2008–present)[edit]

On April 4, 2008, exactly one month after the initial Xbox 360 and Wii release of Bully: Scholarship Edition, Rockstar Games' parent company, Take-Two Interactive, announced that they had acquired Mad Doc Software for an undisclosed amount.[79][80] As part of the agreement, Mad Doc Software became part of the Rockstar Games company tree and was renamed Rockstar New England.[81][82] Regarding the acquisition, Rockstar Games' executive producer, Sam Houser, stated: "The team at Mad Doc Software is extremely talented, [...] [b]ringing them within the Rockstar Games family will enhance our core technology and further support our commitment to creating progressive and innovative gaming experiences."[83][84] On June 24, 2009, Brian Ashcraft of Kotaku reported that Rockstar New England had laid off approximately 10% of its staff, including the studio's entire quality assurance department.[85][86] According to the report, the decision was made because Rockstar Games wanted to avoid having per-studio quality assurance teams, instead leaving that work to their dedicated quality assurance studio, Rockstar Lincoln.[87][88]

As Rockstar New England, the studio has mostly contributed to the development of other games published by Rockstar Games, such as to Rockstar Toronto's Microsoft Windows port of Rockstar North's Grand Theft Auto IV (2008), Rockstar San Diego's Red Dead Redemption (2010), Team Bondi's L.A. Noire (2011), and Rockstar North's Grand Theft Auto V (2013). As part of the Rockstar Studios collective, which consisted of all Rockstar Games subsidiaries, Rockstar New England was one of the four leading developers, alongside Rockstar Vancouver, Rockstar Toronto and Rockstar Leeds, on Max Payne 3 (2012).[89] On October 18, 2013, shortly after the release of Grand Theft Auto V, Kotaku editor Superannuation spotted a curriculum vitae of a Rockstar New England employee on LinkedIn, which suggested that the studio was working on the "next version of a famous IP".[90][91][92] Most journalists believed that this either referred to Grand Theft Auto V downloadable content, a third installment in the Red Dead franchise, or a sequel to Bully.[93][94][95] As of October 2014, Rockstar New England is one of the biggest video game development studios in the Greater Boston area, alongside Turbine, Harmonix and Demiurge Studios.[96]

Games developed[edit]

Year Title Platform(s) Publisher(s) Notes
as Mad Doc Software
2000 Star Trek: Armada Microsoft Windows Activision Support developer for Activision
Call to Power II
2001 Star Trek: Armada II N/A
2002 Jane's Attack Squadron Xicat Interactive Took over development from defunct Looking Glass Studios
Empire Earth: The Art of Conquest Sierra Entertainment N/A
2003 Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War Xbox Activision Support developer for Gray Matter Interactive
Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Operation Resurrection PlayStation 2
Dungeon Siege: Legends of Aranna Microsoft Windows Microsoft Game Studios Co-developed with Gas Powered Games
2005 Empire Earth II Sierra Entertainment N/A
2006 Empire Earth II: The Art of Supremacy
Star Trek: Legacy Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360 Bethesda Softworks
2007 Empire Earth III Microsoft Windows Sierra Entertainment
2008 Turok Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 Touchstone Games Support developer for Propaganda Games
Bully: Scholarship Edition Android, iOS, Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, Wii Rockstar Games Remaster of Bully by Rockstar Vancouver
as Rockstar New England
2008 Iron Man PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 Sega Support developer for Secret Level
Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 Ubisoft Support developer for Gearbox Software
Grand Theft Auto IV Microsoft Windows Rockstar Games Ported only, together with Rockstar Toronto; game developed by Rockstar North
2010 Red Dead Redemption PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 Support developer for Rockstar San Diego
2011 L.A. Noire Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One Support developer for Team Bondi
2012 Max Payne 3 macOS, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox One Developed as part of Rockstar Studios
2013 Grand Theft Auto V Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox 360 Support developer for Rockstar North

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