Red Dawn's Writer Didn't Actually Write Homefront's Script, Say Ex-Developers

In a superb autopsy of Kaos Studios, closed three months after it finished Homefront for THQ, Gamasutra's Leigh Alexander paints a vivid picture of a studio doomed by meddling, duplicitous executives, and filled with underqualified managers, overworked developers and even an overflowing urinal.

There's a lot of anonymous sourcing, which means there's a lot of mud flung by pissed-off people who lost their jobs. And a huge wad of it lands on the guy whose name helped sell the game's concept to the public from the day it was announced.

That would be John Milius, the screenwriter known for, among other things, 1984's Red Dawn. Milius was invoked the day THQ announced the game in 2009, as Red Dawn's story closely mirrors that of Homefront's.

However, "Although ... Milius is credited with writing the script, multiple staffers tell Gamasutra he ultimately wrote not a word of it, despite the game containing at least 20,000 lines of dialogue," Alexander reports. "Most former employees credit Kaos writer C.J. Kershner with Homefront's script."

Kershner, in the game's credits, is credited with "associate designer, writing, QA".

Danny Bilson, the THQ's former executive in charge of core games, is portrayed as having more of an influence over Homefront's story -- good and bad. Bilson, himself a Hollywood screenwriter who was run out of his THQ job in late May, "came up with much of the high-level story ideas for the game," Alexander reports. However, he also insisted on the scenario involving North Korea as the invading force -- a situation some critics laughed at as wildly unrealistic -- because original concepts depicting China as the aggressor were seen as harmful to THQ's business ambitions in that country.

That only scratches the surface of this tale of ambitious failure, unreasonable expectations, undue credit and stinging recriminations. My favourite detail was the "Urinal Bucket", which came to symbolise the mordant humour with which Kaos staffers viewed their plight, many convinced their shop would be closed even before Homefront released.

Kaos Descends: How Homefront's Developer Met its End [Gamasutra]


Comments

    Really excellent piece in that link.

    Homefront had a script?!

    I honestly enjoyed Homefront, and didn't think it was thaaaat bad (maybe because I bought it cheap!). Probably the only bit of the game I take issue with is how stupid some of it was from a realistic point of view... for example, the level where you have to snipe from the top of the church to cover your allies, they basically ditch you and let you deal with the dozen enemies guarding the place. Um, hello, wouldn't you at least work together to clear out the church first? Little things like that really bug me so it still sticks in my mind...

    Oh, and having to replay the bit at the end where you shoot the RPG guys at the big gate or whatever, holy crap that was dumb and cheap.

      Finished the article, really interesting read. It's sad that virtually every one of these articles about failed teams always talk about the same things; crap leadership, crap support, too much crunch time etc... I suppose it's the same in every field, but you'd think game development would've learnt from other fields and how they deal with problems. The computing industry seems to be the only one that gets away with such massive failures and blunders time and time again.

    I want my 2 and-a-half hours back.

    So the screenwriter was tossed $775 million dollars for credit? Nice.

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