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Cyberflix Incorporated

Overview

Cyberflix was a Knoxville, US-based game development studio that was incorporated in May 1993. Originally called CyberSoft, the name was changed to Cyberflix to note the focus on calling the projects interactive movies, rather than computer games.

The initial team was already active in 1993 and consisted of Bill Appleton, Scott Scheinbaum, Jamie Wicks and Andrew Nelson. When the company took off, they were joined by the attorney Erik Quist, who would later become the studio's business manager.

In 1993, when CD-ROMs were still very rare, Appleton created an authoring tool called DreamFactory that sped up the use of discs. It was exhibited in a small corner of a Macintosh trade show, but attracted the attention of Paramount who signed a multi-million deal for it. That allowed the company to hire more employees, such as Robb Dean and Rand Cabus, and the team relocated from a basement to a real office in October 1993. Other early employees were Jay Nevins and Michael Kennedy. The company would jump jump the gun with CD-ROM games that made extensive use of video and real actors.

The studio's first title was the firstperson shooter Lunicus, followed by Jump Raven (1994). The latter sold 100,000 copies, so a sequel was announced. Yet instead, the company started working on the cyber western Dust: A Tale of the Wired West (1995). Despite excellent reviews, it only sold 30,000 copies. After that, the company helped complete the adventure Timelapse for GTE Entertainment and did contract work for Disney, for instance the game Disney's Math Quest with Aladdin.

The studio's next project went on to become the largest and most intensive one: Titanic: Adventure Out of Time (1996). In between, they also released the action games Power Rangers Zeo Versus The Machine Empire and Skull Cracker (1996), but for the latter technology had already moved on too fast and it looked dated. While Titanic was in progress, the longtime partner Paramount was swallowed by Viacom and they turned the project down. It was picked up by GTE Entertainment who allowed them to finish it in November 1996. In December 1996 it managed to sell 43,000 copies in one month, more than Dust in its entire history, but in early January 1997 GTE closed its door. Cyberflix was able to recover some money and moved on to a new distributor. Almost a year later the blockbuster movie Titanic came out and it allowed Cyberflix to ride along the hype, even a year after the game's release. The company managed to sell more than a million copies of the game and broke into international markets.

After that Cyberflix had to deal with two problems. Their allegiance to the Macintosh platform (despite the Windows hybrid versions), was becoming problematic, as the Windows platform continued to innovate quickly. The company did not invest enough to keep the technology fresh. At the same time, there was a debate about what path to take in game design. Andrew Nelson pushed for more historically accurate titles, but was not able to convince his colleagues and eventually left the company.

Cyberflix' next project was the pirate-themed RedJack: The Revenge of the Brethren. The DreamFactory technology powering it was improved to allow for more and faster movement, including looking up and down. It was however released in a time when adventure gaming was on the decline, and shooters became more in the spotlights. After it was finished in late 1997, about 10,000 were sold - about 1% of the success of Titanic. After that, two development teams were working on different projects, Jump Raven II and a circus-based horror game about mutant clowns called Three-Ring Apocalypse.

Bill Appleton had also invested to make the office's surrounding area into an up-town environment, but it did not succeed. Eventually development on the two projects was halted and on 30th November 1998 Appleton unexpectedly called a meeting that he would close the company. However, both Appleton and Erik Quist awarded themselves large bonuses before leaving, leading to a lawsuit by Scott Scheinbaum and Jamie Wicks, who asked for a combined total of $20 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

Cyberflix was never officially closed, but disappeared with Appleton. Meanwhile, an independent studio ACME (later Mayhem Studios) had been spun off to contribute to projects from other companies, but it never had much success and faded away.

Trivia

Location in 1995:

CyberFlix Inc.
4 Market Square
Knoxville, TN 37902
USA
http://www.cyberflix.com/

Related Web Sites

  • Game Over (an in-depth overview of the company's history on The 'Zine (1999))


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