This is a direct copy of an article that was posted by: dionysis on: 2004-05-11 06:15:04 at http://www.gamemethod.com/archive/449.php

- Kelbren

 

Story of Artifact Entertainment

 

Once, a long, long time ago on a website far, far away I read about a great game – and No, it’s not Star Wars Galaxies. The idea was a step beyond the rest, a truly next generation game complete with dragons, race-wars, and family systems - a living world. This game may have been a huge hit but the world will never know, its vision was never put to the test. Like many good ideas that are said to be, “too ambitious, unattainable or too niche oriented” this game was squashed in its infancy, never given a chance to succeed. While the original concept was seen as too extreme a few of its more marketable and easily implemented parts were kept in a transformed final product. While the above may be a normal progression for a game, the next part is not –the concepts, ideas and work of the original creator and founder of this company were stolen and his reputation forever tarnished. Sounds like a bad drama novel? Unfortunately it's not, but it is a part of the gaming industry. A part that not many people hear about but it still exists.

This is the story behind the game
Horizons and the company Artifact Entertainment. Read on to learn about Horizons creation, Artifact Entertainment, David Allen (DA), the blackout, the re-design and the final product you see on the shelves today.

 

Introduction


First, I should point out how this story came to be. One day, doing my normal surfing, I come across
Pharaoh-Productions - David Allen’s current game company. For those of you who don’t know, David Allen founded Artifact Entertainment, designed the “original” Horizons (the final product was immensely different), and was mysteriously removed from his own company. I’ve followed David Allen’s story a bit but had only heard what I read from Artifact Entertainment's press releases. The “official” word is that David was not suited for the role of CEO and was moved to a role of consultant. Many other developers have held David in poor light because of rumors spread on websites or the way he talks about Artifact Entertainment:

“I will admit freely that I do not know the full story involving his time at Artifact Entertainment and the circumstances under which he left. However, I have spent time with David Bowman*, I find him to be a very personable and pleasant man, and I have some loyalty to the company itself since I work for them.

I found Allen's attacks of Bowman and Artifact as well as the game, Horizons, two or more years after he left to be in poor taste, extremely unprofessional and in many cases childish. I found the posts on Horizons-related boards, such as tazoon.com, during the beta by certain individuals who also frequented the pharoah-productions boards to be even worse and nearly always inflammatory - Sometimes insulting and derogatory.”
–Anonymous AE employee


*David Bowman will be introduced in the story later.
A BREIF HISTORY OF TIME - Artifact Entertainment


"Biggest mistake was choosing the people I worked with and trusting them too much" –David Allen

Artifact Entertainment (AE) was the brainchild of David Allen, a successful enterprise development programmer. In 1998 David had finished the Horizons design and decided it was time to move forward and form the company that was to make his game. The same year the AE website was launched from David’s home in Washington state. At that time, David was running AE by himself and aspiring to launch AE’s flagship product – the MMORPG Horizons. David relocated to Arizona and in November of 1999 David was contacted by James Jones, – he was a player of DEMISE and heard that David was working on a new project, HORIZONS. David comments, "After a few meetings, I felt his experience in the business arena could be beneficial to the company. We agreed that for his involvement in helping me raise capital and use of his business experience, I would give him 20% ownership of Artifact." David continues to comment:

“It is important that I state James was never involved in the original creation of Artifact Entertainment or HORIZONS. He joined after the fact, and was added to the company to be my right-hand man and help me only with business-related decisions. I mention this because he has told individuals that he was a ‘co-creator’ of HORIZONS, and how the game was part of his ‘vision.’ This information is not true. One example of this was during a meeting with NCsoft, TJ Kim, the president of the company, asked the two of us who created HORIZONS. James response was “Me and Dave”. Of course I was not going to correct him in front of NCsoft since it was my job to present a strong executive management team to their company (and such action could have jeopardized NCsoft’s investment). However, once we were in the car on the way to the airport, I told him that he knew better than that and to never do that again because it was untrue. He agreed and apologized.”


Before the Ncsoft ordeal, now owning 20% of AE and being the COO, James Jones, committed his first questionable act. Time came for salary paperwork to be done with the attorney, a due date for the papers was too close and things needed to be signed that day. Here’s the story recalled by David:

“This is the time where James’ extremely questionable behavior began. With his first major action, he adjusted his salary from $8,000 to $10,000 a month without my permission, and said it was a mistake. This happened on the day we were to sign the closing papers for the Series A investment. We needed to sign that day in order to make payroll on time for the employees. When I pointed out the error, James specifically stated that he had no idea how the salary was adjusted and said that it must be a typo, or that they got his mixed up with mine. At that point, I had to make a choice of re-doing the paperwork, which would have resulted in the employees missing their pay day, or accept the salary that was defined. I specifically asked James, “will you do $10K worth of work a month for me?” and his response was “absolutely.” I then signed the papers.

A few days later, the whole situation was bothering me. Something just seemed wrong. I sent an email to the lead attorney of the company who was regulating the paperwork for us and asked him how the $10K salary mistake was made. He responded and told me “James sent me the numbers.” I asked him to forward the email that James had sent to him, and sure enough, when I received it, his salary was defined the same as mine. Interestingly enough, that email was one of the only ones during our entire ‘finalization’ of Series A that he did not CC me on.

When I told the ‘leader’ of the Series A group about this, and what James did – “John, he lied to me about this and knew exactly what he was doing”, his response was something along the lines of “of course he did.

I took James out to lunch the next week and asked him about what had happened, and I asked him straight out why he lied to me. His face turned red and he began to sweat as he explained that he didn’t lie, and that it was a simple mistake that I wasn’t CC’d on the email. He then began to explain that it was probably from the ‘previous numbers’ that we had in the proforma that had me at $15K and him at $10K a month. If that was the case, how come my salary was $10K instead of $15K? He couldn’t answer. I knew that he was lying to me, but I didn’t understand why he would do that – we were supposed to be a team. I made my biggest mistake by not firing him as soon as we returned from lunch. Instead, I decided to give him another chance.” – David Allen


This is the first in a series of events that David explains to me. I can verify that David was not

THE WITCH BURNING


“I’ve had over two years to think about what I would say and how I would say it, and even more importantly – two years to learn about what really happened, and understand exactly how it happened.” –David Allen

There was unrest in Artifact Entertainment. David and James’ continued to have issues that seemed to become bigger every day. Investors’ money was being spent and very little progress was being made on the game. There was some trouble deciding on a graphics engine to use, the game went through five engines before it finally shipped. First the Draken engine followed by the Serious Engine, then an In-House creation by Keelan Stewart, then Unreal engine and finally Intrinsic Alchemy. Jeremy Dixon, the network programmer, tells this part of the story:

“Time progressed, more people were hired, popularity of Horizons remained high. We hammered out a good portion of the design document, had excellent concept art from Doug Shuler and his team, and moved forward with the game. We had a ton of 3D models and animations done by the 3D art team as well as sound effects and whatnot by the sound team.

The engine-side of things moved much slower. There was talk about outsourcing the engine and they went down too many tangents trying out different engines. [You can tell if you look at the diff. screenshots]. Eventually they decided to write their own engine, Keelan Stuart did and had it in a working state about the time DA got canned. After that, James had them switch to the Alchemy engine and things went on as you know from there.” – Jeremy Dixon.



Unexplainably, un-productivity was at an all-time high. The reason would soon reveal itself. A meeting was held which David warmly calls “the witch burning.” This meeting, formed by James Jones, was meant to confront David Allen about all the ‘crap’ going on in the company. Complains ranging from who got which office to generally complaining about David being a micromanager to why David was showing favorites to certain employees. Ironically, as COO (Chief Operating Officer) it was James' JOB to deal with these issues – instead the blame was placed on David. I’ve been told that insubordination in the company, caused by James Jones was causing the un-productivity. David, inexperienced in the matter of dealing with things of this nature went with it and tried to fix things. David tells me:

 

“The only statement that could describe what I was thinking at that time is "what the hell is going on here?" I have been lucky to work with professionals in my previous experiences – I had never encountered people or behavior like this. It was counterproductive to the company and the project.

Not having experience in dealing with this type of behavior, I made my second big error – I attempted a ‘work with the people’ strategy, when in reality; I should have fired James and a few others that same day and rebuilt the company with good and capable people.”


Around this time a few more people came into the company. James’ brother who did sound work, his cousin, Joe Carlson, who had no experience in the game field and his friend Terry who ran the books. James was slowing filling the company with his cohorts.

“I will admit DA had a wild streak when I started. My first order of business as PR/CM was to essentially "reign in" DA. I saw huge improvements as time went on and was happy with the results. DA was a very fair boss and was always lenient with the employees in his company. He is, by far, one of the best people I've ever worked for in that regard. I reported directly to DA and James so I had a lot of dealings with them obviously.” –Jeremy Dixon

 

 A STORMY DAY FOR HORIZONS


Things just got worse from here on out. David Allen, previously a successful Enterprise Network consultant (very successful from the looks of his previous earnings) came to gaming to do his dream, not take part in what he describes as, “poor business practices.” His dream was slowly slipping away from him as the people around him, “unqualified for their positions, who acted out of ego and greed” clawed at him. David recalls:

“In February of 2001, I had enough of dealing with the issues revolving around James – for months I had been tolerating his insubordination and associated activities, and it was time to bring it to an end. Out of courtesy towards the board members (Series A), I engaged in a conference call with them in order to present my reasons for immediately removing James. To my surprise, the board was unsupportive of removing him, citing the main reason being the ‘way it would look to other investors.’ James was receiving some sort of support from members of the board that I was unaware of – apparently due to some sort of relationship he had established with one or more members. This confused me since it was my responsibility to deal directly with the board, and not his. It quickly became obvious to me that something was happening behind the scenes due to the fact that they essentially ignored the multitude of questionable actions he had taken that were well-defined in a document I presented to them. I did not understand this at all because he was jeopardizing everything they invested in.

By not allowing me to remove James, the Series A investors at that point essentially took control of the company. Unfortunately I did not have the business experience at that time to know that they could not dictate how I operated as CEO – the most they could do was to remove me as CEO (and at that time, there wasn’t enough ownership outstanding that would allow them to do so). They used my ignorance against me, and it cost me dearly.

I also found out that James was informed about the meeting and my request to remove him, which means that one of the Series A investors told him – something that was extremely unprofessional, and should have never happened since the meeting I called was in confidence. Of course this infuriated him and only increased his unwillingness to support anything I did.

By this time, I hated coming into the office. Working with James was agony. Just being in his mere presence generated distraction and lack of enthusiasm for the project. HORIZONS was slowly being destroyed.

One day, I decided to sit in on one of James’ ‘design meetings.’ That day they were talking about guilds and families. I sat there and listened as they discussed what the game needed and what was overkill. They quickly came to the conclusion that families were not necessary and should be cut from the game because they were simply guilds. I quickly interjected and explained that families were a key component to HORIZONS, and that they were not guilds. I tried to explain this to the group for nearly fifteen minutes and only one person seemed to understand what I was saying. Soon, I found myself having to defend the very product that I created from the inexperience of a group of people who weren’t really qualified to review the design for flaws. A group headed by James.

The company was now fueled by ego and greed, control and manipulation. And since James was the only individual who answered directly to me, giving direction was nothing more than throwing it through a dirty filter that saturated the entire company – a filter that the Board forced me to work through.

I was trapped. I couldn’t fire James, which meant that he could essentially do anything that he wanted – as long as it didn’t directly upset the board. Gone was my control of the company and product that I had created. The destruction of the company and game that the public had supported for years was well underway.” -David Allen


David’s dream was quickly becoming a nightmare. His inexperience with business lead to a few poor business decisions that allowed investors to control him more than they legally could. He recalls he was converted to an “at will” employee very early in the creation of AE by the investors, a move that he points out was an early sign of his loss of power. In order for savvy investors to put money into the company he gave up many rights he didn’t know he needed. His stock was all common, not preferred stock. He didn’t have a severance package or even anything preventing him from being kicked out of his own company. As for James Jones, legally, the investors had no power to tell David he was not able to fire James. David’s inexperience was being taken advantage of.

“I remember walking into the conference room one day to find James and another employee standing at the table with a huge piece of paper they were drawing on. At first, I had no idea what they were doing, but soon figured out that they were redesigning the face of Istaria. I asked James why they were doing that and his response was because the original world map was too unrealistic for a MMOG and that the cities weren’t laid out properly for character progression. He and the employee insisted that the layout needed to be changed for it to work. I remember thinking to myself ‘good god – we don't even have a playable version and these guys are changing the layout of a world that we’ve shared with the public for over a year on a gigantic piece of paper with multi-colored markers?” –David Allen

 

 

THE SINKING SHIP CALLED A DREAM


Horizons was a game without direction, Artifact Entertainment was a company being eaten from the inside out. David Allen was not only having trouble with James, but the investors as well. One of David’s main jobs as CEO was to gather investment capital to fund Horizons. The project was originally budgeted at 6 Million. This money came from three main groups of investors, Series “A,B,C.” Series A was a group of business savvy private investors, Series B was NCsoft, and the Series C investors, a venture capital firm out of LA. Later, NCsoft pulled out of Horizons and Atari jumped in and saved the project. David points out some of his concerns about the investors:

“During the Forrest Binkley and Brown deal (Series C), Series A refused to give up their “first rights of liquidation.” I told them they were jeopardizing the company since FB&B could continue financing large chunks of money if necessary. Series A then said they would give up their rights in exchange for 200,000 of my own personal shares of the company (I owned 2.8M shares at that time). I refused, saying they had no right to make such a demand, and they were putting the company and their own investment at risk by not allowing the raising of more money. They then requested that they get shares out of the stock option pool that had been set aside for the employees. Once again I refused, telling them that pool was for the employees of the company. They finally said “ok” but “you have seriously damaged your reputation with the Series A shareholders.

While I could have handled the situation with more diplomacy, I stand by my opinion that they were out of line in the way they approached their need for compensation for giving up something tied directly to their personal investment. Series A did not have the money to completely finance the product, and when I found the ‘closing round’ for the company – an investor that could invest millions more, they were willing to refuse the investment if they couldn’t keep their first rights of liquidation. They were jeopardizing their own investment, an event that gave me great concern.”


The Investors were going to make David choose between not being able to fund Horizons or give up 200k of his personal shares. He couldn’t believe what was going on. David refused to let the investors take his shares or shares from the employee stock option pool. That's when they said, "ok, but you have seriously damaged your reputation with the Series A shareholders." At this point the investors were seriously stifling David's ability to do his job. He couldn't remove James, and he had to argue with them even to raise the necessary capital for the game.

To further discourage David he had a series of personal attacks thrown up against him. I was unable to get copies of the original claims but David tells me the following:

“Many of you may remember the rumors that sprung up on lumthemad and fatbabies right around the time of E3 in 2001. Saying everything from how I physically abused the employees and threw fits, sexually harassed female employees, worked against everyone and micromanaged things to a fault (just to name a few). The rumors were so untrue and outrageous that I can only conclude that they were fabricated by somebody (or a small group of people) who had one sole interest – to undermine my credibility.

Some people use the saying “there’s always some truth in what people say” to back up information they ‘believe’ in. The fact is that this is an untrue statement. There is not necessarily always truth in what people say – sometimes people create flat-out lies to accomplish their goals. Unfortunately, one of the Series A shareholders told me the above – that there’s always some truth to what is said. A mindset was being created by lies and innuendos. The Board was slowly being convinced that I was not essential to the creation of HORIZONS.”


These claims had the largest staying power against David Allen. The mindset that “there must be some truth to it” destroyed his credibility.

"...the entire time I was at AE, James would always tell these stories about how terrible DA is and whatnot to the staff. People would side with James and think these terrible things about DA that weren't true. When it came to the board removing DA, it was pretty easy with how well James had lied to the entire staff. It's too bad though, I wish I had went to DA with what James was saying behind his back but I was caught up in the lies as well." - Jeremy Dixon


Time continued on and E3 2001 inevitably came. James Jones found David Bowman who was recently worked at Turbine. Jones suggested to David that Bowman be hired for the position of Executive Producer. Bowman had previous experience at Turbine working on Asheron’s Call, so he had the experience. During Bowman’s interviews he said all the right things and seemed perfect for the job. David was relieved to have somebody he could work with and he told Bowman, “James is the problem, James has to go.” Bowman agreed completely and David and Bowman began working out a restructure of the company and plans to remove Jones. All the while, behind the scenes another plot was brewing. Bowman and Jones planned the removal of David.

“Shortly after David Bowman was hired, I was told by a few employees that James had an established relationship with David Bowman before he was even brought on board. I found that rather odd, since neither of them acknowledged such a relationship." – David Allen


David, unaware of what was going on around him continued to work with Bowman on restructuring the company and removing Jones. A meeting was scheduled with the board of directors after all the details were worked out. Things were just about to work out. The meeting with the board seemed to go well, they told him they would call back and let him know of their decision:

“Finally, the phone-based Board of Directors meeting took place. I presented the new management structure that David Bowman and I put together, and ended the call. Shortly after, I received a call informing me that I was “removed as CEO and had to leave the building immediately”. Of course I did as they asked and at that point, what had been done really hadn’t sunk in yet. Perhaps there was also a slight hint of relief – that I wouldn’t be required to continue working with James anymore. A meeting was held the same day shortly after I left where the employees were told I was removed as CEO and nobody was allowed to let me into the building." -David Allen


Later, friends filled David in on what was happening behind the scenes with Jones and Bowman.

“Not more than a week or two after Bowman was hired, he, James, and Steve Snow all went to the board and essentially told them that I had to go – that all of the problems at the company were my doing, and that they couldn’t work with me – and if I didn’t go, they would walk.

Unfortunately I was unaware of this action before I was removed. David Bowman and I held meetings where he supported the removal of James Jones and the creation of the new management structure that the two of us worked on together to present to the board during the upcoming meeting. But unfortunately he was lying to my face, and was already actively involved in my planned removal by engaging in private meetings with James and the Board and telling them he supported my removal – all the while he was telling me that he supported the removal of James. It was obvious that if he worked to support my removal that he would gain control over HORIZONS since James had absolutely no previous game development experience or background.” – David Allen



With the removal of David Allen, Horizons' fate was uncertain. Only one thing was certain, the final product would not be anything resembling the original vision. Along with the removal of David a general restructure of the company took place, 20% of the employee’s either left or were fired.


A little
internet archive searching didn’t come up with any of the rumors against David Allen, but I did find this quote:

“I have learned through reliable sources that David Allen has left Artifact for good. He is gone forever. He is not doing story, or the book, or the movie, he is doing nothing and that is because he was kicked out by people who could not recognize his genius.
He has gone off to start a new company that will express his true vision for what Horizons was going to be before it was modified beyond all reason. Keep an eye out for it.
To all the employees of Artifact, I wish you the best and I hope your version of Horizons can come anywhere close to what Mr. Allen's vision was. He was the true driving force behind the project, and I hope it can somehow be continued without his guiding light.
Doubters may email me privately for purposes of verification. I doubt Artifact will bother to deny this however because it is truthful.“ –Unknown
Link (scroll down to the bottom)

 

A CHANGE FOR HORIZONS

09.26.01:
“To the Gaming Community,
I wanted to make a statement to the public that since July 20th, 2001, I have not held the position of CEO or Chairman, nor been directly involved with Artifact Entertainment, or the HORIZONS project. I am currently affiliated with Artifact as a major shareholder and a consultant, however the company and project is now in the hands of the Board of Directors and the new management.

David Allen,
Pharaoh Productions
http://www.pharaoh-productions.com
Creators of UNIVERSE, and PROJECT-X"


10/04/01:
“Artifact Entertainment has made a reduction of approximately 20% of the staff working on the development of its flagship title, Horizons. In addition key restructuring changes were made to the management team and production staff.

David Allen no longer holds the positions of Chairman and CEO of Artifact Entertainment, however he remains as a shareholder of the company. The duties that the CEO position previously entailed have been assigned to Artifact’s President James Jones. Mr. Jones has been with Artifact since November of 1999, and has over 10 years experience in technology development management and public company operations.

David Bowman has been appointed as the Executive Vice President of Operations. Mr. Bowman was formerly the VP of Production, Executive Producer and Design Director at Turbine Entertainment Software where he worked on the MMOG Asheron’s Call and on other titles still in development. Prior to working at Turbine, Mr. Bowman was at Bungie Studios where he worked as a designer on Myth II and other in development projects.

Steve Snow has been made the Producer of Horizons and will be responsible for the final delivery of Horizons. Mr. Snow joins Artifact from Gas Powered Games where he worked in a production role on the upcoming title Dungeon Siege. Prior to Gas Powered Games Mr. Snow worked at Cavedog Entertainment in a production role on the Total Annihilation series.

Jane Bradley has joined the Horizons team as Art Director. Mrs. Bradley previously worked at Sculptured Software/Iguana/Acclaim Entertainment where she served as Art Director on - WWF Attitude (best selling PSX game in 1998), ECW Hardcore Revolution, Supercross, Jam 99 and Jam 2000, NHL Hockey - all muti-platform (some combination of PSX, Dreamcast, PC and N64) and Turok PC. Prior to that she served as Art Lead on WWF Warzone, NBA Jam (N64 and PSX) and Sr. Artist on NBA Jam (Coin-op).” – Horizons Vault

10/13/01
“Greetings all,
It is with heavy heart that I must confirm the recent rumors of my parting ways with Artifact Entertainment. As of this past Monday (October 8), I am no longer a part of the Development Team working on Horizons. I want to thank the many of you who have sent me emails expressing curiosity, concern, and compassion regarding the rumors. I feel it's important as I move forward to part ways with the fan base in the same way I desired our debates to go; logically and rationally. Yes, that includes you, Bonk (grin).

First of all, I want to let you all know that Artifact Entertainment was one of the best working opportunities I've ever experienced. Second only to my work on Magic; the Gathering, illustrating Horizons was a dynamic, educational, and rewarding experience. I learned more about making games than any manual could ever teach (not to mention playing games and calling it 'research'). As I part from Artifact Entertainment, I can only wish the best to the current management team, and hope they can make Horizons as successful as it can be.

Though bittersweet, I want you to know the reasons I am parting with Artifact Entertainment; …

I have come to realize that my view of what Horizons should look like and the view of the current management team are not entirely in synch. While I prefer a more realistic experience unlike any provided in current MMORPGs, the powers that be prefer something more painterly. With the look of Horizons under modification, it has become painfully obvious to me that I no longer have a place at Artifact Entertainment. …

I am reminded of a Klingon proverb spoken by Kang to Kirk; "Only a fool fights in a burning house."

Remember, keep it logical and rational. I'll see you all in beta!

Douglas Shuler
a.k.a Dark Jedi
(former) Art Director, Artifact Entertainment


8/20/01
VooDoo Extreme --" Why did you end up leaving the company?

Keelan Stuart -- Without getting into details, let me just say that I felt there was a serious, debilitating lack of direction within the company. I would like to say that the team there is very talented though, and that if the necessary direction were supplied, could produce incredible stuff."



And then...Blackout.

During blackout the game was redesigned, new artwork produced, a new graphic engine used and even a new look to the Artifact Entertainment website. The Horizons message boards were even shutdown and people were left wondering what was going to happen? All of the previous work David had done was tossed out and considered a waste. On top of the rumors of sexual harassment, extreme micromanagement and being a total pain in the ass, David was slammed with the accusation of wasting millions and not producing anything.

"Sadly, after DA was canned and most of the senior staff was let go or quit, the design docs changed dramatically to the final product you see now. What was released wasn't even a shadow of what the original design docs were, not even by a long shot. I, and many others, wished they would just change the game name and be done with it." –Jeremy Dixon

“A month or two after I was removed, many people were fired, including Doug Shuler, the individual responsible for creating the amazing ‘look & feel’ of the original HORIZONS. Also, after my removal, Bowman was elevated to VP and given complete control to redesign HORIZONS into his game, and as of today’s date, David Bowman is co-president of Artifact. He went from Executive Producer to VP to Co-President all before releasing a product.

The new management was now in control of the company and the product that I had spent years creating.” – David Allen

 

BAD BUSINESS


And there is more. David Allen’s, stock was diluted, his previous and future projects were claimed to be property of Artifact Entertainment and he was nearly forced to sign paperwork that prevented him from even going to another (or creating) any business that would be competition with Artifact Entertainment.

“It took me over a month and nearly $20,000 in legal fees to negotiate my ‘termination’ and ‘contracting’ documents. AE attempted to force me to sign a non-compete, which would have prevented me from working in the industry as a whole. They also changed the documents so many times that my attorneys told me “you’d better take this - it’s the best deal you’ll get – besides you’re running out of money.” My attorney also told me that Artifact was doing everything they could to run my legal bills up. Plus the deal irritated my attorney so badly he just wanted to close the case.

During the negotiation of my departure, the company tried to take UNIVERSE, and DEMISE from me - stating that they were the property of Artifact Entertainment. Note that DEMISE was completed before any investment came in to Artifact from an outside source…

When I started Artifact, I owned 100% of the company. I decided to share 20% with James, so my ownership lowered to 80%. After my removal, they took nearly 1,000,000 of my shares, and left me with around 17% of the company - what makes this even more interesting is that my original employment agreement states that if I am fired without cause (which is what happened), all of my shares vest. They worked very hard to take those shares from me and definitely violated the original employment agreement. In addition, in order to receive any severance at all, I was required to sign a release that would prevent me from coming back and holding them accountable for what they had done.

Since then (as of July 2003), Artifact has stated they have raised an amount that’s less than half of what I originally raised, but has done so at a value that is 90% less than what I raised the last round for – all from existing investors (and one of their associates) from Series A and C. Artifact now has more than 3x the number of shares that were outstanding when I was CEO, and my ownership is now at roughly 4% of the company.

I always wondered why Artifact demanded that I only vest 1,946,133 shares of stock when they removed me, and suddenly realized that my ownership from anything more than that (I originally had ~2,880,000 shares) plus NCsoft’s stock would have equaled more than 50% of the company, which would have given us (myself and NCsoft) controlling interest. Artifact took my stock to ensure that I couldn’t team with anyone that wasn’t part of the ‘takeover’ to override the decisions that were made. With my stock depleted to the 1,946,133 number, the ‘group’ that wanted to take control of Artifact owned exactly 50.02% of the company.” – David Allen



The investors created themselves so much preferred stock that common stock is nearlhy worthless. Anyone with common stock will most likely never get paid out.

“This is about more than just what James Jones and David Bowman did regarding the takeover of Artifact. Those of us who hold common stock have been squeezed out and diluted beyond reason. The common stock of the company has essentially been made worthless – nobody will buy it – not even the existing investors. So here I and the rest of the common stock shareholders are - stuck with shares of Artifact Entertainment common stock that nobody wants to buy, that has no dividend payouts associated with it, and no provisions worth mentioning." -David Allen

 

IN THE END

 

I’ve talked to lots of people about this subject while doing research for this article. So many people say, “David Allen? Yea, all he does is talk shit about AE.” Hopefully now those people can sympathize with what happened to David and what happened to Horizons. It’s terrible that so many people who wanted to do the right thing, to help, but did nothing for fear of losing their jobs and their lives. How can one so casually watch a dream get flushed down the toilet. Horizons was a gamers game and the people who are paying for the crap pulled at Artifact are the players. We, the players, are all still sitting around on rant sites complaining about how much potential MMORPG’s have yet how much they all suck.  supposed to be happening yet nothing was.

 

I hope everyone learned something by reading this. If David had known a bit more about business he would have never been in this situation – lesson learned. The game design industry isn’t all sugar and spice, it is a hard dirty business. While David tries to rebuild his reputation and career he’s still dealing with issues from years ago. His current projects have had trouble getting funding despite being solid games and having a more than solid team to back them up.

What about Bowman and Jones? Research shows that Jones previously worked for the Yellow Pages, Yp.net. Nobody was willing to comment on the subject, but shortly after he left the company was shutdown for some time until it reopened shortly after. James has also had at least one state and one federal litigation filed against him. Additionally, It turns out James's social security number is being used by a Letitia M. Christopherson. James Jones was also recently fired from Artifact Entertainment and David Bowman is now president. It seems that, "James got James'ed."

Here’s one against James:
Case #: 940008070
Style: RK Management Corp. v James T. Jones
Court:
Case Type: Debt
Status: Judgment, vacated 5/11/98 in the amount of $1,194

James'cousin who also worked for YP.net, Joe Carlson, turned out to have some run-in's with the FTC as shown in these legal documents
1, 2

Bowman was fired from Turbine for, “malicious actions to climb the ladder.” Sadly, in both cases nobody is willing to say anything else. Nobody will even let me say who is saying the quotes. People have expressed to me fear that if their name gets out that they said something, they would lose their job or get sued. Fear lets things like this go unpunished, whoever speaks up may lose their jobs themselves.

As far as Artifact Entertainment's take on this entire subject? “No comment.” – Steve Snow, “No comment.” –Steve Escalante
Steve goes on to tell me, “I am very much aware of the situation pertaining to James Jones and David Allen. I can say with absolute certainty that Artifact will not comment on these things.” So, I guess that's the end of that.

The end of the story is that David may most likely be moving out of the gaming industry. If it’s for just a short break or a permanent move we won’t know until the future. It’s sad to see a great creative mind go but David says to me, “you know, the last three years of my life I just haven’t been happy. Before I got into the game industry I was. I just don’t want to do this anymore, I don’t want to deal with any of it." I don’t blame him after all he has gone through.

 

 

Links to the original design of Horizons, what the game was supposed to be. :(

 

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