Looking Glass Studios

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Looking Glass Studios, Inc.
  • Blue Sky Productions (1990–1992)
  • Looking Glass Technologies, Inc. (1992–1997)
Industry Video game industry
Fate Dissolved
Founded1990;29 years ago (1990) in Salem, New Hampshire, U.S.
DefunctMay 24, 2000 (2000-05-24)
Key people
Paul Neurath (president; 1990–2000)
Number of employees
120 (1999)
Parent AverStar (1997–1999)

Looking Glass Studios, Inc. (formerly Blue Sky Productions and Looking Glass Technologies, Inc.) was an American video game developer based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The company was founded by Paul Neurath with Ned Lerner as Blue Sky Productions in 1990, and merged with Lerner's Lerner Research in 1992 to become Looking Glass. Between 1997 and 1999, the company was part of AverStar. Following financial issues at Looking Glass, the studio shut down in May 2000. Notable productions by Looking Glass include the Ultima Underworld , System Shock and Thief series.

A video game developer is a software developer that specializes in video game development – the process and related disciplines of creating video games. A game developer can range from one person who undertakes all tasks to a large business with employee responsibilities split between individual disciplines, such as programming, design, art, testing, etc. Most game development companies have video game publisher financial and usually marketing support. Self-funded developers are known as independent or indie developers and usually make indie games.

Cambridge, Massachusetts City in Massachusetts, United States

Cambridge is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, and part of the Boston metropolitan area.

Paul Neurath is a video game designer and creative director. He founded both Blue Sky Productions and Floodgate Entertainment. He was the creative director of Zynga Boston. In 2014 he founded OtherSide Entertainment, that developed Underworld Ascendant, the third game in the Underworld series.



Foundation and Ultima Underworld (1990–1992)

Prior to Looking Glass, Paul Neurath worked with developer Origin Systems, while it was located in Southern New Hampshire, where he led the design on Space Rogue . [1] [2] Following the release of the game, Origin moved back to Texas, from which it originated, leaving Neurath with a studio, development tools and funding, using which he founded in Blue Sky Productions in 1990 in Salem, New Hampshire. [1] [3] Ned Lerner, who had met Neurath in college, acted as founding partner for the company. [1] [2] Early on, Neurath hired Doug Church, a programmer from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to aid with Blue Sky's first project. [1] Church created a technological base for this first game, while Doug Wike, formerly of Origin Systems, created an animation sequence of a creature moving towards the player in real time. [1] Blue Sky showcased a demonstration of their game at the 1990 Consumer Electronics Show, attracting Richard Garriot and Warren Spector of Origin, who signed them into a publishing deal. [1] Origin provided Blue Sky with the license for their Ultima series, wherein the game received the name Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss , and Blue Sky received US$30,000 in project funding. [1] The production for Ultima Underworld, which released in 1992, would eventually cost $400,000. [1]

Origin Systems former video game developer based in Austin, Texas

Origin Systems was a video-game developer based in Austin, Texas, active between 1983 and 2004. It is best known for the Ultima and Wing Commander series.

New Hampshire State of the United States of America

New Hampshire is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Canadian province of Quebec to the north. New Hampshire is the 5th smallest by area and the 10th least populous of the 50 states. Concord is the state capital, while Manchester is the largest city in the state. It has no general sales tax, nor is personal income taxed at either the state or local level. The New Hampshire primary is the first primary in the U.S. presidential election cycle. Its license plates carry the state motto, "Live Free or Die". The state's nickname, "The Granite State", refers to its extensive granite formations and quarries.

<i>Space Rogue</i> video game

Space Rogue is a science fiction computer game released in 1989 by Origin Systems, makers of the hit Ultima series, for the Apple II and Commodore 64. The series was later ported to MS-DOS, Macintosh, Amiga, Atari ST.

Rebranding and expansion (1992–1995)

In 1992, Blue Sky merged with Lerner Research, a video game company Lerner had founded after graduating from college, and was rebranded as Looking Glass Technologies. [1] [4] At the time, the studio had approximately 12 employees in offices located in Lexington, Massachusetts. [2] The first game to be released under the new branding was Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds in 1993. [1] [2] By April 1995, the company, now located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, employed over 40 people. [4]

Lexington, Massachusetts Town in Massachusetts, United States

Lexington is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 31,394 at the 2010 census, in nearly 11,100 households. Settled in 1641, it is celebrated as the site of the first shots of the American Revolutionary War, in the Battle of Lexington on April 19, 1775. It is part of the Greater Boston Area and is the sixth wealthiest small city in the United States.

<i>Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds</i> 1993 video game

Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds is a 1993 first-person role-playing video game developed by Looking Glass Technologies and published by Origin Systems. As the sequel to Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss, the game is set in the Ultima fantasy universe. Players assume the role of the Avatar—the protagonist of the Ultima series—and adventure through multiple dimensions while seeking to prevent the evil Guardian from achieving world domination. Progression is largely nonlinear and the game allows for emergent gameplay.

Closure (2000)

By 2000, Looking Glass's major financial losses and lack of external funding rendered the company unable to continue operating. [1] [2] Specifically, deals with Sony and Eidos Interactive fell apart, and a spy game project Deep Cover (to be developed by Irrational Games and published by Microsoft) was cancelled. [5] Losses from Flight Combat and Flight Unlimited III , among many other contributing factors, also plagued the studio. [5]

Sony Japanese multinational conglomerate corporation

Sony Corporation is a Japanese multinational conglomerate corporation headquartered in Kōnan, Minato, Tokyo. Its diversified business includes consumer and professional electronics, gaming, entertainment and financial services. The company owns the largest music entertainment business in the world, the largest video game console business and one of the largest video game publishing businesses, and is one of the leading manufacturers of electronic products for the consumer and professional markets, and a leading player in the film and television entertainment industry. Sony was ranked 97th on the 2018 Fortune Global 500 list.

Irrational Games video game developer in Quincy, Massachusetts, USA between 1997-2014

Irrational Games was an American video game developer founded in 1997 by three former employees of Looking Glass Studios: Ken Levine, Jonathan Chey, and Robert Fermier. The studio was acquired by Take-Two Interactive in 2006. The studio was known for its games System Shock 2, Freedom Force, SWAT 4, and most notably two of the games in the BioShock series. In 2014, following the release of BioShock Infinite, Levine opted to significantly restructure the studio from around 90 to 15 employees and focus more on narrative games. In February 2017, the studio announced that it had been rebranded as Ghost Story Games and considered a fresh start from the original Irrational name, though still operating at the same business subsidiary under Take-Two.

Microsoft U.S.-headquartered technology company

Microsoft Corporation is an American multinational technology company with headquarters in Redmond, Washington. It develops, manufactures, licenses, supports and sells computer software, consumer electronics, personal computers, and related services. Its best known software products are the Microsoft Windows line of operating systems, the Microsoft Office suite, and the Internet Explorer and Edge Web browsers. Its flagship hardware products are the Xbox video game consoles and the Microsoft Surface lineup of touchscreen personal computers. As of 2016, it is the world's largest software maker by revenue, and one of the world's most valuable companies. The word "Microsoft" is a portmanteau of "microcomputer" and "software". Microsoft is ranked No. 30 in the 2018 Fortune 500 rankings of the largest United States corporations by total revenue.

On Wednesday, May 24, 2000, Neurath called for a meeting attended by all employees. [1] At the meeting, Neurath announced that Looking Glass was being closed down, and all employees left the facility later that day. [1] Steve Pearsall, the project lead for Thief, confirmed the closure to the public on the same day. [6]


In 1997, Ken Levine, Jonathan Chey and Robert Fermier split from Looking Glass to form Irrational Games. [7] Jane's Attack Squadron , a game canceled with the studio's closure, was picked up and finished by Mad Doc Software. [7] Following the closure of Looking Glass, Neurath founded Floodgate Entertainment, also in the Boston area. [8] Floodgate was eventually acquired by Zynga and merged into Zynga Boston. [9] Neurath became creative director of Zynga Boston, which eventually shut down in October 2012, after which Neurath established OtherSide Entertainment in 2013. [10] [11]

<i>Janes Attack Squadron</i> 2002 video game

Jane's Attack Squadron is a 2002 combat flight simulator developed by Looking Glass Studios and Mad Doc Software and published by Xicat Interactive. Based on World War II, the game allows players to pilot fifteen reproductions of that era's military aircraft and to carry out missions for the Axis or Allies. Although it contains dogfights, the game focuses largely on air-to-ground combat, hence the title.

Floodgate Entertainment was a Boston-based video game developer, founded by Paul Neurath in 2000. Many of the company's employees are former Looking Glass Studios employees.

Zynga Provider of social game services

Zynga Inc. is an American social game developer running social video game services founded in April 2007 and headquartered in San Francisco, California, United States. The company primarily focuses on mobile and social networking platforms. Zynga states its mission as "connecting the world through games."

Games developed

As Blue Sky Productions
As Looking Glass Technologies
As Looking Glass Studios

Related Research Articles

<i>System Shock</i> action-adventure role-playing game developed by Looking Glass Technologies

System Shock is a 1994 first-person action-adventure video game developed by Looking Glass Technologies and published by Origin Systems. It was directed by Doug Church with Warren Spector serving as producer. The game is set aboard a space station in a cyberpunk vision of the year 2072. Assuming the role of a nameless hacker, the player attempts to hinder the plans of a malevolent artificial intelligence called SHODAN.

Warren Spector American game designer

Warren Evan Spector is an American role-playing and video game designer, director, writer, producer and production designer. He is known for creating immersive sim games, which give players a wide variety of choices in how to progress. Consequences of those choices are then shown in the simulated game world in subsequent levels or missions. He is best known for the critically acclaimed video game Deus Ex that embodies the choice and consequence philosophy while combining elements of the first-person shooter, role-playing, and adventure game genres. In addition to Deus Ex, Spector is known for his work while employed by Looking Glass Studios, where he was involved in the creation of several acclaimed titles including Ultima Underworld, Ultima Underworld II, System Shock, and Thief: The Dark Project. He is employed by OtherSide Entertainment, where he is part of the development team for the upcoming game System Shock 3.

<i>Flight Unlimited</i> 1995 aerobatic flight simulator video game

Flight Unlimited is a 1995 aerobatic flight simulator video game developed and published by Looking Glass Technologies. It allows players to pilot reproductions of real-world aircraft and to perform aerobatic maneuvers. They may fly freely, race through floating rings against a timer or take lessons from a virtual flight instructor. The instructor teaches basic and advanced techniques, ranging from rudder turns to maneuvers such as the tailslide, Lomcovák and Immelmann turn.

Doug Church American computer game designer and producer

Doug Church, is an American video game designer and producer. He attended MIT in the late 1980s, but left and went to work with Looking Glass Studios, when they were making primarily MS-DOS-based immersive sim games, including Ultima Underworld, Ultima Underworld II, System Shock and Thief. His colleague Warren Spector claims, in fact, that Church was the one who originally coined the term "immersive simulation".

<i>Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss</i> 1992 video game

Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss is a first-person role-playing video game (RPG) developed by Blue Sky Productions and published by Origin Systems. Released in March 1992, the game is set in the fantasy world of the Ultima series. It takes place inside the Great Stygian Abyss: a large cave system that contains the remnants of a failed utopian civilization. The player assumes the role of the Avatar—the Ultima series' protagonist—and attempts to find and rescue a baron's kidnapped daughter.

<i>Flight Unlimited II</i> 1997 video game

Flight Unlimited II is a 1997 flight simulator video game developed by Looking Glass Studios and published by Eidos Interactive. The player controls one of five planes in the airspace of the San Francisco Bay Area, which is shared with up to 600 artificially intelligent aircraft directed by real-time air traffic control. The game eschews the aerobatics focus of its predecessor, Flight Unlimited, in favor of general civilian aviation. As such, new physics code and an engine were developed, the former because the programmer of Flight Unlimited's computational fluid dynamics system, Seamus Blackley, had left the company.

<i>Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri</i> 1996 tactical first-person shooter video game

Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri is a 1996 tactical first-person shooter video game developed and published by Looking Glass Technologies. Set in a science-fictional depiction of the 24th century, the game follows a faction of humans who colonize the Alpha Centauri star system to escape from the Hegemony, a totalitarian Earth government. The player assumes the role of Nikola ap Io, the leader of an Alpha Centauri military unit, and undertakes missions against pirates and the Hegemony.

Seamus Blackley American video game designer

Jonathan "Seamus" Blackley is an American video game designer and former agent with Creative Artists Agency representing video game creators.

<i>John Madden Football 93</i> 1992 Fifth version of the football video game

John Madden Football '93 is a 1992 sports video game developed by Blue Sky Productions and Electronic Arts and published by EA Sports Network. Based on the sport of American football, the game puts the player in control of a football team in modes such as tournament play and sudden death. It was officially endorsed by John Madden.

<i>Flight Unlimited III</i> 1999 video game

Flight Unlimited III is a 1999 flight simulator video game developed by Looking Glass Studios and published by Electronic Arts. It allows players to pilot simulations of real-world commercial and civilian aircraft in and around Seattle, Washington. Players can fly freely or engage in "Challenge" missions, such as thwarting a theft or locating Bigfoot. The development team built on the general aviation gameplay of Flight Unlimited II, with more detailed physics and terrain, more planes, and a real-time weather system. Roughly half of Flight Unlimited II's team returned to work on the sequel, supported by new hires.

Stygian Abyss may refer to:

Edward Lerner, or Ned Lerner, is a video game designer and technology project leader in the video game industry.

OtherSide Entertainment, Inc. is an American video game developer based in Boston, Massachusetts, founded in 2013 by Looking Glass Studios co-founder Paul Neurath. In June 2016, the company opened a second studio in Austin, Texas, led by Warren Spector. OtherSide developed Underworld Ascendant (2018), a spiritual successor to Looking Glass's Ultima Underworld series, and is developing System Shock 3.

<i>Underworld Ascendant</i>

Underworld Ascendant is a first-person action role-playing game developed by Otherside Entertainment and published by 505 Games. It is the sequel to Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss and Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds. Players assume the role of the Avatar, as they return to the Stygian Abyss. As in the original games, there is an emphasis on non-linear progression, simulated systems, and emergent gameplay. It was released on Microsoft Windows on November 15, 2018.

An immersive sim (simulation) is a video game genre that emphasizes player choice. Its core, defining trait is the use of simulated systems that respond to a variety of player actions which, combined with a comparatively broad array of player abilities, allow the game to support varied and creative solutions to problems, as well as emergent gameplay beyond what has been explicitly designed by the developer. This definition is not to be confused with game systems which allow player choice in a confined sense or systems which allow players to easily escape consequences of their choices.


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