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Case Study: Looking Glass Studios[]

Looking Glass Studios were a critically acclaimed games development company, based in Massachusetts, USA. The company formed in 1990 when companies Lerner Research (founded by Edward “Ned” Lerner) and Blue Sky Productions (founded by Paul Neurath) merged[1]; they moved their headquarters from Lexington to Cambridge in 1994, and also held offices in Huntington Beach, California[2].

Thief II: The Metal Age box art

Over the course of nearly a decade, Looking Glass Studios were responsible for the creation of what critics consider to be some of the most evocative 3D titles of the 1990's PC gaming era[3]. The company built a lasting reputation for designing games which were original, complex, thought-provoking and emotional. Many of their games remain popular cult classics despite their age (indeed, many dedicated fans still actively develop new content within the Thief milieu, such as T2X: Shadows of the Metal Age[4]), and their legacy can be observed in modern titles such as Bioshock and Half-Life.

Looking Glass Studios went out of business in May 2000 shortly after the release of Thief II: The Metal Age as a result of financial issues and other difficulties[5][6]. Many of their employees subsequently moved on to development studios such as Ion Storm (who developed the third game in the Thief franchise, Thief: Deadly Shadows after the franchise's acquisition by Eidos Interactive), Harmonix (the original developers of Guitar Hero), and Valve (developers of the Half-Life series).

Among the list of Looking Glass Studios alumni are[7] Seamus Blackley (responsible for spearheading Microsoft's XBOX project), Warren Spector (creator of Deux Ex)[8], Emil Pagliarulo (lead designer of Fallout 3)[9], Terri Brosius (co-author of Thief: Deadly Shadows)[10] and her husband Eric (who, along with his wife, continues to contribute to games developed by Irrational Games and Harmonix such as Guitar Hero and System Shock 2)[11], and Ken Levine (designer of System Shock 2 and Bioshock[12]), who in 1997 (along with Jonathan Chey and Robert Fermier) went on to found Irrational Games, now a subsidiary of Take-Two Interactive as part of 2K Games[13]. As for the company founders, Paul Neurath went on to form Floodgate Entertainment (co-developer of Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide) and is their Creative Director[14]; Doug Church worked on Tomb Raider: Legend at Crystal Dynamics and is now a Executive Producer at Electronic Arts LA[15], and Ned Lerner became Director of Sony Computer Entertainment America's Tools and Technology Group.