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Ambrosia Software employees report layoffs, but company says it's in business (tuaw.com)
85 points by doomlaser on Apr 11, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 60 comments

> A tweet from Ambrosia's official Twitter states that the company is still in business

I worked at a small consulting shop that had one large client providing most of the work. There were rumours of problems with this client not having the funding to continue the upcoming projects. One day a couple people were let go which lead to rumours that serious layoffs were coming.

The next day the director sent out an email stating how everything was fine and while, two people were let go yesterday, we shouldn't expect any more layoffs.

The next week I was let go with about half of the remaining company and another layoff followed which reduced the company down to a shell.

I really don't think it was malice or lying. Most people are just optimists and want to believe that everything will turn out.

That being said, if I worked at a place again where I heard rumours going around I wouldn't wait to start looking for something new.

> I really don't think it was malice or lying. Most people are just optimists and want to believe that everything will turn out.

I might say that has the sense of a central-bank chairman saying "the market will be fine" in the middle of a downturn: even though he has information that clearly states otherwise, saying anything negative will only make the market worse. Consequentialism, pure and simple.

In a business's case, you want to lay off exactly as many employees as are needed, with the least essential going first. If employees think the ship is sinking, usually you'll lose more employees than you would have otherwise laid off, and usually those will be the most essential (the good strategists, after all, are the most aware of the zeitgeist.)

Once you let any employees go, the barn door is open. Unless the consensus is that those employees (or employee) were dead weight, resumes are already up on Craigslist and job searches are in progress.

Only the naive wait for the end.

The saddest layoff story i ever heard:

    The CEO called an all hands and gave the canonical "we're too   
    far ahead of our time but now we're out of cash" spiel. 

    Somebody raised his hand and asked "just to clarify, does that mean we 
    put our stuff in boxes and don't come back tomorrow?"

    The CEO said "Well, actually, we don't have money for 
    boxes.  We do have garbage bags, or you could go to 
    Safeway (supermarket) and get boxes."

I hope this isn't true. I spend so many hours as a teenager in the Ambrosia community, and I beta tested a decent handful of their products. I still remember the hours spent downloading Escape Velocity: Nova over dialup.

However, 20 years is a good run for a small software company. I do hope they get another break though, for old time's sake.

I vaguely remember you from the forums!

I too was a beta tester on Nova; I actually won a bet with Andrew and my reward was a character named after me in the game. :)

I later worked for Ambrosia for several years, and it was one of the best times of my life. The team then were absolutely great and a lot of fun. I hope they are all ok.

I remember you both! I hope they're all okay as well; hard to say without some kind of official word.

I bought way too many ASW games in the day as well as beta'ing quite a few things. It will be very sad if they're actually going :(

When I was kid I spent countless hours on the demoes of each of the Escape Velocity games... I guess I should've tried harder to convince my parents to buy it for me...

Publisher of a unique genre at the time. An inspiration for many, including naev (http://naev.org), starsector (http://starsector.com), and more.

When I was 6 or 7, I watched my parents play Apeiron and Maelstrom on their PowerMac.

Multiwinia is fun too, and I actually own a copy. :)

Same here, so many hours. I'm still a moderator on the developer's forum, though I haven't been active in years.

Nova was also fun, I'll never forget the hours spent downloading the betas over a 33.6 modem, they were over 70MB!

I remember one time I had to transfer the original EV from one computer to another... using a floppy disk. I learned how to split .sit archives that day and got a lot of exercise on the stairs.

I forgot to mention it was EV that got me into programming as my career. I got so tired of being limited by the demo, I started to try to make my own EV-like game, and got into trying to make games. Thank you, Ambrosia.

Like other posters here, I spent many, many days playing Escape Velocity: Nova. It was the game that made me want to build my own games and inspired me to learn to program. At the time, multiplayer capability was one of the most oft-requested features, to the point where mentioning it elicited exasperation on the forums. It prompted myself and other fans to start work our own multiplayer space RPG which we named Dawn of Infinity. The project didn't progress very far, but helping plan it was a blast.

What always impressed me most though was the community that emerged from Ambrosia's games. The forums and IRC channel were vibrant places to discuss game ideas and politics alike and the developers of EVN had a podcast before podcasts were cool [1]. It was a great place for a teenager on the Internet to hang out. You will be missed Ambrosia.

[1] ATMOS Tonight: http://at.atmos.com.au/

Wow, what a blast from the past.

Maelstrom ran on my Mac in my dorm for months, open for anyone who wanted to sit down and play a game. Friends in the dorm would just come by, chat for a few minutes, play a game. Good times.

A few years later, I really got into the online tank game, Bolo. Andrew Welch, the owner of Ambrosia, became a Boloer of some skill. Before a Bolo game gets going, there was often some down time when players would text chat, plus there was an IRC channel that had good traffic. I got to know Andrew a bit through that. He was a good guy. He had started Ambrosia with Maelstrom and grown it in bits and pieces with new titles. He never struck me as being hugely ambitious, but he definitely liked owning a little software shop that allowed him to make a decent living.

It's really sad to see that Ambrosia isn't doing well, to say the least. Makes me nostalgic.

Bolo makes me nostalgic. There was a small but active winbolo community for a while more recently. No idea if they're still around. I'd love to see a modern port of bolo for Mac with modern networking and such.

I remember during college in Rochester, NY I would drive by this unassuming house on Clinton Ave. Ambrosia Software said the sign out front. I recognized the name from some games about 10 years prior. I remember wondering what they were doing in a sleepy town like Rochester, when most important stuff seemed to happen out west or within a 5 hour drive south of there. But here was a place that had stuck with the home of Kodak and Xerox (yes, Xerox, and not that cool Palo Alto office). Offshoot of one of the nearby colleges?

I literally live right off of Clinton and pass that house every day going back and forth to work. I always thought it was great that one of my favorite Mac developers was so close.

Founder Andrew Welch is an RIT grad: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambrosia_Software

Andrew Welch is a brother of Phi Delta Theta fraternity, NYH chapter, at the Rochester Institute of Technology (of which I am also a member.)

I purchased Uplink before I knew it was produced by a local, and joined the fraternity before I knew that one of the brothers had been involved to produce a game I liked. I am sorry to hear that they are closing up shop!

* that<- if (I do not have inside information)

My girlfriend lives in Rochester near the Ambrosia Software house. I remember delighting in seeing the sign for the first time as it brought back memories of countless hours of Maelstrom games.

Sometimes I wonder what the software job market is like in Rochester these days.

Could be, but apparently a lot was http://rochestermade.com/

This is a bit too smug for me.

I know that Rochester used to be a boom town (Kodak, Xerox, Bausch and Lomb, probably others) and a place of cultural and moral significance (Frederick Douglas, Susan B. Anthony). It's a nice place, and I spent 4 years there. But it's definitely a place in decline. The same way that Detroit was a boom town and now is not. If I made a similar sideshow saying "You're welcome. -Detroit", would that prove anything?

(It's also ironic that this slideshow assigns Rochester the credit for the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. Was it not corporate HQ in Rochester who made the bad decisions not to do more to productize those gains?)

Dang, they were later known for their utilities, but I was raised on some of their games on OS9 and X! Apeiron, Bubble Trouble, Uplink, Escape Velocity (and sequels), Barrack, Swoop and of course Maelstrom. A few were definitely remakes of classic games, but they made them very well. The RPG simulations of Uplink (hacker sim) and EV Nova (space sim) were excellent.

I don't know about the others, but Uplink was just a port from Introversion - http://www.introversion.co.uk/.

The ports were few and far between. Most were made either entirely in house or with the lead programmer being a freelancer (they allowed people to pitch their ideas, then would supply artists, their various code libraries, support, testing etc.).

Incidentally, for those not in the know, Uplink has recently been ported to iPad and Android tablets:


Another port that wasn't in-house, if I remember correctly -- some enterprising individual just decided to port it to iOS, Introversion liked the result and decided to publish it properly.


Barrack! That was a great game, every now and again I wish I had a system that could run it... (Barrack's Mac OS 9 only.)

The best part of having a Mac in the 90s, as a kid, was Ambrosia's games. I've spent countless hours on Bubble Trouble, Barrack, Harry, Mars Rising, Slithereens, Ares and many others, which I got as demos on Macworld CDs. I even bugged my parents and managed to convince them to send 15$ in an envelope to the USA to buy the license for Bubble Trouble. My father still plays Barrack on his PowerMac G5 from time to time (he's still a pro).

But all things end -- and Ambrosia's gaming business has been dead for a while, unfortunately. I just keep hoping they release the source code for their old games, so someone can create OS X ports...

Andrew Welch used to hang out on MacNN forums and he really wanted the war in Iraq. So good software and horrific politics.

Having spent many hours on IRC in the late 90s arguing with him... I agree.

But I'm filthy liberal scum, so what do I know :P

And that is relevant how?

Evidence of bad judgement :)

If there was ever a company that would do great on iOS it'd be Ambrosia. I was addidcted to their games in the '90's/00's. A quick search of the App Store shows none of these games. There's even dev's out there copying their games because they're not available: "Despite being one of the most prolific and successful independent game development companies for the Mac, Ambrosia Software has been conspicuously absent on iOS. Independent developer Marc Guirao Majo has set out to address this issue by releasing his iOS game.. http://www.technologytell.com/apple/98534/ambrosia-softwares...

I believe they shifted to focusing more on Utilities rather than Games.

I remember speaking to Andrew (Welch, CEO) about this a while back, and I believe he felt that the App Store (at least for games) was too unpredictable.

Thank you. Such a shame. Their brand was so well known and their games so loved and addictive. I would have thought it would fit right in the App Store. Perhaps we'll see someone buying the titles, artwork and team?

I don't have any inside information on the news, and NY is still asleep.

However, their PR guru has tweeted from his own account saying they are still up and running. It is clear something has happened; I don't want to speculate but my hope is that the core team is still there and they will live on and support their products and move forward.

As to whether they sell the rights to others for App Store versions, that is an interesting idea and I'd like to see it happen as they have some great products.

I think that is a marketing failure - my (as yet mostly untested) belief is that you have to reach customers through channels other than the App Store, which would be just a delivery method and deliver some incidental traffic.

I know of a local company that basically sells an iOS app through enterprise channels, though they did get a lucky break being featured by Apple once.

I don't know about games, but I'd definitely try that.

As many of the posters here can attest, EV Nova was a brilliant game and one of the first games that I spent money on.

It looks that iOS port will never happen after all.

What happened?

edit: Were they so niche that a kickstarter for EV wouldn't have helped? Or did they lose all their game coding expertise?

All of the EV series were developed by external companies, so they never had that expertise in-house.

That said, I probably would have bought an iPad/iPhone version.

That is somewhat, but not entirely accurate.

The lead programmer on all three games was Matt Burch, a freelancer; he was responsible for the main engine. Ambrosia supplied and adapted their large array of libraries (Sound, Graphics, Licensing and more).

For EV Nova, a team under the name ATMOS in Australia were developing a complete rewrite of the story/graphics as a mod. Ambrosia brought them on board (as an external team) and supported them. Matt was still programmer, whilst ATMOS did copywriting and graphics.

So yes, a lot of the work was done by two external teams, but Ambrosia contributed heavily towards the code, support/testing and perhaps most importantly they helped guide the production.

That was a model Ambrosia used on many of their games (though normally Ambrosia were also doing the artwork); they solicited pitches for game ideas from people who had an idea and needed support. It was a great model and lead to same fantastic games!

I was an Ambrosia super-fan as a kid. Loved reading The Ambrosia Times (helped me discover Arizona Ginseng Iced Tea, the cobalt bottle). Also had a good time doing some beta testing. I hope they can pull out of the rut.

Escape Velocity and Escape Velocity: Nova were a really great games. RIP.

Such a shame if true. I lost count of the number of hours I spent playing and modding Escape Velocity. For a long time from the mid 90's through mid 00's there was an incredibly active community around that family of games. I still have my two Ambrosia shirts A. Welch gave me at their booth at Macworld in 2008. Good, good times.

The modding was the best part about the whole series. It created an awesome community and infinitely extended the playability of the games. You could even replace all artwork, ships, missions, planets and create a whole new world - which is exactly how EV Nova came about.

It is a shame that there seems to be less games created with that sort of spirit in mind nowadays.

The first thing I think of when I hear ambrosia software is harry the handsome executive...

For me its being the chosen one, and spending endless hours getting the load out for my ship just right, or more likely pirating and capturing the most powerful ships I could find.

I spent countless hours playing EV Nova on my first mac. Such a great game.

I would kill for a fresh version of Escape Velocity (MMORPG style)


I have no idea how much time I lost to playing EV Nova as a teenager... I hope they don't fold after all this.

I am embarassed to say I spent many hours with Pop-Pop when I should have been doing something else! http://www.ambrosiasw.com/games/pop-pop/

I remember wasting hours on Maelstrom. Believe it or not this game actually fit on a 1.44MB disk. There was another one of their games that was addictive called Escape Velocity. Man that was a awesome game.

The original title has been updated with "...but company says it's still in business". We should probably update it here as well.

Just because the company is still in business, doesn't meant that the title is incorrect. Fairly standard milking.

There is no such thing as Job Security. If Job security is an argument why you're not quitting to freelance or do your own thing. Then... I am not sure what to say.

Job Security is savings in your bank account allowing you to find another job. :)

Then ... you don't have a family or children.

You're right, I don't. But it feels like most places who use job security as an argument are pretty much lying.

It's never absolutely guaranteed, but it's not like it's some phantom principle. With a bit of awareness, in most cases, you should be able to predict the likelihood that your position at your present employer will continue to exist (and the likelihood that your employer will continue to allow you to fill it).

Nowadays more so, but back in the day it was a more stable job environment.

That said, while nothing is 100% certain, there are jobs and companies that are more stable than others. Even in trendy companies, not just IBM-style monoliths. You don't often here about massive layoffs at Apple or Google, do you?

IBM is probably not a good example as they are constantly laying off Americans in favour for cheaper HB1 abusable indians.

Speak for yourself. I have 2 teenage daughters, healthy savings, and I'm under 40. It takes discipline and a plan. Dave Ramsey ( http://www.daveramsey.com ) helps as well.

I have two toddlers, a third on the way, and no savings. I have discipline and had a plan (and had savings). The plan went wrong.

For the time being I do have job security and it is what I need at this stage in my life. That will change (hopefully), but the 9-5 is a godsend right now.

Plans and discipline don't have guaranteed "security" either, so beware.

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