Herewith the first part of an online detective story, with interesting results. If you’re interested in any of the following: Infocom, the Sony PlayStation, or video game companies in Bend, Oregon—then you’ll probably enjoy this story. Read on.
1998. I found out there was a video game company here in Bend called Eidetic (no link, because there’s no such site any more… read on). At the time, they billed themselves as the “one and only video game company” here—which may be true still—and they produced games for the Sony PlayStation. The first game they produced was Syphon Filter, which turned out to be a moderately successful hit for them.
For the non-initiated, the short version is that during the ’80s there was this software company called Infocom which produced a computer games known as text adventures. (They created Zork, which should be a household name.) What was amazing about these games was the amount of detail that went into them, the high quality of writing, and the nearly-natural language parser that was unmatchable—and that they managed to make all this work on the tiny machines of the era—Commodores, Apples, etc. Blank and Berlyn were prominent members of Infocom; members of the echelon of legendary game developers.
So it was very cool to me that two former members of Infocom had set up shop here in Bend and were producing successful games.
2001. I learned that Eidetic had been bought by Sony and incorporated as “Sony Bend.” The Eidetic identity had disappeared from the map, and for all intents and purposes, so did the company.
Now. I decided I wanted to find out more about Sony Bend, née Eidetic, and maybe get in touch with them, so I set out on a net search for them; they’re not listed locally in the phone book, so off to Google! What I found was quite amazing.
There’s almost no mention of Sony Bend anywhere that I could find. It’s like the company doesn’t exist, yet it does. I finally found out where the office is located on Sony Computer Entertainment’s location page, and so far that is the only official record I can find of its existence, other than indirect references to Sony Bend on various pages about Marc Blank and Mike Berlyn. There’s no other contact info save an address and phone number; no web presence or email address except for Sony’s main office. Odd.
I did unearth a few other gems to indicate Sony Bend’s existence: a short page about them on IGN.com; an online resume that now only exists in Google’s cache from a person in Bend (or at least used to be in Bend) that lists a stint at the company from December 2000 to “present” (though it comes to mind that if he was posting a resume online, maybe he’s not there anymore?) as a Character Artist; an archived Yahoo Groups message from 2002 from an employee at the company to a user who was seeking advice on C++ code.
Just to prove to myself I wasn’t crazy, I went to the Internet Archive and used the Wayback Machine to pull the cached pages for www.eidetic.com. Sure enough, there they are, from 1996 to mid-2000. Not very helpful, other than to prove they did exist, plus you can also trace an interesting history of the company through its web presence… such as the fact that Mike Berlyn left the company in 1997. The story of what happened to Mike Berlyn will be the “part two” I alluded to at the beginning of this story.
So, now I know Sony Bend does exist, and I have an address and phone number for them, and nothing else. Seems to me this is a backwards way of going about things; I think they had the right idea to promote the fact (when they were Eidetic) that they were the only game company in Bend, and now as a Sony company it seems that could be a much more powerful message to market. Perhaps following that up will lead to a future blog article…