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|Island Four (pretty long) Story of Events|
|Posted By: Tim Wilk <email@example.com>||Date: 3/10/02 3:13 p.m.|
Island Four, the Beginning of the End
Since this post isnít so warmly looked forward to over at r.net, I will assume that it wonít be here either. Nonetheless, some people may want to hear about how everything just flopped, from day one. This is a concession of failure, and to some, may be a prelude to comments like ďI told you so,Ē and ďI always knew it wouldnít happen.Ē It may also pose as a form of closure for a few (maybe 1 or 2 people) that still thought I4 might be up to something.
Iíll start from the well known beginning, as most of these stories do, and will take you to where everything stands (or lays destroyed) as of today.
Some of you will recall when Hammish posted on the marathon page (about half way down), Nathan Bitnerís intent to leave Bungie and to start Island Four. The community was very open about their feelings on the matter, some expressing hope and support, others doubt and sarcasm over the creation of the new company.
3 of 9, being somewhat proactive, nabbed islandfour.org shortly after Bitner registered islandfour.com (maybe it was the other way around?), soon followed by the .net companion. In fact he had a fan site up complete with a forum, before Bitner could even think of getting I4ís site up and running. Thatís where I come in.
Seeing what I thought as a career opportunity, and a good way to get into the game development business, I sent a message to Bitner asking if he wanted to get a beer and to talk things over. We did (via e-mail) and he asked me for my resume, so I sent it to him thinking it would impress him. Well it did, and with in that week we were making plans to go and meet. Hereís where I got stupid.
I headed to Raleigh from Greensboro, NC to meet Bitner at his apartment. I get there early, as I normally do, and when knocking on the door for a while, realize that he may not be home yet, since I was early. So I return to my car in the parking lot and wait him. It was 15 minutes past the time we were supposed to meet when I decided that I would go and knock again, not knowing if there was some sort of back door he might have used to gain access to the apartment with out me seeing. So I knock, then pound on the door for a few minutes. Right when I am getting ready to leave, he opens it, looking like shit, and smelling pretty close to it. He said he and his roommate, Gemini, had been in the process of moving in, and both were quite tired. He apologized for forgetting about our meeting and asked if we could reschedule for the next evening. Hereís where I should have paid attention a little better, but giving him the benefit of the doubt, I agreed and made plans for the next evening.
This time I called to make sure he was awake before making the hour and a half drive. He was, so I left. Getting there I am able to enter the apartment. Its ďWork In ProgressĒ look confirmed his excuse from the night before, having boxes and suitcases and all kinds of junk still packed and waiting to be put away. We decide to go to this little microbrew bar down the road, where they were well know for their wings. We had an interesting conversation about Bungie on the way there. Further conversation about Bungie, and why he left took place while we were waiting at the bar for a table to open up. 3 or 4 beers later, a table did and we settled down for some of these wings, and some entrťe, which I just canít recall. The first thing that should have grabbed my attention was when he went to pay for dinner 4 of the 5 gold and platinum cards he had were declined. He brushed it off as an error since they were supposedly all with the same bank. Later he would make an excuse saying that the banks had all dropped his credit limit without telling him.
I will not say if Bitnerís NDA with Bungie was violated or not, but we did talk a lot about what things were out there in the community, but had not yet been put together by its members. He spoke about the creation of Cortana and her relevance in the game. We spoke about the Flood, and my enemyís enemy. Finally, we started talking about I4 and its desired direction.
Bitner had informed me that he had already secured a small business loan for the startup fees and costs that a company such as ours would occur from a rather large, well known bank. From this he supposedly had paid layers and others to get I4 started, copyright stuff, letters of incorporation, etc.. He was able to at first skirt around mentioning just how much the loan was for, but eventually the amount, a mere $250,000 made its way out. After another round of meeting with Bitner and his roommate Gemini and looking at her artwork that he had raved about he finally made me an offer. I was to become the IT Director for the company. We setup a start date of April 15th and plans to make an official announcement. I was thrilled, naturally, and quite quickly informed my current company of my end date for employment.
Every weekend, and some weekdays, I made the trip from Winston-Salem (current job) to Greensboro (home) to Raleigh (Bitnerís City), racking up the travel miles pretty quickly. We felt the pressures to at least get some sort of site up and running, mostly because our new fan site, Islanfour.org, was already live and quite active. So we put together, very sloppily if you will recall, a half-assed site. We also release the message from Sharon, which hindsight proved to be too close to Cortana, and even caught the attention of Alex and Matt over at Bungie, not to mention MSís legal guys as well. I wasnít in on the conversations, but they are what started the copyright debate that made such a mockery of the company on r.net. I did my best to support the company, but also managed to look just as foolish as Bitner during the discussion.
Facts are, sure Bitner may have created Cortana, that fact is not disputed but Bungie, in all matters of the fact, owned every bit of copyright to/for her, and the likeness. So we regrouped after I convinced him we were on a bad path, and decided to drop the current ďmarketing planĒ (if you could call it that) and to take down the crappy site. Bitner even said he had started having several conversations with Meg about marketing and that she was being very helpful, despite her out and out public dislike of the company, and the two of us.
This entire process was all happening well before my official start date, so I hadnít even received a paycheck yet. We replaced the site with the long static crosshairs image, which was actually part of the game concept that I might touch on later. I continued to drive to and from Raleigh as we talked about which engine to use and game play and style and all the other aspects that would be included in the finished product. Then one day, the end became clear. It was an early Saturday morning when I got to Bitnerís, to find him quite hung-over looking and in need of a shower. I ask whatís up, then the truth starts to come out.
The night before, Gemini had several friends of hers over. As the gathering was wrapping up, and only Nathan, Gemini, and one of her friends remained the police show up. Bitnerís account of the story was that there had been some music on, but at a rather low-level, ant that the upstairs neighbors had complained to them. Regardless, the police action, in addition to another event with the same neighbors prompted the management of the apartment complex to server Bitner with an eviction notice. This of course had bummed him out, but was really only the beginning of the end of a company that never really started/existed at all.
I decided to take the poor guy out to breakfast where we talked a little more about what had happened. Now Iím not saying that he did lie, but his story, upon telling it a few times, never really was the same. Then the bomb dropped. Bitner had lied about his funding. There was no secured loan or change from a quarter million dollars in any account. The closest thing to it was his application with the bank for the loan, his empty checking account and the massive amounts of debt on his credit cards. The bank had kept telling him that they were still in the review process, but since I work for a bank, I kinda knew that wasnít true. The longest we (the bank) have ever taken to approve/decline a loan has been one week, with the exception of very large corporate loans, but thatís another story. Bitner wanted to make good for the travel expenses I had incurred and cut me a check for $300. It bounced higher than the moon and my bank slapped me with a $15 returned check fee. Bitnerís excuse for the check bouncing was that he had written it from an account that had just closed. He then told me that he couldnít write me another check because the credit card companies had started taking money out of his other (active) account.
So, without a loan, or any money in his pocket, he wasnít going to be able to pay my salary, but even worse, my insurance. The salary wasnít so bad, I have a lot saved up, but the insurance was needed for my family. So this got me very hesitant, but for some stupid reason also inspired me to take the reins. I was able to go crawling back to my employer and re-secure my job. This saved my ass from not being insured, and from not being able to pay the rent.
I had decided that there was some sort of goof with the business plan that Bitner had given the bank (I was still in the cold about how much debt he was in). So I went out and bought a book and talked to some people and got it in my mind to re-write the plan and reapply for the loan.
It just so happened that the neighbors in my duplex had moved out a little while before all this happened. Our landlord was busy looking for a new tenant, but with no luck. Since Bitner wasnít going to have a place to live soon, I decided to let him know about it. He liked the idea and was soon making plans to move out of his place and into the one next to mine.
As time grew closer to when he was to move out, Bitner decided that he was going to head home first, to see his parents and get back on his feet, prior to moving in next to me. He asked if I could help him move his stuff into storage. I assumed that he had also asked some other people, like some one with a truck to help as well. Again, Iím wrong.
I get there about 7:00 PM and he is in a fight with Gemini, heís started to pack some of his stuff, but not much of it. This was during the Sweet Sixteen NCAA playoffs, and Bitner was avidly checking the game scores on his computer. Gemini had just about finished her packing and with a few well-spoken words left the place to go do something. This left Bitner and myself there to move all of his shit 2 miles down the road, using just my VW Jetta. My assumption that Bitner would have though ahead about getting some one with a truck was very wrong, and he looked surprised when I mentioned it.
You see, Bitner had been issued a DUI while he was at school in Chapel Hill, so his license had been revoked, hence he didnít have a car for himself. I had even taken a day off or work to drive him to Chapel Hill to get his license re-instated, but the day I did, he canceled our meeting to go wackoff or something. So I wasted one of my hard earned days off playing myth instead.
Going back to the move, I could go on to tell you about just how much shit he had, including the bed, mattress, bedspring, dressers, computer desk, and the $2000 picture the size of a pool table that behaves like a giant kite when held onto by the wire cord through my sunroof. But that would make this story a bit to long. Needless to say, it was already 6:30AM when I was too tired to continue and had to go back home, and then to work. I got home and my wife was livid, she was expecting me to only be a few hours and to be back home well before the time I got home. I was able to settle things down with her, then was able to call into work to tell them that I just wasnít going to make it in that day.
So I went to bed for a few hours, as Bitner was on his way home to Chicago to see his parents. We communicated briefly about the new business plan, which was still yet to be re-written. Bitner was going to have his Dad look it over and was going to see about getting a loan up there. All that fell though and Bitner came back down to NC, with nothing but a couple hundred dollars from temp job he had managed to secure up there.
Now we were presented with the task of getting his shit to Greensboro from Raleigh. I told him several times the day before to call about renting a truck, it being the end of the month and all. He did not, and we ended up driving to Raleigh and desperately searching for a truck rental place. Finally we found a truck, one about 10 times bigger than we needed, and set out to move his shit from Raleigh to Greensboro. This proved more difficult than it should have, and is evidence of just how unprepared Bitner is with his life and his dealings.
Finally we are able to get to Greensboro, Bitner writes me a check for the cost of the truck (I had to pay for it since they didnít take checks, and since he didnít have a license, still). This time the check went through. We spent a few more evenings after that discussing the company, but finally, after it became clear that there was never an actual business plan. He had just gone to the bank with market stats. from some Bungie games and production and advertising cost projections from Myth and Marathon 2. We, nay, I just dropped the subject all together. This whole time, Bitner was living next door, not able to come up with enough cash to get the Power Company to turn on his electricity, or the Gas Company to come out and fill his tank.
Realizing that I had been duped, I should have just let him wither away into his little self-made hell. But never let it be said that Tim Wilk didnít help out his neighbor. So I encouraged him to find a job. Yes, for all this time he was unemployed, living in darkness (in more ways than one). He said he was doing some sort of Top Secret Project with the FBI, setting up a drug sting to catch a guy selling GHB, but I have serious doubts about that. So he just spent his time living off of Social Security disability payments. I, in my quest to better this pathetic man, still gave him encouragement and support. Helped him type up a resume, and drove him around town on the weekends and in the mornings on my way to work. He would make up for it by buying my family groceries, which turned out that he was using his food stamps (tax payersí money) to pay for them.
Finally he got a job with a temp agency, and things started to look up, for a day that is. Monday morning rolled along and he overslept. I tried to wake him up, but he wouldnít answer his phone or his door. Believe me you, I pounded on that thing (door) and would have woken up dead people had they been inside. But Bitner didnít come out, and therefore didnít get a ride to work. Of course the temp agency called looking for him, but he was too embarrassed to call them back and explain what had happened. Had he, he may have just kept his job, or been able to use them to find another.
So Bitner was back on his ass again, jobless and depressed, but living with power and gas, as his disability payments were providing some income. He started going to see a shrink, to keep himself qualified for more Social Security and Medicare. He wound up in the mental hospital. Turns out that if you mention to a State Shrink that youíre thinking of killing/hurting yourself, they admit you that day.
So Bitner got his act together enough to get out of the mental ward and to come home. He brought news that he had found a roommate, which would lift some of the finical burden of rent and utilities from his shoulders. Turns out she was just as twisted as the last one, Gemini, as she was found at the same hospital Bitner was in. She had her own issues, that interfered with everything, including my familyís security, but will not be mentioned here, as to protect her privacy.
When pressed, he started telling me just how much debt he was in with his credit cards. He had 6 or 7, hell maybe it was 10, I donít remember, but I do know there were many. The smallest debt he had on one was for just over $500, the largest being upwards of $20,000. His solution was to file bankruptcy. I knew that if he did that I would never see any money from him, so I discouraged it and made several suggestions. One was that since my wife was an accountant and very good with finance, that she work with him to figure out how to get rid of the debt. The other was for him to call one of those debt consolidation companies and get help there. He did the latter, and found out that it would take him 50 years to pay back all the money, just making the minimum payment. He was determined after that to file for bankruptcy. I pressed the issue further, hoping to find another way out. Maybe he could have a collection company come and take back what he had bought with the credit cards. Turns out that the only thing left was this picture I mention earlier. I was amazed that he could have spent all that money and kept pushing it till he finally told me what had made up for the majority of the debt. It was truly something that a collection agency could not have taken back.
Bitner had fallen in love with a call girl, and guess what her name was? Gemini.
He spent the thousands of dollars on her call agency to have her come over, just so he could sleep next to her, not with her. His excuse was he was keeping her away from a mean guy or corrupt Georgia SBI officers and sheriffs. Still seems like bullshit to me. So seeing that there was nothing that I could do to help him, he proceeded with filing for bankruptcy. Hereís the funny part. He didnít have enough money to pay the layer to begin filing, so he couldnít even go broke. So back to the story.
Bitnerís trips to the doctor were becoming more frequent and taxing on him since he had to walk or call a taxi. It was the middle of summer, and it was hot so he asked if he could borrow my mountain bike to get around town. I was nice and did the stupid thing of letting him borrow it. Several days later, I get a call from my wife, Bitner had been run off the road by ďa van full of black kidsĒ causing damage to the tire and frame of the bike. So I go and pick him and my battered bike up, take them home, and call a buddy of mine to come out and help me fix the bike. The front fork being badly bent, we were able hammer it out a bit, to make it usable. Giving the bike back to Bitner to was the next mistake.
While he was at the mental clinic, getting his brain picked over, the bike, which was supposedly hidden and chained up where no one could have seen it, was stolen. It was two weeks of me asking him how the bike was doing before he confessed that it had been stolen.
He copped out saying that the cop at the front door had told him it wouldnít be worth it to file a police report, and that he was delaying telling me that it had been stolen until he was able to come up with the $300 for the bike. Keep in mind that he still owed me $300 dollars for the bounce check he wrote me months ago. Bringing the total too more than $615.
I was very disappointed and upset. I kept my cool while I tried to figure things out, but eventually had to find out some more information about it. So one night, while drinking a beer and watching a Bears game, I brought it, along with all the other concerns I had about his sincerity up. He of course, realizing his days of lying and deceit were over got very hostile and made motions to throw me out. I seeing that this was going no where and fast, put a stop to it, and made him explain his actions.
He was almost crying when spilled his woes on me, for the billionth time, and made apologies for all the things that he had tried to do, but had just simply failed at miserably. I told him it still didnít make up for all the things I and my family had done for him, and for destroying the dream I had of making video games, not to mention the disappointment I had when I discovered just how many times he lied to me. His solution was to write me a check for the bounced check to cover my bankís fees for processing a bounced check ($15), which, fortunately for him didnít bounce this time either.
So I washed my hands of him and allowed things to cool down between us. I would on occasion, when I was bored, go over and invite him out to have a beer. Out meaning standing in the front yard like rednecks drinking beer. I was done taking Bitner anywhere, and he knew it. No longer did he ask me for a ride, or any favor.
Finally, one day I took my daughter up to the school bus stop. This is a normal thing, we leave every morning at 7:05, she gets on the bus and I go off to work. However, this morning I had forgotten my briefcase and returned home to get it. It was then that Bitner popped his head out of his door and told me he was leaving. When I asked when and where to, he informed me that it was to be that day, and that he was going to join the army. That was actually surprising, at first. Then my wife reminded me that if you join the military, those who have debts against you are not able to collect them for some reason. So Bitnerís apparent show of patriotism at age 28 was in fact just another way for him to cop out of paying his debt.
I was already late for work and was not able to stay and talk. I told him to call me at work, as I had forgotten his home number. Well he didnít, and by the time I got home that evening, he was long gone.
So there you have it, to summarize things read below, Iíve also included a few of my opinions.
Bitner left Bungie/MS because he saw his job becoming easily unneeded.
So there it all is, Iíll try to answer questions about it for a while if you have any. Again, sorry if this has anyone upset, even though its not likely. So there it is. Iíve moved on and have just taken a much better position with the bank I work for. Iím pretty sure Iíve not been missed, no confirmation of that is needed, but I still lurk from time to time.
Sorry this was so long.
|Island Four (pretty long) Story of Events||Tim Wilk||3/10/02 3:13 p.m.|
|Re: Island Four (pretty long) Story of Events||vector40||3/10/02 3:47 p.m.|
|Re: Island Four (pretty long) Story of Events||Tim Wilk||3/10/02 10:46 p.m.|
|Re: Island Four (pretty long) Story of Events||poena.dare #CP#||3/10/02 3:57 p.m.|
|Re: Island Four (pretty long) Story of Events||Tim Wilk||3/10/02 10:54 p.m.|
|Good lord...||Ilium Rise||3/10/02 9:46 p.m.|
|Re: Good lord...||vector40||3/10/02 9:56 p.m.|
|Re: Good lord...||Tim Wilk||3/10/02 10:57 p.m.|
|Re: Good lord...||Tim Wilk||3/10/02 10:56 p.m.|
|Re: Good lord...||Just Curious||3/11/02 2:01 p.m.|
|Aw man, that really sucks.||archon||3/11/02 1:08 a.m.|
|Re: Island Four (pretty long) Story of Events||sonicstorm||3/11/02 1:49 a.m.|
|Thanks||Appleicious||3/11/02 2:24 a.m.|
|Re: Thanks||Mnemonic||3/11/02 7:37 a.m.|
|Re: Island Four (pretty long) Story of Events||foo||3/13/02 4:11 a.m.|
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