The first video games produced by Sculptured Software Inc. in 1985 got a big fat "F" from George Metos, a co-founder of the company located at 2144 S. Highland Drive.
Plenty of water - and video games - have gone under the bridge since that time, and Metos, who now gives his products an "A," is playing with the big boys in the video business.SS was purchased in October by Acclaim, a New York company with $600 million in annual sales. Metos said because of the purchase, SS can continue its growth and the company won't be handcuffed by cash shortages. All of the video games SS produces will be distributed under the Acclaim name.
Metos said the early years with SS were tough ones because the company didn't have a definite goal and didn't make money for six years. He didn't receive a salary for two years.
In an effort to improve the company's products, SS tried to find clients that were one step above them, Metos said. That way, the company was trying to improve its products gradually. After several video game failures, the company finally reached a point where its products were decent, Metos said.
Initially, the company had the wrong kind of clients, the wrong kind of video game format and bad talent, Metos said. "We had to hire 500 programmers to get the 60 we still have today," he said.
Jonathan P. Slager, 35, vice president for business development and strategic planning, said, "In the entertainment business you can produce a good product, but sometimes it just doesn't hit it off with the users. You are bound to have some failures."
Metos said his company gradually migrated to the top publishers, companies who will attach their names to an SS-produced video game and then distribute it.
In 1989, SS's failure turned into success when Jack Nicklaus Golf was released. The video game allows the player to drive, pitch and putt on different courses and even tells the player if he hits a slice or a hook. Metos said the video was decent.
Improved graphics, color and sound soon helped SS become the biggest supplier of Super Nintendo products. In 1991, the firm started working with prestigious publishers on top projects such as "NBA Basketball," "Mortal Kombat," "Star Wars," World Wrestling Federation wrestling and others.
Metos said Nintendo publishes between eight and 10 projects per year. Once, SS had two of those in one year.
Since 1991, SS has developed 23 titles that have been in the top five sellers in their respective categories.
They are "Mortal Combat" ( I and II), "NCAA Basketball," "NBA Basketball," "Super Star Wars," "WWF Wrestlemania," "National Hockey League Stanley Cup Hockey," "WWF Royal Rumble," "Monopoly," "Bart Simpson's Nightmare," "Roger Clemens Baseball," "Return of the Jedi," "WWF Raw" and "Jack Nicklaus Ultimate Golf." These were produced for a variety of game systems.
During the NBA All-Star Game in San Antonio on Feb. 11, SS's "NBA Jam" was introduced. It's a two-on-two basketball game.
Without divulging specific information about the company's future projects, Metos said SS will be doing more with the WWF, something with Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan and comics.
He said SS likes sports and action video games, taking "Mortal Kombat" from the coin-operated machines to the home game systems. Asked about the violence in "Mortal Kombat," Metos said people have to realize the game is just like a cartoon and often emotes laughter with some of the action.
Metos said his company wouldn't be successful if it created nothing but video games with violence.
A native of Salt Lake City, 37-year-old Metos is a 1980 University of Utah graduate with a degree in electrical engineering. A year later, he earned a degree in computer science.
He was a programmer on main frame computers for five years, some of that time while attending the U. He and some friends started talking about creating video games, but that didn't become a reality until later. In 1982 he programmed software for use in real estate mortgage lending and formed Network Concepts with Jerry Floor with an office in the Triad Center.
Metos said the experience helped him learn ways to develop software and also how to run a business.
He formed SS with Bryan Brandenburg, Peter Adams, Mike Macris and Bob Burgener, who have all left the company.
Slager received a bachelor's degree in English from the U. in 1982 and a master's degree in finance and marketing from New York University in 1984. He moved to Danville, Calif., and worked in San Francisco for Koll Co., a real estate development company.
He returned to Utah in 1993 and worked for a publisher as a vice president of marketing and public relations. Slager started with Metos 19 months ago, and his duties are operations, strategic planning, public relations and product development.
SS has 140 employees including 2-D animators, 3-D animators; artists, audio specialists and electronic musicians.