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From the start, Porter demonstrated a talent for winning partnership battles. The purchase of Dominion was the first. Porter had been struggling through a design document for his game Doppelganger. He shifted his focus from that project in the summer of 1997, when he learned that Dominion, a strategy game he'd worked on at 7th Level, was for sale. The other partners were interested only because of the company's plan to burn options by acquiring new games, but Porter was far more enthusiastic. "Dominion is not just a way to burn an option,'" he opined in an e-mail dated June 3, 1997. "It is, in my opinion, a top-10 product...In fact, we are talking about a product that could sell [more than] 500,000 units."

His partners were decidedly cool. In an e-mail, Romero doubted it would sell 500,000 and wrote, "the only reason we're thinking about acquiring it is to burn an option, simple as that." Wilson had another bone to pick. He believed Porter might already have mucked up a Dominion deal by suggesting to his old colleagues that ION was willing to pay too much.

Porter vehemently denied the charge. "I have wondered for some time," Porter e-mailed Wilson, "why it is that you seem bent on attacking me...[P]erhaps it is just plain office politics."

Wilson sent a sharp reply. "Pretty much all I've heard from you since I've been here are the reasons why you can't work...you couldn't do a design document without the engine, and then you couldn't do it without art time. Then, all I hear about at our meetings about how to structure the company are concerns about 'what happens to me' when this place all goes to shit...You seem to be focused on meltdown strategies, and protecting the individuals [owners], not the company."

"[W]e had to wait for a deposition to discover that you've never actually finished much of anything. You bark orders at people like they're a bunch of fucking construction workers...even those not on your team...You consistently try to elevate yourself above the other non-partner, or even 'junior partner' members of this company."

Porter sent a halfhearted response, but he would soon get even.

In August 1997, the six ION partners unanimously voted to acquire Dominion. Porter told the partners four guys working six weeks could finish it. With that assumption, the purchase made sense; even at a price of $1.8 million, they couldn't lose. As long as they finished the game for something between $1.8 million and $3 million--the amount Eidos agreed to advance for the title--they would have an automatic profit. (Developers are not required to repay advances if a title fails to recoup its advance.)

Porter proceeded to assemble a team composed mostly of former 7th Level staff. Meanwhile, programmers hired by Romero, Hall, and O'Flaherty were arriving. E-mails from the period suggest that the hiring went on willy-nilly, new employees sometimes showing up without anyone from human resources expecting them. Nor was creative the only side where things were wild. In the spring of 1997, ION signed a lease to move into a formerly unoccupied space atop Chase Tower in downtown Dallas. The ION partners intended it to be a showplace, a futuristic office that would garner lots of press attention. They spent well over $2 million finishing out and furnishing their sky palace. Meanwhile, the business side was scrambling to make payroll. "We couldn't meet our milestones," explains Wright. ION had to meet certain agreed-on goals in order to get its advances from Eidos. The failure to progress, though far from unusual in game development, was a real problem for ION. Ultimately, Eidos agreed to remove the milestones and advance money based on ION's monthly expenditures--a concession that made the company's life easier but also removed any real pressure to produce.

Behind the scenes, the jockeying for position continued. Eventually it seems to have escalated into a power struggle between Porter and O'Flaherty on one side versus Wilson and Wright on the other. Though Romero was the star, both he and Tom Hall took little interest in day-to-day business issues.

Things came to a head in late October 1997, when a whole host of personnel problems and employee complaints led Wilson, Wright, Romero, and Porter to a bar, where they concluded over beers that Porter had to go.

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