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Kurshok

Ever hear "The Tale of Neil Manke of Black Widow Games"? It's not a story the Valve Temple would tell you...

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Way back when, when GameInforker was a popular gaming magazine, they used to give out free discs of certain games. One of these game series given out was the "They Hunger" trilogy by Black Widow Games, a small group of international game developers lead by Neil Manke in Canada and his right-hand man Einar Saukas in Brazil.

Together, BWG became an upcoming juggernaut in the video game industry for their Half-Life Mods, in an era where Half-Life mods were becoming their own well-known series, like Team Fortress and Counter-Strike. Having been commissioned after the first "They Hunger" and standalone game "U.S.S. Darkstar" to make the official game mod for then-upcoming action-horror movie Underworld.

With all this wild success in the business, Black Widow Games was talked of in online game articles, gaming magazines, and even mentioned in books about gaming. Then, shortly after the "They Hunger" trilogy was finished, the folks at Black Widow Games had an amazing, ambitious idea.

With Half-Life 2 and Source Engine released, they wanted to make "They Hunger: Lost Souls", an at-the-time modern retelling/sequel/prequel/who the hell knows. The game was 80% finished, when disaster struck. Neil Manke fell deathly ill, causing production to halt. Since Neil was the leader of the international BWG, and most had never met in person, the whole studio later disbanded.

It is unknown if Neil is currently alive or dead, but was last said to be living in Kamloops, British Columbia, alive yet sickly. Einar Saukas has been trying over the years to get in contact with Neil, and has in the meantime been taking part in development of minor games. Since Einar doesn't have international calling from Brazil, he doesn't know how to get in contact with his old friend and finish their legacy.

I have in the past tried to contact Neil Manke, from a Kamloops Facebpok page of him, calling his house from the Kamloops phonebook and actually being answered, although I got a weird reply. The man there said he was Neil Manke's cousin, and that he didn't know where my Neil was.

I was younger and way more autistically trusting at the time, so I believed him. Then I realized he may have been lying, out of shame or embarrassment or wanting to put what he saw as a previous life behind him. Due to Canada's health care system, he probably was well-cared for and recovered well, because according to his Facebook page, he enjoys going to the beach. 

So, without the apparent Neil trusting me enough to talk, I decided I should call Einar Saukas to get in contact and let him know his old business partner lived. One problem: I don't speak Brazilian, don't have international calling, only being able to call Kamloops due to New Hampshire being semi-close, and don't know how to contact Einar. Plus, Brazil has been in turmoil since a far-right president took charge who may have started a Rainforest Fire to expand his beef company Farms, and who has stated he wished to wipe out the natives. So it's probably hectic, chaotic, etc. 

So I turn to you, fellow gamers of The Dark Mod Forums. Will you help me in trying to locate, contact, and inform Mr. Einar Saukas of his old business partner's fate, and potentially cause "They Hunger" to rise from its grave like a zombie?

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The only Neil Manke Facebook Page for Kamloops, British Columbia has not been updated since 2016. That's when I called him up and contacted him. Shortly after, the old Black Widow Games website with his information on it was sold and the information on it lost. Something smells like a cover-up.

But why? Is Neil ashamed his illness cost the jobs and community he created? Is he depressed about it? Angry? Wants to move on? Regardless, I still want answers. Einar Saukas deserves that much, at least.

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