Founder leaves Volition

Founder leaves Volition

CHAMPAIGN -- The founder and president of Volition Inc. is leaving the company.

Mike Kulas told employees last week he is stepping down after 18 years with the Champaign-based video game design firm and its predecessor, Parallax Software. His last day will be Monday.

He will be succeeded by Dan Cermak, who has been Volition's vice president of product development since 2003.

Kulas, 49, told The News-Gazette on Tuesday that he thought about leaving last year and finally decided early this year to step down.

He said his departure is voluntary and wasn't triggered by any event. He said he intends to stay in town, has no immediate professional plans and wants to "clear" his mind this summer before deciding what to do next.

Kulas co-founded Parallax Software with Matt Toschlog on June 1, 1993. Three years later, the company split into Volition Inc. and Outrage Entertainment.

By 1998, Volition had grown to 30 employees, and two years later, it was sold to Agoura Hills, Calif.-based THQ Inc.

After the sale, Volition continued to be locally based, moving in 2004 to One Main Plaza in downtown Champaign, where it became the building's largest tenant. Today it occupies 50,000 square feet on the building's second and third floors.

Over the years, Volition developed popular games including "FreeSpace," "Summoner," "Saints Row" and "Red Faction" as well as many sequels (including "Summoner 2," "Red Faction II," "Red Faction: Guerrilla," and "Saints Row 2").

This year the company plans to release another sequel, "Red Faction: Armageddon," on May 31 and "Saints Row: The Third" in time for the holiday season.

Kulas said the completion of "Red Faction: Armageddon" and being in "the home stretch" of the latest "Saints Row" installment made this a good time to leave.

THQ Inc. recently announced it signed a multiyear agreement with film director Guillermo del Toro to create inSANE, a trilogy of games to be developed by Volition. No release date has been set for the games in that trilogy.

Volition, which had about 40 employees when it was acquired by THQ, enjoyed amazing growth in the years since. It had 100 employees by 2004, 150 by 2005 and 200 by 2007.

Today Volition has about 220 full-time employees. The company announced a month ago it was laying off 16 employees on April 12, but Kulas said no other layoffs are on the horizon.

Kulas said he sees no threat to Volition remaining in Champaign. He said the company has been profitable here, and the company and its employees have benefited from the low cost of living, the short commute time and the presence of the University of Illinois.

Kulas said he doesn't envision coming back to Volition, but said he hopes it continues to succeed.

"It's very important to me that things at Volition continue smoothly," he said.

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