During last month's Game Developers Conference Autodesk launched Stingray, a new cross-platform game development engine built on Bitsquid technology. A handful of developers have already signed on to make games with it, and this week you can add another name to that list: Impeller Studios, a new venture spearheaded by a handful of ex-AAA developers.
The studio's founding team includes seasoned talent like David Wessman, Jack Mamais and Coray Seifert; their credits span a broad array of projects new and old, from X-Wing to Crysis to Mechwarrior 2 and Homefront.
Now they're taking the wraps off their new studio, which aims to build games that deliver "hardcore multiplayer experiences" on contemporary platforms, including virtual reality headsets.
It's an intriguing mission with untested technology, which sets the Impeller team apart from the lion's share of startup studios founded by ex-AAA talent; this team isn't setting out to build mobile games, and they aren't using Unity or Unreal.
Seifert and I had a bit of a back-and-forth about the studio's origin story ahead of their first game announcement, which they expect to make next month; what follows is an edited version of our conversation.
Tell me more about Impeller; Where are you planning to operate from, who do you plan to work with and how are you funding it?
Seifert: Impeller Studios is a game studio founded by industry veterans focused on making hardcore online multiplayer games. We built a team around two amazing game designers: Jack Mamais, who was the lead designer on Crysis, Far Cry and Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries and David Wessman, story and gameplay lead on the X-Wing series and many others.
We're a virtual team; we've purposefully stayed away from having a physical office presence. Our group is largely comprised of veterans of Trauma, THQ's Kaos Studios and 2Dawn Games, teams that shipped games and content virtually with great success.
It's a development paradigm that we really enjoy and we feel gives us a competitive advantage over traditional in-person dev shops. We can recruit a worldwide talent pool, we save overhead on facilities, and it's actually a great retention booster for us, since people love working from home.
Right now we're angel funded through our startup phase and examining our options for full production. We have open dialogs and great relationships in place with every major games publisher and we're currently investigating crowdfunding and alternative fundraising models. The nice thing is that when you have Jack Mamais and David Wessman on your team, people really want to work with you!
So why launch a new studio? What do you hope to accomplish with Impeller that you couldn't in the past?
The conversation went something like this:
"Hey Coray, do you want to make a game with David Wessman, the lead designer of X-Wi--"
"Yep, I'm in."
X-Wing was one of the main reasons I went into games, a career and industry I absolutely adore. It was the first game I ever truly fell in love with and it inspired me to work my tail off and break into the industry. To have the opportunity to not only work with one of the central creative players in that franchise, but the guy who was the lead on Far Cry, Crysis and Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries and some of my favorite people from Kaos? It's the opportunity of a lifetime.
The reason we think we can be a successful studio now, more than in the past, is that there is finally a viable independent games market that is rapidly reaching critical mass, combined with an industry that is about to undergo radical transformation as part of the VR revolution.
We're looking at a profound business condition that hasn't existed in the history of the games industry and may not repeat itself until the next paradigm shift in computing. Put that together with a great team, a set of legendary lead designers, and some awesome technology, and we think we have a shot at being very successful in this space.
Why go with Autodesk's Stingray engine as your primary tech tool over something more broadly popular, like Unity or the Unreal Engine?
We can't say too much about the engine, other than that we're one of the first companies to license the Stingray engine and that we absolutely love it. We're in our early days with the technology, but we have a prototype together for our first title and we're starting to feel the love.