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Industry vets form Red Rover to evolve survival genre in pursuit of "infinite engagement"

The five-strong leadership team have previously worked on franchises like Conan Exiles, Dune Awakening, and DayZ.

Chris Kerr, News Editor

June 22, 2023

3 Min Read
The Red Rover logo on a crimson background

A group of industry veterans from Funcom, Bohemia Interactive, and Lockwood Publishing have raised $5 million to form new studio Red Rover Interactive and create a new survival franchise.

Red Rover will be spread across offices in Oslo, Norway, and Newcastle, UK. It has been formed by a cohort with experience working on series including Conan Exiles, Dune Awakening, DayZ, Avakin Life, Crysis, and Ghost Recon.

The studio will be led by CEO Fred Richardson, who previously served as CTO of Funcom and prior to that worked at Capcom and Ubisoft Reflections.

Richardson is joined by fellow co-founders and Funcom alumni Daniel Ratzer (technical director) and Marek Zilavy (design director). Freelance artist Sebastian Zimmermann (art director), who has experience working at companies such as Jagex and Crytek, will also help steer the ship, while former Lockwood Publishing studio director Joe Stevens (COO) rounds out the quintet.

Red Rover has established a 17-person team and has aspirations of becoming a mid-sized studio. Speaking to Game Developer about the new opening, Richardson said the company will use some of the $5 million investment to continue building a "top-tier team."

He added that Red Rover will be taking an "on-site first" approach to development, indicating a desire to bring employees back into the office.

"Many of the management team have been through rapid growth of companies with multiple studios so have experience to avoid many of the pitfalls," said Richardson. "We are taking an onsite first approach to development, contrary to what a lot of companies are doing, and are finding most staff are spending more time in the office than we expected. We’ve also aligned our operations to be in the same time zone, which streamlines communication."

Notably, the CEO believes the team's prior experience working on both triple-A projects and smaller "scrappy" titles will help Red Rover instil a level of pragmatism that won't see employees stretched beyond their limitations.

"Based on our experience, we really believe that teams can operate at a higher level when they understand not only the game they are working on, but also the business objectives and constraints of the company," added Richardson. "This is something we are putting explicit focus on, ensuring that all of us at Red Rover have the context needed to make informed calls on an ongoing basis."

The dream? Infinite engagement

As for the studio's debut title, Red Rover harbours ambitions of creating a new survival title that can "catapult" the genre in a new direction by "placing player agency and drama front and centre,"

In a press release, the team say their overall goal is to create games designed for "infinite engagement" that are perfectly suited to the "age of content creation." When asked what that means in reality, Richardson explains that, yes, the studio will be working within the games-as-a-service space, but with an "added dimension."

"In the realm of persistent online games, it’s common for GAAS titles to be built as content treadmills to some degree. We aim to steer clear of that route, instead having the players fuel long-term engagement," he continues.

"This approach is not only pragmatic, considering our size and the constraints it poses on rapid content creation post-launch, but it's rooted in our conviction that the players themselves are most engaging and exciting form of game content. Our ambition is to craft truly endless gaming and streaming experiences, by blending the replayability of session-based multiplayer games with the emergent gameplay attributes of sandbox titles, and fusing them with the deep engagement properties inherent to persistent online worlds."

To that end, Richardson notes that some of the investment will also be spent on actively engaging with an early community of players so their feedback can be incorporated into their unnamed project at a very early stage. It's a tactic that Richardson hopes will "validate" the studio's long-term vision, which he says will see it "evolve the formula for multiplayer survival titles rather meaningfully."

About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

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