Since Martin de Ronde, the co-founder of Killzone
creator Guerrilla Games, announced his new non-profit charity publisher OneBigGame over two years ago, public information about the label's plans has come at a trickle.
Now OneBigGame has announced its first title
, Zoe Mode's Chime
-- complete with an all-star lineup of musical collaborators like Philip Glass, Moby, and Orbital's Paul Hartnoll -- and has confirmed further game projects from PaRappa the Rapper
creator Masaya Matsuura, Broken Sword
series director Charles Cecil, and Shiny Entertainment founder Dave Perry.
"When we started OneBigGame, I don't think we could have anticipated that this kind of quality could come out of it," de Ronde told Gamasutra ahead of this week's announcements, which also named Save the Children and the Starlight Children's Foundation as the beneficiaries of OneBigGame's charitable contributions.
De Ronde's original concept was the idea of forming a designer "supergroup" that would create a single epic charity game project -- hence the publisher's name. But as tantalizing as that sounds, anyone who's worked on a development team can imagine how that might prove unwieldy.
"All the famous individuals -- the usual suspects -- would get together to produce a mini-game extravaganza. They do a bunch of mini-games, and we have one developer create the combined game, and that would be it," de Ronde explained.
"That was, practically, a little bit...ambitious. Stick a couple of musicians in a room, and you get a huge single like Live Aid. Do it with Will Wright, Peter Molyneux, and Shigeru Miyamoto, and I'm not sure what you get, but you definitely won't have a game."
So the company went back to the drawing board, and decided to approach individual developers and designers with the offer of creating more personal, smaller-scale projects not constrained by the typical marketing realities of triple-A game development.
Originally, that meant Flash games, but developers started coming back and asking de Ronde if they could prototype using environments like XNA -- and then they started asking if they could simply launch through console and PC digital distribution platforms rather than the web.
"I said, 'Okay, then I need to speak to some platform owners,'" de Ronde replied. "It was more work for us, but I think in the end, it's going to pay dividends. Suddenly, the profile gets raised. Rather than free-to-play Flash games, it's now free-to-play Flash games which will redirect people to the website where you can purchase the full PC version. And if you own an Xbox, a PlayStation, or a Wii, you can go to these platforms and purchase whatever version is out."
Zoe Mode, a Kuju-owned development studio, was the first OneBigGame collaborator to push for the more ambitious distribution schedule. Its upcoming Chime
, a clever rhythm puzzle game with shades of Lumines
, was developed on a pro bono basis for Xbox Live Arcade and PC, with a free Flash trial version to accompany the full game. The game is set to launch this winter, with Valcon Games serving as a co-publishing partner.
And going forward, each developer will be able to choose which platforms to target. Charles Cecil's project is, believe it or not, an adventure game version of Minesweeper
, with PC as the lead platform. Cecil wanted to try and transform one of the world's "most abstract games" to his genre of choice, the graphic adventure, de Ronde explained, adding, "He's come up with a back-story to why the mines are there and why you need to defuse the mines."
Masaya Matsuura's game, on the other hand, is targeting iPhone. "He's doing a reinvention of the rhythm action game genre, which has over the past few years turned into nothing but a highway of notes approaching a bar," de Ronde said. "He's come up with a really innovative new way."
Dave Perry's game is starting out on Flash and PC, with unspecified console platforms likely as well. It's a spiritual successor to "one of his favorite games of all time," an unspecified title originally released on the 8-bit ZX Spectrum.
The combination of producing something for charity and the notion of being directly approached by a publisher to design a game with near-total creative freedom has proven to be appealing to the creators de Ronde and his team have sought out. It was also a big part of how OneBigGame was able to secure the work of such notable musicians and composers for Chime
Developer Zoe Mode had to get its hands on the original master recordings of the tracks by Glass, Moby, Hartnoll, and others, because of the way music is integrated into the game's systems: not only does the music dynamically build as the player scores more points and keeps combo chains running, it is even affected in various ways by the position of individual blocks on the field.
And, to give developers a longer-term incentive to working with OneBigGame, the rights to their games will remain theirs forever. After four to six months of being published under the OneBigName label with profits going to the publisher's charity partners -- 12 months in the case of Flash games -- royalty rights will revert back to the games' creators, who can then sell their titles however they like.
"If Zoe Mode later decided to do an enhanced deluxe version or follow-up sequel [to Chime
] with downloadable content, new tracks, and new musicians, they're free to do so," de Ronde clarified. "And frankly, I think they would be crazy if they wouldn't, because they've got something going here."
That doesn't mean OneBigGame will be accepting developers using the publisher purely as a financial springboard, however. "I don't want anybody to come to me and saying, 'Hi, we've already got a game, and we just want to use OneBigGame initially as a launch pad,'" de Ronde said.
"It needs to be a game created for OneBigGame. But having said that, I'm really keen to see Chime
do well and become successful, so other developers think, 'I'm going to help too. I'm going to do my bit for charity, and if it's really successful, I might end up with a great new IP."