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Q&A: Sentinel Studios' Potera & Racine On Launching Their New Studio

The newly launched Sentinel Studios is the latest effort from veterans Paul Potera, formerly of Ubisoft, and Marc Racine, former co-owner of Vicious Cycle Software - we talk to them
The newly launched North Carolina based Sentinel Studios is the latest collaborative effort of industry veterans Paul Potera, formerly of Ubisoft, and Marc Racine, former co-owner of Vicious Cycle Software. Earlier, the pair had also worked together and produced licensed titles for Octagon Entertainment, which opened up its own in-house development division in January after having previously acted as a go-between for clients seeking video games and development contractors. Together the duo have been involved with shipping several titles for multiple platforms such as the PlayStation 2, Nintendo DS, Game Boy Advance, and PC, including Cartoon Network Racing, Robotech: Battlecry and Robotech: Invasion. Now heading up Sentinel Studios, both Potera and Racine plan to develop games for the retail market, as well as contribute to the growing market for downloadable titles for next generation consoles and handhelds. Recently Gamasutra had the opportunity to speak with both individuals about their plans for the future with Sentinel Studios. Gamasutra: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us regarding the announcement of Sentinel Studios. So what makes this development studio special, or different from what you have been involved with in the past? Paul: We’re leveraging a lot of experience. The team we are putting together consists of like-minded people that understand the process of game creation. No noobs. And we are keeping the team small. Bigger teams often become plagued with communication problems whereas smaller teams tend to take ownership of the whole project. We are also employing contractors to help with some of the “heavy-lifting” and in turn that helps us be very competitive. Marc: We’re more focused. Both on the gameplay and the technology platforms that we want to develop for and on. GS: You say that this is a five man operation as it stands today. Is everyone working on a single game development project currently, or are there multiple projects currently being invested in by your studio? Marc: We want to keep our focus sharp. That said, we're taking a creative approach in everything that we do - in our game designs, our contract work, our solutions to our own problems included. Right now we are centered on one project. As we find a little more bandwidth, we plan to invest time in developing an original IP of our own. GS: Can you talk a bit about your future plans, both short and long term, for Sentinel Studios? Paul: Short term is making sure everyone is happy, communication is solid, and all the nuts and bolts for a good foundation are in place. Long term goals also encompass employee contentment and strong communication, but we also want to measure our strengths and weaknesses and take the right steps to cultivate our team in the right areas. Marc: Paul’s right. The goal of happiness and communication extends beyond just Sentinel Studios – it’s important for our partners, our clients and our community. And flexibility is crucial as the demand and requirements for game creation are ever-changing. Ultimately though, we are striving to create great games. GS: So why was now the right time to go ahead with this announcement? Paul: Q4 07 is going to be here quick, and we are ready to pick up new projects. We believe that we would have missed a window of opportunity if we would have waited any longer with the announcement of the Sentinel launch. Marc: Exactly. We have resources in place and we are ready to meet new partners. GS: Given that Sentinel Studios is to be focused on console game development, is there a platform you and your team are most interested in developing for in particular? Paul: We are excited about the Nintendo line-up. We have experience with NDS and want to parlay it into Wii. They are good people to work with. Marc: We feel that Nintendo’s platforms will allow us to flex our muscles creatively and really push the limits on gameplay. GS: What about the handheld market? What are Sentinel Studios plans here? Paul: Given our experience with NDS, and the extraordinary user base, I imagine we will continue to develop for it. GS: What can you talk about regarding Sentinel Studios' interest in the online market? Does this extend to developing downloadable games for Xbox Live Arcade or the PlayStation Network for instance? Perhaps even the Virtual Console? Paul: Remind me to sweep the place for bugs. I have to plead “no comment” at this time. Marc: I think something like Virtual Console and PlayStation Network would interest us quite a bit. AAAAAARRRGH – get out of my head. Where’s my tinfoil hat? GS: Why is Sentinel Studios eschewing the PC gaming market in favor of home consoles and handhelds? Do you feel that these markets are more somehow favorable toward a newly formed independent studio such as yourself? Paul: The PC can be vast to work on. To develop for it can require a lengthy timeline. I don’t think investors would be willing to wait that long to see something back. By working with Nintendo, you already have a huge installed base for the DS and a new console that hasn’t even begun to be exploited creatively. For a new company, it seems like the right thing to do. It’s the whole “Let’s see what we can do” thing. I am not shunning the PC; I love my PC games. Marc: I love my PC too. It’s more a question about focus. We’re a dedicated group and really want to put our hearts into what we work on, be it original IP or licensed material – and we want to do a great job. Our most recent experience has been on the handhelds and we really enjoyed that.

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