The Little Guy

The Little Guy
To the Edge of Reality

N. Evan Van Zelfden | 9 May 2006 12:04
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"They know that we have a reputation for shipping titles," Philip adds, "and that we have commercial success with our titles. There's some stability attached to that. Someone can come here and be part of creating something new.

"The thing that all game developers have in common is that we all want to be part of something successful. A game takes two or three years to make. You've only got so many of those in your career. Maybe 10. It's very important when you invest that kind of time."

The New IP
Thus, Edge of Reality is working on new intellectual property. "We've had this goal for five or six years now," says Philip. "That one day we want to be in a position where we can take a risk on a new IP."

And the company has been working up to this point, earning royalties from previous ports and licensed titles. "We want to be in a financial position where we can take this risk. And if it's a failure, it won't sink the company.

"It takes a while to earn that right," Philip says. "It's been a goal of ours, that we've stated within the company, just not as loud as it's been for the last two or three years. And for the last two or three years, we've been telling people as we've been talking to them about potentially joining the company, that we are in the process of doing this.

"And this process just takes forever. Even the planning stages - before any work is done. It took months to get a concept we all agreed to. We're two years into working on our next-gen tools and technology; a year (and change) into the actual game."

A Smart Gamble
"We try not to take a risk where we're betting the future of the company on any one thing," Philip says. "It's still an important and expensive bet, but [the bet] won't fold us. It'll be a learning step, to help make the next one better.

"That was one of the factors of us starting now. Not only could we afford to take the bet, we could afford to lose the bet. That said, we're very determined to win the bet. Our ultimate goal is not to become a subsidiary of a large publisher."

Which raises the question: What's so unappealing about mega-corporations? "There's a couple big things. One of them is control. And the other is we want to make an impact. At a big company, they're going succeed or fail regardless of what you do. It's nice to make a difference. It's more rewarding if you succeed because of your hard work.

"Thinking about companies that we'd like to emulate in the long run," Philip says. "One that comes to mind is Pixar, before Pixar sold to Disney. They have a long track record of creating original properties, and it's much deeper than any videogame company."

For an independent developer, there's more at stake than making Wall Street happy. It's about making a product you're happy with, that you know will resonate with the audience, and will sell. As Philip concludes, this is what is at stake: "Leaving a mark in the videogame industry. It's coming from a point of inspiration, instead of following a corporate mandate."

Developers love to complain, so they'll always complain about how it's impossible to develop independently these days. As Philip says, "The fact is, you can do it if you're willing to pay your dues, and if you have the right processes, and the right resources in place to do so. That doesn't necessarily mean having to sell your company to a venture capitalist to pursue your dreams."

N. Evan Van Zelfden expects great things for the future of games. Games are the greatest art form to date, he asserts. This is why he plays games, writes about them, and continues to work in the industry of games.

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