Coming to a town near you
With Insanity slated for next year, and Defend Ironton! due in 2010, times are tight, financially. But that doesn't deter Tickstorm's big thinkers; in fact, Eid is already planning on a franchise.

"It opens the door to unlimited sequels, you know, Defend Cleveland!; Defend Cincinnati!; Defend Baltimore! The world's the limit," Eid said. "If we get to the point where we're big like Blizzard or like EA with a graphics department, we can just continue to work on it."

For now, though, the going is slow. Most of the work is done on the weekends, not including that done by Eid, who recently left his teaching job to work on TickStorm fulltime. The hope is that, one day, his whole team will do the same.

"The hard part about doing this on our own is that these guys have to have jobs, they have to work, some of them work at Pic 'n' Save and other places," Eid said. "They have to make money, so they can't spend all their time doing this. Not too many guys want to come and work for you when they're not going to get paid until the game sells. One day, we're hoping that these games sell enough that these are the only jobs they have to do and they don't have to work at McDonalds."

Eid himself has not yet drawn a paycheck from TickStorm.

Migration
All of the long-range planning may seem far-fetched, but Eid and crew don't see it that way. Their determination is almost fanatical. They're always working to improve their situation, whether it's the regular LAN parties they put on for gamers in the area, or small projects to help increase their toolset. For instance, they've even begun to pick up on Maya with personal learning editions, but they still don't have the money to buy it.

To that end, they've just picked up their first paying game design gig: creating a safety training game for the Southern Ohio Medical Center of Portsmouth. In the game, which the team is frantically building models for, players learn the proper way to evacuate the facility in case of a fire or other emergency. No, it's not Half-Life, but it's work.

The big games are still years away, but it almost makes the effort that much more noble. They're not just wagering their years of work on a game concept or play mechanics, they're wagering that, in 2010, there will still be an Ironton worth defending.

But TickStorm doesn't think that way, and neither does Ironton. In their minds, the game making a splash and the city's rebirth is practically a forgone conclusion. This small southeastern Ohio city and the game studio share the same intangible power all the graphic artists and multi-million-dollar budgets in the world couldn't match: They believe.

Justin McElroy is the news editor of The Ironton Tribune and a freelance gaming writer. He lives in Huntington, W.Va. with his fiancee, Sydnee.

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