Red 5 Studios is an MMO start-up formed by Blizzard veterans who hope to take a new path, despite their company’s ancestry. At AGDC, we spoke to designers Scott Youngblood and Rob Garrett about the company and how it’s all about innovation with their unannounced MMO.
“We’re going to change the way people look at MMOs,” Youngblood told us. They have the utmost respect for World of Warcraft and games like it, but as they approached their game, they wanted to re-evaluate every assumption of the MMO genre and see how they could do it better.
Without going into too many details, they believe their game will be entertainment for people who do not have huge amounts of time to invest and also hope to create a game where players can truly influence the world around them. Both of these goals have been buzz phrases in the genre for a number of years, but arguably, few if any have accomplished the feat.
“Players will be important in our world in ways that they never were before,” Youngblood guaranteed.
They also hope to bridge the gap between Asian and Western MMOs in a way no one has tried since the first aborted version of Tabula Rasa. Just a few weeks ago, a Red 5 sister studio opened in Shanghai. They made it very clear this is not an art house, but a fully integrated part of their development team. Both studios are linked and have people who work on all aspects of the game. They believe this cross pollination of ideas strengthens their game.
NCSoft tried the same thing with Tabula Rasa and it didn’t work out at all. Eventually, they rebooted the game and started from scratch to make a game that appealed to a core audience, in that case the West. Richard Garriott told us one reason for this is that in an attempt to create a product that appeals to the divergent values of the two audiences, they made one that appealed to neither. The Red 5 team seemed undaunted by that example, and told us they would use their experience and development methodology to make sure it didn’t happen to them.
Part of this Eastern philosophy no doubt comes from their Korean publisher, Webzen. Both Youngblood and Garrett had great things to say about them, noting that they are hands off, allowing the developers to do what they think is right and providing a wonderful support system when necessary.
AGDC allowed them to do some interviews, but primarily the two came to town to find some talent. The company had a much publicized “Golden Ticket” drive, where they send iPods with personalized messages to key industry personnel they wanted on the project. Youngblood – who previously worked on Tribes, among other things – said he was blown away by the message, in which CEO Mark Kearn specifically addressed him.
At this time, the company is hiring across all disciplines, although programmers are a major focus. They also need artists, designers and much more. They did specifically note though that if the right person applies, even if there isn’t necessarily a job for them yet, they often make room as they value the right people. Red 5 is, according to them, one of the most friendly places they’ve worked and extremely team oriented. They gave the example of “Tiki Time”, complete with an in-house Tiki bar every Friday and invite not only the entire team, but their families.
At this time, the game is planned for the PC, but they did say they were also exploring the idea of consoles. However, at this time, no decisions have been reached. There is no target for launch and they would not say when they plan to officially debut the game.