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February 17, 2006

Man…These Guys are Good!

Filed under: Thoughts and Rants — Tom B @ 9:57 am

I have made it a mission to represent independent developers and it does my heart good to see one of them do good. Last year at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco I had the opportunity to meet with the guys from Tripwire Interactive. They were a brand new studio formed from the mod team that had released the Red Orchestra Mod and won Mod of the Year and the Nvidia “Make Something Unreal contest.” I already represented Trauma Studios the team that brought you the Desert Combat Mod for Battlefield 1942 and completely changed the focus of that franchise forever. And I think that gave me a bit of additional credibility with the Tripwire guys as well.

You see, since these start ups have little or not money to pay the usual hourly rate that I charge, if I like their project and believe in their team, I accept them as a client for a % of revenue. It usually ranges from 4% up, depending on the scope of work involved, including everything from contract review to negotiations, business consulting and even pitching their game to publishers like an agent does, if they need me to. I have been doing this for the past 5 years or so and , to be honest,. it has been a financial loser for me so far. But it has allowed me to help out in ways that my clients could never have afforded. And I still believe that these sort of relationships will be a good thing for me as well as my client developers in the long run.

So, Tripwire decided to hire me and for the next 6 months we worked to secure a deal. Midway was very interested after E3, but they could not close due to a soft response from their European retailers (like retail buyers should be deciding what game should be made anyway!) And we even negotiated for a full funding deal with a major hardware manufacturer…but that fizzled as well. And as good and the Mod was, things started to look pretty dicey for the Studio. So, they just buckled down and decided to go ahead anyway. They had won both a Unreal Engine2.5 and 3.0 licenses. So the 2.5 license was going to go into the first game, which is a complete redo and expansion of the multiplayer mod as a stand alone game. But even if the game got done, how would it be distributed. Digital baby!!!

We discussed a bunch of possibilities including IGN Direct 2Drive, Trimedia’s Digital River Distribution network, GarageGames and Valve’s Steam. I figured that Steam was limited to only Source Engine games…and that there was not way the Valve would want RO selling into their core Day of Defeat and Counter Strike customers since these were the core audience for RO as well and will compete against DoD head on. But to his credit, John Gibson, resident rock star and head of Tripwire got in touch with Valve. Too my amazement they were very interested in distributing the game for us and in short order we had our digital distribution deal. And that deal got us 2 page editorial preview articles with PC Gamer US and UK and a flood of interviews and previews. That level of exposure resulted in a retail distribution with Destineer’s, Bold Games. So we had digital and retail and get to keep our IP. How’s that !

Of course we still were going to be ultimately dependent on the quality of the gameplay experience. After all the game is build on an older technology and in this hard core market, the only thing that really counts is gameplay! Well let me tell you…I have played the beta and this game totally kicks ass! You can check out the trailer, mode completely from in game captures if you don’t believe. I knew these guys had a chance when I took them on . But I had no idea they were capable of getting this much out of the UE 2.5 engine. Wow, Red Orchestra Ostfront 41-45 looks and plays like a champ! ANd if you don’t believe me, check out the RO trailer!

Presales on Steam started a few days ago and the full retail download will be next month followed shortly by the retail box release. Keep you fingers crossed for these guys…they deserve a hit and I for one hope they get one!

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