Final part of Dusty Monk’s IncGamers interview – Talks about Windstorm projects and the future
Dusty’s final interview part is now online at IncGamers. Having previously touched on MMO’s and the past at Ensemble Studios attention now turns to the future with Windstorm Studios. First up, how and why did Dusty choose to start up Windstorm? We know that Dusty was very passionate about the Halo MMO at Ensemble and must of been very saddened by the projects closure. It turns out that Dusty mooted the idea about setting up his own studio back in 2007 after Ensemble’s MMO project (codenamed “Titan”) was cancelled:
Titan, for me, was really the dream job. When they killed Titan, I started looking at what Ensemble was probably going to be working on next. I’d already been saving up some money on my own, thinking about starting up a studio, and I decided then that now was the time. It’s never easy to jump ship and go off and do things on your own – you never know how it’s going to do. It’s especially hard if you’re married and you have children and you’re looking at the difference between a secure job, with benefits and with a paycheck, versus a completely and totally unsecure job creating a company that’s building the most expensive kind of game you can build, in an industry hit by the hardest recession that it’s ever experienced! So, yeah, it wasn’t a great time from an economic standpoint, but from a personal standpoint it was the right time for me. I’d just decided that with the severance money from Microsoft combined with my own savings, I had enough money to be able to float myself for a couple of years. I knew the games that I wanted to build, so I decided now was the time to go forward with that.
Once the studio was set up Dusty and his studio immediately began work on some MMO prototypes before creating some excellent concept art and presentations to show for prospective game publishers. Unfortunately as discussed before there was some difficulty getting publisher commitment despite getting unanimous positive feedback about the game and the ideas. The problem is with the MMO genre is that the game development is very costly both at the beginning and in the games maintenance – servers, payments etc. Even though Dusty has come from working at a prestigious studio, Ensemble, publishers had difficulty in gauging what kind of company Windstorm was:
For the first eight months of the company’s lifetime, we were working on our prototype. We finished that around September and the prototype has been largely received with great enthusiasm. From about September through January I shopped the prototype to a number of different publishers, both international and within the States, and all of them have without exception, said “We love the idea, love the project, but we’re just not ready to go forward yet – and part of the problem is that we’re just not sure there’s enough of a real company here.” And I get that; I can sort of relate to that.
Its a tricky situation – approaching publishers with a brand new idea with a brand new unheard of company is always going to be a tough sell coupled with the high development costs and risk associated with the MMO genre things weren’t looking so good. However, not to worry as the MMO idea isn’t blown out of the water yet – Dusty is not one to give up so easily and has a plan for the studio going forward.
So the plan of attack right now is to go forward with a smaller single-player game, and get that out there for people to start playing. This will serve as a sort of introduction to the world that we want to build. So from that standpoint, we’re still doing really well. We haven’t got our project funded by an MMO developer yet, we’re not going forward with the MMO, but we are going forward with the smaller project. I have every anticipation of having enough funds to finish the small project. We’ll get it out there, and then we’ll see how it goes from there. If the project is really well received, and people like the world and they like the game, then that will hopefully provide enough credence for the company that a publisher will come and go “Hey, this company has some legs, we feel like it’s a real legitimate endeavour. We love this idea and people are really responding well to this idea, so let’s go forward with that.” And if it doesn’t? Well, then we gave it a hell of a go.
The single player game will be an RPG based on the same environment of the MMO project – a very exciting and unique world, futuristic, colourful with lots of flying cars. Its also great to hear Dusty is maintaining some of Ensemble’s fantastic development values as first introduced by Bruce Shelley:
There are two design tenets that came out of my time at Ensemble, and these are actually originally Bruce Shelley’s design tenets, back when he was working on Railroad Tycoon. The first is: build a world in which people want to play. This means bright colours and bright palettes, and a very appealing place. This will be absolutely true for any game that Windstorm Studios produces. If you look at the very first copies of Age of Empires 1, you’ll see that it uses a lot of bright colours and a lot of bright palettes.
The other is: make the first 15 minutes fun. If there are any design principles that are guiding the direction of Windstorm Studios games, it’s those two. Hopefully the first 15 minutes will be a good time, and it’ll be a place that you’ll want to play in.
With values and traditions like these being carried forward I am certain people will be very interested to hear about this very unique game. As Dusty’s studio is hard at work on bringing us this exciting game be sure to keep an eye out on the studios website and follow the studio on Twitter. As development continues I am sure that later this year we will begin to see more concept art and then screenshots and maybe a video trailer.
The estimate right now is to try and have something out there around November. That’s the plan of attack right now. Before that point we’ll make an initial announcement about the game itself, and then we’ll start trying to build some press, and some excitement, and some word of mouth, and talk about what the actual game is and the world that’s in the game and the characters, and stuff like that. I can tell you it’s not going to be a casual game – it’s very much going to be a character-oriented world-type game.
Exciting stuff. Good luck Dusty and the team at Windstorm Studios!
You can read the full part 2 of Dusty’s interview here at IncGamers:
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