North Carolina studio Vicious Cycle recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, soon after shipping its Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network game, Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond -- a game designed, coincidentally, to re-imagine retro gameplay.
The company was founded by Eric Peterson, its current president and CEO, and Wayne Harvey, vice president and CTO, after a stint at MicroProse cut short when the company was sold to Infogrames. Vicious Cycle's debut title was the unexpected anime-licensed Robotech: Battlecry, a sleeper hit for the original Xbox and PlayStation 2.
In the years since that game's release, Vicious Cycle entered the world of original IP (with titles like Dead Head Fred, an original but somewhat overlooked game) and began to license its own Vicious Engine (now in its second major iteration, with support for current-gen console platforms) and was acquired by D3 Publisher, which is, itself, part of the Bandai Namco group of companies.
To reflect on this history -- and how the company and the industry has changed over the past 10 years -- Gamasutra spoke with Peterson and Harvey about where they've been, where they are, and where they will be going.
So you've been there for the whole long ride. What was the first game that you made?
Eric Peterson: Well, actually Wayne and I started working together at MicroProse initially, and our first game together was X-COM Interceptor; it was a flight sim with the X-COM license. We worked a few years on that, and we started expanding that studio and working on a couple new projects that never saw the light of day, unfortunately. We did do Civ Multiplayer Gold and an X-COM -- I think it was a Gold edition as well.
By then, Hasbro had bought MicroProse, and we were working on some unannounced titles that Hasbro had licenses for, as well as a game called X-COM Genesis, which was going to be a 3D version of the original X-COM game -- I mean, not exactly, but the point was that it was going back to its roots.
And then when we were in the middle of production of all that, we lost our jobs; the whole studio got shut down because Hasbro was selling off to... I guess it was Infogrames at the time, and they had to reduce the studios; we were one of I guess three others or whatever that got let go.
So the only one that was left was the Hunt Valley MicroProse studio, and they were sold to Infogrames. At that point, we started our company. The first game that we started here, at Vicious, was an unannounced title that was actually a superhero title that we started, and we went from one problem to another.
We were working with Mattel Interactive at the time, who was, suddenly after we signed our deal with them, starting to go through a lot of issues with the whole Learning Company debacle, and we were roped up in that; and making a brand new IP that nobody ever heard of about a bunch of superheroes was pretty risky.
Luckily, we had people that were looking out for us at Mattel and didn't want our new contract for our new company to just evaporate and then us to evaporate. They had the Robotech license, and the Robotech license ended up being what we switched to, just so that we were hooked to a licensed property and then they could sell off the contract to another publisher; we would go with it.
So we spent the next six or so months just getting Robotech up to speed before building a demo before it had to be shown to another publisher for purchase. That's where we kept on going and shipped Robotech Battlecry.
I actually reviewed that, way back in my old career of reviewing games. I really liked it at the time.
EP: We did too! We thought it was a pretty good game. It did very well overall in reviews, and the sales were very good; it was a great first game for our company.
Wayne Harvey: It was an excellent experience altogether, and it was our first chance working on consoles because we were previously a PC developer; so we had never worked on PS2, Xbox, or Gamecube at the time. It was all new to us, and we pretty much had to get that game done in like 14 months.
I remember at the time thinking that it was a new thing for Western PC-heritage developers to be making console games, but, look at the industry now. That's pretty much the way things are.
WH: That was back before licensing really took off, so we built the engine and all the technology for that game ourselves.
EP: Everything was from scratch; we had nothing, really. But some money from the publisher bought some machines, and we got the studio set up and then spent the time making the tech so we could just get art in the game -- get things going, get the gameplay in the product.