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Interview: Atomic Games' Tamte On New Projects, Return Of  Close Combat

Interview: Atomic Games' Tamte On New Projects, Return Of Close Combat Exclusive

March 11, 2009 | By Chris Remo

March 11, 2009 | By Chris Remo
More: Console/PC, Exclusive

After a management change and some three years of under-the-radar development, Atomic Games has announced it is creating a new historical action shooter -- but it wasn't able to reveal the nature of the game or its publisher.

So what was the company's goal with its tight-lipped announcement?

"Mainly, what we're trying to say right now is that Atomic is back," studio president Peter Tamte, formerly Bungie's executive vice president, tells Gamasutra.

The Story So Far

The current development studio Atomic Games is quite different to the company that bore that name from 1989 to 2005 -- best known for wargame series like Close Combat and V For Victory -- although there is a line of continuity. In 2005, Tamte explains, Destineer acquired Texas-based Atomic, but spun it out in 2006 into an autonomous studio.

"We wanted to have a separate development operation," recalls the executive, so the team hired Red Storm Entertainment co-founder Juan Benito and set up a new location in Raleigh.

Atomic then set about building up a team and an engine, and -- oddly enough -- developing training software for the United States intelligence community, hence the partial investment by CIA-funded venture capital firm In-Q-Tel.

"Our primary business is making entertainment games," Tamte clarifies. "The reason we have that relationship with the intelligence community is to give us access to unique subject matter that we can turn into interesting commercial video games. The training business, as revenue, is a very small part of our overall business."

Red Storm, best known for developing Tom Clancy's titles for Ubisoft, has a strong spiritual presence at the new Atomic: Benito was executive producer on the original Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six, studio manager John Farnsworth managed Red Storm, and around 20 former Red Storm developers joined up.

Although Atomic's original leadership is not officially involved, "I get a lot of advice from Keith Zabalaoui, who was the founder of Atomic," Tamte says. "He's not part of the day to day operations of the business, but I consult periodically."

Current Plans

As to its current shooter in development, Atomic is keeping its cards close. It calls its project the first of "a new breed of historical action video games" and indicates it will be released for PC, Mac, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.

Interestingly, although publisher Destineer and Atomic Games are owned by the same holding company, Destineer will not be publishing the title -- rather, an unnamed publisher "in the top five" has signed up.

Asked why the company chose to develop a proprietary internal engine rather than license an existing solution, Tamte ties the decision to Atomic's overarching goals.

"We could not build the game we're building with any of the licensed engines," he says. "But the second thing is just a matter of strategy: One thing Atomic has always done, and we want to continue doing, is to blend real-life tactics with proprietary technology, to create a game people haven't played before."

The Close Combat Legacy

As for the company's rich history: "It amazes me -- there's still a very vibrant Atomic community out there," Tamte muses.

Much of that community is centered around the acclaimed and influential Close Combat series of real-time tactical wargames.

"The last commercial Close Combat game shipped many years ago, but still there's a community out there," says Tamte, adding that he hopes the company can reengage with those longtime fans.

Currently, the series licensed to wargame-oriented publisher Matrix Games, which still releases new content for the existing games and updates their engines.

But Atomic itself intends to return to the series, Tamte promises, although its current project is unrelated. "In the future, we definitely plan on making Close Combat games again, refreshed with brand new technology," he notes.

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