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The Gamasutra 20: 2008's Breakthrough Developers

August 13, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 11 of 21 Next

Gamasutra 20 'Breakthrough' Honoree:

Hothead Games

Studio overview

Hothead Games was founded in 2006 with the goal of making digitally distributed episodic games for people who may have once been hardcore gamers but no longer have as much time. The company is based in Vancouver.

Key staff

Hothead's senior staff include CEO and president Vlad Ceraldi and COO Joel DeYoung, both veterans of Radical Entertainment. Probably the best-known name on the staff is Ron Gilbert, who is current the studio's creative director.

Gilbert is best known for the work he did while at LucasArts, where he made seminal titles such as Maniac Mansion and the original Monkey Island games; he also created SCUMM, the scripting language used as the basis for the majority of the LucasArts adventure games.

Resume highlights

Now that studios like Telltale Games have proven that the episodic model can work successfully, the genre doesn't have the same stigma that it once may have.

And having a popular gaming web comic as the subject of the company's first game didn't hurt matters either -- the studio recently released the first episode of Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness on XBLA and PC.

In fact, the action-adventure game's initial sales on XBLA were some of the strongest the service has seen.

What's next

Along with more Penny Arcade episodes, Ron Gilbert's DeathSpank -- an episodic RPG with a tongue-in-cheek take on gaming heroes -- is the company's next big project; the first episode, Orphans of Justice, is currently in development.

Our take

"Teaming up with one of the industry's most renowned games-criticizers to make a game was actually a pretty gutsy move -- despite Penny Arcade having such a massive fan base to start with. After all, what's the game going to be about? Two guys who write about games?

But Hothead worked with that and seem to have followed up Telltale's success with a possibly even more mainstream launch -- PC and Xbox 360 simultaneously -- of the episodic gaming model.

Not only is it working well, they're showing the ability to cherry-pick popular talent by picking up Monkey Island supremo Ron Gilbert to work on the thoroughly silly DeathSpank.

Doing the "licensing" thing on an indie, collaborative level is an immensely smart thing to do when you can find pop culture reference points, and heralds a new method of direct distributed, carefully focused gaming with built-in fan bases."
- Simon Carless

Article Start Previous Page 11 of 21 Next

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