I thought the whole Matt Hazard universe was really interesting. I really enjoyed the concept of the parody of old game culture that came through when the first game came out in terms of the marketing and pretending that there had been a Matt Hazard series -- stuff like Commander Keen, I guess, was sort of the inspiration.
EP: Yeah, it was very fun to create an entire fictional backstory to a catalog that just never was, and that was, again, something that Dave really enjoyed. It was something that he came up with and wanted to do, and it was his idea to do this Matt Hazard character; everybody kind of grasped on it as soon as he said it, and nobody wanted to let go. "This is a great idea -- let's go ahead and do this."
So the fictional stuff in the backstory was really funny, and then marketing at D3 and PR at D3 -- they really enjoyed it, too, and got into the fun of it and started doing things like... They had a company actually make an old 2D Flash game that of course never existed, but you could play it online; they put up the old website and made it look like it had been there since the early days of the internet with all the broken links and pictures that weren't there anymore but had the little X symbol and doesn't-load image kind of thing.
All that little stuff, all those little touches kind of made it feel like it really was. And there were even people reading about it, going, "I never heard about this! How are all these games out there...?"
Some people bought it, and of course other people in the press that were reporting on it would tell the truth of what it was and not necessarily play along with the fake lore.
But nonetheless, I think the whole point of it was that it resonated with gamers that would read about it, and they kind of played along with it -- I mean, they're still playing along with it. Even with Blood Bath and Beyond's release, people still go, "I never heard of these games before! They say this was a franchise."
And of course people will comment and say, "Well, that's the joke; that's the point." Then people will also chime in and say, "Yeah, I remember playing such-and-such game" -- they'd even make up their own game. We even did some competition for people to come up with their own fake games... It was definitely trying to get everybody into the spirit of it.
Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond
I guess we're talking about the whole 10 years here, starting with your first commercial product, Robotech: Battlecry, through Blood Bath and Beyond, which just released. What's the future hold?
EP: Ah, you know, we always ask ourselves the same question. I would say it's more of the same.
EP: It's been 10 years, and I'll say this: We're not like a lot of other studios on the market. We are a studio that ships a lot of titles that range from small, niche products and puzzle-type games like Puzzle Quest and Marvel Trading Card Game -- those kinds of things are extremely niche, but one turned out to be casual, which was good -- and then moving that through kid and family titles like Dora the Explorer, Curious George, Flushed Away, and Ben 10 -- we're working on another movie title right now.
That part came out mid-way through our 10 years as well; we created this family-friendly brand with Monkey Bar Games, which is part of our Vicious Cycle stuff.
And then, of course, Vicious kept on doing Robotech-type games and Dead Head Fred-type games and Matt Hazard-type games, a little more in what adults would play. We feel the formula works. We definitely have a place in the license arena; we've worked with a lot of different licensors: movies, TV shows -- obviously, shows that aren't even on the air, like Robotech, anymore -- and card games, and everything.
We've had our variety over the years, and, again, we've shipped about a title every time we've been around for every year, so I think we've had about 10 or so titles, whereas other people might have had two in that same period. So, like I said, we're not exactly like everybody else in that regard.
You know, some people might say that's good; some people might say that's bad. Either way, we've made a business out of it, and that's kept us around and given us stability. So I think we'll keep on doing that, is my point; we'll keep on working with the Hollywood licensors -- that's definitely where D3's business is, as well.
If we get our chance here and there to pop in another Matt Hazard game or go in another direction on something new, we'll take that opportunity when we get it. And the engine isn't going anywhere, so we're still selling it, as well. It's been pretty consistent.
You give me the sense that not a lot of studios actually do stick around for 10 years.
EP: Well, you know, back when we were in the industry, in the sense of when we first started in this company in the game industry, and even when we were employees of another company previously, the stats on people lasting as an employee in the industry was very, very small. If you had like two or three years in the industry, you were a veteran. There was a time there when people burn out so fast they would just disappear.
WH: It'd just chew you up and spit you out.
EP: Yeah, it was brutal, and the stats were really low. I think they've definitely increased over the years because of the quality of life and of how companies treat employees now compared to 15 years ago has gotten better -- I'm not saying they've completely eliminated the stresses of the industry by any means, but I don't think that we chew up potential candidates as much as we used to as an industry.
I think this is more of a job now; it's not a hobby. Back when it was a hobby, a lot of people had that passion that makes you work a lot of hours; and everybody did it, so you felt like you had to do it. When you did those things -- and the planning wasn't as good back then -- and you felt like you could just keep going and going until the game was done, a lot of people just quit.
I think the industry definitely has changed in the last 15 years in that regard. Companies are bigger; they're more stable; there's more of them. Now we have things like educational programs that people can actually get into and get a game degree -- that was never even heard of back then.
WH: Without your people, the company is nothing; and I think we can certainly attribute a lot of our 10 years to the people we've hired over the years and their contribution.
EP: There are still people who were here in the very first hiring wave, so we haven't lost a lot of our veterans. A lot of good people still work here that worked here back when we worked on Battlecry.