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[This October, Lyon and Austin-based Arkane Studios celebrated ten years of creating games. Gamasutra talks with founder, CEO, and creative director of the Dark Messiah Of Might & Magic developer and BioShock 2 contributing studio, Raphael Colantonio, about the company's past, present, and its major upcoming title.]
In an industry where one dead deal can put a studio out of business, surviving two swings of the axe is something to celebrate. Throwing parties on two continents, Arkane Studios just honored its 10 year anniversary with live music, fine dining, and great vibes.
This is not at all what Raphael Colantonio imagined when he first started out. But as he now realizes, "you can achieve a lot of things with just passion and being a little naïve sometimes."
Before he was CEO and Creative Director of Arkane Studios -- with offices in Lyon, France and Austin, Texas -- Colantonio says he was just a fanboy.
"I would contact Warren Spector or Richard Garriott," he recalls, "and just be absolutely like a kid. 'Guys, I just want to work for you. I'll do anything. Get coffee, whatever.' And now whenever I see them... They probably don't perceive me as I was back then, because I have more of a legitimate place in the industry. But it's still a little bit embarrassing when I think about it."
Lesson number one for those who would enter this industry: be willing to look like a fool. Colantonio's willingness to risk a little pride led to working with the very people he most admired. He was and is a huge fan of Richard Garriott and the Ultima series. "Those older games totally inspired us," he says, "and of course ION Storm with Deus Ex and Harvey."
Harvey Smith joined Arkane Studios after working at Origin Systems, ION Storm, and Midway Games. Best known for his work on highly acclaimed games such as Deus Ex, Smith -- now a partner at Arkane -- shares Colantonio's approach to game development.
"We're both creative with common sense," says Colantonio. "We're not like businessmen; we're more like creative people with a lot of passion to make things happen. And then we are practical and pragmatic to do everything we can to make it happen."
That emphasis on creativity is at the core of Arkane's success. From the beginning, Colantonio has made a point of working with the people who make the games he likes to play. "That's a privilege of owning your own business," he says, "to think, 'Hey, how 'bout I work with this guy? He's an awesome person and I really want him to be working with us.' It's like a little gift that you give to yourself."
Arkane has worked with some notables in the industry, including Doug Church (who currently works for Electronic Arts) and Viktor Antonov (the fantastic art director of Half-Life 2). "The truth is," Colantonio says, "those guys are all passionate and they're like me, you know? They're not proper businessmen. They're in the industry because they like what they do."
And everyone at Arkane Studios likes what they do. The team strives to follow in the footsteps of Looking Glass and Origin Systems, taking inspiration from games like Ultima Underworld and System Shock. "When I started to play those games," says Colantonio, "that was the moment I felt the difference between playing games as a hobby and feeling like this is really what I want to do."