Stardate: June 4, 2014
Setting: Brooklyn, NY
It’s been eight solid months since I returned home to New York from Japan and things are finally starting to heat up, both figuratively and literally. After what seemed like an eternal Game Of Thrones-style winter here in the city--in itself a shocking reality for the relocated West Coasters at TURBO--the warm weather has finally settled in. Things are also heating up for TURBO as a company as we follow our GDC announcement with our second major reveal, formally announcing our partnership with Nexon as the mobile publisher for our first as yet-unrevealed game.
As someone who has spent a large portion of his adult life writing about and critiquing video games, and then half a decade more actually making them, it may not be that big of a surprise to hear me say that the quality of the game(s) we’re making matters. So how does a small, independent studio like TURBO function in tandem with a large, international publishing entity like Nexon? In reality, it’s practically a perfect marriage.
TURBO, as a studio, is composed of a tight-knit band of industry veterans with a strong, collective background in game development across a variety of game styles: free-to-play, triple-A, indie. You name it, we’ve been there. Part of the purpose of forming this studio was to take our collective development experience and knowledge, and make great games with less of the bureaucracy we’ve experienced at past jobs. Nexon has been nothing but harmonious in helping us maintain that atmosphere.
A company like Nexon, with successful franchises like Maple Story, know what it takes to make successful games, and so we’re able to rely on them to give us valuable feedback as we move ever closer to completing our first game as TURBO. But, they manage to provide that feedback without being an overbearing presence that might otherwise affect the chemistry of our Brooklyn-based studio. I can’t imagine a better, more empathetic publishing partner than Nexon. Which brings me to my next point: Our game is free-to-play.
The realm of FTP games is a treacherous one. On the one hand, casual players love them because there’s no commitment and if you don’t like it, you can just delete the game from your phone or console. Experienced, core gamers on the other hand, have come to instinctively be wary of them thanks to the hundreds of quick money grabs that populate app stores around the world. The most articulate gamers are now familiar with terms like “paygate,” “pay to win,” and other phrases that signify when a paywall slams down in front of the gamer, preventing further, unpaid access to an otherwise entertaining game.
Nexon CEO Owen Mahoney himself recently told develop-online.net “Until Western developers learn how to do it better, you won’t see so many strong free-to-play games in the West. We are [noticing opposition in the West], mostly because so much of the free-to-play you see in the market –including the games from the big guys– has been done badly.”
As we ourselves are developing a free-to-play game, this is a challenge we consider and face daily. We want to create an awesome, rich, beautiful game that hardcore, articulate gamers will enjoy, but we also want everyone to try it, and the best way to do that is drop the barrier to entry altogether. But by making it free-to-play, we risk raising the antennae of the core gamer, whose first reaction might be one of skepticism. But this is one of the reasons I’m so happy to be at TURBO.
As senior producer on our game I can say with confidence that we are making a great game, one that people will find value in no matter what their level of investment. We’ve recently hit an early alpha milestone and the game is looking lovely. One reason for this is because we’re all gamers here at TURBO. When I leave work and go home, and after I put the kids to bed, and after I watch a movie with my wife, I’m still putting in a couple of hours into Dark Souls 2, or Wolfenstein, or Soul Sacrifice, or Bravely Default, or MLB 14: The Show, or Transistor, or Super Time Force. I imagine most of my co-workers maintain similar lifestyles in their private time.
Finally, this is all possible because of how we do things here at TURBO, in our quiet riverside office in Brooklyn. It’s an open, organic space propelled by pure game development, 100% of the time. The building is kind of rough, but that’s part of what indie is all about anyway. Plus, any office space that also houses The Onion can’t be all bad. It helps that the team here is the nicest collection of folks I’ve ever worked with in the industry, which puts that extra spring in my step as I ride the subway to work every day. That says a lot about the quality of our time spent here, and hopefully that’s reflected in the quality of our game. It’s a game that --when the time is ripe-- we’ll be proud to reveal to the world, and hopefully one that every one of you will want to play.
Signing off from DUMBO (down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass),