Two years after leaving Arkane "to spend some time with my son and reflect on what is important," co-founder and former creative director Raphael Colantonio has rejoined with former Arkane executive producer Julien Roby to launch a new indie operation called WolfEye Studios.
"After taking some time off, and consulting for a variety of videogames companies, I’m ready for a new adventure," Colantonio said. "The AAA market is risk-averse and innovation suffers from it. As a game designer, I’ve been wanting to try new ideas and approaches, and I believe independent games are in the best space to do so."
Despite the change in scenery, it doesn't sound like WolfEye is looking to break dramatically from the style of games developed by Arkane. The announcement says the studio "aims to create games in which players live their own adventures in rich simulated worlds that respond to actions and decisions in ways that are unique to each playthrough."
That's not surprising, given the games Colantonio and Roby have made previously, including Arx Fatalis, Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, Dishonored, and, for Colantonio, Prey. (Roby departed Arkane after Dishonored to serve as a producer on Mafia 3.) But the approach to making them will be considerably different: Colantonio told GamesIndustry that getting away from big-budget productions will open the door to much greater innovation in actual gameplay.
"I notice both as a developer and a gamer, I think it's been two or three generations of games now, I've been playing the same game. The only difference is that it's more beautiful, higher resolution, more shaders, but really the game is the same," he said.
Comparing the original Dishonored to Prey, he continued, "The only difference between one generation to the next was that the budget had doubled, and because the budget was doubled, it goes into more people, instead of taking three months to make a character it takes six months now, there's more optimization that is required, more of everything, every detail, making sure the eyes are perfect and the sun shines the right way. But the more you go into that kind of development, the less flexibility you have to make changes. And in a world where making games is all about innovation, R&D, and trying things, that heaviness of graphics and production prevents flexibility, coming back on ideas, trying something else. Because everything is so expensive, the team is unhappy because you're changing direction."
The plan for now is to keep the studio small—there are currently fewer than 20 employees—and remote. "When we work with people, we work with them because we respect them and we really like their contributions to the project, their skills, their background, and so on," Roby said.
"When you trust someone, you just think they're adult enough to manage their hours and so on, so you don't need to have them in your space and manage them. It's about empowering people and telling them, 'We know you can do this job and we don't need to be on your back all the time.' And people are better at work when they're happy in their life. So if you provide a context in which they can be happy, they'll produce more work even if they actually work less hours."
WolfEye's full team hasn't been revealed (the "about" page lists Binu Philip, former president of Austin-based studio Edge of Reality, as chief operating officer), but former Telltale Games senior writer Eric Stripe revealed on Twitter that he's on the roster, which I think is encouraging. The new studio's first game will be unveiled at The Game Awards, which takes place on December 10—and just for the record, if it's Arx Fatalis 2 I am going to absolutely lose my mind. (It won't be, but I dare to dream.)
Looks like the cat is officially out of the bag! It has been so exciting to be a part of the WolfEye team, and I can’t wait for folks to see what we’re working on at the Game Awards next month.https://t.co/n9BZ8FtCC0November 20, 2019