Mafia's lead dev on the perils of project funding: "I know people who got their bones broken"


Dan Vavra was the lead designer on Mafia and Mafia 2. He's started work on a new project with a new studio called Warhorse. While the new project is closely under wraps for now, Vavra has started a frank development blog which promises to deliver an honest account of the trials and tribulations of a new studio trying to bring a game to market.

In the first post published on the new Warhorse site , Vavra describes the studio's struggles to secure financial backing in a difficult market unwilling to make big investment risks and, incredibly, hints at a darker side to the business. Vavra explains that the team pitched their game at every studio and publisher they could think of, except for "loan sharks and some strange underworld types."

"I wrote a game about the Mafia and I don't want to deal with those types of “businessmen"." he writes. "The game industry is a risky business and nobody wants to end up under the boardwalk. I personally know people who got their bones broken or were kidnapped during game development. No kidding."

Vavra and co. eventually struck a deal with "private individuals" described as being similar to "the Czech equivalent of Warren Buffet or Andrew Carnegie – billionaires with huge financial empires," but describes how difficult the process had been to reach that stage.

"If you have a great idea and an experienced team there is an off chance somebody is going to give you money. But in order to put the team together you need a lot of money that nobody is willing to put up when you don't have the team. It's a Catch-22 situation," he said.

"I had several very experienced people committed to the project, but no office, no company, no money and nothing to show, except for a pitch and some nice pictures. The likelihood of impressing a publisher in these circumstances is, for all practical purposes, zero, but I had to try."

All we know about the unannounced game is that it's an RPG that Warhorse say "is not going to disappoint fans of open realistic worlds and quality stories." You can keep up with development progress on the Warhorse blog , and by following them on Twitter .

Tom Senior

Part of the UK team, Tom was with PC Gamer at the very beginning of the website's launch—first as a news writer, and then as online editor until his departure in 2020. His specialties are strategy games, action RPGs, hack ‘n slash games, digital card games… basically anything that he can fit on a hard drive. His final boss form is Deckard Cain.