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Firewatch by Campo Santo Games (Jake Rodkin & Sean Vanaman's new company)

posted by Rather Dashing on - last edited by Jennifer - Viewed by 16K users

Jake Rodkin and Sean Vanaman, project leads on Telltale's The Walking Dead, have left Telltale Games to form their own games studio, Campo Santo.


Sean Vanaman via Campo Santo blog wrote:

Deciding to found and then actually CREATE a video game studio has felt like a mix of buying a winning lottery ticket and taking a brash detour that results in a near miss with a pedestrian. Impulse followed by action followed by sitting in your car hyperventilating. The outcome is thrilling at best and disastrous at worst.

There are so many reasons to NOT make games; but in the interest of focus, here are two.

Firstly, games hate to be made. They really would rather not be made and once they catch wind that they might be in the process of being made they break, stall, and use all of their static inertia to produce something that’s really not fun to work on, let alone play.

Secondly, the video game business — the thing that ostensibly allows a band of quixotic programmers, artists and designers to try to wrangle the stubborn monster mentioned in my previous point — is insane. It doesn’t have a very clear understanding of its (readily apparent) nature of risk-taking the way most risk-taking lines of business do. Beyond the risk, and the way it shapes the industry ecosystem, there are very few business oriented end-games that appeal to the types of people who like making interactive experiences. Sell the company? But we’re just now successful enough to make what we want! Create a hit franchise with multi-million-dollar sequels? Come on, can’t we make something new? The Venn diagram of why businesspeople start businesses and why developers choose to make games has a strange middle, indeed.

So why are we doing this? To be honest, it’s because we think we’ve found the right group of people to make the first reason not just worth enduring but actually thrilling. As we talk to our friends and industry colleagues about “doing something indie” with us, there’s a shared pragmatism informed by years in the industry that melds with the lingering youthful enthusiasm that got us into games to begin with. Some of us want to tell stories, some of us want to build systems, and some of us want to create beautiful looking worlds, but we all want to make something. The stultifying difficulty of making a good game is instantly tempered and then squashed.

Furthermore, we believe we’ve found the right partner to make the second reason — the insanity of the game business — moot (or at least insane in a new and unexpected way).

Our first game is being both backed by and made in collaboration with the stupendous, stupidly-successful Mac utility software-cum-design studio slash app/t-shirt/engineering company Panic Inc. from Portland, Oregon. Jake will probably get into it more in a forthcoming post, but, essentially, a long-standing friendship between Jake and Panic founders Cabel and Steve, along with a mutual admiration for not just what stuff we make but HOW we make stuff, lead us to the realization that we all had to work together.


It’s an unlikely partnership that means we get to conceive of, make, and distribute a video game the way we want to and the way we know how, with no per-prescribed set of rules or formula for how it’s done.

So off we go. Check back often and see what we’re up to. Follow us on twitter, perhaps. If you know Jake and me from the Idle Thumbs Podcast than you already know we’ll have a hard time not talking about how things are going. We’re lucky enough to set off with the artists and programmers and designers we’ve fawned over and been friends with for years but we’re also striking out with you; someone, presumably on the internet, who has enough interest to pay attention to an announcement like this and has enough excitement to pay attention to what comes next. We will work very hard to not disappoint.

Did we win the lottery? (It feels like it) Are we about to hit an old lady with our car? (I hope not). The shock is the same either way.


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