29 June 2000 - previous June updates: 01 03 05 08 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26 29 ; ; previous updates
1 - Starbreeze Studios AB (Putain d'Europe!)
Putain d'Europe! A great series. I am sorry I missed most episodes, for the exception of this one about Starbreeze.
Coca-cola bootles are yet not completely understood - they seem to grow everywhere...
This girl not only inspires traditional artists, but she also got equipped with motion capture hardware, to give life to some female characters on Sorcery.
Nordic inspired no doubt. Unfortunately, it is not clear if you'll ever cross this scenario.
For the last few weeks, the french-german people at ARTE, have been broadcasting "Putain d'Europe", a series focused on several european countries and on the particular problems faced by some of its inhabitants.
"Putain d'Europe" is about to end... I am so sorry I never watched it regularly. To be honest, the single 25 minutes episode I did watch from begin to end, was a selected one I previously knew it would tell the story of Starbreeze Studios, a software development company, located in Hãrnõsand, somewhere in cold Sweden.
Starbreeze Studios AB (www.starbreeze.com) develops PC games. At the head of the company, we found Magnus Hõgdahl, who is also the lead programmer and one of the designers. As you can spot, Starbreeze is very much like a dark sheep on the cold, icy swedish fields; meaning: this software house is kind of unconventional...
In fact, there aren't many independent software houses in Europe, having a president who is also a programmer... To be blunt, it is rare to find competitive software houses outside France and the UK, at all.
Knowing that many UK houses are being sold to american and french giants, Starbreeze is really a rare finding, where you least expected...
The "Putain d'Europe" documentary on Starbreeze, was very much about Sorcery - a 1st person RPG computer game, that the swedish have been working on, since 1998, funded by Gremlin Interactive.
As all the top software titles, Sorcery requires much money to grow. The company had to invest on motion capture hardware, audio hardware, workstations, concept design and all the other usual needs... such as feeding these people (I wonder if they ever tried my recipes - check the 260700 update) and rewarding them as highly skilled scientists on Computer Science.
One day, in January 2000, after ex-british Gremlin being bought by french Infogrames, Sorcery suddenly went out of funds. There is a sequence on the documentary, that shows the letter Starbreeze received, stating that such option had been taken... Ouch! It hurts! "Putain d'Europe"!
Yes, it does hurt. In just 25 minutes, you grow a... sympathy, or something more strong that I don't have words for, for Starbreeze. As the documentary shows the hard work of everyone on the Sorcery project, from the programmers hammering thousands of C++ lines, to the designers, musician(s), and artistic model(s), you build an idea of how fascinating and special, it is to develop a quality game, these days.
Starbreeze's attitude, as I could understand it from the documentary, mixes the technical ability, with the difference and the originality, that only the so called "bedroom scene" can provide. But where is the "bedroom scene" on Starbreeze?
Well, it happens that Starbreeze Studios AB location and offices, are not like those ridiculous cubicles you can find on too many software houses, who organize workspace, very much like a farmer organizes its cows around an eating spot... Cough... cough... really...
At Starbreeze, people work at L-A-R-G-E. They actually work in a real house!, that as a living room and allows you to walk on bare foot! Yeah! No need for the stupid tie or the robotized timetable! Cool!
Sorcery itself looked impressive, from what the documentary showed. It remembered me Epic's Unreal. Yes, it is not, or it wouldn't turn out to be, original software, at least from an end-user's entertainment point of view [PoV].
However, technically, as far I as I know, the game didn't license any 3rd party 3D engine, so, from that PoV, it is, or it would turn out to be, an original piece of code. Still, it is all finished by now.
As a mere "Putain d'Europe" viewer, I was simply devastated with Sorcery's assassination. The documentary showed the reactions of the development team, and I was amazed with their attitude: "just MOVE ON!". And so they did.
Nowadays, Starbreeze is working on Enclave, another 1st person game. In fact, the software is "ready", and the company is looking for a publisher. Personally, I find the idea of developing Quake-a-like games, a very, very risky business.
I mean, Quake 3 Arena, and specially Unreal Tournament, have set a standard so high, months ago, that it is unprobable that a teen will fork money on anything else, on the genre, unless it is something OBVIOUSLY BETTER.
I can understand the magic behind such games, but after the bad Gremlin / Infogrames experience, I doubt I would have risked on such field.
Starbreeze is brilliant and different. I hope they one day achieve everything they wish and surely deserve.
Now, go watch the companion video. It is a 580 kbps realmedia file, that lasts for 69 seconds @ 320x240. Download the file; do not try to watch it while online - you won't have enough bandwidth. If you don't have the free RM player, go grab it @ www.real.com.
Download video starbreeze_selection1_69seconds.rm [4632 KB].
The video shows some of the people involved in Sorcery. My selection is biased towards artistic aspects, such the story, the music, the graphics, the human models, the Coca-cola bottles, and so on :)
Hãrnõsand. Fresh and cold air. Your lungs will probably strange the lack of heavy pollution and you'll risk oxygen poisoning :)
Magnus, lead programmer, starts another day on a project that costed Gremlin over 100 million french francs... but that wouldn't even see the light of day. Kind of...
Everyone's a hunchback... Programmers and designers, and everyone else working many straight hours facing a monitor, tend to develop this lean tendency that will have its cost, years later.
Another Sorcery picture. You'll find plenty more Starbreeze's official website.