Why on earth would anyone start up an independent games development studio in a time when devs all over the world are being put to the sword? When even the biggest publishers are taking out their marketing inadequacies on our creative brothers and sisters on the battlefront, canning them rather than the people behind the lines who decide on the budgets and timescales? Well, in the case of Eclipse Interactive, it wasn’t that we had a burning desire to turn a large fortune into a non-existent one (not that anyone involved in this story had large fortunes to begin with—or have them now for that matter—or are likely to have one any time soon). Rather we did it because we felt it was the right time and the right place, and we had the right people for just such a venture.
Eclipse Interactive was formed from the ashes of a Manchesterbased Eidos internal studio. During one of the many restructures and reshuffles going on in London, “management” decided to close the studio (along with the entire division it belonged to), throwing a bunch of tight-knit teams into turmoil and leaving a bunch of developers feeling that they had been screwed by a publisher— again. By a strange coincidence, Nic Garner and I had been having a few preliminary conversations about going for it with a start-up studio, and needless to say the Eidos collapse accelerated these conversations.
We were lucky in that we knew a couple of different publishers who could potentially put a few small projects our way to start us off. Thanks to some shrewd negotiation and arm-twisting on Nic’s part we even managed to secure signing fees and great milestone arrangements, meaning that we could launch our business without taking on a penny of debt— pretty unique for an indie start-up in this day and age. From day one we were completely self-sufficient and not dependant on outside money from people who might not understand how the games industry works.
It’s probably just as well seeing as the British banks are in such turmoil at the moment that the only people who can get money out of them seem to be their own directors. Maybe we should have started up a bank instead. That’s not to say it was all smooth sailing, even at the start. The very day that we opened our doors (after a couple of months of hard work behind the scenes), one of our promised projects was pulled—even though it was already staffed and ready to go. Although it caused a few sleepless nights, luck was on our side, and new projects came along to replace it. Shame though, as the promise of turning that original game IP into a series of games was certainly an alluring one. That early experience confirmed a valuable lesson for any independent developer: Having ongoing conversations with potential publisher partners constantly is essential. Even if you can’t take on new work right away, you never know when a promised project might be pulled. Maintaining strong, active relationships with a variety of publishers is the best way to ensure that you can always find something to fill the void.