Speaking in a panel at PAX East today, a group of former developers from disbanded Kingdoms of Amalur developer 38 Studios discussed what they've learned after the studio's closure, as well as the handful of indie projects they have worked on since leaving the company.
The group unanimously agreed that the best thing to come out of 38's collapse was the camaraderie between the staff members and the establishment of a supportive community.
"There is a huge ex-38 brotherhood out there, which is really awesome," said Paul Siegel, former 38 Studios engineer and co-founder of Dancing Sorcerer Games.
"At 38 Studios there was a lot of policy and a strong sense of community," added Terrible Posture Games founder Joe Mirabello. "But when it collapsed I had to learn a lot of stuff I hadn't learned before. I had to really push myself."
"It lit a fire under me," said Rick Luddy, Red Foe Games founder. "Everybody always wants to do something, and it gave me a reason to do it now. Don't wait, just do it."
The developers noted that founder Curt Schilling pushed to make 38 Studios a nurturing, encouraging environment, and while some of them are enjoying the opportunity to work on their own, others wouldn't mind returning to the AAA scene.
"Curt wanted you to work there until you retired, or move on and start your own company after a couple years," said Mirabello.
"Going the indie route really does give you that whole experience that makes you a better developer all-around in general," added former support engineer Geraldo Perez.
Rich Gallup founded his indie company, Summer Camp Studios, directly after 38's closure to provide a space for him and his coworkers to stay in touch and make games.
"Just make a game."
"Basically we tried setting it up as a safe haven that let us have a place to go to just keep hanging out with coworkers, and have an opportunity to learn new things," he said.
"It was an attempt to put a happy coat of paint on the situation we were in," he added when asked how he decided on the studio's name. "If we pretended we all got sent to summer camp, as a place to have fun and make friends and make games, it wasn't so bad."
Rick Luddy and his team at Red For Games are currently working on "Project Dangerzone," the working title of a top-down shooter with emphasis on in-game industry and manufacturing, supply chains and a persistant world that keeps going while you are offline. The game is currently in pre-alpha, though Luddy hopes to have it in alpha by summer.
"The idea is to make it so you're building a gold rush town," he said. "The goal is to keep it alive long enough to get good stuff, and then it gets destroyed."
Daniel Mandel and Ben Cichoski, who met during their college years at Tufts and in later years found work at 38 Studios, have moved into working on card games at their new company Super Awesome Games. They are currently working with Cryptozoic on a few trading card games, including The Hobbit: The Middle-earth Expandable Card Game, based on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings films and slated to release later this year.
Siegel, the former quest and events lead, is working with his studio Dancing Sorcerer Games on Road of Kings, a fantasy RPG for mobile devices. Players guide a barbarian on a quest for territorial supremacy, amassing wealth and collecting a horde of followers to lead into battle.
Perez, now with new studio King Bee Digital, is exectuive producer for a game in development with the U.S. Air Force and the New England Institute of Technology. He has already worked on a number of small games including atmospheric horror adventure Lucidity, the Ghoulish Golf mobile game and upcoming horror game The Veil, due out this year.
Mirabello is currently developing Tower of Guns, classic first-person shooter with roguelike elements and twitch-based gameplay that he describes as "FTL meets Doom." The game is currently up for consideration on Steam Greenlight.
"Just make a game," Siegel said in response to a question on how to get a job as a developer. "If you can make Tic Tac Toe, you can make Tetris. Just do it."