They know it sounds crazy, but it might just be crazy enough to work. League of Geeks is an independent game development collective from Australia. The core team consists of five directors who each bring a different skillset to the team. They've attracted talent from all around the country to design, animate, create, and compose with them. Their business plan took six months to build, they worked with Melbourne's top lawyers to draft their contracts, and now they're pouring everything into the studio's debut game - Armello.
They know it sounds crazy, but it might just be crazy enough to work.
League of Geeks is an independent game development collective from Australia. The core team consists of five directors who each bring a different skillset to the team. They've attracted talent from all around the country to design, animate, create, and compose with them. Their business plan took six months to build, they worked with Melbourne's top lawyers to draft their contracts, and now they're pouring everything into the studio's debut game – Armello.
The studio is yet to have made a cent, but they've had no trouble courting some of Australia's best talent. Everyone involved – the founding directors included – are working for a share of profits in lieu of upfront payments. There's no guarantee that their game – now almost a year into development – will make them rich. There's no guarantee that it will even recoup the lawyer's fees. But so confident are they in Armello that they are more than willing to take the risk.
"We wanted to make a great game, the kind we could put in front of our heroes and still be proud of it"
"We wanted to make a great game, the kind we could put in front of our heroes and still be proud of it," Trent Kusters, one of the directors of League of Geeks, told Polygon. "For us, that wasn't going to be a little, single mechanic, 99 cent app. Almost all of us are avid storytellers, and so we began to build a universe for our game so soon that I can't even remember which came first.
"We knew we wanted to do something bigger – not stupidly epic – but certainly far more ambitious than sanity should permit with five people and $48 in the company account."
That ambitious game is Armello, a 3D digital multiplayer card and board game for tablets set in a fairytale animal kingdom. Four animal clans race to take the crown from a corrupt and insane king. Filled with gorgeous, stylistic art, animal characters with strong personalities, a bold story about corruption and heroism, and game design that merges the strengths of board games, card games, and video games, this is the game the League of Geeks have always wanted to make, and this is the game they're now making.
But before the team even decided which animals to include in the kingdom or how the game would look, they knew that they couldn't simply dive into development and cross their fingers in hope that it would work. They wanted to build a business – a foundation that was strong enough to support the kind of game they were making. The first and most unusual step the five directors took was to set up a watertight business plan to ensure that they had the right legal and organizational structure to bring on contractors, to pay everyone fairly, and to anticipate growth and expansion. The five developers all have a wealth of experience between them, both as in-house developers and as freelancers, so they wanted to make sure that their business model meant they wouldn't get screwed over and, more importantly, League of Geeks wasn't going to screw anyone over.
"We wanted to do something really ambitious without taking on conventional investment and restricting our freedom," says League of Geeks director, Blake Mizzi. "It was critical to get the set-up watertight so developers would have confidence in it and it wouldn't fall apart if there were any disputes or someone left."
Once the business model was set up they created a fully playable prototype and now, after twelve months of working on the game in what time their day jobs permit, League of Geeks is ready to announce Armello to the world.
"Anyone who enjoys Magic: The Gathering and Settlers of Catan will definitely be interested and impressed by what Armello has to offer," Kusters says. "We're quite a different game though. We spent over eight months prototyping and designing Armello from the ground up for digital platforms. We did a lot to really ensure Armello takes advantage of today's technology and provides an experience that ports simply never will.
"And yes, every card or board game goes up against those giants (no matter what platform), but we're under no delusions of grandeur," he says. "They've been around for almost 20 years and are truly phenomenal games. It would be an honor to simply stand alongside them."