You'd be forgiven for not knowing Paradox, a Swedish studio dedicated to catering for hardcore historical strategy gamers. Releasing your game engine for free, and giving a distribution and royalty-sharing deal to anyone, however, is bound to get you noticed - and noticed they were, says CEO Thedore Bergquist...
Releasing your engine is quite an unprecedented move - why did you decide to do this, and how did the idea come up?
It's something that we've been mulling over for quite a long time. I don't know if you know the type of games we're doing, and the massive community that we have, but our community has from the start been helping us with mods and beta testing and a lot of help for us to put out games. So we've been thinking about what we can do for them, this huge community that loves our games, and basically that's where everything started. We thought, "We've got this engine, we've got all this source code, our community is so active doing mods and add-ons that maybe we should give it to them and see if they can make a few bucks from it." It's been going around in our heads for quite a while.
How has the uptake been?
Massive. We had to close down applications after ten minutes, I think we had about 1,000 within those ten or 15 minutes. We've had to close it down so that we can get through everything, but we hope that we can gear it up again in a few weeks. But yeah, it's been a massive amount of applications.
More than you expected?
Oh, absolutely - we were thinking maybe ten or 15 or 20, but this is huge. I never thought that such a huge amount of applications would come in. It's overwhelming for us, really. We think we're the first out there to do this, and we're thrilled to have such a response.
Looking at the community, it's surprisingly big given that you're not making massive blockbuster games. In fact, I bet there's triple-A games that don't have such big communities...
Yeah, because they're so hardcore. This is the only thing they do, they're strategy nerds, all of them. They like history games, they like the old armchair generals stuff. They're extremely active, and many of them have been with us for years, you know. So it's really nice for us to be able to give something back to them.
The sign-up page mentions a few criteria, and there's an application process - what are you looking for?
Basically it's minimum criteria in terms of, you know, no racist material in the games, they must be complete and not buggy - it's more that kind of restriction rather than 'Oh, you can only do this kind of game' or whatever. It's more a legal thing.
Obviously, a big part of this is that these creators can then release their games on GamersGate and monetise them - is that the only thing you're looking for, or would you be happy to them to make free games?
Well, for us, it doesn't really matter if they want to get paid for their work or not. If three guys want to work for six months on something and put it up for free, we're okay with that, as long as it's a 'game', you know - so long as it isn't really buggy or won't run on the minimum system requirements - but whether it's a full game or an add-on or whatever, they can charge a dollar or they can charge nothing if they want to.
Are you aiming to grow GamersGate through this?
That's not part of the plan for GamersGate - we have our hands full with other stuff, so it's not a strategy of doing that, it's more about being a platform to help indie developers to get out there. We don't think it will be a huge commercial success, even though we think there'll be some dollars in it for the developers. But really it's a publishing tool for them to get out there, and it doesn't really cost us anything to help them with it.
Have you had to do much work to get the engine to 'public release quality'?
Well, we've been working with the engine for such a long time that most of the things are documented or in the code already, so we haven't done any extra work to put it out there. Basically what we give them is the source code and everything in the databases. It's free for everyone to use and, obviously, we won't support them in terms of the engine itself, but many of the guys who we think will be doing this have been beta testers; they're familiar with the code.
What do people get in the engine package?
They get everything that we have been using for years to develop our games - so it's source code, tools, everything we have owned or developed. Obviously there are some third party licenses that you'd need - you might want Maya or something, and we don't provide that - but code-wise we give you everything you need to get a game out there.
Are you looking for serious, project-minded people only or is there scope for people to tinker around with the engine?
Well, we don't own their time, and we don't put any demands on them. They can do what they want, if they want to spend hours just fooling around with the code then we're fine with that, but if they want to be deadly serious and do a big game then we're happy with that too.
Obviously, for the community it would be nice if the community itself could generate nice products back to the community, that'd be a nice thing, because then our own community is developing its own games and I think that's really nice if we could end up there.
Are there any NDA's involved with signing up to the scheme?
There are a few areas, yeah, but seeing as we're giving away the code... the only thing you can't do is take the engine, develop a product and put it up on Steam. If you want to get it published, the only way for now is through GamersGate. We don't know about the future, but right now that's the only way.
Do you worry that this might be creating competition for yourself? If the community's making the games it wants to make it might be able to serve itself better!
That's a tricky one! Again, competition for us is tricky because these are our fans, this is our community, and we think we can always do games from our end that they will like, and if they're better than us at doing it then, hey, fine, we've got a chance to sell it. At the end of the day we want to provide our community with good games, and whether we're doing them or the community is doing them doesn't really matter as long as we have the rights to sell them.