Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Heatwave Interactive Update

It's been awhile since we've heard a peep out of old friends Anthony "SunSword" Castoro and Tim "Mr. Tact" Keating over at Heatwave Interactive, but recently there's been some positive - looking developments out of Austin.

SunSword has posted again on his blog, with news about what the heck Heatwave has been up to since its formation in early 2007, and where they are headed now.

According to him, they've spent the last year "successfully bootstrapping ourselves consulting for an undisclosed three-letter-media company on the East Coast and several other gaming entities". Does that mean that CNN called them up whenever they did a human interest story on MMOs? We'll never know.

Since last fall, though, according to SunSword, they've been raising "a serious round of capital". That's an impressive feat in this economy. Now, the company is looking for a headquarters and is hiring for a number of positions. Other than the aforementioned Mr. Tact, it appears that another former UO team member, tOAD, is also there.

What interests me about all of this? I'm sure there are plenty of ambitious gaming start-ups in the Austin area, right? So what is so fascinating about Heatwave?

At the forefront is SunSword himself. Having met the man face to face twice back in his Ultima Online days, and knowing what he was trying to achieve with the game, I have great confidence that, being unfettered from other people's corporate baggage, he is capable of great things. And I want to see what he comes up with once he gets that chance.

His mission statement, or whatever he calls it (from his Linkedin profile), says it best:

I co-founded Heatwave Interactive on the premise that interactive entertainment is more than a way for young men to combat boredom; games are an important medium that can challenge individuals on multiple levels and tell stories that matter. Stories about ourselves, and stories about people we may otherwise never have the opportunity to understand.
I believe that by providing an environment that fosters not only creativity, but also respect for the individual and the highest of expectations, we can create powerful experiences, and be an example for the rest of the industry.

It almost seems like he has a personal grudge against the established game development power structure, which I share. This era of gaming - where games take huge teams of people and truckloads of money to make - has fostered tighter corporate control of the whole process, which leads to less risk-taking by game companies, and thus less variety in the types of games being offered. And having less variety in the era where we have the greatest game technology available is truly an ironic paradox that I never saw coming back in the 1980s when I first looked ahead.

I hope Mr. Castoro and his team can shake all that up a little, and in the process deliver the types of interactive experiences that I've been hoping for in these times. I think it's a safe bet that they won't turn out a World of Warcraft clone, a Call of Duty clone, or a Mass Effect clone.

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