Devlog #1: And So It Begins

Crimson Herring

Welcome and thanks for joining us on this journey. If you’re here then you already know that we’re developing Sovereign Syndicate, a Victorian steampunk cRPG, and this is our devlog. We plan to be pretty transparent about the process, giving you an inside look into the game’s development, finances, marketing, and all the rest. But first, I’d like to take some time to tell you about myself, and how I got here.

My name is Isaac Otway. I’m the founder of Crimson Herring Studios, and lead game designer and project manager for Sovereign Syndicate. I’m a married father of two in my mid-thirties, living in Edmonton Alberta Canada. I don’t have any of the traditional hard-skills in game development, or really any experience in the industry. I’m not a programmer or artist or anything like that; but I’ve always had a passion for the games and a desire to start my own business.

So in April 2020, in the middle of a global lockdown brought on by COVID-19, I decided to take the leap and get started.

At the time I’d been playing a lot of cRPG’s, the Shadowrun Trilogy by HareBrained Schemes (HBS) being one of my favourites; but also Disco Elysium and some of the older classics like Baldurs Gate and Arcanum of Steamworks and Magick Obscura. I enjoy writing and tend to prefer story driven games and RPG’s in general. And I have a soft spot for the isometric cRPG genre that became popular during my teen years and has had a renaissance of late, so that seemed as good a place to start as any. 

I’ve loved Shadowrun ever since I played the SNES version as a kid back in the early 90’s and was disappointed that there wasn’t more content for it after Shadowrun Hong Kong. So originally, I’d thought I would just make some user generated content for it using their Steam Workshop and the editor that comes with the games. But because of Shadowrun’s licensing issues I realized that there wasn’t a way to make any money doing that; and while it would be a fun passion project I thought my time and money was probably better spent on my own project where I’d have at least some chance of recouping my costs.

But I still really liked the Shadowrun IP and thought there was a market for more games so I reached out to HareBrained Schemes and their parent studio Paradox Interactive to see if I could license their engine and the IP. Mitch Gitelman from HBS was good enough to get back to me right away, but basically told me that they had licensed the IP from Microsoft and that an unknown developer likely wouldn’t have a good chance of securing the IP license. Also, that Paradox doesn’t license any of its code or tools. So, I was basically out of luck on that one. Hard feedback to hear but looking back I appreciate the reality check.

Not being one to give up so easily I did some research on what it would take to start my own studio and develop my own IP. I mean, how hard could it be right? Lol.