Formerly Vice President of Worldwide Studios at EA, Patrick Söderlund was a high-ranking employee at one of gaming’s biggest and most controversial companies. However, he’s since moved on to found his new studio, Embark.
Based in Old Town in Stockholm, Embark has brought on over 50 people. According to a recent blog post from Söderlund himself, they’ve already started development on their first game:
“In the first few weeks, the six of us who founded the studio huddled together in a tiny room we had managed to borrow, and worked on the stuff that any new company has to deal with: hiring people, finding an office, setting up a basic website, and getting our paperwork in order.
But in a shorter time than I would have expected, the early team here settled around an idea for our first proper game — an idea that we were immediately excited about, that resonates with our mission, and that we have now begun prototyping.”
He reveals little about this new game. All we know is that it’s a free-to-play co-op action game “set in a distant future”. Also, the team is working within Epic’s Unreal Engine, though with some of Embark’s custom tech. While there isn’t any gameplay to show, there is a visually striking tech demo that I insist you watch to see how powerful Unreal Engine can be:
The voiceover mentions that just three people made this 256 square kilometer terrain in only three weeks. Also, it has built-in support for dynamic weather and lighting.
Söderlund’s goal with Embark is to showcase that smaller studios can make games just as impressive as AAA studios. That said, despite many employees coming from larger studios, this smaller one will run a little differently. No matter how imposing your engine may be, you still have a small group of people vs. the hundreds that Söderlund once had.
“We think it’s too hard for people that aren’t professional game developers to create games,” says the former head of EA. “We want to blur the line between playing and making, with games and tools that empower anyone to create.”
While this is an admirable vision, we’re unsure just how their first title will empower smaller game developers. However, if things go as planned, we’ll learn sooner rather than later. The post claims that Embark is “focused on getting something out there quite fast that we can build upon.”
Reading between the lines, this appears to be a Games-as-a-Service title that will evolve with player feedback. With Söderlund’s background at EA, I’m not sure how to feel about a free-to-play title from him. That said, he left to start an indie studio for a reason. Maybe he wanted to take his experience somewhere new. A place where the games are designed to be games and not based purely on profit.