Former Call of Duty, Tomb Raider devs jumping AAA ship to make their own next-gen title

"Most experienced and motivated developers in the industry are jumping the AAA ship and swimming to indie life rafts."

The recently formed studio Tangentlemen has a new game to announce and a lot of big-name talent behind it:

  • Richard Smith (art director) was a former Infinity Ward senior artist and he contributed to the art of Respawn's Titanfall
  • Cory Davis (lead designer) was the key creative force behind Spec Ops: The Line
  • Toby Gard (game director) helped launch the original Tomb Raider and create Lara Croft back in 1995
  • Five additional team members come straight from working on Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z with Davis and Gard

Davis describes their new venture as "an esoteric alliance of ancient game development aristocrats," and he's hoping to harness this industry know-how to create AAA-quality games within the scope of a 15-person team. Their first game has the working title Daedalus, "an existential horror trip into a surreal, half-forgotten dream."

For Davis, the opportunity to continue working with a few of the most talented members of Yaiba developer Spark was a seminal factor for going indie. However, he also recognizes mainstream gaming's inevitable shift to smaller-scale operations and knows now is the perfect time to make the move. "From my perspective, many of the most experienced and motivated developers in the industry are jumping the AAA ship and swimming to indie life rafts," Davis said. "There are tons of great recent examples of talented, creative people leaving larger teams and having success on their own–such as Supergiant Games' Bastion or Fullbright Company's Gone Home.

"I was finding the structure of making big games to be too rigid and restrictive," Smith admitted. "There seems to be a problem with chasing after photorealism--it makes everything else about the game very myopic. By moving into an illustrative space, the look of the game can become a voice in its overall intent, rather than a limitation to that intent. It's indie games that understand this, and because of that, it's indie games that are really progressing the art form of game making."

"We're looking to stay small, but our games won't look or feel limited," he explained. "That's the opportunity we have when we control the vision, scope, and overall production of the game. We expect to stay nimble, sleek, creative, and experience-driven. We want our games to feel hand-crafted, and our vision to be strong and auteur."

The group is currently working out of producer John Shelton-Garcia's garage, which is a dizzying departure from the AAA environments many of the creators have grown used to. "It's an awesome experience to be in our own new space, even if that space has heating, electricity, and claustrophobia issues," Davis explained. "It's a reminder that we're not only free to make great games, but that it's our responsibility at this point. Every aspect of the game will be hand-crafted, just like a piece of furniture, in our development garage."

"It's an awesome experience to be in our own new space--even if that space has heating, electricity, and claustrophobia issues,"

The move to a smaller, more malleable outfit was a nagging desire for Davis and the rest of the bunch after spending years restrained by big-budget operations. Richard Smith, Tangentlemen's art director and the former senior artist at Infinity Ward, sees the indie space as an ideal landscape to stretch his creative legs.

"I think most of the creative people in the industry have great ideas that they truly want to come to fruition one day, ideas that are not possible to develop in a AAA environment. Those ideas are typically the ones that push the industry forward, and prove what can be accomplished when that creativity is not stifled by group or marketing think."

Funding, like the game's name, is up in the air. The developers are exploring both a publishing deal and crowdfunding as potential sources of cash flow, and see the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One as viable platforms for release down the road. "We're looking for publishers who would be interested in smaller, more daring projects, but I'm personally really interested in seeing if we can Kickstart our first game," Gard confessed. "Being able to engage directly with game players right from the start of development sounds like an incredibly liberating way to do things."

"There are a number of programs that allow independent developers to self-publish their games on next-gen platforms, and that has potential to be very exciting," Davis added. "Tearing down the fences that kept smaller-budget, but high quality games off of those platforms is a positive thing for the entire industry. "Sony is looking toward joint ventures with indies who can fund their own development, while Microsoft is just making it easier on self-funded devs by taking down the cost and other barriers to publish on their platform. The street cred for these platforms now lies as much in the hands of indies as it does in AAA developers."

Davis expects the full reveal of Daedalus to happen in the coming weeks, including the first screenshots and information on the game's mechanics. For now, he's just happy to be a part of a project he feels he was born to make. "Starting a video game company has been a dream of mine since I was a kid, but this opportunity is more than that," Davis said. "Tangentlemen is a studio made up of the developers that I respect the most in the entire industry.

"I feel extremely lucky to have had the chance to join up with individuals that are at least as passionate, knowledgeable, and experienced as I am to create the games that we all were born to create, in an environment where we have the freedom to do something truly unique, potent, and if we so desire, even risky."

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Josiah Renaudin

Freelance writer for GameSpot, IGN, VG247, VideoGamer, and more. Web content producer at Software Quality Engineering. H
Spec Ops: The Line

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200 comments
RCT4ShouldExist
RCT4ShouldExist

It's gonna be a good time to be a gamer. Hopefully the power of EA will start to taper when all the talent isn't in their pocket.

finalkain
finalkain

I just want Square and Enix to be 2 different companies again... Back in the good ol days

dagamerdc
dagamerdc

Is that what happen to Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z?  How did you guys end up making such a piece of crap? Did the publisher force you guys to make it so bad?  I hope you guy find a publisher that is willing to pay you to create the game you want.

aphextwin777
aphextwin777

I think many game developers are tired of being bullied to rush out games to make a quick profit and having their ideas hindered by corporate board of directors. I think this is a positive move over all for fresh new ideas instead of churning out a rehashed game every year (COD, FIFA, WoW etc).

milan4554
milan4554

as long as its not activation or EA to publish their game then I'm happy.

daviz88
daviz88

DEADELUS? hmm .....as long as its not FPS, I'm in for a new next gen game

Trickymaster
Trickymaster

I totally get why. The push for AAA titles and photorealistic graphics comes at the price of sacrificing creativity and abstraction. I can completely understand why some developers would feel drained out and they just want to do something else. People forget. They are artists after all.


If you break free and try something new, things like The Last of Us, Bioshock and Titanfall happen.

yawjr
yawjr

I personally don't think there's anything wrong with going after photorealism. With better shaders being coded, photorealism may happen. A lot of games have made great strides in that direction. I think as long as there is variety the video game industry will thrive and move forward. I'm glad for both AAA and Indie games and respect these tangentlemen ;) Sometimes developers need to branch out in order to be able to explore their creativity and I can tell by their happy expressions in the photo that they are inspired and will make something we'll remember.

GamerLegend10
GamerLegend10

Anyway went on a bit of a rant there but "an existential horror trip into a surreal, half-forgotten dream." sounds very interesting to me, and it seems like a solid team, definitely keen know more and see those screenshots. Good luck to Tangentlemen, hope they make something special.

GamerLegend10
GamerLegend10

Ugh yet another meaningless division fuelling more arguments; a bunch of people claiming AAA games are the devil, another bunch claiming indie games are just for hipsters. Stop labelling everything, to the devs it makes a difference for their job but to us they're all just games ffs, some are good and some are bad, that goes for AAA and indie. Claiming one or the other is destroying the industry is just ridiculous.


We have enough rivalry already what with pc gamers debating over which graphics cards are superior as if someone playing a game on your pc could actually tell the difference between an AMD and NVIDIA card without checking. Then there's console gamers who are usually busy fighting over which box is better, from the components down to which is prettier, like that matters. Then when it gets to the games it's every MMO vs WoW, BF vs COD, or in this case Indie vs AAA -_- who the f*** cares? Stop arguing over everything and just play dammit!!

carolino
carolino

they look casual but nerdy ..i like it


Gl metal hairies

Hurvl
Hurvl

With that feathered photo featured on the main news page, I hope they'll become a beak-on of light in the gaming industry.

Tbalestrini
Tbalestrini

This should really benefit gamers as a whole. Non of the red tape that is a product of the big name companies

nyran125tk
nyran125tk

sweet i have heaps of respect for the original Tomb raiders. They are so epic, i bought the whole collection on STEAM, loving it.

geniobastardo
geniobastardo

Now this is some great news! All of them are creative people with good experiences. Can't wait to see what they have in store for us. 

jemoedr
jemoedr

Awesome, i wonder what they will create :)

Gamer_4_Fun
Gamer_4_Fun

I love indie games, but I tend to play and enjoy big budget games the most like GTA, Last of Us.

StokeMeAClipper
StokeMeAClipper

The picture they have reminds me of the kind of box art you saw on Amiga games.

lilflipp
lilflipp

This is why you can't stop gaming industry. No matter how big the business and company is. Devs and creative people will always be holding all the cards. And with the power of the internet, it's easy for those devs to fund their projects, because we will back them up.

ank000
ank000

If more and more people create their own independent development team, I am sure future of gaming can be pretty good. We might even get some new genre of games..

nightsinner
nightsinner

This is yet more proof that the AAA game developers have just smothered themselves with huge budgets and perpetual sequels that are strangling the industry. Most of them are one bad game away from closing down and that's not a sign of a heathy industry. Without risk there is no chance at innovation. Good luck guys! I look forward to the great games you develop.

Gallowhand
Gallowhand

I'm going to say good luck to them on their endeavours, because I like variety in my gaming, and there have been some great titles developed by independent studios over the years.

BlackBaldwin
BlackBaldwin

If this turns out to be another crap platformer game then don't expect my money or anyone who has taste and a brain..

jsk32273
jsk32273

Why all the big words? Auteur? Myopic? Really? Give me a break.

nhwilber
nhwilber

This is exactly what needs to happen if we're going to get any creativity and originality on the console market at this point. Otherwise it's going to be big budget cookie cutter clones, and low budget cookie cutter clones.

Barighm
Barighm

It's stuff like this that makes me hesitate to buy a PS4. Sure, it's the next gen, but it looks like all the talent is jumping ship and all that's left is the crappy microtransaction driven games (both consoles are guilty of this fyi). I sure hope Steam isn't the only way to get a hold of these games. Can you buy them from the dev's website?

dark_jedi79
dark_jedi79

I have to say, the best thing about Titanfall is the art direction. I think that's why i was so bummed there wasn't a story mode, it seemed like there could have been a great story had someone put the effort into it. I realize I'm in the minority of people who just play COD for single-player, but still. It's going to be nice to see what will come of this collaboration. The Story in Spec-ops was great. I'll be picking this up day one.

ohjtbehaaave
ohjtbehaaave

Sounds like a solid group of talented people. Spec Ops: The Line is a very underrated game.  Definitely interested to see what they have up their sleeves.

itsuhsjan
itsuhsjan

I'm always glad to see things like this. Damn the man, save the indie developer!

noirtenshin
noirtenshin

When art becomes an industry it looses its beauty and charm

When an artist looses his freedom (to create), he becomes a slave


I see few people that are sick of being slaves and want to create something without the industry limitations.

That may be only temporarily, but still, its an urge, worthy of respect.
I hope they will be able to satisfy their urge and deliver something new, something, that the AAA will be begging to have.


donutking7
donutking7

I'm just into the poster, that thing looks awesome *.*

lolloololoo
lolloololoo

@Trickymaster

"If you break free and try something new, things like The Last of Us, Bioshock and Titanfall happen."

 

Incidentally, all three of those are AAA titles with photorealistic graphics. Not that there's anything wrong with that. :p

Hurvl
Hurvl

@geniobastardo "an existential horror trip into a surreal, half-forgotten dream" While that may sound quite pretentious and vague, my most memorable and interesting dreams are surreal horror trips, so I like that concept. Watching too much TV, film and video games has its benefits, hehe.

Hurvl
Hurvl

@ank000 I can't wait to see all sub-genres of what people call "not a game"-games.

lilflipp
lilflipp

@BlackBaldwin Anyone that enjoys platformers has no taste and is an idiot. Well I feel stupid for enjoying marios, Limbo, super meat boy now, braid. You're right. I hope we get another intellectually challenging FPS shooter.

Speaking for everyone and setting your preferences has the standard for "taste" and "intelligence". Get your head out of your ass. Beurk what a douchebag you are.

lilflipp
lilflipp

@jsk32273 Lol, you gotta be trollin. If you're not, I suggested you start your own reality tv show.

schosmosis
schosmosis

@jsk32273 Awwww, did someone have to expand their vocabulary today?  Poor you.

GSGuy321
GSGuy321

I'm conflicted between getting Spec Ops and Blacklist.. which one should I get ?

Spec Ops is going for 29.99 and Blacklist 39.99 (on Steam)

BlackBaldwin
BlackBaldwin

@lilflipp.

Yes playing rehashed games that's been done since the birth of gaming is so cutting edge we all should keep playing the same old crap that's been around for thirty years. I'm sorry I want something new that's fresh it should be a crime right. Whatever dude go back to playing floppy bird and farmville.

BlackBaldwin
BlackBaldwin

@peddes i could rebuttal your statement but I make a point not to lower my I.Q down to anyone who uses "dumbest" in a statement.

peddes
peddes

@BlackBaldwin  Damn, you truly get the prize for the dumbest, less insightful comment of the day. Go back under your bridge and wait for the next Call of Duty.