Crimson Skies revival planned

Q&A: Smith & Tinker founder and FASA IP creator Jordan Weisman discusses his new kid-friendly game Nanovor, future of famed tabletop RPG licenses.

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Earlier this month, FASA Corp. founder Jordan Weisman reemerged with news that his latest company Smith & Tinker had joined with Piranha Games on a new installment in the venerable MechWarrior franchise. The announcement was made possible through a deal Weisman made with Microsoft in 2007, in which the notable game designer licensed the rights to make games based on FASA's lauded IP, which also includes Crimson Skies and Shadowrun, through 2015.

MechWarrior isn't the only FASA IP Smith & Tinker hopes to revive.
MechWarrior isn't the only FASA IP Smith & Tinker hopes to revive.

And if Weisman has it his way, MechWarrior isn't the only FASA IP that will see a revival in the near future. Speaking to GameSpot, Weisman confirmed that a new installment in the Crimson Skies franchise may be not far off. Originally conceived at FASA Corp. as a tabletop role-playing game, Crimson Skies first saw release on the PC in 2000, before migrating to the original Xbox in 2003, where it received exemplary critical approbation.

"I wanted to start with MechWarrior because it really struck me as the one that had the largest existing fan base and it had been the longest since a MechWarrior title was done right," he said. "Most of my time is invested in [Smith & Tinker], but in the wee hours of the night, I spend time thinking about the older properties. I think Crimson Skies is something we'd love to get some energy around, and we have some devious plans...we'll see if those materialize."

Nanovor has a range of freaky critters.
Nanovor has a range of freaky critters.

The same can not be said for Shadowrun, however. "Shadowrun was recently...not treated well...shall we say. So the thought was let a little time pass before approaching that one again," Weisman noted. Shortly before Microsoft pulled the plug on Weisman's FASA Studios in 2007, the techno-punk franchise with origins in the pen-and-paper RPG genre was reimagined as a first-person shooter for the Xbox 360 and PC, receiving mostly lackluster reviews in the process.

As with MechWarrior, Weisman doesn't plan to have Smith & Tinker do the heavy lifting when it comes to bringing additional FASA IP to market. Instead, the noted designer plans to serve as a creative consultant on the games, leaving the day-to-day duties of developing and publishing the titles to Smith & Tinker's partners.

"The older properties--MechWarrior, Crimson Skies, Shadowrun, those kinds of things--are kind of grandfathered in," he said. "They're not really what we're all about, and we won't be developing and publishing those ourselves as a result. We'll be, like we are now, talking to other publishers and finding good homes for those. But they're not what Smith & Tinker at its core is about."

The strategy lies in building the most complementary Nanosquad.
The strategy lies in building the most complementary Nanosquad.

So what is Smith & Tinker about, then? Having briefly surfaced in December 2007, the company has since been keeping a low profile as it launches its first wholly owned property, Nanovor. Aimed squarely at the 7-to-12-year-old demographic, Nanovor is a free-to-play, microtransaction-supported online game that went live this weekend.

A strategy-oriented collectible card game at heart, Nanovor sees players collecting the titular microscopic monsters in an effort to build a fighting force with which they can battle up to three other competitors. More than 100 Nanovor in various states of evolution are available, with gamers able to supplement their squads by purchasing booster packs using in-game currency called Nanocash.

Beyond the online game, Smith & Tinker felt it was important to also have a tangible element in the form of a handheld device. The device in question, called the Nanoscope, is expected to launch at retailers such as Toys "R" Us and Best Buy this October for $49.99.

Up to four Nanoscopes can synch up at once.
Up to four Nanoscopes can synch up at once.

"The organizing principle of the company is looking at how younger and younger kids' lives have become bifurcated," commented Weisman. "They have this attraction to online, which has ever-fresh content, wide social circle, any asset you have you can enhance inside of the games. Plastic just doesn't do that stuff. Yet, there's still nothing more interesting to them than another 10 year old in the same room."

Players can synch up the Nanoscope with their online account, letting them bring their roster of creatures offline to compete in single-player minigame challenges. The device also incorporates the battling component of the online game, letting up to four friends attach their devices for offline competitions.

More information on Nanovor is available through Smith & Tinker's official Web site for the game.

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