Nakamoto's Bootprint Digs In

A handful of top Origin-ites, led by Rod Nakamoto, have started Bootprint Entertainment. Nakamoto tells us all about the new shop.

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AUSTIN, TEXAS - Rod Nakamoto recently left Origin Systems to found a wholly owned development studio for GT Interactive. It's called Bootprint Entertainment and should make its mark on the industry in the coming years. GameSpot News caught up with Rod and Frank Roan, Bootprint's director of product development, to see what this newest group of ex-Origin designers had in mind for the gaming industry.

Nakamoto is the head of the studio and most recently ran the Wing Commander team for Origin after Chris Roberts' departure. Before that, he was at Sega for a few years, his biggest game there being Eternal Champions. Nakamoto also invented the Mockingboard, which was the Apple II's first sound card.

Roan worked at Origin on Wing Commanders 3, 4, and 5. As the leaders of Bootprint, they are setting the atmosphere and personality for the studio. Like GT's other wholly owned studio, CaveDog, Bootprint is being given free reign to develop the games it wants. Nakamoto says he and his teams want to create products that are not only competitive in terms of graphics, but also in terms of AI and gameplay. But, Roan says, "the main thrust of our games is going to be multiplayer, we'll still have single-player ."

But the near future for Bootprint is all about multiplayer games. Not so much persistent worlds, like Ultima Online, but persistent gaming environments like battle.net. Roan hopes to create games that will grow an online community. He also says he wants to engage the online community in discussion, especially with Bootprint's plan files. But, he vows, "we want our plan files to be constructive."

Aside from the multiplayer angle, Bootprint also wants to inject its games with the cool little details that make you want to grab your friend and share the gaming experience. It's what Roan calls the "holy shit factor," and he says Bootprint is committed to that level of design and attention to detail.

Bootprint also sees a future in hybrid games. Nakamoto says that they will create hybrids, "with an emphasis on action and a combination of strategy and RPGs. They make for unique products."

Bootprint is starting out with a technology team, which will soon start work on the engine for its first two games, and two product teams. One team is working on an action/RPG, while the other is working on an action game that could have strategy elements. Or it might not.

"It could change," says Roan. What Roan will say unequivocally is, "There is no way we will be doing a space flight sim in the next two years." Nakamoto agrees, "Our crew has a lot more to show off than doing a space flight project."

Right now, the plan is to release the first game in the year 2000 and then follow up with the second title six months later. They aren't being rushed by GT. Says Nakamoto, "We make the call. We tell them when we will be done. They expect us to adhere to the schedule, but we have great freedom."

Roan says that one thing new companies aren't focusing on is R&D. Bootprint is mindful of that, and part of the technology group's job will be to look into new technologies, such as voice technology. Roan was quick to say that doesn't mean their games will support voice, but they will research it and see where it leads the studio.

Bootprint is now composed of 16 people, not all of them from Origin. Nakamoto expects the number to grow to 35 by next year. As for how they arrived at the name Bootprint for their new studio, Nakamoto credits Roan. "I'm an outdoors guy," says Roan. "Bootprint is the hiking motif. Leave nothing behind but your bootprint and take nothing but your equipment. It means we are making new tracks, making up new journeys. We didn't want to be a cliché. We're trying to leave our mark on the industry."

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