Trio of game vets launch new studio

Trilogy Studios formed by Mark Skaggs, Michael Pole, and Rick Giolito; new shop taps indie funding, Unreal tech for next-gen platforms. Exclusive concept art inside.

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Three well-known industry veterans today pulled back the covers on their new development studio. Based in Santa Monica, California, the new shop, Trilogy Studios, was founded earlier this summer by former Electronic Arts Los Angeles executives Rick Giolito and Mark Skaggs and former Vivendi Universal executive vice president Michael Pole.

Each of the founders has a string of known and successful games to his credit. Giolito played a key role in building out the Medal of Honor franchise at EA's Los Angeles studio, while Skaggs was part of the core team behind the Command & Conquer franchise first created at Westwood Studios, both before and after that operation was acquired by Electronic Arts. He then went on to lead the award-winning The Lord of the Rings, The Battle for Middle-earth team at EALA.

Most recently, Pole managed VUG's worldwide development efforts across its various worldwide studios and regions. He was responsible for all internal and external development, content, and developer relations. Pole also has a stint at Electronic Arts in his background where, for a seven-year stretch, he was senior vice president of product development.

Among other games or franchises worked on by the founders are NASCAR Racing, Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay, Empire Earth 2, The Hulk, The Simpsons: Road Rage, The Simpsons: Hit and Run, Aliens vs. Predator II, No One Lives Forever, and Knockout Kings.

As far as how the responsibilities will be split, Giolito will serve as president, heading up production; Skaggs will focus on development as COO and director of development; and Pole will oversee the business and financial aspects as CEO.

While the company is holding its cards closely, preferring not to reveal much about its inaugural game in development, Skaggs said it qualifies as a "first-person shooter/RPG combo" but wants to reserve the right to modify that description farther along in the game's development.

The screens shown here are concept art from the studio's work in progress and have not been released previously.

Regardless of the final phrasing, the team aspires to "transform the genre" in ways the D-Day landing was viewed to have transformed first-person shooters in Medal of Honor: Allied Assault.

"Our goal is to create an episodic experience that is totally unexpected," said Giolito. "And not only are we evolving genres, but we are looking beyond current distribution systems as well. We fully intend to support downloadable content."

The team has a number of strengths to draw upon. Giolito brings a sense of entertainment value to games, while Pole brings contacts, business acumen, and an understanding of how to work with the investment community.

Skaggs will focus on development methodologies--the fundamentals of game building. "We care about what we are doing, how we do it, and what is good for the team," he said. "We've learned a lot from the past, and my focus is to build a great team and a AAA development process based on the cornerstones of creativity and product quality."

The company's organizational credo is to build a core staff of experienced and talented game developers that can be augmented at the right time of the development cycle with external resources. In addition to the three principles, two other significant hires on the Trilogy rolls include Brady Bell, the executive producer on Trilogy's first project and formerly with the Medal of Honor team, and John Ahlquist, formerly the lead engineer on Command & Conquer: Generals.

According to Skaggs, the team will develop games for both next-gen and PC systems, and it will tap the Unreal technology for game development.

The financing model behind the company is also a bit of a hybrid. Initially, Trilogy will be funded through independent financing--neither publisher-backed nor VC-backed. Pole sees numerous alternatives, some being floated by those familiar with film financing and others with even less pedigree.

According to Pole, "We are 100 percent focused on next-generation property creation. Our core team is building ideas and prototypes now, and we are establishing partnerships and generating the necessary resources to produce the highest-quality games for next-gen platforms."

Giolito added, "For us, it's all about what's the best way to make new creative gameplay, new game ideas, and new IP that people want to buy."

Trilogy has completed its first round of independent equity funding and has retained David Jackson of Evanston Financial Strategies as a member of its board of directors. No information is available as to whom the individual investors are, but according to Pole, Evanston has not made a financial contribution to the company.

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