It was sixteen months ago that we posted our first blog regarding Redwall, or Project Mouseworks. Shortly thereafter we launched our AbbeyCraft kickstarter, it funded, and then roughly a year ago this month AbbeyCraft was released. All going well so far. The plan at that point, as far as we could see it, though shrouded in some pretty dense fog, was to wrap up a modest private funding effort, build a modest adventure game and then see what happened. It was a pretty straightforward plan and while Redwall was obviously a big thing, our goals were fairly short term and limited. But something happened on the way to that pivot and while it’s cost us some time I hope you’ll see it as something overall quite positive – I know we do.


Setback #1: If I’m honest, I was just horribly naive about how the private funding world works. I’d never done it before but with all things considered it felt like the right play as opposed to either a traditional publishing deal or taking a second draught at the crowd funding trough. I’ll certainly write more about this experience in the future but suffice it to say that I underestimated the time this was going to take. On its surface that sounds like a bad thing, it was certainly wretchedly frustrating at times, but as I’ll describe below I think it was actually a blessing in disguise.

Setback #2: Having never worked an IP licensing deal I had no freaking clue how complicated and laborious the paperwork can be. Seriously, this is the only paragraph where I’ll flat out complain but I was staggered at how drawn out these things can be. What can be agreed to in principle in a 1-hour conversation can take months and months to document, formalize and sign. It’s the lawyers, it’s the filings, it’s yadda after yadda, after yadda. Bottom line, I was again naive about this world and how it really worked and with that aspect alone it’s fair to say I jumped the gun in making, and announcing, any kind of timeline. If not for the silver linings in setbacks 1 and 3, this paperwork thing would have driven me to drink.

Setback #3: This event was a setback in name (and time) only but was actually the start of a really important shift. Near the beginning of 2014 one of my mentors, Steve Graves from Praxis, asked me a particularly penetrating question. I brought all of our “Big Ideas” and docs and our pitch to him for feedback and input. Rather too impressed with how thins were going so far, I reckon I was hoping for (and expecting) a rubber stamp approval. He was very kind and generous and supportive like a mentor should be, but then looked at me and asked, “Why don’t you need more money?” While again a little off-topic for this post, the question shook me up. I was thinking, “What the hell kind of question is that?” But what it really did was speak directly to the heat of a big mistake we were about to make. I was thinking way too small and way too short term and that was bad…for everybody involved, especially Redwall and her fans.

All of these delays forced us to slow down. While work and production on The Warrior Reborn didn’t stop entirely, we couldn’t spin up until the ducks were lined up. What’s more, it was a long chain of moments that feel like you’re coming over the laaaaaaast hump, only to find there’s another. Perhaps that’s the thing that has been hardest on our supporters – the silence. Somewhere around Christmas last year I realized this was taking longer than expected and it was messing with our schedule. I suppose we could have posted something to say, “Hit a snag. Working on it. Don’t know how long this will take.” But that’s about all I could have said. I never lost my confidence that it was all going to work out in the end. All of our conversations, all of the dance-doing, was positive – strikingly so in fact – I just couldn’t get any read on how long it would go on. I’m the kind of guy who wants to bear good news. I’ll bear bad news when needed but I hate bearing…ambiguous news. “Hi everybody! We don’t know where we’re going, but we’re making good time!” Would have made for a stupid update but it was all I had to go on between about December and…now. I hope our supporters who have been feeling disappointed will forgive me for my awkward silence.

BadgerInHallwaySo, looping back, a lot of the last year has been spent thinking and talking. We’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the game (or games), thinking about the story, and thinking about a time horizon longer than 6 months. Simultaneously, we’ve been talking to fans, talking to gamers, and talking to folks with a lot more wisdom than myself. It’s been a time to really determine what we wanted both for Redwall and our deal there, but also for Soma Games because without question the Redwall name has opened some doors for us, introduced us to people we’re unlikely to have met otherwise, and if I’m not being melodramatic, presented a kind of existential threat to Soma Games’ mission if we weren’t careful. In a worst case scenario Redwall could assimilate Soma Games, devour all of our time and money, and go down in a flaming ball of badger…that would suck for everybody.

Steve’s question made me aware that I was thinking too small, no doubt about that, but far importantly, I was thinking too short. I was injecting urgency when thoughtful, deliberate action was required. Having spent most of my career in a work-for-hire world and in mobile gaming there was too much of the get-in, get-out, rinse-repeat mentality and I’m grateful that we were caught up short in our understandable enthusiasm for a chance to catch our breaths and think this through.

All of this thinking and talking has led to several good changes (IMHO) in how we’ll be proceeding. Some of it would be very boring to write about, like improvements to our license, clarifications in our contracts, etc. It’s all good stuff but not very interesting, so I’ll just mention that such things are important, and they’re done, and we’re moving on.

I do want to be clear about a few things just in case the narrative is a bit rambling:

  1. We did NOT squander a bunch of money in the last twelve months with nothing to show for it. (Where some have…) The Warrior Reborn is still an active project and I’ll be revealing more specific details in the coming months. We just had to slow down. And while that’s undoubtedly a disappointment for the folks who have been patiently waiting, I think the slower pace will lead to a better product than if we’d been able to steam ahead with plan A. I said in our Ground Rules post that quality was a higher consideration than quantity (or speed) and we’re trying to be true to that value.
  2. We are not suddenly all full of reckless ambition and attempting to build some 400 hour epic open-world extravaganza that’s certain to fail. If anything we are more aware than before that we are an indie studio that will need to avoid biting off more than we can chew. Much of this post is about seeing a bigger picture but don’t take that to mean we can build Skyrim next week. While I think most fans want to see that kind of thing in time, we hope you’re willing to take that journey in steps, and grow with us – at a sustainable pace. That said, the scope of the first game has grown from initial concepts but again, more on the depth and quality axis than the size or features axis.

Ok – pause…

What Now?

With all of that said about what’s behind us, here’s what’s coming up:
MouseConcepts

  • Today we’re releasing a new webpage that contains a pitch for some additional private capital. We’re taking Steve’s advice and thinking bigger…but not that much bigger. The pitch is aimed at private investors, most likely in the Angel category, which normally would be a quiet, who-do-you-know kind of affair. But it seems the laws have changed to allow us to broadcast this kind of thing openly so we’re putting it out there. While the goal is ostensibly for capital the deeper goal is to connect with the right kind of partners…something I came to deeply value over the last year. There is a lot of money out there looking for something to do, but only a small subset of it comes from folks with common values and goals. While Redwall is the anchor of the proposal, the bigger picture is about Soma Games’ larger mission and establishing a voice in the larger gaming conversation.
    Check it out here: http://www.somagames.com/redwall/pitch.
  • With the hindsight of the last year I’m only more reluctant than before to issue any kind of launch date but it’s worth saying that where the burn has been pretty low-key since last August, we’re starting to spin up in earnest. Still some ducks to line up before it’s all done, but I actually see the light at the end of the tunnel here. For a glimpse, just a glimpse, of something were working on, come see us at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco Sep 9-11. This will be more tech demo than game demo but it’ll be the first time one of our Redwall characters has met the public eye.
    See: IDF for more info.
  • If you’ve been watching our Facebook page you’ll have noticed that we’ve been talking more about G Prime than Redwall and that may have made some folks think that Redwall was dead or cancelled or whatever. Fear not. G Prime was something we decided to do while all this paperwork settled out but it was also part of the bigger plan. With much of our previous experience in mobile we didn’t want our first PC game to be Redwall – that just seemed too risky. So we built a game using our own IP, and learned a ton in the process. G Prime is in post-production now for things like voice overs, art polish and balancing…and it looks gorgeous! I’m very excited about seeing our first game rebooted and it feels like the game we wanted to make in 2009 but didn’t know how. Look for G Prime on PC and Mac for sure. A Steam Greenlight will be launched soon and we’re crossing our fingers to get approved for XBox One. At least one, possibly two, additional PC/Console games are likely to release before we launch the The Warrior Reborn but neither are brand new efforts that will suck precious resources away from Redwall. Rather they are additional practice opportunities to take something we already have, work it up for a larger platform, and learn our lessons about scrum and pipelines, and design ideas in a place that is “safe” for both us and Redwall. We see these efforts not as distractions but rather training. Redwall is the wrong place to practice, so we’re building the team with these internal efforts. And given how that’s gone with G Prime – I think it’ll be time well spent.

For the moment, I’ll pinch this off. I hope it answers some of the most pertinent questions about the fate of the Redwall project even if it’s still a little thin on specifics – I plan to address that second part soon.

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14 Comments
  1. Kavi

    The first time I heard of Redwall was when it aired in 2003 on Teletoon. At that time I was a kid, and Redwall was my favourite show of all time. Years past and I slowly started to forget Redwall, but suddenly when I was in Grade 9 I was at the Library and I stumbled upon two rather familiar names for books: Redwall, and Martin the Warrior. I immediately realized these books were what the shows I used to watch as a kid were based on. After I read the books I rewatched the Redwall Tv Series during the same year, and I fell in love with it again. Just recently I introduced my little brother to the TV Series; he loved it, and later on he went to the library and retrieved the same books I read years ago. I personally believe that Brian Jacques(RIP) had a very in depth imagination, and his storytelling ability was quite impeccable.

    I really want this game to happen due to the fact that Redwall had a major impact in my life, and the story itself had many relevant life lessons. I support you guys with the creation of this video game, so I have shared this website on to all my social media outlets. I personally would want this game to be similar to Skyrim in terms of freedom and customization but I want it to have a different type of story structure which will suit the REDWALL series much better.
    Please take your time with this project, REDWALL is such a great series and the quality of the TV series and the books are quite good. All in all, I’m so happy you guys are doing this k,eep up the good work! Peace!!!

  2. Kade_Senboi

    Man, I’m glad to read this. You guys just do what you need to do, alright? I can’t wait to see what you all are capable of.

    • Thanks @Kade_Senobi – we weren’t quite sure how this news would come across to the fans but the response has been overwhelmingly supportive and understanding. 🙂

  3. John Smith

    I don’t mind how long it takes as long as the game is something you’re satisfied with when it is available. I really wouldn’t want my return to Mossflower woods to be on a low note.

    • Thanks very much John – its been an interesting journey to really sink into the story and find so much richness and the depth of the fan’s passion for the location. We very much appreciate the way the Redwall community has been willing to support us but also to speak honestly about what the stories mean to them.

  4. Simón

    I found myself checking up on the blog and facebook page just a few weeks ago. I was genuinely concerned things had just stalled out. I understand the difficulties you all are going through and am glad to hear that you seem to be set on a better path and want to do it right. Redwall has been passed over or underdone in the past; your studio seems to really get it. I look forward to eventually playing it! Best of luck.

    • Thanks for the encouragement @Christine and @Simon. The “underdone” thing is an interesting question and may be a difficult one to navigate. Specifically there are folks who want a GTA style open-world sandbox…with mice. Anything else (in their mind “less”) and they’ll feel it was slipshod. Same with Skyrim scope RPG people, etc, etc.

      But what strikes me is that Redwall isn’t a game – it’s a whole world. And when we talk to fans at places like GDC what I kept coming back to was the desire to do something, anything, in the Redwall world. Fans seem to want to live there far more than play any particular kind of game genre.

      Ergo, if we have our druthers, The Warrior Reborn is just the first Redwall game…

  5. Christine

    I’m one of the $300 level backers for the KS. Take your time. I’d rather wait 10 years for a decent game, than one year for a rubbish one.

  6. Jordan DiPalma

    My friend and I are both very avid gamers, and both of us grew up reading Redwall. We were thrilled when we heard about The Warrior Reborn and have eagerly been anticipating more news on it. So I speak for both of us (and probably a lot more people) when I say, Thank you very much for this update. It is awesome to know just how seriously you are taking this project, and we are fully prepared to wait as long as it takes for you guys to put together the best game you can.

    “A delayed game is eventually good, a bad game is bad forever.” -Shigeru Miyamoto

    P.S.: That badger looks pretty awesome! Can’t wait to see your tech demo.

    • Thanks @Jordan. We had a fun time with the Badger demo today and I’m certain I’ll have a write up specifically about the tech in the near future…it’s pretty fun stuff and connected to our work with RealSense.

  7. Preston

    Thanks for the update. That answers many questions. It’s good to know the project is alive and well. I’m sure I speak for many when I say we’d rather see a good game later than a bad game now.

    • Much obliged @preston – we feel the same way and it’s good to hear fans understand the goal.

  8. Theodore Romanowski

    I remember you guys talked about this was going to have RPG elements. Are we going to have full control on what we get to be? Hare,Possum,Mouse, Badger…Will there be combat skills and archetypes to advance in?

    Even though you have just started working on the game after such a long time. You at least must have an idea what direction you are going to take the epic tales of Redwall 🙂 Its been decades since the books came out…many of the fans are old and yet there are also new ones as well, hopefully you can appeal to both sides and It will be successful enough for you to make another!

    • Thanks @theodore. 🙂 yes we have a good solid idea on the direction the game is expected to take. But with regard to publishing those details, please see standard answer #2. 😉

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