James Marsden, the managing director of developer FuturLab, explains how a budding Flash developer managed to catch the eye and funding of Sony Computer Entertainment. Apparently the key lies in impressing the hell out of everyone and LARPing.
In 2007 Marsden had just finished building FuturLab's Flash game engine PRISM, and he and his team moved on to working on an idea he had at University for an alternate reality game that communicated with players through instant messaging, email and telephone calls. They built a demo, but were unable to find anyone willing to fund and publish it. One company called the email and text messaging features of the game "a bit weird".
Desperate and perhaps a bit crazed, Marsden decided that he wanted to pitch the game to PlayStation. After a contact sent the game pitch to Sony's Relentless Software, FuturLab was in, but they still had to impress Sony's executives. How would they do this?
Yes, live-action role-playing. They based their story around Sony producer Phil Gaskell coming to their office for an interview.
The presentation continued, up until the point where we gave our Flash demo over to Phil to have a go. As I passed the keyboard over, I pressed a secret key combination, which set a timer running. Then, as Phil was playing the demo, the game purposefully froze, glitched out and then showed an error message:
"NEW USER DETECTED, PHILLIP GASKELL…
At this point, the screen filled with Phil's LinkedIn biography, including recommendations by his colleagues also in the room, all hacked to fit our story.
They were sold.
Of course FuturLab still has to prove itself to Sony before making this ambitious alternate reality game, but the pitch got their foot in the door, and their first game, Coconut Dodge for the PlayStation Network, is weeks away from release.
It just goes to show you that with some chance connections, an impressive pitch, and little role-playing, the little guys can become slightly larger guys working for the big guys.
FuturLab Pitch To Sony [PlayStation Blog]