Indie studio No Goblin wants to ditch fantasy and sci-fi, and create games driven by fun mechanics
Dan Teasdale has an impressive resume: he was a senior designer at the Harmonix Music Systems, a lead designer at Twisted Pixel games, a consultant at Irrational, and a senior designer at Pandemic. He’s a 15-year veteran of the video game business, something that is exceedingly rare in our industry. And now he’s on his own.
Teasdale split from Twisted Pixel games in April of this year, and has just announced his new studio, called No Goblin. While the story of a studio designer going indie is common, his approach to making games may not be.
Moving beyond the nerd trilogy
That was my first question, in fact. Every day my in-box is flooded with developers and designers who worked on this game or that franchise or at a big-name studio, and now they’re on their own, being an indie! It was an exciting story two years ago, but now it’s just business as usual. So why should No Goblin get any attention?
“First of all, we're not making a mobile game, we're not free-to-play, and we're not pitching a Kickstarter for you to fund,” Teasdale said. “That separates us from 90% of the new indie studios I see launching already!”
But the real hint of their approach can be found in the name. “The name ‘No Goblin’ is actually inspired from working with Josh Bear at Twisted Pixel. Anything that was remotely nerdy for nerdy's sake was called ‘goblin.’ Dudes shooting space lasers was called ‘space goblin,’” he explained. “We don't need more gobiney games. I want more unique themes and characters. I want to play those games with my friends in my living room, not on a tiny screen on a bus.”
Teasdale claims that he was never a big fan of fantasy or science fiction. He was alive in the 80s, and had his fill of pixel art and synth tracks the first time around.
“The world doesn't need another fantasy game, or another sci-fi strategy game, or even another retro themed platformer with chiptunes - I can open up Steam and pull down a dozen of each without breaking a sweat,” Teasdale said.
“As a gamer, my selection of games outside of the ‘nerd trilogy’ of sci-fi/fantasy/retro is pretty narrow. No Goblin exists to make games set in the huge world outside of those narrow themes. Where's my game about '70s proms?! Where's my couch multiplayer game about being a dog lawyer?! We want to make games for the other people like us who are tired of the nerd trilogy.”
Mechanic driven games
No Goblin is guided by the idea of “mechanic driven games,” and that seemed like an odd place to plant your flag. Aren’t all games driven by mechanics? I was told that I was getting hung up on the word “mechanic,” and it may be easier to say that No Goblin wasn’t interested in “content grind” games.
“I love Naughty Dog games, but I would probably shoot myself if I had to spend two years working on 12 hours of linear content that people only play through once and shelve. I want to make games that are focused on mechanics that are fun and replayable in of themselves, and aren't just a disposable vessel to get to the next story beat,” Teasdale told the Report.
“Part of being mechanic driven and not going on a content grind is that we're in a perfect position for couch multiplayer, too. I'm a HUGE proponent of local multiplayer, and it's been really heartbreaking to see my selection of games to play with friends dwindle over the last generation,” he continued. “We want to help fix that for the next generation.”
Right now the studio is just Teasdale operating as CEO and creative director, and Panzer, the senior designer and artist. Yes, that’s an alias. No, Teasdale won’t share her actual name. “Panzer being Panzer comes down to her being known far more for that name,” he said. “She already has a following for her art and LP style in the community, and it's the name she feels most comfortable using when making games.” Fair enough.
These are interesting ideas, and he’s saying all the right things, but you can’t throw a stone without hitting a small studio with promising talent and a good pitch. It’s going to come down to the games, and right now we’re not being given any information on what No Goblin is working on. But I have my fingers crossed for a ‘70s prom.