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Thursday, July 12, 2001
Veteran PC Designer Forms New Company, Targets Mac
12:55 PM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

Mac gamers are unlikely to be familiar with Brian Hook, but almost anyone who plays games (Mac or PC) is indebted to this developer in one way or another. Not only did he help write the "GLIDE" API for 3dfx, he worked with id Software on their ground-breaking titles and with Verant (makers of EverQuest) on a next-generation MMORPG. He's also an outspoken member of the games industry (and occasional columnist as well) who often comments on the present and future of gaming itself.

Hook has formed his own games development company, working with Rosie Crosgrove who was the art director for EverQuest. Pyrogon will focus on original games development targeting the untapped or overlooked segments of the game market. And as Hook announced on the Mac Games Devlist yesterday, the Mac platform is squarely in his sights as a key future market, as well as Windows and perhaps other platforms.

Hook's endorsement of the Mac game market is important for several reasons; not only does this obviously mean that future titles by Pyrogon will have Mac versions (and indeed be designed with the Mac audience and hardware in mind), it also means an influential member of the PC community is taking the Mac platform seriously and considers it to be an under-exploited market.

Brian passed along a "manifesto" of sorts outlining the reasons behind the formation of this currently independent company and their goals for design. While the full text is a little lengthy for the news page, we'll share some excerpts:

Right now we think the game industry is suffering from several critical

- games are getting too big. They're requiring large teams with long
development cycles, which puts a strain on publisher resources and, in
turn, limits the number of titles a publisher can have under
development. It also limits the amount of risk a publisher is willing
to take.

- As a result of the above, games are too expensive to the consumer.
$50 is an excessive amount of money to pay for something that, odds on,
you may not even like. Coupled with fairly unyielding return policies,
this turns off many buyers.

- many hardcore game genres have been neglected because of a perception
(and reality) that the markets are fairly small. Hardcore vehicle sims;
space trading/exploration; turn based tactical combat; fighting; arcade;
etc. These genres often won't sell more than 100K units, and this
scares publishers. If you sit around asking yourself "Why don't they
make games like [this] anymore?", that's probably why. But this doesn't
mean that the genres aren't worth pursuing, it just means you have to
develop games for that audience on a realistic budget.

One of the key philosophies behind Pyrogon is the concept that the games market itself leans way too far towards the 'hardcore' gamer with a $3500 system and all the latest features, and by doing so unnecessarily limits their audience. This is specifically where the Mac market fits into the picture; how many games currently being developed for Mac or PC are going to target a Rev B. iMac as their hardware base? Yet there are millions of iMac users out there who form an untapped segment of the market. Here are Brian's thoughts on this:
- the entire Macintosh community has been alienated, primarily because
of the perception that it's too small to matter to big publishers. Some
Mac developers are valiantly keeping the flame alive, but overall Mac is
considered an unprofitable niche market with no "real" gamers. And
there is some truth to that -- there aren't as many "hardcore" games on
Mac as on PC. As a result, trying to sell hardcore games to the Mac
crowd is kind of defeating. You have to aim at the average Mac user,
NOT "a hardcore gamer that happens to use a Mac". This explains why
many Mac games don't sell as well as expected even though it's a captive
There are many examples of "hardcore" games that have enjoyed some success in our market, but overall sales of games are much lower than would be expected for a PC market of a similar size.

So how does Hook plan to solve these problems? He plans to develop broad-market titles that hearken back to the early days of gaming, and the genres that first grew the games market itself from a hobbyist activity to a billion-dollar business. Here are more excerpts:

Our business plan is organized
around releasing simple, fun games that are easy to get into, don't
require the latest and greatest hardware, and that can be developed
cost-effectively. Our upcoming games include an arcade-style space
flight sim; an indoor sports game; an interesting take on the flight-sim
genre; and eventually some hardcore titles in genres that are "out of
style" right now. Think of old, fun games like M.U.L.E., Lemmings,
StarFlight/Elite, LHX/Comanche, and even X-Com. These are genres that
are just waiting to be resurrected again.
As noted Pyrogon will be targeting a Rev B iMac with 64 MB of RAM as their minimum spec machine, which means the vast bulk of the existing Mac market can expect to play their titles at full speed. From our e-mail discussions with Hook he seems thrilled with the response he's received from other Mac developers. "For obvious reasons, given our plan of attack it's pretty easy to see
why the Mac is an important part of our overall strategy," he said. "I'm new to
the Mac scene, but so far I'm incredibly impressed, both by the
enthusiasm of the user community, the friendliness of the developer
community, and the quality of the hardware."

We are thrilled to have him aboard, that is for certain. While it may be some time before Pyrogon's efforts bear fruit, Hook's pro-Mac stance should be a big morale boost for Mac gamers and a wake-up call for PC developers who simply dismiss the Mac market out of hand. Watch IMG for more from Hook and Pyrogon in the near future. As such they don't even have a web site, but the company itself has been in existence since January of 2001 so new titles may appear sooner than you think.

"Ask Brian Hook" Column at VoodooExtreme
Pyrogon, Inc. (blank placeholder site)

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