TACOMA, Wash. – Camouflaj, the daring Bellevue-based video game company started by a University of Puget Sound alumnus and his former business professor, is about to face its biggest test.
On Thursday, December 19, République—a video game crowdfunded on Kickstarter for $555,000 last year—will launch its first episode through the iTunes App Store. The debut of the iOS mobile device version of the game has founder Ryan Payton ’03 and his investor and partner, Professor Jeffrey Matthews, running on nervous energy as they face the ultimate thumbs up or thumbs down from the buying public.
“We decided to ignore all the doomsday warnings from many of our industry colleagues and we are not going to follow the mobile ‘free-to-play’ trend we are seeing on the iTunes App Store,” said Payton. “We are committed to the premium approach that some of the top games, such as Sword and Sworcery and Infinity Blade, are taking, because it means quality, and it means treating the consumer with respect.”
The first of five episodes of the stealth-action game, titled “Exoridium,” will sell for $4.99 on iTunes. A new episode will be released every two or three months, with the full game featuring about 10 to 15 hours of game play and selling for $25. Alternatively, players can buy a $15 season pass to pre-purchase episodes two to five, making a total of $20. The PC and Mac versions of République are expected out sometime in 2014.
“Partnering up with Ryan has been an eye-opener on just how much endurance, talent, and sheer pace are involved in running a high-technology start-up,” said Jeffery Matthews, the George Frederick Jewett Professor in Puget Sound’s School of Business and Leadership. “But now that we’ve got to this stage, I am confident that the quality and imaginative approach of this game will make it a winner.”
Students at University of Puget Sound also had a hand in the game’s making. Interns from business and computer science classes were recruited by Camouflaj, and a student group undertook research for the company.
The game launch this Thursday has attracted a buzz on video game blogs, following an interview with Greg Miller on the comedy-drivenYouTube talk show Up at Noon. Online media company IGN Entertainment’s Associate Editor Marty Sliva described République as “a gorgeous game that embraces the inherent traits of your iOS device, while also delivering a daring story drenched in themes of surveillance, voyeurism, and freedom.”
In one of many messages to its Kickstarter backers, Camouflaj described the game as one that explores the perils of government surveillance in the Internet age. “You receive a desperate call from Hope, a mysterious woman trapped inside an oppressive totalitarian state,” Payton wrote to backers. “By hacking into the nation’s elaborate surveillance network and taking control, you guide Hope through a web of danger and deception across five thrilling episodes.”
With its striking visuals and haunting, atmospheric score, the game took two years and a dedicated team to complete its development. Payton founded Camouflaj in late 2011, after an impressive career as a producer in Japan on video game Metal Gear Solid 4 and a Microsoft narrative designer on Halo 4.
Payton and Matthews were part of the initial Camouflaj team that saw République almost fail to reach its $500,000 fundraising goal on Kickstarter in April 2012, as skeptics doubted their initial plan of going with only the iOS mobile version of the game. A late decision to also make PC and Mac versions of the game brought a sudden rush of new backers, and the team topped their goal in the final exhilarating hours of the fundraising’s final day.