Throwback Thursday – Kerberos 2005

Today’s Throwback Thursday image is an old cartoon of the Kerberos team. The original photo was taken in 2005, and includes all the original partners and the core developers for the original Sword of the Stars. I’m not hard to spot, standing right in the middle of everything wearing glasses and that ne’er-do-well smirk, but the other people in the image might be harder to identify, so I thought it would be fun to fill in the names and dev roles that go with the faces.

Front Row, left to right: Teresa Johnson (Artist); Martin E. Cirulis (Lead Designer and CEO); John Ku (Artist and the guy who drew this cartoon); Chris “Degrassi” Gerspacher (Lead Artist)

Second Row, left to right: Chris Stewart (Producer and COO); Arinn Dembo (Lead Writer, Yours Truly)

Third Row, left to right: Darren Grant (Lead Programmer); David Salsman (Programmer and Founding Partner); Richard Hawkes (Programmer); Ken Lee (2D Artist)

We founded Kerberos Productions in 2003, not only to make Sword of the Stars but to forge our own destiny in the industry. It’s fun in some ways to look back and see how far we’ve come since then. There’s no doubt we’ve suffered–sometimes in quite a horribly public way.

But we’ve also survived.

We formed our studio during a time when it was practically impossible to get any PC game into the hands of the players without cutting some sort of deal with a publisher and getting some kind of a box on a shelf in a store. We had to survive for nearly nine years as an independent 3rd party developer and navigate TWO stormy relationships with small publishers while the industry went through cataclysmic changes on our way to becoming a fully independent studio in 2012.

This is an ordeal which the new generation of indie developers will never have to deal with, or so I hope. Modern devs who want to make their own games and develop their own IP’s may not always be able to get their supporters to back their Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns to finance the project…but at least they’ll always know that they have those options! As well as a whole world of digital distribution channels open to them, including the option of simply putting up your own site and letting people buy your alpha and download it direct if it comes right down to it.

Lighthouse Interactive, our first publisher, crashed and burned in 2008 mid-way through the development cycle of the original Sword of the Stars series. They declared bankruptcy and closed their doors before we could ever see a dime of royalties for the release and sale of the original Sword of the Stars and its first expansion, Born of Blood. But both Kerberos and Sword of the Stars lived on, and have continued to evolve into the present.

We were not the only third-party developer who had to go through hell in the economic crash that swept our industry in 2008. We’re just one of the very few who actually made it through without having to give up and declare bankruptcy, lose their IP, or both.

There are some people who would tell you that you cannot ever be truly free, and make your own path as an artist in this world, if you are unwilling to suffer. I can’t say for certain that it’s true, but I certainly hope it isn’t! I’d truly like to believe that the New Kids in all sorts of industries will be able to enjoy a Brave New World of artistic life that is a little more Easy/Fun and a little less Arduous/Suck in the future.

That said, looking back on the last decade now I find myself focused less on the suffering and more on the survival, and the passion that made it possible. How much we’ve learned, how much we’ve created and dreamed, and the wonderful risks we were able to take with our art, which would have been impossible if we had not stayed FREE.

I’m still extremely proud of the work we’ve done on every game we’ve made–particularly in the Sword of the Stars franchise, although I think that Fort Zombie had some great ideas and great features too. The obstacles we’ve overcome to get ANY of our games made, and into the hands of our players, have been truly immense. I wish I could tell you even half of the shite we’ve been through!

But as the song says, “It’s getting better all the time”. And although I can’t know what the future holds, I’m  very happy that I started down this road.

I’m still standing right in the middle of everything.

With a ne’er-do-well smile on my face. 😀

About Arinn

Author, Game Developer, Anthropologist, Feminist, reformed Supervillainess.
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