By SARAH DOOLITTLE, Four Points News
Four Points video game company Edge of Reality — founded by Steiner Ranch resident Mike Panoff and Lakeway resident Rob Cohen — recently released their newest creation, Loadout, a free, downloadable, multiplayer shooter game.
Loadout, which combines stylized cartoon-esque art with a literally endless supply of weapon and character customization options, was years in the making.
The game was released Jan. 31.
“It surpassed our expectations and overwhelmed our servers (temporarily). We had over 2 million players after just two weeks,” Panoff said.
The game started as a prototype for another potential project that never panned out. But the developers at River Place-based Edge of Reality were hooked and continued to build Loadout as an original title. After four years, the game was ready for release.
Panoff proudly characterizes the process as, “a product of the collaboration of ideas from all 50 or so people who worked on it, not just the original prototype team or the leads.”
Unlike some of their previous titles, Loadout is a game intended primarily for mature audiences. There are adult themes, nudity and comedic violence. It’s important to note, however, that filters can be set by parents to allow gameplay by younger audiences, a feature Panoff uses in his own home.
“My children enjoy spending hours in the character or weapon customization screens playing with the literally billions of combinations of possible character outfits or guns. When they do play a match it’s with all the filters enabled,” he said.
Edge of Reality background
Panoff, who founded Edge of Reality in 1998 with Cohen, describes building video games for a living as his dream job. “On a day-to-day basis, how can you beat going to work and deciding whether a head-shot with a charged-trigger, tesla sniper rifle should be a 1-shot or 2-shot kill,” he explained.
Even non-gamers will recognize some of the titles the company has developed in their 15 years (13 in Austin), such as Tony Hawk Proskater, Spiderman, the Incredible Hulk and the Sims.
Asked to choose his favorite, Panoff doesn’t hesitate. “The work-for-hire games we’ve done in the past… have all been a lot of fun to work on. However, for me personally, Loadout has been the most fun so far… I just have fun playing it.”
The culture of Edge of Reality is founded in finding and retaining the best people. The company offers health, vision, dental, life insurance, and a 401k retirement plan with company matching, as well as the opportunity to build games around both established and new characters.
“Every single person on the team has contributed to the ideas that produced Loadout. None of our games would be what they are without them,” he said.
And while the company’s female-to-male employee ratio is low — also typical for the industry — Edge of Reality distinguishes itself by its desire for more female applicants.
“Everyone is welcome and diversity is encouraged. The more diverse the development staff, the more diverse the audience,” Panoff said.
As for whether or not girls or women would enjoy the newest release, Panoff admits that, “our audience is skewed toward males,” as is most of their industry.
Fan base for Loadout
“I cannot overstate how important our fan base has been to the success of Loadout. They are passionate, dedicated, funny and smart,” Panoff said.
They are also opinionated. A quick skim through player forums reveals an enthusiastic audience intimately familiar with the ins-and-out of Loadout and ready to praise, to criticize, or to suggest its newest features.
And whereas games developed for corporate clients do not allow for customer interaction, it is one of the more rewarding parts of creating Loadout. “After a tough day working on a feature or bug, it is awesome to jump on to a live match and receive ‘Good job’ and ‘Thanks for making a great game’ chat messages from the other players,” Panoff said.
Loadout has found a broad fan base among users and game reviewers.
VentureBeat, a blog about emerging and disruptive technologies with over 10 million page views a month, describes the game as, “like Looney Toons directed by Quentin Tarantino.”
“Everything about this game just makes it so you want to keep playing,” explains gamer TerrySAURUSREX in a post on Loadout.com user forums. “The game looks and plays beautiful. This game feels like it was truly developed by gamers who were tired of the same (first-person shooter nonsense) and decided to create their own world… and it worked.”
This was the goal for Panoff and the team that built the game, all of whom sought “an art style that made the game stand out” as well as “something that wasn’t hyper-realistic so we could take creative license to do what was in the best interest of the game and not be bound by real-world biology or physics.” In addition to the game’s developers, the company’s art team made that vision a reality.
Next up for release
Edge of Reality plans to continue releasing updates and content for the next 10-plus years. In the meantime, their next project — the newest Transformers game — will be available this summer on all gaming consoles.
Loadout is free to play. For more information about the game, to watch videos of gameplay and features and to download the game, visit www.loadout.com.