Crate Entertainment Interview

One of the fans over on the Grim Dawn website has taken it upon himself to interview Crate Entertainment's Arthur Bruno about his video game development history, the closure of Iron Lore Entertainment, the work he's done on Black Legion and Grim Dawn in recent years, and more.
How did you get the job at Iron Lore?

Well, the way I got the job at Iron Lore is directly related to how I got into the industry in the first place, so I'll start out there. When I was in college, I had never thought about working in the game industry. For all I knew, games just magically appeared on store shelves. I never really thought about the fact that companies were busy making them and that there was a career to be had in it.

My introduction into the game industry came as a result of what I thought at the time was countless hours wasted playing Age of Empires. I started playing online competitively and ended up becoming one of the top players. As a result, Ensemble Studios, the game's maker, asked me to be part of a 10 person (strike-team) of expert players play-testing their next game, Age of Kings. From there I was asked to contribute to the official strategy guide they were planning to release. I got to know some people there and they suggested I apply for a design position. This planted the idea in my head of working in the game industry and lead to my first game job, for which I left college before graduating. I eventually went back to finish my degree and then, the summer after graduation, I found out from a friend at Ensemble that Brian Sullivan was opening a new company and had been asking about me. I got in contact with him and ended up as the first designer hired at Iron Lore.


How did Crate come to be with the employees that it has?

After Iron Lore closed, there were a number of us that wanted to find a way to continue working together. I'd had aspirations to eventually try opening a company but I hadn't expected to be doing it so soon. Sometimes though, you just have to go for it when the right opportunity arises and there we were, a bunch of experienced developers all out of work at the same time. Unfortunately, not many people were in a financial position to go for very long without an income. So, I started out by calling around trying to see what sort of opportunities were out there for us. I was able to find contracting work with another local studio that had more projects underway than they could effectively manage and were looking for some art and design leadership on one of them. We were only able to bring over a small number of people, so other's were forced to take jobs elsewhere. Eventually the contracting work dried up as the economic crisis of 2008 / 2009 hit. The guys I started out with eventually couldn't continue without income and had to seek jobs for themselves. It was a tough time and I almost gave up on Crate. For a while it was just me pursuing funding for smaller projects that would allow us to get the team back together. With the economic conditions being what they were, no one wanted to take that kind of investment risk in a small startup like Crate. As I was on the verge of giving up and looking for a job myself, I made one final effort to ponder my options and think about what else I could do.

About the same time, the owners of Iron Lore had just about given up trying to sell the Titan Quest engine and they'd found their way into new jobs. So, I approached them and was able to work out a deal to acquire the engine. With the Iron Lore engine and tool set, we'd be able to start building a game immediately without any outside funding. First only a couple of the Iron Lore guys were working with me to get the project up and running. Eventually, as we gained momentum, more people became interested. Only a couple people have been able to devote themselves to it full-time but others work nights and weekends. The further we've progressed, the more I think people have bought into the idea that we can really finish this game and the more help we've gotten. I'm fairly confident now that we will finish Grim Dawn, the challenge is just trying to get it finished in a reasonable amount of time. Once Grim Dawn releases, we will be faced with a new, and perhaps equally great challenge of taking the company to the next step.