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Halo co-creator Alex Seropian has launched Look North World, a new game studio focused on creating community-driven virtual spaces and experiences. The company also launched its first game, Outlaw Corral, on Unreal Engine for Fortnite (UEFN).
The studio aims to bring players together in unique high-quality social games and entertainment, driven by experimentation and exploration. Seropian said in an interview with GamesBeat that he is intrigued by the business model that Epic Games created with creator-driven games via UEFN. Game makers get a cut of revenues based on how much people play on their custom Fortnite “islands.”
Look North World is led by developers with triple-A hits in their back pockets, including Alex Seropian of Bungie, Disney, and Industrial Toys fame, and Patrick Moran, formerly from Amazon, Disney, and Kongregate. They have raised $2.25 million so far.
Outlaw Corral is a Wild West island featuring skill-based shootouts and is the first of several games in development. Players can take an active role in providing input to future Look North World games by joining the company’s Discord channel. The first 1,000 Discord members will be automatically added to the company’s beta test channel to help test new games before release.
“Developing in UEFN opens a whole new world of opportunities, and we are in uncharted territory. Through experimentation, we will see what the players like and involve them in decisions,” said Seropian. “We are jumping into it with a ‘the virtual sky is the limit’ mentality. As we develop creative ideas, we will learn how these platforms engage, entertain and boost social interactions in order to iterate accordingly.”
Look North World’s team includes several industry veterans from Industrial Toys/EA, including CTO Jay Pecho, principal artist Aaron Marroquin, art director Prashant Patil, and creative director Kyle Marks. The company is based in Los Angeles but the team is spread out.
A career in 10-year chunks
Seropian himself has had a long history in games. He was a cofounder of Bungie, which made games for the Mac until Microsoft acquired it. He and Jason Jones led the team that made the original Halo for Microsoft’s first Xbox in 2001. The game was such a big hit that it legitimized Microsoft in the eyes of console gamers and ultimately led to billions in revenue.
Seropian left in 2004 to start Wideload Games, which made titles like Stubbs the Zombie. Disney acquired the company in 2009 and he stayed on until 2012. Then he cofounder Industrial Toys, which made shooter games on mobile devices like Midnight Star. Electronic Arts acquired Industrial Toys in 2018.
There, Seropian’s company eventually worked on making a version of the Battlefield shooter franchises for mobile devices. Mobile hit choppy waters as Apple cracked down on targeted advertising. Apex Legends Mobile debuted and underperformed. Battlefield also had a rocky launch on the consoles and PC with Battlefield 2042. Then EA decided to shutter the whole Battlefield mobile effort and closed down Industrial Toys — nixing a tea of 150 — in January. EA is still in the midst of some kind of massive reboot.
“They took a turn,” Seropian said. “That’s a nice way of saying it. If it didn’t happen, we probably wouldn’t be chatting right now. So there’s that.”
Seropian spoke with Epic Games’ Alain Tascan during the Game Developers Conference in March, and Seropian started looking into the generous revenue-sharing program that Epic had announced for Fortnite creators/developers. And then he marshaled his new startup around that.
“When I came back from GDC, we talked about it. It had all the infrastructure, the marketplace and the players. Wwouldn’t have to worry about building the foundation elements needed to make a brand new game.” We could probably do this releatively quickly. And I just came to the realization that this is a new platform. It’s not just like a user-generated content (UGC) tool. It’s actually a new platform.”
While Seropian spent years on the Battlefield work without every publishing a game, he thinks he’ll have a chance to publish as many this year on UEFN. The contrast is striking. Investors quickly came on board to and came to the same conclusions that Seropian did.
“With an impressive track record under their collective belts, this triple-A team led by Alexander Seropian is set to revolutionize the way games are made,” said Matt Bilbey, partner at London Venture Partners, in a statement. “We are excited to be on this journey with Look North World as they work with the gaming community to shape new game concepts, storylines, and designs.”
Look North World’s vision is to bring players together in community-driven virtual spaces and experiences. As the gaming industry continues to evolve, studios like Look North World that prioritize experimentation and community engagement want to be at the forefront of creating the next generation of social games and entertainment.
Seropian said he knows that there has been a lot of hype around new platforms in games, from the mobile app stores to Facebook games.
“I don’t know if it’s really going to take off and work as well as (Epic Games CEO) Tim Sweeney thinks it will. But I think they have a really good shot of doing something interesting and special. And it’s a platform that where I feel like I have a little bit of an advantage on because I’ve been using the tools for so long.”
Indeed, Seropian has been working with the Unreal engine since 2005. With the soft launch of Outlaw Corral last week, the company pulled the trigger on the launch and the game appeared on both mobile and PC at the same time. That is one of the easier things about Unreal, Seropian said. The total development time was around two months — with just six people.
A new era for games
With Outlaw Corral, Look North World built a game where players could fight in Wild West shootouts in a small arena like a saloon. Players fight each other one-on-one, but as many as 16 players can hang out together at the same time. In the first round, some players get eliminated but they can stick around and spectate. Players can chatter between rounds.
“This is just such a different approach to the industry. I was reading about how Sony disclosing that the budget for its new games is like $200 million. These are giant endeavours. The idea of taking risks in that ecosystem is very challenging,” he said. “We have a chance to launch six games this year.”
The challenge on UEFN will be how to build a community to play the games and how to get the games discovered by a mass market. Over time, UEFN will get more crowded as a platform. Over time, the type of games that will be possible on Fortnite will expand, as Epic Games adds more tools.
“That roadmap is interesting and so we should be able to expand the experience,” Seropian said. “We’re definitely interested in FPS. Obviously, we have history there. Once there are a few more features available on the platform, we’ll be looking at role-playing games.”
Over time, brands will come into the platforms like UEFN and Roblox, and that should create new opportunities, Seropian said.
As for technologies like generative AI, Seropian said he expects it to be used more and more on the gaming platforms. It’s not entirely clear yet what type of platform it takes.
A few thousand players jumped into the game last week as it was released. The team launched a couple of updates in the same day to fix some bugs. Seropian said he was happy that there was a lot of energy around it already. As for monetization, Seropian said, “The more it gets played, the more we get paid.”
The company can take more risks on the project and be innovative as well, and the aim is to keep building engagement and getting growth to happen in a viral way.
“My career has been broken up into these ten-year chunks,” he said. “This feels like an exciting change. I don’t know how much money Meta spent on the metaverse. Epic didn’t set out to create the metaverse with Fortnite. They set out to make a game and build something that has turned out to be really sticky. And they had already had that tool chain. Like a lot of things, they built something bigger than the product they originally set out to create. But it started with something fun. I’m very excited and haven’t been this excited for a long time. It’s nice to be back out, making stuff happen.”
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