EA Puts Muscle Behind Deathspank and Shank

Tom Goldman

Crying on the inside.
Aug 17, 2009
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EA Puts Muscle Behind Deathspank and Shank



EA Partners has put its publishing power behind two very awesome-looking indie titles set for digital distribution.

Deathspank and Shank are two upcoming indie titles that, unfortunately, probably aren't on many people's radars. EA obviously feels the same way as I do, as the company has just announced publishing deals with the developers of both games to bring them to XBLA and PSN, with Shank also coming to the PC. Neither game has a concrete release date yet, but both are expected in 2010.

Deathspank has street-cred for a few reasons. First, the creator behind it is Ron Gilbert, known for working on Maniac Mansion and also creating The Secret of Monkey Island. Second, Gilbert is developing Deathspank at Hothead Games, where he is Creative Director, the developer behind the well-received Penny Arcade Adventures RPGs. Third, Deathspank is supposedly a mix between Monkey Island and Diablo, a combination that is so awesome it can't even be explained using human language. It's described by Hothead as a game that includes "collecting loot, crazy puzzle solving, witty dialogue, collecting loot, over-the-top animations, fun, accessible action combat, and of course, collecting loot," and its first trailer [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/94486-DeathSpank-Trailer-Looks-Promising] was released back in September.

Klei Entertainment's Shank is a completely different game, combining an over-the-top side-scrolling brawler with vibrant hand-drawn visuals. The main character wields not only a chainsaw, but dual pistols, a knife, grenades, and various other weapons that are chained together fluidly for lengthy combo attacks. The game's main character, Shank, is very agile, able to run up walls and pounce on enemies to kill them while they're defenseless. The biggest aspect of Shank that sticks out to me other than the combat is its animation, which is very smooth and has a style unlike anything I've seen before in a game. Shank's trailer [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/94498-Take-a-Look-at-the-Stylish-Shank] is also worth checking out.

Notably, these are two independent developers getting in bed with EA, one of the biggest publishers in the world. Jamie Cheng, CEO of Klei Entertainment says of EA: "They have been a fantastic partner and their understanding of the space is incredibly exciting." Ian Wilkinson, CEO of Hothead Games also confirms that EA is a great partner, saying: "We are proud of our independence, but are very excited to be working with EA Partners on a title as big as DeathSpank. With EA Partners handling distribution and marketing, Hothead can continue to focus on what we do best, making great games."

These statements indicate that EA isn't stifling independence here, but rather that it may understand the money to be made with games that are more unique. If successful, we'll only see more titles like Deathspank and Shank in the future, and thanks to EA, hopefully more people will know they exist.

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Jared

The British Paladin
Jul 14, 2009
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Never heard of these before...but, looks like they are certainly worth having a gander at.

Deathspank looks pretty intresting...and the name has got a nice little ring attached to it also XD

Certainly these games are now on the fringe of my radar!
 
Feb 13, 2008
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Some might say that EA might be using the IW/Acti-Blizzard war to their advantage; especially with Deathspank coming out just before Diablo 3.

Some might also speculate that IW might be further tempted towards EA by this move.
 

squid5580

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Feb 20, 2008
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You missed the most important reason why Deathspank has street cred. Because it is called DEATHSPANK! That alone makes it worth checkin out.
 

More Fun To Compute

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Nov 18, 2008
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Who is this Ron Gilbert? I can't believe that someone with a stupid name like that should be allowed to make games. This makes me so angry. EA should be ashamed of themselves as this is worse than anything that Activision have ever done. They are ruining the games industry. Also, Deathspank looks highly derivative of Blizzard's "Warcraft Adventures: Lord of the Clans."
 

Nurb

Cynical bastard
Dec 9, 2008
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"These statements indicate that EA isn't stifling independence here, but rather that it may understand the money to be made with games that are more unique. If successful, we'll only see more titles like Deathspank and Shank in the future, and thanks to EA, hopefully more people will know they exist."

Until you outlive your usefulness to the corporation or EA has another bad quarter that angers the stockholders then PTTHHH! Your team is tossed out and you're out of a job so they can dedicate the money to another Modern Warfare rip-off.

Hopeless Bastard said:
Funny. I might have bought them were they not distributed by EA.
Same here, it really bugged me when Bioware sold it's soul.
 

Tom Goldman

Crying on the inside.
Aug 17, 2009
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More Fun To Compute said:
Also, Deathspank looks highly derivative of Blizzard's "Warcraft Adventures: Lord of the Clans."
Yea, but no one played that.

Wasn't that just a generic (and simple) adventure game as well?
 

Captain Pancake

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May 20, 2009
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You know, if you read the titles together, it seems to sound like the name of only one game, like kane and lynch or ratchet and clank.
 

pneuma08

Gaming Connoisseur
Sep 10, 2008
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Nurb said:
"These statements indicate that EA isn't stifling independence here, but rather that it may understand the money to be made with games that are more unique. If successful, we'll only see more titles like Deathspank and Shank in the future, and thanks to EA, hopefully more people will know they exist."

Until you outlive your usefulness to the corporation or EA has another bad quarter that angers the stockholders then PTTHHH! Your team is tossed out and you're out of a job so they can dedicate the money to another Modern Warfare rip-off.
Only, they weren't bought, they're just being published by; the difference being, if things don't work out, they're back to where they would be if they deal never happened, more or less.

The sad truth is games (among other things) cost money to make and advertise. I don't understand this mindset of people giving money to developers being a bad thing, so long as the people with the money keep their mitts off the development process and let the developers do their job.
 

Simriel

The Count of Monte Cristo
Dec 22, 2008
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When did EA become the GOOD guys here? And when did activision become the devil?
 

plastic_window

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The_root_of_all_evil said:
Some might also speculate that IW might be further tempted towards EA by this move.
Oho, now that's a very clever angle right there.

I'm much warmer to EA these days than I used to be and I like that they seem to taking an interest in helping developers out by taking a backseat from the creative process. I do hope this catches on. I already knew about Deathspank and Shank - and was planning on buying both when they arrive - but there are so many deserving titles that should be given the attention that a big name like EA can give them.

You might call it selling out, but I don't really mind about all of that stuff so long as the product is what the designers set out to make. With EA not getting involved in the development, I don't see a problem here at all.
 

Sad Robot

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Nov 1, 2009
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Nurb said:
Until you outlive your usefulness to the corporation or EA has another bad quarter that angers the stockholders then PTTHHH! Your team is tossed out and you're out of a job so they can dedicate the money to another Modern Warfare rip-off.
I agree about the "appealing to stockholders" stuff is a really shitty aspect of capitalism and I wish it could be done away with. But that's what you get with publicly traded companies. I wish capitalism was more patient with people, but alas, greed waits for no man.

But if you outlive your usefulness to a company, it means your not doing your fucking job.

Hopeless Bastard said:
Funny. I might have bought them were they not distributed by EA.
Oh? I would not have known about these games were it not for them being mentioned on games sites such as this one, and that's mostly thanks to EA.
Nurb said:
Same here, it really bugged me when Bioware sold it's soul.
Yeah, because Dragon Age was shit and Mass Effect 2 was shit and all the expansions and dlc they have planned seems shit and that SWTOR game they're working on seems to be pretty shit too. ... I'm sorry, what was your point?

If EA pulls a stunt with Bioware (or any other of their subsidiaries and collaborators) like Activision did with Infinity Ward, then I'll admit I was wrong but it seems right now that EA is working really hard to be seen as a company that actually cares about games again. I don't know if that's because they were losing money or because of this change that they're losing money now, but I sure hope that people would buy their games now. Only if you're interested in their games, of course -- I'm not suggesting you should just buy their games for the hell of it -- but don't boycott a company for actually trying to change its policy to at least something slightly more reasonable. They're a business after all, and if nobody will buy their games now, they'll revert back to Kotick-esque tactics.
 

Tom Goldman

Crying on the inside.
Aug 17, 2009
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Sad Robot said:
Oh? I would not have known about these games were it not for them being mentioned on games sites such as this one, and that's mostly thanks to EA.
Thats why its funny. This is clearly a shrewd marketing tactic to alter EA's current image as a large soulless machine, who's only function is generate safe investment opportunities for their shareholders. Had I found out about the games from a source other than EA holding them up, saying, "LOOK! We're publishing something not relentlessly designed by committee to be marketable!!" I might have been interested.

Also, bioware actually did benefit from selling their soul to EA. They had been making the EXACT SAME game for over a decade now. Entering the EA machine caused them to change up, even if just a little bit. Of course their EA games play like "Fischer Price: My first RPG," but they're not as aggressively boring as their DnDlite games had become.
 

Sad Robot

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Hopeless Bastard said:
This is clearly a shrewd marketing tactic to alter EA's current image as a large soulless machine, who's only function is generate safe investment opportunities for their shareholders.
Nothing wrong with that. I didn't mean to assert that they were doing any of these changes out of the goodness of their heart, but rather to appeal to a more informed and caring audience. I'm not the biggest fan of capitalism, but this is one instance where it seems to work out pretty nicely for all parties. Except for those whose personal identity is dependent on some kind of "fuck the man" rebel ideology.

If you simply don't like the games they make or publish, then fair enough.

Hopeless Bastard said:
Had I found out about the games from a source other than EA holding them up, saying, "LOOK! We're publishing something not relentlessly designed by committee to be marketable!!" I might have been interested.
Is it really that big a turn off for you if EA wants in on some cash by risking a publishing agreement with an indie game? I mean, that's like hating indie movies that have been distributed by Fox Searchlight or something, just because a greedy corporation got their hands on these products. What I'm trying to say is that I consider myself slightly above average in terms of how informed a person I am when it comes to games and movies but I'd've missed out on a ton of great stuff had they not been in some way financed by large corporations. They may ultimately do it for the money, but so what?

Hopeless Bastard said:
Also, bioware actually did benefit from selling their soul to EA. They had been making the EXACT SAME game for over a decade now. Entering the EA machine caused them to change up, even if just a little bit. Of course their EA games play like "Fischer Price: My first RPG," but they're not as aggressively boring as their DnDlite games had become.
Fair enough, you don't like 'em. I love Bioware to bits. But that's a separate discussion, I think. Anyway, yes, I too do think going to EA has actually benefitted them so far.
 

Nurb

Cynical bastard
Dec 9, 2008
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Sad Robot said:
Nurb said:
Until you outlive your usefulness to the corporation or EA has another bad quarter that angers the stockholders then PTTHHH! Your team is tossed out and you're out of a job so they can dedicate the money to another Modern Warfare rip-off.
I agree about the "appealing to stockholders" stuff is a really shitty aspect of capitalism and I wish it could be done away with. But that's what you get with publicly traded companies. I wish capitalism was more patient with people, but alas, greed waits for no man.

But if you outlive your usefulness to a company, it means your not doing your fucking job.

Hopeless Bastard said:
Funny. I might have bought them were they not distributed by EA.
Oh? I would not have known about these games were it not for them being mentioned on games sites such as this one, and that's mostly thanks to EA.
Nurb said:
Same here, it really bugged me when Bioware sold it's soul.
Yeah, because Dragon Age was shit and Mass Effect 2 was shit and all the expansions and dlc they have planned seems shit and that SWTOR game they're working on seems to be pretty shit too. ... I'm sorry, what was your point?

If EA pulls a stunt with Bioware (or any other of their subsidiaries and collaborators) like Activision did with Infinity Ward, then I'll admit I was wrong but it seems right now that EA is working really hard to be seen as a company that actually cares about games again. I don't know if that's because they were losing money or because of this change that they're losing money now, but I sure hope that people would buy their games now. Only if you're interested in their games, of course -- I'm not suggesting you should just buy their games for the hell of it -- but don't boycott a company for actually trying to change its policy to at least something slightly more reasonable. They're a business after all, and if nobody will buy their games now, they'll revert back to Kotick-esque tactics.
They're a company that doesn't care much about the GAMES part of the video game industry beyond maximum short term profit, I don't like their business practices or their decisions, so I don't support them. I DID like supporting Bioware, but now they are a part of EA.
 

Tom Goldman

Crying on the inside.
Aug 17, 2009
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Sad Robot said:
Is it really that big a turn off for you if EA wants in on some cash by risking a publishing agreement with an indie game? I mean, that's like hating indie movies that have been distributed by Fox Searchlight or something, just because a greedy corporation got their hands on these products. What I'm trying to say is that I consider myself slightly above average in terms of how informed a person I am when it comes to games and movies but I'd've missed out on a ton of great stuff had they not been in some way financed by large corporations. They may ultimately do it for the money, but so what?
Well, EA hoisting these games up on their shoulders doesn't tell me, "these games are experimental and risky! Our investment may burn us, but we honestly believe in the product!" It tells me EA sees these games as naturally occurring forms of the type of games they make. Once someone starts saying, "Think popular game X combined with elements from popular franchise Y!" I'm basically seeing a shovel manufacturer reporting it found a tree with branches that just naturally grow with a shovel shape. Then reporting they've bought all rights to grow and harvest these trees, and any remaining naturally occurring trees will be razed by law enforcement.

And I love bioware, I just had gotten very bored with them after I picked up KOTOR and saw the character building mechanics were copy/paste from all their other games, with some "star wars" lingo thrown in.
 

Kollega

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Jun 5, 2009
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Simriel said:
When did EA become the GOOD guys here? And when did activision become the devil?
Since about 2008 or so. EA realised that bad publicity isn't worth few extra dollars of profit, and are trying to improve their image. Activision with their business practices, meanwhile, descend further and further towards a hybrid of Hitler and Skeletor whose piss is pure liquid malevolence.

As for the topic at hand - well, if EA are ready to provide marketing for indie games while not actually taking over the studios, it can only be a good thing.