Martin Egger helped create a game that no one has played yet, but quite a few people are talking about. Identity Crisis is still going through development, but the third-person action-adventure game – and the Swiss game studio (ShardLine Entertainment) behind it – recently made headlines when it won the Public Choice Award at the 2014 Startupfair, a conference that brings young entrepreneurs, investors, and industry professionals under one roof in Zurich, Switzerland, to network and develop their businesses.
Receiving that type of recognition might seem like it would be a bit overwhelming for a company that has existed for less than a year, but it also exemplifies what the ShardLine experience has been like for Martin, who serves as executive producer. Currently enrolled in Full Sail’s online Game Design program, Martin dove into the gaming industry after years of working in Switzerland’s information technology sector. A trip to GDC in Europe a year ago with a friend proved to be an eye-opening experience – despite the fact that they attended with little more than an idea and a desire to meet people.
“People were so open. I felt like I belonged there,” says Martin. “If I was at an IT event and some new guy came in and told everybody all these exciting dreams he had, I would tell him he had a lot to learn first. And of course we did get some of those responses, but in general everyone was very helpful and it was easy to connect. I think we impressed a lot of people because we took the time and the money to attend the event.”
Identity Crisis takes place in a civilization ravaged by war, and is centered around the story of the search for a cure for the Hendriks disease. Rich with dialogue and directed by gameplay that allows the player to drive the story through active and passive choices, the game reflects Martin’s overall aesthetic for video games as a whole.
“I’ve always believed that games are the next evolutionary step in how stories can be told. Books and films obviously have their own unique ways to tell stories, but games bring a different level of interactivity to the table,” he says. “Our driving force is to make a game that not only provides a deep and enriched story, but at the same time gives players the ability to steer decisions that are made throughout the game. It creates a sense of ownership for players, even though of course the boundaries of the game have been created by us. It’s just a whole different dynamic of how a story can be presented.”
Although ShardLine still has a long road ahead of them before Identity Crisis goes public, the company – whose 20 team members (including some Full Sail students and alumni) work virtually from across the globe – sees the Public Choice Award as a sign that they’re on the right track. As the team continues to develop the game and present their progress to potential investors and publishers, Martin attributes their recognition to the ambition and positive energy that he and his partners have carried with them throughout the journey.
“We walked into Startupfair with nothing in our hands but some concepts, but what made us win in the end was that we really engaged everyone. They saw how passionate we are about what we want to do, even though we were in a state where nothing was concrete,” he says.
Outside of the game itself, Martin also feels a level of accomplishment from the satisfaction he now gets from working in an entertainment-related field – one that is a far cry from his days of working in IT.
“Working with creative people makes me happy,” he says. “I’m not so into dictating what the game is going to be like. I just want to enable them to do what they dream about and create that environment for them.”