Hello brawlers! My name is Rickard ‘Gedan’ Frisegård, CEO at Stunlock Studios – better known for being the winner of the first “unofficial” Battlerite skirmish, a proud father of two, and with an extended family of 45 colleagues. Liz asked me if I wanted to write today’s Dev Blog, our last Dev Blog before Free to Play, and I agreed. I wanted to use this moment to reflect on what we have achieved, give thanks to the community, and show my appreciation to everyone who has been working so hard (for over 830 days) to make Battlerite, our crown achievement, a reality.
Many of you know Stunlock Studios started in the summer of 2008 with a bunch of students wanting to make the best Arena Brawler in the world. I personally joined Stunlock in the summer of 2011, several months after the launch of Bloodline Champions. The game had a passionate community, critical acclaim, and grew rapidly, and we tried our best to sustain Bloodline Champions. But in the end the small size of our studio caught up to us and we had to stop development. Moving away from Bloodline Champions was, to this day, the hardest decision we have faced as a company. A lot of hearts were broken that day.
We were still confident in our abilities, however, and went on to work with Deep Silver on Dead Island: Epidemic. We do love the title, and we believed in it completely. But we also felt little creative freedom, and the decision to shutdown the project was out of our hands. It was another painful blow to the family.
As I reflect on how to write this blog post and the history of Stunlock, I realize that it’s impossible to really do justice to what it was like sitting down in the summer of 2015 trying to ‘ignite’ a new idea and direction for the studio. How do you move on from a cancelled project? How do you decide which direction to go when every avenue is open?
Well, we decided on what we wanted. We wanted creative freedom and the independence to make our own decision on our games again. We wanted to keep working in the genre we tried to perfect in the eight previous years. From there we found our direction, and it led us to Battlerite.
A New Start
In a lot of ways the support we got from launching Battlerite into Early Access was unexpected. With hundreds of thousands of players buying and downloading the game, we were overwhelmed with managing what we thought would be a smaller start and a niche game. Our passion project suddenly became our greatest success yet and if we wanted Battlerite to continue to grow, change was no longer a “what if” but a necessity.
We gave everything to make the first months of Early Access work, to meet the expectations of our new players. Finally we took a step back and realized we couldn’t keep it up with the way things were, with the number of people we had. We had a long conversation with ourselves – how do we best to deliver on our original vision and meet our player’s expectations? We had to decide if we wanted the studio to grow.
More content, refined gameplay, events, new features, customer support – we looked at our backlog and we looked at our team. To give you what you wanted we needed to change the way we managed Battlerite and how we communicated internally and externally – we needed more people.
There were 24 people in Stunlock Studios when we launched Early Access. By the end of this year we will have made it to 45. We developed new ways to prioritize tasks and stay flexible, updated how we took in your feedback and streamlined how we made content to build a solid foundation for Battlerite to grow. Scaling up definitely slowed down everything in the beginning of the year, and we apologize for the perceived inactivity, but now all engines are running and everything is smoother than ever before. Your commitment to the game kept us on track and helped us improve. You can expect more from Stunlock and Battlerite than ever before when we now enter Free to Play.
I can admit that I was a little scared half a year ago. Scared that we wouldn’t be able to deliver the product you all deserve that has been nine years in the making, scared that we were going to let you down, that I would let my Stunlock family down. Today though, I’m far more hopeful. We’ve looked at our past, at what didn’t work and why it didn’t, and we’ve changed for the better. We have the freedom now to shape our own game, and we’ve made the decision to grow with it and with our community. We have no plans to go back on that decision.
I can say that we will be ready tomorrow, when Free to Play launches. Once again thank you for believing in us, your continued support, and thorough feedback . We look forward to seeing you all in the Arena, and showing you what’s in store for the months and years ahead.
And that’s all for the Dev Blog, folks. The next time you’ll see something like this, it will be in a slightly different form. Remember, these posts aren’t vanishing completely, you’ll see. Until then, I’ll see you all in the Arena tomorrow – no excuses this time!