Brad Hendricks is the Founder & CEO of Blind Squirrel Games, an independent video game studio located in Orange County, CA with a second studio opening in Austin, TX. Blind Squirrel Games combines small studio values, with big studio ambitions.
What initially attracted you to gaming?
I was first attracted to the coin-operated games in the later part of the 70’s. I’d get a pocket full of quarters and spend half a day at the local arcade with friends. That eventually led to the first home consoles: Atari, Intellivision and so on. My parents didn’t own one but I would go to my friend’s house where he had one, and would spend hours in a driving game trying to find the edges of the maps. I was always a tinkerer and problem solver. I took my parents TV apart to see how it worked. As you can imagine, that didn’t go over well. Then in the mid 80’s I programmed my first game in science class using one of the first basic MACs (It was an ad libs game). I was hooked from there. Foolishly, I didn’t take math as seriously as I should have and did not get a CSE degree from the college I went to, but I eventually found my way into the games industry in the late 90’s, first as a product manager for a peripherals company and eventually into production in various capacities. The rest is history.
In 2010, you launched Blind Squirrel Games. What inspired you at the time to launch your own gaming company?
I launched Blind Squirrel Games because I saw that the gaming industry sufficiently lacked in studios that focused on continued development for existing games. In the beginning, Blind Squirrel Games worked on small projects, but quickly established a solid reputation in engineering with some key publishers and developers. Because of this, we began to add Art, QA and Production to our portfolio of services, and now, over 40 projects later, I’m proud to say we’ve become one of the premier work-for-hire development studios in North America. We plan to continue to be a go-to work-for-hire game development company, while simultaneously continue to expand into original IP development. Also, it was really important to me when I established BSG to grow a diverse and invaluable team with people from all walks of life and differing backgrounds and experiences, and I believe we have accomplished just that with such an amazing and unique group of talented people.
What have been some of the most popular games that have been released?
We’ve been lucky enough to work on some of the most exciting titles in the industry including Borderlands 2, Bioshock, Sunset Overdrive, The Sims, Prey, Evolve, Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, Disney Infinity 1.0, Disney Infinity 2.0 and Disney Infinity 3.0, WWE 2K18, Mafia III, Star Wars: Jedi Challenges, Civilization VI and MANY more.
Blind Squirrel Games has released two Star Wars titles, are there plans for additional Star Wars or Disney games?
No current plans, but given our ongoing relationship with Disney, Lucas Arts, and other 3rd parties that publish Star Wars games, anything is possible! We could only hope to be so fortunate to continue to work with such an amazing franchise and IP holders.
Blind Squirrel Games was recently featured in VentureBeat for going the extra mile during COVID-19 to keep employees engaged. Can you discuss some of the cool ways that employees have kept in touch?
Absolutely! This has been a huge priority for us since the beginning of the COVID outbreak; ensuring our employees are happy, connected and thriving. We’ve rolled out a wide range of activities and internal community services to help move this priority forward, and below are just a handful of them:
- Digital Clubs for Employees – Digital platform for employees to start clubs and discussion groups based on common interests like: Comics and Books, Pets, Cooking, Video Games, Coding, Board Games, Sci Fi, and more.
- Digital Meetups – Prior to the WFH mandate, BSG held weekly Friday socials at the end of the workday, and we are committed to continuing to do that even while everyone is remote. Every Friday at the end of the day we hold our regular social digitally and conduct randomized raffles to give employees digital gift cards to their grocery market or store of choice. We’ve also started doing regular pub trivia with prizes and party games online.
- Digital Space for Employee Tips, Advice and Tricks – BSG is using the online platform to provide employees with ongoing tips and advice on how to stay more connected outside of work.
- Support & Endorsements for Employees – BSG is developing ongoing ways to support and endorse these social activities amongst employees. For example, our first supported club activity was a home cooking contest. This club focuses on how stay-at-home employees are having to cook more during the quarantine and asks people to share their home-cooking and recipes with each other. For the top voted recipe of the week, BSG gives a $20 digital gift card to the winner’s restaurant or store of choice.
- Small Steps that Make a Big Difference – BSG has enforced a rule that the management team must have their cameras on for all virtual meetings. Making sure all management has video on so everyone can see their faces is super important, adding a necessary personal layer to the circumstances. If a manager doesn’t have a camera setup for their computer, we’ll make sure they do, purchasing whatever home equipment that is necessary.
Blind Squirrel Games has been busy working on one of the most anticipated titles of the year “Drifters Loot the Galaxy”. Could you share with us the premise of this game?
I can’t even begin to describe how excited we all are to finally roll out our first ever original title!
Drifters Loot the Galaxy is a free to play 5v5 hero shooter that delivers a unique mixture of aerial and ground combat. Our first goal we had in mind when designing the game was that we wanted a hero shooter that delivers unprecedented freedom of movement. A key aspect to our game is that all characters have access to Driftpacs — our version of a high powered jetpack — and grappling hooks. This gives all players the ability to drift and swing around maps at breakneck speed from all angles. The result is an exhilarating shooter experience with battles taking place both in the air and on the ground.
Also, as our first original IP, it has been very exciting to develop our own universe and lore, and we’re thrilled to build that world out over time. Our foundational characters include the “god” of our universe, Bob, who’s kind of a crass, inept lush who created this botched universe in the middle of an intergalactic bender, and of course, there are the “Drifters” — aliens, androids, and humanoids with outlandish backstories and personalities all their own. Our imaginations set the stage for both a fun story and great gameplay and let us put our own twist on the timeless “intergalactic raiders in search of plunder” tale. Overall, it’s been a very fun universe to develop filled with some vibrant personalities, and as an ever-expanding game, we have the opportunity to create a diverse world that can go anywhere, and we are excited to see where the story leads us.
The game will be available in North America for free on PC via Steam starting with our Open Beta which is out now. This has been a long time in the making, and we’re thrilled to get the game in the hands of gamers and start collecting their feedback.
What type of gamers will be drawn to this game?
Drifters Loot the Galaxy will feel familiar to fans of hero shooters and multiplayer shooters. While these are highly competitive genres, we have also focused on making sure our matches are straight up fun and accessible. We’ve put a lot of hard work into our control scheme to make sure our sense of movement through drifting and grappling are intuitive, and that everything from combat to customization will be enjoyed by shooter fans who play at multiple skill levels.
Do you still have time to play games yourself? If yes, what games?
I do play games, in the minimal time I have left outside of work. Recently, I’ve been playing Fortnite with my son. I also just started playing Death Stranding, which is such a beautiful game. But naturally I’m finding myself playing Drifters more than any of those other games.
Blind Squirrel Games currently has offices in Orange County, CA, with a new office soon to open in Austin, Texas. What is the appeal behind Austin, TX?
In recent years, Austin has become a mecca for game developers and publishers. There are quite a few well-known publishers with headquarters there, so when we thought about the next best place for us to continue to expand outside of Southern California, Austin was it! There are also a lot of people who are migrating from California to Austin to find a cheaper way of life and we wanted to take advantage of that trend. We are currently seeking people who live there and are working out plans for internal employees who want to relocate there as well.
Is there anything else that you would like to share about Blind Squirrel Games?
It’s so surreal to finally be launching our own original title, so I guess I’ll top it off by pointing everyone to go check out our new game, Drifters Loot the Galaxy, which is available now for free in open beta on PC via Steam. We invite the community to provide feedback and help us evolve the game!
Head on over to www.driftersthegame.com and download the game today!
Games on Steam: Ancient Mysteries
Games on Steam is a weekly installment that tackles the latest and greatest Indie games on this popular platform. Today, we talk about frustrated toys, futuristic racer, awe-inspiring ancient worlds, and one chill monster.
A Monster’s Expedition
To start, we have a relaxing puzzle adventure that puts you in the role of a cute monster eager to learn more about the mythical human race. The game comes from Draknek, a studio that made Cosmic Express and A Good Snowman is Hard to Build. Similarly, A Monster’s Expedition also features smart puzzles that revolve around pushing trees and creating pathways to reach new islands. Furthermore, the game is absolutely huge, and can easily glue you in for hours on end.
You came to your grandmother’s house for a visit. In it, you find your childhood toys, although they are not as innocent as they once seemed. Unfortunately, they become erratic at night, and you will have to monitor them through toy cameras to keep a safe distance. This is a basic premise of Angry Toys, a horror game with a vibe that’s very similar to 5 Nights at Freddy’s. If you are a fan of survival games that rely on jump scares and creepy toys, you can’t go wrong with this one.
Inertial Drift is not your typical arcade racer. For one, developers decided to completely reimagine the usual mechanics by bringing in twin-stick control mechanics. It’s fairly easy to pick up, but mastering it will prove to be challenging. Especially considering each car handles differently. Inertial Drift also has a distinct, retro/comic visual style that looks very cool. If you are at all interested in cars, you won’t be disappointed with this baby.
Next, we have a prologue of a promising upcoming adventure. Omno is a vivid ancient world full of mystery. You will explore it as a small kid, and on your way, you will befriend strange creatures and solve various puzzles. Although it is fairly short, Omno immersed me immediately and it’s has a great potential.
Fantasy of Expedition
Lastly, here’s an action-adventure roguelike Indie called Fantasy Expedition. In it, you are ordered from Heavens to go on an important expedition. To survive, you will have to carefully build a powerful army by combining the unique skills of each follower. Also, the game lets you decide if you want to micromanage your army or let AI take care of everything, which is cool. All in all, Fantasy of Expedition mashes elements of Slay the Spire and auto chess successfully and can easily be enjoyed.
Games on Steam is out every week. Previous edition featured a badass murder mystery you don’t want to miss.
League of Legends: Details of Patch Notes 10.19
League of Legends (LoL) receives champion Samira. The game had the official Patch Notes 10.19 released by Riot Games. The update is of great importance to the esports scene, as it will be used in the 2020 LoL World Championship. The highlight was the confirmation of the newest shooter Samira. It is scheduled for release on September 21, 2020 along with its secondary PsyOps skin. As well as the already video standards demonstrating the operation of each one of them in LoL. Next, check out more details about the new champion.
So far, Samira’s skills had been shown quite superficially in her official trailer. With the skills summary, you can now get a better sense of your potential in Summoner’s Rift. Below, check out the passive and skills that the new shooter has:
Passive – Audacious Boost
Sequential and unrepeated skills increase Samira’s Style score by one letter, ranging from ‘E’ to ‘S’. Each Style score grants her additional Movement Speed. Samira can deal damage from a distance with his pistols or melee with his sword. The sword deals additional magic damage. In addition, the champion can toss enemies whose movements have been weakened by her allies into the air, prolonging the displacement effect.
Natural Talent (Q)
Samira fires directly with his pistols at a distant enemy. Opponents within melee range take a sword strike instead of a shot.
Sharp Maelstrom (W)
Samira spins the sword around her, dealing damage twice to nearby enemies, in addition to destroying opposing projectiles that are within the area and that enter the area during the skill.
Indomitable Momentum (E)
Samira advances and cuts through enemies (and allies) dealing magic damage and gaining additional Attack Speed for a period. Eliminating enemy champions resets the cooldown of the ability.
Infernal Trigger (R)
Samira fires a volley of shots, hitting all surrounding enemies ten times over the duration. Each shot deals Physical Damage, applies Life Theft and can cause Critical Strike. She can only cast the ability if her Style score is ‘S’ (maximum).
Riot Games says the new PsyOps-themed skins will be released in this update. While Kayle, Zed, Pyke and Viktor received their PsyOps skins this Thursday (17th). Along with the LeBlanc Championship skin, Samira wins the skin on its launch, on September 21, this being its secondary skin. It is a military style outfit with several futuristic and technological elements. The other champions who already own their PsyOps outfits are Ezreal, Sona, Shen, Vi and Master Yi.
All changes to Patch Notes 10.19
- Ahri: Fox Fire (W) mana cost and cooldown reduced. Mana cost was fixed from 55 to 40 and the cooldown went from 10/9/8/7/6 to 9/8/7/6/5 seconds.
- Akali: Base damage and multiplier of Five Point Strike (Q) ability power reduced. The ability now causes 30/55/80/105/130 (+0.6 ability power) and no longer 35/60/85/110/135 (+0.65 ability power).
- Aphelios: Base attack damage growth increased from 2 to 2.4.
- Azir: Surja’s (W) additional attack speed reduced from 20/30/40/50/60% to 15/25/35/45/55%.
- Caitlyn: Base attack damage and reduced attack speed growth. Base damage went from 64 to 62 and the attack speed increased from 4% to 3.5%.
- Irelia: Base damage to the dam and the perimeter of the Vanguard Blade (R) increased in the last levels – both went from 125/225/325 to 125/250/375.
- Ivern: Sluggish Seed (E) increased from 40/45/50/55/60% to 50/55/60/65/70%.
- Lucian: Base attack damage growth reduced from 2.75 to 2.3.
- Senna: Chance of appearance of Specters of the Mist (passive) reduced in troop kills – 8.33% in troops that Senna kills (approximately once every 2 waves) to 4.166% in troops that Senna kills (approximately once every 4 waves).
- Sivir: Lightfoot (passive) additional movement speed increased from 30 – 50 to 35 – 55 (levels 1 to 18).
- Sylas: Usurpar (R) cooldown reduced at last levels. The skill has now gone from 100/80 / 60s to 100/70 / 40s.
- Twisted Fate: Base movement speed reduced from 335 to 330.
- Udyr: Phoenix Posture cone-shaped damage (R) increased from 50/95/140/185/230/275 (+0.6 ability power) to 60/110/160/210/260/310 ( +0.7 ability power).
- Vayne: Increased Final Hour (R) attack damage increased from 25/40/55 to 35/50/65.
League of Legends: 10 Players Who Will Be Missed at Worlds 2020
Faker, Uzi, Rookie and other big names in the League of Legends scene will not be present at Worlds 2020. This is the main event on the Riot Games calendar. The championship, which this year will take place in a bubble system due to the coronavirus pandemic. You will surely miss several names that ended up being left behind, either because they did not qualify, for retirement, bad time, among other cases.
After lifting the Worlds trophy for the last time in 2016, Faker will once again not compete in the world championship. The only time he was out was in 2018, one of T1’s darkest years. After the redesign, the team reached the semifinals of the event in 2019, but did not go beyond.
Even with an unstable T1 year, Teddy is still one of the best snipers in the world and will be missed at Worlds of League of Legends.. Despite the team not having a good time, Faker’s teammate managed to make some good presentations during the last two stages of LCK, including one of the highlights of the 1st Split, when T1 lifted the trophy.
Doinb (FunPlus Phoenix)
Current champion of the world, the FunPlus Phoenix team failed to qualify for the Worlds in 2020 of League of Legends. Consequently, it will be a year without Doinb in the middle route. One of the highlights of last year, the player and his teammates had a lower than expected performance in the LPL this year and in the last Split they fell to V5 by 3 to 1 in the first bracket.
Rookie (Invictus Gaming)
Rookie is, without a doubt, one of the best players in the world. However, the year was not the best for Invictus Gaming. Although it was decisive at various times in the LPL, the medium was not able to “load” the team. Not being able to change the unstable scenario in time to get the spot for Worlds of League of Legends. The IG ended up eliminated after the 3-0 against LGD in the quarterfinals of the Chinese league and lost the chance to qualify.
TheShy (Invictus Gaming)
TheShy’s exotic choices on the top route will not be present at Worlds 2020. Like Rookie, the player failed to qualify and fell behind after a season of underperforming personal performance.
Uzi’s retirement was one of the most memorable moments of the League of Legends in 2020. The sniper arrived as one of the big names for the title in all editions of the tournament he played in, but unfortunately he couldn’t keep up until, in fact, lifting the trophy of the championship.