I love co-op games and have had the chance to work on some amazing ones (Left 4 Dead 1 & 2, Portal 2). After the release of Left 4 Dead (L4D), I received an email that changed forever how I think about making games. It was from a soldier stationed in Iraq who said L4D had saved his marriage. It was simple—he and his wife missed each other and talking on the phone just made them realize this more and feel even more miserable. But jumping into a game of L4D let them forget that and just exist in the moment. They could spend time in each other’s company as if they were sitting next to each other on the couch at home.
That is powerful and something only the shared experience of games can bring.
Players are smart, they are social. But games often don’t reflect that and we think that can change. So we’re forming a new studio in Seattle that is itself co-operative. There is an old adage that you should never be scared to hire someone smarter than yourself...for me that’s a pretty easy task. Choosing my co-founder was even easier—I just asked the smartest person I know to join me, Dr. Kimberly Voll. Kim's an expert in AI and human-centric design. She's worked on products that have touched millions and is equally excited about the power of games and the future of playing together.
As Kim and I talked over the years about the kind of games we want to make, we realized we want to create games that give players a place to breathe and live in the moment. Games that tell stories knowing you are going to come back again and again, that change each time you play them without feeling completely random, and that help you feel like a real team that supports each other...not a bunch of folks in each other’s way. And where AI drives not just the enemies but helps drive the entire experience.
But enough from me—let’s make this blog post co-op—here’s Kim on how we’re going to get there…
We think now is the time to change the culture of game development. Make everyone equals, not just in their impact on the project but in how we divide the loot of our success. Relax strict PTO policies because we trust each other to take the time you need. We want to build games that reflect our culture.
We are supported by like-minded, patient investors with Kevin at Upfront Ventures as our lead, who has known us for years, working with Chet on a gaming startup board, as well as Riot Games. They love and understand games but more importantly, have time and again backed founder-led and employee-owned tech startups from the beginning towards long-term, independent success.
A few weeks ago, after more than three years at Riot, I started making the rounds to leadership to let them know about our plans for Stray Bombay. The reaction was an outpouring of support and questions about how Riot could get involved. After this led to plans for an investment from Riot, I asked Dylan Jadeja at Riot for a few words, and he had this to say:
“When Kim told us that she’d be launching Stray Bombay, our sadness for her leaving was quickly replaced with excitement for what they’ll create. Kim is a brilliant game designer and her passion for helping players collaborate in positive, productive ways is a surefire recipe for memorable experiences. Most importantly, Kim is an amazing person who’s commitment to her teams and colleagues has helped make Riot a better place—we are incredibly grateful for everything she has brought to Riot each and every day. As players, we’re pumped to explore their games, and as a company, we’re proud to be investing in them—we’ll be cheering for you, Kim!”
If you are interested in joining us, send an email to Careers@straybombay.com with your resume and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
And if you are a player, we aren’t ready for you yet. You can join our newsletter to keep up to date, but we are going to go dark for a little bit as we start laying the foundation of our new world. Then we will share it with you, get your feedback and grow and create that experience with you.
Chet Faliszek & Kimberly Voll, Co-Founders