It’s now the ten year anniversary of Ophidian 2350, and we felt it was finally time to tell our story. The story of how high school friends from Queens, New York, had a dream to bring change to the game industry they loved.
Till this day, only a handful of people know our story. But with Ophidian starting to return from its long slumber, we want those of you coming to our page--maybe returning after many years or maybe coming for the first time--to learn a little about what drove us to create Ophidian 2350.
In the game Universe, the Ophidians are a mysterious and secretive race of aliens who run and control the Ophidian games. In the real world, you had three close friends who grew up playing role playing games and CCG’s together, and many other amazing people who, just for the love of games, joined us and helped us make Ophidian what it was and is.
The World That Was
At the time when we created what became Ophidian 2350, the CCG industry was dominated by the Big Three: Magic, Yu-gi-oh, and Pokemon. There were a number of independent companies holding on, mainly releasing licensed titles.
We submitted a patent for the flow mechanic, hoping to use it as an umbrella for ourselves and other Indie minded companies to move in new directions, bringing more innovation and original concepts into the space.
With no history, no contacts, and little more than a couple thousand dollars between us, we contacted publisher after publisher trying to find someone willing to give us a shot.
Let’s remember that Ophidian existed in a time without: Facebook, Twitter, major blogs, digital distribution, Youtube, kickstarters...making finding a publisher our only option.
Then, after rejections from nearly every player in the game industry, shortly after receiving our patent, we got a meeting with the heads of Fleer to finally show our game.
As the meeting approached, our demo game just wasn’t right. At the last moment, while sitting in a pizza joint drowning our sorrows in hot dough and melted cheese, Shaun got an idea to add multiple gladiators to the game as a focus for the other cards, and by the time the last slice was gone, we had a demo we were happy with.
When we walked into the boardroom we were all nervous from the pressure, but as we went into our demo, things started to relax. When we finished our prepared game, the head of the family in charge of Fleer--a steely-eyed grizzled pro—almost pulling our worst fears out said, “Do it again.”
We had only prepared for that one demo, but we trusted the cards, shuffled up, and played it again without any script. After sweating it out for what seemed like hours in a room filled with Fleer card memorabilia and history, we shook hands and gained ourselves a publisher. We knew we couldn't possibly do such a massive undertaking alone, and were extremely fortunate to connect with Carl Van Ostrand , Kevin Coleman, and others. They all responded to our ad looking for testers, and became valuable members of the team, and many are still involved with Ophidian today.
Ophidian 2350 allowed us to take risks, create a new property, try new mechanics, and innovate. We were all gamers, so we pushed for a “by gamers, for gamers” approach to everything we did. Most important, we wanted to make something both fun and deep.
But as any new game studio working under a publisher could tell, it was a constant struggle to see that original vision make it through: We had only five months from start to finish to get the entire game made and ready for stores. Not a single member of the Fleer staff were familiar with CCGs or the special needs involved compared to sports cards and we were just as new to their side. It wasn't until very late when David Chase arrived at Fleer, that we found a partner on the game side of the project that clicked for us.
Weekly threats of cancellation, endless milestones, resistance to every change. Working with Fleer was a mixed bag. While the business side of the company had a cutthroat corporate culture, the creative team were nearly all kindred spirits that made us feel at home in a place we didn't truly belong.
We learned how to turn our weaknesses into strengths; Fleer had no artists contacts in the CCG space and a limited budget, so they contacted students, amateurs and friends to work on cards. We realized that there were some amazing undiscovered talents in those groups, so we pushed for the ability to work more closely with them and help give them a vehicle to improve and grow as artists. The result is an incredible raw power to a lot of the art, and many artists went on to do incredible things in the field.
Despite all the obstacles, all the frantic 5am phone calls to stop another threat to kill the project, at the end of those hectic months we had something we were all truly proud of.
Our game was released in August 2003 to great acclaim, with Scrye Magazine giving it the only 5 Star Gameplay in all of 2003. Things were looking very promising--Then the game was put on hold by Fleer only three months after release, and canceled in another two, leaving the now nearly finished first expansion on permanent hold.
Looking back, there were a few reasons why; Although Fleer wanted the game to succeed, they weren’t willing to give it the time it needed. New concepts and new properties don't blast sales records at release, but grow over time.
Additionally, we faced legal intimidation and strong arm tactics from a competitor, whose patent dominates the industry, starting just days after our release. Between the efforts to launch the game, and the legal intimidation, Fleer gave in to the various pressures and put Ophidian 2350 and everything we had worked for into deep freeze.
Ultimately, it was a sad day for everyone because so much work from so many people had gone into the game and all that was planned to come after.
The World That Is
In the few months that Ophidian 2350 was supported by Fleer, we developed an amazing fan base who have since released 9 expansion sets, wrote countless amounts of fiction, ran tourneys at the major conventions for many years running, and even inspired two video games.
Ten years later those same feelings we had then hold true for us today. We’re still die-hard gamers and still want to make our games with what’s best for gamers first. It continues to amaze us that a game that only sold for three months has managed to grow a dedicated community of fans that has survived for over ten years.
The World That Will Be
Recently, from all directions, almost like a massive ethereal switch had been pulled, pieces are coming together for us to bring Ophidian back. Fans have been coming to us and telling us their stories; about what they’ve been doing and also how important Ophidian was to them.
For those of us that worked together on Ophidian, as designers, artists, writers, testers, there’s been nothing like it since. It was a place where people who loved games could come together and do amazing things. It was the type of opportunity that only comes once in a lifetime.
We became a brotherhood. And even though we now have families and full-time jobs and live in different places, we still hear the roar of the crowds telling us to open the games once again. To step back into the arena once again.
Do you can hear the roar of the crowds?
Thanks for listening,
Shaun, Gregg, and Raffi