Two years ago, a group of aspiring studio founders enrolled in the first-ever Xbox Game Studios Game Camp in New Orleans, where they received the tools, resources, and mentorship to make their studio dreams come true.
Ghost Garden games is an emerging, female-led, gender-inclusive studio in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The team was officially founded in 2015, when a group of high school friends discovered a passion for telling narrative stories in an interactive way.
“The original people involved were Asher, Leslie, Claire and I,” said Kathryn Nastasi, Ghost Garden Games producer and technical artist. “Claire was a teacher who tutored us in high school, and we remember meeting every day in her class and discussing the idea of Echo.† that is this little sound wave and its ball-of-light companion, Hue. Over the course of a few years, we really developed this idea into a beautiful story and that was the project that we eventually brought to the first Game Camp.”
Game Camp was founded with the goal of providing aspiring game makers from traditionally marginalized communities with access to subject matter experts, tools and industry connections. The program provided a mentorship experience that taught basic skills in game creation, programming and game design through a mix of self-paced learning and live instruction.
While in camp, the “Ghosts” realized they needed to step back and build a strong foundation for their studio before evolving Echo† Therefore, during the program, they focused heavily on exploring their interests and defining their team’s organizational structure.
Participating teams were paired with mentors from Xbox Game Studios and even had the chance to discuss their ideas with industry legends like Shannon Loftis and Ken Lobb. The Ghosts have received support from Erin Ali, a Game Camp mentor and lead producer at Turn 10 Studios throughout the program, and even met her every six weeks after camp.
“I had been thinking about opportunities to work with groups and support the next generation of industry developers when I saw an article on our company intranet about the launch of Game Camp in New Orleans. I remember how hard it was to break into the industry and understand what development was like,” said Ali. “I’ve always enjoyed seeing others perform and mentorship has been a meaningful way for me to share that joy. I hope Ghost Garden Games enjoyed their experience with me as much as I learned from them.”
Ghost Garden Games officially became an LLC in December 2020. “We left the first Game Camp with a lot of confidence to get out there and make our studio dreams come true,” said Nastasi. They have since moved to their own studio space in a technology park and have grown into a team of nine people.
However, according to Nastasi, the team quickly became aware that although Echo was fueled by passion, it “was a little too ambitious for” [their] current skills and goals.” Consequently, the Ghosts sat down in their Baton Rouge studio space and began evaluating their next steps.
“We were inspired by something that we noticed” Super Giants Games did with their latest release, Hades† They took different systems from their different games..Bastion, Transistor, and pyre…and perfected them for Hades,” said Nastassi.
The team decided to implement that strategy in their own work, and they have shifted their focus from Echo until main room† main room is a narrative, point-and-click, couch co-op game. The purpose of main room is to solve a mystery in the human body by exploring the perspective of the left and right hemispheres of the brain, so that two players can work together and solve a mystery together. The studio is currently in the design and prototype phase for main room and will bring it to Game Camp New Orleans 2022 in hopes of getting feedback from Xbox Game Studios mentors.
“In the end we decided to sign up for Game Camp 2022 because we are so much more organized as a studio now. We have such a better idea of what we’re doing, and we’d love to walk in and learn and focus on some of the areas we couldn’t focus on the first time around,” Nastasi said. “For those interested in game development, this is the best opportunity to get one-on-one guidance from game industry professionals.”
Xbox Game Studios Game Camp details can be found at: xbox.com/gamecamp† Stay tuned to Xbox Wire for the latest news from Xbox Game Studios.