From Westeros to the Alpha Quadrant: Disruptor Beam conquers new realms

Disruptor Beam demoed its new Star Trek Timelines game at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco this week. Image via Disruptor Beam.
Disruptor Beam demoed its new Star Trek Timelines game at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco this week. Image via Disruptor Beam.

Both “Game of Thrones” and “Star Trek” have millions of fans around the world, but there are perhaps none more ardent than the team at Framingham-based game studio Disruptor Beam. Led by founder and chief executive Jon Radoff, the company works with two of entertainment’s most valuable properties on a daily basis, having created the “Game of Thrones Ascent” game and the upcoming “Star Trek Timelines.” 

“At Disruptor Beam, we feel as passionate about ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Star Trek’ as the fans that we’re creating these games for. That we get to create games based on worlds we love, for other people that love them as well, is just awesome,” said Radoff.

The company, which raised $3.2 million in series A funding late last year from Google Ventures, Romulus Capital, GrandBanks Capital, Midverse and CommonAngels, creates its socially driven mobile games based on these incredibly popular fictions, in part, as a way of de-risking player acquisition. Instead of starting from scratch with original yet unknown characters and stories, licensing allows the company to avoid some of the discoverability challenges that new material presents.

With season five of HBO’s series scheduled to begin next month, “Game of Thrones Ascent” will be featuring new content each week that coincides with every new episode of the season.

Star Trek fans will have to wait just a little longer. The company’s “Star Trek Timelines” game is currently in development, but the first hands-on demonstrations of the game are being shown this week by chief operating officer Hank Howie at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco — and at Disruptor Beam’s PAX East booth this weekend in Boston.

“There are lots of things that we’re excited about and that we hope other ‘Star Trek’ fans will also be excited about,” says Radoff. “First and foremost, in ‘Star Trek Timelines’ you can assemble a crew and experience storylines that cross over all of Star Trek — from the original series, to ‘The Next Generation,’ and ‘Deep Space Nine.’ We think fans are really going to enjoy this. In addition, the graphics in ‘Timelines’ are really stunning which makes exploring space that much more fun.”

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Disruptor Beam’s Hank Howie at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco (Photo via Tim Loew)

The next platform for “Game of Thrones Ascent,” already available on Apple and Android mobile devices, the Web and Facebook, will be Amazon’s Kindle Fire. It will be launching soon, said Howie.

Like many companies at GDC, Disruptor Beam is recruiting. The team is currently at 40 employees, but the company has more with four open positions currently noted on its website. But it’s no simple task to actually get one of the gigs.

“It’s not easy to join us. You have be talented and you have to be a rock-solid culture fit,” says Radoff. He said that in a recent search for a game designer they had about 120 applicants, which they narrowed down to 25 people who were asked to take a design test. “Out of those 25, we interviewed six people who were all extremely talented and hired one of them,” he said, “but in a sense, having a high bar actually makes it easier for us to attract other highly talented people because that type of person is looking to join a team where they’ll be constantly learning and challenged by others.”

The company also has a fairly non-traditional way of defining all our positions, Radoff explained. “Most of the game industry has shifted toward hiring hyper-specialized domain experts. Instead, we look for very strong generalists who also have the ability to ‘go deep’ in some aspects of their work.” For example, the company’s engineers are full stack developers; their 3-D artists are capable not only of modeling but also doing highly technical implementation within the game engine; game designers are very strong with both analytical tools and scripting environments; and UI/UX designers do hands-on prototyping and work within the system codebase. “Everyone works directly in the build environment,” he said.

Plus, who wouldn’t want to work in an office with a Captain’s Chair?

Timothy Loew is the executive director of the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI) based at Becker College in Worcester.

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