While Enduring Games works on internal game and tech IP, the studio has built its reputation over the past four years as a powerhouse of co-development.
The Austin, Texas-based team has busied itself on 19 collaborative development projects since the studio’s foundation, across an impressive 70 SKUs. What Enduring isn’t however, founder and studio head Adam Creighton keenly highlights, is a traditional outsourcing outfit. Not that there's anything wrong with that; but Enduring strives to deliver a distinct blend of high-end collaboration and co-development, bringing not just experience and craft, but also values and an adaptable mindset.
That approach has ultimately seen Enduring listed on the Unreal Engine Service Partner Program. The official Epic initiative offers users of Unreal a catalogue of approved partners to work with on projects that make ambitious use of the engine’s abilities.
Creighton himself fell for the video game medium in the golden era of arcade classics like Pac-Man and Space Invaders, and early consoles such as the Atari 2600. Soon he would find himself drawn to home computers such as the Apple II, TRS80 and later, the Atari 520 ST, where the line between playing and making games was significantly eroded. His academic journey, meanwhile, would take him to studying technical communications with minors in industrial and instructional design, which in turn saw Creighton find work with outfits such as IBM and Visa.
Games were always on his mind though – even building out an early prototype games payment system in the early-to-mid 2000s at Visa. He also trained as a voice actor serving games and films. But it was ultimately a move to Emergent Game Technologies to work as a technical product manager on the Gamebryo engine that set him on the path to founding Enduring, via stints working on various games, including as a producer on Warren Spector’s Epic Mickey at Junction Point Studios.
“I’ve always been a huge pop-culture fan, and video games are such an exciting expression of what popular culture is,” Creighton says of his motivation to pursue games as a career. Through his time in the industry, he started to see the potential of a distinct studio model that would deliver a partnership approach informed by the realities of the work.
“I wanted to start a company that was very values driven, focused on building high quality products and working with high calibre people and improving the game industry by being people of high character creating really good work,” Creighton says of his motivations to establish Enduring. “We went in with our eyes wide open. I didn’t plan to change the industry from the top down. I wanted my company to have a positive influence, and – from the bottom up – do some neat stuff for the gaming industry.”
Since its founding on the first day of July 2019, Creighton and his team certainly seem to have met those ambitions, having worked on a variety of titles including Demon’s Souls, Godfall, Borderlands 3, Tribes of Midgard, the upcoming Immortals of Aveum, and many more. That work has seen the studio target additional platforms for Unreal games, introduce cross-play updates into AAA titles, and, in the case of a partnership with Crunchyroll, build the first Unreal Engine video-on-demand application for the Switch. Plainly, it is notably distinct work from that of purebred outsourcing.
"We treat every project we work on as if it is our game.”
"There's a few different things about Enduring Games, I think,” Creighton offers. “One is that we have a portfolio approach internally, and with our partners. What I mean by that is, we have a very defined vision for what we want to do; so partnership developments, and digital distribution and digital IP. I built this company around the idea that we are always making sure we have those kinds of three things in motion. And the partnership development is our highest, high-end co-development, our specialised services and value add for ports and targets.
"Our digital distribution work is really about targets of opportunity. We see a partner's game, and we say: 'OK. That game would be amazing on a specific piece of hardware'. If the developer doesn't have the technical experience or the relationships, we will move the game to the hardware, and publish it. Our original IP, meanwhile, covers both technology and games."
To enact that offering, Enduring has had to establish a practice of deeply integrating itself into teams, providing the likes of daily updates, regular feedback, and consistent communication.
“What we wanted to do in setting up Enduring Games is that we wanted to bring really high calibre professionals to provide services for folks that are the kind of services that true craftspeople provide. We're not here simply to provide simple resource augmentation to developers and others looking for support. We're here to offer a high-end centre of excellence. We want to be the problem-solvers across all disciplines. We have engineering expertise, and we have art, we have design, we have product. My success criteria is that a game is visibly, immeasurably better without me telling someone it's visibly, immeasurably better because we helped.”
Fascinatingly, Creighton sees a parallel opportunity in the provision of co-development; namely, a chance to share and spread both experience and values through the network of partners it serves; while absorbing and learning from its co-developer clients along the way. That means endeavouring to encourage healthy working practices at the studios it serves, encouraging avoiding crunch, and pursuing quality and success in sustainable ways.
Of course, the practical reality is that Enduring works first and foremost on delivering the results co-development requires. Creighton simply believes it is possible to leave a positive, impactful legacy along the way.
"We look at ways to make partner games exceptional. We treat two things as true at the same time,” Creighton explains. “One is we treat every project we work on as if it is our game. And so we make decisions and push the quality and ambition, and make sure that we're not being precious about things we'd like to see in the game that just aren't making the game better. So we're really taking care of the game as if it's our game.
"The other thing that's true at the same time is that it's not our game. It's absolutely our client's game. And we want to make sure that we uphold their vision, their excitement, and their goals for the game. And that's a very push-pull thing, but also complementary, as a set of values. Because what it does is it lets us push stuff forward as the craftspeople we are, to make something excellent, but also because we care about our partners and want their success. Their success is our success.”
"Being on [Unreal's] Partner Program lets us be part of what Epic is doing to elevate the industry"
That focus on success ultimately led to Enduring being picked as a trusted member of the Unreal Engine Service Partner Program.
"We are developers that use the Unreal Engine ourselves,” Creighton continues. “We help teams developing in current and past versions of Unreal. Epic even engaged us to provide on-behalf-of expert service for them, supporting their licensees on UDN, and then we became part of the Service Partner Program.
“Being on the Partner Program has been so great for us. It exposes us to amazing projects, and it lets us be part of what Epic and the Unreal engine are doing to elevate the industry and what games can be. Epic’s isn't the only commercial engine in the game industry, but they're doing it in a very powerful way that's fun to watch, fun to be a part of, and support. They've been tremendously good partners, and it’s been great for Enduring Games.
"As a generality, we have to be platform agnostic and work across all kinds of technologies from established tools to proprietary technology. Epic doesn't get in the way of any of that at all, and it has been a big win for both. It's quite smart – take a studio that's really good with your tech, leverage that expertise, and build it to a different level. That really helps us do more, and continue our success as Enduring Games.”
With that, Creighton must turn his attention back to one of Enduring’s current projects, the soon-to-be-released Unreal-powered FPS Immortals of Avium with Ascendant Studios. Enduring is a busy studio bristling with multiple projects, where doing it the right way always guides the work.