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Total Whiteout

Whiteout Studios founders on the collapse of GRIN, the state of Sweden and the evolution of gaming

When Swedish studio GRIN collapsed last year, it left a legacy of small independent start-ups in its wake.

One of those start-ups is Whiteout, founded earlier this year by Joel Fagerlund, Simon Rodriguez and Konstantin Schutte. sat down with them for an in-depth chat about the company's ethos, the state of Sweden's industry, and where they see themselves heading now.

GamesIndustry.bizCan you start with a little introduction of who you are, where you've been working previously, and what your roles are at Whiteout.
Joel Fagerlund

Sure. My background is obviously at GRIN, where I was a producer, but I started out in QA at Avalanche before moving to GRIN before they closed down.

Konstantin Schutte

I didn't work at GRIN - I joined these guys from Berlin. I started out working in Berlin - I'm German. Berlin is my hometown, and there I worked at Metaversum for almost two years, where I was lead artist. At the beginning of last year they relocated me to start-up studio offices in Singapore and right afterwards I was relocated to China where I started training artists at an agency there. That was just before I separated from them to found Whiteout.

Simon Rodriguez

I'm technical lead - I worked at GRIN as a programmer from start to finish.

Joel Fagerlund

Not on GRIN's terms though.

Simon Rodriguez

No. [laughs]

GamesIndustry.bizWe understand that you're working on a project involving CryEngine 3 at the moment, although nothing's really been announced yet - can you tell us anything about it? What platforms it'll be out on, whether it'll be boxed or download, or when we can expect it?
Konstantin Schutte

We can't really say much about it, obviously - but we can say that we're aiming for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360. We can't tell you if it's download or not download.

Simon Rodriguez

We've made a prototype, so what we're looking for now is essentially a partner to publish the game.

GamesIndustry.bizWhat's it been like working with the engine?
Simon Rodriguez

For us, making it work with consoles wasn't something we had to do ourselves, but it worked.

Joel Fagerlund

Obviously, we've developed it on PC though. As a tool it's great as a sandbox editor - it's a very big engine that is capable of doing a lot of stuff, obviously, which we've been experiencing over the last few months.

GamesIndustry.bizYou're all in a new situation now, coming from bigger companies to work for a new start up. Do you feel that's been an advantageous move, that you're in a better position now than you were?
Joel Fagerlund

From our perspective we feel this is the best point to start up a developer. Starting up now as a small developer we feel is the perfect time.

GamesIndustry.bizWould you like to become a triple-A developer, or would you rather retain that small studio flexibility?
Konstantin Schutte

It's a line to me that doesn't really exist. If the game project presents itself as having to be bought on a disc then, that is what we'll make. If it's the right game for a disc then we want to make it for a disc. But if it's this wacky, crazy idea that nobody would back for a disc at retail then it goes to downloadable markets and that's fine. To me it's just more opportunity. It's not either or, it's just what each game's fit for.

I think the market as a whole will learn a lot from downloadable games - these crazy ideas that can only work on a smaller scale - I think they will, at some point, change the retail market.

GamesIndustry.bizI don't want to focus too much on GRIN, but previously, a lot of the stuff that happened there was either ports or licensed games - this new found freedom to really let loose on your own IP must be great. Has that changed the way you've worked?
Joel Fagerlund

Well what we did at GRIN was quite different from what we're doing now. At GRIN we were working on Bionic Commando, Terminator Salvation and Wanted. We're a different developer so it's hard to do a comparison. We're a much smaller team now: we work very tightly. We worked tightly at GRIN too, but at GRIN everyone was specialised, so everyone at Whiteout has to pull more weight!

GamesIndustry.bizThe recent cutbacks and closures that have affected the industry have obviously been sad, but haven't they also given smaller studios like Whiteout something of an opportunity by creating a gap in the market?
Joel Fagerlund

In the long term, it's hard to predict, but it's already interesting to see that when GRIN closed its doors, we came out of it, so on an individual level it's always bad when you lose your job... But for the Swedish community it's created a much more varied market with more developers than in the past. But it is hard to predict, and it's sad when Realtime Worlds has to lay-off people.

Konstantin Schutte

From my perspective, I was never at GRIN, so I'm on the outside looking in, really. What I've perceived from my time in Stockholm is that the Swedish developers, all of these smaller developers which came out of GRIN, are really sticking together, it's amazing to see.

These guys have all worked together for years and now they're doing their own thing, you'd think they'd be in competition - but it's not like that at all. People are warm to each other and help each other where they can. It's really amazing to me looking in to see that.

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Dan Pearson