A feisty, daring version of Little Red Riding Hood is giving the international gaming world a taste of Philly and putting the spotlight on the city's tech industry as a local video game development firm debuts its first product in Germany this week.
“Our main heroine doesn’t need saving,” said Ash Monif, the CEO of Philadelphia-based Grimm Bros. “She can save herself.”
The startup company put a dark twist on the classic fairy tale with its premiere title, Dragon Fin Soup. The game features protagonist Red Robin – a caped, blonde-haired alcoholic who can’t remember her demon-filled past.
“We wanted what could be an interesting fault that people could relate to, but could also be overcome,” he explained.
Monif and his four-person team spent the past two years developing the role playing game, which is one of 36 independently created games showcased from Aug. 13-17 at Indie MEGABOOTH as part of Gamescom 2014.
The 5-day convention will draw about 400,000 people – nearly double the attendance at Comic-Con International in San Diego – putting Grimm Bros and Philly’s mushrooming gaming industry on the map.
And shining a light on the burgeoning local technology industry is a win for the entire city, according to Frank Lee, a Drexel University professor who founded the school’s Entrepreneurial Game Studio.
“We have little to no presence in the gaming industry,” Lee said.
Despite top-rated game design programs at Drexel, University of Pennsylvania and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, most companies are based on the West Coast with a few in New York and Boston.
"Any game company able to go beyond the border to represent Philadelphia," he continued, "is helping to raise the profile and gather more interest in the growing independent game industry [here.]"
Lee adds that having Red Robin – a female as Dragon Fin Soup’s lead character – could get even more eyeballs on the screen and, in turn, on Philly.
"The game has potential to appeal to a much broader audience beyond the stereotypical male, aged 16- to 25-years-old,” said Lee, who added Red Robin, unlike many female characters in video games, is not overtly sexualized.
“Hopefully this is a positive message that resonates with young woman and young game players,” he said.
Players can take the “charming and scrappy” character through several different modes: Story, Survival or Labyrinth, Monif said.
Users can spend hours in story mode, unraveling Red Robin’s past.
"She lost her memory," Monif explains. "You get to discover what happens to her and it unfolds into a plot full of murder, mystery and madness."
Survival mode offers skilled players one chance to battle monsters and other terrors Red Robin encounters, while Labyrinth mode lets gamers compete against their friends in an endless maze packed with traps.
Dragon Fin Soup will have a staggered release over the next few months, becoming available on Sony platforms followed by Linux, Mac, iOS and Android devices.
Fans of Grimm Bros’ first release can expect the firm to develop a second game, but the more ambitious project will require even more local talent to join the team by early 2015, Monif said.
“We will be looking to hire more artists and engineers, at least two more developers if not three,” he said. "We are still the underdog in the game industry, but we're moving as quickly as we can."