Microsoft surprised just about everyone when it made the move to disband the popular Flight and Train Simulator franchises back in 2009.
But some of those same employees who were laid off four years ago are back with a new startup, a new direction and a new virtual scuba diving game.
Cascade Game Foundry is an independent game development studio formed two years ago by a small group of veterans of Microsoft’s Aces Studio who previously worked on the Flight and Train sims.
As a startup, they’ve had a completely different experience from their former big-company careers and are finally ready to launch their first title, Infinite Scuba.
“We are definitely in a much better place than we were two years ago,” said Kathie Flood, co-founder of CGF and former Train Sim lead program manager. “We’re on the verge of releasing our very own game, and we’ve built a great foundation to extend the game indefinitely. We continue to remind ourselves, as we have since we started, that a startup must be flexible and open to trying lots of new things, while staying true to the core strengths and passions of the people on the team.”
A team of four full-time employees and another five part-timers are just about ready to debut Infinite Scuba, a simulator that allows users to explore the unpredictable underworld like a real-life scuba diver. Players will be able to share photos during the dive via social networking and also purchase add-ons like equipment and different locations in the game, which is set to release later this quarter and will sell for $9.99 on PC and Mac.
“Many divers — and non-divers — who have played the game say it inspires them to get into the water for real, which is exactly the feeling we hope to deliver,” Flood said.
This has been a completely different experience for the developers with just about everything new: the company, the technology, the audience, the partners, the business model. Flood said that at times it can be overwhelming, especially with how the game industry has been in flux for the past few years. But there’s no doubt the CGF team is having a blast.
“This has been the ultimate adventure for our eclectic team of grizzled veterans and brave newbies, all of whom have stepped up to wear unfamiliar hats into uncharted territory,” she said.
Then there’s the startup aspect of it all. CGF is a tiny team and completely independent — much different than a big team inside a big studio inside a big division inside a big company.
“There were different, sometimes conflicting, goals at each level of hierarchy,” Flood said of her previous career. “The tradeoffs in these scenarios are pretty stark. We have complete creative freedom, which is a treat, but we can’t always execute with the speed or intensity that can materialize when the stars align in a big company.”
So far, Infinite Scuba has received some nice praise and also found solid partners. The game was selected as a finalist in the Seattle Independent Game Competition and was ScubaGadget.com’s “Best in Show” for DEMA 2012.
Simulator fans will finally get the chance to play a new robust virtual game. After canceling Flight Simulator, Microsoft tried to come back with a new flying simulation title, called Flight, but development was discontinued less than six months after that new version debuted.
Infinite Scuba will be demoed at Thursday’s Power of Play gaming conference in Bellevue, and GeekWire will be there to cover all the action.
Previously on GeekWire: Welcome aboard: A virtual takeoff and landing from the cockpit for Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner