Bethesda veteran Jeff Gardiner raises $13 million for Something Wicked Games to create an open-world RPG

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Jeff Gardiner and other veterans from Bethesda Game Studios and Obsidian Entertainment started Something Wicked Games to create an open-world role-playing game.

The team raised $13.2 million to create Wyrdsong, a “pre-natural” open-world role-playing game with triple-A values, Gardiner said in an interview with GamesBeat.

During his Gamescom debut in Cologne, Germany, Gardiner revealed the company during Geoff Keighley’s Opening Night Live event. Chinese game publisher NetEase provided the funding. Gardiner is based in Washington, D.C.

“It’s been an amazing experience being at Bethesda on so many levels. Some of my lifelong best friends are here, including Todd Howard, and I’ve made the tough decision after a long, long, dark COVID winter,” Gardiner said “The timing was fortuitous because Microsoft had just bought us out. I took some time to kick some tires and got a ping from an old friend of mine.”

Jeff Gardiner is co-founder of Something Wicked.

The studio is scattered around the world, with creative and leadership talent from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Fallout: New Vegas, Fallout 4, The Outer Worlds, and more. The first game, a supernatural open-world RPG, Wyrdsong, is currently in development.

Today’s announcement comes with an animated trailer for the studio’s first game, Wyrdsong. Wyrdsong is an occult historical fantasy RPG set in a fictional Portugal during the Middle Ages. Players will have to question both their reality and the choices they make as Wyrdsong is poised to expand, challenge and redefine aspects of what constitutes today’s RPG genre.

Gardiner’s gaming career boasts some of the best-known franchises in the RPG space. Gardiner served as lead producer and project manager for several of Bethesda’s landmark titles in the Fallout and The Elder Scrolls franchises. Before making the difficult choice to leave Bethesda Game Studios after a 15-year career, Gardiner’s efforts on Fallout 76 saw his transformation into one of the most successful and robust examples of the games-as-a-service model. , said Gardiner.

Fire Prophet in Wyrdsong.

The studio’s talent roster also includes co-founder and chief design officer Charles Staples, formerly of Obsidian Entertainment. Staples’ 15-year tenure at Obsidian was highlighted with its design
directorial role on The Outer Worlds, as well as his work as lead level designer on Fallout: New
Vegas.

Gardiner said he chose NetEase as a backer in part because the company promised Something Wicked Games independence. In fact, Gardiner said the company trusts his studio and hasn’t put any development milestones in place in order to get the next chunk of cash.

“We are honored to have received this from them, with no real milestones or deadlines,” Gardiner said. “They understand that we’re professionals and we know how to make games and the best results are when a team internally sets those milestones and goals and launches a product.”

Developed on Unreal Engine 5, Wyrdsong immerses fans in a dark historical fantasy where every decision has a consequence, both in this world and in others yet to be discovered.

Something Wicked Games is fully remote and hiring for all positions. Currently staffed with 12 full-time developers, the studio hopes to reach a full roster of between 65 and 70 as development continues to ramp up.

Fallout 76, which initially had quality issues but eventually released an expansion that fans embraced.

The rocky launch gave Gardiner his “best lessons of all” and it was ultimately about redemption as the company made the game viable. On top of that, Gardiner was a producer on a number of hit games. His work over the years spanned five games in the Fallout and Elder Scrolls franchises.

Beginning in 2006, Gardiner filled the role of lead producer on every expansion released for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. In 2008, he served as producer for Fallout 3, a popular entry in the Fallout franchise and a huge hit for Bethesda. Gardiner then resumed his role as lead producer on each of the Fallout 3 expansions: Mothership Zeta, Point Lookout, Broken Steel, The Pitt, and Operation: Anchorage.

A scene from the Wyrdsong trailer.

In 2011, Gardiner worked as a senior producer in charge of the design department on The Elder Scrolls
V: Skyrim, one of the best-selling RPGs of all time. In his last position with the company before working on
Fallout 76, Gardiner once again took on an executive role at Bethesda Game Studios as a lead
producer on Fallout 4.

By supernatural, Gardiner said the game is about things that aren’t what they seem. He also said that the game could also be considered a cult historical fantasy open-world RPG set in a very mythological time in Portugal, around the 12th or 13th century. Players will be able to play with the gender, identity or race of their choice.

“Ultimately, they start to question the reality around them, because things don’t appear as they seem,” he said.

The business has only been in operation for a few months, with funding arriving in April and hiring beginning in June. Meanwhile, investors grew more cautious as the economy began to weaken again. The team considered blockchain but only focused on creating an awesome game, Gardiner said.

The name “Something Wicked” comes not only from a book by Ray Bradbury, but also from a line in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, announcing that “something wicked is coming this way” with the entry of Macbeth.

“I’m a big Shakespeare fan. And I also like the double meaning there for mean, which is overused in Boston as ‘awesome,’” Gardiner said.

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