Ex-Gearbox and Riot devs raise $5.5M for Ruckus game studio

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Ruckus Games, a game studio started by former Gearbox and Riot Games developers, has raised $5.5 million in seed funding.

The Frisco, Texas-based company is build a cross-platform cooperative game built with proprietary procedural technology and a “whole lot of style,” said Paul Sage, CEO of Ruckus, in an interview with GamesBeat.

Ruckus is a fully remote, developer-first studio dedicated to making sure every member of their team has a voice.

The funding round was led by Transcend Fund, a game-focused venture capital fund that focuses on partnering with ambitious and accomplished gaming professionals. It wants to see studios push the boundaries of what video games, digital media, and technology can achieve.

The round also included participation from Bitkraft Ventures and 1Up Ventures.

“Ruckus Games is redefining emergent multiplayer gameplay without pulling any punches on their
creative and technical excellence,” said Andrew Sheppard of the Transcend Fund, in a statement. “We are excited to partner with Paul Sage, a proven studio leader and creative, and his talented team to bring their multi-game production vision to life.”

Ruckus Games was founded in August 2021 by veteran developers formerly of Gearbox Software and
Riot Games. The seven-person co-founding team has been instrumental in the creation and success of the
Borderlands intellectual property, Elder Scrolls Online and collectively have made over 25 games across multiple platforms that have grossed in the billions.

“When we were looking at making a studio and Ruckus’ first game,” Sage said. “We wanted to bring the creative risk-taking we see in independent studios into the gaming mainstream, giving our developers a much-needed voice in the industry they’ve helped to build. That benefits players when we do it right – they get to play something unique, filled with passion, and chock-full of stupid amounts of fun. What could be better?”

The team brings decades of development and leadership experience in design, art and technology. Their focus at Ruckus is on cooperative gaming, emergent gameplay, stylized and unique characters, and player agency. The player is our hero.

“I’m incredibly stoked to be creating a fresh brand-new IP from the ground up with a small, focused
team doing what we do best: making games,” said Kester, in a statement. “The raw energy that comes from defining new looks, gameplay, and player experiences while building something we want to play with an independent punk mindset is key to Ruckus.”

Sage’s cofonders include Jesse McIntyre, CTO (Riot, Zenimax Online, and EA Mythic); Scott Kester, art director (Gearbox); Carl Shedd, world director and lead lighting artist (id, Gearbox); Keith Schuler, master designer (3d Realms, Gearbox); Chris Strasz, gameplay and UX director (NCSoft, EA, Zenimax Online, Gearbox); and Kevin Penrod, character art director (Gearbox).

“The truth is, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of developers to join me in founding a modern
game studio,” McIntyre said in a statement. “Each of them is an expert in their craft with a proven track record of creating top-quality player experiences. They also understand intimately the value of a developer-first studio culture. To us this means a lot of things. The opportunity for all of Ruckus to contribute creatively to our games. Policies and practices that encourage putting family first. An environment that makes everyone comfortable being their genuine selves. We strive every day to create the studio we’ve always wanted to be a part of. We hope others will see that and want to be a part of it as well.”
Sage said there were a few reasons for starting anew after Gearbox.

“We broke away to form a new studio,” Sage said. “We wanted to be developer first. We wanted our developers to be treated well, paid well, and, one of the most important things, have a voice in the studio.”

The founders also wanted to join the innovation that they saw happening in indie games. The triple-A game companies had become risk averse and were making a lot of sequels.

“We think the hits are going to come from these indie studios,” Sage said. “We’re also big on emergent gameplay and procedural content. We don’t want every experience of every player to be the same.”

All of that was enough to motivate the founders — six of whom came from Gearbox, to strike out on their own. The team has about a dozen people now, and the team could grow to 30 over time.

Sage said the new game will be a “cooperative suburban shooter,” where the thrust of the game is built around being resourceful. The team also admires everyday heroes and titles that have recently come from Devolver Digital.

“You can imagine a little bit the survival game comes in there, crafting comes in, and you can expect a lot of humor,” Sage said.

Sage said some investors were curious if they were going to do blockchain games, but the team had no desire or experience on that front. The company was able to get funding in part because it had a decent prototype working within four months. Luckily, the company was able to raise money despite the onset of the downturn. The goal is to launch a game on consoles and the PC.

“We are moving quickly,” Sage said. “The key is to have a good communication loop, where you can go to somebody and say you want something and get a response immediately without having to go through a lot of red tape.”

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