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Former Freedom Force, Rock Band creators unveil Dreadline, the first game at new studio Eerie Canal

The great former Irrational staff exodus continues! Following up the formation of The Fullbright Company, a new studio started by former Take-Two staffers Johnnemann Nordhagen, Steve Gaynor, and Karla Zimonja, in April is the Eerie Canal.

Eerie Canal is a studio founded by Bryn Bennett, former lead programmer at Irrational Games and Harmonix. Joining him is Steven Kimura, former lead artist at Irrational and Harmonix, Harmonix audio lead Arhtur Inasi, as well as Harmonix artists Mallika Sundaramurthy and Aaron DeMuth. With their collective history in the Freedom Force and Rock Band series, you’d think that Eerie Canal would be in the business of making games that involve violence and rock ‘n’ freakin’ roll. You would be correct in that assumption.

The company’s first game Dreadline is about a gang of monsters that travel through time, visiting massive catastrophes and killing the people that would have died in the event anyway. A teaser trailer for the game shows a mummy, a ghost, a wolfman, and an evil cube killing off passengers of the Titanic before it sinks into the ocean in 1912. Dreadline is an action RPG in the vein of Diablo III, with a top down perspective and a whole lot of clicking on things.

The whole thing looks both gruesome and funny, with a nice chunky art style reminiscent of the 1960s Peanuts cartoon specials. Mix water colors and a ghost costume and you think of Peanuts, except Dreadline has a whole lot more murder. Eerie will release the game on PCs in 2013.

The game fits into the studio’s ethos. Byrn Bennett told Gamasutra that they formed the studio to make “creative and inspired games that are too risky [for] large studios.” Call me crazy, but it seems like monsters killing people is exactly the sort of thing big game publishers are into.

“I’ve been working on AAA titles in the games industry for over 10 years now, and I love being able to work on a piece of fiction that no big studio would touch because it’s so out there,” said Bennett.

It will be interesting to see over the next twelve months if studios like Eerie Canal and The Fullbright Group will be able to grow an audience for their games based on their past successes. Names like BioShock and Rock Band carry a lot of weight, but enough to support a following for an independently made new IP? Indie studios like Double Fine may rake in the support now, but don’t forget that Double Fine struggled to find success for twelve years before this year’s successful Kickstarter campaign.

Here’s wishing Eerie Canal all the best.

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