Gears of War 3 designer’s new studio BitMonster Games signals trend toward non-violent game design

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Game designer Lee Perry has had a storied career in the video game industry. His work started back on the original PlayStation, working with Black Ops Entertainment on B-list games like Treasures of the Deep, but he moved on to Ion Storm (Deus Ex) and eventually Epic Games where he made his mark working on such storied series as Unreal Tournament, Infinity Blade, and Gears of War. He was actually the senior gameplay designer on Gears of War 3, the pinnacle of that series. Perry announced on Wednesday though that he is embarking on the next phase of his career. He is the president, co-founder, and lead designer of BitMonster Inc., an independent studio working on projects for iOS devices and the PC.

Despite his departure from the company, Perry and BitMonster are maintaining a tight relationship with Epic Games. Its first title Lili for the iPhone and iPad is actually built using Unreal Engine 3, much like the Infinity Blade series that’s performed so well for Epic.

The game, described as an adventure and role-playing hybrid by the studio, will actual see the titular character Lili using non-violent means for getting past obstacles an enemies. Those same means will be used for her to sort out “a few personal issues for good measure.”

Lili and BitMonster are marks of an emerging trend running throughout the video game industry. Designers from major studios responsible for many major hits, particularly violent hits, are leaving to start new ventures designing nonviolent games.

The Fullbright Company is a prime example. Former Take-Two employees Steve Gaynor, Johnnemann Nordhagen, and Karla Zimonja—whose collective credits include XCOM and BioShock—opened Fullbright in April. Why did they leave one of the most successful AAA publishers out there?  To create a “nonviolent game in an unfantastical locale; an experience that not too many games provide, built out of techniques that only video games can employ.”

Lili does take place in a fantastical place called Geos, but it too is devoted to the same non-violent ideal despite being designed by a man best known for games about guns with chainsaws attached to them.

This trend is encouraging because it signals an interest in creating games that aren’t based around death, but also because it demonstrates that there are investors and a market healthy enough to encourage developers to pursue business devoted to those ideals.

It’s an exciting time to play, make and love video games.

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