[Pitfall: The Lost Expedition]Flint native launches ‘Loadout’ after developing ‘The Sims,’ ‘Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater’ video games

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  A screenshot from “Loadout,” the debut title from Flint native Michael Panoff’s video game company Edge of Reality. The company has developed games such as “The Sims” and “Tony Hawk Pro Skater” for hire, and released its first game “Loadout” on Friday, Jan. 31, 2014.

  (Courtesy Photo | Edge of Reality)

  FLINT, MI–Flint native and video game developer Michael Panoff

  has already lent his talents to bestselling games like “The Sims,” “Tony Hawk’s

  Pro Skater” and more. But for the first time, this weekend, the joystick is

  still in his hands after his latest creation is released.

  On Friday, Panoff’s company Edge of Reality launched “Loadout,”

  its debut video game, after more than 15 years developing games for other

  companies. Less than 24 hours in, more than 12,000 users have already played the

  free multiplayer third-person shooter title.

  Panoff has been developing video games since he was a child

  growing up in Flint. Once his father bought him and his two younger brothers an

  IBM PC Jr., he immersed himself into developing. In a world before the Internet

  was at peoples’ fingertips, he would study computer programming language

  manuals to teach himself coding commands.

  Flint native Michael Panoff, co-founder of video game development company Edge of Reality. The company has developed games such as “The Sims” and “Tony Hawk Pro Skater” for hire, and released its first game “Loadout” on Friday, Jan. 31, 2014.

  In 7th grade, he was developing text-based, “pick your own

  adventure” styled computer games where players would go through paths by

  picking different options presented to them. During his high school years at

  Flint Central, he was making games with more elaborate graphics.”I’d work on (a game) all weekend, and on Sunday night, I

  would have my brothers come in and play it,” he said. “With each game, I would

  try to figure out how to do something new on the computer, whether it’s 3D

  graphics or moving things around.

  After graduating from University of Michigan with a degree

  in computer engineering, he got his first job at technology company Texas

  Instruments, where he worked for a year on a military high-tech simulator. He left

  and began working at Paradigm, a video game company that was contracted by

  Nintendo to help with the then-new Nintendo 64 gaming console.

  Then, he started developing real video games.

  He helped with N64 launch titles like “Pilot Wings 64” and

  left four years later to found the independent cross platform studio Edge of

  Reality with business partner Rob Cohen.

  Since the company was founded in 1998, Edge of Reality has

  been enlisted to execute a variety of duties for popular titles with powerhouse

  gaming publishers like EA, Activision, Sega and Take Two. For some games, they

  would completely helm the engineering and design for some, and for others, they

  would lead the process of transporting a game from one gaming system to another.

  For Nintendo 64, their work includes building four editions

  of Tony Hawk Pro Skater, Spiderman N64, and Monster Truck Madness N64. They have

  also developed cross platform games of three editions of “The Sims,” “The

  Incredible Hulk,” “Pitfall: The Lost Expedition,” and more for Sony PS2, PS3, XBox

  and XBox 360, PC, Wii and more. The company web site states that over 16

  titles, they have sold over 20 million units.

  But Panoff says that none of those units were their own,

  until Friday’s launch of “Loadout.”

  ”We’ve done many games within that time frame, but all of

  these have been other people. It’s always been work for hire,” he said. “It’s

  fun work, but ‘Loadout’ is the first time where we take those profits from

  other games and make our own. This is our first game, and we’re doing

  everything.”

  The company has been developing “Loadout” for three years before

  releasing it. And despite the company’s 15 years of experience, gamers didn’t

  know them from their work on other titles.

  So the company hit the pavement. They visited trade shows

  around the country, hired a public relations firm, and opened a closed beta for

  selected gamers to try the game out for more than a year before Friday’s

  release to test it out and find bugs that needed to be fixed.

  Once gamers were able to try it out, they got hooked.

  ”As soon as the first people saw it, they loved it. When the

  first site reviewed it, it was fantastic. We just grew momentum from there,” Panoff

  said. “At the PAX trade show, we’d have the longest line of the many games

  there. We didn’t have the flashiest booth, but people just had fun playing the

  game.”

  The fun may have transferred to Friday’s launch. Panoff said

  the game’s web site, Loadout.com, had troubles on Friday from so much

  unexpected traffic. During a Friday night phone call with Flint Journal, Panoff

  said the game had peaked at around 12,500 people playing the game at once.

  He said the beta had even more users, and he is hoping for

  millions of users within the first two months.

  ”Loadout” is a third-person shooter that focuses on

  character customization. Players can give their in-game characters specific

  shirts, facial hair, tattoos, and customization of outrageous weapons, leading

  to what the trailer calls “billions of combinations.” The game is free, with costs

  for certain customization options or to make one’s character adapt taunts.

  ”We had to build momentum and awareness, which has taken

  some effort,” Panoff said. “But we think the game speaks for itself.”

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