‘The Walking Dead,’ ‘Mark of the Ninja’ Leads Form New Studio, Campo Santo

By | 3 years ago 

Gamers may have felt that there was little common ground between games like Telltale’s The Walking Dead and Klei Entertainment’s Mark of the Ninja. Although both possessed a unique and refreshing art style that won them fans, it was the sound mechanics and refined gameplay that won them accolades; with one an adventure game built on conversations and the other a side-scrolling stealth adventure, that also amounts to very different strengths in each title.

Yet today it was announced that Sean Vanaman and Jake Rodkin – the two creative leads and writers on The Walking Dead – and Nels Anderson – lead gameplay designer for Mark of the Ninja – have founded a new studio dubbed Campo Santo Games, calling on world famous artist Olly Moss to provide the art direction.

The announcement was made via the developers’ personal Twitter accounts, with no details announced thus far – beyond a link to the company’s new website.

This announcement will come as a less of a surprise to those in the Idle Thumbs community – those who have followed the blog Idlethumbs.net and its respective podcast, hosted in part by both Rodkin and Vanaman. The group have been admitted friends and podcast guests for years, with their desire to one day work together no secret. Now, with the founding of Campo Santo (a Spanish term for ‘graveyard’) they have that chance.

On the company’s official site, Vanaman explains how the team assembled, and what they hope to bring to an increasingly indie-inspired game scene. Here’s a brief excerpt:

Deciding to found and then actually CREATE a video game studio has felt like a mix of buying a winning lottery ticket and taking a brash detour that results in a near miss with a pedestrian. Impulse followed by action followed by sitting in your car hyperventilating. The outcome is thrilling at best and disastrous at worst.

So why are we doing this? To be honest, it’s because we think we’ve found the right group of people to make the first reason not just worth enduring but actually thrilling. As we talk to our friends and industry colleagues about “doing something indie” with us, there’s a shared pragmatism informed by years in the industry that melds with the lingering youthful enthusiasm that got us into games to begin with.

Our first game is being both backed by and made in collaboration with the stupendous, stupidly-successful Mac utility software-cum-design studio slash app/t-shirt/engineering company Panic Inc. from Portland, Oregon.

Did we win the lottery? (It feels like it) Are we about to hit an old lady with our car? (I hope not). The shock is the same either way.


The writing talent behind The Walking Dead isn’t in doubt at this point, nor is the gameplay design of Mark of the Ninja; but the backing of Panic Inc. – successful due to iOS apps like Coda, Unison and Status Board – means that some interesting delivery methods might also be in the cards. It’s too early to tell what platforms the team will be targetting, but at this point, they seem to have enough experience with each.

The true newcomer of the group is Olly Moss, having gathered much attention due to his online portfolio and commissioned artwork for LucasArts, Studio Ghibli and Resistance 3 to name a few. In fact, his design work for an Empire Strikes Back poster was so good, Gearbox Software encountered some controversy when they basically copied it for Borderlands 2.

Resistance 3 Olly Moss Artwork

Known for his signature mix of negative space and minimalist design – on full display in the official cover art for Resistance 3 – Moss explained on his own blog that the opportunity to dive headlong into game development is an opportunity he’s been waiting for:

I am making a video game! If you’re even slightly familiar with my work, you’ll already know how absolutely, frighteningly, pathetically obsessed I am with the medium. If you don’t know my work, well, I’m obsessed with games. Absolutely, frighteningly, pathetically so.

I’m also obsessed with making things, and I’ve already had the good fortune of being asked to make things for video games. But it’s always been tertiary; posters, promos, cover art. All fun things to make, certainly,  but I was always disappointed that I was never asked to really get my teeth into an actual game.

…I’ve never been so passionate about a project as I am this, and I’ve never creatively clicked with a team so well as I do with Sean, Jake and Nels. But they are all proven in this field. I am not.

I hope I’m going to be good at this.

Wish me luck.

Wish us luck.

– Olly

The team has yet to divulge exactly what they’re up to, but are looking for designers to join their team. Unfortunately, this does mean that Anderson has left Klei (and won’t be involved with the eye-catching Incognita), and that both Rodkin and Vanaman are no longer a part of Telltale Games or The Walking Dead Season 2. Well, you can’t make an indie omelette without breaking a few eggs, it seems.

Stay tuned for more details on what Campo Santo’s first release will turn out to be. For the moment, what are your hopes? It’s hard to even guess at what this collaboration could produce, but as more information arrives, we’ll bring it to you.

Check out Campo Santo and Olly Moss’ blog for more information.


Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.

Source: Jake Rodkin, Nels Anderson, Olly Moss, Campo Santo Games