Writer, Designer and Producer. Somewhere between 70 and 120 shipped titles for all major platforms. One of the chosen few working both AAA and Indie and not going nuts from doing so. Short Bio: Born in former CSSR in the 70ies, Ivan Ertlov grew up as Johann Ertl in Lower Austria. During grammar school, he managed to sell his first games (mostly adventures for C64) to DiscMags. In the mid-90ies, Ivan Ertlov was among the most infamous render artists in Austria with his shows "Welcome to the Cyberspace" and "Atomic City". After several years of studying, DJ-ing and journalism, with an obscure degree earned, Ivan became a teacher in Lower Austria. He managed to survive the kids and pupils for a whopping year before going back into media business as Online Writer for the JoWooD Group (Spellforce, Gothic, Giants). Later Community Manager, Game Designer, Head of Development, Producer. Still BOTH AAA producer (Anno, Hitman, MGC..) and Indie developer with "Homegrown Games".
It has been brought to my attention that, while our Homegrown Games pages are well-maintained, my personal page here on IndieDB is quite outdated. And indeed, it has been almost 5.5 years since I updated it. Time for a fast-forward.
I can't write about all the projects I have worked on since 2011, as that would be roughly 20+ B, A or AAA games and still around 15 Indie titles. (At least if I include all design, consulting and deputy producing assignments). So I hope you are ok with a brief timelapse blog showing the highlights only:
In 2011 / 2012, I was still Producer in Munich for UIG, and one of the biggest projects was A-Train, which I had covered here before. Basically it was Producing and Design for a European / International conversion of the famous Japanese "A-Train", and it turned out pretty well. Actually, so well that I produced several DLCs together with legendary modder tom.io, which was quite exciting, as we brought everything from Boston harbours to a full-fledged "rescue Greece from bankruptcy" campaign into the game.
That was FUN!
In 2012, we (Homegrown Games) had the release of our second own-IP Indie Game Into the Dark - at least the first release. We had chosen UIG as retail partner (logically, as I worked for them anyway), and the game got pressed on DVD, USK-approved (with an exception according to German law, allowing us to have the Swastika ingame), translated and shipped out. Let's cut it short and stay polite, we weren't entirely satisfied with both the publishing and the game itself.
So, on one side I left UIG and was hired as Producer by Mipumi Games a little bit later, and on the other hand we overhauled, improved, patched, fixed, extended and reworked Into the Dark, turning it into something almost completely different and new. This became the Ultimate Trash Edition.
Suddenly, there was success. I mean, really visible success. The reviews have always been mixed - we were used to that. A rather lazy Jim Sterling slaughtered it half-hearted (obviously it wasn't as bad as he had hoped), while Gamer Arena gave us the first and only 100% rating in their review history. Same goes for the Steam reviews, half of the people seem to hate it, half of the people seem to love it. We are ok with that! We scored several "Game of the Year" awards, we got a die-hard fanbase, and we got invitations to Trash / B-Movie Festivals all around Europe. Basically, we were forced to announce a sequel, Into the Ice - Nazis of Neuschwabenland !
So, at night and on weekends I was working on Homegrown stuff, which was managed perfectly by k21n during weekday office times. In those hours, I had my Trash and B-Movie hat hidden, because I was wearing the Producers badge on a really exciting project - Anno: Build an Empire. This mobile gem was developed by Mipumi Games for Ubisoft BlueByte, basically a re-imagination of the browser game (which was adapted from the PC original) for mobile phones and tablets, both iOS and Android.
To be honest: I was quite nervous in the beginning. After all, that was my first AAA production after the JoWooD meltdown of 2009.
All the insecurities were soon blown away - thanks to my awesome team, and in good cooperation with my Bluebyte counterpart, we managed to roll out a really nice F2P Citybuilder on Android and iOS, and that without any crunching at all. Except for one evening, where we worked till 9 PM and I had ordered Pizza for all of the team, there was no stress and not a single issue I couldn't handle before it affected the project.
And I learned Unity! Not perfectly, but good enough to understand what was going on, and it was the first of several Unity projects I have been working on since then. But, obviously, not the next big name on my list:
After handing over "Anno" to the operating team at Bluebyte, Mipumi Games assigned me to a new, exciting and overwhelming project. As the Project Manager for the Vienna unit, I had an awesome year travelling between Vienna and Copenhagen, working on the new Hitman. This was by far the biggest project I've worked on EVER, and a very rewarding one. I really hope you enjoyed playing the first season as much as I did contributing to getting it done.
Although I was assigned and dedicated to this huge AAA project, I didn't abandon my Indie roots - not at all! Granted, the progress on Into the Ice - Nazis of Neuschwabenland stalled and suffered. But I managed to get the pre-production of Antinomy - Justice, not Vengeance! done for my fellow friends at Against All Odds Games.
And, last but FOR SURE not least, I helped Mipumi rolling out there very first own Steam Release - an artsy, deep, thoughtful, funny and really unique Point & Click experience:
After the year spent on Hitman, a new project appeared on the Mipumi plate in need of a producer. This time, it was even more innovative and both in terms of hardware and software the high road from prototypes to a world wide championship.
All that is called "Red Bull Mind Gamers: Mission Unlock Enoch", created by Playful Solutions and done with a lot of different partners, including Scott Nicholson, the MIT and - of course - Red Bull.
Me (right) and my fellow QA specialist Jan (Johann and Jan, lol) testing the container version of the Holocube.
As this clearly wasn't Indie enough to fullfil all my dark desires, I continued supporting Mipumi with the Steam release management of the next episodes of "The Lion's Song", and I turned a weird dream I had one night into a full-fledged Homegrown Game, released on Steam:
Once again, the success came a little bit surprising. Of course, a hybrid created from Visual Novel and Walking Simulator essentials didn't get the same attention as the trashy and gory shooter / adventure / nazizombie feast Into the Dark was, but still, it got quite good reviews, two additional Game of the Year awards for Homegrown Games and is still the most successful and best-reviewed game created with GameGuru.
With the Red Bull finals ahead, I am already setting sails to new adventures. Into the Ice - Nazis of Neuschwabenland is in full production now, and it gets better and better...
as we play around and test new ways to squeeze better visuals out of GameGuru:
Why I can't say what lies ahead for me in the world of big commercial productions, I can give you some insights and of course a brief overview over what I've learned from my travelling between the Indie and AAA worlds:
Over and Out,
PS: Read you soon. At least sooner than in 5.5 years!
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