NetEase Unveils Bad Brain Game Studios: A Thrilling Adventure in Spielberg-Inspired Open World Gaming


In a groundbreaking announcement, NetEase has revealed the establishment of Bad Brain Game Studios, a new game development venture. Spearheaded by Sean Crooks, an industry veteran with an impressive portfolio including titles like Driver: San Francisco and Watch Dogs 2, Bad Brain aims to create triple-A games that will captivate players worldwide. With its headquarters based in Canada, the studio’s first project will be an open world action/adventure game that combines horror elements with a nostalgic coming-of-age story inspired by 1980s movies.

A Refreshing Approach to Game Development

In an exclusive interview, Sean Crooks shares his journey of establishing Bad Brain and the pivotal role NetEase played in this endeavor. When asked about his immediate connection with NetEase, Crooks highlights the refreshing question posed by Simon Zhu, the president of global investments and partnerships at NetEase. Rather than focusing on trends, Zhu asked, “What game do you guys want to build?” This level of support, combined with the freedom to create the games he’s passionate about, convinced Crooks that NetEase was the ideal partner for Bad Brain.

Maintaining a Hands-On Approach

Balancing leadership responsibilities and a love for game development

While Crooks is not assuming the role of game director or creative director for Bad Brain’s debut game, he brings a wealth of expertise as an executive producer and studio head. His multidisciplinary background enables him to provide valuable insights and support to the creative and development teams. Acting as a sounding board, Crooks ensures the team’s ideas are well-positioned, and potential obstacles are identified and addressed. Collaboration and teamwork are at the core of Bad Brain’s approach, fostering a well-synergized and innovative environment.

Building the Dream Team

Creating a strong foundation with a talented workforce

With approximately 20 employees currently on board, Bad Brain has ambitious plans for growth. As a triple-A studio, their team size will depend on the requirements of their game design. The studio strategically operates in two cities, Montreal and Toronto, with the aim of nurturing local cultures while fostering collaboration and unity. Montreal, renowned for its robust game development scene, offers a vast pool of talent, while Toronto provides access to the city’s thriving tech industry and notable game developers such as Rockstar and Sledgehammer.

Striking the Balance in an Expanding Industry

Embracing Montreal’s game development powerhouse

Crooks acknowledges that Montreal’s prominence in the game development industry has led to concerns about saturation. However, he remains optimistic, noting that the city has always made space for new studios and accommodated their growth. Supported by the government and a dynamic talent market, Montreal continues to thrive as a development hub. Additionally, the ebb and flow of talent within the industry creates opportunities for Bad Brain to attract experienced individuals looking for new challenges.

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Creating an Optimal Work Environment

Exploring the hybrid work model at Bad Brain

In light of the ongoing debate surrounding remote work, Crooks addresses the importance of striking a balance between remote and in-person collaboration. Having experienced the challenges and benefits of working remotely during the pandemic, Bad Brain understands the value of personal connections and a strong team culture. While open to remote work possibilities, the studio aims to foster a hybrid model that allows for face-to-face interaction and collaboration. Crooks envisions collaborative office spaces in both Montreal and Toronto, providing touchpoints for the team to connect and build relationships.

Unlocking the Potential of Generative AI

Leveraging AI technology to enhance game development

As the the potential of generative AI, Crooks shares his thoughts on integrating this technology into Bad Brain’s projects. Recognizing that AI advancements will continuously shape the industry, he acknowledges the potential for AI to improve efficiency and volume in game production. However, for a narrative-driven game like Bad Brain’s debut project, Crooks emphasizes the importance of emotional connection and character development. AI-generated text-to-speech capabilities show promise in helping the team evaluate emotional deliveries and fine-tune the player’s connection to the game’s characters.

The Power of Unreal Engine 5

Unleashing creativity and streamlining development

Crooks expresses his enthusiasm for utilizing Unreal Engine 5 in Bad Brain’s game development process. The engine’s rapid prototyping capabilities and streamlined workflow enable the team to focus on creating compelling gameplay experiences. By minimizing the time spent on technicalities, developers can dedicate more energy to storytelling, innovative gameplay mechanics, and immersive narratives. Unreal Engine 5 empowers studios like Bad Brain to prioritize their creative vision, offering high-quality visuals and pushing boundaries within the industry.

An Open World with a Nostalgic Twist

Inspiration from Spielberg and ’80s cult classics

Teasing their upcoming project, Crooks reveals that Bad Brain’s debut game will be a paranormal action adventure, drawing inspiration from the likes of Steven Spielberg and Stephen King. Set in an open world, the game will feature a compelling coming-of-age story that captures the essence of ’80s movies. The team aims to create isolated pockets within the game world, allowing for the exploration of paranormal occurrences by players. With a focus on emotional connection and an innovative narrative, Bad Brain aspires to deliver an unforgettable gaming experience.

Looking to the Future

Embracing an open development approach

While details about Bad Brain’s debut game are still emerging, Crooks hints at a potentially unique approach to development. The studio aims to involve players more closely in the gaming experience and is exploring ideas for a more transparent development process. Crooks acknowledges the importance of connecting with the community and hopes to avoid the traditional model of secrecy, preferring a more open and inclusive approach. While the release timeline remains uncertain, Bad Brain intends to share more about their journey as they progress, engaging players in their creative process.

In the exciting world of game development, Bad Brain Game Studios is poised to make its mark with a blend of nostalgia, innovation, and an unwavering commitment to creating unforgettable gaming experiences. Led by industry veteran Sean Crooks and supported by NetEase, the studio’s journey into the genre is one that gamers around the globe eagerly anticipate.

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