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Spellbound Entertainment AG

Overview

Spellbound was founded by Armin Gessert in 1994 who was one of the three developers of the game The Great Giana Sisters (first released for the C64 in 1987).

The Spellbound team initially produced graphics for the company Attic and thus took part in the creation of the role-playing game "Das schwarze Auge III" ("The Black Eye III"). This collaboration led to a commission from the company Fantasy Productions. They were to develop a game for the most successful series of German science fiction novels "Perry Rhodan" of Pabel publishing house. Spellbound’s first title was a strategy game called Perry Rhodan: Operation Eastside released in 1995 under the label Fantasy Productions.

The Games
The first game completely developed by the company on her own was the economic simulation Airline Tycoon. Infogrames (ATARI) published the title in 1997. The game never actually managed to enter the top ten, but it turned out to be a successful long seller in various territories and can still be found among budget titles in stores. In 1998 Airline Tycoon First Class came out, followed by Airline Tycoon Evolution in 2002; both of these add-ons were distributed by Monte Cristo. In 2003 the last add-on for the time being was introduced: Airline Tycoon Deluxe.

In December 1998 the Spellbound team began with the development of their second original game. It was designed to be a real time strategy game and was supposed to take place in a location, which at that time had not been exploited in computer games to a large extent before: The Wild West. The game was called Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive and it turned out to be Spellbound’s biggest success and most critically acclaimed title so far. The game received praise from the press for its AI and an innovation called "Quick Actions" which allowed the player to plan their moves in advance.

Just like the first part of "Airline Tycoon", "Desperados" was distributed by Infogrames (ATARI). In 2001 it was at the top of the game ratings (charts) in some countries for several weeks. The game’s cinematics won the "Animago award" in 2001 and the game itself is still ranked second in the "all-time-best-list" of the German magazine "PC-Games" in the category for strategy games.

An expansion to "Desperados" featuring new locations and characters was supposed to follow but was not released due to reasons which have not been completely uncovered up to today. Supposedly, there were company politics involved on publisher Infogrames’ side which involved budget and market focus. Ever since, some fans of "Desperados" have been waiting and yearning for an add-on or a sequel to the game. Another term that is often mentioned in this context is the so-called "Webisodes". These were additional levels Spellbound had planned to release via their website – possibly instead of a full-size add-on – to allow players of "Desperados" to continue the gaming experience.

Due to the success of "Desperados", Spellbound was able to expand its team. To be able to ensure a smooth game production with the increased team, the company introduced a form of "Extreme Programming" (a.k.a. "XP") to the development process in 2001, which was adjusted to the needs of game production. This "XP" process was introduced by technical director Stéphane Becker.

The first game created using these new methods was Robin Hood: Die Legende von Sherwood ("Robin Hood: The Legend of Sherwood"). "Robin Hood" was produced in cooperation with the French publisher Wanadoo Edition, today known as MC2.

For "Robin Hood" the Spellbound team refined the techniques which had been developed for "Desperados". The 2D-engine "Desperados" had used was improved and a new system of compression for sprites was introduced. All sprites were equipped with dynamic lighting processes and the "Quick Actions" were extended considerably.

"Robin Hood" was released in 2002. The game achieved top scores of up to 96% (Gen 4) in the press. "Robin Hood" could also repeat the success of "Desperados", in particular because of its cinematics which won the "Animago Award" as well.

In 2003 Spellbound Entertainment Ltd. expanded its product range by two more genres. The company published its first action adventure with Chicago 1930 and its first shooter with Rauchende Colts ("Smoking Colts"). By releasing "Rauchende Colts" Spellbound entered the market segment of low budget games.

Additionally Spellbound Entertainment Ltd. appeared as publisher of its own products for the first time by releasing "Rauchende Colts" and "Airline Tycoon Deluxe" in 2003.

Both the company and the press were not pleased with the game "Chicago 1930". It did not meet the former’s expectations in sales. As a consequence, Spellbound released a large portion of the team who worked on the title. The core team of the original "Desperados" stayed with the company. Among the employees who were laid off were Stéphane Becker, Jean-Michel Stenger and Martin Kuppe who went on to found a new company in Strasburg called Creative Patterns which employed most of the original "Desperados" team members.

In 2003, Spellbound began production of its first 3D real-time game, the sequel to "Desperados". Featuring an all new 3D engine, two perspectives (isometric and third person), a new character as well as new abilities for all heroes and new Western sets and developed by a new team, Desperados 2: Cooper’s Revenge was longingly awaited by fans of the original. Published by ATARI, the game was released in Germany on April 27th 2006.

Right after the completion of Desperados 2: Cooper’s Revenge production of an add-on titled "Desperados 2: Conspiracies" began. Shortly before production was complete, publisher Atari pulled out and left the team stranded with an almost finished game. Just like the add-on of its predecessor, the Desperados 2 Add-on was threatened to be never released despite being nearly complete. Luckily, Spellbound found a new publisher in Russia, Noviy Disk. Finally, German publisher digital tainment pool (dtp) brought the game to Germany and released it under their Anaconda label on June 6th, 2007.

The Location
Located in the city of Kehl am Rhein in the state Baden-Württemberg in south-western Germany, Spellbound has always had a history of being a French-German developer. With the French city of Strasburg being right across the river Rhein opposite to Kehl the company could always employ people from both countries with both their individual and cultural backgrounds. It is that cultural diversity which the company believes has always proven to be advantageous for game development. In 2011, the company moved to Offenburg to make room for their extended personell (40 to 120).

Legacy
A number of employees (Stéphane Becker, Jean-Michel Stenger and Martin Kuppe) left the company in 2004 to found the French game development studio Creative Patterns. They eventually took along artists Isabelle Gadbled and Fabrice Weiss, and game designer Vincent Lalyman.

Closure
In February 2012, the company founded the subsidiary Spellbound Entertainment GmbH in Berlin which was supposed to develop browser and mobile games. However, in March 2012 Spellbound Entertainment AG had to file for insolvency and was closed in July 2012. The majority of the remaining staff joined Black Forest Games, founded by former Spellbound key personnel.

Also Known As

  • Gessert & Haessig GbR (from 1994 to 2001)
  • Spellbound Entertainment Software -- Former company name
  • Spellbound Studios -- Former company name


Trivia

Information in 2007:

Spellbound Entertainment AG Weststrasse 15
77694 Kehl am Rhein
Germany

Phone: +49 (0)7851 9916-60
Fax: +49 (0)7851 9916-61

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