Brothers Mike and Nick Atamas launched a new company Omni Creator Products which raised $4.3 million to empower every player to become an active participant in the creation of games.
Two brothers and longtime Epic Games veterans today announced they teamed up to launch Omni Creator Products and empower every player to become a creator.
"Players increasingly want to go beyond consuming games and become game creators," CEO Mike Atamas said. "We wanted to rethink creation in the context of games from the ground up to provide creators a clean palette of meaningful choices and a rich canvas to create on."
OCP managed to raise $4.3 million from Upfront Ventures, Everblue Management, former president of Epic Games and LucasArts, Paul Meegan, and other angel investors in the game and tech industry. The new company was founded by Mike and Nick Atamas who assembled a team with decades of industry experience. The team hired veterans of Epic Games, id Software, Proletariat, Zynga, and ArenaNet who worked on Fortnite, Guild Wars 2, multiple Gears of War installments, Doom, and Doom Eternal.
"Developers have worked for decades to make games a medium where players participate in the process of creation," said Paul Meegan. "Many games have gotten parts of it right, but generally as an afterthought - with the results being either too simplistic and underpowered or too close to developer tools and therefore difficult to use. Nick and Mike have set out to solve this problem from first principles. They are two of the most talented people I know, and have deep experience with the entire value chain necessary to finally unlock games as a creative medium."
I had a chance to talk to brothers and discuss where this new venture leads them.
Nick Atamas: I have always straddled the line between building games and building tools. I was the first person to contribute code to Unreal Engine 4: designing and implementing the user experience for the UE4 Editor. I’ve also worked on many games, including Fortnite, Gears of War 2 and 3, Robo Recall, and Paragon. Most recently, I was a tech lead on some unannounced, creator-focused projects at Epic.
Mike Atamas: I headed up strategy and operations for Unreal Engine, with a focus on growing the UE creator community. I worked on several acquisitions to support UE creators (e.g., Quixel) and drove their integration into Epic’s offerings. I also created and ran Epic MegaGrants, Epic’s $100 million grant fund. Before that, one of my main responsibilities was running all legal aspects of Unreal Engine licensing.
Omni Creator Products
Nick: We’ve always wanted to start a game company. We loved playing games as children, but we grew up in the USSR, where starting a game company was not a real option. That fact likely made us want to start a game company even more, especially one that could empower other players to become creators.
Mike: We had been talking about starting OCP for a long time, but leaving a company like Epic to build a startup can seem quite scary for first-time founders. We were both also enjoying our work at Epic and were involved in great projects. Unironically, I had a life-changing experience that convinced us to take the plunge. My wife and I were expecting our third child and our daughter ended up being born so quickly that we couldn’t make it to the hospital in time. I had to deliver her myself at home, with 911 on speakerphone giving me instructions. When I recounted the story to Nick, he quipped that if I can handle delivering my own child, we can probably handle running a startup.
Toolset for creators
Mike: Projects like Roblox and Manticore have done a great job simplifying professional game development suites. Many creators get their start there as those toolsets are much more approachable than their professional counterparts. But most of the existing attempts to make creation accessible focus primarily on simplifying the component tools of professional game development suites and not changing the creative process itself. This approach keeps creation inaccessible for most by forcing creators to work on a blank canvas and follow the same creative processes as professional game developers. Professional creative processes are built for large teams of seasoned developers; they stifle creativity and extinguish the players’ natural creative spark.
When we thought back to our own experiences wanting to create games, a new path opened up. We vividly remember falling in love with games. Before long, we wanted to tell our own stories within those game worlds. We did not want to build something new from scratch; we wanted to use the games we loved as a canvas on which to tell our own stories and express our own ideas. It’s our core belief that this creative desire is universal to players.
OCP’s mission is to empower every player to fulfill this universal desire by giving players a canvas to create on and a creative process that matches their natural creative drive. We are building a world for players to enjoy, but we’re not stopping there: we are giving every player the same toolbox we used to build the world. That toolbox is carefully crafted to present players a clean palette of meaningful choices to make creation accessible, intuitive, and magical. The result is a game that players can enjoy as is, seamlessly modify to express their imagination, or use as a springboard to build an entirely new game.
Mike: We’ve seen glimpses of the impact that unleashing player creativity can have. Many of the most popular games today, from Fortnite Battle Royale to League of Legends, have their origins in player creations. Empowering more players to get involved in creation can have a revolutionary impact on the games industry.
It’s certainly a challenging mission, but we’ve built a great team to tackle it. Nick’s background gives him a unique view into both game development and empowering others to engage in game development. We’ve been joined at OCP by an amazing team with decades of industry experience, combining veterans of Epic Games, id Software, Proletariat, Zynga, and ArenaNet.
Nick: It’s important to note that we are not trying to build the kitchen sink. Our focus is building tools that provide creators with the most meaningful choices, rather than providing them all of the choices. Players are perfectly capable of handling complex tasks, what bogs down many aspiring creators is the ultimately unhelpful and irrelevant breadth of choices presented to them. We’re not trying to compete with general-purpose tools like Unreal Engine, Unity, or even Roblox. Sometimes less is more.
Nick: We’re working with Unreal Engine. I’m obviously a bit biased, but UE is the best engine on the market today. UE has been battle-tested by Epic’s first-party games and continues to be battle-tested through Fortnite. Epic also built an awesome ecosystem around the engine, which can really save a lot of development time. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve been working in UE for almost 13 years now.
Nick: At the moment we’re a small studio, but we’re growing quickly and are focused on hiring world-class game developers. We’re building content and tools for others to use, so we’re looking for folks that have had experience in the trenches of all aspects of game development and deeply understand how tools are used to build games. We’re lucky to be supported by one of the recruiters that helped scale Epic. She has a wealth of experience quickly scaling a studio.
Managing the company as brothers
Mike: It’s been great. I couldn’t have asked for a better co-founder. I’ve literally known Nick my entire life, so there’s a level of trust there that is hard to match. Just as importantly, Nick and I have a very complementary set of skills. I joke that together we form one useful human. Nick has unparalleled engineering and UI/UX skills, which I round out with the business and legal experience.
Mike: Games are the most important entertainment and storytelling medium available today. I think we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible to achieve with games. We won’t unlock the full potential of games as an entertainment and storytelling medium without involving players in the creative process. It’s easy to get lost in speculation of exactly what a future where every player is truly a creator looks like; for the time being, we’re staying 100% focused on making that world a reality.
Mike and Nick Atamas, Omni Creator Products
Visit the team's website to learn more about the project and apply for a job position.