Currently Torc has three business strands: middleware, the varsity support programme and the development or content studio. Their middleware business revolves around the Instinct Engine, which they took to GDC 2004 in tandem with Havok and which gamedevelopers.ie feature readers should be familiar with. They plan to launch the engine commercially early next year, probably at GDC 2005 and they are working with a couple of hardware vendors currently, but unfortunately they wouldn’t name names. Chris, Brian and Pete gave an interesting overview of the technical specifications, modelling, animation, and texturing capabilities of the Instinct Engine and an insight into techniques development companies will need to employ moving forward into the next-generation.
Through Wendy, their varsity programme seems to be taking off and having used the NWIFE courses in Derry as a test bed for their engine and supporting educational materials this past year they will be working with UCG in 04 and are talking to 14 other colleges in Ireland. This work involves both advising colleges to create state of the art courses and developing a version of their engine which is geared towards students and which can be licensed to them. Torc are also partnering with the Sonic Arts Research Centre in Queens University on a research and development project. They view their work with education as both helping to grow the industry more generally in Ireland as well as ensuring there is an adequate talent pool to fulfil their own future skill needs.
The third strand of their business is what a lot of people in the audience wanted to hear about. This is their game development studio and currently a small number of the middleware team and some contractors are working on some demos and a mini-game for clients. Torc hopes that based on the technical expertise they have built up over the past number of years – the beginnings of the company actually date back to 1999, although the company was formally established in late 2002 – the contacts they have established with people in the industry and the pool of talent they are actively involved in creating they will be scaling up their game development team in 2005. That news brought a smile to many peoples faces!
Part of the company’s preparation for growth is to hire a ‘Producer’ and in case you haven’t heard it on the grapevine, Tony Kelly, formerly of Intel, will be moving to Torc in the next month to take up this position. Tony gave us some insights into the game business and how Torc plans to grow in terms of future hiring needs should either contract or original IP projects come to pass. Torc currently employ 15 people. Should they secure a publishing deal in 2005 they will be expanding to somewhere between 25 to 40 approximately – depending on the type of game project.
In other words, they will probably be hiring a couple more people this year and if things go according to plan, and they secure a publishing deal, they may be expanding rapidly in the next 24 months or so.
As I left the building another remark circulated in my head – ‘experience isn’t everything if you are outrageously talented!’ That should provide some hope to those who are currently hoping to get into the industry in Ireland.