On July 5, Zachtronics releases Last call BBS, a collection of stylish little puzzle games wrapped in a retro PC game feel. After 11 years in the business (and even beyond commercial releases), a time when the studio has developed a cult following almost unmatched in indie games, it will be the last new game Zachtronics will ever release.
Zachtronics is named after the founder Zach Barth and has spent most of these 11 years specializing in puzzle games (or variations of the theme). And pretty much every single one of them has been Good (or at least interesting). Go through our own archives and look for Zachtronics games and you will find:
Despite this repeated excellence and a deeply loyal fan base, Zachtronics never became what we would call even in this enthusiast space a famous name. Which is good, and even in terms of design. Barth, Matthew Burns and their small team (usually only five people in total, depending on the scope of the project), have simply been very good at doing what they loved, no matter how popular it was, and so they have just kept doing it.
The result has been a series of games that may not have fallen in everyone’s taste, but for those with whom it resonated, it was their shit. It’s not hard to see why: most of Zachtronic’s games involved challenging puzzles, but also a deeply cool and interesting presentation around them, whether it was the dirty hacker aesthetic of Exapunks or the Advance war-like Mobius Front 83. Given these initial and superficial differences, it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes a game so clear to a Zachtronics joint, but as love and art, when you see it know that.
So it’s sad, but also amazing in its own way, that 2022 will see the end of Zachtronics. Not because their publishers stopped them, or because their venture capital financing ran out, or because Activision got them to work on Call of Duty, or any other number of reasons (bankruptcy! scandal!) game developers usually close their doors.
No, Zachtronics closes because … they want to.
“We’ll end things!”, Barth tells me, much more enthusiastically than one would normally expect in these circumstances. “Zachtronics will release Last call BBS next month. We are also working on a long-awaited solitaire collection that we hope to have out at the end of the year. After that, the team will be disbanded. We all have different ideas, interests, tolerances for risks and so on, so we are still figuring out what we want to do next. ”
I ask him what it feels like to be in such a privileged position, where they have to make this decision on their own terms, and Barth says “It feels pretty good, to be honest!”. He stressed that knowing when to quit is your own kind of skill, something the team already has some experience with, he tells me “We actually shut down Zachtronics once before, back in 2015, when I went to work at Valve for “It ended up being 10 months. It gave us an opportunity to withdraw some of our equity, re-engage with the rest of the gaming industry and rebuild from the ground up.”
“I’m not saying the same thing will happen here, because we’re really shutting down Zachtronics, but when you make these decisions for yourself consciously, instead of letting circumstances dictate them, it’s easier to get the results you want in the long run. the race. “
But Why? Why now, why like this? – We felt it was time for a change. This may sound strange, but even though we have become very good at making “Zachtronics games” in the last twelve years, it was difficult for us to do anything else. We were lucky enough to create a special niche, and I am grateful that we were able to occupy it and survive in it, but it also kept us locked into doing something we did not feel like doing forever. ”
The studio’s last game, the fitting name Last call BBSwas announced recently, but if you had scanned the reaction to their debut trailer online, you would have seen that in addition to the usual excitement, there was also a lot of sadness, something that the team has been in the rare situation to be. be able to admit before their closure.
“Since we announced it Last call BBS will be our last match. I have received countless emails from fans thanking us for the matches we have made “, says Barth. Many of them point to the games as one of the reasons why they have become professional programmers or engineers. It’s hard to say anything other than ‘thank you’, but that’s really all I want to say. A game without someone to play is hardly a game, and it’s just because of our players that our games have meaning and a life of their own. We all really appreciate that! “
With the decision made and announced, what comes next? For Barth, he hopes to be able to work on something Other, while other team members also want to try new challenges. “My original plan was to quit things at Zachtronics and then find a new job teaching high school in computer science, but the timing was out,” he says. “I have just finished my first year of teaching and Last Call BBS has not even been released yet! I was hoping that I would really like to teach and do it for a few years, but I learned that this is definitely not the case and I have a hard time imagining anything other than games in my future, in any form or form. ”
“What we do next as individuals or partners is an issue that we are discussing very actively right now. I am particularly interested in freelance and strange side projects, while other members of the team are drawn to the idea of a stable job with more growth potential than a small indie studio. do what is basically the same game every year. ”
Last call BBS will be released on July 5 on Steam, and will be the studio’s last new game. You can check out its very cool trailer below. Their official final releasewill, however, be a bundle that brings together its various Solitaire games in a single packageand as mentioned above, it will be out later this year.
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