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New Blood’s Dave Oshry is a character. Short in stature, but big in personality and muscular like a bull terrier, you can’t help but want him to be your pal. There are a lot of business guys in video games, but there aren’t many with this kind of infectious enthusiasm and knowledge for the games he likes to play, make, and publish. Of course, he’s not just a suit – he’s also the producer, PR guy, company spokesperson, creative, and more.

“I do everything but the programming, art, and music,” Oshry tells me. Dude has more hats than Team Fortress 2.

You can tell when someone’s in games for the money. Oshry might be doing well for himself these days, but he got here by bucking almost every trend the money men would usually have developers chasing.

“We love you and we hate money” – that’s the New Blood mantra.

dave-oshrey-game-developer

Dave Oshry is also, quite literally, a character. Load up isometric RPG Wasteland 3 and you might find him wandering the frozen Earth. “Short but broad, way too sure of himself and almost definitely hungover,” his character description reads. “His GunnarTM sunglasses reflect the wastes clear as day. His hair is perfect.” It is. It’s perfect.

I’m speaking to him at the bar of the Sheraton hotel in Dubrovnik, Croatia, where we’re both attending the brilliant Reboot Develop Blue, a boutique game developer conference where people give talks next to sun loungers by a crystal clear swimming pool. I take a swig of a warm beer and try not to grimace. He orders a whiskey, and I ask him why he loves making the kind of retro FPS games that people lovingly refer to as “boomer shooters”.

“Why the fuck not?” he says, swilling his glass. “It wasn't intentional. Nobody was making games like this anymore. When we first started in 2012, this was the Call of Duty days, everything had you holding two guns. Even fucking Duke Nukem Forever had two guns and a stamina bar and shit, until they patched it. So we wanted this style of game back and it turned out a lot of other people did too. We made a couple of really good ones and then we got known for it, and now we make the best ones.”

Fallen Aces is inspired by the melee combat of Condemned. 

Fallen Aces is inspired by the melee combat of Condemned. 

By not chasing trends and serving a niche audience that was, at the time, starved for new experiences, New Blood found its audience through a combination of excellent games and quirky branding. Now the company is branching out into other underserved niches with games such as Gloomwood, which combines Resident Evil-style survival horror with the immersive sim stealth of Thief, and Fallen Aces, a comic book-style, first-person crime noir where you punch people in the face.

“We find that there are people who also really miss this style of games,” Oshry says. “It's a good business model for us, making the shit we want to make. We don't chase trends. We don't need any publishers or any funding. It's me and my friends making the games we want to make, and I don't have any intention to change.”

None of this happened on purpose, and that’s probably key to the company’s success. The video games industry moves too fast. If you try to guess where it’ll be in three years, or however long it’ll take you to make your next title, chances are that people will have moved on by the time you’re ready to launch. It’s like trying to catch a mote of dust with a pair of tweezers, and the dust will call you a cuck if you miss. Don’t play the game and you can’t lose.

dusk

After doing a stint as a freelance writer across a range of games media sites, Oshry’s journey in game development started in 2013 with the launch of Rise of the Triad. “Which sucked,” he tells me. But he enjoyed the process and working with his friends, so they decided to start their own company. Nothing came of that. Then, years later, he met up with Damir Durovic – the founder of the conference we’re both attending – and helped him publish a game called The Red Solstice. An indie publisher was born.

In 2016, Oshry got a Twitter DM from a man called David Szymanski, who wanted to show him his retro FPS game, Dusk, which went on to become New Blood’s first big hit and is widely considered one of the best shooters on PC. A month after launch (and years before Elon Musk made the numbers cringe), Oshry announced that the game had already sold 69,420 copies.

These days, New Blood doesn’t publish other people’s games. It’s taken the teams that created its hits in-house and does the whole thing – development, QA, publishing, everything on its own. Full creative freedom. And the success of this company doing its own thing in its own screw you, punk rock way has led to a resurgence of retro FPS games on PC. There’s even a boomer shooter showcase now called Realms Deep.

Gloomwood takes the light and dark-flavored stealth of Thief and adds in a bunch of modern twists. 

Gloomwood takes the light and dark-flavored stealth of Thief and adds in a bunch of modern twists. 

“Yeah, it’s great,” Oshry says. “We like to support all the other ones. We don't publish anymore outside of our own games, but I get pitched every single one of them. They all come through my desk and there are so many of them and they're all really cool. Even Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun – I saw that about two years ago. It's fun. It's not a moneymaking genre, that's for sure. If you want to make money, make a survival crafting game.”

Next up, New Blood plans to experiment with more underserved genres. The studio has already announced an RPG in the style of the original Fallout, as well as a Twisted Metal-style car combat game. “I think it’s a dead genre, but we’re gonna do it anyway,” he says with a look in his eye that screams “I really do hate money, you know?”

“They did a new Carmageddon with multiplayer, but that's not what we do,” he continues. “We do New Blood shit. We're gonna give it a story, funny characters, good writing, good voice acting, the controls are going to be tight as fuck. It's still so early, though.”

New Blood shit is what it’s all about for the people who are into these games. The red and black of the logo is a stamp of quality.

It's a lot, isn't it? 

It's a lot, isn't it? 

For each of the studio’s projects, there’s a lead designer who acts as the vision holder, but the entire team constantly meets to discuss each game, even across the teams. It doesn’t matter which team you work on at New Blood, your ideas can impact other projects – everyone has the same goal of making the label’s games better.

Oshry’s talk at Reboot Blue is titled “Think Like a Player” and encourages developers to step outside of their bubbles. At least three of the slides tell the audience that they’re not Miyazaki (the Japanese director of the Dark Souls games), which is shorthand for “gamers won’t put up with your bullshit because you’re not established.” His talk focuses on breaking down barriers with accessibility options, onboarding, creating a first impression, and more. In his role at New Blood, he acts as the voice of the players, making sure the designers’ worst impulses are reigned in.

“It helps because programmers, if you leave them unchecked, they just make systems,” Oshry laughs. “Like, nobody asked you to do that, you just wasted three weeks of everyone's life. You gotta take a machete and cut off all the fucking branches you don’t need.”

It’s a process that’s clearly working for New Blood. By the time Ultrakill comes out of Early Access on Steam, Oshry tells me it’s on track to have sold a million copies. “We say we hate money but we're very good at making it,” he laughs. “I'm not interested in investment or mergers or acquisitions. I want my QA team to all be on six figures by the next year, and that can happen. We’re all remote. I don't have any grand desires to open a big office and hire a bunch more people. Someone asked me what I would do if they gave me ten million dollars and I said, ‘I dunno, make a nine million dollar trailer?’ That’d be sick.”