Gaming & Technology

Thesis project turned retro game

LOS ANGELES — Matt Korba and his pals are busy turning his interactive media thesis project from a rudimentary silent film-themed video-game prototype into a fleshed-out puzzler featuring more than 80 levels that will be available for download on Xbox Live early next year.

That transformation is occurring in a small, unassuming loft space above a chicken-wing eatery in downtown Los Angeles. It's located — appropriately enough — halfway between the University of Southern California campus and the Los Angeles Convention Center, home of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the gaming industry's annual convention.

"We've sort of been very quiet for a year," Korba says. "No one really knows we exist."

After graduating from USC, Korba and his buddy Paul Bellezza formed their own developer, The Odd Gentlemen, and set out to find a publisher for The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom, their time-bending, two-dimensional platforming game starring a pie-loving silent-film star named P.B. Winterbottom.

Korba says several publishers were interested in the concept, but most wanted to put their own spin on Winterbottom. Among them: that the silent-film star should talk, be able to be controlled with a mouse, be a space marine, travel through film history — including stopping in Jurassic Park — and be in color.

"We were like, 'But it's a silent film. It's in black and white,'" Korba says.

After showing off Winterbottom at the Independent Games Festival and IndieCade last year, The Odd Gentlemen signed with 2K Games, the publisher behind the hits BioShock and Mafia. Korba says 2K Games hasn't interfered with his creative vision for the quirky game.

"It's been awesome to take the idea out of my head and move beyond what we had when we were students," he says.