Monday, March 18, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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A Surreal Seattle approach to producing video games

Seattle Times technology reporter

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What: Surreal Software.

Quest: to make video games for Sony PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Xbox.

Founders: President and Chief Executive Alan Patmore, Creative Director Mike Nichols and Chief Operating Officer Nick Radovich, all 30, went to Eastside Catholic High School in Bellevue together. They found Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Stuart Denman, 28, a University of Washington grad, through an online message board.

Where: Fremont, in the building that houses a Torrefazione Italia cafe on the northeast side of the Fremont Bridge.

How they got started: The group began operating in 1995 in a Queen Anne office. Previously, Radovich sold real estate, Patmore worked at a wireless company, Nichols was working at local game company Boss Studios, and Denman had just interned at Microsoft on the Excel team.

Real world: The first contract was with Bothell-based children's-game developer Humongous, which found Denman's Web site and called to recruit programmers for Humongous. Surreal instead offered to do contract work.

Current head count: 37.

Games: "Drakan: Order of the Flame" for PCs was released in 1999 for Virgin Interactive and later picked up by Psygnosis, which in turn was absorbed by Sony Computer Entertainment of Europe. "Drakan: The Ancient Gates" came out for PlayStation 2 in January.

The plot: In "Drakan: The Ancient Gates," the Drakan world has been taken over by an evil force called the Dark Union. After it destroys her village, Rynn, an absurdly attractive Lara Croft-like warrior, and her dragon companion, Arokh, attempt to open up all the ancient gates, which will awaken the ancient Dragons of the Order and kick out the Dark Union.

Sales: "Drakan: Order of the Flame," for PCs, sold 180,000 copies worldwide. In its first two weeks, "Drakan: The Ancient Gates" sold more than 20,000 copies.

Reviews: Online video game publication IGN gave it an 8.1 out of 10. Gamespot's site rated it 7.7 out of 10. GameZone gave it an 8.75 out of 10.

Advice to aspiring developers: "It's definitely worth the risk if you're right out of college and have nothing to lose," Denman says.

"I definitely recommend you get somebody who knows something about business or have somebody to talk to about business. No one's going to succeed just with creative skills."


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