The many hats of Demiurge Studios

Shoot Many Robots is Boston-based Demiurge Studios' first original game, and my hands-on with it at GDC was the first time that anyone at the developer ever gave a press demo. Studio head Albert Reed was, unsurprisingly, excited to delve into the studio's origins. "We got our start doing mods for Unreal Tournament. It was me and two other college buddies doing mods in the frickin' computer cluster at Carnegie Mellon. I'm not kidding!" Reed told me before showing off Shoot Many Robots last week. "Then one thing lead to another and those companies that were licensing Unreal Engine started hiring us," Reed added humbly.

It turns out that the folks hiring Demiurge were developers like Gearbox Software, Irrational Games, BioWare, and Harmonix. "We did some work on the first level -- the lighthouse and that sort of descent into Rapture," Reed told me, casually explaining that his studio clandestinely assisted with one of gaming's most iconic openings: the beginning of BioShock.

"The call letters on the plane, DF-0301, are the initials of one of Demiurge's artists and the date of Demiurge's incorporation (contrary to Internet forum conspiracy theories on its origins)," Reed told GamePro of the work earlier this year.

Demiurge also worked on "every Brothers in Arms game but Hell's Highway," as well as the PC version of Mass Effect (the studio created the Pinnacle Station DLC, too). "The Demiurge guys are total pros," Gearbox head Randy Pitchford told us of his work with the studio. "It has always been a pleasure for me to work with Al and the guys."

The studio's origins are less impressive than they are ... charming. "There was the place that was in a house," Reed said, referring to one of Demiurge's temporary facilities. "Literally like a house in Pittsburgh. There was no door on the bathroom," he continued. Apparently, since the doorless bathroom was on the second floor and the various employees were on the first, "the rule was you kind of looked around to see if everyone was at their desk, to see if anyone was missing." And if someone was missing? "You'd have to kind of yell 'I'm coming up!' And if you were in the bathroom, you had to yell, 'Noooooo!' That was another company's office that we kind of ... grew out of," Reed said.

Senior designer at Demiurge Josh Glavine then added, "They were squatting." And it turns out they were. Reed writes that off as payment for having to create "terrible web games" at the time.

Soon after, the five employees that Demiurge then comprised packed up and headed north to Boston, where Rock Band developer Harmonix was nice enough to offer some office space. Harmonix also offered a chance to help develop Karaoke Revolution, which eventually lead to Demiurge working on Green Day: Rock Band. "They've kind of been the same way as Gearbox in a way," Glavine told me about Harmonix. "We have a lot of history with them."

Though Shoot Many Robots is Demiurge's first big original IP, the company isn't shying away from its roots as a hired gun. "From a business standpoint, that's a big part of our strategy," Reed stated, teasing "another project going on right now which is super fucking hot," before going completely dark on it. I couldn't help but suggest the possibility that Demiurge is once again working with Irrational on a BioShock title, to which Reed responded, "Oooooh! That is a hot game!"

This article was originally published on Joystiq.