Sony Online's former chief opens his own game studio (updated)

Its first project is an action RPG built by veterans from 'Everquest' and beyond.

John Smedley may have left Sony Online Entertainment just months after its acquisition, but he's still staying true to his roots. He recently co-founded a studio, Pixelmage Games, and is already off to the races building his first title: meet Hero's Song, a crowdfunded action role-playing game with a few unique twists. It's more "measured" than frantic hack-and-slash titles like Diablo III, and it revolves around a system of gods that shape the world, the challenges when you die (if you lose, you're dead forever) and your future. You can even become a god, if you're good enough. Unsurprisingly, Hero's Song will be playable both solo and online against many other adventurers.

The title has some pedigree behind it. Besides Smedley's own experience, Pixelmage is counting on Everquest co-creator Bill Trost, fantasy author Patrick Rothfuss and other veterans. The company already has $1 million in investment -- the extra $800,000 from its Kickstarter campaign will help provide the final push.

Like the idea? It'll take a fairly modest $25 pledge to get a copy of the finished game around its expected September release date. Shelling out more gets you into test phases (including the pre-alpha, if you're willing to spend at least $250) and increasing influence over the design. Hero's Song is a bit of a gamble, but it stands a better chance than most first-time indie releases.

Update 1/26: Pixelmage has cancelled its crowdfunding drive over concerns that it won't make its goal. The good news, however: investors are still backing the game, and it should still ship on time.