Ironton, Ohio may seem just like any other small town, but those brave enough to look below the surface will find the real, surprising truth:
Ironton really is just like any other small town.
It's got its own points of pride: the nation's oldest continually running Memorial Day parade and the Ironton High Fighting Tigers, just to name a couple.
It's also got its problems. They all come back to one, really: It's economically depressed, having lost nearly 1,500 jobs in the span of about 18 months. In a town of a little under 12,000, that's not a downturn, that's a catastrophe.
The city council reacted the best way they know how, trying to keep spending down, and enacting a municipal fee that's none too popular with the long-time residents. But somewhere in a local basement, a group of gamers from this area have formulated their own plan to save Ironton: They're going to destroy it.
TickStorm is not like any other videogame developer. They're a developer with a clear mission: To surrender their home to an alien onslaught in a game so popular that it will single-handedly put Ironton on the map ... and save their beloved city.
The world's most unlikely studio
The year was 1999, and Baltimore native and Navy vet Rick Eid had just been relocated to Ironton by his employer, Cabletron. He'd been asked to start a training department for the networking equipment company - a new direction that quickly ran aground.
"I moved out here working for Cabletron's training department, and 10 months later, Cabletron shut down," Eid said. "But in that 10 months, I had really fallen in love with the area."
After years of moving around in the military, Eid had promised his two teenaged children, Rick Jr. and Nikki, that they could finish school in their new home. But Eid found keeping that promise to be difficult without work. Luckily, he was soon hired by Ohio University Southern, a branch campus in Ironton, which charged him with creating a game development department. It was an idea Eid bucked at, largely because he thought the coding would be too difficult for students, but also because he wasn't very familiar with game design in the first place.
But never let it be said that Rick Eid is a quitter. He secluded himself in his office for a solid week, attempting to learn every in and out of a design program called 3D Gamestudio.
The classes filled quickly, but the new instructor discovered that his students were interested in something beyond an easy few hours of course credits. Eid found, as he taught, that they couldn't get enough. As their enthusiasm for projects continued outside the classroom, he hit upon the idea of creating his own game design company with the students, independent from the school. With few resources, no formal training and practically no experience, the world's most unlikely game studio was born.
A storm, some ticks and an identity
They happened upon the name almost by accident. They had already settled on Melee Games, before a quick internet search showed it was already taken by several other companies.
Their next choice, the one that stuck, was a name from Eid's past derived from a female student who was trying to pick an email identity during a particularly bad thunderstorm: TickStorm.
Oh, and also, the girl loved ticks. It's pretty much your typical company name origin story. But they figured it was memorable, and you wouldn't need a bit of Googling to figure out they were certainly the only ones using it. What the team still lacked was a big idea. They drew their inspiration, in the end, from the same economically depressed climate that had brought Eid into their lives in the first place.