Black Shamrock: The Irish video game studio co-developing blockbuster releases

Black Shamrock: The Irish Video Game Studio Co-Developing Blockbuster Releases
There are currently nine projects being worked on at the studio which vary from big blockbuster games to engineering projects to develop new technologies.
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Kenneth Fox

In 2016 Black Shamrock opened with just five people working in a small office. Eight years later, they are 150 people strong in a two-floor office space in the heart of Dublin city centre.

It has been quite the journey for an Irish video game studio which was founded by French developer Olivier Masclef.


They are now part of a wider umbrella of studios called Virtuos who help co-develop some of the biggest games in the industry. With 22 studios across the world in China, Singapore, France and the US, it is esteemed company.

I met the studio's general manager, Elaine Reynolds on a foggy day in the city centre at the Guinness Enterprise Centre. They are surrounded by tons of start-ups in what feels like a real creative hub.

Unlike the other companies, they have two floors with various teams working on multiple projects. One room in particular even has windows blocked out as they are working on a "top secret" project.

As someone who has worked in the industry for close to 16 years, Elaine Reynolds was an ideal fit for her role when she joined Black Shamrock.


She oversees the day-to-day operations "My focus is at the studio level and making sure the success of the studio in terms of the people and the growth of the studio. Then we have other people who are the heads of various projects," she says.

Black Shamrock studios.

Blockbuster releases

As a programmer and a game designer, she has a well-rounded view of what game development entails. She has worked on bigger AAA games along with setting up a mobile gaming studio.

When she first joined last March, she was incredibly excited about what the studio was working on.


“When I first joined they told me some of the games they were working on, and my jaw dropped!

“When I first joined, and they told me some of the games they were working on, my jaw dropped!" she says.

There are currently nine projects in development which vary from big blockbuster games to engineering projects with the aim of developing new technologies.

Elaine says she would love to tell me everything they are working at the moment, but with various Non-Disclosure Agreeements (NDAs) in place, they legally cannot.


Thankfully, there are some big projects she can talk about, two in particular which are very exciting for the studio.

“What I can tell you is that we are working on Judas (Ghost Story Games). That is obviously big for us."

Judas is a hugely anticipated game from the creator of the hugely influential Bioshock series, Ken Levine. It has been over a decade since Bioshock Infinite was released back in 2013.

He and his team are known for creating incredibly immersive worlds with rich storytelling as well as a suit of weapons and powers to play around with.


Judas looks to be very much in the same mould, judging by what we have seen so far.

They are also working on a new action adventure game Marvel 1943: Rise of Hydra from Skydance New Media.

It is also being spearheaded by the legendary game director Amy Hennig, who is best known for creating the iconic Uncharted series.

She is a writer and a producer on Marvel 1943, which features the likes of Captain America and Black Panther.

These titles add to the already impressive catalogue of games Black Shamrock has co-developed.

They have worked on the space role-playing game The Outer Worlds, co-op zombie shooter Back 4 Blood and live service survival game Grounded.

Live service games

Speaking of live service games — ongoing games with a constant stream of content— Elaine says they are actively looking at pursuing those types of games, as opposed to traditional single-player games.

"When an opportunity comes, we assess who is best suited to work on the particular game. There is a lot of in-house knowledge sharing and upskilling going on."

While the companies' main modus operandi is co-development, they also allow developers to pitch their own game ideas.

"It is quite new but so far there has been one game that has come through Virtuos originals which is a strategy deck building game. Basically, anyone can come up with an idea for a game and get support with pitching it.

She says they are also working on another game internally based on the fantasy tabletop game RuneQuest, but they have yet to find a publisher.

The Black Shamrock offices.

AI generated content

Much like other industries, AI has been a hot topic as of late and despite the scaremongering around it taking away everyone's job, there are positives to it.

"There are ways to save time and help with referencing things, which is really exciting" she says, but they have to be careful about presenting anything to their clients that is AI generated.

Even if they used AI to create a reference for a world they are making, they ultimately would still have to make sure it is OK with the client.

On a more sombre note, the start to 2024 has been incredibly bleak with thousands of people being laid off across the industry.

Microsoft on Tuesday just announced they would be closing four of their studios. For developers, it must feel like no studio is safe whether they are big or small.

2020 was a huge boon for gaming with everyone stuck at home, but there has been a sharp drop-off in the amount of people buying and playing games.

Some feel the wave of layoffs is a sign of that, while others think executives should take the blame for over-hiring during that period.

Elaine is more positive about things: "I think there is a slight downturn at the moment after the pandemic, but I think there is going to be a bounce back.

"With how we work as a studio, we can help other studios stabilise their staff costs and help them if they need to ramp up at a later stage of development," she says.

Black Shamrock conference room.

Another issue that is being talked about in the industry is crunch (compulsory overtime) and developers feeling forced to work long hours as a game nears the end of the development, often for no monetary reward.

I spoke to a Black Shamrock developer back in 2022 on condition of anonymity who said at the time “There is pressure among other developers where they are like “Well we are working until 7pm or 8pm, why aren't you?"

In response, she says that people do have to work overtime from "time to time" or when a project is coming up to a milestone.

"So far this year, 13 per cent of people have done overtime. It is never forced and people who do it will be compensated."

That compensation comes in the form of time in lieu or time in half, depending on the situation. She says they do keep track of younger developers and make sure they are not overworking themselves.

Along with a weekly meeting with producers who can flag various concerns, she feels Black Shamrock is an "open space", where people can speak to their line manager if they have an issue.

With it being close to a decade now since Black Shamrock first opened its doors, it is clear they are trying to create a lasting legacy for their employees and through the games they make.

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