He's relentless

Greg Hancock hasn’t had the greatest luck.

In 2000 he was an aspiring game developer who lost a “life’s work” worth of computer graphics to a hard drive crash.

Before that, he was an Oak Harbor kid who spent his days with his mind aloft in Tolkien stories.

“In school I felt like the village idiot, everyone said I wasn’t going to get anywhere with doodling but I wasn’t going to give up that easily,” he said.

Today, Hancock is an international businessman — based out of his hometown of Oak Harbor — enjoying the success of his company, Relentless Publishing, and its first product, a role-playing game called “Prophecy.”

The game play in Prophecy takes place on eight continents, in three worlds, over two ages spanning 7,000 years.

“I wanted something epic,” Hancock explains.

He’s an overachiever of sorts, wanting to extend his creativity and product to the fullest potential. While most role-play games come with a single, soft-cover book, his comes with multiple books containing 440 pages of material, maps and dice. He wrote his own language — not just character replacement but an actual language — that can be seen as art on the game box.

Hancock has no problem if people smirk at the 30-something and his infatuation with creating role play games.

“Reading a story is one thing, but telling a story that you and your friends can manipulate opens completely new doors in your imagination,” Hancock said.

He smiles at the thought of job security. According to Hancock, demographic research places role-players’ average age 35 to 40, average income $75,000 to $125,000 annually, most likely world travelers with two or three kids and professionals with degrees and disposable incomes.

“Not bad,” he says with a laugh.

And the great thing about role-playing games, he said, is that the age range of players is broad and only limited to those who appreciate a good story.

Hancock first dreamed about owning his own business while still a student at Oak Harbor Middle School.

“An overactive imagination and a struggling GPA turned from a hobby to a serious business concept,” Hancock said. “It only took 20 years to do it.”

Son of Ruth and Ron Hancock of Oak Harbor, he attended Oak Harbor schools before he headed off to the Art Institute of Seattle where he studied three dimensional design.

The artist and entrepreneur takes pride in making his business an island-based venture. He uses local storage to keep his stockpile of games. A local printing company inked the first prototypes used to copyright the game and seek funding. An island mailing center is his distribution hub. His company polos were embroidered on-island and his printed materials and advertisements were also inked on Whidbey.

He’s a hometown boy with an affection for for Whidbey that is evident in the “Easter eggs” of Prophecy. On the continent Superius map you’ll find that Dimcoast Island perfectly resembles another island named Whidbey. The names of some characters and places are actually the phonetic spellings of people he knows here on Whidbey.

The first run of Prophecy was 1,500 units or 2.5 tons of games. The more than 200 units he’s sold since Prophecy’s debut in late August have been without advertising and he’s just now cranking up the marketing.

“Before it was just word-of-mouth sales because we were focused on development, but now we’re looking to promote,” he said.

An advertisement in a role-play magazine at the end of December sent enthusiasts to the Prophecy Web site to the tune of 1,300 new hits since the first of the year.

“It’s exciting and overwhelming but we’re ready to gear up for the future,” Hancock said.

He admits it took wading through rough years and depression to accomplish his dream.

“I’ve learned to keep my eyes on the prize and keep going,” he said.

The businessman wants to encourage others and the dreams they may have.

“Today you can have a very real business without leasing a building, owning land, selling your car or having an MBA,” he said.

For instance, because he didn’t own a house or land and had been unemployed for a time, Hancock had to get creative with how to finance his business.

“Even the Small Business Administration couldn’t offer me assistance, apparently I’m not broke,” he said.

He found his finance answers at www.prosper.com, an online peer-to-peer lending site.

“I put my business plan in a PDF and within 10 days I had $25,000 for my first production run,” he said. “Not bad after 38 bouts of ‘sorry we can’t help you’.”

A realistic man, after completing the first prototypes entirely by himself he recruited an international staff.

“It became daunting because I wanted to be a creative person for a living, not run a business,” he said.

Thanks to the telecommuting possibilities of the Internet, his company, Relentless Publishing, now has a contracted network of 14 artists and four writers, including himself, that hail from all over.

Hancock doesn’t shy away from the religious undertone of “Prophecy,” but admits the game is about more than his faith — in business and life.

“I didn’t do it on purpose, it’s just what made sense,” he said. “There are always warnings in life that we aren’t listening to. It’s the players’ job to find the truth and overcome politics, religion and cultural differences.”

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