It feels like it’s been forever since I wrote some sort of self serving pretentious crap post so it felt like now was the perfect time.
But first I want to say a big thank you to Mike Cooper and Jason Stone for all their hard work on the new site. When we first formed the studio we thought we were going to be doing a mixture of our own stuff and outsourcing work, as the company grew we became more focussed and started to realise that whilst we matured as people and as a team that we had outgrown the old website. Those who have done outsourcing work for me before know that I tend to work with people that I can give a one sentence brief too and that exceed all expectations. Well Mike has been doing this for me for about the last 15 years and so he was well prepared in my ways of “I just kinda want it to look bloggy, gamey and cool”. So a massive thank you to both Mike and Jason we love the new site and it’s much better than we could have hoped for.
Ok next lets talk about where we are. So just a quick recap for those of you that care, we formed this studio in June 2012 it was just Myself and Craig. We had no game plan, no money (£3k between the two of us) and all we knew is that we wanted our own little studio. Fast forward 7 months and we’ve released our first game (“Janksy”) as a Windows 8 launch title, we’ve been featured on the cover of Develop magazine and we’ve just been asked by Microsoft Game Studios to be the pilot for their new Incubation programme. This was all incredibly overwhelming it was an offer we couldn’t have dreamed of so we of course said yes. We signed the initial contract from December to June, we got to hire our own team and off we went. December came around Craig, myself, Loudon and, a couple of weeks after, Ben had all joined and we started brainstorming ideas. Let’s fast forward again to December 2013. So by this point the team has now grown to 7, the starting 4 plus Chris, Matt and Yacine. We’ve been nominated, and lost :(, two Develop Awards (Best New Studio, Best Independent Studio), we’ve been recognised as one of the top 100 UK developers, top 100 exciting European startups. All of this is lovely but we haven’t shipped anything since Janksy, in fact we haven’t even publicly discussed a game since Janksy and we’re starting to feel we are talking the talk without walking the walk. At this point there is a month left on our extended contracts at MS.
Decision time. We’ve learned a lot in the year we’ve been with MS and we’ve worked with some fantastic people on fantastic projects but it’s starting to feel like it’s time for a change. We spend the best part of a month in meetings with the team, with MS and just with ourselves trying to figure out what our next move is.
Finally we come to a decision, as a team, let’s take the gamble.
No money, no security, no guarantees. Like when we first started this studio.
So we all go back to our respective garages, bedrooms, living rooms etc.. we have no funding sorted, we have a small amount of money each that we know we can make last from January to March but we’re passionate about doing this. So we tell the MS guys and we get our contract end date of 10th January 2014. As of the 13th January we’re back working, all of us remotely, we got each of the guys webcams, the team has downsized to 6 but we are ready and raring to go.
We spent the first week getting everyone used to working remotely, porting Janksy over to Unity, setting up our project management, source control etc…
Two days in 6 become 5. Core team of Me, Craig, Loudon, Ben and Chris remain.
No whilst this was all going on I was in meetings with publishers, platform holders and investors trying to figure out where the money was going to come from. We met a lot of great people who really wanted to help us out and it was an amazing feeling to know we had that support. Along the way we by complete fluke came up with the idea for a new game, an idea that we instantly was all like ‘this could be awesome, but it might not work at all’ so we fleshed out the design a little bit. Come Monday 20th the team was settled and it was time to start work on the new game. By the Friday of that week we had a working 4 player prototype. Now full disclosure this thing is Ugly with a capital U but it’s fun, it’s really fun in fact, more fun then we expected. So we made plans that the Sunday coming was a WWE pay-per-view the guys would all come down to mine, we’d hang out, eat crap food, watch the wrestling and play the game. We ended up playing that game for about 6 hours, every now and then someone would have an idea or feedback so one of us would run out to the Cave quickly tweak the build, deploy a new one and we’d start playing again. I want to state very clearly now:
I’ve never been this excited about a project and never anticipated something i’ve worked on to have this much potential.
Now as crazy as this sounds this is all making it the most stressful, anxiety inducing experience of my life. Our boys know, that Craig and, especially, I have a serious fear that every time we come up with an idea we don’t act quick enough and someone announces something very similar we’ve had it with about 3 titles in the last 2 years and I can’t and I WON’T have it happen with this one. So I’ve been going against the norm a little bit, I’ve been taking this ugly 4 day prototype and I’ve been showing it to Sony, Microsoft, journalists and publishers. I want people to play this now, I want people to see through the ugly graphics and see what I see, pure fun gameplay. Now you are probably wondering “if you want to announce it that badly why haven’t you mentioned a name or what it is or shown us footage”. Well whilst I’m showing it to people it’s people I trust to be able to see through the ugliness of it’s raw state and see the game for it’s fun and potential and the internet is a scary place and you can’t play a video so I at least want to get some cleaner PH graphics in there before going public. That said I want it announced before the end of the first week of March.
Well I suppose nearly 2 A4 pages of a random blog is enough for everyone so I’ve leave you with a couple of things. Firstly I’ll be hitting the road hard this year in terms of cons and expos I’m going to be doing some more focussed talks around our design/develop methodologies and the lessons we learned whilst with MS. Finally I just want to thank everyone that has helped us and is helping us. A big thank you to guys like Mike, Jason, Mark Thompson, Sam Thomas (nevernaut), Grant Allen, Steve Huckle, Tom Rainbow, Jamie Krautkremer all incredibly talented guys that are helping us out in a time where we would be lost without them.
Thanks to you guys for reading, liking, loving and hating.