__MAIN_TEXT__
feature-image

Page 1

MCV/DEVELOP ISSUE 969

UPLIFT GAMES Cutesy Roblox goliath Adopt Me! has a new parent

THE ART AND BUSINESS OF VIDEO GAMES

Jobs FIND YOUR NEXT HOME IN GAME DEVELOPMENT – 32-PAGES OF GREAT STUDIOS AND GREAT JOBS

Jobs THE 30% QUESTION Is there any defence for the industry’s most standard cut?

IS IMPROBABLE...

CRACKING THE METAVERSE? "Typically, you’ll see games doing maybe tens of thousands of operations per second – in terms of networking – this demo handles 250 million"

JUNE 2021

■ GLOBAL SCREEN FUND ■ PLAYTONIC PRESENTS ■ OPEN DEVELOPMENT ■ THE ART OF... HOW TO APPLY FOR PUBLISHING BY DEVS THE ALTERNATIVE TO DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: YOUR CUT FOR DEVS EARLY ACCESS DARK ALLIANCE 01 MCV969 Cover section V3 FINAL.indd 3

27/05/2021 17:09


OBC Cover Wrap 4pp EPOS MCV968.indd 1

23/04/2021 13:15


JUNE

05 The Editor

It's time to go IRL

06 Critical Path

The key dates this month

10 Eebz

Merchandising expertise

12 Industry Voices

Comment from around the industry

15 Ins and Outs

This month's hires and moves

18 Recruiter Hotseat

Splash Damage in the spotlight

19 Debugging D&I

Supporting LGBTQ+ staff

20 14

30

20 Improbable

The dream of scale is almost a reality

26 Darewise

Open development is the future

30 Adopt Me!

26

Roblox smash has a new parent

36 BFI Grants

Claim the DCMS Global Screen Fund

38 Playtonic Friends

54

A new publishing venture

42 The 30% Question

An equitable share?

46 Unsigned

The best indies looking for partners

50 The Art Of...

50

Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance

54 When We Made...

Polygon Treehouse's Röki

58 The Final Boss

Payload Studio's Russ Clarke

June 2021 MCV/DEVELOP | 03

03 MCV 969 Contents_v3FINAL.indd 1

27/05/2021 16:14


SAVE THE DATE

Thursday 23rd September We’re planning a very special and very different event this year, simply entitled IRL. We’ll both applaud the industry’s incredible response to the pandemic and celebrate being able to gather together once again. We’re now looking for key partners to support an inclusive and positive comeback event for everyone.

For more details contact alex.boucher@biz-media.co.uk

04 MCV 969 MCV Save the Date House ad V3 FINAL.indd 4

27/05/2021 13:43


“IRL will be a more casual, more inclusive event, designed so that anyone and everyone in the industry can attend…”

TheEditor It’s time to starting thinking about IRL I feel that MCV/DEVELOP, and this column more specifically, has a pretty good take on the future direction of the games industry, after all that’s the job. But my past attempts here to predict major world events have been rather less successful to date: the 2016 Trump win and Brexit election loss, remain the most painful of many. However, we went out on a limb last month to declare that we think that late September would be a fine time to have a sizable industry get together in central London. And I’d really like to tell you a little bit more about that event today, an event we’ve simply entitled IRL. First up, this is not the MCV/DEVELOP Awards, that’s taking the year off. Instead IRL will be a more casual, more inclusive event, designed so that anyone and everyone in the industry can attend, meet colleagues, network, and applaud the huge efforts that have been made by so many over the last year and more. To that end we’ve now secured a brilliant central London venue, right next to Waterloo station. It’s a big blank canvas (in brick) upon which we can craft an event to celebrate the industry. We did consider venues further north, but London remains the UK’s best travel hub for most and an opportunity for many to make a combined trip. To make the journey worthwhile, IRL will consist of both a casual afternoon meet-up, if you want a quiet chat with colleagues and partners, and then a more vibrant evening event with fantastic street food & a well-stocked bar (both to suit all tastes), plus plenty to keep you entertained until late. All that said, it’s about reconnecting with people, so even for the evening event, there will be quieter spaces (or as quiet as they can be) for those who just want to sit and chat. In the middle of the evening, we will be giving out just a handful of IRL awards, with individual winners being recognised for their successes and sacrifices across the last year, as well as applauding CSR and diversity initiatives, plus charitable efforts. We aim simply to show the world that games, and the people in games, are a huge force for good. To make it inclusive to everyone in the industry, we’re looking to hold down ticket prices for IRL to something reasonable – the cost of a good night out in London basically. And we do promise you a very good night out indeed. And to that end we’re looking for a handful of major partners to support the event. Please contact alex.boucher@biz-media.co.uk if you’re interested in supporting, and in helping to create, a broad industry-celebrating event with at least 500 attendees. Tickets will go on sale before the summer and MCV/DEVELOP readers will be given a headstart. Seth Barton seth.barton@biz-media.co.uk

June 2021 MCV/DEVELOP | 05

05 MCV969 Leader V3 FINAL.indd 1

27/05/2021 11:11


Critical Path

Here are the key upcoming events and releases to mark in your calendar...

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

Necromunda: Hired Gun Coming from developer Streum On Studio and published by Focus Home Interactive, this is a fast-paced FPS set in the darkest reaches of Warhammer 40,000’s most infamous hive city. The player will be collecting the bounties on the most notorious mutants, all while customising their weapons and body augmentations.

The sixteenth (!) entry to the Ratchet and Clank series is hitting PS5 this month, courtesy of Insomniac Games. This visually-stunning game was first showcased back as the PS5 reveal event, and features instantaneous travel between other areas and worlds through the use of inter-dimensional portals – or rather through the use of the PS5’s ludicrously fast SSD storage system. A truly next-gen title, then.

JUNE 1st

10th

11th

Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade Square Enix’s long-awaited and hugely popular Final Fantasy VII Remake is now getting its next-gen rerelease, with all new content for the PS5. The update features improved visuals and loading times, plus a PS5-exclusive expansion titled Episode Intermission, featuring the character of Yuffie Kisaragi from the original FFVII.

06 | MCV/DEVELOP June 2021

06-07 MCV969 Critical Path V3 FINAL.indd 6

27/05/2021 13:46


Mario Golf: Super Rush Mario finally returns to his golf clubs, in the 7th installment in the Mario Golf series – a franchise that hasn’t been seen the links since Mario Golf: World Tour in 2014. Announced in a Nintendo Direct back in February, the game features a new mode, Speed Golf, which sees players racing to hit their ball in real-time, instead of taking turns.

E3 E3 is back in 2021, once again as an all-digital event running from June 12th to the 15th, despite some early hopes that it could return as a physical event this year. To date, the ESA has confirmed that Nintendo, Xbox, Capcom, Konami, Ubisoft, Take-Two Interactive, Warner Bros Games and Koch Media will be participating in this year’s event.

JUNE 12th-15th

22nd

25th

Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance Developed by Tuque Games and published by Wizards of the Coast, this all-action RPG is coming to PC, PS4, PS5 and Xbox consoles near the end of the month. It’s a spiritual successor to the PS2-era Dark Alliance titles, and is set in the tundra region of Icewind Dale. The game’s multiplayer mode will allow for online co-op for up to four players. See page 50 for more on this title.

June 2021 MCV/DEVELOP | 07

06-07 MCV969 Critical Path V3 FINAL.indd 7

27/05/2021 13:46


We’re Playing... CONTENT Editor: Seth Barton seth.barton@biz-media.co.uk +44 (0)203 143 8785 Staff Writer: Chris Wallace chris.wallace@biz-media.co.uk +44 (0)203 143 8786 Design and Production: Steve Williams swilliams@designandmediasolutions.co.uk

ADVERTISING SALES Senior Business Development Manager: Alex Boucher alex.boucher@biz-media.co.uk +44 (0)7778538431

MANAGEMENT Media Director: Colin Wilkinson colin.wilkinson@biz-media.co.uk +44 (0)203 143 8777

SUBSCRIBER CUSTOMER SERVICE To subscribe, change your address, or check on your current account status, please contact: subscriptions@bizmediauk.co.uk ARCHIVES Digital editions of the magazine are available to view on ISSUU.com. Recent back issues of the printed edition may be available please call +44 (0)203 143 8777 for more information. INTERNATIONAL MCV/DEVELOP and its content are available for licensing and syndication re-use. Contact Colin Wilkinson for opportunities and permissions: colin.wilkinson@biz-media.co.uk

Resident Evil Village has achieved the impossible, it’s broken Warzone’s stranglehold on my time. As a huge RE4 fan this is completely up my street, I love the blend of icky horror and ludicrously silly characters and locales. It all reinforces my odd notion that cities are amazing and safe, while the countryside is full of weird peril.

Like the rapidly decaying old man I am, I’ve spent this month diving into the past. Not only have I been revisiting the Normandy in the Mass Effect Legendary Edition, but I recently picked up a copy of Viewtiful Joe, having missed out on it the first time around. I don’t think I’ve ever before loved a game that wants to hurt me so much. Chris Wallace, Staff Writer

This month I’ve been diving into games like Warp Drive and Mighty Bear Games’ Butter Royale on mobile. I’m still keeping up on my Lego adventures too, dipping into Marvel and DC Villains. On top of all of that, I’ve been playing One Hamsa’s Racket:NX on the Oculus. Alex Boucher, Senior Business Development Manager

Seth Barton, Editor

Paws the game The best furry friends the industry has to offer. Send yours to chris.wallace@biz-media.co.uk

Printed by Buxton Press Ltd

Biz Media Ltd, 44 Maiden Lane, London, WC2E 7LN All contents © 2020 Biz Media Ltd. or published under licence. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be used, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any way without the prior written permission of the publisher. All information contained in this publication is for information only and is, as far as we are aware, correct at the time of going to press. Biz Media Ltd. cannot accept any responsibility for errors or inaccuracies in such information. You are advised to contact manufacturers and retailers directly with regard to the price of products/services referred to in this publication. Apps and websites mentioned in this publication are not under our control. We are not responsible for their contents or any other changes or updates to them. This magazine is fully independent and not affiliated in any way with the companies mentioned herein. If you submit material to us, you warrant that you own the material and/or have the necessary rights/permissions to supply the material and you automatically grant Biz Media Ltd. and its licensees a licence to publish your submission in whole or in part in any/ all issues and/or editions of publications, in any format published worldwide and on associated websites, social media channels and associated products. Any material you submit is sent at your own risk and, although every care is taken, neither Biz Media Ltd. nor its employees, agents, subcontractors or licensees shall be liable for loss or damage. We assume all unsolicited material is for publication unless otherwise stated, and reserve the right to edit, amend, adapt all submissions.

www.biz-media.co.uk

Pet: Gelato Owner: Darren Ferrie Owner’s job: Senior software engineer, The Multiplayer Guys

Pet: Ciri Owner: Samantha Webb Owner’s job: Senior narrative designer, Frontier Developments.

Pet: Minnie Owner: Bob Makin Owner’s job: CEO of SockMonkey Studios

Gelato likes to terrorise the local mouse population, and has a penchant for climbing trees and getting stuck despite missing a hind leg.

Ciri is a one year old sausage dog, and she enjoys barking at people, barking at noises, barking at dogs, barking at cats, and belly rubs.

Some say that Minnie is really the true brains behind SockMonkey Studios, although we can promise she isn’t really as scared as she looks here.

+44 (0)203 143 8777

08 MCV 969 We_re Playing_v3 FINAL.indd 1

27/05/2021 13:48


MCV JUNE21 CONTACT SALES:Layout 1 18/05/2021 16:26 Page 2


Brought to you by

The Lost Art of Merchandising: How PRM can help you steal a margin over your rivals A good Product Relationship Management solution will help you significantly increase sales of your games. Vangelis Matthaiopoulos, business development director at Eebz, explains how… AS in many other areas of life and business, the Covid pandemic has had a significant effect on shopper behaviour and, consequently, on retail sales. The shift from offline to online sales has hugely accelerated due to lockdown, creating some fantastic opportunities, but also new problems to tackle. Pure online retailers have flourished (Amazon’s ‘sales per minute’ stats are eye-watering), but traditional bricks and mortar stores with an ecommerce arm have struggled to keep up with the increased consumer demand – some have even consolidated their buying teams during lockdown due to ongoing (and exacerbated) market pressures on their high street stores. Meanwhile, consumers are being faced with an explosion of choice across all retail product categories, including games. Somewhat counterintuitively, discoverability, although much discussed, is being tackled with filters and algorithms that are actually giving the impression of very limited choice in many instances. This leads to a feeling of noninnovation and staleness. Put simply, it feels like much of the merchandising and category management knowledge that we had accrued in the offline world has been lost online – or at least is not being translated in the correct way. We see major offline retailers shrinking their buying teams and consolidating categories because traditional sales are down. But, at the same time, very little effort is being made to bolster or even create online category management teams. And, on top of all this, the cooperation between games publishers, manufacturers and retailers that was built up in the offline world to manage categories is not being adopted in an ecommerce environment. Retail sales data is not easily available due to some key retailers being unwilling to share their figures and intelligence, and online performance data has limited focus around the ‘digital shelf’.

Ultimately, ‘category management’ has slipped off the radar as a discussion point. And no one wants to translate the fundamental principles of it to the online world – the default position seems to be that online retail is so different that category management simply cannot be implemented. We disagree! Online category management can provide significant sales increases. It just needs new tools and new approaches relevant to how online sales work. Over the next few issues of MCV/DEVELOP we will be looking in more depth at certain areas of digital merchandising. Watch this space…

Above: Vangelis Matthaiopoulos, Eebz

Eebz is the world’s premier product relationship management system that integrates bricks and mortar, e-commerce and digital channels on an equal footing. To find out more, visit www.eebz.com, email info@eebz.com or call 020 3886 0265

“Somewhat counter-intuitively, discoverability is being tackled with filters and algorithms that are actually giving the impression of very limited choice in many instances.”

10 | MCV/DEVELOP June 2021

10 MCV 969 Eebz V4 FINAL.indd 10

27/05/2021 11:12


MCV JUNE21 CONTACT SALES:Layout 1 18/05/2021 16:26 Page 1


XXXXXX

Industry Voices

New games regulator Ofcom says 62% of Britons are (suddenly) now playing games Rick Gibson, BGI & National Videogame Museum

MCV/DEVELOP gives the industry a platform for its own views in its own words. Do you have a burning hot take for the world of games? Get in touch!

OFCOM, the media regulator poised to start regulating video games, has released its latest annual report on media usage which suddenly registers games as something that most people enjoy. I say ‘suddenly’ because Ofcom’s 2020 report did not mention games at all. For over 15 years Ofcom has run large-scale consumer surveys of our television, internet, media and device choices. Games were included in all but one year. This year, Ofcom found that 92 per cent of 16-24 year olds play games – more than have a social media account. Last year, apparently, they didn’t even ask the question. Few games companies monitor this research. It’s just another market survey right? Not quite. Last year the government announced that Ofcom’s remit will be expanded to regulate online harms from the internet, social media and games. Data like this will be used by politicians, policymakers and mainstream media to validate and influence policy. So, when this survey finds that the financially vulnerable (meaning large families with low household income) are more likely to play games on any device (75 per cent) and to do so online (45 per cent), politicians on Select Committees concerned about so-called Gaming Disorder and Loot Boxes could latch onto the word ‘vulnerable’ and pressure Ofcom do something about it. Historically Ofcom’s knowledge of games has lagged behind that of other media, from which most of their staff derive. A wider definition of games this year suggests that knowledge is improving and about time. It’s now impossible to ignore a sector with record growth in both sales and recruitment during the pandemic.

Ironically, I’ve long thought that Ofcom’s annual reports have consistently under-reported games usage, regularly finding lower penetration of gaming into households than other surveys. We concluded that how you ask the public, especially parents and women, about their or their children’s play must have lacked the necessary nuance to get accurate data. For example, games companies’ own player data shows that older female players represent a huge proportion of gamers but many of these players won’t self-identify as ‘gamers’ in surveys. Some data is still suspect. Is it really only 70 per cent of 5-15 year olds that play games? Not in my experience. I’d be amazed if the true number wasn’t higher given the plethora of cheap and accessible platforms on which games are now played (as found by other surveys). Have they compensated for the fact that some parents regret or are embarrassed by their children’s play and might under-report it? Hard to say but quite possibly not. Ofcom’s new powers to tackle child exploitation or force companies to “take sensible steps to protect their users” may include fines of up to £18m and even the scope to impose criminal sanctions on managers for non-compliance in future. With a pretty febrile atmosphere in Parliament around games, we all have an interest in ensuring that our industry’s first ever regulator gets its data right. Rick is a veteran games strategist and CEO of the BGI, a charity which runs the National Videogame Museum, Games Education Summit and co-founded Games Careers Week

12 | MCV/DEVELOP June 2021

12-13 MCV 969 Industry Voices_v4FINAL.indd 12

27/05/2021 12:45


The last console generation Mike Rouse, Antstream Arcade

FOR a long time the narrative of the ‘console war’ has been very effective in getting players to pick a side. Xbox vs Playstation vs Nintendo vs PC has kept many an online debate fueled since at least the 7th console generation. But, with console hardware becoming more of a loss leader than ever, and streaming becoming ever more viable as a medium for gaming, could we finally be looking at the last generation of dedicated gaming consoles? That is a prediction that has been thrown around before, particularly during the time that mobile gaming was taking off, but now the state of the industry and technology available is vastly different – particularly in regard to streaming. Streaming is already the dominant way in which people consume music, films and TV, with engagement only increasing in the last year. Physical media and hardware are getting closer to becoming a dedicated hobby, much like Vinyl or VHS collecting. It is only a matter of time before gaming moves en masse to the same model as other forms of media. The main argument against this is of course latency – because gaming requires constant input and output to function, the slightest delay can potentially be game ruining. Particularly in multiplayer environments. Latency is the holy grail of cloud gaming and, whilst we are not there yet, we are very close and getting closer. Antstream Arcade is currently solving this issue by focusing on Retro gaming, which can be easily streamed over almost any available internet connection. The time it will take to ‘solve’ latency issues will almost certainly be less than the time it takes to develop a new console generation. It is also in the game industry’s interest to make this happen. Besides eliminating the cost of developing and manufacturing consoles, it makes developing games significantly easier. It

is already difficult to develop games and release them for multiple platforms and we have seen some big titles fall short of an ideal experience because of the pressure to make a game run on multiple hardware specs. Developing for a single hardware spec will drastically reduce this issue. With Sony, Microsoft, Google, Amazon and a host of other companies investing heavily in all aspects of cloud gaming, the only thing left is mass adoption. This will obviously take a while, I expect the sheer convenience of being able to play on any device to win people over eventually, as consumers become more comfortable seeing games as a subscription service rather than as a $70 dollar purchase. cloud gaming has already allowed Antstream to disrupt the standard business model by having a huge library of over 1000 games available to play through a free ad-funded model and a subscription plan akin to Netflix or Spotify. The games industry has overcome some of the biggest technical hurdles to deliver stunning and engaging experiences, and I believe that cloud gaming is just another one of those hurdles. In a short space of time, I see gamers who reject cloud gaming to be like the gamers who insist on exclusively physical media today, as it is only a matter of time before your experience on the cloud is indistinguishable from dedicated local hardware.

Mike Rouse recently joined Antstream from 2K’s Hangar 13, where he was head of production. He has over 20 years’ in the industry, with a career that includes key roles at Microsoft as studio director overseeing the incubation and development of Microsoft Hololens and its future tech studio, and at Sony as dev director creating the PSN Trophy system and several triple-A Titles.

“Besides eliminating the cost of developing and manufacturing consoles, it makes developing games significantly easier”

June 2021 MCV/DEVELOP | 13

12-13 MCV 969 Industry Voices_v4FINAL.indd 13

27/05/2021 12:45


MCV-JUN21-GSF:Layout 1 05/05/2021 14:47 Page 1


Brought to you by

RECRUITMENT

Ins and Outs: Industry hires and moves 1

2

5

6

9

10

13

14

17

18

3

4

7

8

11

12

15

16

19

20

Sumo Digital returns to our hires roundup, announcing that its made five new hires this month. First, STEVEN WILSON (1) joins Sumo Sheffield as a senior animator. Wilson has over ten years’ worth of experience in animation, and joins Sumo Sheffield from TT Games. MARCO VERNETTI (2) joins Sumo Leamington as their newest executive producer. Vernetti has 21 years of experience in the games industry, having previously worked for the likes of Eidos, Rare, Codemasters, Supermassive Games, and CCP. JONNY FLIEGER (3) meanwhile joins Sumo Sheffield as lead writer. Flieger previously worked at Ubisoft Québec, as a writer and editor on Immortals Fenyx Rising ARONE LE BRAY (4) joins The Chinese Room as principal narrative designer. Le Bray has over 14 years of experience, having worked alongside the narrative teams at BioWare.

Finally at Sumo, ELLIE GREENFIELD (5) joins Sumo Sheffield as a marketing executive. Greenfield has more than five years’ experience in marketing and PR, with her most recent experience being Rise at Seven as a digital PR executive Not to be outdone, Splash Damage also has five new hires, starting with CHRIS LATTA (6), who joins the company as senior backend engineer. Prior to joining Splash Damage, Latta worked for Dovetail Games as a DevOps Engineer on the Dovetail Live platform. DÁNIEL MOLNÁR (7) also joins Splash Damage, as senior development manager. Molar was previously senior producer on the Dark Pictures Anthology at Supermassive. JAMIE STANTON (8) joins Splash as a producer. Stanton started in the film industry, before they had the chance to turn one of their films into a game, 8-Bit Waterslide. Stanton has been making games ever since.

THOMAS HOWIESON (9) joins the company as a production tester. Prior to joining Splash Damage, Howieson was working at SEGA on the Total War franchise. Finally at Splash Damage, FIRAS HOSN (10) joins the company as a senior AI programmer. Before joining Splash, Hosn was at Build A Rocket Boy in Edinburgh. Prior to this he was working on Watch Dogs for Ubisoft. IO Interactive has announced that two developers have joined to work on their current and upcoming projects, including Hitman and Project 007. First, RASMUS HØJENGAARD (11) joins as studio design director. Højengaard was the game director on Hitman Blood Money back in 2006 and returns to IOI after some years away. Second, ANDRZEJ ZAWADZKI (12) joins from CD Projekt Red as senior game designer, working on a new, unannounced IP. Zawadzki was a senior gameplay designer on Cyberpunk 2077.

Games industry audio provider SIDE has appointed JESSICA KENT (13) as their new head of their North American flagship studio in Los Angeles. Kent has a decade of voiceover experience, including a significant amount of time spent at Riot Games.

DAVID WILLIAMS (17) has joined Maverick Media as their new creative director. He has over 15 years of experience in film, TV and advertising, and joins Maverick in order to “break new ground by bringing all the possibilities of games advertising to life.”

ANNA TUMUROVA (14) has joined biz dev consultancy company Analog Ltd as an account manager. Tumurova previously worked as a project manager for FrankContent, and has also worked for the likes of INLINGO and The Most Games.

The BGI’s trustees have appointed CLAIRE BOISSIERE (18) as their new Chair, after serving as Vice Chair for the last 2 years. Boissiere is studio manager at Jumpship, an independent game studio based in Guildford, UK.

Former MCV content editor JAKE TUCKER (15) continues his love for now obscure three letter acronyms by joining NME as commissioning editor, video games. Tucker’s last role was with Red Bull. MCV/DEVELOP 30 under 30 alumni ALEX HOLTKULAPALAN (16) has left Indigo Pearl to join 2K as a PR manager. He was at Indigo Pearl for three years, working as an account manager.

Still at the BGI, IAN LIVINGSTONE CBE (19) has been appointed the new President of the charity, after serving as Chair since the charity’s foundation in 2019. Rounding out this busy month for hires, Retro games streaming platform Antstream Arcade has expanded its team by hiring MIKE ROUSE (20) to lead its production team and help build its internal studio. Rouse joins from 2K’s Hangar 13 (more from him on page 12)

Got an appointment you’d like to share with the industry? Email Chris Wallace at chris.wallace@biz-media.co.uk June 2021 MCV/DEVELOP | 15

15 MCV 969 Ins and Outs_V4 FINAL.indd 18

27/05/2021 13:54


Brought to you by

RECRUITMENT

Rising Star

Every month, we pick the brain of an up-and-coming talent

Conor Canavan, software engineer at Warp Digital, talks about shifting from mobile to console games, the challenges of triple-A development and his FIFA ambitions

How did you break into games? I started relatively late. Nobody in my immediate family was computer-literate growing up, but I knew that I liked GTA: Vice City enough to pursue “something to do with games” in tertiary education. I joined a tiny games development course in Letterkenny IT. My lecturers chose me to represent LYIT at MassDiGI – an American summer internship course that allows students to release their first titles on mobile. Within a few months of graduating I got a job at London-based Kuju. Unfortunately, six months later the project was discontinued, and I suddenly lost my job. My executive producer at Kuju kindly recommended me to Warp Digital where I’ve been working for three years. What has been your proudest achievement so far? It’s a tie: Releasing Takeover Trail with MassDiGI was such a great feeling. The public playtest after months of sheltered work legitimised how rewarding game development can be. Postrelease we found out it had been featured in one of the UK App Store categories – so cool! At Warp it’s definitely my contribution to Pumped BMX Pro (Xbox, Switch). That signified a shift for me from mobile to console games. I always wanted to release a console game! What has been your biggest challenge to date? The move to triple-A development. Warp began co-development with Funcom in 2019. For me this meant working with Unreal Engine and C++ professionally for the first time. I also had

What’s your biggest ambition in games? When playing Pro Clubs with my friend Kevin I always said I’d work on FIFA one day, and I meant it! However, joining Warp allowed me to get a lot more projects under my belt quickly than at a big company. The experience I’m building here is more diverse, and I’m aiming to be a project lead on a port in the not-toodistant future. Long-term, I’d like to somehow use my skills and know-how to provide more opportunity back home, in Ireland. Brenda and John Romero are doing inspiring things by sharing their wealth of knowledge at universities, and I’d like to emulate that. I would be elated to be in their position someday.

much more responsibility to provide solid code because a broken build could block a lot more colleagues. My skillset had to expand quickly to keep-up, but I feel a lot more comfortable over a year later. It’s thrilling to be able to confidently work on much larger projects now! What do you enjoy most about your job? Well, it’s never boring! I love making things work. It’s what attracted me to programming while in Letterkenny IT. Finishing a project to the point where people can play it is so satisfying. Then the coronavirus pandemic showed how meaningful games are to people and their ability to stay connected – so, the day-to-day satisfaction is now bolstered with the idea that games can have a positive effect on people.

What advice would you give to an aspiring software engineer? There is no magic answer but the best advice that I received (a lot) was “make things”. Don’t expect to make The Last of Us right away. You’ll encounter challenges that you can’t anticipate. It will help you identify weaknesses in your skillset and provide you with opportunities to improve. It also gives you something to talk about with your peers, or in a job interview. And it’s fun! You’ll quickly find out what you enjoy doing.

“Finishing a project to the point where people can play it is so satisfying.”

If there’s a rising star at your company, contact Chris Wallace at chris.wallace@biz-media.co.uk 16 | MCV/DEVELOP June 2021

16 MCV 969 Rising Star_v3 FINAL.indd 26

27/05/2021 12:46


RECRUITMENT

Cherry picked advice to help you reach the next level in your career

Caoimhe Roddy, publishing producer at Chucklefish, talks about the differences between indie and triple-A production and the importance of being self-sufficient

What is your job role and how would you describe your typical day at work? I’m a publishing producer at Chucklefish, and work with all external creative and technical teams who are working on projects being published by Chucklefish. My role consists of helping teams build schedules and milestones based on their goals, managing any ratings, localisation or QA with external providers and aligning our developer’s schedules with Chucklefish’s marketing team’s plans. My role requires a robust understanding of the gamemaking process from conception to post-launch so that I can better support teams on their journeys to launching their own games!

I work with a lot of different teams, so my day to day doesn’t have any set structure. However a lot of my tasks involve checking in with each team and identifying where they are

the table, and each of those skills massively contributing to what is required to successfully publish a game. Whether your area of expertise is marketing, community management, production or content creation, make sure you know your

progressing and where they may be blocked. I’ll also review project management softwares and update them according to the latest updates from the teams. From there, there’s a lot of communicating information between developers, marketing, platform holders and any other external partners.

stuff well and take some time to consider how that role can support small indie teams. At Chucklefish, we see ourselves as a resource to be utilised by the indies we sign and act as an extension of their teams. Having some knowledge of how indie teams function and also knowing a little about common external partners such as porting houses and platform holders would definitely help you stand out for interviews with publishing teams.

What qualifications and/or experience do you need to land this job? Production in indie publishing can look very different from development production in a triple-A environment. You might not be working as closely with the developers on their day to day but should still have a very good knowledge of the game-making process and have some completed projects under your belt. There’s a lot of different routes into the role, whether it’s from managing projects in other industries, moving over from another speciality such as QA or Design or you could do a degree. Success in this role requires a lot of self sufficiency when it comes to your organisation and communication skills, so be sure to show those off in your CV! If you were interviewing someone for your team, what would you look for? We’re a small and focused team with each member bringing a particular set of skills to

“We see ourselves as a resource to be utilised by the indies we sign” What opportunities are there for career progression? Publishing production offers an insight into a significant number of roles and corners of the industry from a development, marketing and business perspective and the possibilities to grow within your career could be vast. Progression in this area depends on the kind of teams you want to support and what levels you’d like to support them at. The skills you develop could help you fit into teams with platform holders curating games for their consoles and stores, or the triple-A space working on larger budget games, or become a consultant in the indie space and help small teams achieve their goals of launching their own games.

Want to talk about your career and inspire people to follow the same path? Contact Chris Wallace at chris.wallace@biz-media.co.uk

June 2021 MCV/DEVELOP | 17

17 MCV 969 Levelling Up_v3 FINAL.indd 22

27/05/2021 12:47


RECRUITMENT

Recruiter Hotseat Splash Damage is hiring! Head of recruitment Alex Wright-Manning tells us more about life at the studio What differentiates your studio from other developers? This may sound clichéd, but without a doubt it’s our people. I’ve been in the industry for many years, working with scores of studios in my career both internally and externally, and biases aside, I’m yet to experience another developer with the breadth of talent, passion, resilience and all round friendliness that I experience every day at Splash Damage. Despite having numerous game teams working on an array of wildly varied projects, there’s very few silos, consistently transparent communication, and an overarching feeling that everyone is pulling in the same direction. That’s not something that can be forced, and it’s a brilliant indictment of who we are as a collective. Our recent Best Companies awards in both the ‘Best 75 London Companies’ and national ‘Best 100 Large Companies to Work For’ aligned with their 3-star ‘World Class’ accreditation – which are all awarded from anonymous employee feedback – is testament to that. How many staff are you currently looking to take on? Our recent acquisition by Tencent has seen significant investment in the studio, broadening our portfolio with further top-tier projects and putting the foundations for future success in place. As such we’re experiencing a period of unprecedented growth, with over 140 new ‘Splashers’ already joining us during the pandemic period, and as many more new positions earmarked for hiring this year – with around 15-20 per cent of those to be entry level roles. It’s a very exciting time for the studio.

How has the pandemic affected recruitment at your studio? Given the sudden shift to remote working and how quickly we transitioned to this model it was certainly a challenge – especially given the huge hiring ramp it coincided with! The main downside is not being able to bring potential recruits into the studio in-person to meet with our teams face-to-face, but we’ve adapted tremendously with a more flexible approach to interview scheduling and an increased focus on our cultural and values assessments. These are structured ‘deep-dive’ interviews, delivered in an open and conversational manner so they’re very well received by candidates. There has been a welcome silver lining in that we have been able to interview significantly more prospective Splashers than our studio capacity would normally allow. No fighting over meeting rooms when everyone has a room in the comfort of their own homes! What processes do you have for onboarding staff remotely? For a studio for whom ‘culture is king’, ensuring that new team members feel at home from day one is imperative, so I’m proud of how we’ve adapted. Obviously, a large part of our face-toface onboarding can be shifted directly to video conferencing, but it’s more than that – it’s about making people feel like they’re a part of the whole, even if they’ve never actually seen inside of the studio building. Our developers have excelled in this regard; changing the way that they mentor and connect with their team members and overcommunicating to place even greater focus on the integration and well-being of new Splashers.

Alex Wright-Manning, Splash Damage

There are some unsung heroes to thank as well. None of this would have been possible without the efforts of our operations teams and they’ve been instrumental in making this such a success. What is the culture like at your studio? Our company culture or ‘values’ have been codified and refined over many years and these are core to everything we do. They inform our development practices, staff appraisals, career progression, learning & development, benefits, internal comms and recruitment. • We put the team first • We trust in each other • We find solutions • We decide and deliver • We always learn, always improve Whilst we absolutely want to avoid becoming some weird, homogeneous hive-mind, we’re very keen to ensure that our ethos of everyone pulling together is supported. Having an established framework of what the company’s culture and values ‘look like’ is key to this. Beyond our values, it’s important for us that the make-up of our teams reflects those who play our games. The industry has traditionally struggled with this, and we’ve put a lot of effort into diversity and inclusion over the past few years.

If you’d like to feature your recruitment team on this page then contact Alex Boucher – alex.boucher@biz-media.co.uk 18 | MCV/DEVELOP June 2021

18 MCV 969 Recruiter Hotseat_v3 FINAL.indd 27

27/05/2021 12:48


Brought to you by

Debugging D&I How can studios better support their LGBTQ+ employees? Liz Prince finds out more What are your three top tips for supporting LGBTQ+ staff? Michael Othen-Reeves: An inclusive workplace culture is key, and this is achieved through a combination of policy and practice. Conduct a review of all workplace policies and make sure they’re LGBTQ+ inclusive. For example, paternity and maternity leave for same-sex couples, guidance on transitioning in the workplace and the presence of gender neutral toilets. Enable and encourage LGBTQ+ staff networks, which connect and support LGBTQ+ staff, and also help ensure healthy dialogue with management. Finally, ensure that your training is LGBTQ+ inclusive, but also consider training in LGBTQ+ inclusion, so that staff are aware of LGBTQ+ issues and how they might affect people in the workplace. Leon Killen: Different folks under the LGBTQ+ umbrella have different needs from their workplace. Someone who is trans and beginning their transition will have different workplace needs than someone who is cis gay or bisexual. Some things that workplaces can do is to call out overt or casual homophobia, biphobia and/or transphobia when it happens. Support from Senior Management and C level staff is critical. If you’re in a leadership position affirm and reaffirm your commitment to your LGBTQ+ staff, and state clearly that discrimination has no place in your working environment. Include your LGBTQ+ staff’s voices in conversations about benefits and workplace changes that may affect them. People with good intentions often focus on making changes that are incredibly low on the list of what LGBTQ+ need and forget to consult with them. Do you think that discrimination against this group exists in games? MOR: Unfortunately, there’s still a prevalence of discrimination in certain online gaming communities. Games have a responsibility to better represent their players, in turn promoting better tolerance and

understanding. This can be done in many ways, but it needs to start from within – the teams making the games. Actively recruit with diversity in mind, and support and listen to your diverse employees. What organisations would you recommend? LK: Out Making Games aims to connect and empower the LGBTQ+ community working in the games industry across the UK. Gendered Intelligence is a trans-led group who offer a broad spectrum of services that enable organisations and individuals to increase their understanding of gender diversity and become more trans inclusive. Gay Gaming Professionals is the largest organization of LGBTQ+ industry professionals and enthusiasts with a mission to promote and unite the professional LGBTQ+ community, with programs focused on education, expertise, employment and entrepreneurship. Industry Gayming is a magazine for global LGBTQ games professionals and routinely features advice and guidance for professionals in the industry. Balance Patch is my own advice and support service specifically targeted at the industry. I work with studios on topics including policy creation and editing, content advice, ERG support, leadership training, and more. Can you explain the use of pronouns, and why it’s so important to understand them? LK: For those of us whose gender doesn’t match the one we were assigned at birth, we often undergo an experience where we realise that even basic sentences are uncomfortable when our old or incorrect pronouns are used. When I began to understand myself as a transman, talking to people became exhausting in ways I had not anticipated whenever someone ‘she’d’ me. One of the best things you can do is to use the pronouns someone has asked you to use, but also check to see if they would like you correct others if they hear someone using the wrong pronouns or misgendering someone, because they may not want you to do that for them – always check in first.

Balance Patch’s Founder Leon Killen

Michael Othen-Reeves, Creative Director of Included Games and Co-Founder of Out Making Games

At Amiqus, we have many resources available to help, so please do get in touch via liz.prince@amiqus.com

June 2021 MCV/DEVELOP | 19

19 MCV 969 Debugging_v3 FINAL.indd 19

27/05/2021 12:49


TENNIS FOR TWO…

THOUSAND Improbable’s mission of bringing massive scale to multiplayer games remains the same, but it’s now tempered by experience and a breadth of services. CEO Herman Narula talks to Seth Barton about its recent 2,000 player event and how it’s grown to a multi-service provider with 950 staff

20 | MCV/DEVELOP June 2021

20-25 MCV 969 Improbable_v5FINAL.indd 20

27/05/2021 15:33


E

ver since the very earliest titles, such as 1958’s Tennis for Two, player count has been something of an obsession for the industry. Fortnite, for instance, has recently generated some very big numbers: 15m players were online for its last big event, as players tackled Galactus for the climax of its Marvel collaboration. Previous to that it boasted of 12.3m concurrents for its Travis Scott event. Socially, though, the experience is more akin to a small club gig than a super-stadium extravaganza, as attendees are segmented into innumerable 100+ player servers. Improbable though has recently shown off something much greater, a singular real-time environment featuring almost 10,000 live and simulated players. Now that’s a crowd worthy of the name, a crowd that could come together in a virtual space to defeat something truly epic, or collectively (and audibly) lose its shit when an act drops its biggest hit. Enabling such ambitious virtual experiences was always the Improbable mission. But the company, after some years, is showing that the dream is becoming a reality. In part that’s because its core technology is maturing, but equally because it’s built out a broad range of studios and services to support the future of multiplayer titles more broadly. TESTING AT SCALE Improbable’s stadium-sized experiment featured near to 2,000 live players, all interacting in a single, relatively compact, space. If 2,000 people doesn’t feel like a big crowd to you (erhh… where have you been for the last 15 months?) then an extra 7,500-odd virtual players were then added as a stress test (with each such player connecting from its own client in the cloud to provide authenticity). Entitled Scavlab, the demo is a spin-off of Midwinter Entertainment’s well-received early access title Scavengers. The Improbable-owned studio is utilising its parent’s tech at a more modest level to create a PvPvE battle royale-survival hybrid, with 60 players pitched against each other as well as thousands of AI controlled entities. Scavlab shares a lot with its parent title, but introducing thousands of players is obviously a very different experience from a tightly controlled, competitive battle royale. So what is the company doing with those players? Well, it’s playing tennis with them for starters. “The Scavlab event you saw was a hodgepodge of different things,” says Improbable CEO Herman Narula to us via Zoom. Although the last time we ‘saw’ him, he was a gigantic glowing avatar, a god-like form, towering over the Scavlab attendees. “It was an experiment, we had Chris, the producer, and me, playing tennis with the players,” quite literally, by batting them en masse back and forth between the two of them. “That wasn’t why we built the environment, we were just like, is this fun? Maybe we try this?”

20-25 MCV 969 Improbable_v5FINAL.indd 21

27/05/2021 15:33


It certainly raises a smile, but more importantly it’s all part of the learning process. “That’s why we call it Scavlab, because we’re making it into this experimental space, where we’re just gonna do lots of different things. We’re gonna run them regularly, bringing in players and then trying different things. “In that event we had a battle, a racing experience, some fun social, hanging out in the beginning. We don’t know which of those things it’s going to be. But the more we experiment with it, the more likely we are to find it. “I think getting a bit more playful, a bit more experimental with it, will result in us figuring out what [this additional scale] means… But right now, I’d say it’s a very vague space, and it needs more definition.” That’s certainly true from a design perspective, mass events are unlikely to ever be simply the games we know scaled up, players can quickly lose a sense of agency in such a mob. That said, it’s easy to see the possibilities that such big crowds, in highly-responsive virtual worlds, could bring. To that end, we cautiously suggest that such technology is a key part of creating the much-discussed metaverse. Narula likens the term to the dot.com boom. “People sort of had the right idea, that the web would be big and the internet mattered. But that was a sort of a vague notion. And the actual things people could appreciate as new and amazing on the web turned out to take a lot longer to figure out. “So I think while people say ‘the metaverse’, we identify more with the phrase ‘virtual worlds’, because it’s a lot more specific – it’s a big interactive environment with lots of players that are doing things, not necessarily a game, but in many forms. We need the technology, we need more experimentation, and we need more examples before people can really define that space.” 250 MILLION OPERATIONS And defining the complexity of such events is something Narula feels is a useful step: “We’re thinking about the kind of core metrics for such virtual worlds. Operations per second, for instance, to us that’s an important metric for how connected and how ‘live’ the environment is. “How much stuff is happening at any moment? How much communication is taking place inside the environment? Typically, you’ll see games, complicated games, doing a few thousand, maybe tens of thousands of operations per second – in terms of networking

and communication – that demo handles 250 million operations per second.” It’s an incredible upscale in terms of data, too much to send to any single client. “We had to invent a solution that compresses the bandwidth for every individual player, down to less than a zoom call.” Plus there are more typical issues with having massed groups. “Even the rendering, with all those people on screen. So we have to come up with new rendering approaches that allow us to distance render moving objects more effectively.” And then people need to communicate. “Voice chat – so in the event, the performers were talking to everyone, but we couldn’t find any voice solution that could support a person talking to 9,000 people in real time. So we had to develop our own tools there as well. It just becomes a kind of shopping list of different challenges that are happening. But it was a very proud moment.” SCAV ARMY While Scavlab is a very different experience from Scavengers, it certainly wouldn’t exist without its parent; if only because there wouldn’t be a community of players to come and engage with the experience. And the core game looks to be gaining traction too. “It’s still only in early access, but we had half a million people in the first week, which is a good starting point. I think it’s found an audience of players, but it’ll be a long way before it’s fully polished and where it needs to be. “But having that audience of players and being able to run experiments with them, I think really helps. And means we can find a lot more.” We wonder about the financial costs of running such a genuinely massively multiplayer experience, will they be prohibitive? “It’s a free to play game, let’s put it that way. The server costs are not really a factor,” responds Narula. Although at present, all those additional virtual players are racking up a bill. “The most expensive part of the experience is that we have to boot up relatively heavyweight fake players. So in order to test with 1000s of people, how do we get 1000s of people every day, so we built a system that boots up machines in the cloud, with full clients and logs them in as though they were players, and so actually running those 1000s of machines…” He doesn’t put a figure on it, but you get the idea.

22 | MCV/DEVELOP June 2021

20-25 MCV 969 Improbable_v5FINAL.indd 22

27/05/2021 15:33


THE LONG RUN It’s good to see Improbable showing something truly impressive with a sea of real players. We first visited the company just over four years ago and at that point it looked as though its Spatial OS technology was ready to take the world by storm. Obviously, that still meant many years before we expected to see its full impact. But even then, it does seem to have been a longer road than we hoped. So does Narula feel the same? “The process of solving problems like this... it’s generations of technology. Not a single line of code from when I originally was involved is even part of this,” he begins. “It took a long time to go through successive generations of Spatial OS and of the core technology, to get to a point where we can do the things that we can now do. “And some of the problems we ended up solving on the way weren’t problems we thought we’d be able to solve. So a really good example is density. So what’s really remarkable about what we showed you, is that unlike in previous incarnations of our technology, we can’t only support scale, but we can actually support everyone in the same spot, all together. “And the problem was one that if you’d asked me when we met four, five years ago, I would have said, ‘look, I don’t know how we would go about doing that’.

20-25 MCV 969 Improbable_v5FINAL.indd 23

Now to put it in a real game, Scavengers, to actually have it be a viable part. None of that would have happened back then. So I think about the fact that I’m glad we’re here.” And Narula feels that there’s more improvement ahead than behind. “There’s still a long way to go. There’s so many more things we’d like to create, and so much further we’d like to take it. I don’t think it’ll ever be done. I think it’s an endless journey. And each successive generation of games makes it better. “You see this with companies like Unity and Epic... where they’ve built incredible technology over a long time, over successive generations of games. And so I think you’ve got to be in it for the long term, if you want to build something that matters in this industry.” SERVICING THE METAVERSE And building is certainly something that Improbable has done. While the core mission remains, the company has quietly expanded to a surprisingly large 950 people, which now encompasses in-house development studios and a broad range of services for those making multiplayer titles. “When we started the company, we were just focused on solving one problem, which was bringing scale [to MMOs]… but as we evolved, we realised that we

Below: The Scavlab demo included a truly massive combat sequence

27/05/2021 15:33


wanted to bring higher scale, more interesting networking, easier to develop workflows, to every type of multiplayer game – why just restrict ourselves to one type? “So in doing that, and just listening to and working with more and more customers, we realised that people have a lot of problems that have nothing to do with networking. Just running and hosting your game, that’s pretty hard. People want and need a lot of support with a lot of other multiplayer problems.” And that’s why the company is now launching what it calls Improbable Multiplayer Services (IMS). “It’s our way of going ‘Okay, why don’t we just solve the key multiplayer problems that many people in the industry are facing’,” Narula explains. “Where people want to do really impressive things with really high scale, well great, we’ve got the technology to support that. But when what they want is just a more efficient way of running their multiplayer game, a better operating platform and the ability to leverage bare metal in the cloud, all kinds of common industry problems, we have those solved as well. “And what we’ve found is that we get into relationships with developers who come to us to solve one problem. And when we do that well, they want to work with us on more problems. And so there’s a really nice kind of flow of relationships and deals.” And that greater integration into the broader industry can then be a trojan for its grander plans. “Before we could only really work with a very small number of people in the industry. Who were building very specific kinds of games, and we had to work with them in a very narrow way. It just didn’t work out very well, it’s better to be a partner that can do all of these things for someone. “And with our new deck, we’re taking a very modular approach, rather than having to adopt everything. As you see with Scavengers, which in a sense is using one part of our technology for the game session, and then a different part for Scavlab. Theoretically, you can drop that part into another game, which maybe wasn’t even

running on Spatial OS for the main game. That flexibility, that incremental adoption, we think is really where we need to be, in order to serve customers better.” IMS isn’t totally new, it’s more an umbrella brand for a wide range of services that Improbable has been (somewhat quietly) providing for some time. Two acquisitions form key parts of IMS, explains Narula. “One was Zeuz, which became part of our hosting and operations solution, which is kind of core to everything else that we provide, and it allows people to buy that stuff by itself, which is great, because again that means we can work with more and more developers. “And on the co-dev side, we acquired the Multiplayer Guys. And we’ve built that out, we’ve been able to work with studios that have problems, even when those problems don’t necessarily involve our deck. And that means we can start relationships and solve problems with people. It’s growing really, really fast. Actually, it’s one of the fastest growing parts of our business.” Co-dev is often a secretive business, but Improbable is able to speak on some projects the team, now numbering 150, have worked with. 2K, Zenimax Online Studios and Arkane Studios are mentioned, plus it contributed to Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout. Primarily helping with multiplayer networking, but also other elements, such as technical art. “It’s very specialised. So we work on helping people with multiplayer networking, back end and other kinds of problems. The very same problems that Improbable Multiplayer Services helps solve. So there’s a really nice synergy there,” says Narula. Although honestly we’re just thinking about a 10,000 player game of Fall Guys at that point. Narula continues: “We think by positioning ourselves that way and supporting the industry as it shifts towards more ambitious games, that’s the best way to fulfil our original vision. “It’s sort of the evil master plan in a way,” he smiles. “We want to be able to solve multiple problems that people have at any level of the stack, if they want a place to host, if they need support and engineers, if they want to be more ambitious. We want to be the company that helps them with all of those things.” And helping it is. “On the hosting side, I think there are 10m monthly active users across

24 | MCV/DEVELOP June 2021

20-25 MCV 969 Improbable_v5FINAL.indd 24

27/05/2021 15:33


different games that we host or support in some way,” he declares. STUDIO LINE And of course, providing services for other developers is only half of Improbable’s longterm, hands-on gameplan, with Midwinter Entertainment and Improbable’s Edmonton studio, both playing key roles. “I think the lesson we learned over the last nearly eight years of doing this, is that to build really innovative technology, you can’t sometimes separate the work of building a great game from building great technology. “You need to do things hand in hand, you need really amazing developers, with years of industry experience, that are helping you understand what really works and what doesn’t work, and are able to take some of the risk in supporting developing things. “Take Scavlab, for instance, if we showed up to a studio and said, ‘Hey, we want to cram 9,000 people into an event space inside your game’, they would have just called us crazy! “To have an internal team is necessary for some of the innovation that we want to do. And then if you think about the actual work to develop something like Scavlab, it’s not all back-end networking technology. So we look at the studios as being about first and foremost building great games, but the only way we can build great technology for our partners is also by building great games. We just can’t not do those things.” It’s certainly an argument that Epic would agree with. “I think that’s a great way of putting it,” responds Narula. “And that’s exactly what we’re inspired by and what we want to harness, it’s having that combination of things, I think with Midwinter, it was really a meeting of minds, our teams just got along incredibly well. We were working really closely together. And we felt if we were doing it together, we could be even more ambitious. And I think that has borne out in what we’ve managed to produce with Scavengers. “Even the technology grew in leaps and bounds. A lot of the criticisms that, rightly, many years ago could have been levelled at our very early technology: it’s harder to use, it doesn’t necessarily apply to different types of games. By working carefully with these great studios, and by developing things like what you’ve seen, we’ve

20-25 MCV 969 Improbable_v5FINAL.indd 25

been able to overcome these challenges. It really helps to have developers in house as we think about future ambitions, as we can plot those around game design ideas as well.” VIRTUAL MOMENTUM Off the back of its services growth and the successful launch of both Scavengers and the Scavlab demo, it does feel like Improbable has more public momentum again. So, will Narula now draw a line in the sand and define how the company will measure its success? “I think the best judgement for us, and what we’re aspiring to all the time, is to have either our partners or one of our studios build a really amazing set of titles. We look at how many people those games are reaching, how much they’re demonstrating and showing the power and vision that we have for the future and what it can be, and what sorts of experiences we can provide people. “I think, if people are able to go into Scavlab or experiences like it and have a wow moment, that’s what we’re aiming for. We really want to prove out and demonstrate and show the value of what virtual worlds can be. “In addition, we think about all the studios we’re able to help. And a big metric for us is how many problems, what problems, are we solving for studios? How much are they consuming our technology? And how much can we help them? Those are key focuses for us.” Narula won’t be drawn on a timescale for all this. “We’re very cautious, I think we’re in an industry where you’ve got to show not tell as much as possible. Our strategy is keep our heads down, deliver for customers, get out there and show more and more of these wins.” Many years have passed since Improbable first set out its dream for scale. To achieve that it’s broadened its wings but the key mission still remains. And maybe just as importantly, the whole world over those years, has undoubtedly started to value Improbable ambitious aims more and more. “We’re in an industry that’s shifting towards more multiplayer, more server hosted games, more complicated experiences. And we’re trying to be part of that industry transformation. And I think it will still take time before that transformation really matures. So we’re in it very much for the long term.”

27/05/2021 15:33


Open Development

and Beyond For their debut game, Darewise is going beyond early access to embrace open development. MCV/DEVELOP looks at the opportunities and challenges presented by being as transparent as possible with your nascent community

T

he concept of the early access game has become something of an industry staple over the last few years. Once an exciting new trend that changed how we viewed development, it’s now commonly used in even some of the biggest upcoming games. And yet companies such as Darewise, founded by ex-Ubisoft developers, are choosing to skip early access entirely, in favour of ‘open development’, letting players in even earlier and making them a part of the process – with a real influence on the game’s direction. Darewise believes that open development is the future for new studios with new IPs. That’s why they currently have thousands of players testing the pre-alpha version of their first game, Life Beyond. Described as “the next-gen social MMO,”

Life Beyond is a non-violent game, with a specific focus on teamwork and player choice. To find out more about open development, we sat down on Zoom with Darewise co-founders Benjamin Charbit and Samuel Kahn. SPOT THE DIFFERENCE Before we can get to the game itself of course, one thing needs to be made clear. What exactly is the difference between plain-old early access and Darewise’s open development? “I think it’s really about when you start showing the game to the player,” says Charbit. “If you think about early access, usually you show something that is basically your concept as it will be. Whereas in our case we are being very explicit and saying ‘Hey, we’re not making any promises. What we’re

26 | MCV/DEVELOP June 2021

26-29 MCV 969 Darewise V4 FINAL.indd 26

27/05/2021 13:55


showing now and what we’re working on might change. We might completely overhaul this based on your feedback and on the things that we decide to do.’ “So it’s a matter of trust, and being open with the community. We’re showing something as soon as we technically can, rather than as soon as it’s ready to be shown.” In that sense, open development provides more freedom to drastically change direction mid-development. Early access games meanwhile, along with their crowdfunded brethren, have already taken the player’s money based on an initial promise – making it much harder to make a big change in direction. “The very big difference for me is the fact that early access kind of implies that the game needs the revenue to keep going,” Charbit adds. “This is not the case at all with open development. We’re VC funded, it has nothing to do with revenue generation. So it’s really like we’re opening the doors, because we value what you can bring to us. We’ll have some embarrassing moments, it’s fine.”

Opening yourself up to potential embarrassment does seem to be a big risk of open development. Either from a technical nightmare, or to be seen publicly admitting that an initial idea was the wrong call. Darewise must be particularly confident. “It’s a lot of humility with a lot of confidence,” agrees Charbit, “because we’re not new developers. Some of us have been making games for 10 to 20 years, working on some of the biggest triple-A productions in the world. “Sam [Kahn] is always very humble, but you’re talking about a guy who built the Snowdrop engine for Massive. He’s one of the key architects of the CryEngine. So obviously, he’s not really concerned that he’s going to be embarrassed publicly because of technical troubles. “We always have problems like everybody else, because that’s part of game development. Development is not like making a movie, it’s not linear production, it’s super iterative. You review and you challenge your own decisions all the time. But again, you do it with this level of confidence that you still know what you’re doing.” Charbit makes the point that at the end of the day, it’s about knowing who your game is for. If you’re making a game for your players, it only makes sense that you let them have a say in the game’s development. “I remember a debate with an old school game designer,” says Charbit. “He was very, very narrow minded and stubborn on a feature, and telling me ‘this is the way it should be, because [I have] 20 years of experience,’ and I was like, ‘but that doesn’t mean anything!’ “You’re not making the game for you. You’re making it for the players. Players are very often more advanced than us, because they play more games and go deeper into the games. They have a very valuable understanding and evaluation of your decisions. So it’s really awesome to be able to get them to give you some feedback. Which is different from asking them what you should do, we’re not asking them to design the game.”

From top: Darewise co-founders Benjamin Charbit and Samuel Kahn

PLAY-VELOPERS Still, open development games such as Life Beyond are going to appeal to a very specific kind of player. Not only does it need to attract a player base that can accept playing an unpolished prealpha version of a game, but one that can roll with significant changes being made throughout its

June 2021 MCV/DEVELOP | 27

26-29 MCV 969 Darewise V4 FINAL.indd 27

27/05/2021 13:55


development. So are there concerns about finding and maintaining the right audience? “I think there’s different kinds of players out there,” says Charbit. “There are players that are interested in games in development, and there are players that really want a polished experience. So if you come to our game today, yes, it’s going to be rough, there’s going to be some issues, there’s going to be some parts that are not finished.

“We’re not scared because we’re talking to an audience that is looking for this kind of stuff. They’re looking for games that are in development. And also because we are not pushing the game to a mass audience quite yet, the people are there because they want to be there. “And if you’re asking how much can change... I’m going to very quickly summarise. We went from removing PvP, to changing the setting, to changing the art style from hard sci-fi to a kind of youthful, friendly, colourful environment. So anything can change.” STABLE GROUND Of course, if you’re changing the game to that extent, you need to be building upon a good foundation. One that can remain stable while still being adaptable to sudden and rapid changes. “I think one of the big things that I wanted to do when starting a new studio is to do things better and do things differently,” says Kahn. “We worked in the triple-A industry, we’ve seen what massive legacy can do and how that also is a big obstacle really to making games. “So one of the big things I’m pushing is, essentially, best practices and state of the art processes in the games industry. I strongly believe that the majority of the games industry is made of great people, but working like they were if they were in the garage. If you look at the rest of the development industry, the rest of the world has moved beyond that. We’re talking about people doing 100 per cent test coverage on their code bases. Nobody does that in the games industry.

“So I’m trying to push us to those kinds of standards. The way we develop things is not that we’re trying to hack it, we’re trying to make it right. We’re trying to make it so that it’s modular and reusable, because we’re also planning for two things. One is it’s going to have to be live, so it has to be somewhat stable. And the designers are going to change their mind, so it has to be tolerant. “We really want to place ourselves as a studio that is a leader on these kinds of best practices. So for example, we’re going to ship a build that is stable, and stable by design. It’s not stable because we worked for a month to stabilise it. If you go to a typical triple-A studio, it’s going to be six to eight months to stabilise the game. And as you know, we’ve had recent examples of that being too short… “I’m not saying we don’t have bugs, we certainly do have bugs, but we’re prioritising them, and we’re operating more like games as a service. Even if it’s not fully realised, we’re making sure that we take the highest impact bugs, those get fixed. And we make sure that we make progress on our build and show that as often as possible to the players.” “Basically we’re saying, I want tools to be able to iterate very fast, internally,” adds Charbit. “To empower my design team to make decisions and apply them. So if it takes six months to get a change, which is very often how it works in triple-A, it takes too long. “So that’s the first thing you need, you need really high quality QA processes to be able to evaluate. It’s basically running things as a software as a service company. “And then you need to be able to very quickly push this thing out and deploy it on live instances. To get the ability to push your build every two weeks, which is what we have been able to do since last June, basically.” “What this has definitely forced us to do, which I think is a good thing, is it has forced us to sort out our online platform earlier than in traditional development,” says Kahn. “Usually, you would be pretty far into the game, and then maybe you bring in another team and they’re gonna figure out how to put your game online. “But in our case, we had to figure out how to get the game out to the players and have servers running and all that stuff when we were early in development. The good part of that is that when we launch, we will already have a couple years of operating this game behind us at some sort of scale. We may encounter scaling problems, but we’ll have sorted a lot of them already.” While the process is certainly technically impressive, on a community level, how do you ensure that the playerbase you have now is representative of a wider potential player base later on? To hear the pair tell it, it’s simply a matter of slow, sustainable growth.

28 | MCV/DEVELOP June 2021

26-29 MCV 969 Darewise V4 FINAL.indd 28

27/05/2021 13:55


“We’re trying to create a really fun and safe space for them,” says Charbit. “Where they can play and find other players. And if they’re not interested in Life Beyond, if they’re not interested in the early stage of development games, no problem. But at least we can also iterate with them, get them to test a little bit, to get some feedback. “We have a community of 25,000 people, but we have built it up steadily, and we’ll keep doing that. So there won’t be like this massive rupture, where all of a sudden, you’re surprised.” SUSTAINABLE GROWTH Of course, recent gaming history shows that you can’t always predict your audience growth. With a handful of titles finding sudden, meteoric success almost overnight. “I would be very happy to have this problem!” jokes Charbit. “We call this a rich man’s problem,” adds Kahn. “Today, the reality is that we can throttle that a bit. I can grant access at a certain pace, if it’s if it’s outpacing our capacity to host them. “We’re trying to get to know them so that we’re able to categorise them, and categorise their feedback. So we’re doing surveys, but we’re also doing a slow acquisition of players, because we want a stream of new players all the time to get valid data. “But part of this being data informed is also knowing what kind of players they are. Because someone that comes as a hardcore Call of Duty person will behave differently than an Animal Crossing player. “So we really need to know that. We definitely have people that come to the community because they’re interested, and maybe we don’t consider them to be the main targets. And that’s okay. But when we, when we process their feedback, we can put them in that bucket. Okay, they’re not the main target, but this is how these guys react, versus our main thing.” This attitude of slow, sustainable growth runs contrary to an industry that is increasingly hitsdriven, always looking for the next big thing. “We tend to still sometimes see the games industry as this hit-driven market,” agrees Charbit, “you have momentum and then it’s gone, rather than operating for 10-15 years. But there are gaming companies that do things like that: Nexon is famous for building franchises

that they can operate for like 15 years. They eventually generate a billion dollars of revenue. “What we’re trying to do is identify our most valuable players and understand why they’re here. What it is that they’re enjoying, and doubling down on these things, instead of trying to fix the problems of why this other player is not staying. And as you do that, you start bringing in more of these players. “And eventually, yes, we need to start expanding more. But you’re really trying to satisfy specific groups of people. The reason why this can work here is because this is not another Assassin’s Creed game, which is going to have a big spike of interest and then it’s gone. It’s a co-op game. It’s a social experience. So people can play together not only because the game is fun, but also because they’re playing it with their friends, because they’re playing with the community that they enjoy.”

June 2021 MCV/DEVELOP | 29

26-29 MCV 969 Darewise V4 FINAL.indd 29

27/05/2021 13:55


Uplift Games: Adopt Me! has a new parent With 60m plus users, Adopt Me! is the gaming titan you might not have heard of. Now the team behind the Roblox smash hit is taking on a new identity as Uplift Games, a globally-distributed mix of Roblox natives and industry veterans, all set to help define the metaverse

A

dopt Me! is a Roblox smash hit. A truly ludicrous success that targets a slighter younger than usual age group, allowing them to build a home, explore a world, and look after a wide variety of pets. A formula that has let it hit over 1m concurrents and over 22bn lifetime plays. Despite all of the game’s success, we’d challenge anyone to name its developers, who to date are largely known informally as Team Adopt Me! It’s something that even Josh Ling, director of business operations, is happy to admit. “When I joined the team in June 2019, there were only three of us. Since then, we’ve scaled to 40 people we’ve been working under a series of entities that nobody’s heard of. Not only has nobody heard of us as

a team, but nobody’s heard of Roblox. A lot of people don’t understand what Roblox is, especially if they don’t have children in their life.” So the Adopt Me! team is now coming together under the name Uplift Games. A geographically distributed team that’s focused on its key title, and exploring the creation of new Roblox titles, with big ambitions and a long-term plan. “We’re really trying to build a game studio that will last for decades to come, that will be as revered as some of our favourite studios today, but for this new generation of Roblox games, of metaverse games.” And the move to formalise the identity of this huge success story comes alongside a push to more than double the team size.

30 | MCV/DEVELOP June 2021

30-33 MCV 969 Adopt Me_v5FINAL.indd 30

27/05/2021 13:58


“As Uplift we’re hoping it’ll be a lot easier to hire people, we have 40, and we’ve scaled quite rapidly. We’ve gone from four to 40 in less than two years. We plan on having 65 by the end of this year, and then we’ll hit 100 at some point next year.” And the success of the game is behind that growth. “That’s all driven by a single Roblox game. We’re self funded. And we aren’t seeking investment at the moment,” Ling clarifies. ADOPTING A NEW PERSONA One potential reason for the somewhat nebulous nature of this smash-hit team is that it’s been fully remote and globally distributed from the off – after all, not having an office building does somewhat reduce the pressure to put a sign over the door. Sophie Sirera, director of Uplift Games UK, explains more. “At the moment, we’re really spread out, in the UK we’re all over the place. And we’re now registered in eight states across the US. So that ranges from places like California, Washington, Utah, and Ohio.” Bringing all those staff together, as employees, under one roof, so to speak, wasn’t easy, Sirera tells us. “It’s been a big task, but it’s so rewarding to have everyone all in one place now. Having Uplift really creates a platform for everyone to grow,” she says. To that end the new studio will bring current and future hires “all sorts of benefits that positively impact our team’s lives. It’s great for people to be able to have things like health care, we’ve got some really generous PTO [paid time off] policies. We’ve got unlimited holiday, which is a really nice perk for everyone.” From personal experience though, I can say that unlimited holiday on paper doesn’t necessarily pan out into lots of additional days off. However, Uplift Games looks to have thought that one through.

“We’ve put in a minimum, which I think is quite unusual,” replies Sirera. “That’s 28 days a year, encouraging people to really take it. And as well as that, on the sick front, we’ve put in place some long term disability insurances that people really have good protection in whatever scenario.” And such benefits should help the new (but not new) studio recruit as it looks to grow rapidly to hit that 100 staff mark. More immediately Sirera tells us: “We’re currently looking for eight roles. And that varies from things like engineering managers to head of production. And also more behind the scenes roles, such as finance.” After all, someone has to keep an eye on those healthy balance sheets. So just what is the secret behind Adopt Me!’s success? Ling sums up the game’s appeal for us. “Adopt Me! is a new type of game, one that defies traditional genres. It’s not a shooter, it’s not a platformer, it’s not a racing game. What it is, is a platform or a space, a playground for social experiences. So players can join, exploring this world we’ve created, they can build houses and decorate them, they can collect all of these pets and raise them and they can trade the pets as well, we have a full in-game trading economy. And so players can live out these virtual lives, with their friends online. It’s the fantasy of home

Sophie Sirera, Uplift Games

Josh Ling, Uplift Games

“And so we’re meshing native Roblox talent... with traditional industry expertise” and pet ownership, without any of the actual difficulties. And the secret is listening to the players and giving them tools to play

June 2021 MCV/DEVELOP | 31

30-33 MCV 969 Adopt Me_v5FINAL.indd 31

27/05/2021 13:58


Above: A recent update to the game added a variety of ocean pets for players to adopt

with: “A lot of the play is driven by the players. So what we do is, instead of clearly defining what players do, we give them tools to create their own sort of fun experiences, such as challenges that they can challenge each other to, like a virtual version of the playground. “I’ve worked with young gamers for over five years now. And they’re just so imaginative. I think we’ll see more and more games like Adopt Me! which give players the tools to do their own thing, you’re seeing it in Fortnite, you’re seeing it in Minecraft. I think we’ll see it more.” MOVING BEYOND ROBLOX? With the biggest titles on the platform we’re always curious as to whether a game such as Adopt Me! could move beyond the platform it was born on, to stand alone. Ling is open to the idea but points out Roblox’s strengths. “We have a really good working relationship Roblox. Adopt Me! on Roblox is our primary focus at the moment. Is it possible? Yes, but I’m a big fan of going to where the players are. And at the moment the players, they’re on Roblox, they’re on Fortnite and they’re on Minecraft.

“If you start to go off platform, you start to encounter all of these user acquisition issues. Roblox also provides a lot of support for us in terms of things like hosting and development tools, those are problems that we would have to solve or hire people who understand these issues. So yeah, we’re really focused on Adopt Me! on Roblox and possible new Roblox games as well at the moment, but who knows what might happen in the future,” notes Ling. Like any other studio looking to follow up a big hit, Uplift Games will be experimenting and iterating ideas for both Adopt Me! And potentially new titles too? “Exactly. So right now we’re scaling up the team. A game of Adopt Me!’s size, in a traditional dev environment might have 200-300 people working on it. We have 40 people in our studio. There’s still a lot of growth left in Adopt Me! that we want to capitalise on. So we’re really scaling up for that. “But the goal would be to create a team which can rapidly prototype. The people on the team have a lot of ideas that they would love to see happen, it’s just about building the studio, building the team and supporting the prototype.”

32 | MCV/DEVELOP June 2021

30-33 MCV 969 Adopt Me_v5FINAL.indd 32

27/05/2021 13:58


GOING GLOBAL One area of potential growth for Adopt Me! and for Roblox more generally, is building market share away from English-speaking users. “One of the roles we’re hiring for is localization project manager,” Ling tells us. “So at the moment we’re very English focused. Our audience is spread across the world, but we’re primarily North America, EU, and then some rest the world. We’d love to localise Adopt Me! into as many languages as we possibly can. We’re looking to target Spanish first, for instance. And I think Roblox has a lot of great potential as a platform in these new territories.” The framework is there, he adds: “Roblox has a lot of localization tools, as well, that are very easy to use. So it’s just about finding the right person to help us localise all these words, and all these updates that we’re doing.” And with the distributed nature of the team, supporting a global player base should come naturally. But how does the team manage the varied hours? “At the moment, we’re only set up for hiring in the UK and North America, which still covers five different time zones,” replies Sirera. “We have the core hours, which I think are three till 7pm BST, which is when there is an overlap of hours. But people really work the hours that they want to, so long as they’re there for the key meetings. Some people work late into the evenings in the UK, they might shift their hours, but personally I log on at nine and then try to log off at six, work a normal day.” Everyone works asynchronously, their own hours,” concurs Ling. “So it’s totally flexible. We have people like Sophie and others who want that sort of nine to five job, but it’s also a great job for parents, for instance. Maybe they work a little bit in the morning, and then they take care of the kids, take them to school, and they work in the evenings later on. Our studio is about doing your best work, but also making sure the work fits around your life as well, rather than having to try and fit your life around the work.” NATIVES AND VETERANS As a platform with innumerable games, Roblox has proven to be relatively opaque to much

of the industry, even with the flurry of recent reporting around its IPO, actual industry experience of making (or even playing) games on Roblox is limited. While most successful Roblox developers have never made content outside the platform. Uplift Games, meanwhile, is hoping to bring together these two, currently distanced, groups, says Ling: “We’re merging the two. Roblox has a lot of native developers on it. And a lot of them are quite young. These are the ‘teenagers in their bedrooms making millions’ kind of stories. Our two co-founders came from that sort of background and we have a lot of talented Roblox people on the team. But we also have a lot of talented industry veterans as well. “And so we’re meshing this native Roblox talent, who understand the platform in and out – to a level that would be impossible for someone who came from off-platform to achieve – and we’re combining it with traditional industry expertise. “And it’s been really interesting seeing Roblox people learn more of the industry standards of production, but also seeing industry people learn the sort of weird nuances of this Roblox kids’ platform with all its strange engine quirks and stuff.” And it goes way beyond the technology, Roblox has its own design culture, its own visual standards. “There’s just some extremely strange nuances of Roblox compared to the wider industry,” continues Ling. “Sometimes you sort of shake your head at them. But then, you know, a million people play it. And it’s been this fascinating journey, learning all about it and exploring this stuff.” It’s certainly an exciting proposition, despite it’s somewhat simplistic appearance, Roblox is arguably well ahead of titles such as Fortnite and Minecraft, in terms of creating the metaverse, with its platform-centric outlook (as opposed to a game-centric one) providing far more scope of ambition for the army of content creators that will be needed to create such a virtual world. A world that Uplift Games looks very well positioned to be a big part of.

June 2021 MCV/DEVELOP | 33

30-33 MCV 969 Adopt Me_v5FINAL.indd 33

27/05/2021 13:58


MCV969 JUNE21 DOLBY ad.indd 1

20/05/2021 08:09


Jobs FIND THE PERFECT ROLE

JUNE 2021 EDITION Front Cover Develop Jobs MCV969 v4 FINAL.indd 1

27/05/2021 16:11


Four key recruitment trends that will shape 2021 and beyond Amiqus’ Liz Prince identifies the key recruitment trends, shaped by the events of the last couple of years, that will in turn shape the way we think about work itself THE past couple of years have seen a seismic shift for those working in games (and elsewhere), thanks to Brexit and, of course, the pandemic. But the industry has adapted brilliantly, and studios have continued to hire and onboard new talent throughout lockdown. As restrictions slowly ease, a return to some kind of normality is now in view. But many things have undoubtedly changed in the hiring process, particularly post-Covid. Here are the key trends we’re seeing… ONE: Candidates are looking for more flexibility from potential employers about how they work Flexible working options are important to many individuals – and particularly for those with caring responsibilities. The past year has shown that remote working is possible and, in many cases, has resulted in increased productivity. The pandemic has also seen many people re-evaluate their priorities and make some big changes to improve their quality of life, including relocating closer to family and moving out of cities. While it’s understandable that studios want their teams to be reconnected ‘in person’, hybrid working options will be essential if companies want to attract and retain the best talent. TWO: Virtual recruiting is here to stay Studios have dabbled with interviewing via video conference in the past, but the pandemic and lockdown forced all companies to adopt the technique wholesale. And for many recruiters, this process will remain in place – at least for first interviews – given the time saving it affords.

2

Jobs

02 and 31 MCV Jobs Amiqus and OPM advertorials_v3 FINAL.indd 2

THREE: The toxic workplace will not survive Sadly, we’re continuing to read reports on burnout, crunch and harassment at studios. As these behaviours continue to be called out – and rightly so – we would hope to see a change in leadership attitudes and overall company culture, or else lose key talent. But it’s also worth noting that in these times of ‘cancel culture’, consumers (particularly Millennials and Gen Z) are voting with their feet and boycotting brands and companies over their attitudes and policies. FOUR: The best studios will continue to implement solid D&I strategies and seek out under-represented talent Diversity is no longer a ‘feel good’ initiative, but a vital part of the recruitment process. Candidates want to see that studios are inclusive and publicly support under-represented groups. Pledging support for Black Lives Matter, International Women’s Day, Mental Health Awareness Month or Pride simply isn’t good enough. Candidates want to see real action from studios in terms of an inclusive and accessible recruitment and selection process and the proactive development of talent from underrepresented groups. This rich combination of improved technology, greater appreciation of work-life balance and a doubling down on D&I means that these changes are likely to be permanent and welcome. After such a globally challenging time, I think these are trends we can all be encouraged by and get behind.

June 2021

27/05/2021 15:22


Now Hiring! Just some of the many roles open at [xxx]

Jobs

Welcome to the first DEVELOP/JOBS I think it’s now clear that the year has been the most disruptive, for those right across Western Europe at least, than any in recent history. It completely upended the patterns of behaviour and freedoms that most of us take for granted. What now remains to be seen is how much that disruption is a catalyst for ongoing change. My guess is that you’re already thinking very differently about how much you want to go to the office for instance, and maybe you’re thinking about crafting a whole new lifestyle for yourself. With that backdrop we thought it was a good time to launch DEVELOP/JOBS. The idea is to feature a wide selection of great studios from around the industry and provide them a stage in which to showcase their best side to those looking for a new challenge. We do use the word selection in good faith as well. These are all studios we’re familiar with, ones MCV/DEVELOP has covered editorially in the past, many of which we’ve visited over the years. And we will continue to curate those who appear in these pages. The key idea of DEVELOP/JOBS is to let you hear the voices of those who already work at these studios, so you can see if their experiences chime with your own ambitions. If they do then please get in touch with them and do mention us when you do. DEVELOP/JOBS will become a bi-annual feature in MCV/DEVELOP, returning towards the end of the year with more great studios and great roles to tempt your talents. We sincerely hope that we can help you find your next role and be a small part of helping you take advantage of the opportunities for change that are now opening up. Finally a huge thanks to all our inaugural DEVELOP/JOBS studios for supporting the initiative this month. And now it’s over to you. Seth Barton, editor of MCV/DEVELOP

NOW HIRING...

16 Hangar 13

04 Creative Assembly

18 Hi-Rez Studios

06 Dovetail Games

20 InnoGames

08 Firesprite

24 Lucid Games

10 Frontier Developments

26 Sharkmob

14 GIANTS Software

28 Warp Digital

A craft-led studio

‘Work where you work best’

Game dev at the cutting edge

Authentic worlds, innovative games

The home of Farming Simulator

Building a space that empowers you

At the forefront of GaaS

Hamburg’s mobile maestros

Great people... make great games

Taking multiplayer to new heights

Striking out into AAA co-dev

June 2021

III MCV969 Develop Jobs Leader V5FINAL.indd 3

Jobs

3

27/05/2021 12:43


Creative Assembly Creative Assembly is a craft-led studio with a people-first approach, and is recognised as one of the best places to work in the UK industry for the last four years

Location(s): West Sussex, UK and Sofia, Bulgaria Team size: 800 Key projects [and/or key hiring areas]: New Sci-Fi FPS IP, Total War franchise Recruitment contact Emma Smith Head of Talent jobs@creative-assembly.com

4

Jobs

04-05 MCV Jobs Creative Assemby_v5FINAL.indd 4

AS THE UK’s largest games developer, and among the oldest, Creative Assembly (CA) has developed a unique approach to creating AAA games over their 34 years. CA is a craft-led studio with projects fully shaped by the team, from art tools and AI to sound design and cinematic trailers. Everyone is given creative freedom to make a significant contribution to the projects they work on. The studio environments are built to support this approach with onsite bespoke audio, motion capture, playtest suites and a user experience laboratory. Multiple projects are always in development with two core teams: the New IP team and the Total War team. The New IP team are working on an as-yet-unannounced scifi fps IP, while the Total War team are working on historical and fantasy titles for the BAFTA award-winning franchise. CA is recognised for their people-first culture, with extensive wellbeing, career development, diversity and inclusion, and education initiatives, as well as regular parties including a summer festival. Their Legacy education outreach programme has won multiple Best Education awards and provides a platform for all employees to be ambassadors, sharing their insights, experiences and skills with the wider industry and future generations of game makers.

June 2021

27/05/2021 12:57


Jenny Nutter Senior Live Operations Manager New Sci-Fi FPS IP

IT’S EXCITING to be working in Live Operations in the industry right now – it’s a fast paced and quickly evolving area, and I’m especially proud to be part of that at CA. I joined CA around two years ago and was recently promoted to Senior Live Operations Manager. In my role there’s new challenges daily but my team is supported and empowered to deliver what we need to. I love that I get to work together with a range of passionate, talented people across so many teams. There’s such a variety of backgrounds, talents and interests, and you really feel that united motivation to make experiences that players will love. Everyone I’ve met is keen to hear feedback, whether that’s on the latest assets they’ve created or on studio operations. There’s always something to get involved in and all voices really are valued. A word that stands out to me is “welcoming”; CA UK is a large, established studio in a relatively quaint and quiet market town, and it feels like a family. A badass family passionate about making the best games.

Alexandre Breault Design Director New Sci-Fi FPS IP

I WAS attracted to CA due to the team’s ambition. After redefining horror with Alien:Isolation they were up for a new challenge: pushing the limits of firstperson shooters, and I wanted to be a part of that. We don’t hesitate to tread new ground and we are building a team with diverse experience – one that can bring a unique perspective to the genre and take it further. It’s a truly collaborative effort with everyone openly sharing ideas and providing feedback. Designers are pushing and helping each other to increase the quality of the game; we start from different ideas, exchange, and evolve them over time. That can only happen with strong trust in the team, with the ability to openly discuss our opinions and to acknowledge our missteps; building on these to deliver a great game. At the center of our work is the player experience which we assess regularly through team playtests. Those playtests are the highlight of my day – mixing great discussions on how we make the game even better with a good dose of friendly competition on who is the best shot!

“I was attracted to CA due to the team’s ambition” June 2021

04-05 MCV Jobs Creative Assemby_v5FINAL.indd 5

Jobs

5

27/05/2021 12:57


Dovetail Games ‘Work, Where you Work Best’ at Dovetail Games, who are looking for people with the enthusiasm, drive, and learning mindset to craft a new generation of entertainment, across a multitude of gaming platforms Location: Chatham, Kent Team size: 180 Key hiring areas: Engineering

Recruitment contact Fiona Turner Senior Talent & CSR Executive fiona.turner@ dovetailgames.com

6

Jobs

06-07 MCV Jobs Dovetail_v7 FINAL.indd 6

DOVETAIL is an indie development and publishing studio, Est. since 2008, where the focus is on creating digital hobbies for its vast global audience of passionate enthusiasts. The core of its offering are its train and fishing simulator titles, where it faithfully recreates real-world scenarios. All roles are based “where you work best”, be it remote (UK or Spain based) or at their riverfront HQ in Chatham’s Historic Dockyard. The company works to guiding principles for their hybrid workplace and are working hard to create spaces that allows collaboration, connections, team building and innovation to happen. Equity is a key mantra between those in the office and those who are virtual/remote, and the guiding principles help make meeting spaces a ‘level playing field’. With the swift pace of releases, individuals working on their upcoming releases include Train Sim World 2 – Rush Hour and Bassmaster 2022, plus unannounced titles developed in Unreal Engine 4, get to experience a unique way of working, from fast innovation to seeing the results of their hard work in game quickly. Dovetail Games has many of the usual benefits offered by games studios, including competitive salary, regular bonuses, incl. many recognition benefits like their “above and beyond” bonus that rewards and recognises individuals that demonstrate Dovetail Games core values. The studio was nominated TIGA best large studio 2020 and is committed to equality and diversity and providing a friendly, safe, welcoming environment for everyone.

June 2021

27/05/2021 16:17


Rob O’Farrell Chief Development Officer

WE are passionate about what we do, not only delivering great quality across our Trains franchise and fishing games but our people. Whether it’s your first job in the industry or you’ve been on our journey for a number of years we want to make sure you are having fun in what you do and we allow you to do your best work. I take pride in the fact that many of our leads in Dovetail have grown from grads, juniors and QA (where I started from in the industry) to leaders in our business. Our simulations are for ever evolving as we work a very effective flywheel of efficiency, productivity, and quality. All of which makes Dovetail a place where we push ourselves every single day to make sure we are doing the best we can, not only for ourselves and the team around us but our millions of players who show the same passion and enthusiasm for simulations.

Jackie Tran Software Engineer

BEING a part of Train Sim World’s engineering team is like being in an escape room. I’m working alongside like-minded teammates, solving complex technical problems, and it’s a great laugh! Coming into my first engineering role, I’ve been fortunate enough to work on many facets of Train Sim World, varying from UI design to code fixes at the engine level. It goes without saying that there is a lot of accommodation on Dovetail Games’ part to align interests with projects and in my case, my fascination with Artificial Intelligence in video games led me to projects focused on improving our NPC Passengers system. The work culture at Dovetail Games is definitely worth mentioning as the environment is relaxed, hours are flexible and healthy work-life balance is encouraged. I’m also impressed by the efforts made by the company to raise awareness of mental health, which is especially important during these difficult times.

Heather Jackson Junior Technical Artist

DOVETAIL is a great place to work for those coming into the industry. My progression within Dovetail has gone from working in QA, to level artist, to environment artist (junior to mid), and now to junior technical artist. The company has allowed me to progress into the role I want to work in, showing that my hard work has paid off. I have learned a lot from my peers and leads, it has been a valuable experience. The smaller sized teams allow you to get to know your peers well, and it encourages a friendly atmosphere. I know I can rely on the people in my team, and get support when needed from them. I have met many friends, and personally had no encounters with toxicity in the teams I have worked with since coming here. Although working from home can distance people, I think we have managed to stay connected and support each other. With five years this coming August with Dovetail, I am thankful to the company for hiring me.

“There is a lot of accommodation on Dovetail Games’ part to align interests with projects.” June 2021

06-07 MCV Jobs Dovetail_v7 FINAL.indd 7

Jobs

7

27/05/2021 16:17


Firesprite Firesprite is a next-generation experience focused studio with a distributed and in-house workforce, headquartered in Liverpool, UK

Location(s): HQ Liverpool, UK & distributed staff Team size: 210 Key projects and hiring areas: Multiple projects in development from small to large scale, hiring for all disciplines across art, animation, design, engineering, production. Recruitment contact Sharan Bassi Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist jobs@firesprite.com

8

Jobs

08-09 MCV Jobs Firesprite V5 FINAL.indd 8

FIRESPRITE is an independent developer working at the cutting edge of game creation on the latest hardware and technology platforms, employing over 200 developers across a range of projects from small to triple-A in scope. The business has grown in recent years, placing in the Top 10 fastest growing technology companies at the 2020 Northern Tech Awards and placing nationally in the top 50 in The Sunday Times Tech Track 2020. It was founded in 2012 by a cross discipline team with over 80 years of combined industry experience with the ambition to bring creative and technical innovation to any game or genre Firesprite creates, collaborating with platform holders to develop showcase titles such as The Playroom or Playroom VR with PlayStation. More recently Firesprite has expanded into creating content for live service games, announcing their involvement in the inception of the Star Citizen: Theaters of War multiplayer mode, co-developed with Cloud Imperium Games. Firesprite also channels its creative energies and experience into developing its own IP, self-publishing their unique stealth horror title, The Persistence, for PlayStation VR in 2018. The title has since been brought to multiple platforms in 2020 and will be updated for next-gen hardware with ray tracing support in 2021.

June 2021

27/05/2021 13:51


Graeme Ankers Managing Director Liverpool, UK

Rebecca Brown People Director Liverpool, UK

Now Hiring! Just some of the many roles open at Firesprite Principal Animator (Action Shooter) Liverpool / Remote Work on a ground-breaking next generation PvP shooter project with a Games as a Service focus, set the standard for the team and deliver world class animation with key project stakeholders.

FIRESPRITE is based in the Northwest, which is arguably the cradle of the UK games industry with a heritage dating back to Psygnosis in the 8-bit era and then subsequently growing into Sony PlayStation Studio Liverpool. Our founding and leadership team have decades of collective experience representing business, art, production, code and design disciplines and we believe that these foundations have fostered a collaborative and inclusive approach in the way we work at Firesprite. There is no single discipline which takes absolute priority. Our teams are encouraged to be creatively brave, to speak out and be responsive to the awesome, pioneering and fast-changing industry in which we operate at, on the front line of creative and technical innovation. Firesprite’s culture is very important to us, and we have worked hard to create an environment where people enjoy coming into work and feeling empowered, but also listened to and we have an opendoor policy for staff to speak to any of the Senior Leadership Team. We have multiple exciting projects in development, each one looking to bring innovation to a genre, including a gamechanging huge multiplayer shooter and an ambitious dark narrative blockbuster adventure and we’re always looking for amazing developers to come and collaborate with us!

IT’S BEEN an eventful 18 months and we’ve been fortunate to be in an industry that has thrived during what has been a difficult time for many. We had to adjust our working and move the studio to fully remote and this is now part of our future, offering remote, flexible and inhouse; we’re always looking for ways to improve work-life balance and a flexible approach allows that, even when we come to reopen the office. Adapting our onboarding, new starter processes and internal communications for distributed working has enabled us to continue to expand, welcoming 99 new ‘Sprites over the past year. We have evolved our People Engagement team to keep everyone connected, informed and reassured that their wellbeing is always considered in everything we do. We’re also pleased to have introduced further benefits this year including healthcare, mental healthcare and wellbeing support, enhanced paternity and maternity, alongside a bonus scheme and increase in holiday leave to over 28 days a year. With many exciting projects, opportunities, and plenty on the horizon to keep us busy and focussed, it has never been a better time to join us!

Graphics Programmer (Narrative Adventure) Liverpool / Remote Join our rendering team on a dark, story-driven next generation ‘Narrative Adventure’ with genre defining goals, you’ll be responsible for delivering awesome & innovative effects & systems in areas such as hair, skin, lighting, vegetation & terrain. Physics Programmer (Action Shooter) Liverpool / Remote Work on a ground-breaking next generation PvP shooter project with a Games as a Service focus, we want someone to blow the doors off and bring something new to the genre to design and oversee implementation of the physics system protocols. Principal Animation Programmer (Narrative Adventure) Liverpool / Remote Join the team to work on a dark, story-driven next generation ‘Narrative Adventure’ taking atmosphere, storytelling & player agency to new levels, responsible for developing & maintaining the animation pipeline, state machines and mentoring Junior team members. Online Services Programmer (Action Shooter) Liverpool / Remote Work on a ground-breaking next generation PvP shooter project at an early stage, architecting robust services across multiple platforms. Technical Artist (Various) Liverpool / Remote We’re looking for Technical Artists to bring their experience and best practices to a team which is at an exciting stage of defining and building pipelines across a range of exciting, varied and challenging projects.

June 2021

08-09 MCV Jobs Firesprite V5 FINAL.indd 9

Jobs

9

27/05/2021 13:51


Frontier Developments An independent developer and publisher with a legacy of much-loved titles for PC and consoles over the last 27 years, Frontier are passionate about creating authentic worlds through innovative, genre-leading games Location(s): Cambridge, UK Team size: 620 Key projects [and/or key hiring areas]: Programming, Art, Animation, UI, Design, Audio, Production, QA, Publishing, Operations. Recruitment contact Rob Senior Head of Talent rsenior@frontier.co.uk

10

Jobs

10-11 MCV Jobs Frontier_v6 FINAL.indd 10

FRONTIER are based in the world-leading technology cluster and historic city of Cambridge. With a growing team of over 600 talented people, (they have hired about 230 people since the first lockdown!), they offer the chance to create and nurture enduring genre-leading games in a collaborative studio environment. They have achieved serial successes across a wide variety of titles including Elite Dangerous, Planet Coaster, Jurassic World Evolution and Planet Zoo. With numerous openings across a wide range of disciplines, Frontier are continuing to grow their team to support their existing portfolio and an exciting and ambitious future roadmap, which includes the development of both own-IP titles and licensedIP titles, including Formula 1 and Games Workshop (Warhammer). They are also growing their team to support the expansion of Frontier Foundry, their games label for publishing games developed by carefully selected partner studios. Joining Frontier means the chance to work with talented and passionate people, developing and publishing sophisticated and enduring games in a creative and collaborative environment. Frontier rewards passion and determination by sharing in the company’s success and by supporting their teams to keep doing what they love.

June 2021

27/05/2021 16:21


Megan Brown Programmer Planet Zoo

Chris Marsh Principal Animator Jurassic World Evolution

Now Hiring! Just some of the many roles open at Frontier GAMEPLAY PROGRAMMERS You will work across the game team to bring together the design, code and assets we create, and build the game experience that our players will love. UI DEVELOPERS Create compelling and responsive user interfaces that connect our players with our games across multiple platforms.

MY name’s Megan and I’m a gameplay programmer at Frontier. I joined Frontier on an internship, and have now been working here for over three years. In that time I’ve learnt a huge amount while working with some incredible people. Before I started here I couldn’t really code at all, but thankfully Frontier must have seen some potential and took a chance on me! When I arrived I was pretty nervous, but everyone was so friendly and supportive that I settled in fast. That really helped me make it through the initial steep learning curve and come out the other side as a programmer working alongside the amazingly talented team on Planet Zoo. They helped train me and were always there for me, whether it was for a rant about a bug, a step-by-step code review, or even just a cup of coffee and a chat. Now I’m a full-fledged programmer with a love for what I do. No day is ever the same, and you’re never quite sure what challenges you’ll come up against – which is just how I like it!

FRONTIER is great at fostering and growing talent. I started working as a Graduate Animator here in 2011 and in that time I’ve been given all of the opportunities that I needed to work my way up to Principal Animator. As animators, we are spoiled by the variety of projects that Frontier develops. In my time here I’ve been lucky enough to be able to stretch myself as an animator across a huge range of wildly different projects; from epic, cinematic space battles in Elite: Dangerous, to the zany mascots in Planet Coaster, to the naturalistic creature work for the animal kingdom in Planet Zoo and the dinosaurs of Jurassic World Evolution. We have some really exciting projects in the pipeline and we’re always looking for talented people at a range of experience levels to join us, so be sure to check out our current opportunities. Frontier is a wonderful environment for animators and game developers of all disciplines to come and grow their skills.

3D ARTISTS As a 3D Artist you’ll have the opportunity to create high quality art assets for our games. We have opportunities across a number of our titles. CHARACTER ARTISTS Our Character Artists produce a wide spectrum of subject matter from stunningly photorealistic to beautifully stylised. SENIOR GAME DESIGNERS As a Senior Games Designer you will work closely with the Design Lead, playing a key role as an owner of important design aspects for the game. PRODUCERS Our Producers work closely with our talented development teams to help deliver exceptional new game features and content. We have multiple opportunities across several titles. TEMPORARY QA TESTERS We’re hiring a number of QA Testers to play test, destructively test, regress, create test suites, generate reports and provide general game feedback to aid the internal development teams. ANIMATORS Fantastic animation plays a huge part in our success. Your passion for animation will be pivotal to delivering the quality that we strive for in all our games.

“Everyone was so friendly and supportive that I settled in fast” June 2021

10-11 MCV Jobs Frontier_v6 FINAL.indd 11

Jobs

11

27/05/2021 16:21


MCV Jobs June21 Amiqus dps.indd 2

26/05/2021 19:12


MCV Jobs June21 Amiqus dps.indd 3

26/05/2021 19:12


GIANTS Software GIANTS Software invented the Farming Simulator. Using its own engine, the developer and publisher brings farming with hundreds of authentic machines to all popular platforms Location(s): Headquarter in Switzerland (Schlieren/Zurich), branch offices in Germany (Erlangen), USA (Chicago) and Czech Republic (Brno) Team size: 80 Key projects: Farming Simulator 22 Recruitment contact Petra Erlbacher HR & Office Manager Erlangen, Germany perlbacher@giantssoftware.com +49 9131 92 793 52

14

Jobs

14-15 MCV Jobs Giants V5 FINAL.indd 14

GIANTS Software is an international video game developer and publisher from Switzerland established in 2004 and known worldwide for creating the popular Farming Simulator series. Since 2008, over 25m copies of the franchise have been sold worldwide. With releases on all popular platforms including console, mobile, tablet and PC. The team created its own engine, and the upcoming Farming Simulator 22 will run on GIANTS Engine 9. This will also be the first title to be self-published globally, following the foundation of a dedicated publishing department and a major headcount increase. GIANTS Software is committed to maintain close contact to the agricultural industry and to engage with the community. User can create mods using the GIANTS Engine, a feature that is now even available on console. And since 2016, GIANTS has held an annual convention, FarmCon, to interact with the community. And the company can surprise too: With Farming Simulator League (FSL), the series introduced a competitive esports mode in 2019 – now in its third season many acclaimed brands and sponsors compete in professional tournaments. GIANTS Software concentrates on all things Farming Simulator – let the good times grow!

June 2021

27/05/2021 16:23


Manuel Leithner Studio Manager Erlangen Erlangen, Germany

Martin Rabl Head of Marketing & PR Erlangen, Germany

Now Hiring! Just some of the many roles open at GIANTS Software today Senior Software Engineer (C++) - Core Game Engine Schlieren/Zurich, Switzerland Challenging senior role to implement new features to our own GIANTS Engine. Improve existing functionality using cuttingedge technology with a strong focus on performance and memory usage. Extensive responsibilities in an exciting environment!

I HAVE a double function: on the one hand I manage the Erlangen branch, on the other hand I am the lead gameplay programmer and work on Farming Simulator 22. At GIANTS Software I work with an international team and the whole German branch is in close contact with the programmers in the Swiss headquarters. I am particularly fascinated by the fact that we have remained a family-run company with flat hierarchies despite millions of sales. This allows us to react to changing situations with short decisionmaking processes and quick solutions. All employees can contribute ideas and take responsibility for their own areas. Everyone benefits from a lot of freedom within our work processes. Even mistakes are forgiven, we are open to new proposals and try to learn from setbacks. Although we currently only serve one brand in our portfolio with Farming Simulator, the work is extremely varied due to the participation in different projects. Personally, I am very lucky that I was able to combine my private hobby and fascination for large machines with my programming background.

WHEN I joined GIANTS Software six years ago, the marketing department consisted of our graphics designer and myself. We quickly realized that we have to be really flexible and learn new skills to bring all the ideas that we had to life. But I loved it, we had a vision and everyone else within the company was ready to help and support each other on the way. Since then we have established our own yearly event, the FarmCon, launched exciting community programs, new social media channels, produced more and more videos in-house and also have our own live-streaming studio for the Farming Simulator League in our office. This wouldn’t have been possible with just the two of us. The team grew and we are now even self-publishing our future games but the spirit is still the same. If you have an idea, you can find someone to help you make it real. I love it that you can make an impact here at GIANTS Software. Or in farming words: You can watch your seeds grow.

“You can watch your seeds grow”

Senior Software Engineer (C++) -R&D Schlieren/Zurich, Switzerland Individually responsible for a range of extensive projects. Use your strong C++ and mathematics knowledge to implement complex and state-of-the art solutions. Besides programming, communicate and cooperate both with internal and external partners. Tools Programmer Schlieren/Zurich, Switzerland Develop and improve our internal software tools and processes. While coordination with other teams and definition of concepts are important tasks, you will still be actively programming most of the time. Game Tester Erlangen, Germany Closely work with your surrounding QA team and participate in improving the quality of the Farming Simulator games. Check functionality across multiple platforms, use your creativity to break a product and recommend design improvements. Community Coordinator - video games Chicago, Illinois, USA Engage the community via forum, social media and events. Collect, organize and escalate community feedback to ensure community-driven game development. Identify and build long-term relationships with key influencers.

June 2021

14-15 MCV Jobs Giants V5 FINAL.indd 15

Jobs

15

27/05/2021 16:23


Hangar 13 Games Hangar 13 is the 2K development studio behind the award-winning Mafia franchise. We work collaboratively across our 4 locations on triple-A titles in a diverse environment, developing games as one global team

Location(s): Brighton (UK), Brno & Prague (Czech), Novato (USA) Team size: 375 Key projects [and/or key hiring areas]: We’re busy developing a new IP across the studio and are actively hiring across all disciplines. Recruitment contact Paul Collins Recruitment Director paul.collins@hangar13 games.com hangar13games.com

16

Jobs

16-17 MCV Jobs Hangar13 V4 FINAL.indd 16

WORKING at Hangar 13 means getting to work on original IP on cutting edge, proprietary tech, in a space that fosters autonomy, empowerment and support. Our culture is evolving and our most important mantra is ‘Bravely Create.’ We recognise that every game we develop needs to take at least one smart risk, and we encourage everyone in the studio to be courageous and willing to take those risks together. We have the team spirit and creative ambition of a start-up, supported by the financial and organizational structure of 2K. Diversity has been central to our vision for the studio, and we know that actions are more important than words, so we work all year round supporting various initiatives, industry organisations, and internal groups in these areas. We believe that diversity on the team makes us creatively stronger and is something to value at all times. Growing Hangar 13 significantly over the last couple of years has enabled us to ensure that everyone that joins buys into our vision of what a modern development studio should be like and has the passion and excitement for creating something truly special, both creatively and culturally. As a result, we have a team of highly talented people that are supportive and encouraging of their peers, and all help to make Hangar 13 a fun place to work, and a studio that our team members are proud to be a part of.

June 2021

27/05/2021 17:16


Damian Buzugbe Principal Concept Artist Brighton (UK)

Leah Lindner Software Engineer Brighton (UK)

Now Hiring! Just some of the many roles open at Hangar 13 At Hangar 13, we want people driven by curiosity — Visionaries who aren’t afraid to explore new territory. Intrepid individuals who embrace the weird, the challenging, the unconventional. We’re building a space that empowers you to take risks and redefine what’s possible, where your inquisitive nature is nourished — A home for people who aren’t satisfied with what is, but who are obsessed by what could be. So bring your talent, your unique point-of-view, your fearless tenacity, and together, we’ll Bravely Create.

I’M IN a very privileged position to be working as concept artist for Hangar 13 in one of the very best cities in the UK. I’m biased as I’ve lived here for 17 years now, and Hangar 13 is slap bang in the heart of this fantastic city. Brighton is a very colourful and open place. It’s incredibly lively and full of life’s unique and sometimes left field people and it’s all the richer for it. Hangar 13 is a perfect reflection of this with its diverse and madly talented team members. Inside the studio we are spoilt too with newly refurbished high-end workspace tripping over itself to offer a built-in gym, showers, modern office layout and all the fancy coffee you can handle. But this is just a portion of our studio with our other sites located in the Czech Republic and US. It’s an international team not just in name and that offers immense opportunity to learn and grow as a developer.

“I’m in a very privileged position to be working as concept artist for Hangar 13”

I JOINED Hangar 13 a little over 2 years ago and it was the best decision I could have made. Our incredibly diverse and talented team welcomed me with open arms, and it has been a pleasure working with everyone. Personal development is encouraged and supported here, and thanks to the opportunity of working with and contributing to our stack of inhouse technology - which is geared towards creating triple-A games, I have been able to greatly improve both my programming and my wider set of professional skills since. Studio leadership is transparent and I am confident that they put the needs of the team first, especially after how well they have handled the transition of working from home during the pandemic. Due to our inclusive culture and travel opportunities (pre apocalypse), it truly feels like we are one big global team, despite being spread across 4 locations in the US, Czech Republic and the UK. That said I am particularly happy to be located at the Brighton office, this city felt like home to me as soon as I moved here, as it is full of open minded and creative types of people, and being close to the seaside is a nice perk.

Lead UX Designer Brighton Working closely with the Game Director, you’ll lead and inspire a team of talented UX and UI professionals and set the overall vision and direction for user experience, capable of ensuring that UX design and other teams are closely aligned. Senior Gameplay Engineer Brighton Using cutting edge, proprietary tech, you’ll be working with interdisciplinary agile teams to design, develop, write, implement, and debug code for new and upgraded software products. Animation Director Novato Working on an incredibly exciting new Hangar 13 game, you’ll collaborate closely with the Game Director to define and deliver a unique vision and style. You’ll set the bar for animations across the entirety of the project and drive toward the highest quality at every phase. Technical Animation Director Brno/Prague You will be responsible for the studio’s long term Technical Animation strategy, the overall development of our animation technology, and the mentoring of the technical animation team. You will review contemporary games and development practices as you create and drive the vision for the studio through mapping out a long-term technical animation plan.

June 2021

16-17 MCV Jobs Hangar13 V4 FINAL.indd 17

Jobs

17

27/05/2021 17:16


Hi-Rez Studios Hi-Rez Studios is at the forefront of cross-platform, games-as-a-service titles with SMITE, Rogue Company and Paladins – with its games having been played by 100m gamers and counting Location(s): Alpharetta GA, USA; Brighton, UK; Seattle WA, USA Team size: 450 Key projects: SMITE, Rogue Company, Paladins, Realm Royale, Unannounced Recruitment contact Scarlet Dangerfield VP of Talent talent@hirezstudios.com

18

Jobs

18-19 MCV Jobs Hi Rez_v7 FINAL.indd 18

HI-REZ specialises in multiplayer games that create big, inclusive communities. Its free-to-play titles have garnered a huge audience and critical acclaim. The company has three key titles. SMITE is the number one MOBA on console. Running since 2014, SMITE sees players take the role of gods to go head-to-head across PC and all major platforms, with over 35m players to date. Rogue Company is a cross-platform multiplayer shooter, where mercenaries take on the world’s most challenging missions. And then there’s Paladins, a team based shooter with strong strategy elements and a card-based character customisation system, allowing players to augment their abilities to their playstyle. And 45m players worldwide do just that. Hi-Rez prioritises building communities. It seeks to work with its players, online and in person at its own Hi-Rez Expo and other events. Hi-Rez Studios is also committed to supporting diversity, with a wide-ranging programme from in-game representation to Pride celebrations and online training to counter unconscious bias and other issues. And its new Creativity Unchained initiative allows employees to work from where they want, both remotely and across its locations. It’s a company that’s as open and balanced as the games it creates.

June 2021

27/05/2021 16:24


Andrea Chang Audio Director Hi-Rez Studios, Cross-game

Ashley Barrett Producer Titan Forge, SMITE

Now Hiring! Just some of the many roles open at Hi-Rez Studios Senior Graphics Programmer Remote from US/UK • Implement graphics algorithms, techniques and processes that meet the artistic, design and technical requirements of the project. • Use practical solutions to implement feature requests, taking into account performance, maintainability as well as resource usage. • Ensure coding standards are followed in their own and others’ code.

I’M Andrea Chang, the audio director at Hi-Rez Studios and I lead the audio team here. We’re a centralized team, providing all of the audio for each of our games and cinematics across the company. I enjoy building, mentoring, managing, and providing audio direction for our audio team’s sound design, which can span across many different styles and genres of games. This definitely helps stretch our team’s skill sets, while simultaneously keeping things dynamic and exciting! A key part of our team is the education aspect, whether it’s having weekly lessons on Euroracks, Wwise certification lessons, sound design plugin deep dives, or regular game critiques of other games, we want to make sure our people are growing and learning. In a similar vein, we also employ R&D Fridays where pockets of our audio team prototype ideas in small groups for developing tools, features, or anything audio related that they are super passionate about. I love working at Hi-Rez because we have the freedom to explore and take measured risks, and try new things such as this.

MY name is Ashley Barrett and I’m one of the producers on Smite at Titan Forge. Specifically, I’m the art pipeline producer which means I help our studio track, schedule, and collaborate on all assets that go through the art pipeline. This involves facilitating communication and looking for areas where we can improve our efficiency. I work alongside other producers and a whole team of amazing artists that range from 2D character artists, 3D modelers, animators, FX artists to sound designers, and more. My favorite part of my job is working with creative talent. My day consists of going to a meeting about Babylonian gods to another meeting where we are debating the artistic differences of dragons and dinosaurs. We work on a steady stream of skins for our expansive list of gods. We are also trusted to handle big projects like Avatar and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IP. It’s busy, always changing and never dull. If there is one favorite thing I had to pick about my job, it’s my team. Our team is incredibly passionate and skilled and they are always driving me to be my best.

“I love working at Hi-Rez because we have the freedom to explore”

Rogue Company - Senior Technical Artist Remote from US/UK • Engine side character setup, interfacing with programmers, working with designers, and supporting artists & animators to shape the stage for characters, features, & systems. • Create and maintain BluePrints, Anim Sets, Character Models, and Physics Assets. Rogue Company - Weapons Modeler Remote from US/UK • In-depth knowledge of weapon/hard surface modeling. • Proficiency with industry software tools & pipelines (3ds max, Zbrush, Photoshop, Maya,Fusion 360, Modo, substance painter). • Excellent Hard Surface modeling skills. Rogue Company - Lead Tools Programmer Remote from US/UK • Mentor, level up, and grow your team. • Learn and adopt new game technologies, practices, tools, and systems. • Establish technical requirements for tool requests for a wide range of stakeholders across the Art, Design, & Programming teams Announced Project - Senior Level Designer Remote from US/UK • Work closely with the design team and creative leaders on designing and implementing 3D levels using UE4 for an Online Multiplayer game • Design and greybox exciting, innovative, and balanced multiplayer levels • Continually iterate and test level designs against player move set, combat abilities, and player skill level

June 2021

18-19 MCV Jobs Hi Rez_v7 FINAL.indd 19

Jobs

19

27/05/2021 16:24


InnoGames InnoGames is Germany’s leading developer and publisher of mobile and online games. The company was recognized as one of the Best Employers in IT 2021 by Germany’s Great Place to Work Institute Location(s): Hamburg, Germany Team size: 400+ Key projects [and/or key hiring areas]: Development, creatives and product management Recruitment contact Silja Bernecker Team Lead Talent Acquisition Management recruiting@innogames.com twitter.com/innogames

20

Jobs

20-21 MCV Jobs InnoGames_v6 FINAL.indd 20

INNOGAMES creates games that players all over the world enjoy for years. Its portfolio encompasses seven live games and several mobile titles in production. The company based in Hamburg is best known for Forge of Empires, Elvenar and Tribal Wars, which celebrates its 18th anniversary this year, as well as for its sustainable approach to not just games, but also when it comes to talent. Born as a hobby, InnoGames today has a team of 400+ employees from more than 30 nations who share the passion of creating unique games. Team members benefit from a wide range of benefits, including flexible working hours, an in-house gym and canteen, continued training and education opportunities, and regular team and company events. These benefits have been adapted to the current remote work environment, with food delivery from the in-house canteen, online training possibilities and virtual events, among others. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, InnoGames switched its company-wide operations to home office and turned its hiring process into a fully virtual one. When hiring, the company is also open for new team members to start their work remotely from within Germany or to adjust contract start dates accordingly. InnoGames offers relocation support and will assist colleagues and their families in the relocation process.

June 2021

27/05/2021 16:26


Left: Team photo taken at pre-pandemic event

Christin Matt Senior Game Designer New unannounced mobile title

Justus Graf Software Developer Forge of Empires

Now Hiring! Just some of the many roles open at InnoGames TEAM LEAD SOFTWARE ENGINEERING – GAMING You will be both the team lead and technical lead of a highly agile game development team on a mission to create a great game played by millions of players.

I AM a Senior Game Designer working on a new game with a small team and have been with InnoGames for the past eight years. I don’t really have an everyday routine. The job is varied and constantly brings new challenges, which is a lot of fun. We work from a conceptual pitch through a longer development phase to live operation. All of these phases are very different. The job of a game designer, for example, often includes designing individual building blocks of the game, documenting them and collecting feedback from people with different areas of expertise and incorporating them into the design accordingly. What I like most about my work is this collaboration in a team. The more different people come together in a company, the better. We are proud to have so many different nationalities under one roof at InnoGames. This opens our horizons, ensures exchange and a high level of tolerance and variety that we can pass on to the players in our products.

WHAT I love most about my job at InnoGames is the constant opportunity to take ownership of game features. We are empowered to be more than coders by taking part in every step of the feature development, from the design phase until the release and beyond. Our feature team setup with experts from all areas allows not only for close relationships with my colleagues, but also for developing my skills by working cross-functionally on new areas or technologies. Expanding one’s knowledge is strongly supported by the company, e.g., by offering online training or visiting conferences. We also like to constantly challenge ourselves by not just accepting the technical status quo of a project, but to actively seek improvements and to keep our tech stack up to date. Every two weeks the Forge of Empires team has an InnoDay, an entire working day where we can work on projects that help us grow in our career or are helpful to us or the team outside of our usual sprint work. And no matter if on a personal or business level – we always take the time to celebrate our successes!

“The more different people come together in a company, the better.”

SENIOR MOBILE GAME DEVELOPER – UNITY You will complete our international team of developers specialized in strategy & simulation games. You will drive the technical development of new features and improve the code of our most recent mobile game in production. SENIOR GAME DESIGNER FOR A NEW F2P MOBILE GAME You will be responsible for designing exciting new game features and establishing successful live operations as soon as the new game enters the global market. SENIOR PHP DEVELOPER – PAYMENT SYSTEMS You will join our agile team to advance the development of our next-generation and PCI DSS certified payment tools that secure up to 50,000 transactions per day. MARKETING DATA ANALYST You will help us shape, explore and utilize data from millions of players and a wide range of marketing activities to enable the best data-driven decisions. DATA SCIENTIST Data is our most important resource and foundation of our actions: Help us shape, explore and utilize data from millions of players and a wide range of marketing activities!

June 2021

20-21 MCV Jobs InnoGames_v6 FINAL.indd 21

Jobs

21

27/05/2021 16:26


Jobs 22-23 MCV Jobs House ad DPS V4 FINAL.indd 9

27/05/2021 15:26


WILL RETURN IN DECEMBER Show your best side to potential candidates Our advertorial feature will consist of double-page studio profiles including short interviews with key staff, so candidates can put a name and a face to those they will be working with. Boost your recruitment drive in this difficult year with a concise summary of everything that makes your studio a great place to work from the people who know it best: your team.

Distributed via print, digital edition, email newsletter and online. All studios will also receive a PDF version for future use as they wish. To get involved with DEVELOP JOBS then contact: alex.boucher@biz-media.co.uk

22-23 MCV Jobs House ad DPS V4 FINAL.indd 10

27/05/2021 15:26


Lucid Games Lucid Games is an independent studio, developing cutting edge games, Located in one of the world’s most iconic cities, their studios are in the heart of Liverpool’s creative quarter Location(s): Liverpool, UK Team size: 150 Key projects: New AAA title, Destruction AllStars, Apex Legends and more unannounced projects Recruitment contact Hollie Lapworth Head of Talent Hollie.Lapworth@ lucidgames.co.uk 07946 845284

24

Jobs

24-25 MCV Jobs Lucid V6 FINAL.indd 24

LUCID GAMES is the developer of Playstation 5 exclusive Destruction AllStars, vehicle combat game Switchblade, and also works alongside the worlds biggest developers and publishers on some of gaming’s biggest franchises. Lucid is always pushing boundaries of what’s possible. In the past year they have developed Destruction Allstars, worked on Apex Legends, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order … and that’s just the ones they can tell you about. Lucid has been established for over a decade now and has grown from ten founders to over 150 employees and looking for more! The team at Lucid from the top down are all hands-on, including the founding members who to this day, still have a passion for developing great games in a great environment. With different size projects from AAA titles to smaller co-development teams, the studio benefits from having a relaxed informal culture, whilst working on huge titles, giving their team the best of both worlds.

June 2021

27/05/2021 16:28


Kathryn Hopkins Producer Destruction AllStars Liverpool

Steven Brown Lead Programmer Unannounced AAA title Liverpool

Now Hiring! Just some of the many roles open at Lucid Technical Art Director Liverpool As the Technical Art Director, the candidate will oversee the art technology process, pipelines and quality across the titles at the studio. They will be responsible for the technologies and techniques that Lucid uses to ensure the optimal balance between asset quality and game performance.

I’M a producer, working primarily with the UI team. I’ve been at Lucid now for 6 months (I’ve just passed my probation! Hurray!). One of the stand-out things about Lucid for me is how I instantly felt part of the team. I started just as Destruction AllStars was being shipped. It could easily have ended-up feeling overwhelming, with everyone busy working on their own tasks with not much time to support a new employee. This didn’t happen. The other producers on the team were on-hand to help show me the ropes. The UI team and other departments were so approachable and supportive. I had a clear stretch of time that was protected for me to read-up, catch-up and get to know my new colleagues. This allowed me to feel ready and raring to go when the time came to pick up the reins. The professionalism and skill of the Lucid team, as well as the nature of the project, means that I am constantly learning and being driven to improve my skills and confidence in my work. This is a key factor for me. It’s a really very satisfying environment to work in.

“I instantly felt part of the team”

I’VE been working at Lucid for the past 7 years. During which I’ve progressed from junior to lead programmer, working on a variety of games and technical projects. There are always exciting projects to work on at Lucid. A few of the internal projects that I learned a lot on have ranged from mobile games like Jacob Jones and the Bigfoot Mystery to technical ports such as Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories and Goat Simulator. I’ve also had the pleasure of working on exciting external projects with teams around the world, such as with EA on the Need for Speed franchise. We’ve covered a lot of different game engines over those projects; Unreal 3 & 4, Unity, Frostbite as well as other proprietary engines. So far my favourite projects have been technical ports and remasters. I find them particularly interesting, diving into codebases with little to no documentation trying to figure out how everything works! Getting something building again after all those years can be a bit of a challenge and that’s only the beginning! While interesting projects are great, the people at Lucid are it’s biggest selling point for me. We have an extremely gifted set of people of all backgrounds that I’m unbelievably lucky to work with. I learn something new every day working alongside some of the most experienced and talented people in the games industry. I couldn’t see myself working anywhere else.

Multiplayer Programmer Liverpool or remote The Multiplayer programmer will join an experienced team and work on an exciting next generation multiplayer game. This is a rare opportunity to become one of the leading members of the network team. The candidate will be working with some of the best people in the industry as well as having the opportunity to grow and progress in their career. Producer Liverpool Lucid Games is hiring for Producers to join them and be a key part of their leadership team. The Producer will be working on new and existing AAA titles as well as being responsible for directing a talented team. Senior Technical Animator Liverpool or remote As a Technical Animator the candidate will collaborate with the animation, art, design and programming teams at Lucid. They will be tasked with finding progressive techniques and processes to animation solutions and issues with models, characters and vehicle movement. As well as being able to work with some of the most talented people in the UK game industry, Lucid Games also offer: • Remote and flexible working • Private Healthcare • Pension (up to 10%) • Profit bonus & company shares • Enhance Parental leave and many more… www.lucidgames.co.uk/careers

June 2021

24-25 MCV Jobs Lucid V6 FINAL.indd 25

Jobs

25

27/05/2021 16:28


Sharkmob Sharkmob is a game studio based in Malmö, Sweden and London. The studio develops AAA quality games for PC and console, using Unreal Engine to power its ambitions of taking multiplayer games to new heights Location(s): London Team size: 19 Key hiring areas: Engineering, Technical Art, Animation, Combat

Recruitment contact Michelle Simon michelle.simon@ sharkmob.com Michelle Simon | LinkedIn

26

Jobs

26-27 MCV Jobs Sharkmob_v7 FINAL.indd 26

SHARKMOB was founded in 2017 and acquired by Tencent Games in 2019. The founders wanted to make games differently and to create a company culture where ownership was central and work/life balance was promoted and prioritized. The studio was built on the notion that happy employees who have fun at work will flourish creatively and make awesome games. Sharkmob is working on three major projects: a battle royale set in the Vampire: The Masquerade universe set for release in 2021; and two proprietary, unannounced titles. The most important part of Sharkmob is its crew - so we strive for a healthy, productive atmosphere where everyone plays an important role. We have a passion for our craft and want to excel - from office managers, to writers or coders to art directors. All employees enjoy a 10% profit share bonus and yearly performance-based bonus. We give direct feedback to each other, allow for work-life balance with flexible working hours and 6 weeks holiday, distribute ownership and make time for social events like beer-tasting, kitbashing sessions and game jams. We have offices in Malmö, Sweden and London.

June 2021

27/05/2021 16:31


Ben Penrose Art Director Sharkmob London

Martin Connor Design Director Sharkmob London

We have open roles across most disciplines and these can be found on our career site. The roles listed below are a priority for us; if you apply and your skills match then expect an immediate response. Senior Animator London The Senior Animator will create great animations that capture our player’s imaginations. They will be proactive and work with the wider team to drive our project forward with exciting ideas. They will have a passion for creating cutting edge AAA animations that fully leverage what is possible with modern toolsets and hardware.

I AM art director for Sharkmob London where we’re building a team of world class developers to work across some exciting titles. We’re looking for artists across a broad spectrum of specialist disciplines to join us and make our games look and feel beautiful, as well as being fun to play. I joined the London studio in 2020 and have been working with a team of really experienced developers ever since – it’s been thrilling to see our collective levels of ambition, talent and energy come together and we have already built a real sense of mission and teamwork. And that’s just the beginning – I am incredibly excited about the adventure we’re about to go on together, and am really looking forward to meeting future talent we recruit. I joined this industry with a passion for creating unique worlds, characters and experiences and Sharkmob is truly a place where those things can be explored. If that sounds like you - get in touch!

ALONG with James, Sam and Ben, I’m one of the founders of Sharkmob London. As the studio design director I’m working in tandem with Sam to oversee all things design to come out of the London studio. Right now that includes a few things – concept development for the London studio’s project, being part of the director team on one of Malmö’s projects and, importantly, building a world-class design team for our London studio. Currently, the design team is seven people strong. We’re already covering a number of different design subdisciplines: game design, level design, tech design & vehicle handling design. Our team is already quite cosmopolitan with four different nationalities represented. My time at Sharkmob (seven and-a-half months now) has flown by. To be trusted to the extent that we are, is a breath of fresh air. I feel incredibly fortunate to have landed this gig. We’re building something truly epic and I can’t wait to be in a position to share more, somewhere down the line.

“We’re trusted and heard, which is a breath of fresh air.”

Senior Vehicle Artist London The Senior Vehicle Artist will collaborate on all creative and technical aspects of the projects to draw players into the experience with highly detailed compelling vehicles. They will be proactive and work collaboratively with the team to drive our project forward with exciting ideas. Lead Character Artist London The Lead Character Artist will create great looking characters and will collaborate with the Tech teams to define and maintain Character content pipelines and work. They will be handling communication between Sharkmob, outsourcing studios and external artists. Lead Technical Artist London The Lead Technical Artist will breathe life into our worlds, vehicles and characters by working with the Art and Engineering teams. They have a passion for creating AAA visuals to fully leverage what is possible with modern toolsets and hardware. Maintaining the great communication between London and Malmö teams. Lead Gameplay Engineer London The Lead Gameplay Engineer will collaborate with Design, Narrative and Art to bring to life world class experiences. They will be passionate and thrive on engineering excellence as well as pushing the boundaries of what is possible with new and innovative solutions.

June 2021

26-27 MCV Jobs Sharkmob_v7 FINAL.indd 27

Jobs

27

27/05/2021 16:31


Warp Digital From the Sea of Thieves to Dune’s Arrakis – London’s Warp Digital is stepping up to AAA co-development

Location(s): London and remote Team size: 20 Key projects: Dune, Metal:Hellsinger, secret porting project Recruitment contact Piers Duplock Senior Producer piers@warpdigital.com Twitter: @Piers_D

28

Jobs

28-29 MCV Jobs Warp Digital_v6 FINAL.indd 28

LONDON-BASED Warp Digital has existed for five years, although the core team dates back fifteen years, having split off from Curve Digital. The studio built its reputation porting some of the most beloved indie titles around – including Return of the Obra Dinn, Close to the Sun and For the King. Warp Digital has worked also with the likes of Devolver Digital and Team17 and many more along the way. Things are changing over at Warp, though. The studio has been transitioning into triple-A co-development. With Warp already working with NaturalMotion and Rare – and has its fingerprints on the enormously popular Sea of Thieves. And now it’s also partnering with Funcom to bring the world of Frank Herbert’s Dune to life. Having already worked on popular multiplayer survival title Conan Exiles with the company. The studio believes in striving to be the best that it can be by cultivating a teamoriented working environment, a culture based on fixing problems rather than assigning blame, and open and honest communication. Co-development provides exciting opportunities to work on big-name titles. Warp aims to create titles that live up to their clients IP and vision, and which Warp can be proud to add to its portfolio. If that sounds good to you, then many positions are currently open.

June 2021

27/05/2021 16:33


Muneer Fergiani Software Engineer Location: London Project: Dune

James Rance Junior Software Engineer Location: Newbury Project: Metal:Hellsinger

Now Hiring! Just some of the many roles open at Warp Digital Lead Programmer London or Remote A key leadership role for our co-development projects working with the producer to help guide and mentor the team, while also maintaining technical standards.

I REALLY like working for Warp. I started in October and they have been really accommodating when onboarding me from home. Starting here really has been smooth sailing and I can’t wait to visit the Surrey Quays-based office and meet the guys in person. The projects here are quite varied at the moment so there’s lots of different types of work to get stuck in with. The project I’m on is a really ambitious one in all the areas featuring lots of custom tech in UE4. My role involves co-developing and maintaining a gameplay system. There’s loads to consider when developing on this project. At times it can be challenging but it never feels daunting because I’m backed up by an experienced and communicative team. One of my favourite things about Warp is that the senior management are really approachable and care about the well being of the team and work hard to make sure our concerns are taken on board.

I STARTED working at Warp just over two years ago as my first role within the games industry, having just recently graduated. Working within a studio seemed daunting at first, however, thanks to the support and advice from friendly and very knowledgeable colleagues I was able to quickly settle in and hit the ground running. Because of the large variations in the projects we work on, both in terms of genre and scale, I have been able to expand and develop my understanding and skill set across a large number of diverse areas of development. For the last two years I have already worked across seven different platforms, each bringing their own requirements and challenges to projects, as well as new learning experiences. Even now, I am implementing brand new features introduced with the latest generation of consoles. With the vast and varied amount of knowledge and experience I have gained, paired with all the great people I have been able to meet and work with, I am extremely grateful that I have been able to begin my career with Warp.

Graphics-Rendering Programmer London or Remote Join the world of Dune and work on several key areas of the game, using the latest rendering techniques to bring that largescale, next-gen feel. Unreal Gameplay Programmer London or Remote Be part of the core gameplay team, creating and implementing features that directly impact gameplay while working with designers and artists to make those features as polished as possible. Unreal Console Programmer London Be a key player in a small team that ports and supports both small indie titles and AAA scale Unreal projects on current and next-gen console platforms. Unity Console Programmer London Be a key player in a small team that ports and supports both small indie titles and AAA scale Unity projects on current and next-gen console platforms.

“It can be challenging but it never feels daunting because I’m backed up by an experienced and communicative team.” June 2021

28-29 MCV Jobs Warp Digital_v6 FINAL.indd 29

Jobs

29

27/05/2021 16:33


SAVE THE DATE

Thursday 23rd September We’re planning a very special and very different event this year, simply entitled IRL. We’ll both applaud the industry’s incredible response to the pandemic and celebrate being able to gather together once again. We’re now looking for key partners to support an inclusive and positive comeback event for everyone.

For more details contact alex.boucher@biz-media.co.uk

04 MCV 969 MCV Save the Date House ad V3 FINAL.indd 4

27/05/2021 13:43


Should you go back to the studio? OPM’s Kim Parker Adcock discusses the key issues and considerations around the biggest question of 2021 for both employees and employers THE last year has been one of evolution through necessity. It is astounding how well this industry adapted to the problems we have all faced. However, now there are more changes on the horizon, with a potential return to ‘normality’ looking ever closer. In March 2020 I feared the absolute worst for my business, it was a tough couple of months mentally. However, we have had a very productive year and now I have found myself asking if I want to send my team back to the office?

What have we all been missing? It obviously hasn’t been sunshine and rainbows. Loneliness has been a serious challenge to people’s mental health. The studio is a place for socialising, creativity and team spirit. It may have been a support network, or even a safe place. Finding a work/life balance has also been harder, with a lot of people falling into irregular hours and finding it difficult to switch off. Staying consistently productive can feel impossible for people that need a team environment to be at their best.

What are the benefits for employees working from home? We ran polls online to get an idea of how the industry feels about remote work. The results have been substantial. One poll showed 93% of people wanted to keep working from home. A following poll gave us an insight into the reasons behind this. When asked what benefit of remote working has had the most impact on their lives, 43% put it down to travelling times and commuting costs, 29% appreciated being more productive and focused, and 23% enjoyed more family time and found it easier to manage personal events.

Does the best of both worlds exist? I think it might. A flexible remote working hybrid model could be an answer for some. Studios can downsize and cut the costs of office space, or even consider renting a room once a week. Meetup days can be used for creative projects, socialising, and maintaining team spirit. Whereas the rest of the week the team can enjoy the benefits of remote work. Flexibility creates loyalty so it’s a win-win situation.

What are the benefits for companies in a remote working model? Speaking from my own experience here, the biggest benefit would be to save money on rent and bills. Office space is often the biggest outgoing for any business, to completely eradicate this expenditure whilst still being able to operate is a tempting proposition. Another benefit is that a lot of people work more productively when left to manage themselves. What might have been a long meeting is now a short call, as well as there being less distractions at home.

How will we feel longer term? There is a possibility that once we return to the office, be it full or part-time, we realise we have missed the environment, the people, the camaraderie, and that we maintain our productivity with renewed passion. There may be firms, who having disposed of their premises, must find a new “home”. It might even affect their employer brand. Despite this, will we ever return to fully office-based working? I very much doubt it.

June 2021

02 and 31 MCV Jobs Amiqus and OPM advertorials_v3 FINAL.indd 31

Jobs

31

27/05/2021 15:22


Back Cover Develop Jobs MCV969 v4 FINAL.indd 1

27/05/2021 15:29


Brought to you by

A Swift Spotlight: 10 Chambers Collective Springboarding from their successes on Payday 1& 2, a small team of career-long collaborators formed 10 Chambers six years ago. With the monmentum from their debut title, GTFO, the studio has ambitious plans of expansion and new title development...

F

rom Terminator Salvation to Street Fighter III, from sound designer to creative director, seasoned industry-veteran Simon Viklund went “in conversation with” Aardvark Swift. Co-founder and narrative director at 10 Chambers, Simon discussed their studio culture, future plans as well as how they’re tapping into niche markets. Composed of a close-knit group of developers, 10 Chambers “started off with around eight people” six years ago, following Simon and co-founder Ulf Andersson’s departure from Starbreeze in 2015. Back then, they were “really small, super flat, with no hierarchies really.” Ulf Andersson, creative director and CEO “has the visions, but there’s no room in such a small company to have any superior-junior team structure. In fact, you have too few people for everyone to have just one role” says Simon. Currently, Simon is solely responsible for the sound design on their debut title GTFO, however 10 Chambers plan on changing that in the near future. “We have a plan to create and expand a sound design team, we do have a five-year plan, and to be clear, that’s just for the sound team, we are already growing in pretty much every other area right now”. And that’s not all; 10 Chambers are already making exciting preparations to account for this expansion. “We’re building two floating studios in our offices in Stockholm for sound designers, standing on rubber feet, so that the sound doesn’t propagate through the floor; we are getting those built this summer.” Even with studio growth, the company culture has been maintained throughout their evolution. While Ulf guides projects, maintaining tone and consistency, the studio has “always been a small team; everyone talks

to everyone, it’s very much a case of the best idea wins, bringing a lot of freedom under responsibility,” Simon mentions. This ethos translates directly to studio projects; GTFO focuses heavily on its co-op dynamics, where “you really have to communicate and coordinate. We wanted to make something that was a love letter to those that enjoy that sort of game, but are looking for a real challenge,” says Simon. It’s this desire to create a dynamic of collaboration and co-operation for both the players and their own team that brings the developers at 10 Chambers together. “We want to be a company where the different departments are really communicating with one another and sharing ideas - where good ideas can come from anywhere. It’s the idea that’s important, rather than who hatches the idea - I guess in that sense it goes well with the idea of our company making co-op games!” Simon elaborates. 10 Chambers are aware that intense, survival-horror co-op games may not appeal to everyone, but they see this as critical in delivering a game with its own identity – and are taking this forward in GTFO and beyond: “We aren’t making a broad market game. Certain things we might want to put in our game would clash with what our game really is – we need to be really true to the core idea. We want to work on stuff that we love, we want to have fun doing games people enjoy playing, and we want to work with people we are proud to work with and collaborate with people we admire. It’s such a rare opportunity here, being in a position where we are a fully funded scale up,” says Simon. You’ll be able to listen to Aardvark Swift’s full conversation with 10 Chambers’ Simon Viklund in an upcoming episode of the Aardvark Swift Podcast, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, third-party apps, and the aswift.com website.

Simon Viklund, Co-founder and narrative director 10 Chambers Collective

“It’s the idea that’s important, rather than who hatches the idea.” June 2021 MCV/DEVELOP | 35

35 MCV 969 Aardvark Swift V4 FINAL.indd 35

27/05/2021 12:51


PILOT YOUR GAME TO GLOBAL SUCCESS Want to claim up to £200,000 of DCMS’ £7m Global Screen Fund for your game? We talk to the BFI and more about the new pilot fund and how to go about making an application

T Above: Neil Peplow from the BFI

This content was created with the support of the BFI

he Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the BFI have launched the UK Global Screen Fund, a one-year pilot fund designed to boost international development and distribution opportunities for the UK’s independent screen sector. The £7m fund will target support across the screen sector, including narrative games, TV, animation and documentary content. Financed by DCMS and administered by the BFI, it will focus on accelerating export growth, boosting revenues to independent UK screen companies and deepening international relationships. We catch up with Neil Peplow, director, industry & international affairs, at the BFI, to discuss in more detail, who can apply, what the criteria are, and how to go about it. How much money is available for interactive digital projects, or games as we call them? The UK Global Screen Fund is a £7 million fund for targeted investment across the screen sectors including

film, TV, animation, documentary and interactive narrative video games. The Fund does not have set allocations for the different screen sectors and will assess applications based on a range of criteria including companies’ ability to increase their international reach and revenues. We have built in flexibility from the start because it’s a pilot fund and we don’t yet know where the demand will be. We need to be adaptable depending on the applications we receive but having consulted UK-wide with companies and trade associations across all sectors including games we have set criteria to ensure that we’re judging them equally. UK interactive games (or content) companies can apply for support via the UK Global Screen Fund’s International Business Development strand. Eligible companies can apply for any amount between £50,000 and £200,000 in total over the three year period and the support will be in the form of non-repayable grants. Can you expand a little on the phrase ‘business strategies that drive international growth and IP development’ – will this apply to me? The UK Global Screen Fund is all about supporting independent screen sector companies to compete in the global marketplace. We’ve focused on areas that will have the biggest impact on increasing export and international reach for UK content, talent and business. We want to encourage business sustainability to support international activity and boost the UK’s international partnerships. Through the International Business Development funding we’re looking for business strategies that identify opportunities to develop and expand in terms of turnover and scale of Intellectual Property creation, exploitation

36 | MCV/DEVELOP June 2021

36-37 MCV 969 BFI_v4FINAL.indd 36

27/05/2021 12:52


and/or acquisition. We want to support companies working with interactive narrative games intended for distribution on commercial digital platforms with the intention of generating revenue. The aim is to increase companies’ international revenue, activities and profile. Business strategies should begin in 2021 and span three years, demonstrating the future potential impact of ambitious but achievable, export-focused business plans. We’re looking for companies who are already established with some success and want to do more with exportable projects and growth strategies. It’s about taking companies to the next level, building on them and helping them to be ambitious. Is this match funding, do I need other funding in place? There is no fixed match funding requirement but applicants’ perceived ability to secure additional funding for use during the period of the Business Strategy will be scored in the assessment process. This contribution can include debt or equity funds from external sources as well as selfgenerated funds. We can fund new activity up to 25 per cent of the company’s annual turnover, so it’s a good boost for trying out something new. As we will be scoring finance plans and financial resilience in the assessment process, being able to evidence partnership funding is helpful and strengthens the business case. The full details of this can be found in the guidelines which are now online. How does the BFI judge the worthiness of entries? The focus of the International Business Development funding is to support revenue generation through export and international expansion. We want to enable eligible companies to achieve measurable results which would not otherwise have been achievable. This is not about editorial judgement, it’s about commercial impact, so a key focus of our assessment is on evidence of commercial intent and finance plans. The full assessment criteria are in the guidelines, including weighting, as we want to be transparent about how decisions will be made, and to help people make good submissions. We will look at past success, quality

of the team and track record, and partnerships – so will consider the whole strategy not just the content. I see that there is regional bias, is it worth applying if I’m based in London, say? Yes absolutely, this is a UK-wide fund, but we are working to ensure a UK-wide benefit and address geographic imbalance within the industry. So as part of our assessment we’ll be considering where companies are based, where projects are made, how projects reflect the culture and talent of Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the English regions outside Greater London. We are focused on prioritisation but not working to any ring-fenced allocations as we need to remain flexible and adaptable depending on the applications we receive. With 55 per cent of game development roles based outside London we hope this approach works well for the sector. It’s about ensuring equitable access to opportunity and addressing imbalance. What tips would you make for those applying? Fully familiarise yourself with the guidelines and bear in mind that this is about presenting compelling strategic plans for corporate growth through international activity. We really need to see a clear case for how this funding would achieve significant results, supporting your business to open up new global export opportunities. Register your interest and get your application in, in good time. We’re anticipating a lot of interest from different sectors so having enough time will help with queries and requests for information, meaning we can do the application justice. And be specific – show us what you’ve done and how the plan is credible. How will the pilot be judged as a success? We believe that the commitment of this £7m fund at a time when public funds are so stretched is testament to the support that the Secretary of State has provided to the sector and vital recognition of the value of the UK screen industries. We are working to gather evidence of success, through proof of concept, early results and impact. Essentially the fund’s impact will be measured by international revenue, international audiences and international partnerships.

STEERING THE FUND Kevin Beimers, CEO of Northern Ireland indie Italic Pig, gives us his inside take from the steering committee for the fund. We’ve been fortunate as a creative company to have benefitted from European screen funding over the years, which has been a boon for our company’s innovation, experimentation and developmental freedom. The gap left behind by Creative Europe is a blow to the sector, but I’m thankful that the UK Global Screen Fund has taken its first steps to fill that gap – committing to the continued growth of creative businesses across the UK. This is a pilot year for this fund, and it has been a huge challenge so far for the steering committee to create guidelines, language and goals that are applicable to all sectors that this fund intends to support - especially given how variably film, TV, animation and games each define “risk,” “impact” and “success.” I look forward to seeing how the UK Global Screen Fund evolves in the years to come. I would encourage all UK game development companies to look into the Business Development funding strand, and apply if eligible. I won’t lie to you: the pot is finite and the strand is open to all sectors, which means that competition will be fierce. But every application received from the game sector will display to the committee that there is both a need and a desire for games businesses to grow as a pillar of UK screen industries and to share in the achievement of a successful pilot year.

UKIE WELCOMES PILOT Dr Jo Twist OBE, CEO of Ukie The UK Global Screen Fund is a welcome source of support for games businesses focused on narrative games and we’re interested to see how this pilot evolves. We encourage games businesses to apply to support their international market ambitions, but also to help with the evolution of this pilot. UK games companies had some success with the EU’s Creative Europe content fund, which this scheme will in part replace, and it is critical that companies get the right kind of targeted support to continue to compete globally.

June 2021 MCV/DEVELOP | 37

36-37 MCV 969 BFI_v4FINAL.indd 37

27/05/2021 12:52


Time to make friends? Above: Fabraz’s Demon Turf is the new publisher’s first title

Yooka-Laylee creators Playtonic are looking to leverage their decades of experience to help their fellow developers bring their games to market. Chris Wallace finds out more about the company’s new publishing division, Playtonic Friends

P

laytonic Friends is the new publishing division from Yooka-Laylee creator Playtonic. Announced in celebration of the company’s sixth birthday, Playtonic is looking to use its extensive experience in the industry to help bring “fresh, creative and compelling” games to market. Playtonic Friends has already partnered with the likes of Awe Interactive, Fabraz and Okidokico. The company has already announced its first two titles too, 3D platformer Demon Turf from Fabraz, and is bringing Awe Interactive’s rhythm-action FPS BPM: Bullets Per Minute to PS4 and Xbox One later this year. The publishing division was announced in February this year, and was apparently seen as a natural evolution

for the studio. To find out more about that, we sat down on Zoom with Playtonic managing director & creative lead, Gavin Price. GROW OUT TO HELP OUT “It was a few ideas coming together,” says Price. “We knew we wanted to get to a stage where we were selfpublishing our games, and to do that we’d need certain teams in house. And then those people would be good to help out with other developers, who want to go on the same sort of journey we went on ourselves. “From almost the first day we announced ourselves, people were reaching out and asking if we could help them out. We tried to do as much as we could, but it

38 | MCV/DEVELOP June 2021

38-41 MCV969 Playtonic friends V3 FINAL.indd 38

27/05/2021 13:59


becomes a really [time-consuming] exercise, and you don’t want to do anything half-baked. “So when we were looking at growth opportunities for the business, and what we would be really, really passionate about... It’s helping other people make the games that we really want to see get made. “Games that we want to play, and we don’t want to just come out and be lost in the noise and not give the developer any sustainability going forward. “Being able to go do that is really a big passion for the team. We’ve long said to ourselves like, ‘man, it takes two to three years, probably longer to make games at the scope we’re going to be making in the future. We want to be involved in more games than just the ones we’re doing.’ It’s also just about giving ourselves even bigger backlogs of games to play that we don’t have time for!” We wonder if this developer-first approach is informed by any negative experiences with publishers in the company’s history. But according to Price, it’s quite the opposite. “Since day one, in one of the very first meetings we had with Debbie [Bestwick, CEO] at Team17, she asked us what our plans were for Playtonic. When we told her, she said “well great, we’d love to be the publisher that gets you to the point where you never need another publisher.” PUBLISHER SCHOOL With their self publishing ambitions in mind, the team at Playtonic were eager

to ensure they learned as much from Team17 as possible. “So as we worked alongside them, we didn’t just passively sit there, we were constantly asking questions – hopefully not being too much of a thorn in their side – ‘why do it this way? They were very positive, they really nurtured us in the business to not only be able to take that step to self-publishing, but so that we can actually help other people, having seen the value of having a partner like that and what it can do for people.” Beyond just the lessons they learned from Team17, Playtonic has plenty of experience from years of development – in some cases dating back to their time at Rare. Does the team feel that their development experience gives them a unique edge in publishing? “Yeah, I think it gives us a really good USP, that as a business we’re not going into publishing as a way of driving more revenue from what we do from our own games. We’re a developer that can help people publish, we’re not a publisher that can help people develop. “And the guiding light is to be the publisher that we would dream for us to have – the Carlsberg of publishing, basically. To be that for someone else, to take a lot of what we liked and didn’t like in the publishing landscape. We’re trying to get ourselves and other developers into the position where all the metrics of success, all the ingredients for success are fully in your own control and no one else can derail or deviate your plans.”

Above: Gavin Price, Managing Director and Creative Lead

June 2021 MCV/DEVELOP | 39

38-41 MCV969 Playtonic friends V3 FINAL.indd 39

27/05/2021 13:59


While Playtonic Friends certainly won’t be looking to control your project, they will nonetheless provide development support, given their extensive experience. “We can talk to developers and say, what worked for us, what didn’t, what we’d do differently in hindsight… It’s the advantage of being old, basically. We’ve got a company with a lot of veteran developers, we have a lot of hindsight. “We knew where we went wrong in making games, whether it was at Rare or Playtonic. What worked, what didn’t work, what advice should we have taken on, and what advice should we have ignored? From a business perspective now as well, we’ve become kind of addicted to making the business work as much as making the games work. There’s a lot of similar transferable skills there.” HELPING HANDS-ON The kind of advice that Playtonic can provide developers is something that Price feels is rare in this industry. “There’s not enough guidance to go around from a hands-on perspective, which is a shame. We’ve got some great resource articles, talks, shows and things like that. But it’s important to actually have someone who has been on that journey, been there done that, putting their arm around them and saying ‘look, this is what I’d be

“It’s the advantage of being old, basically. We’ve got a company with a lot of veteran developers, we have a lot of hindsight.” telling myself two or three years ago, this is what you should do.’ Take the advice or leave it, we don’t mind, we’re not precious, but if we can help we’ll do our best to.” So with all that said, what kind of projects are Playtonic Friends drawn to? What should we expect to see coming out of the company, and what kind of game is best to pitch to them? “A game that someone is excited about making, and feels like this is going to be the next stage in our business growing for themselves. You know, something I’ve quite often said to so many people, like first time out, don’t try and make your dream game, believe it or not. There’s a level of ambition where people realise often ‘wow, we were trying to do too much too soon.’ They’ll build up to that over time, but we meet some partners and they just know what they’re doing. “There’s no remit for what type of game we’re looking for. Is it a game we think is great? Is it a game we think we can actually help, and be a good partner to the developer for? Whether it’s a horror game, it could be racing, it could be cartoony, it could be realistic. We’re not out there to close down our opportunities for who we could help. “We meet massive amounts of developers, and we try to work out: ‘who do we think we’re a good fit for?’ Our publishing strategy isn’t lots of lots of time in acquisitions, running them through the factory. We’re purely up in that bespoke service, meeting developers and asking them what they need from a partner. If we’re able to tick those boxes, great. We should keep talking. If we’re not, we’re not. It’s about more than just the game itself.” TURF WAR! Which segues nicely into Playtonic Friends’ relationship with the developer of its first game, Demon Turf. A lot about the upcoming 3D

38-41 MCV969 Playtonic friends V3 FINAL.indd 40

27/05/2021 13:59


platformer already feels like a good fit for Playtonic, but Price stresses that the partnership was born out of mutual admiration. “Two things spring to mind with Demon Turf,” says Price. “One, it’s a 3D platformer, and obviously 3D platforming has a place in our heart. We kind of just spotted it, because we thought it was doing something really interesting in the art style. It’s this mixture of these 2D, sprite-based characters moving around this 3D world. “And then the more we learned about the game, we realised that the structure of the game is really really interesting as well. That’s something you don’t get from a screenshot or a video on social media. So then we looked at who was developing it and we were like ‘Oh, my goodness, it’s Fabraz! These guys are great!’ I couldn’t believe it, these guys have really been around and made a great name for themselves. So of course we wanted to work with them. “We felt we should meet them and find out if they’re absolutely horrible, or really really nice guys. That’s one of the best things about the job. You meet so many developers, and 99 per cent of people who you meet are absolutely amazing. And Fabraz are the nicest of the nice, like Topgun’s Maverick and Iceman, they’re in that group. “These guys are so positive about everything they do in the game, around the game marketing-wise, ideas... We knew we wanted to work with each other.. They were big fans of ours, we’re big fans of theirs... We were just fanboying at each other. From what started as us, as gamers, liking what they’re doing technically and in the art of their game, it just snowballed into just ‘we really want to work with you guys.’ We couldn’t be happier.” This happy marriage is set to be followed by further titles – we already mentioned Awe Interactive’s BPM: Bullets Per Minute and then there’s A Little Golf Journey developer okidokico too (both right). And to be clear, Playtonic absolutely hasn’t abandoned its own development projects. In fact what shines through Price’s enthusiasm for meeting other developers is his love for game creation in general. “I think people are maybe concerned that we’re losing our focus on development, and we’re not. This is an entirely new publishing team. Our developers, they’re still doing what they do best, which is coming up with weird scenarios for colourful characters in different genres.” On which note, Price leaves us with one final tease... “What people haven’t heard yet, what’s coming down the road… Well, I don’t want to be too clickbaity!”

THE PLAYTRONIC FRIENDS COLLECTION

DEMON TURF This “3D platformer with attitude” comes from the New York-based developer Fabraz. Coming to PC, Switch and Xbox Series X/S later this year, the game immediately grabs your attention with an art style that mixes 2D and 3D together – for some seriously impressive results. The game has already earned praise from the likes of IGN and Rock, Paper, Shotgun, so it certainly seems to be one to look out for.

BPM: BULLETS PER MINUTE Playtonic Friends’ second title is Awe Interactive’s rhythm-action rogue-like first person shooter title (try saying that 10 times fast) BPM: Bullets Per Minute. The game came to Steam in September last year, and Playtonic Friends is bringing it to PS4 and Xbox consoles later this year. The game tasks players with “shooting baddies to the beat,” as they take on the role of a mighty Valkyrie repelling hordes of enemies from invading Asgard.

A LITTLE GOLF JOURNEY A bit of a tonal shift from BPM, this game comes from developer Okidokico. The game promises a relaxing game of golf across beautiful diorama courses across a variety of destinations – and the game certainly does look stunning in places. As the creators of OK Golf, Okidokico certainly have expertise in this genre, with A Little Golf Journey teeing off on PC and Nintendo Switch this summer.

June 2021 MCV/DEVELOP | 41

38-41 MCV969 Playtonic friends V3 FINAL.indd 41

27/05/2021 13:59


Are platform prices about to pop? The 30 per cent revenue cut has become the conversation of the season. How much of a burden is it on game creators, and are we likely to see a substantial shift away from it? Chris Wallace reaches out to industry experts to find out more

42 | MCV/DEVELOP June 2021

42-45 MCV969 30 per cent V4 FINAL.indd 42

27/05/2021 14:02


announced that, as of August 1st 2021, developers will receive an 88 per cent share of all Microsoft Store PC game sales as well.

T

he seemingly endless Epic v Apple legal battle has been claiming a lot of headlines over the past few weeks, with the ongoing case exposing much of the inner workings and thinking of some of the biggest names in the industry. By now it’s likely rolling on to appeal. Perhaps more than any other, the legal spat has forced one topic directly into the spotlight: The issue of the 30 per cent revenue cut for platform holders, taken from so many games sold. The 30 cent share has been the industry standard for years now – largely maintained across PC, consoles and mobile platforms. While developers and publishers may have privately grumbled against their 70 per cent share, only recently have we begun to see a significant public pushback against it. It’s not only the centrepiece of the Epic v Apple debate, but Valve are now also facing a lawsuit, with developer Wolfire Games describing the 30 per cent revenue cut as being “extraordinarily high.” This public backlash has given rival platform holders an opportunity to capitalise with a lower revenue split. Epic’s own storefront, the Epic Games Store, offers publishers an 88 per cent cut of their profits. And just last month, Microsoft

THE STANDARD These cuts have come alongside developerfriendly language from Microsoft, and outright criticism of the 30 per cent status quo from the likes of Epic Games’ Tim Sweeney. But if the 30 per cent cut is so unjust, how did it become the industry standard in the first place? “The games industry inherited the 30 per cent rate from adjacent entertainment markets that are largely commodity-based,” says Joost van Dreunen, co-founder of SuperData Research. “In the context of selling a discrete song, an album, or a movie at a set price, a platform holder makes money only one time, during the transaction, regardless of how many times you listen or watch it. “That is different in the case of games, especially free-to-play titles, where players make repeated purchases. Games are not commodities; they are assets that appreciate in value over time.” “In the premium games space, I think 30 per cent was a compromise based on a typical past share for retailers of physical games,” adds Ampere Analysis’ Piers Harding-Rolls. “A 30 per cent cut was adopted by Steam, then adopted by the console storefronts and then subsequently used by the App Store when it launched in 2008. It’s worth noting that 30 per cent is a standard across a lot of storefronts and territories but not all. In fact thirdparty Android app stores in China routinely take a 50 per cent revenue share.” It’s important to note that not only can the revenue split be much higher, but that sometimes 30 per cent can be considered a fair split – depending on the platform, anyway. “I think there are a number of platforms where 30 per cent can roughly be the “right” platform take,” says No More Robots founder Mike Rose, “especially platforms that provide way more than just a place to publish your game – analytics, signal boosts, QA, great store tools etc.” With that said, how unpopular is the 30 per cent cut really? Is it a legitimate burden

Joost van Dreunen, co-founder of SuperData Research

“The games industry inherited the 30 per cent rate from adjacent entertainment markets that are largely commodity-based” June 2021 MCV/DEVELOP | 43

42-45 MCV969 30 per cent V4 FINAL.indd 43

27/05/2021 14:02


Piers Harding-Rolls, Ampere Analysis

on developers, or has this conversation been drummed up to help sell the Epic Games Store? Well, it depends on when you asked that question. In many regards the 30 per cent cut made a lot more sense in the past than it does today. “When first introduced, 70 per cent revenue share was appealing because the cost of physical media, the license cost (for console games) and the distribution meant that digital sales offered more margin than physical sales,” says Harding-Rolls. “Attitudes have changed towards these shares I think partly because multitudes of smaller developers have come into the market enabled by cheap distribution via Steam and the app stores, and because a major share of content monetisation is now through IAP or in-game spend. The continual storefront ‘tax’ on this recurring spend for all games irrespective of how much they are making couldn’t have really been predicted when the 30 per cent share was first established.”

“When first introduced, 70 per cent revenue share was appealing because the cost of physical media, the license cost (for console games) and the distribution meant that digital sales offered more margin than physical sales” And to be fair, developers and publishers aren’t exactly going to ask for less money, now are they? “It does in general feel like devs and publishers are becoming more and more annoyed by the 30 per cent take,” says Rose, “but realistically, that’s the only way it could go, right? No-one is going to be saying “I think platforms should be taking more”, so really the only two responses are ‘30 per cent is fine’ or ‘30 per cent is not fine’, and arguably we’re going to hone in more on the negative responses.”

PR PUSH Still, regardless of how a majority of developers and publishers feel, the pushback against the 30 per cent cut has less to do with passing on profits to game creators, and more to do with competing with platforms like Steam. “Epic and Microsoft’s decision to relent on their store rates on PC is part of a competitive push to capture market share,” says Van Dreunen. “By subsidizing creatives, they hope to attract more and higher quality content for their platforms and grow their overall audience. Valve had no choice but to follow Epic’s example to prevent an exodus. It is important to note that Microsoft did not change its rates on its console. “What used to be a platform war between dedicated hardware devices is now one between digital store fronts. Their most effective weapon in competing with each other is lowering rates.” “Epic coming in with the 12 per cent cut certainly kicked this whole argument into the stratosphere,” adds Rose, “but on a cynical level, I don’t think Epic really did this to be ‘the good guys’ – they did it because they knew that launching a new store, and being able to say ‘our competition take 30 per cent, we take 12 per cent’ would be great fucking PR. Epic are also so loaded, that taking 12 per cent and making a loss isn’t an issue for them. So if I was being super cynical about it, this whole argument– conversation has started from a weird marketing ploy in the first place, which makes it a bit icky for me. “Anyone offering 12 per cent or similar is just doing it as a way to make people talk about them more. I mean look, if we’re honest, 12 per cent is nothing – I imagine it’s barely enough to cover most of the costs that come from the side of the stores. So I personally just feel a bit weird about the 12 per cent. I can understand people saying that 30 per cent is too much, but arguably, 12 per cent is just too little, and doesn’t even give the platform enough skin in the game to care about your sales.” Maybe 12 per cent is too little in some regard, but if Epic wins its case against Apple, there’s potential for serious ramifications across the industry. If Epic is victorious in its case, will that have a knock-on effect across other platforms? “Yes, and I think ultimately this could be highly disruptive to the console market,” says Harding-Rolls.

44 | MCV/DEVELOP June 2021

42-45 MCV969 30 per cent V4 FINAL.indd 44

27/05/2021 14:02


“It’s clear that Microsoft is already considering the idea of reducing its take rate on Microsoft Store on console, but has deep pockets and probably wants to harmonise its storefronts anyway sometime in the future. “It just reduced its PC storefront to 12 per cent. Sony is more exposed to an industry shift of this kind as it has a substantial digital business and would need to think of other ways to replace this high margin revenue stream. Nintendo is less exposed because of the dominance of its first party content, but it is building its digital business strongly and will also be negatively impacted by any change in policies.” AFTER THE BATTLE Although that’s if Epic wins, which is certainly not a foregone conclusion. “I do not think Epic will win this case in legal court,” says Van Dreunen. “However, it has managed to successfully expose Apple as a rentseeking landlord in public court, so to speak. And while this may impact the rates we see elsewhere, I expect there to be varying store rates across different platform categories: console are relatively expensive and will therefore continue to charge more than, say, PC.” “I think whether Epic wins or not, we’re already seeing a knock-on effect, and we will continue to do so,” adds Rose. “The pressure that continues to mount is definitely a good thing for dev and publishers, but again, I just kinda wish it wasn’t coming from such a weird place!” So, hypothetically speaking, let’s imagine that 12 per cent becomes the norm across the industry. What benefits would there be for both game creators and consumers? In their lawsuit against Valve, Wolfire games claims that the 30 per cent cut results in publishers charging higher prices for their games. If 12 per cent were to become the norm, would those savings be passed onto the consumer? “Not likely,” says Van Dreunen. “The cost of game development and marketing always rises. And you have to remember that no one is making the argument that players cannot afford games; they argue that platforms claim too much for the services and access they provide.” “I highly doubt consumers would see the benefit directly,” adds Rose. “From my perspective, this is a way to make our industry a more viable place to actually build a career, not to pass savings

on to consumers. Maybe some studios will see it that way! But I imagine 99 per cent will just be happy to actually make some money.” Much of this conversation is hyper-focused around PC and mobile storefronts, thanks in no small part to Epic Games. But what about consoles? The major platform holders in the console space all claim 30 per cent too, are they doing enough to justify that? “‘Enough’ is a tricky term here,” says Van Dreunen. “But it is important to remember that a large part of the console market still relies on the distribution and sales of CD-ROMs. The distribution of physical units is an important part of what console platforms provide publishers. Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo also invest more in the ecosystem than their mobile counterparts.” “The console market is structured differently to the non-dedicated device markets,” adds Harding Rolls, “as there are costs involved in hardware R&D and selling that hardware for a loss in many cases. On average console gamers are very engaged and spend a lot on content, so delivering that dedicated audience offsets the share taken by the storefront to an extent. This is still better for the publisher than selling physical games. However, if there is a general industry shift away from 30 per cent and Microsoft was to adopt it on Xbox, I think the pressure on the other platform holders would grow.”

Mike Rose, No More Robots

“The console market is structured differently to the non-dedicated device markets” Still, the conversation for now will likely remain centred around PC and mobile platforms. Which brings us back to Steam. Given its dominance over the PC marketplace, is there currently any real incentive for them to drop their cut, despite the criticisms? “It depends if there is an industry shift across most storefronts,” says Harding-Rolls. “I could see Valve making more concessions if there was a substantial swing away from 30 per cent.” Although Van Dreunen is less convinced about that… “Sure. Valve will lower its rates immediately after it releases Half-Life 3.”

June 2021 MCV/DEVELOP | 45

42-45 MCV969 30 per cent V4 FINAL.indd 45

27/05/2021 14:02


unsigned

Unsigned is MCV/DEVELOP’s monthly initiative to bring the best upcoming indie titles to broader industry awareness. We aim to help them find the support and partners they need to reach the best and biggest possible audience.

COOKIE CUTTER

Cookie Cutter is a PostPunkRock Cyberpunk Metroidvania about a Fembot in a quest about love and vengeance! Tell us about your game and why you decided to develop it? Cookie Cutter was born from a discarded Unity project, I was asked to redesign a character so I came out with Cherry and I immediately fell in love with her. At the time I was exploring my 2D animation skill, in a couple of weeks I decided to make a demo of a Metroidvania out of it and I thought it was a good idea to include all the things I grew up with: videogames and gory mangas from the 90’s. Who do you think the audience is? Metroidvania lovers, people who are looking for a weird, different and solid game experience. People who love good narrative in games, weirdos (my kind of people), and I would be super happy to have a female majority audience. What experience does the team have? I (Napalm) worked at Tabuto’s indie game Studio in Catania back in 2008, I was just a comic artist at the time but he taught me pretty much everything about 3D modeling, texturing, rigging, and animations. Tabuto and I worked together again on Zheros back in 2015. C-Bow and I grew up together playing in different bands in Sicily, and Romanov is one of my best friends, an award-winning talented writer and movie director, including at the 2019 Los Angeles film awards. Why did you decide to use Unity to create this game? I am a Unity employee so when it came to create my game I had no doubt about it. Plus I love how Unity is able to handle and set 2D sprites How long has the title been in development, how long will it take to complete? I started CC back in 2017. I worked on it in my free time and at the weekend so the development was pretty slow but I’ll finally finish the prototype at the end of May 2021. What kind of support are you looking for? I’m looking for a solid partner that grants me marketing/PR, ports, physical release, development funding, that respects and helps my vision grow. One that can provide me an experienced game designer who worked on a Metroidvania before, someone who’s ready to try to deliver a new kind of product, with a different language and a different charm and that can introduce my product to an Asian audience

Developer: Subcult Team Location: Brighton-Sicily Team size: We’re using pseudonyms to represent our team members: KingNapalm (artist/director), Tabuto (code), C-BoW (audio), Romanov (writing) Progress: pre-production, we’re about to finish the prototype Contact details: Subcult Team subcultteam@gmail.com

46 | MCV/ MCV MCV/DEVELOP DEVELOP June 2021

46-49 MCV969 Unsigned_v4FINAL.indd 46

27/05/2021 12:53


GOLF GANG

Golf Gang blends racing with minigolf. Balance speed with accuracy to dominate the green in eight player online mayhem! Tell us about your game and why you decided to develop it? Golf Gang is named for a group of our friends at university who shunned revision in favour of party games and group calls. We found a pattern in the games we were endlessly looking for – action and competition, but enough simplicity to allow first-time players to join in meaningfully. In short, Golf Gang is an excuse to get everyone on a call and talk some trash. Who do you think the audience is? Anybody can pick up Golf Gang and start putting, but it’s deceptively difficult to master. Primarily a party title, it’s perfect for casual groups seeking laughter-filled experiences akin to Mario Kart and Ultimate Chicken Horse. Golf Gang also enjoys a competitive streak thanks to the racing mechanics and high skill ceiling - the time trials leaderboard is hard fought for in our private beta. What experience does the team have? Lazy Monday Games is a Scottish studio founded in 2015 by brothers Andrew & Mitchell Baxter as a vehicle to distribute Reveal the Deep – a game we built together during a summer holiday. It was released to surprise success, and firmly cemented our career paths in the games industry. We went on to pursue degrees in Illustration and Computer Science, building and releasing our second title Final Directive during our spare time. Now graduates, we’re gearing up to release our first ‘real’ game, after 18 months of full-time development. Why did you decide to use Unity to create this game, can you tell us anything about using the engine on this project? The ease of extending Unity’s editor functionality gives us a great degree of control and power for rapidly building out awesome golf courses something crucial to a lightweight outfit such as ours. The asset store provides a useful way to implement boilerplate features to a great standard in a short time. How long has the title been in development, how long will it likely take to complete? Golf Gang has been in development for 18 months and is ready for early access, planned for Q3 2021. We’re aiming for a full release in Q2 2022. What kind of support are you looking for from a potential partner? Golf Gang is a great fit for the current influencer climate. We’d love to work with a partner who’s excited about building a playful marketing campaign and can help us reach the right set of content creators. Strategic investment could expedite our content production process and console ports, but isn’t a necessity.

Developer: Lazy Monday Games Location: Edinburgh, Scotland Team size: 2 people, full-time Progress: Private Beta Contact details: mitchell@lazymondaygames.com

Mitchell Baxter

June 2021 MCV/ MCV MCV/DEVELOP DEVELOP | 47

46-49 MCV969 Unsigned_v4FINAL.indd 47

27/05/2021 12:53


unsigned NECROMUNDA: GANG SKIRMISH

Battle for dominance and power in this grim dark turn-based game set in the Warhammer universe. Tell us about your game and why you decided to develop it? Necromunda: Gang Skirmish is a turn-based strategy mobile game set in the 40,000 Warhammer universe. Players control a gang working their way up in reputation and power in a series of multiplayer turn-based strategy engagements. Development of Necromunda: Gang Skirmish started after the success of our previous Warhammer mobile game, Mordheim: Warband Skirmish. The team were interested and wanted to create another mobile game from a different Warhammer IP and luckily enough we were able to create Necromunda: Gang Skirmish. Who do you think the audience is? Warhammer enthusiasts who are interested in this particular IP and people who enjoy playing turn-based strategy games. What experience does the team have? CEO Ewan Lamont was the senior producer and programme manager for Monumental Games prior to starting Legendary Games. CTO Gavin Rummery has wide-ranging game development experience spanning 16 years, including the original Tomb Raider games. Prior to Legendary Games, Gavin was technical director of Monumental Games’ online division. The team have previously worked on another mobile game called Mordheim: Warband Skirmish, which is another Warhammer IP. That game was released in early 2017 and ever since then we have been improving the game and learning as a team. Why did you decide to use Unity to create this game, can you tell us anything about using the engine on this project? The team had strong experience with numerous creating projects with Unity with our major Unity projects coming from Mordheim: Warband Skirmish and The Island: Survival Challenge. With what we have learned as a team from these two projects, we felt that Unity was the ideal engine to create Necromunda: Gang Skirmish. Unity had all the features available to make it a successful game with easy portability for different platforms, reliable and offers a great visual experience with graphics support. How long has the title been in development, how long will it likely take to complete? Development for the game started in early 2019 with it being released worldwide 25th March 2021 on iOS and Android. What kind of support are you looking for from a potential partner? A potential publisher to help the game get the exposure to a wide range of audiences.

Developer: Legendary Games Location: Nottingham Team size: 7 Full Time employees Progress: Production Contact details: Ewan Lamont ewan@legendary-games.com

Left: CEO Ewan Lamont

48 | MCV/ MCV MCV/DEVELOP DEVELOP June 2021

46-49 MCV969 Unsigned_v4FINAL.indd 48

27/05/2021 12:53


ROLLER DRAMA

A story-driven game where you live with five Roller Derby athletes as their coach and hopefully friend; manage real-time full-contact matches on skates: performance is a mindset! Tell us about your game and why you decided to develop it? We wanted to continue the series on sports and narrative, avoiding the mistakes done in Football Drama (oversimplified mechanics, designed with only the mobile user in mind) and not focusing again on an all-male sport and environment set in the past. Roller Derby is cool, and the athletes playing it seem an excellent source for intriguing stories and is somehow by itself a partial representation of today’s reality. We like the idea of switching from a turn-based 2D sports game to a real-time 3D one. Also, we wanted to have a more structured and mature narrative dimension, even in a relatively small game. Who do you think the audience is? Players of narrative games, players of sports games, players of romantic games / visual novels, lovers of satire/humoristic games. It should be particularly attractive for women gamers, LGBTQ+ players (and allies). What experience does the team have? Open Lab has been designing and developing educational games for almost ten years now, for mobile and desktop, and we specialize in games for museums and health services. We released our first commercial game Football Drama in September 2019: a narrative and sports game for Steam, Switch and mobile. Football Drama has been featured worldwide several times on the App Store. Why did you decide to use Unity to create this game, can you tell us anything about using the engine on this project? We use Unity because it enables a quick prototyping loop and supports crossplatform development. Also, it allows developer tool customization, so with Daniele Giardini, we have created a powerful editor extension to manage the dynamic narrative elements so that the plot, missions and dialogue flows are not hard-coded. This enables a quick loop between coding and testing. How long has the title been in development, how long will it likely take to complete? We started working on the game concept in 2020, and we intend to release the game (with several localizations and a wide range of platform support) in early 2022. What kind of support are you looking for from a potential partner? We are looking for support for the final release and promotion of the game. Specifically, audio services, localization, console certification and launch promotion. The financial need can vary in function of the amount of localization and platforms, but it should be lower than 100k Euro, not including the marketing/PR initiatives.

Above: Pietro Polsinelli

Developer: Open Lab Location: Florence Italy Team size: The game is produced by Open Lab, a four-person company, collaborating with four external resources. Two people are working on the game (almost) full time. Progress: The game is in production. Alpha will be released in Summer 2021. We plan to release the game on all platforms in the second quarter of 2022. Contact details: Pietro Polsinelli, ppolsinelli@gmail.com

June 2021 MCV/ MCV MCV/DEVELOP DEVELOP | 49

46-49 MCV969 Unsigned_v4FINAL.indd 49

27/05/2021 12:53


The Art of...

Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance

Just saying ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ brings to mind an avalanche of genre-defining fantasy art. So with Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance coming to consoles and PC this month, we reached out to Tuque Games art director Stefan LeBlanc to discuss his interpretation of the classic Forgotten Realms setting

WHAT WERE YOUR INITIAL THOUGHTS ON THE PROJECT? My initial thought on art directing a Dungeons & Dragons game was, “This is going to be liberating!”. There wasn’t one particular set look or style, so I could truly make it my own. WITH SO MUCH D&D ART TO DRAW FROM, HOW DID YOU EVEN BEGIN TO DECIDE ON YOUR TAKE? D&D art has so many different styles and artists that I did not feel trapped in one distinct style and I knew that I was going to create a stylised look. One of my favourite fantasy artists is Paul Bonner; I like his high fantasy style, especially for characters, which I used for inspiration. My other artistic and stylistic inspirations for Dark Alliance came from European comic book artists like Frezzato, Civiello, Druillet, Moebius, Loisel and Enki Bilal. TELL US HOW THE ART WAS CREATED AND BY WHOM? The art was created by our in-house artists. My assistant art director, Lincoln Hughes, who is also a very talented level artist, headed the environment team. With a few in-house concepts he produced the entire visual creative benchmark and, with the help of two or three other level artists and modellers, really nailed the environmental style.

Stefan LeBlanc, creative art director on Dark Alliance, Tuque Games

50 | MCV/DEVELOP June 2021

50-53 MCV969 The Art of Dark Alliance V4 FINAL.indd 50

27/05/2021 14:06


The throne room of the giant hall of judgement. This is where giant trials were made, and where prisoners were judged. The frost giant structures were built by rock giants.

I have one in house character concept artist, Vincent Gauthier who concepts most of the major characters and we had one character modeller, Nicolas Garilhe, at the beginning, so we did need to outsource some characters and concepts but eventually the art team grew during production and became completely self-sufficient. We now have an art team of 16 talented artists, character and content modellers, concept, lighting and level artists. WHAT TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES WERE USED TO CREATE THE GAME’S LOOK? We decided to use Megascans as well as a lot of custom textures. By using Megascans from the outset, it meant that we would have very realistic textures and so to achieve our high fantasy look, we went with a stylised approach in sculpting and exaggerating the size of things. Giants built most of our world, so it makes sense that our structures are massive. Another very important aspect in getting our world to feel high fantasy was the lighting and the colour palette, which is generally two complementary colours and a tertiary colour to add some punch.

HOW DID THE ART EVOLVE WITH THE PROJECT? A big challenge from the outset was building such a huge world. We were focussed on how much content we could actually build, so we worked with architecture kits. These architecture kits are kind of like building blocks which rely on the creativity and imagination of the level artist to craft environments that look and feel different from map to map. We chose a Giant architecture kit for Kelvin’s cairn and Icewind dale, a Dwarven architecture for the Dwarven valley, a Cultist architecture for the spine of the world and two kits to help dress the four biomes, a Duergar mining kit and a Goblin wooden fortification kit. Those were our basic building blocks. Our art evolved by focusing on the enemies and making each mission’s tone and style reflect the enemy’s culture and beliefs. This helped us to have a distinct feel for every mission and make our world so much richer and authentic.

“We have very realistic textures and so to achieve our high fantasy look, we went with a stylised approach in sculpting and exaggerating the size of things” June 2021 MCV/DEVELOP | 51

50-53 MCV969 The Art of Dark Alliance V4 FINAL.indd 51

27/05/2021 14:06


The Art of...

The Art of...

The Art of...

Below: The Duergar bomber is equipped with a bomb carrier from which he can easily charge his catapult and rain an explosive assault on his enemies.

Above: Icingdeath is covered in sharp ice-like scales. She is armed with a spiky tail to attack enemies behind her. Her breath is freezing flames. She is truly a creature of the frozen Dale.

Above: The dwarven valley is lined with marble sculptures of past kings from which waterfalls flow.

Above: Kelvin the frost giant king. His helmet is made from the horns and lower jaw of a dragon and the skull of a Yeti. He wears the skull and bones of many victims as trophies. His boots are lined with jagged metal to inflict maximum pain on his smaller enemies.

Left: Netherees technology is used by devils to bring sections of Icewind Dale to hell.

52 | MCV/DEVELOP June 2021

50-53 MCV969 The Art of Dark Alliance V4 FINAL.indd 52

27/05/2021 14:06


The Art of...

The Art of...

Above: Kelvin’s tomb is lit by eternal flames. His spirit has been imprisoned within his sarcophagus for thousands of years. His helmet of power is locked inside, resting on the king’s corpse and secured by powerful magic.

The Art of...

Above: The Gnoll are sacrificing barbarians to their god Yeenoghu in hopes of getting possessed by him. This ritual is mentioned in the monster manual but not explained in detail, so we went for a drum and dance ritual mixed in with a bit of sacrificial magic.

Left: The Dwarven halls have been overrun and taken by the Duergar. The Duergar have erected idols of their god Laduguer and are mining the mithril from the temple’s decorated dwarven walls.

Right: A devil sacrificial altar. Here lie the soulless corpses of those who have not abided by their contract.

Left: The spirit of the forest is tied down by its own tree of life. The life-giving tree has been corrupted by necrotic forces taking over the land. The wraiths have come to suck the life magic from the spirit and feed it to their totems of corruption.

June 2021 MCV/DEVELOP | 53

50-53 MCV969 The Art of Dark Alliance V4 FINAL.indd 53

27/05/2021 14:06


When We Made... Röki

actually look at you. And even with that little bit of work, with the help of the animation and really smart designers and engineers, with everybody working together, you could tell from the very beginning that Chris Wallace talks to Kanaris-Sotiriou, sheAlex was a character that people would really gravitate to get a better look attoward.” the creepy and wonderful really becomes anominated fully fleshed out character with world of Röki – The Quill twice-BAFTA the help of the game’s strong world-building. As an debut game from Polygon Treehouse interloper in Quill’s world, the player experiences it not through her eyes, but as an observer watching as she lives her life in her familiar setting. It’s a strangely intimate feeling, and one which gives way to joint apprehension as both the player and Quill enter new, unfamiliar areas. “When you go through Mousetown and you see Quill runt’sthrough there youday seethat thatyour she has a hometown, certainly notand every small studio’s thedebut feelinggame of herisleaving it, of that maybe being in recognised withtown multiple BAFTA danger, gives youEven moreless of aso bond,” says. “If nominations. whenAlderson you’re creating that part was out,whose you wouldn’t there was a game for aleft genre days infeel thelike sun have much to fightcome for. Everything somewhat to an end.that we’ve done, the mood settings, taking Quill one area the next and letting And yet that’s thefrom position that to the Cambridge-based you rest and take in this environment… all supposed Polygon Treehouse found themselvesIt’s in this year. to exaggerate and accentuate mood that you’re The studio, founded by a duothat of veteran PlayStation feeling. It all ties into how are connecting with developers, hadback already beenyou nominated for Best Quill andGame her world.” Debut at the 2020 Game Awards, before finding

I

Alex Kanaris-Sotiriou, Polygon Treehouse

out they were in the running for Best Debut Game and SAME QUESTION EIGHT WAYS Best British Game at the 2021 BAFTAs. Collaboration was key during the It’s quite the achievement for development an artistic, of Moss, not non-violent just withinnarrative the teamexperience itself, but with (from thetwo helpformer of external playtesters. Killzone developers). People were This often is the brought story in oftoRöki. feedback on Perhaps surprisingly for a game born out of Cambridge, Röki is inspired by Scandinavian folklore. Its gorgeous storybook artstyle sees protagonist Tove trying to find her lost brother by interacting with everything from the terrifying water spirit Nokken, to the helpful and crafty creatures known as the Tomte. “We had quite a few different ideas floating around,” says Polygon Treehouse co-founder Alex Kanaris-

the game and asked questions about their experience – even if most of these questions were actually very similar. “External playtests were mostly about ‘Okay, how do people feel when they play? Do they like it or not like it?’,” Alderson explains. “At the end of playtest we would ask the same question eight different ways. The question is really ‘What didn’t you like?’, but we would ask it differently: ‘What pulled you out of the experience? What took you out of the headset? If there’s one thing you could change what would it be? If you had two weeks to finish the game, what would be the thing that you’d fix?’ “Those help bring a playtester into their comfort zone, because no one wants to play something that people put a lot of care and love into and then turn around and say ‘This is what I didn’t aboutPolygon it’. So itTreehouse takes a little while Sotiriou. “Then Tom like [Jones, to get the playtester comfortable, and we found that It co-founder] stumbled across Scandinavian folklore. finding really different samelike question means wasn’t theways plighttoofask thethe gods, Odin and Thor you interested eventually get really good stuff after the fourth or that us. the It was more the folklore creatures, fifthcreepy time you ask it. from the lakes and the forests and the creatures don’t think in odd our studio has ever made a the“Icaves. Theyanyone were so and beguiling, they really game like this, so I think it’s important that you trust the excited us.” process. This ledYou thetrust pairplaytesting to start thinking and you about makea sure “greatest that you hits” allowofyourself their own some interpretation time and freedom of these to try characters. somethingWe resisted and thencalling keep going. it the “Scandanavian Try something new Avengers” and branch in our out, chat but also withuse Kanaris-Sotiriou, your experiencebut from wegames reckonthat it’syou’ve definitely that, madedespite before and the absence you’ll be fine. of Thor. As long as you’re having fun too! We enjoyed playing Moss throughout the entire THE process MOOMINS and I thinkARE that ABOUT really helps.” TO CALL Still, the folklore influence is front and centre. But what might come more of a surprise is the importance of everybody’s favourite polite trolls, the Moomins. “There was an episode of the Moomins cartoon, where there’s this character called the Groke. It’s this unblinking character, who goes towards villages and freezes everything in its path, including people. But actually, all it wanted was a friend. There’s something really creepy in that, but it was really touching and quite

54 | MCV/DEVELOP June 2021

54-57 MCV969 When we made V4 FINAL.indd 54

27/05/2021 14:08


Left: Polygon Treehouse’s debut game was nominated for not one, but two BAFTAs

Below: The game’s storybook artstyle is stunning in places

tragic. We felt that there was something interesting there in that mix of emotions.” That Moomins influence runs deeper than you might realise too. Tove and her brother Lars take their names from Moomins creator Tove Marika Jansson and her brother. We didn’t find any trolls in top hats in our playthrough though, but we remain optimistic. Putting the Moomins regretfully aside for a moment, that mix of emotions is certainly true of Röki. While the

game is never explicit, remaining as family-friendly (though creepy) as the stories that inspired it, it doesn’t shy away from the tragedy behind many of its most terrifying beasts – such as the Nokken, a hugely threatening monster born from the spirit of a drowned girl. POINT AND CLICK Closer to home, Röki is an adventure game in the very classical sense. While efforts have been made to modernise the genre, the DNA of the point and click classics of the past run throughout Röki, with its puzzles often relying on creative uses and combinations of items in your suspiciously well-packed inventory. The pair took inspiration from point-and-click classics such as Monkey Island, but were aware that they needed to take a more modern approach. “In terms of modernising it,” says Kanaris-Sotiriou, “we gave the player direct control of the character in a 3D enviroment, which obviously you didn’t have in things like Grim Fandango. You can move around more freely, instead of having that disconnected cursor directing the character. You move, instead of sitting there telling a disconnected character to move.”

June 2021 MCV/DEVELOP | 55

54-57 MCV969 When we made V4 FINAL.indd 55

27/05/2021 14:08


So we can try and lead you to that solution, and you can try things individually. And if you’re stuck, we’ll give you some of the inworld hints to try and get you there.”

Above: The trolls are just one of the mythical beings populating the game’s world

Another important change was in bringing quality of life improvements to the puzzle designs. While the point and click games of yesteryear are rightly loved, the puzzles themselves could be famously obtuse. It often felt as if the player was trying to work out what the developer was thinking, rather than putting a solution together with the facts made available to them. “We did a huge amount of iteration on the puzzle design. Whilst we wanted the game to not pose zero challenge, because there’s very little satisfaction in that. But the game is also telling a story, and a story without an ending is not much of a good story. So a really big part was having the puzzle balanced in a way that most people will get to the end of the game, and see the conclusion of the story. “We laid in these in-world hint systems, like the journal or the Tree of Many, who’s this oracle character who can give you some soft hints. We didn’t want to hand people too much, because some people will be able to work it out immediately and we shouldn’t get in the way of those people. But for the people who need some more assistance, we wanted to really give as much help as we could without shattering the fiction of you being in this world. “You have to make sure that each step of the puzzle makes logical sense. That doesn’t mean you’re kind of restricted to it being boring or dull, but people need to be able to join the dots. As soon as you have people trying combinations and dragging everything down, it brings you out of the game’s story. “So say, early in the game you combine a bear trap with a rope to make a grappling hook, to help a troll out.

ART FROM ADVERSITY Alongside its puzzle design and memorable characters, perhaps one of Röki’s biggest strengths lies in its artstyle. The cinematic camera, mixed with the storybook artstyle, makes for a beautiful experience in certain areas. What comes as a surprise to us, then, that this art style was born out of a practical solution to a technical problem. “We knew we wanted to make this epic adventure, which had lots of locations and different monsters. But our team is tiny – Tom and I were the only full time members. The team grew and shrank with sound designers, writers and composers, but we were the only ones full-time. “We didn’t want to compromise on having this big epic story, probably foolishly. But in looking at the art style, we looked at the traditional 3D art pipeline that we knew, and well… We wanted to see what happens when we remove some big chunks. So we remove lighting, we remove texturing.... With Röki, what you have is a flat, shaded art style. That’s basically about pure colour choice and silhouettes, it really relies on those things. So, in removing those two things, it allows us to work much quicker and much freer. It allows us to create this epic fairytale world with just a tiny team. “There’s lots of sleight of hand in the way it’s constructed. We have cinematic cameras, but we control them, it’s not a free camera. Part of that was accessibility, not everyone can do third-person camera control. It’s just assumed that everyone can do that. I was playing Life is Strange with my wife, and she played games growing up, but not ones with a third person camera controls. And that was really getting in the way of the story and her engaging with the game. “So we took control of the cameras, which gave us a win on a number of fronts. First, we could construct the environments in a clever way. We didn’t have to see them from all angles, so we could save on polygons and lots of LOD stuff in the distance. But it also allowed us to then use the camera as a storytelling device. We have this holistic approach to storytelling… You know, video games are video games. It’s not just about the script. We wanted to use everything: animation, sound, audio and so on to reinforce the story that we’re trying

56 | MCV/DEVELOP June 2021

54-57 MCV969 When we made V4 FINAL.indd 56

27/05/2021 14:08


to tell. So getting control of the camera back for that was a big win. “From a practical problem solving point of view, we often work with creative limitations. Obviously, every team is different, but for us, working that way can actually throw up some really interesting things. Röki’s art style is something that we will be continuing to evolve moving forward, and has almost a signature of the game.” NO-KILL ZONE Röki has another Polygon Treehouse signature to look out for in the future. The game is a decidedly non-violent experience – which is maybe a surprise for a team with experience with the Killzone franchise. “Ever since Killzone 2, we’ve been making firstperson shooters. We learned a huge amount of craft on those games, with lots of talented people and we’re really grateful for that experience. We’ve taken a lot of those triple-A learnings into our indie work. “But we’ve been working in those games for a while, and we’re getting older. You know, I think we’re a bit world weary, especially when you look at everything that’s going on in the world, which is even more pertinent recently. The idea of making a game that had an undercurrent of kindness running through it really resonated with us and where we’re at. We think that’s something for the studio moving forward, that we will carry on that route of non violent, emotional storytelling.” While Kanaris-Sotiriou stresses that Polygon Treehouse isn’t going to exclusively develop adventure games, he is nonetheless keen to establish a brand for the new studio, one that the team will build around the success of Röki. “I’m sure there’s got to be lots of elements of Röki that we will take into the next thing. It’ll be more of a departure genre wise, but there’s definitely the key elements of the polygon treehouse DNA that we want to continue. Things like the characters, the animation and the element of performance. “We’re very pleased with the character work in the game, and we want to bring that to the fore even more. With how powerful things like the emotional storytelling that undercurrent of kindness has proven to be, I think we will be silly to not take that further. “So it’s a really interesting challenge. How do you have a continuation of that DNA? It’s super

different, but I think people will hopefully recognise it as a Polygon Treehouse game.” They’d be silly indeed not to take what worked with Röki and run with it, given the nominations for The Game Awards and multiple BAFTAs. Something which obviously caught Polygon Treehouse by surprise. “With the Game Awards, we had no idea whatsoever,” says Kanaris-Sotiriou. “I’d been trying to disengage from my phone, so I’d actually left my phone in the bedroom. Then my wife was complaining that my slippers were a right state, so I went to order some new ones and saw I had like a million notifications. So yeah, we that was a complete surprise when we found out. “With the BAFTAs you have to put yourself forward, so obviously we knew we’d gone for it. But just being nominated for one would have been amazing – to be nominated for two was fantastic. It was slightly surreal being in the green rooms with all those people, and tiny Polygon Treehouse going, ‘hello!’ We were really, really touched by that. Obviously we didn’t win any of them, but we’re still grinning from ear to ear about it. It’s a massive win for us.” All things considered, it’s a promising start for such a small studio. Though Kanaris-Sotiriou is careful to nip that ‘two man team’ chat in the bud. They may have been the only full-time members, but he’s enormously grateful to everyone who came on board to make Röki possible. “Thanks so much to the team, we had a really awesome team of people we collaborated with. We definitely couldn’t have made the game without them. Thanks to all their passion in making the game. Thanks to the players as well! We’re excited to, when we’re ready, show people what we’re up to next.”

Below: Tove’s epic quest takes her to some unlikely locations

early days still, but I think when people eventually see what it is we’re up to... I think it will feel quite

June 2021 MCV/DEVELOP | 57

54-57 MCV969 When we made V4 FINAL.indd 57

27/05/2021 14:08


The Final Boss Every month an industry leader wraps up MCV/DEVELOP with their unique insight

Russ Clarke Founder and CEO Payload Studios

“We had been running very lean up to that point... everyone was on two-thirds of a salary and we were wondering how long we could last like that.”

TerraTech just keeps on growing, what’s the key behind its success? In a word: community. We built the company with the idea that growing and maintaining an engaged player community, from the earliest stages of the development process, would be our secret sauce. Even before we had an office and a full-time team, we were putting out demo releases, doing live events and finding other ways to get players involved, learn from them and build anticipation. That process continued through early access, console launches and is still going strong, six years later. Why did you start the indie-focused Tentacle Zone and what are its aims? It came about almost by accident. We were taking TerraTech to game shows, many of which had a free-of-charge ‘indie zone’ – but when something’s free, you don’t get much choice and you can’t complain too hard when things go wrong! We wanted a bit more control over our space, but when we looked at buying a stand, the costs seemed astronomical – so we came up with the idea of clubbing together with other indies, to cram loads of fun into a small area and spread the expense. The Tentacles were just a random attention-grabbing decoration, which stuck after gamers got used to seeing them at every show. When we moved to a bigger office, after TerraTech took off, we had some spare space and saw a chance to continue that ethos of sharing resources. Pretty soon we had half a dozen other teams working in our office, and we found lots of other ways to generate value – sharing knowledge, helping each other out with specific skills, running group events and so on. The guiding philosophy of Tentacle Zone now is to think back to the challenges we faced when starting out, and ask ourselves how we can help new teams get over those hurdles. The Incubator program we’re running now is an amazing chance to do just that – it’s incredibly exciting to see these new founders coming up, bursting with creativity, and know that we can help them avoid some of the pitfalls we stumbled into in our early days. What was the greatest single moment of your career to date? It was probably the day during the summer of 2015 when I came to work to find the Steam sales curve had skyrocketed overnight, going from about 60 daily units to nearly a thousand. We had been running very lean up to that point, there were eight of us crammed into a 200 square foot room next to a building site in Hammersmith, everyone was on two-thirds of a salary and we were wondering how long we could last like that. We didn’t know what had happened at first, until we found a major YouTuber had picked up TerraTech, after seeing the game at a show we had done earlier that year. He made a whole series, other creators started jumping in, the sales curve stayed high and we knew we had made it. Do you feel the games industry is headed in the right direction? For me, video games remain one of the most exciting, vibrant places to be. The business constantly evolves - commercially and creatively - and there’s always something new around the corner. Empowering communities is a fascinating and important trend, which we continue to focus on at Payload: bringing players into the conversation, supporting content creators and building experiences around user-generated content. I’m also really pleased to see the industry as a whole seriously engaging with the need to improve diversity and inclusion – in both team makeup and content - and proud to be able to play a part in that, with our Tentacle Zone initiatives and within our own team.

58 | MCV/DEVELOP June 2021

58 MCV 969 Final Boss_v3 FINAL.indd 58

27/05/2021 16:08


MCV JUN21 EEBZ:Layout 1 21/05/2021 12:28 Page 1


MCV/DEVELOP ISSUE 969 THE ART AND BUSINESS OF VIDEO GAMES

JUNE 2021

27/05/2021 17:08

01 MCV969 Cover section V3 FINAL.indd 2

Profile for Biz Media Ltd

MCV/DEVELOP 968 June 2021  

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded