Ex-Bizarre staff back from the brink and ready to shape their own futures
Hogrocket announced themselves to the world at the end of last month.
This new independent studio based in north west England consists of three ex-Bizarre Creations staff: Ben Ward, Peter Collier and Stephen Cakebread (creator of Geometry Wars).
They’re working with several freelance staff on games for ‘connected platforms’, including mobile and desktop devices.
We got in touch with managing director Ben Ward - formerly involved with communications and design at Bizarre - to hear why the three of them decided to start their own studio, what it’s like moving from triple-A console projects to mobile games and what we might expect from their new games.
It’s been a rough couple months for you and the rest of Bizarre. How does it feel to be ‘back’ with a new studio?
Launching a new studio feels great, and it’s really fun to try something which feels completely new and fresh. Whilst the three of us have obviously been in games a long time, what we’re doing with Hogrocket feels like a whole different ball game. The game design is our own, and we can do whatever we want with it. All deadlines are self-imposed, and the financials are ours to control. The risk is that “with great power comes great responsibility,” so we’re being incredibly harsh on ourselves as to shipping on time and to budget. Oh, and not making games which are too niche - that’s definitely a risk.
Why did the three of you choose to start your own studio?
The three of us have been thinking about doing this for quite some time, first individually but then together in the last few months. The closure of Bizarre, although incredibly sad, was a good opportunity for us to re-group and re-evaluate our professional lives. So, personally, it was a good time for each of us. However, the main reason why it’s great to start a studio now is nothing to do with the three of us; the industry is changing.
I believe that the internet is invading our industry right now, and it’s already being extremely disruptive with how traditional games companies do business. We’re in the midst of our own internet revolution, just like the music industry did a few years ago. The difference between music and games is that we have the benefit of hindsight and we’re starting to swim with the tide rather than against it.
Will you be sticking closely to your racing and arcade roots, or trying something new?
We’ll be trying new things. These new devices need a different type of game to work well, so we want to play them to their strengths. There’s no point trying to force a square peg into a round hole. The nice thing is that we don’t need to stick to one particular genre or style. Development has really opened up in the last couple of years.
Who are you targeting your games at?
Initially we’re looking to build a strong and vibrant community around Hogrocket. We’ll soon be launching a website which will provide a great deal of insight into what we’re doing as a team, and what it’s like to start an indie games studio. Obviously this appeals to a certain type of person, usually gaming enthusiasts. Once we’ve got that in place we’ll take it from there...
What’s it like going from complicated, high risk multi-platform games to mobile games?
It’s very different. We’ve seen blockbuster games get larger and larger to the point that you can’t compete unless you have a 20-hour single-player campaign, a comprehensive multiplayer, leaderboards, timed game modes, hidden collectibles, unlockable characters, social network integration, Achievements and Trophies, etc. There’s a whole lot of stuff to think about in triple-A games nowadays, and that’s just to be competitive.
Designing a mobile game is a much more focused task. The games that work well tend to have one or two extremely well-defined mechanics, and that’s pretty much all there is to it. In my opinion today’s high-end mobile games are much more polished and directed than the equivalent console games. Of course, there’s an awful lot of rubbish on mobile platforms, but that’s a different conversation.
You’ve said you are initially focusing on iPhone, Mac and PC titles. Would you like to work on multi-platform home console games again at some point?
Possibly, but to be honest making anything on consoles is out of our budget at the moment, considering we’re entirely self-funded. We’d love to be there eventually, but for now our priorities lie in more agile platforms - building a solid base for ourselves is the main aim.
Will you be looking to hire at Hogrocket?
Yes, eventually. For now we are working with a small set of exceptionally talented freelancers to finish our first couple of titles. After that, who knows?
Between Hogrocket, Lucid Games and High Moon Studios, developers are forming new companies swiftly after being let go. Would this be possible without the relative openness and entry-level of web and mobile platforms?
Yes, it would be possible, but I’m not sure if it would be desirable. We’re only able to be agile because of these new platforms and distribution methods, but they open up options to such a large degree that it’s almost a different industry. In my opinion start-ups should embrace the freedom and power that the internet brings, and push these advantages as far as they possibly can.
Find out more about Hogrocket.