Forget designing games for the next-generation consoles, meet the next-generation of games designersâ?¦Two young designers from Scotland have stepped into the industry spotlight through the founding of their firm One Zero, and are aiming high with plans to sell their idea for a new FPS to a top publisher.
Ewan Dodds (aged 14) and Gregory Foster (aged 16) are childhood friends who live just outside Edinburgh.
Despite their youth, the two already have secured a £500 business grant from the Prince’s Trust’s young entrepreneur Business Programme which the two are planning to invest in hardware and middleware to build their prototype. Smartly, the two don’t think they’ll be able to turn their idea for a triple-A shooter into a fully-fledged game alone – so instead are hoping to create a intellectual property they can sell to a publisher or developer.
“It all started at school when we had an idea for a good computer game and decided to make it. Researching it over the past year we’ve realised we can’t do it just on ourselves,” Dodds explained to Develop at the Edinburgh Interactive Festival. The two haven’t been shy in playing up to their youthful innocence, however, having blagged their way into the Festival and then proceeded to schmooze the attendant execs, approaching the likes of Rod Cousens for advice during the event’s coffee breaks.
“Right now we’re trying to get together the money and build up the contacts,” explained Dodds, armed with the delegate list and joking that he was treating the collection of bigwig business cards ‘like Pokémon’.
Jokes and youthful innocence, however, don’t seem to disguise the fact that the team at One Zero (it’s binary for two) have their heads screwed on about how they will put their plan into action – and both are confident they have a winning idea.
Their concept, still to be built as a full prototype however, is a shooter which Dodds likens to Gears of War with “nice gory, meaty violence” (he dodged the question about being too young to legally own the 18-rated Epic title – or the later-mentioned Bioshock and Halo – joking he only has the games for “market research purposes”). The game is inspired by their favourite titles – the two are fans of shooters and real-time strategy games, enjoying the multiplayer components in the likes Halo and Gears of War.
One Zero’s concept will boast a mix of third-person and first-person action as the key gameplay mechanic, setting the title up for a mix visceral shooting and slower-paced horror aspects. The (of course) guarded storyline involves time travel, making for an experience Dodds concedes might sound “complicated, maybe convoluted” to some, but which Foster says is nevertheless “ambitious”.
Adds Dodds: “I think with the success of games like Bioshock there is now an appetite amongst publishers for shooters that are inventive or different.”
But like Bioshock and Gears of War, the two are planning to build a franchise rather than a one-off idea. “All the companies I talk to say that they are expecting a franchise, so we’re thinking of creating a property like Final Fantasy that can have nineteen sequels rather than one game,” says Dodds.
Still, they don’t want to run before they can walk and are now focusing on the prototype – depending how that fits in between school, of course.
Much of the programming will be handled by maths whizzkid Foster (Dodds is the self-described chattier “front guy”). Typical for a coder, Foster says less than his business partner and friend, but he tells us: “We can’t build a full game ourselves, but we’ll build a demo.” He’s chosen the Unity Engine for that. “It’s not expensive, and we can’t really afford Unreal Engine 3 on our £2 a week pocket money. We just want a cheap and quick engine – it doesn’t need to be amazingly powerful because we just want a prototype that will run for 20 minutes.”
Once that is built, the idea is to sell the game to a publisher for a flat fee, or work on a consultancy basis collaborating on sequels in exchange for a royalty. The two have already held meetings with UK publishing execs, games studios and universities for advice and have realistic expectations for what might come of One Zero’s efforts. Says Dodds, “We’re prepared to take some cash if a publisher likes the idea, but turns around and says ‘Right we don’t want to talk to you any more’.” Then the two could turn their minds to their next idea which they could sell on, he says. And if publishers don’t like the idea? Foster is pragmatic: “Then it’ll help on our CVs and for when we go to university.”
The two aren’t particularly bothered if the industry doesn’t take the two young designers seriously, either. Adds Dodds: “Well, I don’t think we’re taking ourselves too seriously to be honest. It’s less about the money and more about the game at the moment. We have a good idea and are prepared to take time to get that right and prove we can do it.”