Sean Cleaver speaks to Coatsink's chief operating officer, Eddie Beardsmore, about their CE50 nomination, the studio's VR development and its growth
Coatsink were formed in 2009 and since then have been involved in many projects. Recently they've been making many games for the Samsung Gear VR and recently were nominated in Creative England's CE50, a list of the top 50 creative companies in England. We caught up with the chief operating officer, Eddie Beardsmore, to tell us more about the nomination.
"Thank you very much to Creative England for giving us this opportunity," Eddie says. "Yeah it’s absolutely fantastic to be nominated. It’s difficult I guess as a games developer until you have a portfolio to really get yourself off the mark but we’re very lucky to have some absolutely amazing staff. I’m not a developer I just manage a little bit. But these guys, like the programmers and the artists they just come up with such amazing stuff."
Coatsink have been working on VR games for the past two years including the incredibly successful Esper and its sequel Esper 2, which starred Nick Frost, Sean Pertwee and Lara Pulver in its voice cast. "We worked with OMUK for the voice recordings for Esper and they were just talking about the different options we had for these characters and it just came up that these guys were available," explains Eddie. "Nick Frost especially seemed very interested in it, so [with] the chance of working with Nick we jumped straight onboard.
"It wasn’t kind of anything I was expecting at the start of the project but it was something that just fell in to it as we were going and it was amazing. The day Nick Frost was recording, we had it live over Skype so the whole office could hear him recording the lines. If you can imagine no work got done that day. Everyone was listening, laughing - it was so funny."
Coatsink have been heavily involved in virtual reality since the medium became open for developers and have three projects in the works, including the recently announced Augmented Empire. "We’ve been working in VR since the kickstarter of the Oculus, and we’re quite passionate about it," Eddie says, who explains how the nomination with Creative England came about. "We think it’s the next step in gaming. There were all these cool concepts and stuff that we wanted to try and the one that we signed up with with Creative England was actually started off with a global game jam.
"We built this small prototype in those two days in January 2015 and it was just a really cool concept. It was a game called Vantage Point that we were working on and it was basically like an asymmetric game where you’ve got one player inside the virtual headset and another working alongside as their partner in crime trying to lead them through this almost like a maze filled with enemies. There’s certain things that each other can see so they have to communicate the entire time.
"And that’s really inspired [from a game] called Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes - that was a big inspiration for it along with Alien Isolation. We had this prototype and were really quite excited about it but because of other commitments we couldn’t work on it full time. We were looking for opportunities to get some funding to take it further. We got some money from the prototype fund and so we had a good working prototype, which we showed, or put forward, to Greenshoots, and they seem to really like the idea. I was really fortunate because when I said ‘Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes’ and apparently they’d been playing that all of Christmas so they knew exactly what I was talking about straight away."
Whilst the studio's work has been heavily in VR with the Samsung Gear VR, which is the highest selling VR platform, Coatsink aren't happy to solely rely on developing for the medium, as Eddie explains."Yeah right now, it certainly seems that Gear VR is the strongest platform and we are working on new titles for the Gear VR. But we’re still exploring the options. You may have seen we’re hoping to work on a new project and Oculus were talking about their standalone Oculus. So we’d love to work on something like that. And as great as the Gear VR is, without that body tracking it really limits the kind of gameplay you can do. So we’re really excited to hopefully be working on a project with that as well.
"We’re very much aware that the safest bet is to keep our options open, we do a lot of work with Oculus and we’re a partner developer with them so they support us and we’re building some games for that, which is great. But then obviously Gang Beasts you can play in VR but it’s not exclusive to it. We built the back end multiplayer for that. And we recently were working with some Switch dev kits in the office. So we’re working with some partners for a Switch game as well. So we’re very much invested in the VR, we’re hoping it goes forward and the game’s doing very well, especially on Gear VR. But we’re not putting all our eggs in one basket."
This of course means growth and new hires top manage all these projects. You can read on Coatsink's website that they consider themselves to be a small, almost family feel studio. In fact Eddie's brother Tom is the founder and CEO of the company. But the team has grown very quickly and Eddie is happy with the feel they've cultivated.
"It’s interesting [with the hires] we didn’t expect it to go like this. When I joined, obviously Tom being my brother we’re very close and I’ve known everybody who’s worked at the company, I joined two years ago when the company was just about twelve people. And that over time went to about 22 and now we’re at 43 plus five interns that we have at the moment. It’s great, the most important thing for me is keeping that small kind of indie mentality I guess, which is like this family mentality that you talked about and I think we’re doing it pretty well. Everyone seems happy. I wouldn’t say it’s been very typical of anything, we’ve just been trying to keep our feet on the ground and hopefully we just keep going the way we’re going."