CEO Simon Gardner tells us why the studio behind Assassin’s Creed Chronicles is focusing solely on virtual and augmented reality
Tell us about Climax for those not familiar with your work.
We’re an independent game development studio based in Portsmouth, UK and Auckland, New Zealand. Our two studios are about 11,450 miles from each other, but both have a Nandos in very close proximity.
Our history is rooted in console game development, but three years ago we entered the VR space and have self-published Bandit Six and Salvo with help from Oculus.
By the year’s end, we will have seven VR and AR titles on the market and we have just started production of our 10th VR/AR game.
What has been the biggest development for your studio in 2016?
Our next launch will be Gunsight on the Gear VR: a fast-paced shooter in the vein of games like Contra or Metal Slug.
We were also part of the Google Daydream announcement, which was very satisfying.
We have been working closely with Google on a number of VR and AR projects and we have some really exciting games coming out later this year and early 2017.
Why are you concentrating primarily on virtual reality? Given the lack of an install base currently out there, is this not a risk?
We missed the whole ‘mobile’ rush a few years ago due to being busy on console, but were determined not to miss out on VR.
Whilst it was a risk initially and we had to invest, it gave us plenty of opportunities to develop core skills and experience at an affordable cost.
By being in at the start, you can take more risks with smaller games and experiences. I can’t imagine the cost
of trying to go toe-to-toe with Supercell today.
Truth is, we still have two console games in development and we also do contract engineering work – or ‘performance engineering’, as I’ve taken to calling it. This is a combination of optimisation and bug fixing that we do along side of the core team – usually an internal developer – to allow them to concentrate on finishing their game.
What role will augmented reality play in the future of your company? And what is the importance of mixed reality?
Mixed reality is the merging of real and virtual worlds to produce new environments and visualisations where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time.
This and augmented reality are going to be a big part of our company and probably your life.
Our early success in VR opened some doors to see what some of these mixed reality companies are working on.
HoloLens is an impressive bit of kit that, whilst expensive, is available to buy today.
I’m lucky enough to have been out to visit Magic Leap in Florida a number of times and whilst I can’t talk about it, I will say it is deeply impressive and once you try these technologies, your mind races with possible applications.
What impact is this technology having on the games industry?
Ease of use and portability. Hopefully all of the AR/MR devices will obviously be wearable but look cool, be untethered and have sufficient performance and power to last a day.
Just like mobile phones, eventually everybody will have a connected AR device that will be capable of a very broad range of tasks and will also replace all other existing screens.
Already with VR, you are starting to see new types of controllers and gesture recognition hardware emerging. Couple that with more voice control and eye-tracking, it will open up new experiences and gameplay.
They should also broaden the demographic of players – to some people, a traditional controller is still a pretty confusing bit of hardware.
Portability means that the device is always with you and you can play traditional games on a big virtual screen that only you can see, or these new types of games that blend the real environment with rendered scenes in new and exciting ways.
If you work for a company today that makes screens – phones, televisions, laptops and so on – and that company either isn’t already investing in AR/MR, then I’d be looking to move.
Are you planning to expand this year at all?
We are actively recruiting now. Our New Zealand studio was initially made up from ex-Gameloft employees, but they have recently made four more hires and we expect that growth to continue through 2016 and 2017.
We were also able to hire more staff recently with the closure of Gameloft’s studio in Valencia, who have relocated to the UK. We hope to hit a head count of around 130 by the end of this year.
STUDIO SPOTLIGHT: CLIMAX STUDIOS
Location: Portsmouth, UK
Best known for: Climax has made a name for itself with Assassin’s Creed Chronicles and VR titles such as Bandit Six