Wish Studios: High hopes

Wish Studios: High hopes
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

November 20th 2012 at 10:00AM

Wish Studios is a new developer with bold aspirations. Develop caught up with its founders to find out more

You may not have heard of Wish Studios a month ago. Quietly the newly formed developer’s three founders have built up their studio, brokered a huge deal with a major publisher and are now poised to step fully into the limelight.

The deal was announced moments before the printer responsible for the magazine you now hold in your hands was fired up to speed, and is a significant agreement, still draped in mystery. In short – for details are sparse – it is a partnership with Sony.

For now, all that is known is that Wish CEO Caspar Field, along with CCO Tom Bennett and CTO Paul Brooke, are working on prototyping new IP for the platform holder. And that’s it.

But while the team behind Wish may be keeping the project a secret for now, they are ready to talk about the creative approach they hope will define their studio. The founding trio at one point worked together at Relentless Software, and have some 40 years of experience making games behind them, with particular expertise in the realms of augmented reality and motion control.

And its focus, says Field, is not on platforms or business models, but on something far more fundamental to the process of making video games.

WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA?

“With the huge proliferation of platforms there is these days, Wish is focusing on great ideas,” explains Field.

“We really want to make that the core of what we’re about. Really all these things that are circling around the industry at the moment, in terms of those platforms and business models; all of those things are really just great ways of getting good ideas out there. I think people talk a lot about all that stuff and forget that ideas are what is important, and all that is nothing without those ideas.”

To Wish, concepts like smart TV, second screens, monetisation and digital distribution are in essence a single entity; a vehicle to deliver ideas. What’s more, the new ecosystem of the games development sector gives these veterans of production and design a new opportunity, as Bennett details.

“We’ve all had lots of experience of doing these big games with little risk, but now we have all these technologies we can be a little braver and bolder with our ideas,” he confirms.

“We’d all started to look at doing that over the past few years, and as we realised how well we worked together and how quickly ideas are generated between us, it became apparent we had to set up Wish.”

STARTING AFRESH

And so it was. After a project at Relentless wound down, a window of opportunity to breakaway and start afresh presented itself, and so the colleagues pounced, and are now building a model that will allow them to work on both client and internal projects.

“We’ve got loads of ideas and loads we want to do, and some really specific areas of expertise, so we feel we can just take work that feels right for us as a group,” says Field.

“We do have lots of expertise in motion control and augmented reality, and we’ve worked across loads of very different platforms. We particularly have a great belief in the shared experience of gaming. We ourselves have a regular games night where we get together and play proper multiplayer games where you share the experience together in the same room. I think that’s important and I think there’s a lot of people who still want that classic multiplayer feel.”

All this talk of new ideas is very encouraging, but it’s immediately apparent that Wish face a significant challenge. Capturing the spirit of a near-bygone era of games design while focusing on revolutionary ideas and a diverse range of modern platforms will take something of a miraculous balancing act.

At least, that’s the established perspective of such a problem. But to Wish, the dichotomy of capturing new and old in single titles is more of an opportunity.

RECLAIMING SOCIAL

“There’s been this huge social scene for a while now, and as it’s begun to make more money, it’s become more saccharine and watered down,” says Bennett.

“Somewhere along that evolution of what ‘social’ meant in terms of games, the industry lost sight of making great games that were social. I’m talking titles like Street Fighter and Worms and all those games that brought people together. Those were what we’d call ‘hardcore’, but they were still something I’d play with my girlfriend. They were easy to use, but allowed for that showmanship. That’s the point we want to find.”

It is apparent, then, that Wish has ambitions to make truly social games that contradict all the clichés about Facebook games and mindless gameplay. Field and Bennett talk enthusiastically about how games of the 1990s combined accessibility, depth and the opportunity for showmanship of high-level skills, all without being defined as casual or hardcore or anything else quite so restrictive.

“We see all these options as one platform really,” explains Bennet. “People are too quick to put everything into boxes, and actually it’s just about great ideas. All these platforms, even if you’re talking second screen and smart TV, they’re reaching this level of parity. It’s quite an exciting time because your ideas can work across most or even all of them.”

In that context, it’s little surprise that the team are quick to talk of the benefits of the Unity engine, which is famed for both its multiplatform support and the rapid prototyping so vital for an ideas-focused studio. In fact, Wish lists experience with Unity as one of its core strengths, along with ‘in the room social’.

PAINTING A PICTURE

Looking forward, Wish plans to expand slowly, staying in the Brighton hub and working with freelancers and contractors.

There’s also a clear idea in place of the creative process, which Field, a former games journalist with training in the arts, describes as similar to working with canvas and paints.

“For us, creating a game is like doing an oil painting,” says Field. “You start with an outline, and you build up lots of layers. As you lay on the paint, you increase your understanding of the subject and what it is about. You can constantly rework the details and constantly improve the overall with the layers. That’s how we build our games. We don’t want to list 50 things and do them averagely well; we like to pick just three or four things and build them up to something brilliant, deep and nuanced.”

Wish is a team with strong ideas about the method and theory of its games design process. It’s games, however, remain a secret, and until they are public it is hard to predict the impact Field, Bennet and Brooke will make.

Certainly they have the heritage and experience to make their company thrive, and with a major Sony project underway Wish is explicitly already impressing the right people.

www.wishstudios.co.uk