The Average Gamer

Friday Feature – London’s Indie Developers

For this week’s feature, I decided to have a look at London’s thriving indie developer community. They are a fairly communal bunch with regular meet-ups on the first Monday of every month and they have their own London Indies website. There’s also a Twitter hashtag called #LondonIndies where many post-pub discussions can be found.

If you’ve read our recent “You Don’t Want To Work In The Game Industry” post you’ll understand why so many developers are creating games on their own or with their friends. Take a look at the TIGForums and you’ll see that there is a large and supportive community of developers working away on lots of great Indie games.

Earlier on this week I chatted to two indie developers Dugan Jackson and Rudolf Kremers about how they got into Indie development and their current PlayStation Network theme “A is for Astronaut.” Long time Average Gamer readers may recognise Dugan’s name as he used to be one of the regular contributors to the site and has previously worked on Operation Vietnam (DS) and Gravity Crash (PSN).

How did you both end up being indie developers?

DJ: I originally come from a traditional art and film background, but have worked in the games industry for well over a decade. It’s a long time since I practised with tools like DPaint and Shoot’Em-Up Construction Kit (a.k.a. SEUCK) on the Amiga, but they were great in starting me making games. After making `RockBoshers` recently I setup a small indie company Tikipod Ltd through which I collaborate with other indies as well release my own projects.

RK: I am a games industry veteran and a SciFi fan for life. After working on anything from Harry Potter to Avatar the Last Airbender I started my indie (games) company Omni Systems Limited, which acts as a publisher for SciFi ABCs. Among other things Omni has done the successful indie game Eufloria with Alex May and is currently working on various games and comics and other creative projects. The themes fit perfectly in our philosophy :-)
So why are you making themes then?

RK: The idea is that the theme is not linked to some corporate brand, but is purely meant to help fund other indie projects. The theme itself is very high quality, and is not meant to sell another project. Because of this we can purely focus on the theme itself and hopefully as a result the series will become popular with people who like dynamic themes.

Tell us about A is for Astronaut

RK: “A is for Astronaut” is a the first in a series of dynamic themes for Playstation Network. The series is modelled on old ABC posters and is some ways an ode to Science Fiction. The plan is to dedicate a theme to each letter in the alphabet, in a SciFi context.

DJ: Old paperback book cover art is another influence, like ones by Chris Foss for example. Classic sci-fi films are of course another big influence. We also wanted to make themes that you can have playing in full HD on your TV for a long time, with lots of subtle variations going on.

What was the biggest challenge in making this theme?

DJ: The themes have a limitation in file-size and processor power available to them because they run within the PS3 menu system. It’s quite small which meant it was a real challenge trying to pack in as much as we did and not make the theme fall over. Oh and the small rocks casting shadows onto the rings of dust, that was a lot more painful to do than it might look.

How did the PSN downtime affect you? Was the theme put on hold for a while?

DJ: Yes, we were all ready and due to submit just before that happened. So we had to wait until things were up and running again, then it was a couple of days after that that we went live – as Sony had to clear their backlog in order understandably.

Are you working on any new themes?

RK: Of course! There are too many to list, and we don’t want to give away too much but if you think of classic scenes form SciFi books and films the chances are that something like that will find a way into the series. Dugan is probably going to do an epic space battle next, which is rather exciting.

DJ: Yes for the next one I`m torn between that idea and another involving satellites. We shall see which wins out.

What’s next?

RK: We are working on various projects, including a SciFi exploration game called StarLit, with David Parsons of Gravity Crash fame. StarLit is actually spiritually connected to “A is for Astronaut” as it has a similar protagonist.

DJ: We also hope to have our themes available in world wide, as currently it’s only available in Europe and Australasia.

What are your favourite biscuits? Do you have different biscuits for different stages of development?

DJ: I believe that’s an industry standard yes, but also an industry secret!

RK: We need our biscuit secrets to stay enigmatic!

Thanks for your time.

You can follow the progress of one of Dugan’s other projects Aqua Kitty (working title) on the TIGforums.

Update 28th Oct 2011: A is for Astronaut will be available on the US PSN Store from the 1st Nov 2011.