It’s the start of the new week and Nine Over Ten 9/10 readers can probably guess that we are about to put up an amazing indie game developer interview. This time we are featuring the guys from UK-based Spilt Milk Studios, who brought us the superb Hard Lines retro-arcade-inspired game on the iPhone (check out the review over here). So without further ado:
Nine Over Ten 9/10: Tell us more about Spilt Milk Studios and how you started developing games
Andrew (A): Well I started up Spilt Milk Studios when I got fed up with having to do work that I didn’t really like for people I and fighting bureaucracy when all I wanted to do was make I thought were fun. I’d spent about 6 years working in games companies, building up my expertise, and slowly realising I wouldn’t be happy unless I gave myself a chance to go it alone.
So I set up my company, and the iPhone market was by far the simplest and most cost-effective to enter as I began the long process of establishing a company.
Nicky (N): I worked in traditional game development for about a decade after finishing uni as a programmer. I worked for Codemasters on the Colin McRae Rally games, and later for Realtime Worlds as part of the wildly ambitious and less than successful APB, and lots of other canned projects in the middle.
After Realtime Worlds collapsed I decided I was fed up of seeing game projects ruined by insane management decisions and left games to move into film post-production. At that point I instantly forgot all the bad stuff and realised I missed making games like crazy.
9/10: What were your inspirations behind coming up with Hard Lines?
A: Me and Nicky got drunk on New Year’s Eve 2010 and reckoned we should make a game, and when 2011 dawned, we were still pretty confident we’d kick ass as a team.
N: I told Andy how I’d played the iPhone version of Tron made for the new film, and was a bit disappointed that it hadn’t improved on the ancient arcade game. He agreed it felt like a missed opportunity, so we decided make the game we wanted to play. Then things got a bit out of control and it started to take on a life of its own, like some kind of mutant 2D retro Skynet.
9/10: What were the challenges you faced coming up Hard Lines, and how did you overcome them?
A: The toughest thing for me has been reigning in the ideas. The freedom to do what we want is overwhelming, but obviously the game would never come out if we put in all our ideas. That’s why I LOVE the AppStore business model (and admittedly it’s the same on PC these days too) because we can spend as long as we want updating and releasing new content far into the future. As long as we and the fans are having fun, we’ll keep on updating it!
N: I distinctly remember saying that we should do something simple so we could turn it around quickly and get some experience, then make a good game after that. Somehow we ended up making a ridiculously ambitious game from the offset and refused at any point to believe that we could fail. The biggest challenge for me was always time.
I’m the only coder on the project (probably because I’m a MASSIVE control freak) and also have a full-time job, so Hard Lines was made in my bedroom whenever I had any spare time. That was pretty tough but the joy of seeing the game come to life and having complete freedom to put in whatever crazy ideas I wanted helped a lot. That and Andy routinely whipped me to within an inch of my life.
9/10: How has the response been to Hard Lines on the App Store?
A: Frankly, it’s been amazing. I think we’ve had more than forty 5-star reviews across the USA and UK stores, and of course the obligatory 1-star reviews (two of them to be precise, one because we don’t support older OS’s – fixed in our first update and out this week) so we’ve certainly hit the big time.
We’re very much fuelling our egos with all the amazing critic reviews too. Just waiting on Metacritic updating so we can really start to gloat! Of course we’re not like that, but I am totally blown away. Hard Lines is the highest-reviewed game of my career so far, and it was made by two people. I feel more than a little vindicated in my decision to set up my own games company.
N: It’s been unbelievable. Thinking that a game made in my bedroom is being taken so seriously and generating such acclaim seems mental to me. Considering it’s the first iPhone game I’ve ever been involved with it’s been staggering to see the reviews rolling in.
Finally, can you share with us some of your upcoming plans?
A: Well we’re going to be making Hard Lines the best, most content-rich and downright hilarious game on the AppStore! Like I sad we’ve already submitted an update so older iOS versions can play it, but we’ve got a lot of big plans for the game beyond that. I’ll let Nicky be the big tease he is in regards to that.
For the company, I’m looking into what the next game is going to be, and am actually hoping to secure some funding this very week for the next project. Could be something very different from Hard Lines, but rest assured it will have the same spirit of fun, personality and humour.
N: The current most-asked-for features for Hard Lines are native iPad support, retina support, Game Center support and multi-player. Since everyone has been SO BLOODY NICE I feel honour-bound to add all these things. We also have plans to do something super-special to give back to the wonderful community that’s springing up around the game. Well, quite a few things actually. Is that enough of a tease?
Spilt Milk Studios is an independent games developer and game design consultancy based in the UK. Offering a wide range of top tier services across games design, level design, writing, pitching, outsource managing, concepting, and QA to anyone who wants to bring experience and a track record to their current and future projects.
For more info about Spilt Milk Studios, check out their site at http://www.spiltmilkstudios.com/, or better still, join them on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Spilt-Milk-Studios/156156421092881?sk=wall