06 April 2013
A Series of Quite Fortunate Events
Hello world. We’re soft launching our blog today with this post. A number of people have asked how we came together and what we’ve been up to since we set up camp several months ago, so here’s a bit of a timeline overview.
October 2011 -- way before Force Of Habit
Nick and I (Ashley) met during the first Bristol games "Anti-Social" and Extended Play Game Jam event. We were paired randomly together with Tom Parry (Mobile Pie) and Tomas Rawlings (Red Wasp & Auroch Digital) and together from the theme of "mirrors", we created "Mirrornaut". Mirrornaut is an infinite-runner where the player has to avoid obstacles, not only by jumping, but also by flipping over a horizontal mirror-line in the centre of the screen. This game – although simple and created in around 16 hours – was awarded 2nd place at the main Extended Play Festival event in Plymouth. GO TEAM!
Not long after was the Global Game Jam event held at the Pervasive Media Studio, also in Bristol. This is an annual event that occurs in 40+ countries, in 250+ venues, and with 10,000+ participants. The theme of the jam was "Ouroboros" which is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent eating it’s own tail. Natural team-forming processes threw Nick and I together to jam again and this time left us without an artist. Unphased, we played to our strengths and created an audio "dreamscape" game with an abstract art style, named Omnivium.
The name "Omnivium" is semantically comprised of the latin prefix "omni", meaning "all" or "every", and the study of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music, known as the quadrivium.
Looking exhausted, presenting our work.
February 2012 – July 2012
While I was still studying Computing at Bournemouth University and Nick was still working as a Producer at Mobile Pie, some emails go back and forth. We discovered some common interests in creating experimental, interesting and quirky games with audio at the forefront of the experience. The idea of formally working together started brewing…
At another of the Bristol "anti-socials", Tomas Rawlings (now Games Consultant for The Wellcome Trust) mentions the "Gamify Your PhD" project to all in attendance: a two day game jam sponsored by The Wellcome Trust with the best game awarded further funding. Based on previous accolades, the perfect event. We showed interest in participating, but needed an artist. Clockwork Cuckoo (an awesome Bristol-based illustration & animation duo) also showed interested in participating, but needed a developer and sound designer - perfect! The one catch: we needed to be a limited company. Nick left his job, I graduated, and we decided to go for it! The Wellcome Trust received a fair number of applications, but we were picked to go through to London – our first hurrah as a company!
Early September 2012, we arrived early at the Wellcome Trust building in Euston, London, not entirely sure what to expect. Each developer team entrant was paired with a scientist entrant. Our scientist was Dr. Margherita Coccia, an intestinal immunology researcher from the University of Oxford. Her game idea was a reimagining of the classic Space Invaders title. Taking place in the colon with good and bad bacterial invaders, the player would control the intestinal cell wall, shooting peptides against the invaders, all while the cell wall contracts and expands during digestion - whew! With some design issues noticed early, we decided to go with a more Tempest-inspired design base. The game we created – named "Dysbiosis" – went on to win the event - 1st place! - and we have been working on it since to finish it up for a proper release.
At the GYPHD event with Clockwork Cuckoo.
Almost as if the only thing we do is game jams: another month, another game jam. A follow-up to the previous years Extended Play Game Jam. This time sponsored by the Wellcome Trust and with the theme of "deception" announced by Prof. Bruce Hood, science-oriented games were clearly more likely than others to place in the top 3. We decided to ignore this in the pursuit of something fun - we already had a science-game project going after all. In collaboration with Joe Williamson, we created "Alien Laser Bunnies", a game of camouflage and mimicry where players have to discover their opponents before their opponents discover them, also there are lasers. Download it on our Games page!
The results were announced some weeks later, and we’d been shortlisted to showcase at the main Extended Play festival event - the top 6 - another huzzah! One we definitely didn't expect.
November saw us attend Explay (Extended Play) Festival held at the Assembly Rooms in Bath. Check out those chandeliers! Nick was part of a panel discussing what games can offer science and society. No doubt I'll have to do the talking next time. We showcased Toast Time (our first project) as part of a Bootcamp programme we were involved in, and we showcased Alien Laser Bunnies for being shortlisted from the game jam. We received some fantastic feedback on the games, and just like Dysbiosis, we are working on polishing them up and getting them out there.
November also marked the launch of Simon Roth’s "Maia" Kickstarter. Nick worked on the initial trailer audio for this quite-frankly awesome looking game. There is plenty more to come from us on this as it has since been successfully funded and we're down to do the full audio production.
We moved in to our first office - the new Bristol Games Hub up in Stokes Croft. A fantastic games-oriented workplace shared with some great people. It was a delight to shake off the cabin fever our bedrooms were giving us.
We also attended a TIGA Discovery Day, meeting various people from the press and telling them all about Toast Time. Following the event, both Big Red Barrel and Girl Gamers UK posted a mini-preview. If you're not a TIGA member, we recommend becoming one.
Toast Time in development. TERRY is getting plenty of swag, including a monocle and bowler hat.
That's about it! Sorry for any waffle. It’s taken a little while for us to get things running and off the ground, but here we are, with our new website. Massive thanks to Damon Charles for designing our visual identity and website, he really knows his sh--. A final thank you to everybody who has supported us so far. You are the best.
We'll be at LAUNCH: Meet the Games Press on Tuesday. Maybe see you there!
- Ashley & Nick