Out of the current line-up of indie developers, Cliff Harris is among the longest serving.
In his past he has worked for Lionhead of Fable fame, but now he is a lone gun.
His outfit, Positech, is a stark contrast to that triple-A studio. On its website, you will see a ‘No Corporate Nonsense’ section, denouncing brand statements and the like – ironically, in itself, a brand statement.
“This is a company based around making the kind of games that I want to play whether or not that’s the most corporate sensible thing to do,” explains Harris.
“I personally don’t like free-to-play even though all the analysis shows that I’d be making more money from making my games free-to-play. But I won’t do that even though it’s financially sensible. It doesn’t appeal to me. It’s very different from a normal company because it’s the whims of one person really."
It’s just Harris working at Positech, and he publishes his own games. He says that 91 per cent of the revenue goes back to him, but this isn’t the biggest reason behind his decision to self-publish.
“I can do absolutely anything I want. I can make exactly what I want to make especially now as I have had a few relatively big hits. Gratuitous Space Battles 2 is entirely indulgent,” he explains.
“It’ll probably be profitable but that doesn’t matter. I don’t have to worry about that. It’s unprecedented freedom, which is brilliant.”
This is a very different story to his time at Lionhead where new ideas took a long time to become reality due to the many levels of management.
"I kind of miss Peter Molyneux and his crazy ambition.
That was interesting."
Cliff Harris, Positech
“It’s more efficient here. At a big studio if you have a great idea, you have to persuade other people. Then it’s two or three weeks before you decide to do it. It’s insane.“
But there are some things he does miss: “I kind of miss Peter Molyneux and his crazy ambition. That was interesting,” he explains.
BANK ROLLING INDIES
Not only is he producing successful indie titles, Harris has also started to fund other indie developers. He bankrolled ‘space comedy life-sim’ Redshirt for indie studio Tiniest Shark.
“There are lots of reasons to fund games,” explains Harris.
“I like being able to help developers out that don’t have the money to fund a game. I get to choose another game that gets made that I’ll want to play. There’s a bit of self-interest there.
“If someone comes to me with the idea for a game and if I like it then I’m in the very lucky position to be able to fund it. Those developers that don’t like the business side of things can trust me to do that and not rip them off.”
Handling the business side of things? Funding games? Is Harris becoming a publisher?
“Maybe. It’s scary isn’t it? But there is such a thing as ‘nice’ publishing,” he concludes.
“I like the model of developers funding other developers. We understand what a game looks like after a month or so. We can be a lot more understanding of the process. Maybe I am becoming a publisher, but that’s not a bad thing.“