BillyGoat Entertainment on the Galactic Empire, Kickstarter and the Brexit

Alex Calvin
BillyGoat Entertainment on the Galactic Empire, Kickstarter and the Brexit

It’s often strange how life imitates art. 

For example, Irish indie developer BillyGoat Entertainment’s latest game, adventure title Her Majesty’s SPIFFING, tells the story of a Britain increasingly isolated from the rest of the world... actually, developer Will Barr can probably do a better job of explaining the game. 

“The Queen decides to take control of the country again in a bid to make Britain as great as it once was,” he says. “But instead, Her Majesty has decided to explore space instead with this organisation called SPIFFING – Special Planetary Investigative Force Force Inhabiting New Galaxies. Players have to jet around the galaxy to find new planets to claim for a Galactic British Empire. Hilarity ensues.”

Before Her Majesty’s SPIFFING, BillyGoat was an animation company that dipped its toes into games development with some iPhone titles and outsourcing work. The firm then turned to Kickstarter not once but twice to fund their quirky political adventure game. 

“The first Kickstarter failed awfully,” Barr says. 

“We knew it was always going to be difficult, we didn’t have a proper back catalogue and we were this obscure Belfast-based indie developer. We were always going to struggle. It didn’t work out and we needed to lay some people off. The plan was always to try and do it again.

“Ten months later we did a second Kickstarter and scraped over the line. We only asked for £30,000. We also had help from Northern Ireland Screen, who provided some match funding. We were able to use the UK video game tax breaks, too. We also had some money from the work-for-hire stuff and a substantial overdraft. We are at the point where we have now exhausted all that money and we are close to release. Come hell or high water, it’s coming out on PS4, Xbox One and Steam.”

Due to the Brexit vote in June, BillyGoat had to rewrite parts of the game and some jokes in order for the title to make sense post-referendum. 

“Some of our references to Brussels just didn’t make any sense anymore,” Barr says.  

“One of the things we quickly decided to do was there was a button on the character’s spaceship called the ‘Self Destruct Switch’ so we crudely put an ‘Article 50’ sticker up the side of it. This stuff just writes itself. There are references to Farage in there as well. We were genuinely a bit concerned that due to the tone of the game, for a European audience, it may have come across as somewhat arrogant and we were worried they wouldn’t get the satire and sarcasm. The way we have been pitching the title is the ‘Official Brexit Game’. The way I see it is someone has to benefit from this.”

The game’s sense of humour is very British. But Barr says the team has made tweaks to the title for an international audience. These are in keeping with the game’s satirical tone.  

“We have actually thought about this and in the game itself you have the opportunity between using an English voice and an American voice,” he says. “If you use the US one, after all the appropriate jokes, we have a laugh track just so the audience is aware of whenever a joke is happening.

“We are confident that it’ll find a big enough market that we won’t be bankrupt at the end of the year. Possibly.”

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Tags: Interviews , interview , Kickstarter , indie interview , Brexit

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