Today we turn to a prime example of a studio rising from the 2009 crash in Australia – Defiant Development from Brisbane.
Morgan Jaffit came out of such studios as Relic Entertainment and Irrational Games, or more recently Pandemic. Dan Treble came by way of EA Warrington, also Pandemic and then Krome (one of Queensland’s largest studios).
When the larger studios began closing en masse in 2008-2009, the pair linked up to create the aptly named Defiany Development, refusing to move overseas and intent on capturing the local talent during the crash and finding new roles for the best of the departing studios.
"We’ve gone from what was nothing four years to become a real studio making real games," Jaffit tells develop. "We’re making our own IP on our own terms from the ground-up at scale – big, original Australian games – and I am so proud of that."
Things started small, but quickly for Defiant, releasing the award-winning mobile title Rocket Bunnies in 2010 and then the dungeon-crawling RPG-gone-casual Heroes’ Call in 2012, and later publishing the hit endless skier Ski Safari by Brendan Watts and Shawn Eustace. It then successfully Kickstarted Hand of Fate, a larger game which blends action RPG gaming with deck-building card-game strategy.
"We’ve unleashed this team here and let them build something. The reports and the feedback we’re getting from players it that we’ve build something they enjoy. It reminds me of when I got into game development in the late 90s in terms of the scale, scope and the size of team."
Genreally speaking, we’ve got one and a half development projects on at a time: something which is our core focus and a small update or client project. We’re really focused on being pretty flat – one of the nice things about being 15 peoploe is that you don’t need a lot of hierarchy to get things done, so everybody works together and collaborates together and we find that works really well."
Jaffit found himself in the envious position of having his pick of the litter during the crash, and had no problems establishing a good mixture of experience at Defiant. He puts the ratio at approximately 40 per cent veterans, 40 per cent intermediate and 20 per cent juniors.
"I think the best opportunities arise when you combine veterans and juniors, give juniors a chance to learn off veterans and veterans a chance to get some fresh approaches and insight from junior staff," he explains.
While Jaffit does cite the travel costs and difficulties in communication as key issues facing especially smaller Australian developers, he also notes that he loves the location to bits.
"The community is great, the talent is good, there’s a very familial attitude across all of the different development groups. Quality of life is really nice in Australia, and living in Queensland is fantastic. We live in a tropical paradise, and it’s not bad."