“There are many challenges that you face when you are an independent studio but knowing why you’re different and the values that you stand for are the most important!” – Firesprite’s Graeme Ankers

Every month an industry leader wraps up MCV/DEVELOP with their unique insight. This month, we talk to Graeme Ankers, MD, Firesprite.

Firesprite was born from the ashes of Sony’s Studio Liverpool, in terms of approach and mindset, what did you keep and what were you keen to change?

Studio Liverpool had built its reputation developing showcase games for the launch of new PlayStation consoles from PlayStation 1 in 1996 with games like Formula 1 through to the culturally significant and awesome Wipeout.

As Firesprite, we wanted the studio to bring an innovation to every game that we work on, whether that is a gameplay feature or a new technology, drawing from that heritage of showcasing creative and technical innovation. That mindset would be the cornerstone that set Firesprite apart, always striving to bring something new to a game or genre. We’re also big fans of horror & stealth so we felt it was time to move into new genres; that was a key change for us.

You’ve always been keen to work on new tech, where do you see technology taking the industry in the future?

Firesprite has always been at the frontline of new technologies and peripherals and it has been an incredible journey that we are privileged to be working on, from augmenting realities, immersing players in virtual realities, through to tactile feedback to the player through the controller. I think as developers we have only just begun to touch the surface of player immersion through haptic feedback and player presence and I can imagine huge changes coming in the future around how players will interact with our games, especially the more social, shared experiences

What are some of the biggest challenges today for an independent studio?

I think the biggest challenge is knowing what makes your studio and games stand out from all others. Whether it’s our own game or working with a partner, you would choose to work with Firesprite if you wanted to reinvent a genre or showcase a new feature that hasn’t been done before. There are many challenges that you face when you are an independent studio but knowing why you’re different and the values that you stand for are the most important!

How is the north-west development scene? What more could be done to help it grow further?

The North West actually has a very diverse and healthy game development scene today with a mix of small and medium independents through to larger established studios and publishers such as Sony PlayStation, Travellers’ Tales and Cloud Imperium Games by way of examples.

There are many elements that would help support growth, continued partnerships with higher education, financial backing in training and infrastructure, and traditional investment that understands game development.

We hear you’re keen on boxing, and used to box yourself, does any of that competitiveness feed back into your work?

Haha, yes, I do love boxing and did box a long time ago. My own philosophy is that your only competition is yourself, you will always learn from other people, but I have never tried to compete with anyone else, I would rather spend time trying to improve myself.

Games development is a passion business, running a growing studio and creating amazing games is fully engaging and it is important to find time to switch off as well. Boxing training really helps me with breaking up long working days and can clear your mind. In today’s world it’s shadow boxing and skipping, I can’t wait to get back to the gym, only when it’s safe to do so!

About Chris Wallace

Chris is MCV/DEVELOP's staff writer, joining the team after graduating from Cardiff University with a Master's degree in Magazine Journalism. He can regrettably be found on Twitter at @wallacec42, where he mostly explores his obsession with the Life is Strange series, for which he refuses to apologise.

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