How an indie UK studio is redefining the role of the games developer in the modern era

Game Changers: nDreams

This feature is the latest in our series of Amiqus-sponsored Game Changer profiles – articles chronicling the firms reshaping video games development

Games are exciting. They let you do or be whatever and whoever you like. They break down the passive wall of books, films and music, drawing you into the thick of the action. They are responsible for and utilsie revolutionary technology and ideas to tell their stories, which through the playing of them become your stories.

Games also cross media with an ease other forms of story-telling cannot hope to match. They can be played anywhere, at any time, and in any medium. The possibilites in every aspect of games are limitless, though some developers could be accused of forgetting this from time to time.

Not so with nDreams. The Hampshire-based firm, founded in 2006, has been developing alternate reality games based on platforms as varied as Facebook (Spirit of Adventure); Playstation Home (Xi) and corporate websites (Lewis Hamilton: Secret Life) for the entirety of its short existence. It has been redefining what a video games studio actually is, while still finding its feet as a company.

That momentum has also been well maintained. nDreams is currently hard at work on a top secret title for XBLA and PSN. As for what can be expected this time, one thing seems certain – judging by the way in which nDreams operate creatively, whatever it is they are up to won’t be like anything we have seen from them or most likely anyone else ever before.

“We’re trying to create new kinds of games,” says nDreams CEO Patrick O’Luanaigh.

“We’re planning to push PlayStation Home in a big way as a games platform in its own right soon. We have something very exciting in pre-production for PSN and XBLA which will be very different from everything that has come before.”

These laudible ideas would perhaps, from the mouth of another developer, sound like simple over-excitement. nDreams, however, is a firm built on new ideas. The company is also undergoing a level of expansion that suggests its bold dreams for the future of games are backed up by a substantial level of business acumen.

“We’re building up the number of new games and digital content we publish,” says O’Luanaigh.

“We’re also growing our home team and releasing our first iPhone and iPad titles.”

This growth, while undoubtably eminating from the studio’s earlier successes, also seems to be based around the idea that the industry is altering substantially and frequently during the ongoing casual games and digital distribution revolution.

“Things have changed dramatically,” O’Luanaigh agrees.

“Traditional publishers are retreating to the safety of big triple-A titles during the recession, whilst new developers and publishers have sprung up focusing on the new digital platforms. We’re really excited about the future, and we’re seeing a number of great new UK-based developers and publishers thriving on the new platforms.”

This excitement is something that seems to be shared by nDreams in its entirety, and that translated into a prolific period of development the results of which are soon to be revealed.

“We hope to announce a number of new projects, larger in scale and scope than we’ve done so far,” O’Luanaigh explains.

“We’re continuing to focus on innovation and creating new kinds of games. You’ll see less focus on Facebok and more on Appstore, PSN, XBLA and Playstation Home.”

The firm also has a strong self image, and O’Luanaigh has an impressive level of confidence about what nDreams is and why it deserves to be talked about.

“I hope our appeal is that we deliver innovative, high quality digital games which are commercial yet unique,” he says.

“We have a big focus on ‘social storytelling’, and most of our projects involve narrative and stories in various forms. And we have some very exciting ideas for a different kind of game which isn’t like anything else.”

Keeping one step ahead of convention is clearly something that nDreams not only strives for, but something that has quickly become so synonymous with the firm’s image that maintaining it is important for maintaining its relevance. This would be a daunting position for the most hardened of veteran studios, but O’Luanaigh and nDreams seem to feed off of the challenge and use it for content creation.

“We’re always trying new things, and we have quite a flexible team. We’ve learnt a great deal over the last few years, and we’re using that knowledge to get beter,” O’Luanaigh states.

“In this rapidly evolving space, it’s great to be nimble and able to switch quickly when necessary.”

And what of the future? For nDreams an accurate forcast of trends to come , or even better an ability to set those trends, would more than likely be worth every penny in the bank. Luckily perhaps, O’Luanaigh has a very clear idea of what he thinks is coming:

“We’ll see cross-platform digital games, Apple becoming the primary gaming platform owner, a rise in narrative-focused casual adventure games and more money being made from PSN and XBLA through PS 3 and Xbox 360 retail.”

Without doubt, whatever those new ‘larger’ projects turn out to be, nDreams will almost certainly be showing the industry something it has never seen before. Whether or not we will want to see it again will largely come back to O’Luanaigh’s choices for his company over the past months and years.

Judging by how things have gone so far, however, neither man nor firm has anything to fear.

In association with…

Amiqus Games is a leading provider of specialist talent to the video games industry. The company recruits for some of the world’s premier studios for artists, animators, producers, programmers, designers and executives such as studio heads and director level roles.

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