Hyper Luminal Games: How the studio went from creating GDPR compliance tools to making its own multiplayer console title

Hyper Luminal Games is a small development studio in Dundee. With a team of eight, the studio was formed by graduates of Abertay University’s gaming curriculum. Having worked on some pretty varied development projects to keep the money coming in, the team is finally releasing its own title on Friday.

Big Crown: Showdown is a frantic multiplayer title, where four players (local or online) fight each other for survival on constantly-scrolling platform levels. We talk to Stuart Martin, CEO and co-founder at Hyper Luminal Games about how the title came about.

How did you get started in making games?

We started working together from our classroom desks at Abertay University, doing work-for-hire projects to build up experience and inject some money into our new studio. We’ve delivered 16 games ranging from historical turn-based battles to educational children’s games.

We’ve created cyber security training programmes and GDPR Compliance Tools and we still do a lot of general work-for-hire to supplement the development of our own gaming IP, Big Crown: Showdown, which releases this December. We love to play games – everyone we know does, so from early on we knew that was the ultimate goal and we’ve taken a pragmatic business-first route towards it.

Where did the idea for Big Crown: Showdown come from?

So Big Crown started out as a simple little prototype, built by one of our programmers. It was more of a racer back then and lacked any sort of distinct visual style but there was something about it that was really fun. We played about with the concept, focused the gameplay around combat and developed a more defined aesthetic that worked for a wider audience.

We iterated on these details until we had a really polished demo build, we showcased the demo at a local games event and it was an instant hit! It was at that stage we decided we were ready to go full-time on its development. The game certainly changed a lot during the last 2 years (we went through three other names before settling on Big Crown: Showdown!) but we managed to retain the core of what made it so fun from the beginning.

What are your goals for the game

First, for people to pick up Big Crown and really enjoy it! It’s fast and fun, and while it’s competitive it’s not just about the winning, it’s about having tons of fun while you’re playing. So if that translates to players and sales then we’ll be really happy, then we want to build from there – we’re keen to establish Big Crown as a major family-friendly IP.

Working with the team at Sold Out has already been a huge learning experience for us. Identifying what is needed in today’s market to get a game to stand out. It’s all information we’re learning and building upon.

How does it play?

Super Smash Bros meets Mario Kart. It’s a 4-player multiplayer platform brawler that can be played with three others on the couch or online. It’s a frantic fight for the crown while you try and take out the other players, bashing them off the side of the course to score points or watching them fail to make the jump to the next platform and lose a life.

You’ll go through a series of rounds to emerge victorious or just have buckets of fun sabotaging everyone else! It’s a really fun, easy-to-understand pick-up-and-play title, and we’ve loved watching players laugh out loud at all the events we’ve taken it to.

How tough has indie development been for you?

It’s really tough but I believe that if you approach it with your eyes and ears wide open, then a successful route is possible.

On the one hand, it’s never been easier to become an indie developer – the tools are amazing and readily available, plus social media is something everyone can do. But, whilst you can make a game and technically could handle traditional publishing responsibilities on your own, there are specific skillsets you know you probably don’t have and for that there are great people out there willing to help.

We’re working with Sold Out as our publisher, they bring the publishing expertise we need and the goal is that we both do well out of the sales of the game. But we own 100 per cent of our IP and the Sold Out team act as a service partner that can handle everything we don’t feel we have the expertise to do. For example, we’ve made a great start on social media with the game, but we now have experts to come on board to help us really accelerate that part of our marketing campaign.

So it’s tough, but it’s fantastic. There are loads of ways to seek out support, so listen and learn, read blogs, follow industry experts on Twitter, network and attend events to get first-hand feedback from your players. There’s never been more information so easily accessible, but the key is in unlocking the specific knowledge your game needs to succeed. Also, be pragmatic. That’s why we have the dual business stream and continue to handle work-for-hire contracts, because I was always taught to never put all your eggs in one basket, right?

About Seth Barton

Seth Barton is the editor of MCV – which covers every aspect of the industry: development, publishing, marketing and much more. Before that Seth toiled in games retail at Electronics Boutique, studied film at university, published console and PC games for the BBC, and spent many years working in tech journalism. Living in South East London, he divides his little free time between board games, video games, beer and family. You can find him tweeting @sethbarton1.

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