Part 1 of Develop's week-long special on some of London's most successful studios...


Headstrong Games

Founded: 2000 (as Kuju London)
Headcount: 60
Notable games: Battalion Wars 1 & 2, The House of the Dead: Overkill
Key personnel/staff: Bradley Crooks (studio head), Steve Pritchard (development director), Tancred Dyke-Wells (creative director)
TEL: 020 7593 2230

Nestled in the South Bank, one of London’s hubs for the creative arts, Headstrong is carving a reputation for itself as quite the Wii specialist, long having a good relationship with Nintendo and now working on Wii shooter The House of the Dead: Overkill for Sega.

Being based in such a cosmopolitan city has given Headstrong a “mix of people from a wide range of cultures and backgrounds,” says studio head Bradley Crooks.

“I would also say we have a very open recruitment attitude, and being based in London really supports that. We want people that have a passion for games, and the almost universal appeal that games have breeds that passion in a wide variety of people.”

Of course, it’s not all work work work for the Headstrong boys and girls – the studio is pretty keen on fostering close links between its employees. “There’s a strong commitment to social networking here,” says Crooks. “A lot of people here are involved in the local arts and music scene, and a pint or two at one of the many great local pubs is never too far off the agenda.”

And, if you’re questioning whether London holds the key to your game development future, Crooks is keen to espouse the long-term picture. “If you’re a young, ambitious wannabe developer, why would you not want to leap into an exciting career in a city where the streets are paved with gold? London’s strength, other than the obvious benefits of working in arguably the best city in the world, is that it offers the opportunity to consider your first position as the start of career rather than just the start of a job. London has a massive breadth of opportunities for those with the right skill sets, with games development being just one part of a much larger group of industries where the same skills are in demand.”

Curve Studios

Founded: 2005
Headcount: 30
Notable games: Buzz! Master
Quiz (PSP), Buzz! Brain Bender (PSP)
Key personnel/staff: Jason Perkins (managing director), Jaid Mindang (art director), Jonathan Biddle (design director), Richie Turner (technical director), Simon Cooper (lead artist), Russell Kerrison (lead designer), Martin Fermor (lead programmer)

Although Curve itself is a relative newcomer to the London games scene, its staff of veteran designers are very familiar with the capital and have seen the ups and downs of its games development scene.

“There have been a few new studios set up in London recently, but it would seem that there are still fewer now than there were five years ago,” says art director Jaid Mindang.

“The business has undergone a long period of consolidation, and although the industry has generally tended to buck the trend of economic recession, its presence in London now is still not as great as it used to be. But the recent high profile studio openings in London show that, despite the tough climate for UK development in recent years, London is still central to the games industry in the UK.”

To prove it, Curve has managed to attract a number of staff – away from bigger competitors – thanks to its London location.

Says Mindang: “Many of our employees have actually joined us from larger and more established companies that were offering better benefits, purely because of our work/life balance, projects and company culture. We feel that we can continue to be a competitive employer merely by the fact of us offering our staff something different, something that other studios don’t offer.”

However, design director Jonathan Biddle reckons that the London games development scene could do with chasing a more community feel, however. “While the industry here is still interlinked, and everyone either knows someone or has worked in all of the other London-based companies, we don’t have the same sense of community that the other hubs enjoy,” says Biddle. “It seems obvious, but an initiative like Yorkshire and Humber’s Game Republic would be very beneficial to development in the area, and a great forum for sharing techniques, processes and even work.”

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