Outnumbered, but never outgunned: Robo Pixel’s journey from university to Gamescom

There were many UK-made games at this year’s Gamescom.

Blockbusters like Guitar Hero Live, Tearaway Unfolded and LEGO Dimensions are being developed on these fair shores. However, it wasn’t a triple-A behemoth that took away UKIE’s UK Game of the Show award from the event but instead a retro style pixel-themed local multiplayer shooter, from indie studio Robo Pixel, called Gunnihilation.

It was shocking. We were busy talking to someone at our stand, and the guys from UKIE came over and went ‘we need you over here for the presentation, we need you there now’,” art director James Batten recalls. Then they did the presentation and we had no idea what was going on. It was interesting. But there are so many other really good UK-made games at the moment, we have no idea how we won it. We blame it on the people who voted for us drinking lots of German beer.”

The team at Robo Pixel are all graduates from Teeside University. Some of them tried to form a studio in the past, but that fell through. Then two years ago – when Batten was working as a chef – the group decided to band back together to form a new company.

One of the firm’s desires was to deliver a multiplayer game that didn’t require an internet connection.

Back in the 1990s and early 2000s, local multiplayer was the only way to play multiplayer games and it was great fun. We absolutely loved it,” he says.

Lately it has become more about online multiplayer, which is quite a good thing, but we’ve noticed recently that a lot of people have started getting back into local multiplayer. We really appreciate that. It’s much better to have that social interaction so that’s one of the reasons why we’re doing it.

The other reason is that online connectivity is an absolute pain and we’ve been thinking about doing it. We know how to implement it, but our game would play better in the room where you can communicate with the other players. That’s basically it.”

He continues: If you have the time and resources then online might be worth it, but a lot of games these days put in online multiplayer because it seems to be what everyone does. We’ve talked about it quite a lot, we think it’s completely unnecessary, for our game at least.”

"We’ve talked about doing online multiplayer but it’s unnecessary."

James Batten, Robo Pixel

To fund itself, Robo Pixel turned to the Rivers Capital’s Finance for Business North East Angel Fund rather than a publisher.

We were doing outsource work to sustain the company for a couple of different projects,” Batten says.

It just meant we couldn’t focus on the game. And another thing we’ve noticed is you can’t just turn up to a publisher and say ‘we have an idea’ – you’re not going to get very far. They must have thousands of people coming along every year pitching ideas with nothing to show. We figured if we could spend a few solid months working on the project and be able to provide a well-polished product we might be able to get a bit further. It seems to have been working pretty well.”

Despite this finance, however, Baten and his team are still seeking a publisher.

It seems like the easiest thing in the world to start a games company and make a game, then put it on Steam or whatever. These days it’s easier than ever before. But the whole marketing side is something we have no idea about, which is exactly why we’re looking for a publisher,” he says.

We know roughly when we’re going to have the game finished, we know what we want to do with it, but when it comes to reaching the end goal, we don’t want to put it on Steam and it be just another game that gets swept under the rug because it had no marketing budget or they haven’t marketed it right. There’s so many obstacles.”

Interface takes place on November 12th at St Mary’s Church. Indie devs can bring their projects along to pitch to the likes of Execution Labs, Channel 4’s All 4 Games and 505 Games.

You can book tickets to the event here, and find out more viawww.interface.events.

A limited number of sponsorship opportunities are available. Contact Jennie Lane atjlane@nbmedia.comor Charlotte Nangle atcnangle@nbmedia.com, or call them on 01992 535 647, to find out more.

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