Red Kite Games: From work-for-hire to Hollowpoint

Red Kite Games is perhaps best known as a work-for-hire company. Managing director Simon Iwaniszak, formerly of Rockstar, created the company with the aim of providing support on triple-A products and establishing the firm as a work-for-hire outfit.

Its forthcoming title is Hollowpoint, the studio’s first homegrown IP on PC, acquired from Paradox Interactive after the publisher mothballed the project back in 2015. This iteration of Hollowpoint, a 2.5D side-scrolling shooter, is building on the concepts of the game to produce something totally new. To find out more about the studio’s future plans, we spoke to managing director Simon Iwaniszak and creative director Dave Roberts.

As far as I understand it, this is your first game that’s purely your own IP. Why now?

Simon Iwaniszak: I wouldn’t say there’s a massive change because we have released a couple of original games before in the mobile space that have been successful for us. We do a lot of development support for bigger studios, big publishers and platform holders, but we still want to make our own games, so it was more a way of allowing us to have a bit of fun with releasing games. With Hollowpoint the shift is that we’re taking it a bit more seriously than we have before.

It already looks like a significant investment of time and thought…

Iwaniszak: Exactly. Both of those things. But it’s not like we’ve shifted completely with the company, we’re still supporting our partners, we’ve still got a lot of other projects going on at the studio, but Hollowpoint is now becoming more important, moving towards the center stage of what we’re doing.

It was always going to happen: we’ve got experienced developers at Red Kite and a lot of the core team are ex-Rockstar, ex-Activision… So we had the talent. It was more a case of making sure that we put the right things in place – the team, resources, money and everything that’s required to make a game successful. And the right idea and the ability to deliver it to the level we expect of ourselves. The time is now, really.

What’s the timescale like? Do you feel you have more flexibility with your own game as opposed to the hard deadlines of contract work? 

Iwaniszak: We’re not in any rush with the game or anything like that, which is a really nice place to be.

Most recently one of the biggest games we’ve been helping out on, working on for about two and a half years, is Crackdown 3. That’s coming to an end now, but obviously a project of that scale was quite significant, meaning that our ability to work on Hollowpoint has kind of ebbed and flowed with other commitments. But we’ve invested significant resources in the game to get it where it is today.

Hollowpoint is something that’s really important to us, you get a different kind of satisfaction when you go with your own thing, working on your own problems and game. It really just helps to reenergise and reinvigorate.

Can you sum up Hollowpoint’s gameplay for us?

Iwaniszak: Hollowpoint is an online action co-op shooter, where it’s all about building up the biggest and best team of mercenaries in a world where megacorps rule over all and you’re just in it for the cash and to build up your renown. You take on these intense ten minute missions where you’re going to a facility, taking it out, causing a tonne of damage, and getting out.

It’s all about that replayability of going in and having lots of these flashpoints of gameplay where you can be doing lots of varied types of missions from assassinations to sabotage to kidnapping scientists and then from that, building up your arsenal, getting access to the bigger and better guns so you can take on the missions that are more lucrative, but more deadly.

We want to build a community and listen to that community to drive the game forward. It’s like having the people who play the game almost crafting the narrative so to speak because the way that they play the game and what they do is what will build out the Hollowpoint universe.

Do you have any date in mind for launch? Are you going to do early access?

Iwaniszak: The plan at the moment is not to, we just want to make this game and get it out. That’s our strategy at the moment. Obviously things could change, but that’s where we’re at right now. The core mechanics and polish is there. In terms of features, there are a few things that we would like to introduce to that core but really the bulk of the development now is going to be building the world of Hollowpoint, all the different environments and the variations so when it launches players can pick up the game and enjoy a wide array of different missions that will keep them playing for hours on end.

Do you see it as something you will continue to support after release? 

Dave Roberts: We can launch with a massive amount of content when it comes to environments and weapons, however we also have loads of ideas of how we can expand it. Different territories within the world, different environments, different enemies, different missions. We don’t have to launch with the entire world, but because we’ve got the entire world, we can continue to add to it in a very organic way.

Iwaniszak: Using procedural generation for the missions allows inherent replayability which is really important to us. Then we’ll be able to expand upon it, augment the game and learn from what the community is saying. ‘What do you think is wrong? We’ll give it you’.

In terms of platforms, what’s the plan?

Roberts: We’re focused on building a great game on PC. That’s been the priority, it’s about the game.

Iwaniszak: The game’s made in Unity, we have a lot of console experience and the game is suited for a multi-platform experience. Because of our background, obviously we have a good relationship with Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo… That conversation is probably a bit too early, so we’re just concentrating on building the game.

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