Two senior developers are in the process of leaving Rockstar Leeds to kick-start their own indie development studio, Double 11.
The studio’s new director, Lee Hutchinson, was one of Rockstar Leeds’ lead engineers up until the start of the new year. He had worked on a number of Rockstar iPhone projects, including GTA Chinatown Wars and Beaterator.
In a few weeks his studio will be joined by Matt Shepcar, an outgoing lead programmer at Rockstar Leeds who has worked on a number of GTA titles, from Grand Theft Auto IV to Vice City Stories.
However, Hutchinson insists that his departure from Leeds was “very, very amicable”, and had no traces of the fervent ‘spouse’ allegations that put Rockstar Games’ working standards under scrutiny.
“Rockstar Leeds and the spouse allegations had no effect on our decisions to leave,” he says. “I’m very good friends with the team. Me and Matt announced we were leaving under very good terms.”
In fact, Double 11’s establishment is not related to any issues surrounding working conditions, or overtime, or crunch.
Hutchinson has in fact formed his own development team due to a perhaps wider development trend that’s happening today.
“I think that a lot of developers are sick of huge all encompassing next-gen projects and want to get back to grass-roots bedroom coding like it was in the 80’s and is for a lot of iPhone developers today,” Hutchinson tells Develop.
His viewpoint is clearly not isolated. Fable 2 lead designer Dene Carter recently quit Lionhead to form his own iPhone studio, Fluttermind, saying that expanding development teams create an “ever-increasing sense of distance between design work and actual craft that goes into making a game”.
Now Double 11, like Fluttermind, will be utilising its experience to develop iPhone titles. However, the group’s website suggests it will be looking to mix its own projects with contract work for other studios.
The group’s emergence is the basis for this week’s Develop Jury question, where we ask developers if large-scale development has reached its peak and is beginning to be challenged by smaller studios.