Edge Case Games on embracing open game development

Studio CEO James Brooksby discusses the new developer's plans
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Last month a new studio opened in Guildford called Edge Case Games, which is working on tactical space combat title Fractured Space by using an open development model.

We asked the studio's CEO James Brooksby why he set up the new company, what it means for his other studio Born Ready Games, why his team will be collaborating with the community throughout development and why listening to feedback is crucial.

Why have you opened a new studio?
We have opened a new studio, an entirely new and separate company, in order to take on investment and build the new game Fractured Space. Due to the ever-changing nature of the new investment schemes, such as SEIS and EIS and also the new video games tax credit, you are going to see a lot more new companies and subsidiaries being formed, but for good reasons, as this will be the sign of a growing and exciting new era for the UK game industry.

Basically it’s a lot more in line with TV and film, where you see lots of companies at the start of a movie, many you will have never heard of before and perhaps never again as they may be a single purpose company.

Where is the company based?
We are in Guildford, right by the train station and unfortunately close to the canal, as last Christmas we were two feet deep in muddy water. That does not do your computers much good I can tell you. However we have a large and bright office full of the things that make us feel like a developer should: toys, lots of them. Guildford has a great development community, lots of sharing and caring, as it should be.

How many staff do you have on the new team? Have they come from the Born Ready team?
We are growing, but at last count we were 24. The team are almost all from Born Ready Games, with some new guys. Therefore almost everyone worked on Strike Suit Zero in all its forms, so our space game experience is very strong along with our team bond.

Open development is something we're increasingly seeing more of. Why have you opted for this approach with Fractured Space?
I think it’s an evolutionary thing. When we were Doublesix, back in 2007, we were at the forefront of digital distribution, but we still acted like we did when we were all making games in boxes. We made the game, never really spoke to the players (apart from the odd consumer show), shipped it, perhaps made DLC, then moved on.

When we became Born Ready Games, we made most of the game in that mode, but as we approached the latter stages we realised that we needed to change, especially as we wanted to do a Kickstarter, so we needed to be more open and engaged. Through the Kickstarter campaign we did just that and had hundreds of people playing Strike Suit Zero, unfinished, while we gave them updates, and we listened to their feedback.

From that point forward we changed, being more engaged, but still only at times, but that was in part due to the nature of the game we were making at the time, and also the platform. Doing open development is much tougher for a next-gen console game, I mean, how do you speak to the end user? How do you get them to have a quick go on last night’s build? Where can they collect as a community and chat?

So moving forwards we decided that when we formed Edge Case Games we would be far more open and become more open as each week passes, and as our new game Fractured Space is on PC and will use a game-as-a-service model, open development is very suited and entirely possible, in fact more than possible, vital we feel, and an evolution of us as a team.

Why are you making the game free-to-play on PC? Do you think PC users are increasingly accepting of this model?
Absolutely. I can remember very well the previous attempts to introduce free-to-play models into the West, back in the early 2000’s and it did not work one bit. I think PC free-to-play actually owes something to mobile gaming as this has helped with the acceptance of F2P in a board sense. But really the key has to be that there are some very good games out there, that are high quality, fun, engaging, competitive, alive and free.

Of course there are many flavours of free-to-play and I think that some of the models that were tried in the early days just seemed wrong to the Western European and North American players, but with many of the more recent free-to-play games, they have been seen to be fair and work well. It’s a fascinating thing and moreso if you talk to people from around the world, as what we (as Western Europeans) think is the right way to do free-to-play is perceived very differently all over the globe.

Of course that does mean we will be challenged as game developers as we need to make our games flexible so that they consider the possibilities in all of the potential markets and, importantly, we also have to listen to the players. That will be key for us, we will set a path for our initial release, but we will be listening hard to what our audience want, and of course we'll never be pay-to-win.

What is the current landscape like for starting a new studio? Is it an ideal time to open a new games company in the UK?
It’s a good time. There is more change of getting seed investment, there are more ways to make games and more ways to publish them, either by yourself or through one of the many new publishing channels. Having been doing this since the mid 80s, I can’t think of a better time for game makers.

However, it does not mean making a successful game is easy, there are still lots of pitfalls and absolutely nobody knows what the landscape will be like in three-to-four years. But personally, I find that it’s a land of opportunity out there, a very exciting time.

What does this mean for the future of Born Ready Games and your ties to that studio?
Born Ready Games still exists and will be doing more Strike Suit Zero. SSZ and Strike Suit Directors Cut were a great success and continue to do very well. As for ties, I am still the CEO of Born Ready Games and will continue to push for Born Ready Games to build on its successes. Why would we let that fade into nothing?

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