Though staff cuts and studio closures have become worryingly common trends for the UK industry – one studio has managed to buck the trend.
Racing specialist Eutechnyx has been going strong since it formed (as Zeppelin Games) 1987, and today boasts over 180 staff, studios in China, the UK and USA, and continues to sign new key talent.The group still looks to expand with key hires - the most recent being Ed Martin, the former EA director with a first-class knowledge of the NASCAR circuit.
Leading the charge is COO Darren Jobling – a man who’s been with the group since its first day of business.
What are you working on right now, and what stage is the project at?
Eutechnyx has three games in current development and a couple more in the pre-production stage. One is a racing game based on a massive license we've been working on for the last year or so - it'll be announced in a couple months so we have to be sort of quiet about the details.
Another is a free-to-play racing MMO aimed squarely at the casual market. The last is a character-based biker game called "Ride to Hell" set in the 1960s – I’m really excited about the direction the company is heading in with this project working in collaboration with Deep Silver.
Which aspect of it do you think will impress players the most?
On the first racing title, I think people are going to be impressed with the realistic damage modelling – the most extreme in any licensed racing game.
It's also got a real sense of “the event” – immersing the player in the spectacle of the experience.
With the MMO we're taking console-level quality and putting it into the free-to-play, micro-transaction model.
That feels like a real step forward to us. Finally, with Ride to Hell it's just a great concept that takes players to a place they've never been before. It's the game that everyone asks us about...
What does your desk/window view look like?
What was your first job in the industry – and what was the first game you worked on?
Operations Manager at Zeppelin Games. Zeppelin Games was the pre-cursor to Eutechnyx, started by my brother Brian in 1987. The first game I worked on was “Jocky Wilson’s Darts Challenge” – an all time classis that nailed the number one spot in the UK charts!
What was the first video game you ever played?
Defender (Planetoid) on the BBC Micro. It blew my mind...
What was the last game you played? Did you enjoy it?
“Angry Birds” on the iPhone. Simple but highly addictive – loved it.
What’s your favourite game ever, and why?
Lemmings on the Commodore Amiga. Hours passed into days and it didn’t really matter. Simple idea brilliantly executed.
How many hours a week do you get to spend playing games?
I am really into the world of casual and free to play gaming at the moment – to get hardcore is a luxury these days. Eutechnyx is working on a free to play project so I can claim 10+ hours as “research” – I can treble that if the month involves long haul flights though!
What area of the industry (in any sense: gameplay, technical, business or other wise) needs more investment?
I think the games industry is in a really interesting place at the moment – it feels like we have been working 20 years just to get to this point. Investment in project management skills, especially at the Universities, would pay real dividends I believe.
What disappoints you about the industry?
There seems to be a pervasive sense of inadequacy from the industry compared to other forms of media, which I don't really understand. Games are the most exciting experience anyone can have right now and they're only getting better. We need to get over this movie-worship complex some in our ranks seem to have.
What do you enjoy most about working in the video game industry?
The ability to have a creative idea, develop that idea and bring it to market as your own IP – its priceless.
Of all the games you have been involved with in the past, what has been your favourite, and why?
“Le Mans 24 Hours” – great subject matter, 90%+ reviews and a career mode that allowed the player to get under the skin of the real characters in the sport. I don’t miss the testing of the realtime 24 hour mode though!
What websites do you visit most regularly?
Develop, MCV, GamesIndustry.biz, Tyler Guitars and all of the links from my iGoogle home page.
What do you do in your spare time that isn’t related to video games?
I am a keen guitarist and still do the odd guest spot with local bands...
What’s your favourite book, movie or TV show, and album of all time?
Book - “Not Fade Away” by Shames and Barton – great story about a gifted person whose life ends early – very inspiring.
Album – “Tons of Sobs” by Free – Paul Kossoff was a guitar genius and “Walk in my Shadow” is the reason why...
What game would you most like to have worked on?
Any “Gran Turismo” – I’d love to find out what the hell all those people do for that length of time?
Which other games developer do you most admire?
Dave Jones in any of his company guises – he can spend the cash alright but always brings home the results.