We were delighted to have a chat with James Booth, Creative Director of Distorted Poetry, about the challenges of being an indie dev and about their upcoming iOS game Petri-Dash.
Calm Down Tom – Interview 01/11/2011
Interview with James Booth (Creative Director), Distorted Poetry
As a new independent games company, what was the biggest challenge in getting to where you are today?
Starting any kind of business is always going to be a challenge, especially when you know you are competing with established companies with proven reputations. But I’d have to say the biggest challenge we have faced so far, is getting people to come and work for us when we are a bit of a unknown entity. Actually maybe I should word that a little bit differently. The challenge is to get talented people to work for an unknown company.
But through a combination of networking and working closely with Gamer Camp and Birmingham City University we have managed to get some really talented people on board. In February of this year there was just myself and Steve Parkes (Technical Director), but now eight months later we are up to ten employees.
What can you tell us about your forthcoming game?
Well the first game we are releasing is called Petri-Dash and in it you control a little amoeba in a Petri dish, who has had to eat to survive whilst avoiding lots of enemies. In this first version of the game we have an endless mode as well as a series of timed modes.
How did you come up with the concept?
Interestingly the concept for this game started off completely different! Actually I don’t think anything from that initial design is actually used in the finished version of Petri-Dash. But yeah, the idea for Petri-Dash really was a collaborative effort between myself, Steve Parkes (who did the programming), India Swift (Who designed and animated all of the characters), Natalie Sabin (who did a little bit of producing for us early on) and Simon Heydecker-Dent (who did all the music and SFX for the game).
We started developing this prototype for the initial concept and every time we did a build we realised there was so many other ways we could go. So we experimented, implemented a few things and then Petri-Dash was born.
Is the game you’re making the kind of game you all want to play?
Definitely! Petri-Dash is one of those games that’s easy to learn, yet hard to master. There have been many an occasion when I have had to test something in one of the builds and have completely lost myself in a Zen-like state and couldn’t put the game down.
But ultimately we are all pretty varied gamers at Distorted Poetry and I think that will come across when you see some of our future titles.
What do you do on your downtime? Is it Modern Warfare LAN battles or FIFA tournaments?
We always planned to have a corner of the office dedicated to that kind of thing, we want a TV set up with every console underneath it! So maybe when our game sells 250 million like Angry Birds we can finally do that… But at the moment a few of us have Onlive subscriptions so we tend to play some games on that.
What’s the working environment like? Do you come up with all your best ideas at 3AM high on Red Bull and cold pizza?
Another one of the early decisions we made was to not be a games studio where people kill themselves just to make a game! I have worked at several games companies previously and have done the 70 hour weeks and it is just not fun. I’d much rather my team have great life experiences out of work because it’s those experiences that really help to define someone. I always get the majority of my game ideas when I am away from the office.
How many major fights amongst you guys so far? Are weapons involved?
No major fights yet… however if we stayed at our previous office long enough I think there may have been a few casualties. Quite simply our previous office was as big as a cupboard and when you have 6 guys in such a cramped space it’s not particularly fun or hygienic, haha.
What’s your ultimate goal for the future?
The ultimate goal for us is to be in a position where we are developing content for all the major gaming platforms. We have a ridiculous amount of ideas and concepts so we definitely have enough games to keep us going for many a year to come.
Starting a company and releasing a game is a big undertaking. What words of advice would you have for any similar aspiring game developers with a big idea?
I think one of the things that a lot of new game developers completely forget about is the whole marketing side of things. So I would definitely tell any aspiring game developers to think about how they are going to market their game afterwards. You need to make sure people out there know about your game, otherwise you could have the greatest game in the world, yet only your friends know about it.