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Inside Indie Games

Author: UK Games Fund

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The Game Development show for indie developers, Inside Indie Games’ explores what it is that inspires and motivates games developers make the games they do. Our community of independent games developers are among the brightest and best in UK games dev talent and, on this show, we're tapping into their expertise and experience, to find out how you can build your own successful games company. Learn from the experts what challenges, successes and opportunities are typical for independent games developers in the UK right now, and what you can do to build a great games studio.
23 Episodes
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From games developer, to business development and finally to publishing. Paul Kilduff-Taylor from Mode 7 knows a LOT about the independent games development industry.In this bonus episode of Inside Indie Games, we discuss how teams and individuals can best approach pitching; why those seeking investment should research the kind of funding they're pitching for, translating the investor's goals to their project and the basic pitfalls indie devs looking for funding should be aware of. All indie dev studios should tune in! 
A short introduction to the Inside Indie Games Podcast, brought to you by the UK Games Fund. 
In the first episode from our new UK Games Fund podcast series, Colin from The Podcast Host speaks to Gary McCartan from Pocket Sized Hands.This is Gary McCartan, who founded Pocket Sized Hands along with a handful of his university classmates.Gary’s had to learn fast as he moved from being a games design student, to running a games design company.His experiences so far mean he’s got loads of invaluable advice for others who want to follow the same path. One notable theme here is that the actual making of games is only one of the many tasks that make up his role now.So what other sorts of things occupy Gary’s time at work? Well, let’s take the recruiting of staff for starters, which has no small amount of responsibility.We kicked things off by asking him what he thought the hardest type of roles to recruit…
In the second episode of Inside Indie Games, we speak to Phil Charnock of Draw & Code. His company raised over £25,000 on Kickstarter to fund their first product, SwapBots. Phil brings some fantastic insights and advice for those interested in funding future projects. Draw & Code is a unique company; Phil describes them as creative content marketers who stay ahead of the curve by embracing immersive technology and spatial computing. But like any company, revenue and turnover are vital to survive and thrive long term, and the bulk of Draw & Code’s revenue still comes from client work.We explore how they sourced that work in the early days, and how they’ve continued to ensure that they find interesting collaborators and partners who are a good fit for them.
In this episode we're talking to Mark Backler, founder of Fourth State and Sketchbook Games. Right now he's focused on Lost Words, a narrative-based game set inside a diary. Lost Words is available to add to your wishlist on Steam now here.Mark's background is in really big games development companies, such as Lionhead Studios and Electronic Arts, but just a few years back he jumped out of that world to start his own company. Mark offers a tonne of advice; from how to build your team, to getting the most value possible from industry events and the awards they often run. 
This is Mal, who helped set up Biome Collective – a co-operative started in 2015 that’s made up of creative technologists, artists, academics, and researchers. Mal told me that running the company in this non-traditional manner means they’re a lot more stable than a traditional startupHe says it puts them in a position to do projects independent of each other, which gives more creative control, freedom, and opens the doors to a lot more collaborations.But I was interested to find out how they went about balancing this. Can a collection of freelancers be as tightly bound to a company as, say, employees can? How does a company like the Biome Collective ensure that its main work actually gets done alongside all the freelance projects going on? 
In this episode we’ll hear from Gary Burchell of Fireblade Software. Fireblade Software is the creator of Abandon Ship - a single-player PC game which lets the player take command of a ship and her crew. The game hit the giddy heights of fourth in the Steam Global Top Sellers chart on the night of its release, and I definitely wanted to find out more about what went into that. But Gary has experience on both sides of the fence in this industry. Before forming his own indie studio, he spent 13 years at Climax Studios, where he worked his way up to the role of Executive Producer. I was curious to hear his thoughts on how things have changed over the years. Particularly, for graduates who are looking to break into the industry by getting their first jobs. 
We’ve talked a lot so far this season about whether or not to specialise in one particular area of making games. Well, in this episode we’re speaking to John Evelyn. He’s the creator of an entirely hand-drawn first-person adventure game called Collage Atlas. And as you’ll find out he wears many – if not all - of the hats on the project. John’s “one-man-band” approach is fairly uncommon these days. And perhaps it can be traced back to one of his tutors at university who essentially advised him to become a Jack of All Trades. He was studying a media course at the time and later went on to work on a number of marketing film campaigns, doing things like graphic design, coding, and digital design. But a serious illness made John re-evaluate his priorities, and he decided to throw himself into his main passion of making games the moment he was discharged from hospital.  I was still curious to find out why he thought his tutor gave him that advice though. Why didn’t he recommend that John specialise and try to become a master of one particular area? 
Tom Beardsmore is the CEO and co-founder of Coatsink, a UK-based game development studio and publisher. Coatsink were formed in 2009, but Tom has actually known his co-founder Paul Crabb since they were about 12 years old. Today, Coatsink has grown into a company with almost 70 employees, and work on a number of impressive projects, including developing their own IP for Oculus studios. 
Adam Boyne is the co-founder and technical lead of BetaJester. This Yorkshire-based games company were formed in 2015 by Adam, and two of his fellow graduates of the University of Hull, Ryan, and Josh. The trio’s original plan was to spend four or five years working at established game companies, before going on to launch their own. But the general advice they got from folks in the industry was “if you want to do this, why not just do it now?”This was further reinforced when the university offered them a year’s free office space to help get them up and running.  The opportunity to launch and grow a company without any initial rent or overheads was too good to turn down, and in June 2015, they arrived for their first day at work as full-time game developers. And, aside from starting the search for their first few clients, that also meant they could actually work on… developing a game! Adam explained that they just wanted to get something out there that had their own name on it. That game ended up being an Android title by the name of Geometrics. So, how did that first effort perform once it was released out there into the wild? 
Helen Andrzejowska is one of the three founders of Ocean Spark Studios, a video game development company formed in late 2016, and based in Huddersfield, Yorkshire. Helen came from an art background, going on to study Video Game Development at the University of Huddersfield, where she met her two now business partners, Zach and Ellie. As we’ve heard so far in this series, some game development studios prefer to focus on a niche market, focusing on one particular area of making games, whilst others prefer to take a more all-rounder approach.  So, did Helen herself decide to stick purely to the artistic side of things? In this episode, we'll also hear how championing diversity in the industry is central to the ethos of Ocean Spark as a company and how they're training the game developers of the future by delivering training workshops in schools!
Kirsty Rigden is the Development Director at FuturLab - an award-winning game studio based in Brighton. Kirsty’s been with the company since 2010. But her career in the industry began back in her university days, when she got a summer job testing games for the BBC. She went on to gain more experience, working as a tester for a mobile company called I-Play. Kirsty told me that this was in the days before the iPhone, and, as she put it, “before it was cool to make mobile phone games”. From game tester, she then progressed to the role of junior games designer at that same company. Kirsty then moved on to the position of Lead Designer at Cohort Games, before heading down to Brighton to work for Relentless, EA, and finally, to FuturLab. 
Olly Bennett is the CEO of Cardboard Sword - a game development studio based in the North East of England. Olly has worked in the games industry for over twelve years, across six companies, with roles in QA, Design, and Production. Before starting Cardboard Sword, he was associate producer on Sony’s LittleBigPlanet on PS Vita.It was a redundancy that led to Olly and one of his former colleagues taking the leap to form Cardboard Sword. That was six years ago, and in the early days, they made the bulk of their money doing consultancy work for a range of clients. But, understandably, that was never going to be the company’s end goal.Their marquee IP is The Siege and the Sandfox - a “2D stealth Metroidvania” game with a real nostalgic 16-bit look to it, albeit combined with some powerful modern tools and techniques. Olly also runs Game Bridge in Middlesbrough, a monthly networking event and community for video game developers based in the North East.
Katie Nelson is one of the founders of Blueprint Games, the company behind the very fun 3D platformer ‘Billie Bust Up!’. Blueprint are a brilliant example of a real community driven platform. They have an engaged and vocal fanbase who they can rely on for constant and instant feedback around anything they’re working on. In this episode, we’re going to dive into that, and find out Katie’s tips and insights around growing and utilising a community around your creative projects! 
Veteran games journalist Will Freeman hosts this special episode of Inside Indie Games.Many of the companies that we support operate remote working and as dispersed teams. But the present enforced home-working for many sectors lucky enough to have it as an option has brought the practice firmly into the spotlight and for many it’s been a new novelty.Joined by Colin Anderson (Denki) and Simon Bennett (Roll7), Will explores what opportunities and challenges remote working can have for indie games developers. Both Simon and Colin explore what does and doesn’t work well and offer advice on how to be productive.Will is joined by our very own Deborah Farley, Head of Tranzfuser. Together they discuss how a UK-wide summer programme can, and does, work successfully across a wide network of support Hubs.
How can games developers successfully pitch their projects virtually?With physical events being on hold for much of 2020, games developers looking to secure publisher deals or even garner interest in their games have to do it in a remote way. In the first part of this special episode of Inside Indie Games, guest presenter Will Freeman, speaks to Sophia Aubrey Drake (The Big Indie Pitch) and Mike Rose (No More Robots) about the best ways to nail that virtual pitch.Part 2 of this special episode will be published very soon. 
Veteran games journalist Will Freeman hosts the second part of this special episode of Inside Indie Games.The pandemic has not stopped deals from being done and pitches being made. The UK games development sector continues to grow and prosper as studios and publishers all find themselves working remotely and as dispersed teams. But how does it work on a practical basis? Will speaks with Rosa Carbó-Mascarell and Aj Grand-Scrutton, both from successful independent games development backgrounds to uncover what pitching in a pandemic is like in 2020. On the flip side, we also hear from Gwen Foster of Robot Teddy with her take on being pitched to in the virtual world.Don't forget, this is Part 2 of this special episode. Listen to Part 1 here. 
Kicking off the remaining episodes of our second season of Inside Indie Games, we’re joined by a panel of industry experts from all walks of games development backgrounds as we delve into the world of M&As in the indie dev sector.At the heart of discussion in this episode is the burning question for a lot of indie dev studios: should passionate games developers be Creative Directors or CEOs?This episode highlights the tensions faced by indie games development founders across the creative vs business divide and asks if a change of ownership brings freedom or fear. Our panel bring varying perspectives from the sector; from indie game developers, publishers, those who’ve been acquired already and those who’ve secured significant investment.With:Gina Jackson - Sold OutPaul Kilduff-Taylor - Mode 7Tara Reddy - LoveSharkDavid Hamilton - Ninja KiwiStephanie Warwick - Jolly Good Games
Can business sustainability sometimes be sacrificed in the quest for growth? If fast growth is more appealing to potential investors, how do you manage the risks?In this episode we're diving into the subject of business sustainability and growth -  an ever hot topic for start up games dev studios. Is there a right way to grow your business?Along with our expert panel we explore how start ups can grow their company in a way that builds on expertise. This could be anything from budget and finances, to project management, workload, or staff happiness. Our guest panel for this episode, bringing their wealth of experiences and expertise, is:Gina Jackson - Sold OutPaul Kilduff-Taylor - Mode 7Tara Reddy - LoveSharkDavid Hamilton - Ninja KiwiStephanie Warwick - Jolly Good GamesShaz Yousaf - Honey Tribe Studios
Each episode in this season is essential listening, but none more so than this one! What can small studios realistically do to effectively market and sell their game? Research, outreach, community engagement, authentic communication...all of these aspects of marketing and selling games are discussed in this episode. As ever, we're joined by our panel of industry experts, and they're going to talk us through the tactics and strategies they've found to be most effective when it comes to selling and marketing. There is a LOT to learn from this one!Gina Jackson - Sold OutPaul Kilduff-Taylor - Mode 7Tara Reddy - LoveSharkDavid Hamilton - Ninja KiwiStephanie Warwick - Jolly Good GamesShaz Yousaf - Honey Tribe Studios
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