In the past few weeks we’ve covered art, design and programming but pulling these all together is Peter van der Watt, Managing Director of Blazing Griffin and producer of Distant Star.
For Peter Distant Star represents a solid “framework, that would allow a production team to work on a project, with as few hindrances as possible while it is in production.”
But it’s not just this, it’s the template for game production Blazing Griffin want to apply across all their projects and from the open development and, already clear, output this model seems to be working well.
As the producer of the game Peter and the department lead sign off every stage as final but we also wanted to know about the financing of the game.
Peter smiled, “The money goes up and down, depending on the hour of each individual day. Most of the funds for the game we had through previous cashflow, are still having with current cashflow and been have matched with Abertay University’s Prototype Fund. We’re a little but out at the moment but we’ll hopefully have that resolved soon.”
The confidence is there and, given the look and feel Distant Star already has, feels assured. Abertay University are a powerful funder to have on board and we wondered if the help extended beyond the funding?
“Yes Abertay were very helpful. Thankfully a lot of the way we were thinking about making a game as a business was what Abertay needed you to prove to get the grant. So you couldn’t just say, “Oh, I want to make this cool game”, and expect them to give you money, you needed to make a business case: Which we had already done because we weren’t going to make anything that we couldn’t build a business case around.
“So that was quite easy, we got in touch with them in two ways. We had been talking to some of the academics up there, just in general, and then one of KitKat’s (Stephen Hewitt’s) ex-colleagues is also one of the prototype managers, so we knew of him doing the stuff because of personal connections.”
Any start-up requires a solid, talented, team and, from working within them, it is clear how strong the team bond is. Having built the original version of Distant Star (now Distant Star Classic) and launched it as a test, “to see a whole bunch of things, so we had already tested the business case”, the next member of the team to come aboard was Stephen Hewitt
“We let Stephen loose on it to redesign the game and saw, before we went into production, what the scope of the game was. It stood against the business case and was a good match.
“I think there are very few titles on tablets in general that will sit squarely next to this. I think it’s going to be different to everything else out there at the moment. It’s not unique in any way, it’s just different with a twist.”
Peter continued, explaining why Distant Star wasn’t simply a good choice for the business model but, quite simply, why he was passionate about the game.
“At this point in the project it is the rapid progress we are making. Because it’s quite early on there are changes day by day; something new gets added, something new gets built, some new art pops up so the iteration is awesome. Being able to play it, being able to move the ships around and see the effect that all the ideas we had, on a page as it were, are there. That’s really cool.
“I think the pre-visualisation videos we have of what the game should feel like is spot on and if we can keep that feel all the way to polish, including polish, it should be awesome”
Having been hired to work here we were well aware of the interview process Peter and his team undertook. Ensuring that each team member was a good fit into the unit and would be able to work well with others. Team building is no easy task and he was clear on the issues here.
“If anyone ever tells you that hiring a team is easy they’re talking utter bullshit. But we we’re also excruciatingly selective, so it took a long time, even after we decided we were going to make Distant Star, to find the right type of people. They have to be interested in this type of thing, had to be a good match for the start-up culture and had to want to suffer through all the pain, as it were, and most importantly the team had to be a good fit for each other. So that makes quite a small pool that you have to pick from but I think it’s worked extraordinarily well.
“Finding the right people and letting them get on with what they’re good at is the single most important factor when making games and it is very apparent in Distant Star. That’ll be the biggest take away from any of this stuff.”
So, talking about pre-visualisation videos were we. Be sure not to miss next weeks blog because we’ll be revealing the first marketing video for Distant Star, and trust us, you’ll want to be first in the queue.