Interviews// Indy Spotlight: Hogrocket - Part 1

Posted 23 Sep 2011 16:49 by
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Stephen Cakebread, Ben Ward and Pete Collier
Stephen Cakebread, Ben Ward and Pete Collier
Looking at Hogrocket from a distance, there's a temptation to use grandiose (and pompous) phrases such as 'phoenix-like' to describe its emergence from the remains of Bizarre Creations.

Meeting them in a Liverpool pub one sunny afternoon to find out how things are going for them in the post-Activision world, you're inclined to use more realistic terms to describe the three-man team such as 'hard-working', 'savvy' and, if you're feeling a bit twee, 'plucky'.

It's certainly good to have something positive rise out of Bizarre's closure just a handful of years after being bought by publishing giant Activision. That story ? three guys in a hard-luck situation making the best of what they've got ? has certainly won them favour in the games press and the prospects for describing it as a 'success story' are looking pretty good.

Pete Collier (creative director), Ben Ward (MD) and Stephen Cakebread (technical director), along with support from contractors (some of whom are also ex-Bizarre guys), have just released Tiny Invaders. It's a maze-based puzzle game in which the player's charged with co-ordinating the invasion of human bodies by aliens so small they could be living in your spleen and you wouldn't know about it.

So, can we call Hogrocket's tale a 'success story' yet? How's it looking a week after Tiny Invaders' launch? ?It's hard to gauge after a week, but we're really happy considering we're a small-time Indy developer. We've done pretty well. I'm happy with it,? Ben says over beer and a burger.

Happy enough to commit to further platforms ? Android, PC and Mac - yet? ?We're probably going to cover our costs pretty soon, and once we've done that we'll have a look at where we're going then. At the minute we're still in a spike, so if that continues and levels off well we'll have the option to do something else. If it doesn't then we'll investigate other avenues.?

What about happy enough to look at expanding beyond their current, home-based three-man bedroom Indy status? Well, expansion's certainly on their minds, but if they can keep investors out of it, they'd like to. ?If we can make that jump on our own, brilliant. If not, we'll have to look into some other way of doing it. That's really where we want to be - with a really decent team and making a lot of games,? Ben says.

That decent team probably won't be working on downloadable console titles in the near future, though. ?I think iOS is the place to be right now,? Ben says. ?It makes a lot of sense to be there. That's where all the excitement is. That's where a lot of new experiments are being formed.?

"iOS and Android. Android's a bit of a trickier proposition. It's not too difficult, but it's a little bit trickier than iOS," Pete adds. "It's a question of scalability, really. It doesn't make sense to risk everything on one huge project where everything's on that. You have to grow organically.?

"It's inevitable that [on] anything larger than a handheld, it's going to cost a lot more money to create," Steve says. Licensing fees are mentioned, as are the tools needed to develop for console, even on smaller scales. Steve notes that inevitably at this point in Hogrocket's lifespan it will be focusing on the platforms that are cheapest to develop for - smartphone and PC.

"To be competive on Xbox Live you have to do what the Limbo guys did, and I think they've got 15 guys now, something like that,? Ben notes. ?I think they just bought themselves back from their investors, recently." They did, Pete confirms.

?Which obviously means Limbo is a success,? Ben goes on. ?But you've got to get lots of people. You've got to throw them at it. You've got to get money in from somewhere and hope that it works. I've got no idea how many games have investment and don't work out, but we wanted to try being self-funded.?

If there's one way you wouldn't want to describe the guys at Hogrocket coming out of Bizarre's closure, it's bitter. ?At this point in our lives, it's a good opportunity we had from the redundancy. If we didn't do it now, we probably never would have done. The lifestyle thing's really important for all of us, I think.?
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