Every indie developer has a story – here’s ours:
At the age of 15 I was a pixel painting addict and spent far too many hours in a hypnotic state creating digital art. I craved to see my work brought to life in a game and got my wish during a fortnight of work experience for a local game developer. Luckily for me, the experience was inspiring and I left knowing that I wanted to work in the games industry. In a rather desperate move, I begged my father (coward that I am) to contact a local newspaper that subsequently ran an article to help me find a like-minded programmer to join me on a quest to make games. Only one chap responded and it just so happened to be Mark, a slightly younger but incredibly gifted ninja of numbers and logic. It sounds odd, but here’s the newspaper cutting that defined two professional careers and the formation of VooFoo:
Over a period of years, Mark and I formed a lasting friendship and developed many games, the most successful of which was Max Rally for the Amiga; a complete game that took three years to develop and scored well in reviews by classic magazines like Amiga Format (81%). It was a satisfying achievement for two lads with very little experience, and even better to know that the game was critiqued without concessions (no one knew it had been developed by two teens). Unfortunately for us, the Amiga was dying on its arse so the timing was all wrong as the original Playstation had just been released (which made Max Rally look very ‘last-gen’). We couldn’t do much with the game due to a lack of funds and sold Amiga distribution rights (enough money to buy a couple of Sherbert Dips and a Curly Wurly) to someone that apparently ended up doing well out of it.
With some experience and a little ability under our belts, I landed a job in the industry and Mark went to study for his degree at Warwick Uni. Although going separate ways and continuing to learn our respective trades in the industry, we kept in touch and always harboured the desire to once again join forces and start up our own studio. During my time in the industry, I made a lot of friends and met some very gifted people. One such individual is a chap by the name of Rich Cross, whom I invited to join us during the embryonic stages of VooFoo, some time in late 2006. Thankfully, Rich was available and interested, so the three of us embarked on what has been a four year rollercoaster ride.
As with any grand master plan, it starts off full of optimism and motivation, so Mark and Rich began writing the cutting-edge engine that would power all of our future games. In July 2007, we registered our studio, rented a tiny office and began working full time. We bought some new computers, locked ourselves in a room for a year, lived off our savings and worked ourselves into debt whilst consuming brain fuel in the form of Pot Noodles, tea and coffee. It’s a common story for many game developers, but I don’t believe we saw the sun once that year, and our ever-expanding waistlines were proof of the fact we’d spent far too much time sitting on our arses. It wasn’t easy at any point, but it felt great to be control of our own destiny; at least, until the money ran out.
Funds began to dry up, the pressure increased and we contacted several publishers in the hope that one would see our potential. We received positive feedback from many, and even got a game through to the final stages of approval with Microsoft, only for it to be rejected during the final green light meeting for some still unknown reason. It was a kick in the bollocks of monumental proportions. If we ever had doubt that we weren’t going to make it, it was at that point, and morale was at an all time low. We knew we could make a great game if given the chance, but just needed others to see it. We managed to organise a last minute meeting with a producer from Sony, who was a breath of fresh air, on the same wavelength, and had complete confidence in what we were doing. At such a late stage, it was just what we needed to kick-start a final push in our hunt for a deal.
Hustle Kings was one of a number of games presented to Sony, and one which they fully supported from the very beginning. Our green light meeting was a ‘slam dunk’ and the rest is history. During the development of Hustle Kings, we recruited a cracking artist (with a big mouth!) to balance the team, and have since taken on two more extremely talented team members.
After recently being nominated for two Develop Awards, seeing Hustle Kings reach number one in the Japanese PSN charts, number two in the American charts and a whole host of superb reviews, we can’t wait to push on and raise the bar.
John – Founding member of VooFoo Studios.